Making their lists

It is an ambitious list. Equal opportunities for girls and boys in sports. More foreign language courses at Islander Middle School. Better enforcement of district drug and alcohol policies. Address concerns with math and science curricula. These and more came up on a list of parent concerns at a Community Forum hosted by the Mercer Island School Board last week.

About 70 Islanders gathered last Thursday night at Islander Middle School to express what they believe ought to be the school board’s top priorities.

While parents’ initial responses spanned a wide array of topics, their final five issues focus primarily on quality of instruction and children’s experiences in the classroom.

The top five items, in order from most to fewest votes, were: attract and retain outstanding teachers, provide teacher training in differentiated instruction to address student learning differences, provide assistance to struggling students, address math and science curriculum issues and reduce class size.

“Where do we want to really guide the district?” asked Lisa Strauch Eggers, board president. “There’s certain work that’s ongoing. The idea (behind the community forum) is to engage the community and help the board decide what the priority setting should be.”

The board asked parents to brainstorm issues they’d like to see addressed. From Title IX compliance to special education concerns, parents provided a list of nine issues to supplement the 14 the board suggested. Parents then worked together in small groups to narrow the 23-item total down to five priorities for the school board.

While parents ranked compliance with drug and alcohol policies as a top priority early in the voting process, Vice President Leslie Ferrell questioned whether that would be a board issue.

“I'm wondering if that's a board priority or a specific school policy,” she said, adding that principals are in charge of those policies except in extreme situations.

But parents said they wanted the item on the list.

To get to the final list, parents took individual computer surveys to select what they considered to be most pressing issues.

The top nine were: align curriculum between grade levels and ensure consistent implementation by teachers and schools; attract and retain outstanding teachers; influence legislators; improve teacher compensation; provide assistance to struggling students; provide teacher training in differentiated instruction to address student learning differences; reduce class size; support professional development opportunities for teachers; address issues in math and science curriculum.

Parents worked in small groups to determine their top five. Though some parents debated the issues at length, the top five issues reflect the items that were deemed worthy through several surveys.

“Our district really doesn't have a science curriculum yet, and math is terrible, but we keep with it,” said Leslie Moore, explaining why math and science ought to be a top priority.


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