BOARD OF DIRECTORS Patty Fielding Mary Curtis Mike Spence Tim Kinkead Mev Hoberg

SUPERINTENDENT

March 13, 2013

8489 Madison Avenue NE

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Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110

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(206) 842-4714

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Fax: (206) 842-2928

SCHOOL DISTRICT FOCUSES ON INNOVATION, IMPROVEMENT OF PROCESS
At our February 28th Community Forum on Elementary World Languages, the Bainbridge Island School Board and administrators heard from approximately 25 parents and community members. Several spoke in favor of the Spanish Immersion Pilot Project or expressed support for the District’s efforts to initiate world language instruction in the elementary grades. Others expressed concerns about the manner in which the pilot project was started and the use of donated funds for start-up costs. Kim Paulson, a parent who spoke at the Forum, subsequently wrote a widely distributed letter expressing numerous concerns about the program. While many of her concerns have previously been addressed in documents posted on the District website and distributed to parents through district listserv prior to the Community Forum, we want to respond to her letter and correct some inaccuracies. We also want to reiterate our offer to personally meet with her to discuss these issues. The District Encourages School and Teacher Innovation The Bainbridge Island School District values innovation. We encourage schools and staff to research new programs and try new methods that have been successful elsewhere. There have been numerous instances over the years when individual schools or teachers have initiated new projects, piloted new curricula, or applied for grants to implement new activities in their classrooms. Recent examples include the piloting at Blakely Elementary School of ST Math, an elementary online supplemental math program, and the piloting of AP Computer Science at Eagle Harbor/Bainbridge High School. The Spanish Immersion Pilot Project is another example of a school-initiated program. In the case of Spanish Immersion, there was no violation of District policy. The project was started by a group of parents who worked with the principal and staff of the Mosaic Home Education Partnership Program. The original intent was to build and expand on a “Spanish Experience” block of classes that was successfully implemented last spring. Subsequent discussions among staff and parents led to the development of a small-scale Spanish Immersion Pilot for 2013-14. These types of school innovations have not required Board approval or required a formal review process unless they are proposed for formal district adoption. The District’s position has been to allow schools latitude to try new programs or methods to gauge student interest and work through potential problems before they are offered on a broader basis. By definition, pilot projects are usually carried out by a limited number of staff and students. If a school pilot or program is successful and generates additional interest, the District then considers expansion or replication of the program. This is what is currently taking place with the Spanish Immersion Project. (See “Feasibility Study” below.) The District Focuses on Improvement of Processes Although the Spanish Immersion Pilot Project was originally intended for Mosaic families, some families decided not to participate. Parents of students in other schools learned of the pilot through word-of-mouth and enrolled their children. Their enrollment in this pilot project, and the manner in which it occurred, caused some people to view this class as a new District-adopted program that had been created “under the radar” for a select few. It is exceedingly unfortunate that the start of an innovative, school-initiated pilot project has been marred by this perception. It is clear that the process needs to improve. As stated above, the District values innovation and will support school and teacher efforts to continuously improve. However, it is equally important that as innovative projects move forward, the processes that are utilized are fair and clearly understood.
An Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity School District

Last fall, the District decided to establish guidelines that would refine the processes used for improvement and innovation, including the development of school-initiated pilot projects. The District formed a K-6 Educational Programs and Innovation Committee which has been charged with the task of reviewing and recommending processes for piloting new ideas or programs. The committee is composed of parents, teachers, classified staff, administrators and school board representatives. It has been meeting since last November and will present its recommendations in May. Donations Preserve Programs, Support Innovation The District is blessed to be the recipient of community generosity. It receives donations and grants from many different groups such as businesses, community organizations, Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs), athletic and music boosters, and of course, the Bainbridge Schools Foundation (BSF), which provides invaluable support for district priorities. During the past 5 years, when state funding has been drastically reduced, donations from BSF have exceeded $4 million dollars, allowing the District to retain staff, maintain class size, train teachers, preserve important educational programs and services (e.g. art, music, counseling, educational support), and fund innovation. Many fundraising organizations accept designated grants or donations for specific programs or projects. PTOs collect donations for Outdoor Education, and booster clubs accept donations for specific sports or music programs. BSF receives some donations for specific purposes such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and support for special education. It has also covered start-up costs for innovative programs such as ST Math and Zeno Math – two programs for elementary students and families. The use of designated donations to support STEM, the WINGS special education program, and the Spanish Immersion Pilot are consistent with past practice and have ensured that projects such as Spanish Immersion are cost neutral for the District. One of the concerns raised about the Spanish Immersion Pilot relates to district documentation and acceptance of donated funds. All donations over $1,000 are submitted to the Board of Directors for approval through the Consent Agenda, and BSF donations are no exception. Currently, the District’s forms – used for all donations - provide a general description of how those funds will be utilized. Both the District and BSF Board members are aware of the concerns that have been expressed about the level of detail in these forms and are jointly working on revisions to reporting, documentation, and communication processes. Feasibility Study for Spanish Immersion The District is currently conducting a “feasibility study” for the Spanish Immersion Pilot Project. Initial results and future options will be presented to the School Board on March 14 for approval on March 28. The study will incorporate a great deal of data that will address questions related to student enrollment, staffing, and multi-year curricular and instructional implications. A copy of the study is included in the Board packet for the March 14th meeting and is available online through the District website. World Languages in Elementary Grades The Bainbridge Island School District regularly reviews curriculum. In the last two World Language Program reviews, elementary language instruction has been identified as an important goal; however, budget cuts have been a barrier to implementation. This year, the K-6 Educational Programs and Innovation Committee identified world languages as an important innovation to consider, and a brief survey was conducted to gauge parent interest. The survey results indicated that elementary world language instruction is of great interest to Bainbridge Island families, with moderate interest in immersion programs and significant interest in “Foreign Language in Elementary Schools (FLES)” programs which involve regularly scheduled classes taught by specialists during the school day. A subcommittee is being formed to research options for providing world language instruction to all of our elementary students. Community Commitment to Excellence in Education Bainbridge Island has a long-standing tradition of passionate debate, and the topic of Spanish Immersion is no exception. It has been evident from the start that every person who has expressed an opinion on this subject cares deeply about the quality of education of our children. Our schools are great because our community cares, and we welcome your comments and suggestions as we work to innovate and improve. Sincerely, Mike Spence, President, Board of Directors Faith Chapel, Superintendent
An Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity School District

An Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity School District

An Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity School District

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