Letters to the Editor

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TACOMA: School district throws away taxpayer dollars

Letter by Helen M. Rickey, Tacoma on Jan. 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm with 5 Comments »
January 26, 2011 2:10 pm

Re: “Schools could absorb Foss closure” (letter, 1-26).

The Tacoma School District’s response to my letter to the editor (1-24), claims “corrected” enrollment numbers are updated to show still undefined numbers of students enrolled. This paid spokesman says the district believes many upcoming students will choose alternatives. Clearly, these alternative schools, which serve a small percentage of our most affluent families, are supported at the cost of our public comprehensive high schools.

After spending millions of dollars remodeling Foss, primarily to move students out of the portables and into actual classrooms, our school district suggests Foss students attend classes in portables elsewhere. Art Jarvis and the school board should not return us to overcrowded “all-time high enrollment.” We need to put students first, utilizing facilities that taxpayers already funded.

Please stop looking only at projections and consider actual students currently enrolled in our city. Students will be irreparably harmed by the closure of Foss. Closing Foss displaces special education students that were rejected from the other high schools.

In fact, Foss has a most diverse student family of all abilities and contributions. IB students, whose hard work will not come to fruition without the opportunity to complete IB testing, will suffer a blow not only personally, but around the world, and be the first closing of any IB certified school.

Please do not scatter our students, teachers and staff members and make them refugees in other schools that will be impacted as well.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. hansgruber says:

    Consolidating Foss into the other 4 high schools is the solution for now.

    Maintaining a school at 61% capacity (built to serve 1737 students with only 1066 students currently) is not good stewardship.

  2. baileyandliamsmommy says:

    Good stewardship? Are we forgetting about the lives of these young people? I wish you could have been at the PTSA meeting to listen to the heart-wrenching pleas of these students who are facing the proverbial “chopping block”. How can we stand back and allow for their education to be so disrupted, for their social and emotional well-being to be sabotaged? I wish the school district could have practiced “good stewardship” with my tax dollars when administrators decided to increase the Central Administration budget or purchase new math curriculum districtwide just a few short years after the purchase of the last curriculum. 1066 students and their committed staff should not have to shoulder the responsibility of balancing the district’s budget. There are other solutions.

  3. cclngthr says:

    baileyandliamsmommy,
    If you only had $2,000,000 to spend, why don’t you donate that money to Foss?

    Curriculums are changed due to state mandates that require different teaching techniques be used. While they can be overpriced, the changes are expected and are a required part of society. As society evolves, so should the education system and what is taught.

  4. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Before you profess your undying love for Foss, keep in mind that the Fraiser Institute (See the Evergreen Freedom Foundation website) rates Foss 304th out of 346 schools in Washington (based on test scores) and this is WITH averaging in the often highlighted IB students.

    Foss is the lowest rated for academics of all the comprehensive schools in Tacoma. The alternatives are somewhat better, but (with the exception of Stadium) not by much.

    Lincoln is rated 295th out of 346 while Wilson and Mt Tahoma are both ranked all the way up to 289th. The Oakland Alternative HS is the only school rated worse at 329th out of 346.

    Stadium is rated 152th, a solid c+, while SOTA’s 341 students lead the pack at 46th out of 346.

    Are you really concerned about Foss? Demand SOTA and SAMI get consolidated into Foss and maybe your average test scores will improve. Hate to shatter your ego’s folks, but Foss, Wilson, MT T, Lincoln, and Oakland are pretty bad schools when compared to the rest of the State.

    For comparison purposes, Puyallup HS is rated 166th, Curtis 66th, Gig Harbor 50th, Peninsula 91st. If you lived in Fircrest, where would you want your kid to go, Foss or Curtis?

    And before you start making excuses based on demographics and poverty levels, keep in mind that Clover Park comes in at 198th and Lakes HS ranks 226th.

    Moving SAMI and SOTA into Foss will fill the school, but the question becomes what kind of education will they receive once they get there?

    Perhaps closing Foss will be the start of addressing the real problems in the TSD high schools and these numbers prove it is not a pretty picture. The first step in recovery is to admit you have a problem.

    It’s time for step one.

  5. BigSwingingRichard, I am impressed with your effort to analyse the Foss High School situation. The problem with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s rankings is that they do not take enough into consideration to answer the question. That question is, why are there differences between schools that have similar levels of poverty and ethnicity? Is that really the main problem?
    Something happened at Foss between 2008 and 2009. For the preceeding five years their performance average was 5.1 and in 2009 it slipped to 3.7.
    One problem I see in the EFF numbers is that after accounting for white and black students, there are still 22% to 40% of students who are not classified according to ethnicity.
    Schools with significant numbers of Asian students do better than those with low Asian numbers. That could be part of the answer. Another part could be the funding levels for the three schools you mentioned. That factor is also missing from the EFF evaluation.
    I still would like to know what happened to Foss in 2009 that drew down their performance number. Anybody have an idea?
    Closing schools is always a difficult process. It was not always a strictly business decision. It should not be that way this time and I am confident Mr. Jarvis knows all about that. When the funding is not there, the administration had school board have no choice.

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