Response To Community Questions
For the past 14 years, Windward High School has provided an excellent educational experience to the students who have chosen it.
Windward has always been a school of choice. During the past few years, fewer students have chosen the Windward option. Currently, there are fewer than 70 students enrolled, and 25 of them are seniors who will be graduating. Last spring only seven freshmen chose to attend Windward and two of them have left or are planning to leave. This tells us that we need to develop new options.
The current School Board and the district administration have always supported Windward. However, when this year’s senior class graduates, there simply will not be enough students left to sustain the school.
We discovered last spring that we cannot recruit ourselves out of this situation. The staff and administration put more effort into recruiting than ever and fewer students than ever signed up.
Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to close the school at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
The School Board and district administration are still deeply committed to providing a variety of options for students. They know one size does not fit all. To this end, they have begun to develop several new options which might be offered beginning in 2018-2019 if students let us know they are “the right options” by choosing them. Such options include: (1) a small evening high school; (2) a virtual academy; (3) a blended learning school-within-a-school with some digital courses and some traditional courses; and (4) a partnership program with Bellingham Technical College that could lead to a technical degree or certificate. This is neither a guaranteed list of options or a comprehensive list, just the beginning of our planning process which we intend to continue with input from students, families, and staff.
The Windward staff, supported by the School Board and district administration, pledges to work with each individual Windward student to ensure he/she makes as soft a landing as possible into a new option next year.
The Windward staff are highly valued members of the Ferndale School District team. Their continued employment in the district is guaranteed. Just as we work to find the best possible next placement for each student, we will be conferring with each staff about a future assignment that best fits their needs and desires.
Vista Room 16 has been reserved as a conference space and is regularly used as a meeting space for district and community meetings. Its proximity to the district office and its outside entrance onto the shared parking lot make it ideal for this purpose. However, it does mean that a number of people are entering the Vista building each week without checking in at the main office, which is located on the other side of the campus.
This situation has raised questions about what measures we are taking to ensure appropriate security at Vista. Such measures include:
- Ensuring the Vista main office staff is aware of the meeting schedule in Vista Room 16.
- Requiring everyone who attends a meeting in Vista Room 16 to wear an official school district identification badge or an authorized visitor badge.
- Requiring meeting attendees to use only the staff restrooms at Vista, not the student restrooms.
The district owns a 29-acre piece of land on Church Road. However, this parcel is not big enough for a comprehensive high school with numerous CTE (Career & Technical Education) offerings, a very popular performing arts curriculum, a large athletic program, and all the parking required by these activities. Such a high school would require a minimum of 40 acres.
We provide laptops to all our students because they are important learning tools in today’s society, and they will continue to be so in the future in which our children are going to live and work. They are the textbooks of this era. We have decided to issue them to students to use full-time for all the same reasons we used to issue textbooks to students to take home with them. Our motivation is aimed at ensuring equity. Some students have their own devices at home that they can use for doing school projects or other kinds of learning. Some students do not have their own devices. By giving a school device to everyone, we are trying to level the playing field.
The question has been raised about whether students can use their laptops for non-school-related uses. Although the initial Technology Use Agreement we drafted for students and parents to sign specified the devices were only for schoolwork, we are coming to realize that a hard line about school-only use is very hard to maintain for students and staff, and we are rethinking that part of our contract. If a student wants to check weather patterns on his or her device to see how warmly to dress tomorrow, do we want to prohibit that? If they want to check movie times or email a friend in the evening or at lunchtime, should that be against the rules? We think the internet is so ubiquitous and our students are working on assignments that are so diverse, it becomes difficult to draw a box around what is school work and what is not. Therefore, our approach is moving toward a hard line between what is appropriate and what is not, rather than what is schoolwork and what is not.
We have implemented a filter system within the school district that prevents students from accessing websites that have been deemed inappropriate. We also provide guidance to parents and guardians about how they can manage and/or block their children’s internet use at home. With that said, we realize we can never do enough blocking or filtering to keep students from misusing technology. We must also teach them to be ethical and critical consumers of the information they find on the internet. We must – and we do -- provide Digital Citizenship education in our classrooms, and we also offer this education to parents and guardians so they can reinforce the concepts at home. Among the topics included in our Digital Citizenship curriculum are digital footprint, safe social media use, cyber bullying, digital etiquette, and health & wellness.
