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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dear fellow parents of/or concerned residents of the Clarkston Community Schools area,

Update:  The board meeting on Monday, May 23rd at 7 PM, will be at Clarkston Junior High's auditorium rather than at the district boardroom. 

Please get involved by expressing your opinion to the superintendent and the school board about Schools of Choice, passing the word, and come to the meeting on Monday.

I received an "eblast" from the district in regard to the School of Choice from Dr. Rock.  Here it is below with my embedded comments in red and bold.  

May 18, 2011
To Those Whom I Serve:
Many rumors are circulating regarding open enrollment for the Clarkston Community Schools. I'm sending you this note to clarify some of the misinformation. At this time, we have no plans to open enrollment for the entire district. True, it's only for the HS, not other schools at this time, but the two specific programs are very limited and are not in the same caliber as the AP, IB, or CSM Tech programs that currently have school of choice options. These programs would not attract the same type of student as the AP, IB, or CSM Tech programs. Besides, all students in the high school take the equivalent of five courses per trimester for three years (5 hours x 3 trimesters x 3 years = 45 trimester hour credits for all of high school). Both the Early Childhood Education and Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering programs are only four trimester hours worth of "program" classes over three years, or less than 9% of the student's total course credits. The entire program courses could technically be completed in one school year as just the student's electives, but the rules say the students must take at least one class per year. That means, in the case of the Early Childhood Education program, the students would take one trimester class in the program and 14 non-program classes in two years and two one trimester classes in the third year and 13 non-program classes... That leaves the students to fill their high school years with 41 of the remaining 45 trimester hours of normal high school classes (see the contrast with the CSM Tech, IB, and Advanced Studies programs below).

We have had success opening enrollment for our CSM Tech, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced Studies programs.  There are currently fewer than 25 School of Choice students total between CSM Tech and IB at CHS.The CSM Tech, IB, and Advanced Placement programs are very demanding immersion programs and the required program classes are a large percentage of the students' school day. They CAN attract top students. The two programs being proposed as School of Choice now would not attract the same caliber of students and the programs are not equivalent.  

We have attracted the type of student who can succeed in our environment, and we are exploring extending this success by opening enrollment JUST for the Project Lead the Way engineering (http://www.pltw.org/) and the Early Childhood Development programs. The board packet has the board voting on this program, but Dr. Rock combined it with the annual SOC renewal for the AP, IB, and CSM Tech programs. Dr. Rock is pulling a fast one.

There are three primary reasons to recommend open enrollment for these programs:
.
1. Project Lead the Way was instituted in Clarkston with the requirement that the program is and will remain self-sustaining. Currently, we do not use general fund dollars for program costs (the teachers were employed by Clarkston Community Schools before Project Lead the Way came to Clarkston). One of the ways we can sustain the program is by having students, who meet stringent entrance requirements, come to CHS from other districts, bringing with them their foundation allowances. This benefits our Clarkston students by helping to sustain the program.  This was a one year grant program that was supposed to be self sustaining.  There are no "stringent entrance requirements".  The applicants must write a hand written essay of "why the student wishes to enter the program and describing how past experiences in school have prepared them for the program".  It must be 2/3 of a page long and no longer than three pages long...  According to the resolution from the board packet at the last meeting (as well as the new resolution for the 5/23/11 meeting, they would be voting to accept the program with the following parameters, "Superintendent or his designee shall have the DISCRETION to refuse to enroll" potential SOC students who had been "suspended in the last two years", "ever expelled from another school", or "convicted for a felony at any time".  At that meeting, the parameters were presented as hard and fast rules, not as recommendations, but the resolution actually called for the "Superintendent or his designee" to have the right to over rule those "parameters".  The new resolution does not take away the superintendent's right to accept students who have been suspended in the last two years, have a felony on their record, or been expelled from another school.

2. STEM- (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related careers are hot right now and our Early Childhood Development program is the on-ramp for any child care/teaching field. We feel strongly that we need to offer our students opportunities in high school to explore these career fields.  The four one trimester only classes consist of one class that appear to be a scare tactic on expectations of parenting to keep kids from "becoming" parents too soon, the second class appears to be a Daycare Worker 101 class, and then the third and fourth classes appear to be training courses for students to learn how to work with toddlers and create their own day care centers.

3. These programs are not offered in other area school districts. Opening them at CHS expands opportunities for students who wish to explore these career fields. The Oakland Schools Technical Center in Clarkston (part of the Oakland County Intermediate School District) offers more developed engineering courses than the Project Lead the Way courses and the classes are available totally free to the school district (the district does not pay for materials, teachers, or the buses to bring the students back and forth and does not have to share the per pupil funding  with the ISD for that student). With the district swimming in red ink, that would be a far
better program for our students than starting an Open Enrollment Program...

If you have any questions regarding limited open enrollment for our Project Lead the Way or Early Childhood Development programs, please contact me at rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us. I expect the board to vote on this at their next meeting, which will take place on Monday, May 23 at 7:00 p.m at Clarkston Junior High School. Please do come to the meeting!
Thanks for your time,
Rod Rock, Ed.D., Lead Learner
Clarkston Community Schools

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