About 35 people attended the Southern Humboldt Unified School District town hall meeting to strategize implementation of goals for the new state funding requirements for the Local Control Accountability Program (LCAP) on Thursday, Feb. 6. Parents, teachers and school board members were well represented.
The meeting was held at Redway Elementary School and focused on Redway and Whitethorn schools. This was the first of three LCAP town hall style meetings in the district. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at South Fork High School focusing on Agnes J. Johnson School and South Fork, and another on March 6 at Casterlin will focus on Casterlin and South Fork.
The meetings are to create direction for the district moving into new methods of funding and teaching, explained district superintendent Catherine Scott, who facilitated the meeting. She shared data related to the eight priorities set by LCAP, but also said she wanted the meeting to be interactive and to hear feedback from parents, teachers, staff, board members and other stakeholders in the district.
The state, through LCAP, has determined eight annual goals in specified areas and requires community accountability, Scott said, hence the name.
Scott pointed out that the state of California had completely changed the school funding system last year. Everything is new and in transition this year, she said.
The old state funding system was categorical and based on a compliance model. Specific money was given (based on student attendance) for specific categories.
The new rules require the district to look at the data of student performance and determine what the data dictates the district needs to do. The state provides the money but does not dictate how it is spent. Student achievement is to be the driving factor, Scott said.
"We're supposed to define our expectations and our outcomes," Scott said. "We are going to set district goals and then we're going to set goals for each school site within those eight priorities... We're going to track it with data and a year from now we'll be meeting again and look at the data and see how much progress we've made with our goals and see if we want to shift direction or not," Scott said. She added that there would be input from district teachers and staff along with yearly community meetings.
"We need to set priorities as a community," Scott said, but added that, "the eight priorities the state has set pretty much tell us what we are supposed to look at."
Scott said Star Tests are a thing of the past and the state is moving into the Smarter Balance Assessment System, an all-technology based program that is a statewide pilot this year to test connectivity. The new test is 30 percent multiple choice and the rest is critical thinking short answers. It is supposed to be a more rigorous test and thought to develop critical thinking in a way that Star Tests never did. Because it is all done on a computer, the results will come back faster, Scott said.
The district is looking at bandwidth issues, WiFi issues and getting more computers and how all that is going to work, Scott said in response to questions about the district's technology infrastructure.
The state determined eight focus areas under LCAP are student achievement, student engagement, other student outcomes, school climate, parental involvement, basic services, implementation of Common Core State Standards and course access.
Scott went through each of the state required goals and presented data specific to Redway and Whitethorn schools, showing percentages of improvement or lack of improvement over several years and compared to state averages, where the data was available.
As they went over the eight goals, the public in attendance offered feedback, ideas and shared their experiences.
In the area of student engagement several people brought up the necessity of having hot water in the bathrooms and better school food.
In the area of student achievement, class size was sighted as very important to parents at the meeting who made comments. Some said it was the most important issue to them and they wanted the money to be spent on teachers.
There was discussion about how to get parents involved in the school. Some suggestions from the participants included programs that invited talented community members to offer workshops or classes after school or in class, getting senior citizens involved in the school, asking parents at Back To School night to sign up for three hours of volunteer help in classrooms.
For better student outcomes participants said they wanted more drama programs, art and performance arts. Some participants wanted the schools to have counselors and peer counseling groups, and to reinstate the Gifted And Talented Education program. Scott said she has ideas for implementing the Advanced Placement program.
Redway principal Paula Panfilio talked about the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) system that is being implemented at Redway School through a grant from the County Office of Education. She explained that it encourages positive student behavior and is having good student outcomes.
A drop in 7th grade student physical fitness was noted in the data and Scott and some of the participants said that student outcomes would be improved with the opening of the new junior high next year. Scott said scheduling would give the junior high students time in the South Fork gym for just 7th and 8th graders.
It was thought that the Measure L funded improvements to the South Fork school gym and locker rooms would facilitate better student health, school spirit and generally improve student outcomes.
Scott introduced the new Common Core Curriculum Standards by saying that this would provide district wide continuity, creating more alignment for both students and teachers.
In response to comments from the participants, Scott said that there is Regional Occupation Program funding available and the County Office of Education has been very helpful in facilitating two woodshop classes and one metal shop class at South Fork.
The next LCAP town hall meeting is tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. at South Fork High School. Public participation is encouraged.
REDWOOD TIMES PHOTO BY SANDY FERETTO
A Power Point presentation and handouts helped district superintendent Catherine Scott convey data at the first of three LCAP meetings in Redway.