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I am often asked by parents about how our schools are dealing with bullying issues. It is so heartbreaking to see a parent whose child is being bullied to try to do something --anything -- and yet to feel helpless in the face of the pain their child is experiencing.
Bullying is something that completely stymies me. Why do we, as adults, let it go on? Why do some choose to turn a blind eye to this behavior?
Personally, I started teaching my own children to treat their friends well from the time they were small. But, for a myriad of reason, not all parents do this, and it is up to the schools - and other parents - to deal with the results.
Social science has made exponential leaps forward in the last 50 years, and I believe the newest developments show great promise in dealing with bullying as well as a great number of other social and emotional issues that inhibit learning in the classroom.
Oh July 11, 2017, the Edmonds School Board adopted "Second Step" instructional material for teaching Social Emotional Learning in grades K-3. At that time, plans were made to provide 60 teachers and 30 administrators with training in August, 2017.
This is a method of teaching that promotes a positive classroom environment. Students are taught Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making Skills, not as stand-alone subjects, but through specific classroom procedures sewn into the fabric of the day.
Adoption of this program is a bold, progressive move on the part of our School Board and our Superintendent. The results could shape our very society in a positive way for generations to come. Bravo!
Here's a great video that explains SEL:
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Here is our school district's new Race and Equity Policy, as presented, in draft form, to the school board on October 10. It is the culmination of three years' work by Assistant Superintendent Justin Irish, the school board members, school district staff, school families and community members.
This is a highly progressive, cutting edge approach, and illustrates our school district's and our community's commitment to truly making a difference in the lives of our children. Focus is on high achievement standards for all students through removal of identified opportunity gaps.
The board will vote on adoption of this policy on their October 24 meeting.
Next step will be implementation.
These are very exciting times for our community. As a long-term community member and a graduate of our school district, I can't tell you how moved I am that we are taking on this very important change.
Policy: 0600- DRAFT
Section: 0000 – Planning
Race and Equity
The Edmonds School District acknowledges that complex societal and historical factors contribute to inequities within our school district. This policy confronts the institutional bias that results in predictability of student performance based on race, background and/or circumstances (such as but not limited to: disability, language, income and culture). We resolve to address opportunity gaps at every level of our organization through policy, procedure, and practice in order to eliminate persistent achievement gaps.
Our data suggests that among these disparate outcomes, race continues to be the most persistent predictor of student performance. Consequently, we will prioritize our efforts and resources on strategies that eliminate institutional racism.
The core purpose of the Edmonds School District is to nurture the potential in each student so that she or he is well equipped for a world of infinite possibilities. We are committed to creating and sustaining great schools where every student—without exception—learns at high levels. In light of this purpose, Edmonds School District prioritizes closing achievement and opportunity gaps, while raising the achievement for all students. Educational equity benefits all students and our entire community.
The diversity of our student body, our staff and our community is a strength of this district and should be fostered. Edmonds School District believes the responsibility for student success is broadly shared by District staff, families, our community and our students’ own efforts. Each student deserves respectful learning environments in which diversity is valued and contributes to successful academic outcomes.
In order to address opportunity and achievement gaps, the Edmonds School District will develop equity tools and procedures as strategies to eliminate systemic disparities and ensure systemic equity for students, staff, and families. Edmonds School District commits to:
1. ELIMINATE SYSTEMIC DISPARITIES
To interrupt factors that perpetuate inequities, Edmonds School District will:
Edmonds School District will implement and lead from a system-wide racial equity plan that stands on three critical pillars: Family, Student and Community Engagement; Leadership; and Teaching and Learning.
A. Family, Student and Community Engagement
District employees will develop and implement equitable practices for and with our students,
their families and other community members including:
District leaders will ensure that racial equity guides employee actions and leads to
improved academic results by:
District employees will work together to increase their individual and collective capacity to
effectively teach a racially and ethnically diverse and changing student population by:
The Board directs the Superintendent to develop and implement a system-wide racial equity plan with clear accountability and metrics, which will result in measureable academic improvements for Edmonds School District students. The Superintendent shall regularly report progress on the plan and outcomes.
