State to audit Marysville schools’ academics

MARYSVILLE – The Marysville School District has enough low-performing schools that the state is now calling it a Required Action District.

“More of our schools need extra support,” Lori Knudson, executive director of K-12 schools, told the school board at a work session Monday.

Schools that need varying degrees of help are Heritage and Legacy high schools, Totem and Marysville middle schools and Quil Ceda-Tulalip, Liberty, Marshall and Grove elementary schools.

As a result, the state will give the district an academic audit and grants will be available for a three-year improvement plan.

Director Chris Nation said Quil Ceda-Tulalip has been on the list before and still is so the process must not work.

“It’s the same year after year,” he said, adding being on the list just gives the school a bad name.

Rod Merrell, director of secondary schools, said being on the list is no longer about “naming and shaming.” It’s more about supporting schools that need it, he said.

But Nation said, “Why don’t they just give us the money and let us do what needs to be done?”

To which board president Pete Lundberg added, “Do they come up with anything that ever works?” Knudson said there are areas the district wants to improve in, and, “This will help with that.”

For example, one area the state wants the district to improve on is high expectations of all students.

“All our teachers – do they believe that?” Knudson said. “There’s things on that list we could do a better job of.”

Merrell said feedback from an outside evaluation can be powerful. “We’re in it, so it’s not always easy to see,” he said.

Merrell said the district has “islands of excellence,” but it’s not systemwide. He said a major issue is administrative churn. “It’s tough to get any traction” when there is so much leadership change in schools, he said, adding, “Principals that have been there build trust.”

Lundberg said: “You hit the nail on the head,” regarding churn. “We need to find the right person” and keep them.

Obviously still discouraged about the state’s process, Lundberg said, “I don’t see anything new.”

Director Tom Albright, trying to make sense of it, compared it to an old basketball coach he knew who would tell his players, “Just do the same thing better.”

Like Nation, Lundberg said Marysville would be better served if the state gave the district the money. “They don’t know Marysville.”

Bringing it back to a positive perspective, Merrell gave the example about how the district’s efforts with the public have improved because of new things communications director Jodi Runyon has learned about family engagement.

“We have things we can look at and learn more about,” he said.

To which Lundberg responded, “Maybe they can find a couple of things to help us out.”

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