The Annual PTA Staff Appreciation Cookie Carry is Friday, Dec. 13th. This is a perfect way to volunteer without a huge time commitment and to show our staff how much we appreciate them! Just bake a few batches of your favorite cookies and deliver them to the staff lounge; families may drop off cookies in the staff lounge from 3:45-6pm on Thursday, December 12th or from 7-11am on Friday, December 13th.

Please package cookies in non-breakable, airtight containers and attach a copy of the recipe.  If you need your containers returned, please label both top and bottom with your student’s full name, grade and homeroom teacher.

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Two quick updates:

  1. Joint letter:
    On Dec. 2, I sent the Arlington School Board a letter requesting that they advise APS staff that the School Board will not take a vote on school moves in February. This letter is attached. It was cosigned by six other PTAs and together we represent more than 2,700 families across the county. 

    I had hoped that additional PTAs would sign on, but it’s become clear that *many* school communities not immediately impacted by APS’s two proposals are only beginning to educate themselves about what’s going on, and hence many felt it was too early for them to sign on. Nevertheless, I hope the letter will make an impression on the School Board, and I plan to speak at the Dec 19 School Board meeting to underscore the importance of better data and a better process. 

    I know that many of you are reaching out to APS and School Board members individually, and I encourage you to drive home the points that we see serious flaws in both the data and process, and we are alarmed that it will yield poor results for the county (not just for McKinley). More on this when we meet this Thursday.

  2. Thursday’s special PTA meeting:
    This Thursday night at 7 pm there will be a special PTA meeting for current McK families and staff in the school cafeteria. We’ll talk about what we’re seeing in the data, what it means for both McK and the county as a whole, and what we can do moving forward. I encourage you to attend.
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On Dec. 2, I (PTA President Mary Kadera) attended a meeting organized by APS for PTA Presidents as well as leaders of CCPTA and SEPTA. Video of the meeting is archived on the Engage website, but my CliffsNotes version follows here:

HEADLINES

  1. Participants raised many concerns about the proposed school moves, and APS’s response to most of these was that these problems would all get fixed in the subsequent boundary change process. I addressed this squarely in the second question I got to ask APS (see below) and am still very troubled by what I perceive as unfounded optimism that everything will come out all right once we get to the boundary change phase.
  2. There was sharp criticism of APS that it was failing to factor in equity and diversity considerations as an important potential impact of school moves. Randolph, Campbell, CCPTA, and Key all spoke to this issue – more below.
  3. APS reported that it was possible they would issue additional proposals for the community to respond to, and their hope would be to do this by Dec 9 before the first of the “What We Heard” community meetings. They want to double-check any additional scenarios, however, before they get a public airing.

SPECIFICS 
Here are some of the questions that got asked and responses given (paraphrased):

  • Mary’s Question #1:
    One of the APS goals driving school moves is to free up neighborhood seats in areas of the county where they are projected to be needed and utilize excess capacity in the NW part of the county. Yet both APS proposals actually end up creating an even greater surplus of seats in the NW part of the county, according to the data you’ve published in “Analysis of Students Moving.” So it seems like both proposals don’t actually achieve this important goal. Can you help us understand this?

    • APS Response:
      APS’s response was that we need to be mindful of PreK and special education programs (I am assuming they are referring to things like MIPA) which aren’t currently included in “Analysis of Students Moving” and could consume some of this excess capacity.

      I countered with the statement, “But I am just talking about K-5 data for now. It would seem like school moves should get you at least *part way* to your goal of eliminating excess capacity in the NW part of the county. So, instead of 116 extra seats, school moves should help you get closer to zero. Instead, it pushes this number upwards of 300.”

      APS answered that we shouldn’t give too much weight to the numbers in the “Analysis of Students Moving” chart because things would get balanced out in the subsequent boundary change phase of the process.

  • Randolph’s Question:
    Goals for the school move process don’t consider diversity and equity. What steps are you taking to ensure that this part of the process won’t actually exacerbate racial and socio-economic divides in the schools?

