Tide Rolls in at School Board Meeting

Michelle Vogel, proud Linwood E. Howe parent, stood at the podium of the school board meeting on Tuesday May 10 and said, “We are not going away. This is our chance to fight for what is important to us, and we will keep coming back.” The fact that she had a baby strapped to her chest and a small child by the hand made it clear how long-term her commitment would be.

Michelle was only one out 19 people who spoke to the school board about the possible loss of another kindergarten class at Lin Howe, and her ardor was reflected by all of them. Parents, teachers, and former students all spoke with passion about the family feeling of the school, the outstanding quality of the kindergarten program, and the need to keep it all in place for the sake of the district and the community.

While this high tide of enthusiasm and commitment for Lin Howe took up most of the meeting, the possible loss of the kindergarten was not an item on the agenda, and thus could not be resolved.

Stepping carefully around the Brown Act, several board members apologized for the legal snag, but explained that it simply could not be discussed.

Board member Patricia Seiver offered her hope that it could be done at the next meeting, saying, “We simply can’t discuss this until we have met with staff, and spoken with them. We appreciate everyone’s concerns, but it has not been decided. We can’t change our minds about a decision that we have not made.”

Board member Steve Gourley stated that he had received a number of emails in regard to the issue, and had of course, checked the voter rolls to see how many of those asking him to regard on the class issue. “Less than half of you voted. That is not how you get my attention when you are asking for my help.”

School Board President Scott Zeidman was graciously apologetic in tone, telling the crowd that “We have to agendize things, that’s how the law works. It may be three months, it may be two weeks, but we don’t know.”

Director of Pupil Services Drew Sitelo offered the current set of numbers for confirmed incoming students saying that there was an enrollment of 366 incoming kindergarteners for the district. “We have 47 siblings coming in as El Marino, “ he began, “and 97 new kindergarten students at El Rincon, 77 for La Ballona, 72 for Farragut, 66 for Lin Howe, and 34 inter-district permits.”
The current rate of enrollment would create 17.8 kindergarten classes. The expectation of more students getting enrolled before September could create as many as three more classes.

Lin Howe parent Linda Rosenberg spoke to the issue by offering that “Our best solution is to staff to current levels, and then fill immersion classes after that. This is an issue about the needs of the whole district. Cutting classes will decimate this approach. Fewer classes means fewer parents, and this affects fundraising in the worst way.”

The kindergarten decisions will not be final until classes begin again in September. In the meanwhile, there will be plenty of yellow shirts at the school board meetings.

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2 Comments

  1. I have a philosophical question to ask Lin Howe parents:

    If you could have a language immersion program at your school, would you want it?

    The reason I ask is because El Marino has been the target of choice when assigning blame for the lower enrollment kindergarten numbers across the district. If Lin Howe had an immersion program, I would think that the kids they lose to El Marino would likely stay.

    I have real issue with anyone blaming any school for these issues. If you want to point fingers, point them at the parents who are looking to enhance their child’s educational experience by teaching them two languages (God forbid).

    El Marino (and La Ballona) are just supplying a demand. And as far as I understand it, it is a demand that is growing, not waning. So, if Lin Howe parents got exactly what they wanted – (on an issue that may not even come to fruition) – they would force at least 22 kids to take English-only curriculum, when their parents would rather have their children be taught in two languages.

    That is regressive thinking.

    Personally, instead of attacking El Marino, I would fight like hell to provide some form of dual-language curriculum at your own school. This way, the demands of our district’s parents could be met, while spreading the student population across the district more evenly.

  2. Dan
    I don’t think you quite understand the position of the Lin Howe parents. They are not “attacking” El Marino, they are stating that ALL the schools should be treated equally. They would like to know that these decisions are made to ensure that the programs at each school are maximized to their potential for grades K-5, not just K.
    This is not a 1 year issue. By limiting the number of kindergarten classes at a particular school, this will have a lasting impact on programs. This will lead to combo classes that cause a host of additional issues, that I have personal experience of, at the upper grade levels, 4th and 5th grade.
    In another post you referred to the “financial sense” that these decisions make. I can guarantee that myself, as a teacher at Lin Howe, would love 3 extra teachers to ensure that we don’t have combo classes. By having 6 teachers teach half day classes, that in essence is 6 teachers for 3 classes costing the district about $180,000 per year. (1 half day AM student plus 1 half day PM student equals 1 full day student, in regards to student funding) I would like to read or hear how that makes “financial sense.”

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