Don’t Bus Children Out of School Boundaries, Pleads Mom

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School bus with now hiring sign

Southern Humboldt School bus in the Lighted Parade several years ago. [Photo by Kym Kemp]

Why do you choose to hurt the little guy?

I am writing this letter to inform the community that Agnes J Johnson Elementary School (AJJ), in Weott, is suffering from low enrollment. This is a direct result of the school district not enforcing school boundaries.It should be unacceptable for the school board/district to consider laying off our fourth teacher unless they do their part in enforcing school boundaries which would drive up enrollment, leaving funding for our teachers an issue of the past.

There are a few things that need to be understood if you choose to take advantage of the free, public schooling provided by the state of CA:

1) Boundaries: Every school district sets boundaries for their schools and children are expected to attend the school within their respective boundaries to their place of residence. Attending a different school within the district requires a written request to be considered and approved (or denied) by the district.

2) Attendance: You are required by law to attend the school you are enrolled in; missing too many days of school is called truancy. The school does not receive funding for the teachers’ salary if attendance is too low!

3) Funding: Small schools do not receive state funding for art, PE, library or music and these programs rely entirely on us (the community)! The state supplies funding in a system of tiers, depending on how many students attend school. AJJ is currently in the three teacher funding tier and JUST under the four teacher funding tier.

To paint a clear picture of what this all means, let’s discuss each issue:

1) Ignoring Boundaries is a HUGE problem in our area. If you don’t already know, Miranda is in the boundaries of Agnes J. Johnson Elementary School. Our school district has chosen to be extremely lax on the enforcement of school boundaries and this has hurt the small schools severely; even to the extent of teachers being laid off and discussion of school closures. Some reasons for this laxness have been due to older siblings already enrolled, school closure consideration, parents’ place of work, mere convenience for parents, parents lying about their address, etc.

I know many of these kids are simply going to Redway school for convenience (as much as I can sympathize for this as I personally drive my little one to preschool in Redway almost daily) however, their choice is quite literally DIRECTLY impacting my family.  My daughter’s quality of education WILL be impacted if we lose our fourth teacher and force a combo class of 30 kids in three very different grade levels. The allowances for the lax boundaries has become a vicious cycle… Six years ago they allowed kids living in AJJ boundaries to enroll in the school of their choice because the board thought they might have to close AJJ due to low attendance – which caused enrollment to continue dropping… those families today, continue to enroll younger siblings (also allowed now ‘grandfathered in’ because of their older siblings) in the wrong school – which continues to damage the enrollment at AJJ… As the older siblings move on, sometimes even the next school year, we have 1st grade students enrolled at the wrong school allllll the way through 6th grade simply because they had a sibling that went there once… And the numbers continue to hurt at the small schools which COSTS THE DISTRICT MONEY!  I personally brought this issue to the District and the school board 2 years ago when we first discussed adding our fourth teacher… We made our enrollment/attendance goals for state funding so the issue left the table and wasn’t resolved.

Although I do not personally understand why any parent would CHOOSE to lie in order to send their children to a school that is still in “improvement” while the designated school in their boundaries is actually making the grade; it happens A LOT!

I realize that requiring proof of residency is not always easy in such a rural area, but we could pretend that we believe them and not blatantly ignore the fact by sending busses to driveways where families claim not to live! At least one of our local families, however, has not only given the address of grandparents in Garberville, but also somehow got the district to send the bus straight to their driveway to pick up their child IN MIRANDA! I understand there are few situations when personal conflict with an individual may drive one’s decision to switch schools, but at least write the request and gain the proper approval. In many cases, the district needs to be made aware of issues that are getting overlooked because families are just avoiding it instead of making the request and giving their reason! If your transfer request is granted, then by all means, take your kids to a different school.

Were you aware that Southern Humboldt School District has a major shortage of bus drivers that has caused many routes already to be cancelled?

Were you aware that our district pays for a school bus to come into AJJ boundaries to bus the children out to Redway School?

I personally watch nearly 20 elementary school kids get on and off the Redway school bus in Miranda (this doesn’t count the +/- 10 kids who I personally know that get driven to school)… The AJJ bus and the Redway bus LITERALLY stop in tandem at two of these stops.

Wouldn’t it make sense (even without the shortage of drivers) to only pick kids up within the boundaries of their school?

I propose this solution: Stop bussing kids out of AJJ boundaries. If even half of the kids currently bussing out to Redway were to enroll in the school designated to their residence, enrollment would not even be a concern and we would have no chance of losing the funding for our teacher. In effect, many of these student will likely make the transfer simply because the only bus that stops in their driveway happens to be the bus that goes to AJJ. Convenient!

