Why would the Park City School District threaten to realign grades next year?
Last week we received an anonymous tip that the Park City School District was considering realigning grades this Fall — about a year or two earlier than expected. School Board President Phil Kaplan confirmed that all options were on the table. KPCW later reported that the district did meet with personnel to discuss the issue. So, it’s no longer a rumor.
We now know that the Park City Board of Education will discuss the fast-track option of realigning grades, tomorrow (Tuesday).
That’s all we know for sure… but what fun is the Park Rag without speculation. It also provides readers a chance to chime in on the craziness. So, let’s go.
Why would the school district realign grades (In just 7 months)?
Let’s begin with a quote from one of our favorite movies, Then Hunt for Red October starting Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery. Russian Captain Sean Connery (Ramias) has just stolen a Russia Sub and Alec Baldwin (Jack Ryan) thinks he wants to defect:
Admiral Painter: “What’s his plan?”
Jack Ryan: “His plan?”
Admiral Painter: “Russians don’t take a dump, son, without a plan. And senior captains don’t start something this dangerous without having thought the matter through.”
Whether you like what our school district does, or not, you have to admit that they are big. They teach thousands. They employee hundreds. They generally do a good job… But they don’t do anything without a plan (except maybe for that snow day 😉 ). It’s unlikely the school lunch program could be changed by next Fall — let alone realigning grades. Think of the logistics of it all. Buses. Textbooks. Toilets, Desks. Lunches. Teachers. Admin.
The notion of making this change in such a short period is crazy. The school board may still do it, but it doesn’t seem rational (given what is public knowledge).
So, why would the school district have held a meeting with school personnel to tell them about this possibility? Here are some possibilities:
Guess 1: A school board member liked the idea and wants to talk about it.
Perhaps a school board member or administrator just wants to make sure all bases are covered and wanted to talk about realigning grades next year. However, the administration as a whole was worried about just discussing the issue during a meeting. So, they decided to inform other school administrators early to “avoid a blowback.”
We could see this as a possibility; however, it seems like the negative perception leveled on both the school board and district for even contemplating a rushed decision would outweigh the benefits of warning personnel it was coming. We would think that a school board member just would have asked the question… “what if we did this next year?” to get the ball rolling. The district’s actions seem more formal in nature than just having a conversation, but we shall see.
Guess 2: District elementary school population is up sharply and it has forced realignment.
Perhaps estimated school population is up dramatically in elementary schools, and rather than add trailers to elementary schools (and their expense), the district has decided to over-populate high school by 22% more than its enrollment threshold.
We’ve heard this as partial justification for considering the rush-realignment. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yes, trailers may need to be added to elementary schools if population spikes… but hopefully we can rent them. We’ve heard numbers like $200K per trailer. You can build a house for $200K (especially when the land is free). Either way, a few trailers seem a better option than impacting all high school students, high school teachers, 5th-8th grade teachers, administrators, etc.
Guess 3: The old cock-thumb
Long time readers, know our affinity for HBO’s show VEEP and their cock-thumb strategy:
“A cock-thumb is when someone makes a radical suggestion in order to prompt the other person to make a more reasonable suggestion, which is actually what the first person wanted. In Veep’s case, the President’s office plans to propose ‘a radical cut to the military, cutting off the cock,’ hoping that ‘the Joint Chiefs in turn propose their own more reasonable cut, cutting off the thumb.'”
If this theory held, the school district would be proposing realigning the grades, so that they could do something crazy, but less crazy, in the future. What’s less crazy? There are just too many ideas to speculate on this one.
Guess 4: Trying to impact teacher negotiations
This is out there, and may be unlikely, but you never know. Teacher contract negotiations are coming up soon. Is this a shot across the bow? “Park City teachers, we’ll hold off on realigning the grades that would make teaching miserable, but you have to help us out too.” Strange things happen in politics.
Guess 5: Manipulation of the public/teachers into voting for a bond
This theory would say that the Park City School Board wants to ensure that School Bond V2.0 passes. To do that, they will make life so miserable for teachers and students, that everyone will vote for the upcoming bond to ease the pain.
This seems almost too far fetched to be true. Why would a school district punish students and teachers in order to get to what it wants? Also, the bond hasn’t been formally voted on by the board. Unfortunately for the district, manipulation seems to be the most commonly held idea by many members of the public. Whether the district goes ahead or doesn’t, in some ways the damage is done. The idea of cramming 9th grade into the high school has been floated and floated for some reason. Many members of the public feel it was malicious and that taints not only realignment but the high school expansion and any bond that may be voted on.