Use of devices by our students is constantly evolving inside and outside of school. Inside school, we used to block Facebook. However, now we are using Facebook as one of our primary district communication tools. Therefore, we allow students access. As things change, neither teachers nor parents alone can be internet patrols all the time. We have to work together.
When students misuse their laptops, our responses vary according to the severity of the misuse. If a student is on a wrong site during a class period, the teacher might just redirect him or her. If a student is using the device to access inappropriate content or to engage in bullying or harassment, the same consequences will apply as they do when these offenses are committed without technology. In addition, students may lose internet privileges.
The district’s improvement goal for behavior states that "in every school, the total number of students assigned Exclusionary Discipline will decrease by 50% or more when compared to the number who were excluded during the 2017 school year." The question was raised about whether this means we will ensure students are “50% better behaved” or we will “reduce our expectations by 50%.” The question is a valid one.
In retrospect, our goal would have been more aptly stated as a desire to reduce the number of students who act in a manner that requires them to be excluded from their classrooms or schools, since it is not our intention to lower our standards for behavior. In fact, we have been working very hard to improve student behavior through more direct teaching of our behavioral expectations. This is a foundational piece of the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) philosophy our district has been working to implement for the past five years. The behavior goal in our district improvement plan is intended to measure the success of that work.
A question was also raised about the second part of our behavior goal, which addresses our desire to eliminate the disparity in the number of disciplinary sanctions applied to various subgroups of students. The questioner referred to the American value that “justice should be blind,” and inferred that all interventions should be applied equally regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or other distinction.
We are committed to fairness and equity, which requires us to take off our blinders and look carefully at what the data might suggest about disparities and inconsistencies in our system. If, for instance, we notice that the subjects of 75% of our discipline referrals are boys and that 75% of our dropouts are boys, we need to ask ourselves whether the behavior of boys is inherently worse than the behavior of girls, or whether our system is not set up to meet the needs of boys as well as it meets the needs of girls.
Our ultimate goal is to meet the needs of all children so they can learn at the highest levels possible, progress successfully through school, earn their diplomas, and become contributing members of our society. We believe it is our responsibility to adjust our system in ways that support this goal.
Our goal is to make the work of the Bond Task Force as transparent and accessible as possible. To this end, we have taken the following steps:
- Instituted a practice of emailing weekly updates on the work of the Bond Task Force to all district staff and School Board members.
- Formed a Bond Task Force Communications Sub-Committee that will be meeting for the first time on Thursday, November 30. The committee’s agenda will include: (1) developing key messages; (2) communicating the work of the Bond Task Force; (3) exploring online participation channels; and (4) seeking community input.
- Hired a Communications/Social Media Specialist to assist us in getting the word out.
- Committed to creating and maintaining a separate Bond Task Force website, which will be launched by the end of the first week in December, to share information about the Task Force work with the broader community as well as to collect comments and suggestions. Names of Task Force members and dates of all Task Force and sub-committee meetings will be posted on the website, along with agendas, minutes, and supporting materials.
Questions about the work of the Bond Task Force can be directed at any time to Superintendent Linda Quinn (email@example.com) or Assistant Superintendent Mark Deebach (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When the 2017-2018 school year started, the Custer playground was partially but not completely fenced. In September, a parent asked whether the fence could be repaired and extended. The Custer principal also identified this as a need. Our new Director of Maintenance, Jamie Plenkovich, committed to getting this work done by the end of the 2017 calendar year. On November 16, Mr. Plenkovich reported that the fencing project had been completed. The Custer community is grateful for this safety upgrade at their school.
Last school year (2016-2017), we experienced a record number of school days missed due to weather. As one snow day followed another, we realized what a hardship multiple closures can cause for families who have built their work schedules around our school schedules; and we began devising a plan for mitigating some of that impact.
Our goal is to be able to provide a free "day camp" style child care program for district elementary students on snow closure days – should there be any – during the winter of 2017-2018. A survey of elementary parents conducted during fall conferences indicated that such a service would be much appreciated by families.
The planning process for our “Snow Day Camp” is currently underway. The one obstacle the district has encountered, however, is staffing. So far, we have not been able to identify staff members who feel certain they could get to work on snow days to run the camp. (If you know anyone who might be interested in this type of part-time work, please encourage him/her to contact Mark Hall at email@example.com.)
