‘Make a decision’ on schools future

MARYSVILLE – “Make a decision.”

Jason Thompson, acting superintendent for the Marysville School District, said a number of people told him to do just that at a public gathering April 21.

They will get their wish – soon.

Thompson said he will make a recommendation to the school board at the end of May on what should happen with the secondary schools in the district. There is no timeline on when the board will make a decision.

The district has been meeting with the public for 1 1/2 years regarding changes needed in schools. Thompson was impressed with the latest gathering that Saturday at Heritage High School.

“We put our frustrations aside and had great discussions today,” he said.

One of the key topics was whether students should be able to continue to choose which high school they go to – Marysville Getchell or Marysville-Pilchuck.

MG student Kevin Lockwood said it’s no secret that there are disparities between the two schools. He wonders how the boundaries would be drawn to achieve equity. His mom, Lynn, said juniors and seniors should be able to stay at the schools they have chosen already. Thompson said students will be able to do that. Next year is a time for transition, but after that – if a boundary decision is changed – students may have to provide for their own transportation.

One of the main reasons to make such a change would be saving money for transportation – which costs the district many hundreds of thousands of dollars more than if there were boundaries.

With attendance dropping in the district by 100 or more students each of the previous 10 years, it’s no wonder they are looking to cut costs.

Thompson said while there was a good turnout of a few hundred people April 21, it’s just a small sample of the 10,000 students in the district. “There’s a huge number of underrepresented groups,” he said, naming the lack of hispanic families as an example.

He said the district has tried to reach out to that minority group specifically, but it’s been tough. About 20 percent of the student population is hispanic.

“We need to hear what they are saying, even if it’s not voiced,” school board member Tom Albright said.

Thompson added: “We need to look out for them” even if they don’t feel comfortable coming to these types of meetings.

Thompson said many of Saturday’s participants have been deeply involved all along.

“I love their passion. But it’s not if they’re loud enough they are going to get their way. We need to reach out to those not here today,” he said.

Some of those who have been involved from the beginning are connected to MG and their student learning communities.

“My eyes have been opened to a lot of things” during the long public comment period,” Thompson said. “There are some great things with SLCs. I want to capture what happened there.

“I’d love to see those continue” with some hybrid SLC, which is what consultants early on recommended. SLCs create a safe, warm place, he added.

Information obtained the last 18 months will be used to target changes in all of the schools.

“It needs to flow across the district,” Albright said.

For example, discipline is a major problem at middle schools districtwide. “It’s out of control,” Thompson said.

He added that he would like to see the district hire more school resource officers so every school can have one all day.

“They have an amazing calming effect,” he said, adding the district needs to step up and provide funding.

Results

A. Strengthen parent engagement: Set high expectations, participate in school activities and improve relations with teachers.

B. Improve and maintain facilities: Improve routine maintenance, improve sports fields, involve the community on school beautification projects.

C. Bolster physical and emotional safety: Foster mutual respect and compassion, continue implementing Positive Behavior Intervention Systems, stop bullying, provide mental health services, file SafeSchool reports, more SROs and security cameras.

D. Improve school culture: More advanced courses, more support for struggling students, push attendance, and teachers build relationships with students.

E. Clear pathways to college or career: Provide information on options, partnerships with employers and colleges and pathways to the trades, including apprenticeships.

Key for both high schools

1. Every student safe and has modern and efficient space to learn.

2. Equitable arts, clubs and extracurricular activities.

3. Equity in student socio-demographics, special education and gifted programs.

4. Clear path from K-12.

5. Equity in courses.

6. Equitable sports programs and extracurricular activities.

7. Specialized programs for specific futures.

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