Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sabin School Boundary and Enrollment Change Process

Dear Sabin Neighbors,

I write to you as the Sabin Community representative on the Portland Public School District (PPS) Boundary Advisory Committee (BAC).  The purpose of this email is to inform you about the boundary change process currently underway for Sabin K-8, ACCESS 2-8 (TAG school housed at Sabin), Alameda K-5 and Beaumont 6-8. 

Understanding that the topic of public schools generally results in tremendous interest and opinions among residents, I want to share with you: 1) why boundary changes are under consideration, 2) what the changes under consideration are, 3) what the potential impact on Sabin School and residents is, 4) my role as the Sabin representative on the BAC, and 5) how you can plug into the process.

PPS has created a Boundary Advisory Committee to make a recommendation about the best way to resolve enrollment concerns among the four schools (Sabin, ACCESS, Alameda and Beaumont).  BAC members are tasked with understanding the complex issues and making a recommendation to the School Board by late January. 

BAC members include: two parents from each of the impacted schools, a Sabin neighborhood person (Clay Veka – Sabin Community Association member), an Alameda neighborhood person, and a Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods board member with a broader neighborhood view. Principals from all four schools attend the meetings to provide input when requested.
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Why boundary changes are under consideration?

·      Sabin K-8 has too few students, especially in grades 6-8 (54 students in the 2010/11 school year), making it challenging to offer them the range of courses the middle-grade students need, and requiring subsidized funding to support the 6-8 program, funding which will not likely be available in the years ahead. Sabin's attendance area contains relatively few students.

·       Next door, Alameda K-5 is overcrowded with 780 students, with many class sizes over 30 students. Alameda's attendance area contains many students.

·      Beaumont Middle School also has low enrollment as Alameda is its only feeder school. Beaumont relies on transfers to reach a student body of 455 when middle schools generally need 550 students to offer a robust program. However, students in the Sabin catchment area may chose to attend Beaumont without applying for a transfer, though that stipulation is set to sunset next year.

·      ACCESS Academy is a school for talented and gifted students that is housed in Sabin and, while the two schools share some resources, they operate independently.  ACCESS is included in the conversation and needs to be located in one (or more) of the three schools.


What are the changes under consideration?

Many different scenarios have been proposed to get numbers to equal out across the schools.  Instead of detailing each scenario because they are nuanced and complex, here I lay out the tenants encompassed in many of the scenarios.
·        Alameda remains a K-5.  (In all proposed scenarios.)
·       The Alameda school boundary shrinks and Sabin school boundary expands to include more Alameda families.  (In most proposed scenarios.)
·      The boundary change only affects incoming students, meaning that the year the change is instituted, only kindergartners in the affected area will go to Sabin.  Students in the affected area who currently attend Alameda will not move to Sabin.  Any younger siblings of current Alameda students will also continue to Alameda. (In all proposed scenarios)
·      Sabin remains a K-8, with more students from the current Alameda boundary.  Sabin School will be the default middle school option for all 6-8 students residing in the Sabin boundary (currently 6-8 graders residing in the Sabin boundary may chose to attend Sabin or Beaumont).  To attend Beaumont (or another PPS middle school), students will need to transfer. ACCESS moves elsewhere, potentially to Beaumont.  Or ACCESS is split so that 2-5 remains at Sabin and 6-8 moves to Beaumont. (In some proposed scenarios.)
·      Alternatively, Sabin becomes a K-5, with more students from the current Alameda boundary.  All Sabin students feed into Beaumont.  ACCESS remains at Sabin.  Or ACCESS is split so that 2-5 remains at Sabin and 6-8 moves to Beaumont.  Or all of ACCESS moves to Beaumont. (In some proposed scenarios.)

There have been many different scenarios that the BAC has been considering.  There is currently no consensus around any one scenario. 

Greatest potential impact on Sabin School and Residents.

The greatest impact to Sabin from this process is whether the school remains a K-8 or becomes a K-5. 