When/if our plans are finalized, we will advertise this daycare option to parents of district elementary students. The one requirement for taking advantage of Snow Day Camp will be signing up in advance.
This situation occurred on Friday, November 3. Snow and ice on the roads in parts of the district prevented us from transporting students at the regular start time. Such weather conditions demanded a two-hour delayed start. However, November 3 had already been scheduled as an elementary early release day for parent-teacher conferences. Since it is impossible to run a late arrival and an early release on the same day, we canceled the early release. Although we realized this decision would likely create challenges for some families and would require parents and teachers to reschedule some conferences, we believed it was a better option than canceling the whole day and having to make it up in June.
In the future, any time inclement weather requires a late start on a day that has been previously scheduled for early release, we will cancel the early release and run classes until the regular dismissal time.
Last spring, the Ferndale School District received a school website accessibility complaint from OCR, the Office for Civil Rights. We subsequently learned that school districts and other educational agencies across the country have been similarly notified that their websites are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
The complaint brought to light issues that we were not aware we were neglecting. We learned that school websites – just like other parts of our school campuses – need to be accessible for everyone. We learned that some of the most universal problems are lack of appropriate tagging of pictures and closed captioning of videos, insufficient color contrast, and failure to properly label online forms.
In August, we began taking steps to make all our websites – at the district level and at each school -- more responsive and more accessible to all our audiences. This was a complex process that involved rebuilding each site from the ground up. We contracted with a company called Campus Suite to help us do this work. With their assistance and support, we were able to go live with our new ADA-compliant websites on Friday, November 3. Users may have noticed changes in the appearance of our websites.
We want every student, staff member, parent, and member of the school community at large to be able to utilize fully all the important content on our website. Therefore, we are pleased to have been able to make these necessary improvements.
Currently, we are in the process of training key staff on making sure all future website posts are fully accessible as well.
One of the many winter events we planned last year that was foiled by inclement weather was a holiday-themed community sing-a-long. So, we are going to try again this year.
On Wednesday, December 20 (the day after students are dismissed for Winter Break), the district will be hosting a community holiday event from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at Ferndale High School. During the first 90 minutes of the event (5:30-7:00), we are inviting parents to drop off elementary-age students to participate in playing games and decorating cookies while Mom and Dad use the time to shop, hopefully locally, since we are partnering with the Chamber’s “Shop Local” campaign.
At 7:00 pm, parents can bring their gifts back to FHS to take advantage of wrapping services and also to take part in a community sing-along in the FHS gym.
All of these events will be free to the participants.
The first meeting of Ferndale School District’s Bond Task Force was held on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Approximately 40 people attended, about one-third district staff and two-thirds community members.
Membership on the Bond Task Force is voluntary. For the past four months, we have published information in various formats through various venues inviting people to take part. We intentionally reached out to community members, since they have historically been an underrepresented voice. The people who showed up at the first meeting were those who responded to the invitation.
All Bond Task Force meetings are open to the public.
Ferndale School District is committed to offering every member of our community a safe, welcoming, and inclusive experience. When we fall short of this ideal, we need help in bringing problems to our attention. When someone experiences something that offends or insults, whether it was intentional or unintentional, there are three groups of district staff who are always ready to listen and address concerns: (1) our building principals and assistant principals, (2) our school counselors, and (3) our district office staff (see contact information below).
When we learn about specific incidents that do not meet our standards, we respond. Usually, we begin by collecting as much background information as possible, typically engaging those involved in thoughtful dialogue so that we can better understand how their words or actions may have been inappropriate or hurtful. If the problem is complicated or the behavior is repetitive, we can assign formal retraining. If this does not resolve the problem, we can elevate the case to include some type of formal discipline. This would be true for staff as well as students.
As an example, a parent recently shared with us her concerns about a PTO fundraising message that included as an incentive the school principal’s “becoming an Eskimo and sitting on blocks of ice for 10 minutes.” The parent rightfully deemed this characterization as perpetuating racial stereotypes, oppressive behaviors, and cultural appropriation. The immediate reaction from the school principal (on behalf of both himself and the PTO), the president of the School Board, and the superintendent was to acknowledge the blunder, apologize, and began to apply corrective action. The principal’s responses to the parent included the following statements:
I completely agree with you that this should have never gone out as it is. I will be working with our PTO today to amend the literature and ensure that the rewards that are earned meet a high standard of cultural sensitivity. Please feel free to contact me directly anytime you have concerns. When we all work together, we can do our very best for our children. I apologize that we fell short in this instance and I assure you it will be rectified today.