2) Attendance: Our schools rely on us! It’s time we as a community, take a little responsibility for the future of our students!! At AJJ, we currently have 72 kids enrolled. Our average daily attendance has to be at 72.5 students to qualify for a fourth teacher… that means every single student would have to attend school EVERY SINGLE DAY and we would still be one student shy of the goal. Obviously kids will get sick or have family leave, so realistically on average, our daily attendance is more like 65 students…

3) Funding: With an average daily attendance of 65 students the state provides funding for 3 teachers… we have 4. AJJ is 8 students shy of making the state funding tier for that fourth teacher… EIGHT STUDENTS!?!? WHY IN THE HECK is the Redway bus making four stops in Miranda to pick up 20+/- kids and bus them away from their designated school; away from a school that is costing the district more money because of its low enrollment – and we are only 8 students shy?! WTF?

It is my opinion that the district must do their due diligence to enforce school boundaries (or at least stop enabling the problem) before they should even consider laying off a fantastic teacher and reducing us to three teachers.

SHOW UP, STAND UP, BE HEARD! Please come to the board meeting on Thursday Feb 16th at Redway School at 4:30pm to be part of the solution! Boundaries and reducing the staff to 3 teachers are BOTH on the agenda!

Thank you from a very concerned, involved mom!

Mary Halstead, WeOtters Booster Club President

Note: The issue of school boundaries is on Thursday’s School Board Meeting at Redway Elementary School. See the entire agenda here.

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47 comments

  • You are not required by law to attend in your district if it’s not preforming .If you reside in a district that is under title one improvement then you have the right to be bussed at the districts expense to another district . So your letter is moot . Weott is under preforming and needs to be shut down . The district is just trying to keep the money it brings in by being a school . Those kids could go to another area and the administration could be re assigned inside the district . Sell the property and infuse our schools with the cash it produces

    • “You are required to attend the school you ARE ENROLLED IN” words matter if you read them. If you want to enroll elsewhere you can. Ajj is the only school not under improvement. It’s actually NOT underpreforming…Where are you getting your information from?? And fyi the district is not required to provide transportation to anybody… We have schools in our district that don’t even have a bus.

      • The district has money given to them every year and they are required to bus you . Look it up or ask your local super intendant . Every year they are given transportation funds that get re absorbed into the system because no one used them . I know this for a fact . And yes weott is in title one improvement . Get your facts straight . The district has to transport and pay for the bussing to a district that is not in title one . There is about 20k put aside in the beginning of the year . A letter goes out informing parents but I’m sure you throw it away . Like every one does . Also here’s your stats http://www.usa.com/public-school/agnes-j-johnson-elementary-weott-ca-063759006363.html?nv=weott-ca-public-schools

        • Interesting… I have never received this letter… no weOtter has… Though I have seen it because a redway parent showed me theirs… also all the numbers shown on the link you provided are from several years ago… This school has majorly improved over the last several years and old numbers (especially from 2011 when they considered closing the school) show no comparison to today. Redway is not equipt to take on the 72 kids from weott, 55 from whitethorn and 35 from casterlin… That’s why the small school exist… But they need to be treated equally no matter where they are!

          • Title one is based on star test results . The numbers I provided were the most recent available . If you haven’t taken placement tests you can’t get out of title one . Are you sure weott didn’t in title one ? The new tests were just being experimentally tested in 2015 so they didn’t use the results to change your status I believe . Most of the small schools in our district are in title one .
            No one who is local that sends their kid to redway is going to like it much if you screw their kids chances at playing ball by trying to force them to change the school they go to all for keeping a dying school afloat . Redway has empty classrooms that could support the students you speak of especially if the funds from the sale of weott property were to go into more staff . The problem is that doing that would force kids from the hills into town schools . They won’t like that much either . I went to weott when it was in its hay day . It was fully staffed and had sports . It was far superior to dirty redway with all its lice. That is not the case any more . I know from personal experience.

    • It looks to me like you could benefit from more spelling instruction from whichever school you choose, the word you want is PERform not PREform!!!

    • I did a little research. According to Niche and to School Digger, Agnes Johnson rated slightly higher than Redway school.

      • AJJ is a way better school then Redway School! Well said Mary! Think about all the kids that are driven up to Scotia, Fortuna, Cuddy Back… Support your local school or stop calling yourself a local!!!

  • In the eastern part of the county, (Willow Creek area)we have many children that go to arcata, McKinleyville, and even Weaverville because they don’t want their children to fall through the cracks at hoopa high. But I also understand why, up here it’s more about funding than education, people are graduating high school with out being able to read, the parents want more for their children. You said your school doesn’t have art, music, sports, maybe these parents feel that is an important part of education and want their children to exceed rather than help you meet your budget.