Because Sabin has too few 6-8 graders to make it economically viable to continue providing education to this low number of students, and because Beaumont has too few students to be able to provide a robust middle school curriculum, 6-8 graders residing in the Sabin boundary need to consolidate into one program to get closer to creating a sustainable program. 

At the January 4 BAC meeting, which is open to the public (see details below), the committee is aiming to develop a recommendation to take to the mid-January public forum (yet to be scheduled).   

My Role.

The boundary advisory committee task is as follows:

Priority is to resolve enrollment concerns among the four schools.  Any solution must allow adequate room for programs, and room for anticipated growth.  The focus is on all of the schools, not an individual school.  Limit the number of reassigned students/transitions.  Any boundary change will not affect any current student or sibling. The goal is to have the Board vote on recommendations on January 24, before “kindergarten round-up” and the beginning of the transfer cycle and staffing.

5 criteria and considerations for making a recommendation:
Top priority: Enrollment stability and access to quality educational opportunities – projected enrollment across the schools must allow for a robust core program.
Sustainable for multiple years allowing for growth.
Proximity – Students should be assigned whenever feasible to the closest school to their home.
Student impact – Minimize the total number of students reassigned and limit the
number of transitions.
Economic diversity – Strive to maintain relatively similar levels of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals across schools in order to maintain a balanced population from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Recognizing these as the goals and criteria guiding the BAC, my responsibility is two-fold:
Participate as a BAC member to solve a student allocation challenge based on current enrollment numbers and projections at all 4 schools, with the above goal and criteria guiding the decision.
Advocate for the best resolution for Sabin residents, as the Sabin Community Association representative.

It is in the later capacity that my role gets obscured because there is not a clear resolution that is “best” for Sabin residents.  I feel strongly that we are able to increase enrollment rates at Sabin to create a robust school program.  And I feel strongly that 6-8 students living in the Sabin boundaries are provided with a robust middle school program. 

Numbers across the board are driving the process more than a discussion about K-5 vs. K-8 at Sabin.  Comments I have received from Sabin residents reveal that Sabinites are passionate and split in the K-5 / K-8 debate.  Some feel passionate about Beaumont continuing to be an option for Sabin residents without requiring a transfer and some feel passionate about building the Sabin K-8 program. 

In my role, I can share opinions of Sabin residents.  But without clear and overwhelming direction from the community, I cannot advocate for one system over the other. 

I would like to hear from you.  Please contact me with your comments, or contact the PPS project manager.  All contact information follows.


How you can plug into the process.

Contact me
Email me or call me, I would like to hear from.
Clay Veka
503-961-3702

Contact the PPS project manager
Amanda Whalen
503-916-3131

Come to the next BAC meeting. 
You will not be allowed to comment from the audience, but you will learn a lot.  We can talk at the break and I can raise your ideas with the committee if appropriate.

3rd BAC meeting
January 4
6-9pm
Sabin School

Community forum
Date TBD
I’ll keep you posted

Comment on this blog
At the bottom of this post, click “post a comment” to engage in a community discussion.
I will update the blog post periodically, as new information is available.

PPS Website

Through the process PPS has provided the BAC members with data so that we can develop a clear understanding of the issues at hand.  Some of this information is available at the PPS web link above.  I am also happy to make it available at my home if you’d like to wade through the information. 

Please share this email with any Sabin resident who you think will be interested in the process.  In conjunction with PPS, it is our job to make sure that our friends and neighbors are aware of the Sabin/Alameda/Beaumont boundary process.

Sincerely,

Clay Veka
Sabin Community Association member

1 comment:

Sabin said...

As an Alameda teacher and Sabin resident I think what makes the most sense is to change the Sabin/Alameda boundaries, have Sabin change back to a K-5, sending 6-8 to Beaumont for a more comprehensive program. Alameda stays a K-5, allowing affected families to choose for the 2011-2012 school year (Sabin or Alameda). As far as Access goes they should keep the 2-5 program at Sabin and move the 6-8 program at Beaumont. I previously worked at Beaumont and believe they have the room to house the new program as well as more students in the regular program.