Thanks again for alerting me that this had gone home so we could fix it. I am sorry that you had to, but glad that you did. I invite you to join our PTO and get involved, as we could really use your perspective and your help. Once again, please accept my apology for any hurt that we caused.
As noted above, our organization is fully committed to honoring, celebrating, and embracing our diverse community. This is a long-term effort that we take very seriously, knowing that we have not yet arrived. We work with all our buildings and departments regularly to build knowledge and understanding about our students’ cultural backgrounds and ways we can serve and elevate them. We monitor programs and student performance to address opportunity and achievement gaps (see our District Improvement Plan) in an effort to provide every child in our care with the highest levels of learning. Finally, we work to engage the broader community in this critical work through events such as our annual Culture Fair.
Linda Quinn, Superintendent, 360.383.9207
Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services, 360.383.9203
Scott Brittain, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, 360.383.9210
Mark Hall, Executive Director for Teaching & Learning, 360.383.9211
Jill Iwasaki, Executive Director for Student Services, 360.383.9221
Paul Douglas, Executive Director for Human Resources, 360.383.9206
At the beginning of this school year, we experienced a number of issues with our district instructional technology. Recently, however, our technology is working better in most classrooms and throughout the district.
The district hired a new technology support vendor in late summer, so we anticipated some challenges with our conversion protocols. When we decided to upgrade our Microsoft Office products on 2500 student devices, which we were deploying during the first two weeks of school, we encountered our first major issue. The upgraded Microsoft Office program conflicted with the product that was previously installed on the devices, thereby essentially “crashing” the entire Microsoft Office Suite. In an attempt to repair the problems, we had to slow the network down to inoperable speeds for a period of time, which definitely created a hardship.
In the end, the problem was solved, but not before our entire district was impacted.
Since we recovered from the Microsoft issue, we have been working hard to provide daily service in a more timely fashion. We have not experienced further network or application issues of any great consequence. While we continue to have some “growing” pains with our new service provider, our technology support program is getting better every day.
When we received feedback that the Print Shop was not performing at a level that matched staff expectations, we sought anecdotal information and asked for samples of jobs that were not completed as expected. Staff was very good about providing specific examples, as well as sample jobs, that we were able to pass along to the Print Shop.
Our second step was to conduct a survey open to all staff to get more quantitative information about how the Print Shop was performing and to inform us of specific areas that needed improvement.
We then shared survey results and sample jobs with Ricoh management staff. Ricoh (the vendor who is overseeing this initiative) committed to develop a plan that would get the Print Shop performing at a level that matched our expectations. The action steps they came up with are outlined below in the message from Ricoh’s Print Shop Manager.
Ricoh staff have collaborated on implementing action items that we believe will improve the performance of the Print Shop by addressing concerns about accuracy and timeliness. In the meantime, district staff have stepped in to help complete both printing jobs and the corrective action items they could take care of themselves.
Ferndale Print Shop production improvements and actions developed by Ricoh in early October 2017 include:
- Tyler (Print Shop Manager) returned to work September 29. At that time, there were 56 jobs in the production queue representing 12,619 impressions. We are keeping up with current job flow.
- Kevin will work on site Wednesday afternoons until further notice.
- We will train a new FSR for the site.
- We will work with Mark Deebach on re-appropriating teacher device(s) to prevent production equipment backup.
- We will add the capability of an instructor-accessed device to 3-hole punch and staple.
- We will better organize the space to reduce clutter and define specific work areas: production prep, in production, quality check, pick-up/delivery.
- We will use a checklist system for quality control.
- We will continue to work with instructors to plan and have their academic materials printed well in advance of need, especially projects requiring considerable prep to print, such as scanning and assembly of files or other documents.
- We will continue to train instructors on how to use the PrintNet tool through Lunch & Learn presentations and other meetings. This can be done in a one-on-one setting as well.
- We will add a second employee, starting with part time if necessary.
- Per the item above, we will stagger shifts when volume dictates.
- With the assistance of a second employee, we will implement a quality control process involving one person’s reviewing the other person’s work.
