Response To Community Questions

September 2017

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 tammy.longstaff@ferndalesd.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 mark.deebach@ferndalesd.org.

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.

Download FAC Social Contract (PDF)