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Sunday, May 22, 2011

School of Choice / Open Enrollment vote on 5/23/11 CCS Board Meeting (part 1)

Fellow parents of, or concerned residents of the Clarkston Community Schools area,

Were you aware that this coming Monday, May 23rd, the Clarkston School Board will be voting to open up Clarkston High School to "School of Choice" (SOC) / "Open Enrollment" students (students from other districts)?  You may be surprised to know that the district has had School of Choice for some high end programs for a few years.  There are fewer than 25 SOC students in the programs, but they were accepted into the very rigorous educational programs and I am not aware of any issues with those students.

However, the board packet material shows administration is requesting approval from the board to extend school of choice to two programs that are significantly less rigorous and encompass far fewer program classes than the current SOC programs.  Both new programs only require four total credit hours of classes (out of the standard 45 credit hours taken over three years in the high school - 5 classes per trimester x 3 trimesters per school year x 3 years).

The proposals are supposedly for "Early Childhood Education" and "Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering".  They call for the applicant to write an essay called a "Career Immersion Program Application Student Narrative Essay".  The essay is to be a minimum of 2/3 of a hand written page long, or up to three pages long.  They require the students have passed 8th grade math and language arts, but this is for a 10th to 12th grade program...  Also, the documentation in the board packet talks to the SOC program requirements for the "Career Immersion Program", as if all of the programs within the "Career Immersion Program" were included in the SOC program...  It would be interesting to see if the superintendent is trying to toss in all nine of the programs in the "Career Immersion Program" under this vote...  Regardless of what they will actually be voting on, there are so many contradictions in the board packet material that it is really impossible to figure out WHAT they will actually be voting on.           

At the 5/9/11 board meeting, the original board agenda called for the board to vote to approve school of choice for nine separate educational programs (all under the "Career Immersion Program".  By the time the meeting started, administration had changed it to a "discussion" of approving School of Choice for just the "Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering Program" and the "Early Childhood Education Program". 

Now they have changed it again!  I received the board packet for the 5/23/11 meeting and I was angry (although not totally surprised) by what I saw!  The superintendent had combined the vote for approving School of Choice for the new program(s) with the annual approval for the continuation of SOC for the Clarkston Math, Science, and Technology Academy (CSM Tech), the International Baccaluareate Diploma Programme, and and the Advanced Studies Program.

The Board Action Request (BAR) Form from the 5/23/11 meeting board packet for "Resolutions for School of Choice Programs"Action item says, 
"It is necessary to for the district to resolve to authorize the Superintendent or his designee to accept applications for enrollment by nonresident applicants for the purposes of school of choice for the Clarkston Math, Science and Technology Academy in grades 9-12, the Advanced Studies Program in grades 8-12, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in grades 10-12, and the Project Lead the Way Career Pathway in grades 10-12.  In the past, enrollment for some of these school of choice programs was limited.  The limits established have never been met.  We are recommending that the CSM Tech, Advanced Studies, and IB programs be "unlimited" for the purposes of better enabling the district to seek applications in an ongoing manner.  Furthermore, we recommend that the Project Lead the Way Career Pathway Programs be limited to up to 10 (ten) non-resident students."
I am not sure how the district is twisting the definition of the "Project Lead the Way Career Pathway Programs" (Programs, with an "s")...  There is only one "Project Lead the Way" program.  It is called "Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering".  The other program they will be presenting is regarding "Early Childhood Education", but it is not a part of the "Project Lead the Way" program, yet they did not ask for approval of that program for school of choice...  HMMM...  This needs to be looked into in order to figure out if the district is trying to include new programs under this umbrella of "Project Lead the Way Career Pathway Programs".  There are other "Project Lead the Way" programs, but they are currently not offered at CHS.  It also talks about a limit of ten students, but they don't say if that is 10 students per individual program or a total of ten students under all of "Project Lead the Way".

The program had been presented on 5/9/11 as excluding any students that had been suspended in the previous two years, or had been convicted of a felony or expelled from another school.  However, the resolution in the board packet says, "The Superintendent or his designee shall have the discretion to refuse to enroll a nonresident applicant" even if the student had been suspended in the previous two years, or had been convicted of a felony, or had been expelled from another school.  That means the Superintendent (or his designee) can overrule the parameters...     

The vote is to be on Monday, 5/23/11.  If you do not want "Open enrollment" / School of Choice for this kind of a program or you do not want the district to be able to admit out of district students with previous, recent behavioral issues or criminal histories, express your opinion to Dr. Rock and the board.  Here is the link for the board member's email IDs: http://www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=12100& and Dr Rock is at rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us , and please come to the board meeting.   

Our new school superintendent, Dr Rod Rock, said in the Clarkston News' 5/18/11 edition, "Our local community, I argue, should be able to make decisions about what they want for their children."  If he is serious about that, then he should listen to the parents, residents, and taxpayers of the Clarkston Community Schools area (all 60 square miles worth of us).

Unfortunately, Dr. Rock also said, "I'm trained as a researcher, and I feel that I have the best perspective, along with our teachers, principals, and other administrators, to make informed decisions about what is best for our kids. We will base these decisions on research and data. I serve our teachers, community, and children. I will do all I can for them. I will not back down from my commitment to them, no matter how much pressure and press comes from those who oppose my perspective."   Dr Rock has publicly stated that he wants Schools of Choice in CCS because he believes in the concept.  Based on his comments above, he apparently doesn't intend to be overruled by the board or the community.  He also calls OUR kids, "my kids", but interestingly, he still has not moved his family to this district and "his kids" go to school in another district 50 miles from here...     

Dr. Rock also said, "I work for the Clarkston Community's Schools Board of Education. I do not work for the governor."  What he said is actually true, but the Board of Education works for the voters, so Dr Rock ultimately works for us.  Remind him of this fact if it seems he has lost that understanding.  Unfortunately, there are four members of the Board of Education who approve anything the superintendent wants (Steve Hyer, Barry Bomier, Elizabeth Egan, and Cheryl McGinnis).  Apparently, as long as he can get those four board members to approve SOC, CHS will have SOC next year and in the future in these programs.  Make sure ALL of the Board of Education members are aware of your opinion, tell them that you are watching what they are doing, and if possible, come to the meeting on Monday.  We need to make the board and the new superintendent aware of what the community does and does not want…

In Dr. Rock's first "Call to Action" he said, "Should you choose to join me, perhaps we could brand our collective cause, EducatioNO!: We're Not Going to Take It."  In your opinion, should a school superintendent be creating an organization called "EducatioNO"?  I don't think so. 

On the May 9th board meeting, SOC was originally an "action" item (for the board to vote on), but was changed to a "discussion" item (just talking about it) after word got out about it.  There was no public discussion on the subject of SOC.  The vote is now expected to occur at the next board meeting on Monday, 5/23, at 7 PM at Clarkston Junior High.  You must get to the meeting before the agenda gets to item # 3 (usually by 7:10 PM to 7:15 PM) in order to speak before the board votes on an item on the agenda and you must sign in to speak by that time or you will not be allowed to speak until item # 9 at the end of the meeting (which will be after they will have already voted on this item). 

You may receive an emailed copy of the 5/23 board packet by requesting it be emailed to you.  If you would like it, email the superintendent's secretary, Heidi McClain at: mcclaihs@clarkston.k12.mi.us and ask for the entire board packet to be emailed to you.  You can ask for next meeting and all future meetings to stay on copy so you know what the board is doing.

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