Noting their children's school is one of the lowest academically performing schools in Del Norte County, Margaret Keating School parents called for more counselors, more specialists and more collaboration with the Yurok Tribe.
At the second of three public meetings this week focusing on Del Norte Unified School District's Local Control Accountability Plan for the next three years, parents and other community members at the K-6 school in Klamath brought up a systemic shortage of substitute teachers, challenges when it comes to teachers staying at Margaret Keating and the need for the district to be more involved in the community.
"You're the professionals, how are you going to raise up this school?" Klamath resident Felice Pace asked Wednesday. "We want extra resources. We don't want some veto that there can't be extra resources because when you got the lowest performing school you need extra resources. We know the underperforming has persisted. What we want beyond all this is a plan from the professionals for how you're going to do it."
The district also held public meetings in Crescent City and at Smith River School this week to gather input on the LCAP. It is also using information received from its parent committee, its English language learners committee and its foster student committee to formulate next year's plan.
Del Norte Unified School District received $5.5 million in supplemental and concentration funding for the 2018-19 school year.
The district expects an additional $200,000 to $250,000 for 2019-2023, said Steve Godla, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. These additional dollars pay for programs that serve English language learners, low-income students, foster students and homeless students.
Implemented five years ago, the Local Control Accountability Plan serves as a road map for how the district will spend the additional money, according to Godla.
According to a hand-out from education officials, school districts statewide receive a base grant of $6,485 per student. This number varies based on the student's grade. Districts receive an additional 20 percent of the base grant for each student who are low-income, English language learners, foster students or homeless, though a student can only be counted once in these categories.
For Del Norte Unified School District, whose overall budget is about $38 million, according to Jeff Napier, the district's superintendent of business, its supplemental and concentration funds account for about 12 percent of the budget.
In addition to its supplemental and concentration funding, Del Norte Unified School District is set to receive a $3.3 million U.S. Department of Education grant as part of a partnership with the Yurok Tribe, Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation and Resighini Rancheria. This Redwood Coast Indian Career Pathways grant will provide additional resources to American Indian middle and high school students.
Del Norte Unified School District also received additional funding from the state to provide comprehensive support and improvement to Margaret Keating and Castle Rock Charter School. According to Godla, it's a one-time grant that Margaret Keating received due to its low academic scores in language arts. Those dollars will be spent on professional development in that field, he said.
"It won't start until May and June after we solidify a plan," Godla said, adding that the district was notified last week that it received this additional funding for Margaret Keating and Castle Rock. "It has to be all spent by June 30, 2020."
According to Godla, after a second series of public meetings and gathering input from the district's various committees, an overarching need he has heard is for more social-emotional supports for students. One of the more expensive proposals in next year's LCAP is for two additional counselors to serve students districtwide, he said.
A counselor currently visits Margaret Keating three days a week, Godla noted.
"We have counselors that are three days at one school, two days at another or we have a couple of schools where they have two different counselors — one counselor for two days and one counselor for one day," he said. "That's not an ideal situation because the counselor has to carve out time to meet about the kids they're working with."
Acting on input the district received from parents, teachers and other community members last year, its 2018-19 LCAP also called for hiring two more counselors. Before it gave its final approval, the Board of Trustees directed staff to allocate more LCAP money to deferred maintenance and hire just one new counselor last year. District staff also reduced the amount of funding originally planned for restorative justice and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support programs by $5,000 last year.
After finding out that her sons' school is one of the lowest performing in Del Norte Unified, Georgiana Gensaw, chair of the district's American Indian Education Parent Committee, said Margaret Keating needs a counselor five days a week. She said she was surprised to learn that Margaret Keating has a school resources officer.
In response to Godla, who said that Crescent Elk Middle School needs a full time counselor because it has 560 students and Redwood School with 520 students needs a four-day-a-week counselor, Gensaw said she saw a disparity between schools in Crescent City and Margaret Keating.
"Everything that we said tonight, the rebuttal was, but in town it's like this, but in town they have this or they have that concern, but do they also have the disparity of the school of being low performing," Gensaw asked. "(Margaret Keating) needs maintenance, it needs a generator, it needs counselors, it needs a PE teacher, it needs a speech therapist, and the kids clearly need more help and the teachers clearly need more help. I understand the town may have their issues and that's all well and good, but there's a ton of agencies those schools have access to that Klamath does not."
Gensaw said the proposed programs for next year, including the two additional counselors, are a start, but parents have been asking for a cultural coordinator at Margaret Keating for years.
"We feel like the response we got was, well, then we would have to give every group a coordinator and to us, that's not necessarily a bad thing," she said. "If kids felt empowered in their own culture and identified with it more in their school, they would be more successful and I think that's especially true at Margaret Keating."
Godla said Ryan Kober of True North Organizing Network would summarize the input parents provided at the three meetings this week. The Board of Trustees is expected to discuss the LCAP at its May 23 meeting and will hold a public hearing June 6.
The Board of Trustees is expected to approve the final LCAP June 27, according to Godla.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com