    • The active parent volunteers have worked very hard at making sure there are still all the programs that the state no longer funds at Ajj. We have all those programs. And ajj is not under ‘improvement’ status… It is the only school I know of that is actually making the grade(as I said in my letter)

  • That’s great until you move a few miles away and your kids school (which she has been going for 6 years) is now in another district. Maybe if some schools cared about their level of education, this wouldn’t be an issue.

    • And that is when a written request to the district would be valuable. Also… I’m talking about all the same district… Just different schools all from the same funding pool.

  • So you admit it’s more convenient for people to send their kids to a different school, but expect them not to… entirely because you’re just that much more important than they are? Why should other people make sacrifices just so you can have some imaginary benefit? Sounds like your fourth teacher should be re-employed at the redway school, and maybe you should send your kids there too.

    • The benefit is not imaginary clearly you missed the point! Maybe read the article again but slower.
      Sacrifice: the convenience of picking your kid up after work because they go to school in the same town you work in is not a sacrifice. That’s what busses are for. (There are even after school programs with late bus runs so your child won’t be home alone while you’re getting off work.)
      Weott school has high preforming students, good teachers, AND enrichments like Music, PE, Art, and Science. What’s sad to me is that the selfish entitled behavior that overflows from this area has affected our school chilren.

    • Who wants there kids going to school in a town full of bums???

      • Redway and mira da is home to tona of tweekers and vagrants yet they bus the kids in to these locations day after day

  • How sad. It seems to me that Agnes Johnson has the reputation of being a GREAT school…going to Redway instead is a step down. Too bad people don’t recognize the value of small & local.

    • My five older children went to AJJ and they received an excellent education. The teachers all took an interest in all the children they taught. I was very upset to leave that school. I now have a six year old son and if I lived close enough I would send him to AJJ because I don’t believe my older children got a decent education at Redway Elementary like they got at AJJ.

  • Heartbreaking letter!
    Free rides & free lunches, to those who comply with mandates. All others will be forced to close. No kid left behind, they will get them all in the end.

    Kudos for the awareness! Is there a way to become a private school? Hang in there!

    Why Title 1 doesn’t work. Follow the money. https://www.brookings.edu/research/why-federal-spending-on-disadvantaged-students-title-i-doesnt-work/

    Why schools count heads instead of sense. Protecting the head count funding at all costs. Other interesting headlines accumulating.

  • Better yet, Homeschool your children, so they receive a genuine education, not governmental indoctrination.

    “Against School” by John Taylor Gatto

    http://www.wesjones.com/gatto1.htm

  • It was your choice to jump on a sinking ship! Don’t be mad because no one else wanted to swim with you. I am a former We-Otter, we strongly considered both schools before choosing Redway. They have so much more to offer, how can you be blind to that. Quit telling others what they should and shouldn’t do with their children…

    • Please enlighten me. I am obviously blind to what more redway has to offer… I genuinely want to know.
      I’m not trying to tell parents what to do with their kids, I am asking the board and school disttict to hold to their word and be consistent throughout the district. They set the rules, but they choose not to enforce them for our school, while enforcing them for others. That is the only reason the ship was sinking.

    • Sellout! I bet you call yourself a local?? You don’t get it! It’s a collective effort. If everybody jumps ship then things fall apart. If all these people kept there kids there, donated money or time then it would be a way better funded and successful learning space.

  • I have sent three generations of family to Weott. I live in Miranda, and when I was raising my great-grandson, he went there, and I often volunteered, sometimes three days a week. He THRIVED at AJJ! His grades in ALL subjects suffered when he had to go to Redway after the 6th grade.
    I used to tell my mom that Weott was like a small private school. The care and attention available to all students is astounding.

    I hope others realize what a gem we have.

    • You are exactly right.
      We once had schools in all the little towns and even if they had to combine grades, they mostly did a better job teaching basic skills than bigger modern schools.
      I am 70, and when I went to school, in the 1950s, EVERY child in my class learned to read. EVERY child could add, subtract, multiply & divide by 5th grade.
      No longer …

      • I don’t know about the combination classes. I went whitethorne and redway growing up. How can a teacher that has 2 sets of curriculum give more time attention to students than a teacher teaching 1? This was a problem for me growing up. Weather I went to redway or whitethorne. It’s not a good setup.

  • My children attended Redway). I made the decision to send my 2 sons to Leggett Valley when the older one was due to go to South Fork. The older son NEEDED the significantly smaller class size and I was not going to have my children in 2 different districts. This was not an easy choice, but it was what my family needed. When the older son graduated, the younger requested that he be allowed to return to SHUSD for music, No problem. I hope the problems of AJ can be resolved, but aren’t you balancing your family’s needs against the needs of the district (and other famiies)? I think the discussion is important, but we all (myself included) can get stuck on our side.

