Let’s Talk April 2016

Q: RE: Calendar – if parents are stakeholders, why aren’t registration days advertised? BUSD needs volunteers and those dates are already known. Info should be readily available now. Also, calendar survey wasn’t well advertised to parents. The response was very low as a district.

We will communicate with the principals to make sure that registration and orientation schedules are advertised on school websites.

While we had about 500 parent responses in our recent survey, we will explore additional ways to increase response rates.

Q: Open houses in May affect PTA convention. How much of April must be reserved for testing? Can open house be late April?

A: The whole month of April is necessary to complete testing District-wide. We will discuss with principals to see if they can move open houses immediately before or after testing.

Q: What communication is taking place with the state to deal with the situation where 11th graders are having to miss their AP classes (right before they have to take their AP tests) so that they can take the state tests?

A: The State has been notified of the issue, their solution has been to allow flexibility with the testing window. This year, BUSD started testing on the first day allowed by the state mandated testing window.

Q: Why are teachers allowed to require cash for field trip donations? It seems like a bad practice.

A: Staff members are not allowed to require that parents pay for students to attend field trips. They may request donations, but in a way that explicitly states that no child will be denied the opportunity to attend a field trip if he/she does not pay. Further, it is recommended that payments are not made via cash.

Q: How EXACTLY are the backgrounds of coaches, assistants, aides, trainers, full time, part time, paid or unpaid, checked in order for them to be authorized to have contact with our children and how often are those background checks repeated. Which avenues are used, FBI, Megan’s, what else?? AND what’s the plan to check our current employees, how are we going to improve the process, what’s the timeline. There are obvious loopholes that we need to cover to ensure the safety and well-being of our students.

A: People who serve our District as coaches undergo background checks that include the FBI and the DOJ (Department of Justice).  We are notified immediately of any employee who has been arrested.  The background checks are not repeated since the reporting agency notifies us immediately of any incidents. This issue is of great concern to BUSD and we will continue to look at opportunities to ensure the safety of our students.

Q: Is the music curriculum for grades 2 — 5 being reviewed in the Arts Working Group meetings? I thought that the Providencia program was a pilot program and that we would work toward offering instrumental education in all of the elementary schools but that doesn’t seem to be happening.  I know of children who signed up for band at the middle school and then quit the first week because they were so intimidated by the other students who were already playing the instruments.

The music curriculum has been discussed at the Arts Working Group meetings. At present, the District does not have a plan or funding to provide instrumental music education in all elementary schools. We will be leveraging the revised Arts for All Plan to seek funding to expand our arts program.


Q: All year long parents asked if they could be tutored in this new math so that they could help their students and it has not happened. Is anything being developed for next year? This issue has come up at some of the recent LCAP meetings. The shifts in instructional practices (and what is required of students) from the previous California standards has been significant, to say the least.

A: We plan on offering a series of parent workshops, at each level, next year.  It has also been noted in the draft LCAP recommendations the need for tutoring for targeted subgroups of students (low income, English Learner, foster, and homeless youth). The superintendent will make final recommendations to the Board in June.


Q: How will math be offered in middle school next year? This year’s model is different from last year’s.  Will it be changing again?

A: Middle school math will be the same as this year.


Q: Accelerated Reader licenses are now paid for through the district. Do we have a district rate or a per student rate?  If we have a per student rate, has anyone looked at how many schools are actually using it?

A: We have a contract for the District and all schools at the elementary and middle school levels are using the program with most of their students, with one exception. There is only one teacher using the program at Muir Middle School.


Q: Can the district provide more information to parents about Ultra Key? At each grade level, what skills do you want our children to have? Once they have finished the program, what can they move on to?  It appears that keyboarding is the parent’s responsibility with some resources being provided by the district.  In order to meet that responsibility, we need better guidance.

A: This is part of the work currently happening in our District Technology Committee. They are identifying grade level competencies for the district. Elementary schools are building it into their regular computer time, but that is more difficult at the middle school level. The committee can develop some recommendations for parents.


Q: Please stop telling the children that their school’s success depends on what they score on the SBAC tests.

A: That is an unfortunate message and is not coming from the superintendent or the district level. Please contact the principal and/or the superintendent directly to express your concern. SBAC tests are one indicator of student success that we review (along with attendance, grades, suspensions, benchmark assessments, survey results, etc.). We want our students to do their best every day and showcase what they have learned, but we do not want them to have increased stress or anxiety levels due to testing.


Q: Communication seems to be a big challenge in this district. What measures are being taken to improve it?  It’s great to offer programs for students and for parents but if they don’t know about them, no one benefits.

A: We are continuing to increase our presence on social media, our website, and traditional communication channels (our first School News newsletter is being distributed next month). Please feel free to contact the superintendent if you have additional suggestions.


Q: Regarding the practice of some teachers using the same test questions year after year, can administration (district level as well as principals) ask more from those teachers? Is it unreasonable to ask them to use new questions from year to year, so that it becomes possible to return graded exams to students?

A: When the test is secure and is used multiple times, it provides the teachers and district with more reliable data that are used to make adjustments in curriculum and instruction. There are minor revisions of most exams each year. However, teachers review the answers with students and can review tests with parents if they make an appointment with the teacher.


Q: Has the District hired a new Director of Facilities? There are work orders that aren’t being completed in a timely manner.  In some cases, a work order is reported as completed, when in fact it is not.  At least one of these uncompleted-yet-considered-completed work orders presents a safety hazard.  Who is responsible for checking up on completion of work orders?

A: Our Facilities Services supervisors are constantly reviewing work orders and the superintendent has dedicated time during his monthly principal meeting for principals to discuss open work orders and/or concerns with our supervisors. If you notice an incorrect work order or a concerns, please notify your principal.

The application for the Assistant Superintendent of Facilities/IT closed on Friday, April 8th, and applications are currently being reviewed by HR.


Q: Why are students in some digital video production classes being instructed to pirate music for their videos? This is not a practice that the district supports.

A: You are correct; this is not a practice that is supported or condoned by the District. Please provide more specific information to the superintendent, and we will certainly follow-up. Copyrighted materials may only be used in class for limited educational purposes.


Q: Can any of the moneys being channeled towards C.T.E. be used to help hire technology teachers who are really skilled in the classes they are teaching?

A: If you speaking about the CTE grant monies that have become available, then the answer is no. We do not used limited, one-time grant money for permanent positions.

If you have concerns about a specific teacher, please discuss with your principal.