The district’s next step will be to conduct a follow-up survey to make sure the performance of the Print Center is improving.
When concerns about using actors with simulated injuries in the Iron Viking exercise were brought to our attention, we decided to offer two variations of the training. In addition to the originally planned moulage version, we added a non-moulage version, giving staff members a choice about which they would attend.
The non-moulage training was conducted in the Vista library and focused on a review of the first aid techniques taught in the TICS (Teacher Initiated Care System) class that staff attended last spring, as opposed to the practical application of the techniques during the Iron Viking simulated emergency situation.
Feedback was positive about offering the two variants of the training exercise, and members of both groups reported worthwhile benefits from their experiences.
When the district recognized the need to augment the gravel under and around the playground equipment at Eagleridge Elementary, our Maintenance Department tilled the existing gravel and filled in with some additional gravel, After this process had been completed, we were informed that several screws had been found in the gravel. The area of the Eagleridge playground impacted by this problem was closed to children, while the district maintenance crew used shovels, rakes, and magnets to locate and remove the screws. We believe the problem has been eradicated. The Health Department has also assessed the Eagleridge playground and verified that it is free from any unwanted debris.
This fall we found evidence of a rat in the Culinary Arts room at Ferndale High School. Personnel from the District Maintenance Department responded by locating the probable entrance point being used by the rat, setting out traps, monitoring them closely, ultimately capturing and removing the rodent, and continuing to monitor for any rodent friends. At this point, they have patched all the holes they have detected that might be used for critters to gain access to the building. They are implementing best practices regarding non-chemical pest control and continuing to watch the situation closely, taking all necessary actions to ensure our high school building remains free of rodents.
The Custer playground is mostly, but not completely, fenced. This past fall, a parent asked whether the fence could be repaired and extended. The Custer principal also identified this as a need. Therefore, we took the request to our new Director of Maintenance, Jamie Plenkovich, who committed to moving forward to get this work done. He immediately went to the campus to assess the situation and then scheduled Northwest Fence to come out and give him a bid on October 12. We anticipate we will have the Custer fence project completed by the end of the current calendar year.
A district staff member who was learning the ins and outs of our complex student data management system believed she was working in a practice mode. She was not. As a result, she inadvertently sent out a batch of practice email letters to real families. The letter in question, which happened to be written in Spanish, informed the families that their children did not have up-to-date immunization records on file with the school district and were thus in jeopardy of being excluded from school as per Washington State Law. Understandably, this caused distress in the parents who erroneously received the letters.
The district staff member responsible for the mistake felt terrible about it, although we assured her that we understood her error was neither malicious nor a reflection of her competence. Mistakes are a part of the learning process, a fact that is foundational to our core business as educators.
At the same time, we are very sorry that we caused needless worry to some of our families. As a district, our response to these families included the following:
- We sent a notification to all district families via our student information system and district Facebook page letting them know we had made this mistake and apologizing for it.
- We identified the specific families who had mistakenly received the letter in question and sent them a written explanation and an apology both in English and in Spanish.
- We adjusted our training protocols to prevent this kind of error from happening in the future.
The district takes several steps to ensure volunteers have been vetted. First, as a basic precaution, all volunteers are screened using the WATCH (Washington Access to Criminal History).
If a volunteer is chaperoning an overnight activity where he/she is supervising students through the night, we also require that he/she submits to a fingerprint screen, which allows for in an in-depth criminal background check through the national data base. Chaperones for high school overnight trips, where students are paired together in hotel rooms and chaperones have their own rooms, do not require fingerprinting.
When the district discovers that a volunteer has a criminal history, we conduct a review to determine the type of offense, the date when the incident occurred, and whether the incident involved children. Not every offense is deemed sufficient reason to deny a person the opportunity to volunteer.
However, any volunteer with a criminal background is required to disclose this on his/her volunteer application. Failure to disclose could result in disqualification from volunteering. When a potential volunteer does not disclose, he/she may be contacted and given the opportunity to provide further information.
The district maintains a database to keep track of all volunteers. This year we have moved to requiring all volunteers update their information annually to ensure our records are accurate and current.
Starting on August 16, 2017, the district sent out the first letters to parents whose students were on the free or reduced meal program during the 2016-2017 school year.
