Pathways plan gets passing grade

A new and improved policy for improving the Snoqualmie Valley School District was adopted in a 4 to 1 vote by the school board Thursday, Sept. 27.

The new "Curriculum Pathways and Benchmarks" policy, number 2423, calls for the school district to implement "curriculum pathways" for grades 6 to 12,   and to create a scorecard to determine how the district is progressing. The goal is "to allow all students access to the courses necessary to build the transcripts recommended for competitive application to post-high school education, including top four-year universities."

All of the details regarding the implementation of pathways and the creation of the scorecard will be determined by the district administration and staff.

Originally presented at a Sept. 13 board meeting, the policy proposal by board members Geoff Doy and Carolyn Simpson, drew both high praise and strong criticism. It did again at last week's meeting, attended by roughly 60 parents and teachers.

Board member Scott Hodgins supported the original policy, and noted that Doy and Simpson had simply done as they were asked by the board, when they were assigned to think about strategic planning. He also supported the rewrite. President Dan Popp overcame his initial opposition that the first draft was too prescriptive, and supported the new version, too. Marci Busby maintained her opposition to the policy, on the grounds that Doy and Simpson had talked to teachers and administrators from other school districts, but not their own. "I think our experts should have been able to weigh in on this," she said.

Busby cast the only opposing vote to the new policy.

The split opinion on the policy was shared by audience members, many of whom took the opportunity to comment on the policy before the vote. Some felt the policy was too elitist, focusing too heavily on four-year colleges, while others felt improvement was always a worthwhile goal. Others had general statements they wanted to make.

Teachers described the work they've already been doing in increasing curriculum offerings, and didn't want that work to be discarded.

Trese Rand, Fall City, asked the board to "give some time and some weight to finding the top-tier trade schools and technical colleges," not just because of the expense of four-year colleges, but also because of the need for other types of skilled workers, such as electric linemen.

Parent Steven Kangas, North Bend, congratulated the board on creating a policy that had, in his own experience, received 100 percent positive feedback from the community.

Mount Si High School counselor Jessica Easthope said the policy might be well-intended, but placed too much emphasis on four-year colleges. "A lot of kids may not be ready at 18 for college," she said. But, after a year or two at a technical school, community college, military service of in "the world of work," she said those same kids could start at a four-year school "and knock it out of the park."

She worried about those students' reaction to the new policy, saying they "are going to read it and say 'this is not for me, I don't belong here.'"

Board members defended the policy, saying it would drive improvement of the district's offerings to all students, no matter what their future education goals.


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