Guess 6: It is a tale. Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.
Why would the idea be floated? Because certain members of the school board are grumpy. They voted on realignment a long time ago and it hasn’t happened. This has been “hampered” by the public process, the bond failure, and a lack of clear direction. So, to combat this, they are going to find a way to get it done. One way to get it started is to force the issue…. or at least pretend like it.
Don’t forget, the school board were the ones that said they may raise a capital levy, if the bond fails. That turned out to be all bluster (so far).
This seems like the same M.O. and it would likely be met with the same disdain as the threats made during the bond.
So, which guess in the Park Rag going with? We think it’s the bluster (Guess 6). We believe that some school board members are tired of the process and are intent on pushing what they think is best, in the hopes that somehow it kick starts the realignment.
Regardless of whether we are right on that, we also think this has already backfired on them.
At best, trying to realign the grades that quickly seems foolish. At worst, it seems manipulative. On Tuesday there is a meeting where this will apparently be discussed. Hopefully the board members will be able to provide further clarification on their intentions.
After all, it may just be nothing. However, if it turns out to be nothing… nothing wasn’t executed very well.
Have other thoughts? Think we are crazy? Let us know in the comments.
FYI, PC is reporting enrollment as follows:
Parley’s Park Elementary 616
McPolin Elementary 397
Jeremy Ranch Elementary 593
Trailside Elementary 597
Ecker Hill Middle 798
Treasure Mountain Junior High 824
Park City High 1149
Note: 2016-2017 K-12 School Enrollment (as of 10/1/16)
That’s a grand total of 4974 students for the 2016/17 school year, as opposed to 4739 in 2015/16 (so a 5% increase in one year). A lot more kids to deal with, so if I were the board I’d be starting to panic about having facilities ready soon too. If we keep adding a few hundred kids a year, and it takes a year or two (at least) to construct new buildings… you do the math.
Of course the enrollment might stall out or even drop (I recall, in fact, Josh, that you were making a lot of noise about enrollment not increasing as of last year, so it might be worth revisiting that) but based on housing construction and traffic… I’d bet on more kids rather than less.
Yeah, I’ll have to go take a look at that. I remember when following the Master Planning Committee for the bond, they were initially talking about up to 5% growth at the upper end but it turned out to be less than 2% at the time (almost a non-factor). They also spoke of a bubble of kids moving through the schools.
I also wonder what the addition of full time Kindergarten and Pre-K are doing to the numbers and comparisons (maybe the comparisons don’t matter).
Anyhow, I’l take a look at that. Thanks for the numbers.
I don’t know how comparable the numbers are with/without all day kindergarden either. But I have a hard time imagining 200+ new kids are signed up for kindergarden who otherwise would have been starting 1st grade next year.
Even a 2% growth rate means a doubling in about 35 years, so 2% growth is nothing to sneeze at. 5% would be a doubling in 14 years if it continued indefinitely. Exponential growth is a crazy thing.
Actually, or school district does a lot without a plan. Specifically, our Superintendent does a lot without a plan. Management of the district was studied at length last year by the Strategy Committee. The report at the end of the year clearly stated that there were serious deficiencies in the management’s ability to manage change. A recommendation was made that management and the Board focus on these issues. Nothing has been done to date. Thus, you end up with a “cutting-edge” educational idea that the Superintendent thinks is “cool” and no thought into the implementation of it.
It is really unfortunate this ludicrous idea ever saw the light of day. We all know a bond is on the horizon and if there is any hope of it passing this time, the community has to be able to TRUST the school board and the administration. Crazy ideas like this don’t enhance the trust factor.
I for one won’t be manipulated. If they overcrowd PCHS just to make a point, I will not not vote for any bond no matter what it covers.
I think they may have concluded people won’t vote for a bond no matter what. That would be my conclusion too based on the opinions I heard voiced at the focus group the district put together.
Basically the opposition to the last bond broke down into 2 groups (at this focus group):
Group 1: The totally uninformed. There was a fellow who voted no because he got a piece of direct mail against the bond. He knew nothing about PC schools and was surprised to learn that enrollment was growing and various facilities were pretty old.
Group 2: I only vote for perfect proposals. There were several people who agreed with 90% of what the bond was going to do. Then they didn’t like the athletics funds, or the high school re-jiggering, or something else. These people will never vote for anything unless it’s *exactly* what they want.
It was truly depressing. If this is what the board has to contend with, I’d be considering desperation measures too.
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