Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bridgeport Spaulding School Board Meeting February 27th, 2017

On the agenda:
- Citizen Participation begins at 0:42
- Agenda Adjustments begins at 11:28
- District Improvement Plan Presentation by Regina Lamontagne begins at 12:40
- Personnel Report begins at 1:09:08
- Discussion of the Curriculum Committee Meeting  (includes a discussion about consolidating Thomas White and Atkins) begins at 1:11:40
- Board And Superintendent Comments begin at 1:44:30
© 2017 Carla Citizen All Rights Reserved

In the citizen participation period, the Bridgeport Girl's Bowling coach Amy Morales introduced Bridgeport Senior Ally Neelis.  Ally has qualified for the individual state finals and is the first girl to qualify in the schools program history.  Also qualified for the individual boys state finals is Bridgeport Senior Kris Polk.  They needed some financial support to cover the costs of travel etc... to go and I hope they received it.  Congratulations to both Ally and Kris!

Regina Lamontagne provided an almost hour long update on the District Improvement Plan.  I am not qualified to say if this is a good plan or a bad plan.   It sounds good and also sounds complicated.  I truly hope they can make it work.  The Bridgeport students deserve the best!!

It took me several days to get this board meeting video uploaded and ready to share.  It has taken me even longer to write this blog post because there is something that has been weighing on my mind and I have been deciding on how to address it or whether to even address it at all.  There are actually many things that weigh on my mind with the Bridgeport School District but I will keep it to just this one item in this post.

It is the plan they talked about in the Building & Grounds/Finance meeting on Mon Feb 27th, which I do have posted on this blog and YouTube, and then again in this regular board meeting.  They are talking about consolidating Thomas White Elementary with Atkins Elementary and Atkins Middle School.  Kindergarten through 8th grade would all be housed in the Atkins building.  I can usually see both sides of an argument, I can even debate both sides with myself, but this is one I am struggling with.

They have looked at this option in the past for the cost savings it would possible produce, but I believe that it ended when it was decided that the cost savings would not be enough to justify the change.  The Bridgeport School District will be getting out of deficit soon it is projected, which will be great.  We have the much needed renewal of the 10 year 18 mill non-homestead levy and the 3 mill sinking fund levy up for vote on May 2nd and I hope that they both pass.  The financial health of our district is an issue that should be getting top priority, without it we are doomed.  Bridgeport does not have the tax base that it used to have, and we continue to bleed students from our district which means we continue to bleed money coming in.  I don't believe that we are bleeding as many students as we were but any loss of students is a loss to our district in so many ways.

They say they are looking at this option now for academic reasons.  They do discuss this line of thinking in both of these meetings on Monday. That is where I am struggling, to see their line of thinking.  My question is why can't they solve those academic issues without having to consolidate the schools to do it?  Will consolidating the schools actually help to solve those issues?  Are the underlying problems causing the academic issues so ingrained in our district that it would take a total overhaul to fix them?  Would it take a complete overhaul from the school board, to the administration, to the teachers and staff to fix them? Another words, a total house cleaning.  Is it someday going to require the state to step in to fix the academic issues?  I pray not!!

When I look at the school districts surrounding us, especially the higher achieving districts, I don't see any school that has 9 grades housed in 1 building.  You have to take into account that some of these other districts are larger districts, with larger tax bases.  Even the smaller districts, ones closer to the size of Bridgeport, are benefiting from the school of choice option and drawing in students from the poorer performing districts. Saginaw Township has several elementary schools with only grades K to 2nd, several with K to 3rd or K to 5th in one building.  I believe Freeland has K to 2nd.  Frankenmuth and Birch Run have K to 4th. Carrollton has K to 5th.  Would having 9 grades in 1 building truly be condusive to academic success and to the environment for the students?  I don't have an answer to that question, but I hate to see our district be used as a test and end up failing.  It is the students who will suffer the most if it turns out to be a failure.  And also in the end the whole school district, and the township, will suffer if it turns out to be a failure. There is a lot at stake here and failure should never be an option.

So it sounds like consolidating these three schools into one building would create one new school.  There would no longer be a school in our district that is in priority status.  At least that is what I got out of discussions from both of these meetings.  That sounds great doesn't it?  It was even mentioned in both meetings that getting out from under the School Reform Office would be a unintended beneficial consequence of consolidating the three schools into one new school.  But if the underlying issues that caused the school to fall into priority status are not fixed, then how long before the new school falls back into priority status again?  If only the same several grades continue to fail, will the entire new school fall into priority status?  I don't know how having the 9 grades in the one school will affect those kinds of issues.   So maybe by consolidating the schools into one they can bypass the SRO for awhile at least, but what about the students in all of this?  Will the schools continue to fail for the students?  What will the future hold for the students?  This is their future.  There really is only one priority in all of this and that is the students, PERIOD!!  If they can get around the SRO but continue to fail the students, then what is the point in it all?  Will it just be delaying the inevitable?

One last concern I have about this plan is that some parents will not support this plan and instead will pull their students from Bridgeport and move them to another school district, or never enroll their students in Bridgeport to begin with.  I do not know how parents will feel about this.  If parents will pull their children from Bridgeport because of this plan, Bridgeport can not afford to lose many more students.  They have not voted on this plan yet in a school board meeting but I think they will be voting on it in the near future.  From what I heard in these two meetings, it sounds like they are seriously looking at this and making plans on moving forward with it.  If there are parents or concerned residents in our district that approve or disapprove of this plan - you need to let the administration and school board members hear your thoughts on this.

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