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Green / Kolb / Fallon Grade Split Recommendation: An Open Letter

September 1, 2010

OneDublin.org received the following letter from Green Elementary parent Lisa Doherty, and has received permission to publish this letter which raises important points and questions regarding the Dublin Unified School District Boundary Committee recommendation to convert Green Elementary into a K-4, Fallon into a 5-8 and to open Kolb Elementary as a K-4, all in September 2011.  Note: this recommendation has not yet been approved by the School Board.

This is clearly a major change with competing benefits and risks, and a change that will impact many parents.  While the DUSD Boundary Committee includes parent representatives there is clearly a need for more community input and discussion.  Dr. Hanke has assured me there will be a community meeting in the near future and I recommend concerned parents and/or parents wanting more information contact Dr. Hanke either via email) or by attending the next School Board meeting (Tues Sept. 14, 6:30PM).  OneDublin.org will share details on the community meeting when available.  More details on the Boundary Committee’s original recommendation are available here (this includes a list of Boundary Committee members).

UPDATE: This issue is next on the agenda for formal review at the 9/28/2010 School Board Meeting (6:30pm).

UPDATE: A Parent / Community Meeting regarding the Green / Fallon / Kolb Boundary Committee recommendation will be held on Monday Sept. 20, 6:30PM at Green Elementary School:  http://dusd.schoolwires.net/dusd/icalsw/eventDetail.asp?DID=17549.

UPDATE [9/16/2010]: K-4 and 5-8 configurations exist in California but in small numbers compared to other configurations such as K-5 and 6-8.  Here is an analysis prepared from databases available on the California Dept. of Education website:

Config # Schools Avg API Avg # API Tests
K-5 2,467 815 347
K-6 1,991 806 376
K-4 89 798 257
6-8 810 777 820
7-8 335 772 733
5-8 68 766 590

Note: in the data above # Schools is a count of schools listed as Active and having a published API score from the CDE databases.

Below is Green parent Lisa Doherty’s detailed and well researched letter to the community:

“Dear Friends and Families of John Green, I hope this email finds everyone happy, healthy and off to another great start here at Green!  I am writing to you in regards to our children’s future at our wonderful elementary school. 

“As some of you may have heard, John Green may become a K-4 starting as early as next year.  All fifth graders would be sent to Fallon starting fall 2011.  We would be the only school in our city and neighboring school districts (i.e., Pleasanton and San Ramon) having a 5-8 middle school.  

“I am very saddened by this hasty and very uneducated decision our District is making.  There has been an obvious lack of communication and information regarding this impending change for Green.  As a very involved mom, I did not even hear about this idea until last Thursday.  I am hoping some of you feel strongly about this issue as well.  My feelings are based on research, statistics and personal experience as a school counselor.  I have worked as a counselor at all levels, including middle school.  I am very concerned for our children and our districts future if this change occurs. 

“My hopes for this email are:

  1. to get the word out to as many John Green families I can, about this extremely important issue that the DUSD is voting on by the end of the month,
  2. to inform you on studies done on this dilemma and,
  3. to encourage you to write a letter to our school board telling them you are concerned about this issue and that you want more information and discussion. 

“My intentions are not to create  more work for our school board, or to offend anyone, I think this maybe a very sensitive issue for many of us.  I hope to help our board make the best choice possible for all parties involved, but most importantly, our children. 

“I believe our school board owes us a community meeting with a chance to look at other options that were not discussed.  This issue is important enough to look at research and studies done so we can make the best decision for our children’s future.  I know they deserve it. 

“Please take a minute to read these key points and use any of the links pasted in my attachment to learn more on this issue.  I also encourage you to read the DUSD board meeting notes regarding this subject.  I have attached that link as well.

“Key points regarding this issue:

  1. The district committee who made this recommendation to the DUSD board did NOT do any research on behavioral effects and what impact sending fifth graders to a middle school could have on our children.  I did a Google search and found plenty. 
  2. This decision seems to be based on financial convenience.
  3. No other schools in the DUSD will be doing this. Just Green and Kolb.  Kolb, like Green in 2007, would have never opened up as a K-5 due to population.  Most likely it will open as a K-3 anyway.
  4. The district told the committee making the recommendations that “moving school boundaries” was not an option, although this option was posted on the district web-page as a previous possibility.
  5. Stanford & Duke Universities did a study and found that sixth graders at a middle school scored lower on standardized testing then those of their peers at an elementary school.  They also were exposed to more negative influences and had more disciplinary infractions then those at an elementary school.  These issues seemed to persist through at least the ninth grade.  UC Berkeley concurred with these finding based on their study. http://sanford.duke.edu/research/papers/SAN07-01.pdf,  http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2007/02/sixth_grade.html
  6. Studies also found that sixth graders at a middle school had less motivation and suffer from lower self-esteem then those of their peers at an elementary setting.  An increase in bullying was also shown. 
  7. Home values maybe negatively affected by making Green a K-4.  Who wants to send their kid to middle school for fifth grade if they don’t have to across town or in either neighboring city? 

“Here are some ideas not discussed by the board that could solve the issue:

  1. Make fifth grade at Fallon optional, for those who volunteer to do so, just like it was done this year.   This may eliminate 1-2 fifth grade classes at Green for the next year or two.  
  2. Set-up 2-3 portables on our John Green campus starting next year.
  3. Look at our projected numbers again for next year and see if any changes already exist or can be made. 
  4. Look at the school boundaries for Green and Kolb and learn why this option was taken off the table. 

“I hope you find this information helpful and informative.  Please forward this information on to other families you feel may want to know.  I encourage you to seek out more information by researching this grade configuration possibility and also by speaking with our school board.  At the very least, we should explore every possible option available and in my opinion that has not been done yet.  I believe looking at studies already done is a good place to start.  Our children do not deserve to be guinea pigs. 

“I thank you for your time and support in helping keep our kids at John Green Elementary.  Let’s not allow the District to steal a year of childhood away from our children.  Our kids deserve the very best education at the very best elementary school.  

Your friend,

Lisa Doherty – mom to Jack, Zoey and Sofia”

Other useful links provided by Ms. Doherty:

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5 Comments
  1. Norm permalink
    September 2, 2010 2:20 pm

    Just to clarify…this is by no means set in stone. The Boundary Committee came up with this idea as a way to minimize the size impact we currently see at our elementary schools… specifically Green.

    Though it was brought to the Board as a potential solution, it was agreed by all that public communication and input would be required for buy-in.

    As the Boundary Committee will be meet again later this month, the hope is some of our community feedback and district direction can be reviewed and considered (again).

    • Bill permalink
      September 4, 2010 9:47 pm

      I have to disagree with the comment above by Norm. I have very reliable sources in the DUSD office who knew for a fact that this was a done deal and there was NOT going to be a community meeting, that is until Lisa Doherty started alerting fellow parents at John Green Elementary about the change. It was after Lisa started circulating her letter that the DUSD probably realized what a public relations disaster they were about to have on their hands and decided to have the community meeting.

  2. Norm permalink
    September 6, 2010 12:44 am

    I don’t know. Think I would know if this was a done deal.
    My understanding from the last time the committee met,
    it was to be a recommendation to the school board, with community meetings to follow.
    Not to say that I may be out of the loop, which is possible but I highly doubt it.
    I truly hope that your source is mistaken.
    Otherwise, my participation on this committee was for not.

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