Edmonds School Board reviews 2022-23 draft budget, sexual health education program

The board of directors met at Edmonds-Woodway High School since their regular meeting room at the district administration building is under construction.

The Edmonds School District Board of Directors at its Tuesday, July 12, business meeting received a briefing on the district’s proposed 2022-23 budget and the implementation of Comprehensive Sexual Health Education (CSHE) instruction, as required by state law.

According to the district’s Executive Director of Business and Finance Lydia Sellie, the total planned expenditures for the upcoming year are roughly $397 million. However, revenues are estimated to be $9 million less than last year, which would put the district below its 4% minimum fund balance policy.

Sellie said in a follow-up email that the district has to have the value of 4% of the year’s total expenditures in reserve – or unassigned to any budget – at the end of each fiscal year. Since she expects the reserve to fall below 4% before the end of next school year, staff will be making plans to correct this issue before the 2023-24 school year budget is adopted.

“It’s good that we caught this early,” Sellie said. “This way, we can start reevaluating in the fall rather than in the winter or spring. If we start early, we might be in much better shape.”

The proposed budget includes roughly $3.3 million for the Associated Student Body fund, $52 million for the capital projects fund and $3.8 million for the transportation vehicle fund. The district is planning to purchase seven new wheelchair buses and six small buses before the school year begins.

Sellie also said that currently, the district’s enrollment is 19,990, including Running Start, Edmonds Career Access Program and Alternative Learning Experience students. While enrollment numbers have significantly decreased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sellie said the district is hoping enrollment will exceed 20,000 soon, which would provide more funding.

After the briefing, a public hearing was held for the proposed budget. No public comments were made during the hearing and the board of directors did not ask any clarifying questions.

The school board will vote on the 2022-23 school year budget at its Aug. 13 meeting.

In other business, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Dana Geaslen talked to the board about the Comprehensive Sexual Health Education (CSHE), which the district is implementing in the 2022-23 school year.

Under Washington State Senate Bill 5395, beginning in 2022 all school districts are required to provide CSHE at least twice in grades 6-8 and 9-12.

“All instruction has to be age appropriate and require discussion about affirmative consent and bystander training,” Geaslen said.

Required content for grades K-3 does not discuss any terms of sexuality. The classes are strictly social emotional learning.

All schools are required to notify parents at the beginning of the school year that these classes will be held, and all course content must be made available to parents. Any parent wishing to excuse their child from these classes may file a written request to remove them from participation.

“All requests of parents wanting to excuse their child must be granted,” Geaslen said, “since it is ultimately their choice how they approach the subject with their kids.”

Geaslen said the program the district will use, called FLASH, has a strong family involvement component. Lessons contain family homework activities so parents or guardians can share their own values and expectations about these topics with their children.

Director Gary Noble said he is glad information about the CSHE is being made readily available for parents so they know exactly what will be taught.

“We get some emails claiming we are teaching some truly horrible things to our kindergarteners,” Noble said. “And truthfully, we are not. We’re teaching them a strictly social emotional curriculum.”

Director Keith Smith said he’s excited for this curriculum to start in the Edmonds School District.

“When you hit high school, you’re going to do what you’re going to do,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter what a teacher tells you to do or not do, you’re going to do what you want to do. In my 13 years [as a student] in the district, no one ever told me to do or do not have sex. But I was told how to be safe and how to make others feel safe when I did choose to do, or not do, whatever I did.”

In addition, during the meeting’s public comment period, the board heard from five paraeducators. While most were from different schools, they all shared similar sentiments: The classrooms are dangerously understaffed.

“Most of the time, classes have one para, no para or sometimes even no teacher in the classroom at all,” one paraeducator said.

Another paraeducator said that when her teaching aide had to go on leave for an extended period of time, she was left to fend for herself in a classroom full of children who needed at least three adults to handle their needs.

“For the rest of the year, I was doing the work of two or three paras, all for a wage that is becoming increasingly unlivable,” she said.

The paraeducators urged the board to get serious about finding more staffing for the classrooms, and to raise paraeducator wages so they are sufficient to compensate one person doing the work of multiple people.

Also during public testimony, a commenter named Kyrie gave the board of directors some statistics regarding gender-inclusive bathroom policies.

Citing a recent U.S. study, Kyrie said not a single sexual assault occurring in school bathrooms has been attributed to an individual using a different gender identity.

Allowing children to use whichever bathroom they’re comfortable with has not brought about any negative consequences, the speaker said, but forcing them to use certain, gender-specific bathrooms has.

“Forcing children to conform to an identity that is not their way of life is extremely harming,” Kyrie said. “Please base [the district’s] policies on facts, not fear.”

