My Turn: Board members did listen and deserve support | SierraSun.com
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My Turn: Board members did listen and deserve support

Buff Wendt
My Turn

I would like to thank Mr. Kahn for his recent “My Turn” column to the paper (Sierra Sun, May 20), asking this community to rescind and not sign any petitions trying to put a recall of three of our school board members. He’s right, this will an extremely toxic fight in our community, at a time when we need most to try and refocus on education.

However, I feel compelled to suggest the decision that these board members made is timely and should remain in place. The elementary reconfiguration at the lakeside of our district has been studied ad nauseum. Last year, a committee was formed, with the acronym TTRAC. It was headed by John Neary, the current principal of Truckee High School. What was supposed to be a four-month process turned into a nine-month process as they waded through every possible scenario and whittled those down to about 12 options which they brought to the parents of Kings Beach Elementary and Tahoe Lake Elementary for community meetings.

These meetings were very well attended by both sets of parents, to the point where the Kings Beach parents actually met for a second long evening, this time separated into classrooms as it had been too difficult to hear everyone speak in the crowded gym.

Every parent at the lakeside had a chance to have their input and concerns heard over the nine months, which is one of the reasons the study took much longer than anticipated.

With that input, the TTRAC board came back with a recommendation to the administration and school board at the end of the 2008 school year. A vote to reconfigure at that time was delayed, once again for more study. This year, after intensive work together, the five district elementary principals presented the best possible educational solution based on the year and a half of meetings, which was to house K-1 at TL and 2-5 at Kings Beach Elementary.

The Tahoe Lake parents where extremely upset. So several meetings later, the second best option that took into account their feedback was presented to the board. K-3 English Mainstream was to occur at Tahoe Lake and K-3 Two-Way Immersion would remain at Kings Beach.

What this means is that kids who do not want to be part of the immersion program in Kings Beach will bus to Tahoe Lake. And that is why some Tahoe Lake parents are leading a recall of three members of the board, who finally decided to stop studying and put education first. Our two newest members did not vote, based on needing more study, but as many parents and teachers so aptly stated in public comment, there have been studied and recommendations to do this for 20 years.

The recall is based on fear and prejudice, not on giving our district kids the best possible education. For kids who are learning English, it is important that they have English role models in their classrooms. The data supports this overwhelmingly. This currently doesn’t exist at Kings Beach in the English mainstream program. The only native English speaking kids are in the immersion program. Kings Beach, since it has been in program improvement, now has the highest test scores for fifth-graders, for both Hispanic and White students in the district. (The categories White and Hispanic are used by http://www.greatschools.net, go check my stats in CST results by category, the rest of my data is from the Kings Beach principal).

The administration, which included all of the elementary school principals, overwhelmingly recommended the reconfiguration to the board members to try and bring this educational success story to all students in the district.

We should be grateful that Bev Ducey, Kristy Olk, and Bill Kraus decided to rise above cultural and racial fears and place education first, which is their job. I ask that we as a community drop the petition against these board members, and support our elementary principals and the teachers who see that this change is about 20 years overdue for this community.

Imagine if all of the elementary students could all have the fantastic test scores achieved by the graduates of Kings Beach.

Buff Wendt is a parent in the school district and lives in Truckee.


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