Many choices in schools, but funding still a challenge

By Brian Soergel | Apr 07, 2017
Photo by: Brian Soergel Edmonds School District Superintendent Kris McDuffy recently provided an update at an Edmonds Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

To all those who say high school doesn’t prepare students for college or the real world, Edmonds School District Superintendent Kris McDuffy has something important for you to consider.

“We have students graduating with two years of college under their belts,” she said during a recent chamber luncheon at Edmonds Community College. “This is an incredible opportunity for students and families.”

True. There are a number of ways for students to pick up college credit in several disciplines, including arts and communications, business and marketing, engineering and technology, health and human services, and science and natural resources.

“We have a strong partnership with Edmonds Community College,” McDuffy said. “And we have over 50 courses where students can have a dual credit option. One of our strengths is the range of options and choices we have.”

McDuffy said the district also prepares students for direct entry into the working world with its career and technical education courses offering hands-on, real-world projects using current technology.

The district’s Career and Technical Education program has 17 areas of study where students can graduate with a diploma and industry certification.

Strategic direction

McDuffy, in her first year in the district after serving as superintendent of the Arlington School District since 2008, explained that Edmonds School District has four areas of focus:

Effective learning for all students: Students engaged in meaningful and relevant learning every day;

Equity of opportunity: Each student experiences a diverse, inclusive culture where all people are valued;

Preschool to third-grade learning: Each student has a supportive, equitable educational foundation and is on track to be performing at grade level by third-grade; and

Graduates who are ready for life: Each student is equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to be a resilient, participating citizen.

McDuffy said the district measures how its focus areas are doing and how progress is reported to its constituents.

“Our schools belong to the communities. That’s what public education is all about. The public deserves to know how our key indicators are doing, and what their return on investment is.”

There are 34 key indicators, broken into three categories: academic achievement, college and career readiness, and school climate, perceptions and equity.

“I am laser-focused on making sure we are having those conversations across the school system,” McDuffy.

In order for more members of the community to review the district’s data, it created an interactive dashboard. It will be shared for the first time during the third Strategic Direction Advisory Committee meeting 6-8 p.m. Monday, April 10, at the district office, 20420 68th Ave. W, Lynnwood.

“This visual guide to measuring success on our strategic direction is an important step,” McDuffy said. “It will allow a more and wider range of individuals to drill down into where we have work to do in supporting all students.”

As part of McDuffy’s desire to share information with the public, she has held several meet-and-greets during her first year, where those interested could ask questions while touring schools with her.

The last one of the the current school year was just this week. She plans at least four more in the 2017-18 school year.

“I’m passionate about getting our community, and our community leaders, into our schools so you can walk in our shoes, have our students tell the story themselves,” she said. “To have you interact with our professionals and hear what their needs are.”

Those taking the tour learned that Edmonds School District is especially focused on special education students, English-language learners and the increased diversification of its students, McDuffy said.

That diversification is reflected in the more than 115 languages spoken in the district, which counts more than 20,600 students in 35 schools.

Diversity also is seen in the fact that the number of students who identify as Caucasian – a majority since the district’s inception in 1911 – is now at 50 percent, with 20 percent of students Hispanic/Latino, 13 percent Asian, 10 percent multiracial, 6 percent black or African-American, 0.7 percent native Hawaiian or Pacific islander, and 0.5 percent American Indian or Alaska native.

The district also has stated its support of all students, regardless of sexual orientation, and does not function, nor will it function, as an arm of the federal immigration services.

New in 2016

The Edmonds School District debuted several new services in 2016. They included:

  • Free all-day kindergarten districtwide;
  • Students in grades 9-12 received Chromebook laptops for school and home use;
  • New Alderwood Middle School and Lynndale Elementary School opened in January; and
  • New maintenance and transportation facility opened in August.

Challenges

Of course, McDuffy realizes the challenges facing the Edmonds School District, which has a $260 million annual operating budget, 86 percent of which goes to employee salaries and benefits.

The main concern, of course, is that state politicians still haven’t come to a decision on how they will fund education in the future, although both the House and Senate have offered competing solutions.

It was in 2012 that the Washington State Supreme Court, in its McCleary v. State of Washington decision, determined the state was not fulfilling its constitutional requirement to fund basic education for all students, including compensation for basic-education teachers.

“This session is epic in terms of public education,” McDuffy said.

In March, both the House and Senate have passed legislation to postpone the “levy cliff” that would have resulted in massive budget cuts to K-12 schools across the state.

Without the extension, many local school districts would have seen a reduction in their ability to raise property tax levies. About $350 million in property tax support was at stake.

“Our Constitution has the strongest language in the country about funding of public education,” McDuffy said.

“This is the session that they need to have funding, not just another plan. It’s a pretty big hill to climb; that’s why I don’t envy legislators. But it’s where we are. It’s what our Constitution requires and what our Supreme Court is holding them accountable for.”

 

 

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