M’ville, teachers union reach tentative contract

Marysville School Board member Pete Lundberg makes a point about the district's new vision.— image credit: Steve Powell
Marysville School Board member Pete Lundberg makes a point about the district’s new vision.
— image credit: Steve Powell


By: Steve Powell, Marysville Globe


MARYSVILLE – The Marysville School District and its teachers have come to a tentative contract agreement.

The teachers will vote on the proposed contract Wednesday, Aug. 27.

The school board will meet Sept. 2 to ratify the contract, as long as the teachers agree to it. The district and the teachers union have been working for months on the plan.

Meanwhile, at the school board meeting Aug. 18, the board approved a grant application for the district’s Highly Capable Program. Director Todd Christensen explained that new this year is a state requirement to identify highly capable students in kindergarten and first grade.

“We are already gearing up for that,” Christensen said, adding the initial screening will be done by mid-year with services starting after that.

The new law also requires professional development for teachers regarding HiCap and a report to the state school’s chief’s office to make sure “we are truly identifying” highly capable students, Christensen said.

Along with being intelligent, other factors for highly capable students are: creative, potential to perform, work habits, study skills and problem solving, he added.

He also explained that HiCap is not a supplemental program but a part of basic education. He said there are HiCap self-contained classes at Pinewood Elementary in grades 2 through 5, but other schools also have services. In middle schools there are blocks of classes in math, social studies and language arts. In high school there are Advanced Placement, honors, Running Start and more opportunities.

The board also discussed its strategic direction at the meeting, called “Engage, Inspire, Prepare.” The vision is “Engaging our Community, Inspiring our Students, Preparing our Graduates.” Under each strategy is a list of things to be done to make sure the goals are reached.

For example, under Engaging the Community the plan is to foster family involvement, responsibility for each student and nurturing community partnerships. There are then seven goals and activities listed under that, including designing and implementing a Parent Academy, partnering with the Tulalip Tribes and implementing student support teams.

Board member Pete Lundberg said he has seen a lot of visions over the years, but this one is actually workable.

“This has involved spirited debates, and they are not over yet,” he said. “This isn’t something we can do alone. We are trying our darndest to include the community. We’re going to continue to look for ways to engage the community.”

In other school news:

• The Public Utility District gave a check for more than $55,640 to the district as an incentive for reducing kilowatt hours.• Second-grader Claire Hudson of Pinewood Elementary and Logan Galley, a third-grader at Marysville Cooperative Program, took first place in regional competition for bus safety posters and advanced to state.

• Sandra Brock, a librarian at Cedarcrest and Marysville middle schools, will be featured in a national publication called School Library Journal for August. The story is about student-centered libraries and how they break the stereotype of librarians, who are now more open and embrace new technology.

• The district’s Back to School guide will be posted online at www.msvl.k12.wa.us. It includes bus schedules, key dates and more. It also will come in the mail.

Native Americans struggle to bring teachers to Reservation Schools

By TOM LUTEY, The Billings Gazette

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ Desperate for new teachers, Hays/Lodge Pole School District Superintendent Margaret Campbell has pulled out all the stops: A three-bedroom home to live in for $230 a month, with utilities paid; a $1,000 signing bonus; and even a dollar-for-dollar match for up to $300 on monthly student loan payments.

And still, luring teachers to the school district on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in the shadow of the piney Little Rocky Mountains is extremely difficult. Starting pay is about $26,000 a year.

“A lot of people don’t want to live in a remote area,” said Campbell, who this summer is looking to hire three teachers and a principal. “It’s isolated here.”

Isolated, and challenging. In Montana, teachers are in demand, especially those capable of teaching special education, English and math. A report issued each December on teacher shortages listed 1,169 teaching vacancies, including 463 in critical areas like special education, English, math and science. The shortages are worst on American Indian reservations and rural schools on the outskirts of reservations.

American Indians as a whole represent a relatively small 11.8 percent of Montana’s 142,000 K-12 students, but in 40 Montana school districts American Indians make up at least half the student body. Of those districts, 34 did not meet No Child Left Behind standards.

The 20 most needy schools are all located in these areas. The schools are not only remote, but also lead the state in the percentage of students eligible for federally subsidized free and price-reduced school lunches, as well as low student achievement based on No Child Left Behind results.

The economies on reservations are the worst in the state, with double-digit unemployment rates on all but one reservation. On the Crow Reservation, the rate is 25 percent, according to Montana’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Poverty at home and the social problems that come with it make school that much more difficult.

“I think on reservations there are major challenges in terms of poverty and associated issues,” said Madalyn Quinlan, chief of staff for the Montana Office of Public Instruction. “We talk a lot about the trauma the students bring to schools and it also affects teachers.”

Quinlan authors OPI’s annual report on critical teacher shortages. The report helps steer Montana’s Quality Educator Assistance Program, which provides up to four years of direct student loan payment for teachers who meet critical needs. There was money available for 246 teachers in 2014.

