Edmonds School Board votes to ban e-cigarettes; hears proposal to revise choice schools lottery

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By Florine Gingerich

At its regular meeting on April 12, the Edmonds School Board approved revisions to its Tobacco Free School Environment policy. The policy now prohibits use of electronic cigarettes on school property. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the battery-operated e-cigarettes generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals and emit a highly addictive vapor.

The Board also approved a project, budget and request for proposals for improved emergency responder radio reception at the new Lynnwood High School, at an estimated cost of $300,000. The improvement is a safety issue, required as a result of changes in the Lynnwood City Code after construction of the school was completed.

Though next year’s funding remains a focus of the Board, no specific budget information was presented at the meeting. Superintendent Nick Brossoit noted in his remarks that the district’s projections remain based on the governor’s proposal, with line items reflecting differences in the House proposal. The Senate released its budget on April 12 but at meeting time district staff had not yet prepared a comparison reflecting the Senate’s proposal. It’s expected that the issue will be addressed further at the April 26 School Board meeting.

The Board heard a number of reports. First, Ellen Kahan, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools, presented a proposed revision to the lottery system for Madrona and Maplewood, the district’s popular and successful choice schools. These schools consistently have more applicants than available slots but draw most heavily from the southwest and northwest quadrants. Their populations do not reflect the district’s demographics. In part, the choice schools are simply better known in the areas of the district where they’re located. For next year’s kindergarten lottery, the district had some success in increasing the applicant pool from the eastern half of the district by outreach to preschools and by featuring the schools at the district fair. However, staff believes more can be done.

Under the proposal, siblings of current students and children of staff assigned to that school would continue to have priority for kindergarten slots. Remaining slots would be allocated to the quadrants so that the percentage of slots available for a quadrant would be the same as the percentage of total elementary enrollment in that quadrant. If any quadrant had fewer applicants than slots available, the unused places would go into a general lottery in which all remaining kindergarten applicants would participate. The Board’s comments generally approved the approach but reflected some frustration with the length of time it will likely take to change demographics at the schools.

Laura Wong-Whitebear, Indian Education Program Specialist, reported that according to 2010 census information over 500 American Indian students live in the district. Federal law makes funds available to assist these students in various ways, but they must be enrolled in the Native American/Alaska Native (NA/AN) program. To date she has identified 205 of these students. In addition to participation in special summer and spring break programs, NA/AN students can take advantage of after-school tutoring on Wednesdays at Cedar Valley, with tutors provided by Edmonds Community College and the Seattle Indian Health Board. The district will also participate in the Edmonds Community College Powwow, to be held this year from May 6-8.

A state law adopted in 2003 requires teaching of tribal history in public schools. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has developed a curriculum, now available on its website, which can be used in social studies or history classes for Native and non-Native students.

Charlotte Beyer, principal of Cedar Valley, updated the Board on restructuring resulting from the schools inability to meet No Child Left Behind requirements. Because classes will be team taught and individual teachers will have less autonomy, existing teachers were offered the option of leaving the school, and six chose to do so. However, 11 teachers have applied to move to the school. Of these, the five who are national board certified will be given first priority.

Tony Byrd, Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning, invited Edmonds-Woodway High School teacher Sarah Schumacher to update the Board on the federally funded Teaching American History Grant. The 35 teachers who participate in the three-year program are approximately equally divided among elementary, middle and high schools. Once a month they meet for a presentation by a nationally recognized American history professor. They are encouraged to share what they learn with teachers who are not in the program. The participants and their students report a new enthusiasm about U.S. history.

Byrd also briefly commented on several other matters:

– Efforts are proceeding to translate at least part of the district website into other languages and provide contact information for non-English speakers.

– The district has been invited to apply for a second year of Gates Foundation early learning funding.

– For this year’s ninth and tenth graders, only one end-of-course math exam will be required for graduation.

– The district has established staffing levels as a result of expansion of the ELL program to Meadowdale Middle School and Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Florine Gingerich

My Edmonds New school board contributor Florine Gingerich has a son who attended Edmonds public schools, where she volunteered in roles ranging from pouring juice in kindergarten at Madrona K-8 to serving as president of the Edmonds-Woodway Music Boosters. With her husband, Doug Purcell, she practices law at Purcell & Adams, PLLC, a South County firm emphasizing business law, real estate and estate planning. Visit them at purcelladams.com, or contact her at fgingerich@purcelladams.com.

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