In August, Food Service Staff attended school meetings in order to answer questions about the application process as follows: Vista open house on August 31, Community outreach night at Horizon on August 29, Orientation for Freshmen and Upperclassmen at FHS on August 29 and 30, Custer Ice Cream Social on September 5.
In August, a reminder notice was posted on the District Food Services webpage that the free and reduced applications were being accepted and were due on October 18. In addition, hard copies of the reminder and application were made available at the student’s school. Families were informed that they could submit their applications online or on paper.
On the first day of school, every elementary school student received a hard copy of the free and reduced application along with a letter containing instructions for filing out the application.
Another set of letters (approximately 400 this year) were mailed between October 7 and October 9 to families who had previously had students qualify for the program but had not yet filed out a new application.
On October 10, an automated phone call was placed to all households in the district stating:
If your family is on the free and reduced meal program and you have not submitted a new application for the School Year 2017-2018, please do so prior to October 16, 2017. Last year's applications will expire on October 18, and after that date your child or children will no longer have benefits for free or reduced meals unless you reapply. The cost of any meals incurred by your child/children will be your responsibility.
October 24, approximately 150 letters were mailed to households that qualified for the program last year and did not submit a new application prior to the October 18 deadline.
We are continuing to accept applications at any time. There are no time restrictions on when new applications can be accepted. Unfortunately, charges incurred prior to the new eligibility are still the responsibility of the parent since the date of the eligibility is not retroactive.
Whenever we receive an anonymous complaint or concern, we assess the content and follow up on anything related to the safety of our students, staff, or families. However, anonymous complaints are more difficult to deal with because they do not allow us to get the whole story, even though there is generally more than one side to a controversy. Our goals are to address wrong-doing and solve problems to the greatest extent possible. When the information we are working with is anonymous, and therefore one-sided, we feel hampered in our ability to achieve these goals.
Anonymous messages are harder to investigate because we are limited to whatever information was submitted. We do not have the ability to follow up or ask clarifying questions.
We encourage people to submit complaints with their identity known so we can work collaboratively with them to address concerns. The district has a zero tolerance policy regarding retaliation, because we do not want fear of reprisal to dampen anyone’s willingness to report wrongdoing.
Over the last 15 years, the celebration of Halloween has been gradually phased out of schools across the United States for a number of reasons. In the Ferndale School District we have chosen to minimize rather than eliminate the impact of Halloween and other holidays on the school and classroom environment as part of our ongoing effort to stay focused on our core mission of educating all students.
On the other hand, where there is a clear overlap between what is happening in our community and the curriculum we deliver to our students, we make every effort to highlight and build upon those connections. This could mean that our younger students who are learning about calendars and celebrations would make reference to Halloween in books or art projects. It could also mean that different afterschool groups choose to offer activities that are tied to a particular holiday such as Halloween.
With all that being said, there are two primary reasons why the Ferndale School District has deliberately moved away from allowing Halloween costumes and parties in our classrooms during the school day: (1) To preserve and protect limited time for instruction pointed directly at the state learning standards. (2) To follow our district’s food policy, which limits sharing food in classrooms because of nutrition and food allergy concerns.
The law is still very new and interpretations about how it is to be implemented are still somewhat vague. We anticipate over the course of the next year, the specific impacts will become more clear. With that said, we offer the following answer to this question based on what we know at this point.
During the last legislative session, the Washington State Legislature passed what has commonly been referred to as a “levy swap,” which means they renamed the local M & O (Maintenance & Operations) levy money that the Ferndale taxpayers voted to pay through their property taxes as state levy money. In other words, we are talking about the same money (from local property taxes), but in the future it will be considered state money as opposed to local money. In addition to this “swap,” the state will be allowing individual school districts to run local levies (as soon as their current ones expire) for a smaller amount to fund the “extra” items that are not part of the state’s definition of basic education (such as art, music, and a large portion of special education).
The new state levy replaces the old local levy at a reduced dollar amount.
There will be a new smaller local levy so that we can continue to fund programs that the state does not include in its definition of basic education.
It should be noted that a capital bond, which is also funded from property taxes, is a separate standalone proposition which is not covered by the new legislation pertaining to school levies.
Like FFA and DECA, Jazz Band at the middle school level in Ferndale is a co-curricular program that occurs outside the regular school day. It is not a class. As such, we need to recruit an advisor/coach to run the activity. In the past, the middle school band director, who was a veteran with lots of experience, took on this extra duty.
