On 2nd Try, Mom Named Student Of Month

On 2nd Try, Mom Named Student Of Month

Four running for three seats on Nebo School District Board of Education

District faces wave of new cuts as unexpectedly lower attendance numbers explode spike budget reductions from $4.1 million to $10.1 million

On a Friday afternoon last March, Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Brian McDonald said in an email to the PUSD community that the Board of Education would “indefinitely” postpone exploring any school closures to save money.

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District 50 school board evaluates itself | News

The School Board will look that evening at a money-saving plan to close three Pasadena Unified schools—Cleveland, Franklin, and Wilson Middle School.

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The recommendation is part of a plan from Interim Chief of Business Eva Lueck to cut $10.1 million in costs to maintain the Districts reserve fund, as ordered by the Los Angeles County Office of Education last spring.

Poor students switch schools more often than their wealthier peers. In Michigan, low-income students move three times as frequently as those with higher incomes. An extensive new series on student turnover in Detroit’s schools by Chalkbeat, an education news site, and Bridge Magazine homed in on one eighth grade class to reveal that its 31 students had collectively attended 128 schools — an average of four schools each. Just as alarming: One out of three students in kindergarten through fifth grade didn’t stay with the same school all year.

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The announcement of the recommendation Tuesday caught local parents by surprise. A group of Wilson Middle School parents plan a parents meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to plan a rally to save their school, according to several involved parents.

Turnover in big cities is higher than in the suburbs. In Illinois, 7 percent of students switch schools during the year. But in Chicago, 11 percent of children enter late or exit early. Those figures only count school switchers once, no matter how many times they move. The rates of children switching schools in Providence is about twice as high as the Rhode Island state average. Boston’s rate of student churn is more than twice as high as Massachusetts as a whole.

The District is facing an unexpected estimated drop of 500 students in the current school year. The loss of State funds related to the smaller number of students has pushed the Districts budget reduction target up to the $10.1 million figure.

Rural districts are unpredictable. Most rural districts have more stable populations than urban districts. But some have high churn. In Nevada’s rural Lincoln County, six in 10 students change schools during the year. In Wisconsin, rural districts with the highest churn are ones that host virtual charter schools. Those schools can enroll children from all over the state and by their nature see high rates of turnover.

As Board member Scott Phelps told Pasadena Now in an interview Tuesday, that cost pressure is the most pressing issue facing the District at the moment.

Drew eventually settled into one high school, located near the shelter her mother landed in when they moved back to Minnesota. By sophomore year, some of her teachers started urging her to think about college. They didn’t find out she had been living in a shelter until her senior year — when she revealed it on her personal statements for scholarship applications.

That means revenue you get (from the State) based on enrollment, he said. The attendance is 95 percent of enrollment. When we opened school for this year, there was a greater decline in enrollment than we anticipated.

Texas is alone in its definition of mobility: Students in a school for less than 83 percent of the school year. That’s closer to the definition of chronic absenteeism, a related but different issue. Texas officials say that’s purposeful: They want to capture students who are moving as well as those who are chronically missing.

According to Luecks report, the lower attendance numbers translate into $2.7 million less in revenue for the school years 2019 and 2020.

“I don’t care what we’re doing to improve schools — if a third of our kids are moving in the same year, we’re not going to do right by all of our students,” Anderson said. “There’s no way we can give them the deep relationships and consistency necessary for them to succeed.”

This is serious, said Phelps. We now need $10.1 million. In this discussion, which we had recently, we thought it was $4.1 million, it’s now looking like $10.1 million in reductions for 2020 to 2021. The fact is, that’s a negative balance…That means you don’t have any more money. It doesn’t mean you’re below your reserve. It’s worse than that.

“If school instability is happening within the context of a lot of other instability, then that’s all going to make it harder for kids to learn,” said Stefanie DeLuca, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins. She’s studied the link between housing instability and school switching in various cities.

Consolidating the three schools would save an estimated $2,316,592, along with a $100,000 one-time transition cost, Lueck said.

Children of color switch schools frequently. In most states, black students switch schools at least two to three times more frequently than white students. Latino students switch schools more frequently than white students. In most states, Asian students switch schools only slightly more frequently than white students.

The District would also realign and restructure its warehouse program, which is responsible for storing and delivering school books to the Districts campuses.

According to Luecks report, the District originally found itself in August with a remaining reduction target of $4.1 million in order to achieve a 3% budget reduction, as Phelps noted.

Newark Public Schools, the largest district in New Jersey, enrolls about 35,000 students. About 85 percent of them live in poverty. More than a decade ago, researchers found the average Newark school had 29 percent student turnover. That’s in the same realm as Milwaukee, Denver, Detroit and Rochester, New York.

The packet the Board is receiving Thursday reflects an initial list of options that will expand throughout (this) budget process, said Lueck in her report.

While individual schools and districts are keyed into the issue, the challenges of churn rarely win attention at the national level. Without good and widespread figures on the phenomenon, it’s hard to understand the extent of it and causes for it — and to identify solutions for reducing it.

Lueck also added that the reductions do not include the positive impacts we anticipate from our student attendance campaign, the focus on the filing of free and reduced lunch applications, the potential reserve generated through the property exchange, or the revenue that would be generated should measures I and J pass, and the City shares those revenues.

“Of the many dimensions of poverty, student mobility seems to be one that has the ability to be addressed through state and federal policy,” said Jeffrey Grigg, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education who has studied the negative consequences of frequent school changes.

Back in March, McDonald had also mentioned other revenue-generating possibilities the District needs to explore further, primarily related to what he described as the Districts valuable real estate holdings, which could avert the need to close schools.

Parents move their children for various reasons: housing instability, displeasure with schools, safety concerns, custody issues, discipline matters, the availability of transportation. Some think they’re helping their kids by switching schools, not that they might be slowing them down instead.

Along with school consolidations, according to the staff report, other cuts being considered are instructors in the Districts successful International Baccalaureate, along with the Districts program for homeless families.

Overall turnover hovers around 10 percent. Chronic school-switchers are a small but concerning minority. Among states using similar definitions, Nebraska reported between 11 percent and 12 percent of its students as transient. Michigan: 7 percent. Massachusetts: 9 percent. Wisconsin: 10 percent.

Previously headquartered in the Districts center on Hudson and Del Mar, the center has been moved to the Madison Elementary Healthy Start Center.

Time and again, Baltimoreans who fell off track shared similar stories about their childhoods. Many felt let down by parents who weren't around enough, by schools that couldn't provide what they needed, and by communities that were violent and chaotic, DeLuca said. 

Thats a coordinator and two other positions, explained Phelps, and some other funding because it adds up quite a bit. Family and community engagement staff who work with volunteers mostly.

The Districts current United Teachers Pasadena contract states that nurses may only be reduced through attrition.

Still, he said he expects at least one school will actually end up being closed for next Falls school year.

There’s going to be a lot of pushback. There’s going to be a lot of community members, even City Councilmembers who will say, No, no, don’t close schools.

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