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District unveils draft vision for schools

Submitted by on 1, December 9, 2009 – 5:50 amNo Comment

ausd-boardAlameda Unified School District leaders on Tuesday night pitched the rough draft of a new vision of a model, modern school district by 2015 – if a new, larger parcel tax is approved by voters and a host of other funding sources are secured.

The draft version of the plan – which became available to the public just hours before the board meeting and was presented to the board after 10 p.m. – envisions a host of new, specialized programs across the district’s schools, including specialized learning communities or small magnet programs at our elementary schools, a K-8 dual language immersion or performing arts magnet and charter programs for middle and high schoolers, some of which could begin as soon as the 2011-12 school year.

“I think the notion of choice is a huge theme throughout this,” Superintendent Kirsten Vital said.

The district would seek a new, larger parcel tax in June 2010 to support the programs, which Vital said would need to generate enough money to cover $10 million to $14 million in state funding the district has lost. It would also look to existing and new partnerships with non-profits and philanthropic organizations to help fund and manage some of its new learning initiatives. Specifically, the district would look to the Alameda Education Foundation to raise $1.2 million over the next three years to support district initiatives.

District leaders would also seek to maintain existing neighborhood and secondary schools by setting enrollment targets and by creating specialized learning programs and spreading transfer students from outside of Alameda across the district to fill seats. Currently, they are concentrated in a handful of schools that have available seats.

If a new tax doesn’t pass in June, district officials could be forced to eliminate programs, increase class sizes, lay off staff and close schools, they said.

District leaders have worked for nearly nine months to put together the plan, holding a host of community forums and reaching out to teachers, parents and community members as they worked to forge a new vision for the Island’s schools.

The citizen committee they put together to draft a new tax to supercede the existing parcel taxes, A and H, is preparing a recommendation for district staff to give to the school board at a special meeting next Tuesday. The committee was put together as part of a settlement agreement with local landowner and yacht merchant John Beery, who sued the district in an effort to undo the Measure H tax.

District staff will analyze the potential impacts of a new parcel tax and efficiency measures designed to streamline the district office in January, and they hope to secure board passage of a new master plan in February. A facilities master plan that district leaders commissioned to allow them to provide more detailed information on what could be provided at specific school sites is pending.

A pair of parents who stayed at the meeting to offer their thoughts on the plan said that closing West End schools would be unfair and wouldn’t save the district any money.

“Closing Encinal (High School) would devastate the district,” said parent Deisha Moore, who said the closure would increase tardies and absences among students who would have a harder time getting to school. “The district does not get paid on students who are not at school.”

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