We have allocated a stipend to continue the middle school Jazz Band program, and we have advertised for an advisor through our Extracurricular Coaching and Advising selection process. We are hopeful we will be able to find someone who is able and willing to take on this extra task so that we can continue to offer the program.
Less than half of the country’s public schools employ a full-time nurse. In most school districts, including Ferndale, nurses rotate among schools,
This situation isn’t new. The majority of Washington schools have never had full-time nurses. When budgets tightened heading into the Great Recession of the early 2000s, many districts were faced with hard choices between maintaining lower class sizes and keeping nurses, counselors, librarians, and other certificated support staff.
As it stands now, each Washington school district decides how to utilize its nurses in much the same way it determine how many teachers are needed — by enrollment and budget. That usually means a school nurse might work in more than one building, with a trained staff or volunteer available for certain duties when the nurse is out.
According to data maintained by OSPI, only one of Washington’s 295 school districts (Shoreline) has committed to assigning one full-time nurse to each of its schools. However, unlike Ferndale and most other school districts who classify nurses as certificated employees similar to teachers and counselors, Shoreline categorizes nurses as classified employees, in the same category as instructional assistants, cafeteria workers and bus drivers, and they are thus subject to a different pay scale.
Across the country, you are more likely to find students of color than staff members of color in our public schools. The diversity of the educational workforce does not represent the diversity of the children they serve. Recent statistics show 40% of the nation’s students are students of color, while people of color make up only 17% of all teachers and principals.
The current composition of the Ferndale School District reflects this disproportionality. However, under the leadership of Dr. Paul Douglas, we are taking steps to close the gap. We have, for instance, rewritten our interview questions to focus on candidates’ strengths and highlight differences. We are working to build stronger relationships with colleges and universities, and we are offering more internships with the goal of attracting more diversity. We are supporting alternative routes to certification for some of our classified staff members. We are keeping data and regularly tracking our progress in this area.
In addition to monitoring data about our workforce for our own use, Dr. Douglas reports annually on the make-up of our employee groups to OSPI. Some recent statistics look promising. The percentage of administrators of color in Ferndale has risen from 0% to nearly 10% in the last two years. According to county utilization data, we have a higher than average percentage of teachers of color at both the elementary and the secondary levels.
Diversifying our workforce matters to us. Without educators who represent the students they serve, we aren’t going to get the best results from our school systems. Greater diversity will sharpen our competitive advantage and improve our organizational performance. In recognition of the School Board’s fourth Strategic Commitment (to honor, celebrate, and embrace our diverse community), we are committed to achieving a more diverse staff in Ferndale’s schools.
As is the practice in most school districts, the Ferndale School Board evaluates the performance of the Ferndale Superintendent annually and then takes an official vote on whether to renew her contract.
This year, Superintendent Quinn’s evaluation was conducted in an executive session before the July 25 School Board meeting. For this purpose, Dr. Quinn prepared a report on the accomplishments and shortcomings of her work during the previous year, which the Board received and reviewed in advance.
During the executive session, which Dr. Quinn did not attend, School Board members discussed her performance. At the open public meeting following the executive session, they voted unanimously to renew her contract. They also voted unanimously to give her a 2% raise.
By law, a superintendent’s contract in the state of Washington cannot exceed three years in duration. However, when the members of a School Board renew such a contract, they have the option of restarting the three-year period. This option was exercised by the Ferndale School Board when they approved a new contract for Dr. Quinn for 2017 through 2020
In September, a letter about a sexually transmitted disease was inadvertently sent home with elementary students. This was a mistake on the part of the school district, and we are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again.
Most of the information the district provides to students and parents is generated within the district. However, some information the state or federal government requires the district to provide students and parents. The letter in question was among the latter. The state requires us to send the letter to all 6-12 grade students and/or their parents.
The letter was included in a packet of beginning-of-the-year information sent electronically by the superintendent’s office to all district principals for distribution. The letter should only have been sent to secondary principals. At several of our elementary schools, the mistake was caught before the information went home. Some elementary schools sent the information electronically to parents, so students never had access to it. At one or two elementary schools, the information, including the letter on sexually transmitted disease, was printed and sent home in backpacks where students were able to see it and possibly read it.
