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Board briefed on new RSD application process; musical instruments arriving by the truckload

At their monthly meeting, Feb. 25, Crocker’s board was briefed on the Recovery School District’s newly centralized application process, as well as the school’s equity report.

Titled “One App”, the new application form seeks to ensure a more equitable distribution of students among schools, while still maximizing parental choice.

While both Crocker and the RSD have been offering workshops on the new process, many parents and guardians continue to fill out the form improperly and complain that it is confusing.

Applicants are meant to indicate their top three school choices on the form, which can be turned in at either a school or a parent center, whether or not the child is returning to his or her current school.

Graduating fifth-graders who have younger siblings still at Crocker pose an ongoing source of tension, given the convenience for parents of having all children at one school.

Another issue: The new application process does not specify a mechanism for dealing with admissions or school transfers after the term has begun.

Board chairwoman Gisela Jackson noted that both the equity report and the new application appear to be a response to the logistical challenge of accommodating students who require special-ed services.

But principal Charmaine Robertson noted that, unlike Crocker’s intent-to-return form, the RSD application does not ask about special needs. That makes it hard for staff to prepare resources for these children.

Crocker receives numerous calls from placement agencies asking about open seats, but the callers do not mention the student’s special need for fear of rejection, which has been common at some schools, she explained.

“We take everybody,” Robertson said. “We ask if there are special needs required for the child on our forms because we need to prepare and get the resources the child needs before they arrive on day one, not to weed them out. Last week three students showed up with special needs and we had no clue,” she said. “We were then scrambling to get services ready for them. You have to have a plan; you have to know ahead of time. We also need to know for the hiring process. We have limited resources, but we know how to use them. Other schools seem to have a fear that special education kids will effect overall test scores,” she added.

Crocker pays the Suns Center to provide sometimes costly special-education resources and then seeks federal reimbursement.

The RSD equity report updated board members on current student  demographics and academic performance. Looking at bus routes, Robertson noted the busiest of them carries students to and from Gentilly. Board members noted that attracting more students form the surrounding neighborhood would cut down on busing costs.

Moreover, the closer students live to school, the better turnout there is for meetings and general parent participation. Robertson said she would look into putting the report on the school’s website.

Jackson briefed the board on the state’s plan to phase out LEAP and ILEAP tests by 2014 and move to “common core” standards. About 40 states are embracing common core standards. “The hope is to get everyone on the same page with targets nationwide as opposed to state-to-state differences. There will be an end-of-the-year exam that can be administered more than once,” Jackson said.

The board distributed financial reports and commented favorably on the help provided by accounting consultant Brendell Deamer, who has been hired to assist staff in organizing  the books. The process will be  completed by March; thereafter Deamer will be available to finance administrator Cherie Lopez on an as-needed basis.

“Having a second set of trained eyes on the books gives everyone more comfort,” board secretary Shaun Rafferty said.

Grants secured by violin instructor Rebecca Crenshaw have allowed for a huge expansion of the music department, board members learned. The school now has $30,000 worth of instruments, up from an initial $900. “Trucks are showing up almost every day with more instruments,” Robertson said. Board treasurer John Tobler said: “There’s a lot to be said for happy and engaged teachers.”

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