    • APS Response:
      APS responded that the school move process is something separate from boundary changes and thus doesn’t have to factor in diversity or the other factors identified in the APS policy that governs boundary changes.  They also added that balancing student demographics would likely require more busing, and the ES principals had requested that APS not spend $$ on increased transportation, but instead allocate those funds towards more resources to support diverse students in their existing schools and classrooms.
  • Campbell’s Question:
    Campbell asked APS to share Planning Unit-level demographic data for students. APS reiterated that the school move process would not factor in student demographics, which will be taken up in the subsequent boundary change process, and thus APS will not be sharing demographic information related to either of its two proposals. Campbell responded, “Then how will you prevent negative impacts [to balanced demographics] caused by school moves?” and APS responded that this would all be worked out in the boundary change phase.
  • CCPTA Commentary:
    APS is in the process of hiring a leader for diversity and equity and finalizing an equity policy stipulating that equity considerations should be front-and-center in all decision making. However, the school move process “excludes it entirely.” CCPTA notes that proximity and efficiency, two of the six factors in APS’s boundary change policy, are very much a priority in the school move process, but balancing demographics is not. CCPTA views this as problematic because the school move decision “directly impacts what we’ll be able to do later…It needs to be a priority. It’s supposed to be a priority.”
  • SEPTA Questions:
    Our own Kathleen Clark, representing SEPTA, asked two good questions about the particular impact of school moves and boundary changes on special education students. APS responded that this was an “Instructional issue” that they want to build into the IPP and boundary change processes, in collaboration with the Department of Teaching and Learning and groups like ASEAC.

    It sounded very much like a work in progress with a pledge to “do things better” for special education populations. APS held out the possibility of administrative transfers that would allow some special education students to stay in their current schools, but Kathleen responded that this would be a difficult decision for families (following friends to a new school, or staying in the building you know…)

  • Mary’s Second Question:
    I’ve heard repeatedly tonight that various concerns raised–like schools being over or under capacity, like continued (and even worsened) excess capacity in some parts of the county, like the diversity issues raised by many here–are all going to get settled down the road in the boundary change process. I am getting confused about why we are doing school moves, then, if the school moves are not getting us at least incrementally closer to accomplishing the goals you set out for the process in the first place.  If all these issues are going to get resolved in the boundary change phase, how can APS be sure that those boundary changes are going to get us to a good result? What information is giving you that level of confidence, and can you share it with us so that we can feel confident, too?

    • APS Response:
      APS’s response–and I took detailed notes–was approximately this: “We need to know what sites will be neighborhood schools so that we can draw the boundaries. We need to finalize school moves so that we know what sites we’re actually working with. Then we’ll be able to draw the boundaries.” 

Friends, this really worries me. 

All along I’ve said that it’s the PTA’s job to ensure that 1) families have information about what’s coming and how to engage; 2) APS decisions are based on good data; and 3) APS is using a process that is fair and transparent. 

Based on everything we’ve seen over the past month, I believe it’s vital for our PTA, and all others, to raise the alarm about the data and process. We’ll talk more about this on Thursday night. 

– Mary

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Light Up the HolidaysThis the Season of Giving is back! Through December 13, select a gift tag from the bulletin board in the front lobby. Each tag contains an item requested by a family or child in our area. Please take a tag, purchase the gift, ATTACH THE TAG SECURELY TO THE GIFT, and drop it back off UNWRAPPED in the box below the bulletin board. Easy-peasy!

Please remind children that they should not take a tag without permission from a parent/guardian. We’re accountable for purchasing these items and need all tags to come back attached to a gift.

View more program details here.

Questions? Contact Jen Bakos, Christina Quinn, or Elisa Rosman.

