YOUR TURN | Large Scale System Change ahead for St. Paul schools

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Grappling with falling enrollments and budget shortfalls, the St. Paul Public Schools are trying to take the long view and make system-wide changes — Large Scale System Change or LSSC. After months of talk about changes, decision time is coming soon … along with the unexpected complications of hiring a new superintendent in the middle of the process and school board elections in November.

If you have been following the process closely, you know that the LSSC plans are at a crucial stage. If you have been meaning to catch up — now’s the time to do so. Whether you are a parent, teacher, student, taxpayer, or any other interested party, we welcome your comments, feedback and opinions.

The facts

For the official story
The SPPS website has a wealth of information about LSSC. Here are a few of the most informative links:

slide show presentation of the plan, updated as of May 19
• video, in Mac and Windows formats, introducing LSSC concepts and principles
Summary of questions and answers from public meetings held so far
Summary of public meeting information

Declining enrollment:

The question is not so much where the kids are going, as it is a matter of having fewer students to begin with. The total number of students in the city of Saint Paul (public, non-public and charter) has declined by nearly 6,000 students between the 1999-2000 and 2007-08 school years. (Complete data are not yet available for 2008-09). SPPS enrollments have dropped by 5,500, non-public enrollments have dropped by 2,800 and charter school enrollments have grown by 2,300 during that time.
LSSC public meetings summary.

Declining resources:

Timeline:

After months of discussion, including many forums open to parents, teachers and the general public, SPPS district administration has recommended its plan to the Board of Education. If the Board adopts the plan, it will be implemented in the 2010-2011 school year.

According to public communications from SPPS, “nothing is set in stone.” Indeed, the plan has several areas that remain open for discussion and decision. Public input is scheduled for May 28 at Harding High School, June 11 at an open agenda Board of Education listening session. And the Board vote set for June 16 is characterized as “initial,” not final.

Highlights of the LSSC plan

1) Regionalization:
Students would attend elementary school in their region of the city. The city is divided into Region 1 — north of University Avenue); Region 2 — south of University Avenue); and Region 3 — east of 35E and Highway 61. Students can choose any school within their region, and be bused there — if they live far enough from the school. According to SPPS Chief of Schools Nancy Stachel, “Equal treatment law means we have to offer the same busing to public, private and charter schools — and to all public schools.” There’s no decision yet on whether to bus students living farther than one-half mile or one mile from their school.

Elementary schools will feed into middle or junior high schools, which will feed into high schools in the same area.

Here’s how the regions stack up:


2) City wide options:

How can you respond/participate?

May 28: A community input session on Large Scale System Change will be held at Harding High School, 1540 E. Sixth St. in Saint Paul, from 6-8 p.m.

June 11: The Board of Education will also hold a listening session, with a wide-open agenda, at Expo Elementary school, from 7-8:30 p.m.

June 16: The Board of Education is scheduled to make an initial decision on the LSSC plan.

You can contact school board members directly:
Kazoua Kong-Thao, Chair
651-238-1869
Kazoua.Kong-Thao@spps.org

Elona Street-Stewart, Vice-Chair
651-291-8569
Elona.Street-stewart@spps.org

Tom Conlon, Clerk
651-699-7399
thomas.conlon@spps.org

Tom Goldstein, Treasurer
651-644-8558
tom.goldstein@spps.org

Anne Carroll, Director
651-690-9156
anne.carroll@spps.org

John Brodrick, Director
651-645-7500
John.Brodrick@spps.org

Keith Hardy, Director
651-497-8924
Keith.Hardy@spps.org

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Seven schools will have citywide attendance areas, and students may be bused to these schools for anywhere in the city. They are: American Indian Magnet School, Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet, Crossroads Montessori and Science Magnet (two magnets, one building), Four Seasons, L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion School, Open School, and Central High School.

3) Closing schools:
Longfellow, Roosevelt and Sheridan schools will be closed under the plan. In the official discussion, this is called right-sizing. The goal is to “target services to areas that will make the most impact on student achievement.” SPPS Chief of Schools Nancy Stachel : “The budget book shows more than $8 million for three schools that are closing, and that are projected to serve 984 students. This is important – the money can be invested in other schools to improve the level of service they are able to deliver. Right now, things are stretched really thin because we have way more space than we have kids.”

4) Still up in the air:Some parts of the plan are still under discussion, without a firm recommendation. Among these areas:

• What happens to Spanish immersion? Montessori? Arts? Students from all over the city can apply to the French immersion program, but not to Adams Spanish immersion. Adams, explained board member Keith Hardy, is already over-enrolled. Because the program is so popular, it may make more sense to create another Spanish immersion program. Currently, Nokomis and J.J. Hill each serve half of the city for Montessori – that could be a model for making Spanish immersion or Hmong dual language programs available. Similarly, each region might have an arts focused school or a science and math focused school.

Correction: Keith Hardy is quoted in paragraph above – the article originally stated his name incorrectly.


• Junior high or middle school? Whether to move to a grade 6-7-8 middle school model or stay at the current grade 7-8 junior high model is still under discussion.

• Articulation – if you go to ABC Elementary, then you go to DEF Junior High and to XYZ High School.

5) What stays the same?
Focus on “raising the bar” for academic achievement for all students and closing the achievement gap. See Academic Reforms and Employee Effectiveness and Development.

What do you think?

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