Both state and federal governments have tried to sweeten the pot for teachers willing to work in rural American Indian schools, but superintendents like Campbell say not all hurdles can be overcome with incentives.

“If you’re married, whether it’s your wife, or your husband, they need to work. On reservations there are strict hiring preferences for tribal members, Campbell said. “Your spouse is going to have a hard time getting a job.”

There’s also a professional isolation that can be difficult for teachers with a specialized skill, said Dan McGhee, Pryor Public Schools superintendent. Even in rural schools teachers have peers, but they often don’t have colleagues who specialize in the same subjects who can compare notes.

The student population is also fairly transitory: A significant number of students move in and out of Pryor School during the academic year, which makes teaching difficult. Teachers new to the school have to be ready for that challenge.

“The eight kids you start with in third grade you might wind up with five of the same kids at the end of the year,” McGhee said. The three kids who leave are more often than not replaced by three newcomers. The situation can be incredibly challenging for teachers trying to keep everyone up to speed with the curriculum.

Starting pay for a new teacher is just over $29,000 a year. That’s not a lot of money, McGhee said. Pryor has been offering $2,000 bonuses to non-tenured faculty, but the money came from a state program that is expiring.

McGhee said he would like to offer his teachers more pay, but school funding is pretty tight on reservations, where much of the property is owned by tribal government and tax exempt.

Schools receive Federal Impact Aid money to compensate for tax-exempt property. The money is similar to payments in lieu of taxes given to Montana counties with significant areas of tax-exempt federal land.

But federal budget cuts have reduced the amount of Impact Aid for schools by 10 percent, McGhee said. For school districts on Montana reservations, the cut means six-figure losses in funding and a much more difficult task of hiring teachers.

Ideally, the new teachers in the classroom would be American Indian.

In 2012, Montana State University and Little Big Horn College partnered to help American Indians receive master’s degrees in school administration. The goal is to boost achievement in underperforming schools.

Earlier in June, Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., introduced a bill to completely forgive student loans for American Indian teachers who were teaching in schools with a percentage of American Indian students.

The bill was proposed to Walsh by tribal leaders concerned about the need for more American Indian teachers. The loans would be forgiven up to $17,500, provided American Indian teachers were in schools with at least 10 Indian students or not less than 25 percent of the total number of individuals enrolled in the school.

Lawmakers hope to dissect a teacher’s day


By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

OLYMPIA – What goes on each day inside thousands of public schools is a vexing question Washington lawmakers want to answer.

For the second year in a row, there’s an effort to find out how teachers, administrators and staff spend their time and use what is learned to guide future decisions by the Legislature.

The Senate education committee held a hearing Wednesday on Senate Bill 6064 to compile data on how each of the state’s 295 districts defines and uses school time.

“Are (schools) being productive? What’s actually going on, nobody knows,” Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, the bill’s author and chairman of the committee said before the hearing. “The more information we have, the better understanding we’ll gain of what’s going on.”

He deflected concerns that lawmakers might use the information to impose new mandates on public schools.

“At the end of the day, if you’re a high-performing school, you’ll keep on doing what you’re doing,” he said.

Most speakers at the hearing welcomed such an analysis because they are convinced it will illuminate the dedication of school employees.

“Bring it on. Find out what’s really going on in our schools,” said Jim Kowalkowski, superintendent of the Davenport School District, near Spokane.

A year ago, lawmakers passed and Gov. Jay Inslee signed a nearly identical bill. It requested the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee carry out the work but it couldn’t. This time, they are asking the Washington Institute of Public Policy to undertake the task.

The bill seeks information on how districts determine classroom and non-classroom time as well as instructional and non-instructional time. They want researchers to see if the use of time is spelled out in collective bargaining agreements. The report would be due Dec. 1, 2015, and cost an estimated $137,000.

Meanwhile, lawmakers did include $25,000 in the budget for Central Washington University to begin gathering data on what a typical work day looks like for a public school teacher.

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, then a representative, argued for the money.

At the time he said he had tired of the back-and-forth between reformers convinced teachers spend too little time teaching and the teachers contending they can’t spend as much time as they want because of a growing number of non-teaching responsibilities.

He said he thought teachers are weighted down by state-imposed chores and wanted to find out if it’s true.

The Center for Teaching and Learning is trying to get an answer. In September, its researchers began collecting information from 5,000 elementary and secondary school teachers from 159 school districts.

Teachers, who hail from small, medium and large schools, are completing online surveys. Some also are logging in their hour-by-hour teaching and non-teaching related duties one week each month.

In the survey, teachers are answering questions about the amount of each day which is devoted to classroom planning or assessment, interaction with students and parents, preparation for standardized state exams, professional development and duties assigned by the school or district.

The final report is due to lawmakers June 30. The university received $25,000 in the state budget to cover the study.