District Boundaries, Teacher Shortage, Vision: 2020

Access to Quality Education Should be Equitable

Good morning Academy @ Shawnee Leaders and Supporters,

I wanted to follow up regarding previous conversations I’ve had with each of you in different settings and during different times, over the past few years.
First let me start by saying the purpose of this email is not to place blame or criticize or throw anyone under the bus. We are a very large district and it’s really hard to get everyone on the same page at the same time, much less come up with a plan of action when there are so many moving parts and interested parties to consider.
I tried to start by sharing some of this history, as well as concerns and suggestions at Tuesday night’s board meeting, but 3 minutes is not nearly enough time to cover everything, tie it back together to make a case, much less respond to concerns, brainstorm for better ideas, etc. when the dialogue is only one way. But these concerns continue to remain urgent and to date they have not generated the attention I had hoped for or expected. My hope is that by sending this global follow up email we can try to pick up on some of the more urgent items since school starts in less than two weeks. These are just ideas, and other folks may already have the ball on this, or there may be factors I am not aware of, but I can’t allow another year to go by without at least attempting to see what can be done.
I realize I may be butting in where I don’t belong, and am probably stepping on people’s toes, and possibly many of these ideas are already in the works. But because some of these issues have gained momentum and agreement with previous leaders, including Dr. Barber and Amy Dennes, and every time we gain new leadership, we seem to start from scratch, I didn’t want to take any chances. I feel this loss of continuity and repeated delay has done a huge disservice to our students and students in the West End.
Below is a series of problems and proposed solutions that I would like your feedback on before school starts on Aug. 10. And if possible, hopefully some of the proposed solutions, or a variation thereof, can be implemented in time to affect this year’s student population.

I met with John Collopy last spring and he explained to me that one of the reasons Shawnee has such a high cost per student, (in addition to the fact that we are charged for Early Childhood’s cost center and shared costs with ESL, but their populations are not factored into the divisor), is also that there are certain fixed costs that remain the same whether you have 500 or 2000 students in a building. Several leaders I have spoken with have agreed that growing the school to around 700 students would allow much more economies of scale.

Shawnee has met all of its AMOs for the past 3 years, but it cannot get out of priority status because it cannot move out of the bottom 5%. Growing the magnets and retaining or attracting students from the West End and our resides who might apply to schools like Manual or Male, or even be assigned to a school across town but prefer to stay in their community, is another way to raise the scores. Failing schools have nothing to do with the teachers, or the building. Test scores have everything to do with the student population mix and the income and wealth of the families in attendance. Even with ESSA changing soon, we owe it to this school and this community to do right by them now. This school year.

I volunteered during the first day of school last year and there were 100 students from the West End there who either were at the wrong school but thought that Shawnee was their resides school, or had not completed any registration paperwork and were not in our system. We had to triage them in the auditorium, which was an all-day affair. If they were in the right school, we couldn’t build a schedule for them until we got them entered into the computer system. If it turned out they were in the wrong school we sent them home, even though they WANTED to be there, and may have qualified for a transfer! Once the first day of school starts, students are no longer allowed to apply for a transfer.


Could we ask for the mobile registration bus to be at Shawnee during our high school orientation on Aug. 3? And again on the first day of school? This would speed up the registration process and allow for a quick decision as to whether a student qualified to apply to our magnet.

Could we get the word out to the Shawnee community that they can apply for a transfer the day of registration if it is not their resides school. Perhaps yard signs and announcements in the paper. I will help any way I can.

Can we make an exception for this community that experiences the greatest amount of burden caused by busing (reference the high school boundary map presented Tuesday night)? I realize that could lead to having to hire or relocate additional teachers at the last  minute, but that sounds like an adult problem, not what’s in the best interest of the students.

Can we reach out to students who did not get their first and second choice, who feel that they have no alternatives but to attend their resides school and let them know about the opportunities that exist at Shawnee?

Please provide Ms. Benboe and her staff the support they need to find some way forward on this topic of recruiting and growing the school to 1) reach the economies of scale needed to run efficiently, 2) serve the students and families who live in the west end and wish to attend Shawnee and 3) recruit more students from the east end to obtain better integration using “more carrot and less stick.”

The Academy @ Shawnee is a shining star in the West End and has the potential to transform that community. Let’s make sure it gets the oxygen it needs to breathe and flourish. Please?Just as you are only as strong as your weakest link, a school district is only as strong as its weakest schools. I look forward to your replies, additional ideas, suggestions, concerns, etc. We have important work to do, and I believe some of the most important work of all starts here.

Thank you for your time, I’ll be following up with an update at the August 9th board meeting.

Gay Adelmann

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