By Steve Powell
MARYSVILLE – In the 1996 movie “Jerry MaGuire,” actor Tom Cruise famously said, “Show me the money.”
At Monday’s Marysville school board meeting, director Chris Nation not-so-famously but basically said, “Show me the money savings.”
He was referring to money saved if the school district makes Marysville Getchell a traditional high school.
Interim superintendent Jason Thompson made his recommendations to the school board Monday.
But Nation wanted more facts on why the decision was made. Therefore, the board’s vote on the proposal was delayed until the Aug. 6 meeting. He wants to see what the transportation savings would be. Estimates are $190,000 a year on up.
He also wants to see what the savings would be on staff: from administrators on down. Nation also asked for more details on two committees Thompson recommends: How many people on each, how do they get selected and what is the timetable for them to accomplish certain tasks?
Thompson said he really wants community involvement. Gone are the days when we ask for it and “wink, wink do what we want,” he said. Nation said information obtained during a yearlong process did not really say for the district to get rid of Small Learning Communities, or SLC’s.
Thompson countered that, “Data didn’t show that we should start SLC’s in the first place. The district wanted it” years ago.
He admitted, “We didn’t hit all of our community” in the information gathering process, referring to minorities, such as hispanics. They also agreed the data was skewed in that there was much more participation from people associated with MG than M-P.
Thompson denied that the district is turning away from SLC’s. He said his proposal demands more of it – in all of the classes in all of the schools. “We have to change the classrooms and hold everyone accountable,” he said. “Everybody needs to go in the same direction.”
Rather than teach and see if a student passes, the object for teachers will be to make sure nobody fails.
“That’s the heart of SLC’s,” he said. “I’m not going to allow you to fail. You can make mistakes and learn from them.”
Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, uses many of the same strategies as SLC’s, and AVID classes and teachings keep growing and growing districtwide and will continue to do so.
Lori Knudson, executive director of K-12 schools, said the district has invested a lot in AVID and that it leads to deeper learning just like SLC’s. “It also works in a regular comprehensive school,” she said.
During the board meeting’s public comment period, it was brought up that SLC’s also can work within a school, such as when they started at M-P before MG was even built. So under the change that could still be a possibility.
Knudson said she saw MG and Marysville-Pilchuck planning together on upcoming changes, and, “It gave me goosebumps.”
With the added state requirement of earning 24 credits, it’s even more important that students don’t fail. The district is still looking at a possible trimester system or other programs so students could earn credits quicker. Right now, summer school or going to an alternative school are the only ways to catch up on credits.
Thompson said while most students would attend a high school based on boundaries of where they live, there would be in-district waivers for students who need to take certain classes at another school. Ideally classes would be available at both high schools, but, “What we’re able to afford and provide” could be very different, he said.
Nation said the district has been eliminating electives due to cost. “Overstaffing does not make financial sense,” Thompson said, mostly referring to the small class sizes at the alternative schools. “Salaries have grown. We can’t continue to staff at those levels.”
Board director Vanessa Edwards, who was elected largely because of support of MG SLC supporters, thanked the district “for considering our thoughts” regarding SLC’s.
Director Pete Lundberg said it takes time to build trust with the community, but their voices matter. “We’ve only just begun.”