To ensure this kind of mistake does not happen again, we are:
- more carefully scrutinizing information sent from the superintendents’ office to schools in order to make sure it is age appropriate; and
- asking the principals and administrative assistants in our schools to double check everything before sending it home.
We apologize for any distress caused by our mistake.
The district covers all normal wear and tear on the computers they provide to students and all accidental damage that occurs at school. However, students’ families are responsible for computers that are lost or damaged due to vandalism, exceptional roughness, or inappropriate use. This is no different than age-old practices regarding school textbooks.
In many cases, school computers damaged at home are covered by parents’ homeowners’ insurance. However, generally such policies carry a significant deductible. Therefore, some parents asked the school district to look for an inexpensive insurance policy that just covered a student’s computer.
We looked and we found one. For $46 per year, families can purchase computer insurance with zero deductible that will cover anything that might happen to the device, regardless of whose fault it is. Parents are not required to purchase this insurance. It is offered as a service.
The first meeting of the Bond Task Force is scheduled for Tuesday, October 24, 7:00-9:00 pm at Ferndale High School.
On September 25, Mark Deebach sent out the following letter of invitation to everyone who volunteered to serve on the Task Force:
Thank you for volunteering to be part of the Ferndale School District’s Bond Task Force. We are encouraged by your interest and look forward to collaborating with you on this important work.
We have spent the summer searching for the right facilitator to help guide us through the process of developing a bond package, and we have narrowed the field to three finalists. We will be meeting with all three during the next two weeks and selecting one in time to have him or her on board for our first meeting.
We have scheduled the first meeting of the Bond Task Force for Tuesday, October 24, 7:00-9:00 pm in the Ferndale High School Library.
Once again, please accept our gratitude for your willingness to take part in this critical school district/community project. We anticipate an educational and enjoyable experience with positive outcomes for the children of Ferndale.
We look forward to getting started on October 24. Please let us know if you will be able to attend. RSVP to Tammy Longstaff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you know someone else who would like to participate, let Tammy know that as well. Or if you have any other questions or concerns before October 24, please feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com.
Here we go…
During the public comment section of the August 29 Ferndale School Board meeting, a community member reported being told by a colleague at work that he didn’t want to participate on district committees or task forces because when he came to a meeting of the Facilities Committee, he was required to sign a non-disclosure document declaring that he would not to share the content of discussions at committee meetings with the public and that he would support the recommendations of the majority even if he did not agree with them. He said he was not comfortable signing something that didn’t support clear, honest, and open dialogue with the community so he quit participating on the committee.
After researching this concern, we determined that the document in question is a Social Contract that was developed by members of the Facilities Advisory Committee. At an early meeting of the FAC in 2010, the committee’s facilitator asked all participants to engage in a process of developing some mutual understandings about how the committee would operate.
- She began by asking several questions, such as: What kind of environment do you need to be able to work effectively? In your opinion, how does a good committee function? What do you think we should do when we disagree? And so on.
- Everyone shared thoughts, which were recorded and compiled.
- A draft document was taken back to the group for discussion and revision.
- Participants were asked if their ideas had been captured correctly and revisions were made accordingly.
- When committee members felt a good draft reflecting their combined ideas had been achieved, they were asked to indicate their approval by signing around the edge of the “final” document.
We have used this Social Contract process with many of our groups. The School Board has created its own Social Contract, as has the Administrative Team. The School Board chose at one time to put their Social Contract on a poster and all sign it.
The guidelines on the resulting FAC Social Contract came from group members, not from the district. The items that have anything to do with sharing or not sharing information, or with supporting a position whether or not you agree with it, are as follows:
- Be honest and open-minded.
- Try to put personal agendas aside to focus on the common good.
- Try not to take opinions and decisions contrary to our own as personal affronts.
- Do not be afraid to question data that is presented, and do not be offended if your data is questioned.
- Seek inclusive processes for collecting input and feedback.
- Honor requests for confidentiality when they are made.
- Avoid dominating conversations or debates.
- Work for the good of all students, not just those we most closely represent.
- Allow for differences of opinion.
- When making major decisions, allow for both majority and minority reports.
- When reporting out decisions, avoid ascribing them to individual committee members unless there is an explicitly agreed upon reason for doing so.
- Once a decision has been made, honor and support it in public spaces.
The entire Facilities Advisory Committee Social Contract is attached at the end of this document.