In other business, the board unanimously approved the creation of five mastery-based credits in math, English, science, social studies and the arts. These mastery-based credits will be awarded to students based on demonstrated proficiency across a range of skills when students have previously attempted and failed a course in the five listed subjects.

The procedures for awarding these credits will be continuously developed throughout the school year, with heavy input from relevant teachers to ensure credits are being awarded correctly.

The board also unanimously approved a new contract for employee assistance program services and a completed contract for the Public Works Phase 2 at Spruce Elementary School.

–Story and photo by Lauren Reichenbach

  1. I am not sure how long our district has had open bathrooms but just a few years ago a female was assaulted by a transgender boy in the girls room in Virginia if I am not mistaken. Question for the district are you going to be installing female hygiene products in the boys bathrooms? Strange new world we live in not so sure we are headed down the right path.

    1. A quick googling of the incident and the court case clearly shows that gender identity is unrelated to the assault. Statistically, transgender people are significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted than their peers. If we are anti-sexual assault we need to value and protect our transgender students too.

      As an aside, it would be great to normalize menstruation by having related hygienic products available in all restrooms.

      1. That’s an interesting idea, I guess next time a male needs a tampon though there’ll be one available next to the wall urinal.

      2. Wouldn’t a third bathroom added for transgenders be an idea? Maybe more expensive, but it could solve this problem! After all, we now recognize several different genders, so why not accommodate all?

    2. Please provide proof of this. Is it true? May I please have a link. Thank you, in advance. Asking respectfully.

      1. Tom K., of course you were comparing them. You question if the P.S.s are adequate to prepair our kids for their futures and say it’s no wonder parents are turning to private schools. If that isn’t a comparison, I don’t know what is.

        We expect our public schools to be all things to all people including looking at them as the most critical baby sitter we have available (Covid crisis shutdown of the economy due to closed schools). There is certainly a place for private schools but I still think using them as a wedge to destroy or denigrate public education is a bad and ill advised move. It sounds like public school problems may be at least partially caused by a lack of qualified people willing to work for relatively low pay. Too many vice presidents and not enough tellers perhaps? (See how I steared clear of being offensive with that last carefully worded question.) Good discussion and I do see your points too. Good public schools are critical to having a good democracy. Maybe teach civics and government again along with more emphasis on the basics?

        1. Appreciate the comment but I see it differently; I still don’t see how I’m making a direct comparison other than saying we have had a bad experience in option A so are looking at option B. I feel as though you are putting words in my mouth to make your own point about public school. Perhaps I’m saying what I’m saying because I actually have children in the school district this very moment and have a leg to stand on. BTW – in an ideal situation we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I would have never considered private school, ever, until the last two years when the complete disfunction of our society crept into public school as well, and very sadly so. I still strongly believe our administration and school board are focused on issues in a completely unbalanced way. As I mentioned earlier, they are operating under an either/or scenario (you’re either for all of our social policies or you’re an uneducated bigot) versus a both/and scenario (there is room for all sorts of value sets and let’s find ways to have reasonable conversations with one another and ALSO teach math, science, reading, etc.) If you want to hear about my experience in totality you are welcome to ask Teresa for my email. Otherwise I don’t feel I need to justify further what I’ve said or my feelings about my family’s experience.

  2. Parents should have their say about sex education in schools. Many parents do not like this!

    1. Myron Phillips, the article clearly states that parents will be notified about the courses, the content and can opt their child out. Study after study after study and real life experience has proven out time and again that sex education reduces teen pregnancy rates. Education isn’t harmful, ignorance is.

      1. Will parents get a chance to look at the Social Emotional Learning curriculum before it is taught in classroom? I’d like to see what this all entails.

  3. This is all so exhausting as a parent of ESD students. Every second that goes by I am less and less confident that our public school system is equipped to adequately prepare our students for their future. No wonder I and so many other parents are considering private schooling to buy back that confidence and ensure their educational standards are met.

    1. AMEN! What do teachers know about sex-ed? Enough to say that parents are stupid? Teach the parents how to teach their kids…..problem solved!

      1. Myron, respectfully, they do have a say innit. And, may always exempt their student/s. Click the links & explore the curricula. They were not created by Edmonds School District. Thank you.

      2. “Teach the parents how to teach their kids…..”

        How? And how many parents would accept being taught to teach? Or have the time?

        In all my years of teaching and coaching I never, ever heard of a teacher saying parents are stupid. Most teachers are dedicated and professional.

    2. Well said Tom, there is a surprising lack of conversation about why the district has seen dropping enrollment despite an increase in students in the district.

      Many of the Edmond schools in the ESD are falling drastically behind nearby districts. My local elementary school for example is rated 3 out of 10 in test scores on greatschools.com.