Edmonds School District Adopted:
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I have to ask myself: Who ever thought to cut back on recess in the first place?
It's simple brain science. When people move, they get more oxygen to their brains. That makes them more alert and makes their brains function better.
It's a matter of working smarter without having to work harder.
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I went with my baby grandson Bert to his preschool co-op at Edmonds Community College on Friday. Our family -- my husband, both my girls and I -- were enrolled in this program before the girls started kindergarten.
I had a lovely morning playing at the preschool with Bert. There are climbing toys designed specially for pre-walkers, sensory tables where the babies can splash in water and play in all manner of squishable materials, circle time where parents sing to their babies, and of course a finger food snack. Bert had three servings!
I was struck by what an important role this program plays in our community. It's not merely a preschool; at it's heart it is a Parent Education program. The preschool itself is considered a "lab" where parenting practices are modeled by Early Childhood Education specialists. These specialists also facilitate discussion groups on topics relevant to raising children ages birth through 4 or 5.
There are several preschool co-ops affiliated with Edmonds Community College. The infant-toddler program is housed on the actual college campus, but preschools for older students are located in sites throughout the community. The off-campus co-ops are run by a parent board, and parents are required to volunteer in the school one day a week.
The model has been so popular by attending parents that they petitioned the Edmonds School District to design a school based on the same model. And thus we have the Maplewood K-8 Co-op in Edmonds, a public school that is so popular it can only be entered by lottery.
Because the co-ops are parent run, they are also a good leadership development program for adults. The most famous program graduate? U.S. Senator Patty Murray, who got her political start when she fought a threat by the Washington state legislature to cut funding to parent education programs.
So truly, preschool cooperatives, which can be found at every community college and vocational technical school in the state, are the epitome of a "grass roots" movement.
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I've been hearing, "My child is so BORED in their classroom!" from parents as I talk to them about how they want to see education in their schools improved. There is a call for more enrichment opportunities across the district.
At one time there was a second highly capable option for some students in the Edmonds School District, that didn't involve moving to a new school as our current Challenge program does. It was a pull-out enrichment program that was available for many years, but was stopped at least in part because students didn't like the perceived stigma of the "pull out" model.
It occurred to me yesterday that there is a potential solution to this problem that is available to all students, in their own schools. Washington state even pays a small portion to fund the program. It is called, "Destination Imagination."
You can read it about it here:
This website talks about the Washington state organization:
My own children were involved in Destination Imagination (DI) throughout elementary school and middle school, and one of them continued through high school. I was a Team Manager for 11 years; one or two years I even managed two teams at a time.
Here's what it looks like: The DI team has 4-7 students. They pick a "problem," to which they will develop a "solution." The solution will always be a performance, i.e., a play with a story. There are usually five problems to choose from, each having its own set of requirements. For instance, students might be required to build a car and incorporate it into their performance, or a structure that has to support a specific load, or a carnival ride for ping pong balls that actually functions mechanically.
Here's the biggest piece: Students are required to do all the work themselves. Write the story, make the costumes, build the props, learn all the engineering, and put it into practice. There are stiff penalties for "interference," which in this case means involvement by anyone other than a team member.
Each year the students present their performances at a regional competition. Those who are chosen, advance to the state tournament and then on to, "Global Finals," where literally teams from all over the world come to compete.
Our teams were very successful. They consistently competed at the state level, and made it to Globals a coupe of times, where they had a decent showing.
When our teams were at Globals, I was able to interview Team Managers from all over the country. The delivery models are highly diverse, and the most successful programs (in terms of the number of student participants) come from areas where teams are teacher-led; where teachers may even incorporate DI into their classroom curriculum.
We've never done this in the Edmonds School District. The teams have always had parent volunteers for team managers. We still have had incredible success, as there have been a few Global champions who have come from our area.
But as I think about what I might do as a school board director, it occurs to me that I would love to be an advocate for this program in our schools. I did promote the program across the district when my own kids were in school, but my ability to have a big effect was limited because I was still a parent volunteer myself.