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Dates for Your Calendar:

  • Sunday, Nov 24: Last day to complete APS’s online survey about Elementary School Planning. You can find that survey here: https://survey.k12insight.com/survey.aspx?k=RQsSRTVsQRPTsPsPsP
  • Monday, Dec 2 @ 7 pm: APS Meeting with PTA Presidents. Because APS staff can’t meet individually with each school community (more on that below) it is convening a meeting with all PTA presidents that will be live-streamed to other interested folks in the community.
  • Tuesday, Dec 3 @ 7 pm: Regular PTA meeting. No 2021 Elementary School Planning info will be discussed at this meeting because we have some regular business to transact. Agenda items will include the fantastic Kevin Trainor to talk about gifted services and differentiated instruction; Colin Brown on McKinley’s 2019-20 School Management Plan; the APS Family Life Education curriculum; and more.
  • Thursday, Dec 5 @ 7 pm: 2021 Elementary School Planning Update Meeting for McK Families. This meeting is for current McKinley families and will allow us to share what’s happened since our Nov 4 meeting. There has been a lot of information shared out by APS, data analysis, back-and-forth with APS staff and School Board members, and exchanges with other school communities. In particular, we’ll want to dig into the question, “What is the data showing?” as it relates to the two APS proposals under consideration and other possible alternatives. This meeting will help us prepare for a thoughtful discussion with School Board member Barbara Kanninen (see below). Participation in this “pre-meeting” isn’t required for your attendance at the meeting with Barbara–but it’s strongly encouraged. (And yes–I know it is the same night as a School Board meeting–apologies for this conflict. Note that there are other opportunities to engage with School Board members collectively and individually in the month of Dec.)
  • Dec 9, 10, 16: APS “What We Heard” Community Meetings at Swanson, Central Library, and Kenmore.  For those who can’t attend these evening meetings (see APS Engage site for start times), there will be a webinar on Dec 13 from 12-1 pm.
  • Wednesday, Dec 11 @ 7 pm: McKinley Family Meeting with Barbara Kanninen. Barbara is McKinley’s School Board liaison and she’s offered to come and meet with us about the 2021 ES Planning initiative. This meeting is for current McKinley families. 

Other Actions Taken:

  • Since I wrote on Tuesday, I’ve sent a draft copy of a joint letter to the CCPTA and individual PTA Presidents at other Arlington elementary schools encouraging them to join us in requesting that the School Board not take any vote on school moves on February 6. There are five PTAs currently signing this letter (McK, ATS, Key, Carlin Springs, and Campbell) and we hope to add more. McK’s PTA executive board has reviewed and approved it. If you have contacts in the PTA leadership at other schools, please encourage them to give this careful consideration. We hope to send this letter next week before the Thanksgiving break; I will provide you all with the final version after it’s sent.
  • I wrote to APS staff with a few additional data requests, in response to the letter they sent us on Tuesday, and asked them a) to provide working versions of the links on pp. 5-6 of their letter (a few of you noted, like I did, that these links lead to error pages) and b) to ask for a few additional pieces of data that will help us analyze their proposals more thoroughly. If you’d like to see this email I sent, please let me know and I will forward it to you.
  • I spoke to APS staff member Lisa Stengle yesterday about various things, including to confirm whether APS staff could come and meet with our community. Lisa let me know that in the past, APS staff members’ meetings with individual school communities had raised concerns that those conversations might be unduly influencing outcomes, so that CCPTA and John Chadwick (Assistant Supt for Facilities & Operations) have requested that these types of meetings cease. It’s APS’s hope that this will ensure equitable treatment of all schools’ considerations and a more transparent process–goals that I personally support. Instead of meetings with individual schools, APS staff will convene the Dec 2 meeting of PTA presidents (also live-streamed) and the 3 public meetings in December, all described above.
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Upcoming Events
  1. Early Release

    December 11
  2. McK Family Meeting with Barbara Kanninen

    December 11 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
  3. Holiday Cookie Carry

    December 13
  4. No School (Winter Break)

    December 23, 2019 - January 3, 2020
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