      This should be the number one issue that the school board focuses their time on addressing. Instead “the district is hoping enrollment will exceed 20,000 soon.” Unless the ESD starts fulfilling their primary duty to adequately teach kids, it should not be a surprise that parents are not eager to puts their kids in a failing district.

      1. Yes – the social battlefield that you cannot escape has now moved to the public school system, and I am concerned about the lack of focus on core educational standards. The issue is like with everything else – it has become either/or, not both/and. Social issues of our time are important as part of the learning experience, but we have serious concerns over the last year that all of the core parts of our childrens education were met because there was a continual focus on social issues to the point we had to clarify with our teacher on multiple occasions what it was exactly that was being taught. I think the district thinks the decline in enrollment is due to the pandemic, and certainly some of it is, but if the ESD actually took some time to listen to the parents they might realize it is because some people have just become exhausted to some extent with all of this. I think some serious trust building and repair needs to happen before they ever see their enrollment numbers change.

      2. Private schools don’t have the same problems as public schools and as an entire society we expect much more of the public schools than we do of the private schools. Public schools often have to meet needs such as seeing that children have enough nourishment and sleep to even be able to participate in the learning process. They often have to address mental and physical health needs that parents either can’t or won’t address.. By law public schools have to provide Special Education programs and help for handicapped children which is incredibly expensive and complex with a host of individual needs to meet.

        If you want to send your kids to private schools and have the cash to do it, that’s great and special for your kids. Just don’t compare public school lemons to private school apples because it is not equivalent and not at all fair. Also, if you send your kids to religious sponsored private schools, plan on them to get a good dose of religious education and indoctrination that they are not going to receive in public schools. In a supposedly free and equal society there is a place for both concepts of how best to educate the young. Pitting one against the other seems unwise and a general disservice to me.

        1. Thanks Clint. I don’t think I was comparing them, was I? I just said we don’t feel the ESD has been doing a particularly good job. And wasn’t there an article recently about those special services they need to provide and how they were also not meeting those obligations. So, to my point…

        2. When you compare public schools in the ESD compared to public schools in neighboring school districts, the schools in ESD by large are not adequately teaching the kids as well as neighboring public schools.

          In some cases like the 3/10 test scores elementary school I mentioned, we are doing much worse.

          That means a tragic reduction of life opportunities for those children, and the ESD is failing those children by not addressing it.

          We need to be working on performance improvement plans for those failing schools. If that does not work, we should be looking into whether charter schools should take over.

          I agree that you should not have to go to a private school to get an adequate education.

          If we allow failing schools to continue without doing anything to address it, than we collectively are to blame for the students who fail in those schools. Especially for the ones who would have thrived in a better educational environment.

  4. My reading of the article indicates all parents have a clearly stated opt out choice if they disagree with the appropriateness of the course or the material presented. What’s the problem here? ESD also offers the home schooling option, correct? No one is forced to do anything as far as I can tell.

    1. I read it the same way, Clint – I don’t see how anyone could read it otherwise. The parents can see the material before it’s taught. They can opt out. And the curriculum is built specifically to engage the parents in the discussions with their children. This is probably the part of the school curriculum most transparent to the parents.
      Also consider that the school does not have a choice, state law says they must teach this material. The school is the party being forced to do something.
      The inclusion/focus on affirmative consent and bystander training, ironically, is specifically there to help avoid people being forced to do something. Youth need to understand how to say “yes” or “no,” and to accept that from someone else. Being aware of when someone around you is being pressured, sexually or in any other way, is not a bad thing, at all. It’s hard for adults, let alone kids, and practicing saying those things is setting them up to be responsible, self-assured adults.

  5. Is the curriculum easily available to the public? If it’s an extra expense, charge for the cost of sharing curriculum.

    The social, emotional curriculum would be interesting. The more involvement with parents the better. The schools should assure that the students whose parents opt out are not put in an awkward position. In the upper grades this can happen. Older children often avoid being different.

  6. Properly done, and grade appropriate sexual health education can save lives. In the broader picture, good sex education results in fewer teen pregnancies and STD’s.

    From a personal perspective, if respect for LGBT people is taught, a group with three times the suicide rate might be helped. I lost a gay friend to suicide in high-school, and spent quite a few tortured years terrified of being outed; a degree of learning of tolerance would have made my life much better and richer in my earlier years.

  7. My parents were both public school teachers during the depression of the 1930’s in rural NE. My father was shop teacher, basketball coach and Superintendent of Schools all at the same time at one point. My parents helped distribute relief food to the poor (just about everyone) and my Dad even did minor health care for kids who’s parents could not afford a doctor visit. Mom quit teaching to raise us and Dad quit teaching to actually make a decent living and not have to try to be all things to all people. Things haven’t changed much since the 1930’s.

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