My husband and I continue to volunteer for this program, along with many of our teammates' parents. Each year when our schedule allows we are Team Evaluators at the regional level and at the state level.
The program is called a, "Teamwork and Creative Problem Solving," educational opportunity, and I can attest, as a parent of young adults who were able to take advantage of this opportunity as children, that it certainly is. One student on my team who is now 28 and works for a Property Management company said to me when she was in college, "Cathy, I'm taking a Marketing Class. I love it! It's just like DI!" Yes it is!
Expect to hear more about Destination Imagination if you choose me to hold a position on our school board!
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My previous post about school lunches had some interesting responses! Thanks to all who chose to join the discussion. I'd like in particular to pass along this conversation, since I think there are some pretty interesting points made by both me and by engaged reader Judy McCoid. Thank you, Judy!
JUDY MCCOID: The debt is not from kids /families who cannot afford it. They are on free lunch. Some of the debt is from kids on reduced lunch. Most of it is from families who do not qualify for assistance; therefore can afford to pay for the lunch?
CATHY BAYLOR: Yes, Judy - and yet what our schools are dealing with is teaching children who aren't ready to learn because they are hungry. The school district works very hard to collect lunchroom debt. Parents receive emails daily if they are in arrears even $5.00. This is as it should be.
But in the meantime, kids need to be ready to learn. If you look at the bigger picture -- nearly 19,000 students in the district, and 6,000 lunches served each day -- an overall debt load of $5,000 isn't that great, especially considering the return.
JUDY MCCOID: Can the district afford to pay for lunch for all? If so, great. Forgiving debt may increase the debt amount.
CATHY BAYLOR: Judy, for the 2016-2017 school year total district expenditures were $260,647,353. This exceeded revenues by $14,913,790, but there is a reserve fund that covered this. There is still over $7 million in the reserve fund.
There are at least two things that you can conclude from this:
1. $4,000 in school lunch debt is VERY SMALL in comparison to the overall budget. It is a minuscule percentage. To be precise, it is .00001535%. It is 00057143% of the reserve account that now sits at $7 million. So yes, they could afford to pay this.
2. As good stewards, however, who are guarding the schools money and being frugal with taxpayer money, the school board instead chose to ask the community to help out with this with donations: which they gladly did. In fact, while the lunch debt was $4,000, the community chipped in $6,000, leaving $2000 to defray some of this year's costs.
And in response to your point about this new policy resulting in increased debt: I want to reiterate that the food services department is being quite aggressive in collecting lunch debt. I have personally seen a personalized message to a parent who owed, $4.54 just two days ago.
This is a pilot program. The school board is monitoring the progress very closely. They can change the policy at any time, if need be. I think we should give it a chance, considering, as I said before, "we are talking here about our very precious children."
JUDY MCCOID: Thank you for the detailed information.
CATHY BAYLOR: Thank you, Judy!
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I went to a school board meeting last night. The hot topic?
HOT SCHOOL LUNCHES!!!
Many schools carry "lunch room debt" throughout the year, and how this debt has or hasn't been dealt with has been the subject of a great deal of press across the country.
Last spring, our school board decided to opt out of a practice that had taken hold during some of the worst days of the 2008-and-later economic downturn. I hope someday, "Shame Lunches," AKA, "Courtesy Lunches," will one day be a distant memory. Originaly conceived with probably the best of intentions, these brown bag lunches were handed out to students whose parents held a negative balance on their lunch accounts.
Somewhat meager, yet nutritionally sound, courtesy lunches unfortunately were easily recognizable to all students, and therefore carried a stigma with them that many students chose not to endure. Rather than face the shame that partaking in such a lunch might incur, they would choose instead to go hungry.
Let's talk about this. Current brain research is quite clear on one issue: human brains need nutrition to function properly. If brains don't get good food, they don't work well. Specifically, if our children are at school hungry, they are not learning at an optimum level.
