Scriber staff request equity for students, school board considers new science curriculum

(Left to right) Jack Seymour, Solon Scott, the Alderwood Middle School Technology Students Association Club and Alderwood Middle School Principal Brian Stewart

Representatives from Scriber Lake High School opened the Edmonds School Board’s March 26 meeting during the public comments portion with pleas to resolve “inequitable conditions” at their school. Faculty and staff members took to the podium to speak about their experiences trying to accommodate the needs of the many high-risk students at the high school.

Unlike other high schools in the district, Scriber Lake High School is unable to provide many of its students with the same after-school programs, said Scriber Lake High School paraeducator Wesley Irwin. Clubs and programs that are provided rarely see funding from the school district, said Irwin, who is the faculty supervisor for the Scriber Lake High School chess club. The club is only possible because of outside fundraising, he said.

“I am dismayed that we find ourselves asking for outside help to provide these opportunities for our students,” he said.

Justin Howard, the school’s student support advocate, said as a parent and school district employee he wants to ensure equity is not just jargon. Howard said he wants Scriber Lake High School to have the opportunity to enrich the lives of students as other schools do, through after-school programs and field trips.

“When we’re talking about equity in the school, I would like the school board and our superintendent to take a moment and reflect on what equitable practices mean,” he said.

Among the challenges Scriber faces is transportation to and from the campus. Students who attend Scriber Lake do not have access to district buses and rely on Community Transit to get to school. Additionally, the school has two vans used to transport students for field trips that have repeatedly broken down, sometimes leaving students stranded, said Scriber Lake office manager Christine Kratz.

“Three times in three years, we’ve asked for help in replacing those vans,” she said.

Scriber Lake High School teacher Janet Bowers said if Scriber hopes to improve its graduation rates, the school will need more funding to accommodate the high number of students with special needs enrolled.

According to the Washington State Report Card provided by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Scriber has the highest percentage — 41.9 percent — of students in the Edmonds School District who identify as having special needs. Scriber teacher Janet Bowers said with a higher percentage of special-needs students than any other high school in the district, she does not understand why the school’s funding does not match its need. In recent years, Scriber has had below a 30-percent four-year graduation rate that Bowers said is correlated to the high number of special education students enrolled at the school.

“If we are to be equitable in educating all students, we should really start taking a hard look at was to better serve our students with special needs,” she said. “Scriber Lake houses the most, so I think it’s time to focus on us first.”

Superintendent Kris McDuffy said addressing the Scriber staff’s concerns is a high priority that she and the board hope to address soon.

“Many of these issues have been on the docket for a long time,” she said. “There’s much more discussion to come.”

The March 26 meeting also included a K-5 Science Adoption proposal to implement a new science curriculum for district elementary school students. K-6 Science and STEM Content Lead Olga Mashnitskaya said the district is currently operating under outdated science standards.

The recommended Amplify curriculum incorporates “hands-on investigations, literacy-rich activities and interactive digital tools to empower students to think, read, write and argue like real scientists and engineers,” according to the Amplify website.

“It’s imperative that all students have the skills and knowledge to make decisions that ultimately impact our world,” Mashnitskaya said.

Amplify is a “phenomenon-based learning,” which allows students to assume the roles of scientists and engineers to apply science and technology to solve real-world problems, said Laura Schultz, a teacher at Meadowdale Elementary School.

Unlike the current science curriculum — which can often leave gaps between lessons due to lack of staff and resources — Amplify will be a 180-day curriculum. The curriculum would accommodate four to five lessons per week, with each lasting 45 to 60 minutes. During lessons, students are able to actively participate in science, gather evidence, think critically, make observations and communicate their ideas, she said.

“We educate our students for the world they will live in, staying up to date with developments and global realities, workforce expectations and appropriate analogies,” Schultz said.

School Board Director Ann McMurray expressed concern that teachers would have to restructure too much of their time to accommodate the new curriculum. Though she said the curriculum appears favorable, McMurray asked if there were assurances the lessons would be utilized to yield the best results and not go to waste.

Executive Director of Student Learning Rob Baumgartner said that although there is no direct oversight to ensure teachers would use the curriculum, the district’s policy states when new learning materials are adopted, they are the primary instructional resource.

“Teachers are going to have some latitude to make those decisions about what their kids need,” he said.

Edmonds School Board President Diana White agreed the curriculum would be a viable option to improve the way science education is taught in the district. With the district’s focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives in higher learning, White said the district should commit to improving the way students are first introduced to science.

“We have not been educating students up to the levels that we should be,” she said. “Commitments like this will get us to that next level to train our engineers, our scientists and our nurses.”

If approved by the school board, the new curriculum would be implemented at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

The school board also heard a presentation from the  Alderwood Middle School Technology Student Association (TSA) — a non-profit national students organization that inspires students to enter into technology-based career paths as future careers. The TSA club allows students the opportunity to attend events to compete in areas like structural engineering, STEM animation, coding, mechanical engineering and more.

In the 2018 National TSA Conference, the Alderwood Middle TSA team placed first in video game design and second in structural engineering. The team will attend the 2019 State TSA Conference on March 30 where the students will enter 52 competitions across 24 different events.

The school board also voted to approval a call for bids for two improvement projects for Lynnwood and Meadowdale high schools.

Lynnwood High School’s project includes replacing the artificial surfacing for the multi-purpose fields, football field and track; converting the baseball field infield to artificial turf and completing various other-site improvements related to the field facilities. The Meadowdale High School project will include replacing the grass baseball infield with synthetic turf and lighting the five tennis courts.

Both field-improvement projects will include bids to use synthetic, crumb rubber infill or cork infill. The preliminary budgets for both projects were estimated to be $100,000 each. Financing for both projects was identified in the 2016 levy, approved by district voters in February 2016.

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

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