So paying for an education for children, and then posing barriers to their intake of fuel, is a lot like spending all your money on a nice car, but not bothering to buy gas. Except, of course, that we are talking here about our very precious CHILDREN.
In plain terms: paying for teacher salaries, school buildings, supplies, administrative costs, is not money well spent if the children we are spending it on can't learn because they are hungry.
So I couldn't be happier that our school board decided last spring to discontinue one barrier: The Shame Lunch. Instead, each child will be given a lunch equal to each other child's lunch, regardless of the lunch debt they carry.
This is only right. Yes, brains need fuel to function, but brains also need a sense of safety to function, and feeling shamed is counterproductive to this important sense of security.
One problem. The lunch debt still exists. Last year the school district collected about $6,000 in public donations (from local businesses and individuals) to pay off $4,000 in debt. So it is likely that we will need to replenish that donation account before the year is over.
Personally, I don't believe the school district should have to ask for public donations for this, since food for children who can't afford it should be, "the cost of doing business."
However, this is where we are. These are OUR children. They are OUR future and will someday be OUR physicians, lawyers, mechanics, politicians, clergy, and teachers. And they shouldn't go hungry.
Can you help out? Here's a link to help you donate.
If you can manage it, I thank you for contributing to this fund so our kids are fed. Oh and. Feeding kids: it's just plain the right thing to do!
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The new money managements laws coming out of Olympia this year have drastically changed the funding structure of our schools. School funding for music programs may only come from local levies, which can't exceed $2500/student.
We don't know yet exactly what this means, but I assure you there will be many programs that want to share these funds.
If I am elected to the position of school board director, I will work tirelessly to promote and protect the finely honed music programs in our district.
I am a musician and a music teacher. My experience with the ESD programs in particular started in 1969. I was the piano accompanist for the choirs and jazz band, and a violinist in the Orchestras at both Brier Junior High and Lynnwood High School≥
My daughters both graduated from Edmonds Woodway High School, where they participated in the orchestra.
I am so proud that one of my piano student, Alyssa Tran, played in LHS jazz combos throughout high school. I do believe I contributed Matthew Nguyen to the jazz band at Meadowdale HS, as well.
So I have been around the ESD music programs for ... 49 years!
I've had the opportunity to attend some school concerts this last month. What is remarkable to me is the amazing growth that's occurred since I first came here. My orchestra at Lynnwood High School? There were about 15 of us. Now? Amy Stevenson has grown that program to over 70 students!
Because I have a personal relationship with these groups, and because I am a musician myself, I understand what an incredible jewel our music programs are. My understanding of what has gone into the development of these programs far exceeds the pedestrian.
Here is a shortened list of professional musicians and educators our district has produced. This list is in no way comprehensive. These people all surely had private instruction; but there is no doubt that the opportunity provided by the ESD for them to work in quality ensembles contributed to their success:
Neil Welch - saxophone artist
Dylan Welsh - guitarist and educator
Andrew Fox - composer and performer
Dylan Smith - college band instructor
Jay Roberts - professional guitarist and owner of Roberts Music Institute
Jeff Sizer - award winning composer and educator
Mercedes Paynter - bassist
Nico Hartikainen - grammy award winning producer
Stefan Van Sant - clarinetist
Hilary Johnson - vocal recording artist
Gabe Ferreira - clarinetist
Andrew Leonard - singer/actor/educator
Devon Yesberger - professional pianist and composer
Ehssan Karimi - percussionist who tours internationally
Elliot Gray - pianist and educator in Mill Creek
Cathy Baylor - pianist and educator in Lynnwood
Debra DeMiero - pianist and educator in Mountlake Terrace; theory professor at Edmonds Community College
Amy Stevenson - educator at Lynnwood High School
Charlotte Reese - educator at Edmonds Woodway High School
Dan Kramlich - pianist and professor at SPU
I ask for your vote so I can be there to make sure our music programs maintain their strength and integrity; so I can work to continue the job of those who have come before us in supporting and developing a program worthy of the pride of any community.
There are five people on the Edmonds School District School Board. Let's make sure one of them truly understands the ins and outs of our music programs.