  • The town of Redway is a disgusting place nowadays! Weott is no peach, but between the murderers, drug dealers, rip offs and homeless its definitely worse off then Weott.

  • I applaud the author for making her arguments.

    I also understand that needs of individual families drive where they choose to send their children to school.

    I may be wrong, but my understanding was that if a child was being educated out of district then the district of choice was required to pay back to the original district a certain sum of funds.

    Interdistrict transfers are there to accommodate family needs (nearness to employment, child care, desire for specific programs offered at the other school site, not a good fit of the teacher at the grade level of the student, availability of special education programs and services).

    Then factor in school choice allowed under current education code when a school is underperforming.

    Usually teachers are blamed when a school site is underperforming.

    The harsh reality in today’s world is that sadly there are families who do not embrace high quality parenting skills, teaching their children how to behave, who do not read to their children, who do not get their children to school on time every day, who do not feed their children at home and depend on the school to feed their children a free breakfast, lunch, afternoon meal in the afterschool program. Who take advantage of school as child care not education, who find it far beyond their ability to read to or with their children daily.

    In our local school we are faced with children who come to school traumatized by the actions of their parents drug use and neglect. We have students who come to school unable to understand that they are there to learn and not be a constant disruption and behaviorally out of control.

    Why are school expected to be the panacea and families are not held to task?

    My views are sure to rile up more than a few folks out there.

    No, not all families in underperforming schools fail their children.

    But those that do fail their children bring down the seemingly all important “test scores” which drive school funding.

    When you have a high turnover of administrators and teacher then the community of the school is torn asunder.

    Teaching a multigrade class was feasible in the late seventies and early eighties. At that time teachers were respected. Authority was respected. Children came to school knowing that it was expected of them to be learners and to behave.

    Now it is not so. You have students who are so traumatized that they are incapable of behaving without some sort of interventions.

    And guess what? The students willing and able to learn are penalized by the behaviors of the students who need so much more than most tiny school and even larger schools can offer.

    Having seen small schools closed in my district and having seen excellent teachers laid off, we have seen the damage done to our tiny community.

    School culture is so very dependent on not only teachers and committed administration, but the foundation is the families and their children.

    Please, go into your child’s school to watch and observe. Don’t go in with an axe to grind but a desire to see what and where you can be supportive.

    Teaching a single grade class means you will have twenty or more students all on different levels of learning, all in very different qualities of home life.

    When you teach a multi-grade class you are magician in implementing two to four different grade levels of instruction as well as extremely different developmental levels and needs among your students.

    Then add in to the mix students who have varying levels of special education needs mental health needs you will see a dedicated teacher willing and able to be the best they can be as a teacher.

    In light of the drastic changes under the Trump administration you will see a fleeing from education experienced and dedicated teachers.

    Do you want your child to sit on their butt all day long on a computer doing Math and English lessons? Do you want your child having reasoning skills? Is this a grand scheme or just a failure of the system? Is this a failure of fractured families?

    It is really great to read all the views and responses.

    But please know it is very difficult to get back lost teacher positions.

    And nigh on impossible to get back a closed school.

    The above is the view of an old lady who knows the educational pendulum swings back and forth and we seem to be relearning that maybe the good ole days were not so good, nor are the days of now not so good.

    Sigh……

  • Patriot in Willits

    Strongly agree with Poppins on this. There are definitely some low quality teachers, but the growing number of “feral” children dumped on the doorsteps of our schools is truly frightening.

  • As a property tax payer in a school district popular with out of district transfers, I would like to know how funding works in these cases. There are local bonds galore on my tax bill yet I can not find out where this money goes. Are parents who come from out of district paying all these bonds or are the property owners in these district subsidizing transferring students? Does the higher property values in my area subsidize the lower property values in the out of district transfer?

    It’s not just the parents or teachers involved in this issue.

    I do know that bond funding has created a parking lot that could hold twice the entire number of cars of district residents and a much larger school was expanded to accommodate the traffic jam of people coming from the city with their children.

    • The state funding issue is maddening… It’s very specific about how much $ can be spent on what… But to better understand the general underfunding of schools, I suggest you visit educateourstate.com … You will find that most of your tax dollars do NOT go to education even though they are collected for that purpose! 🙁
      There are so many pitfalls in the system… A major one is the funding tiers… We are currently at 72 enrolled another school at 55 students is funded in the same tier as ajj… The state decides halfway through the school year whether which tier to place you in for funding at the end of the year. They also do not base it on the number of students enrolled, they base it on the average number of students in daily attendance… So on days when all students are at school we have about enough to be funded in the next tier and would be quite overcrowded with only three teachers…Being so close to the edge of the tier and watching the bus take kids out of ajj boundaries is quite frustrating for a parent who taught tooth and nail to help get that fourth teacher hired… We have such good teachers! We don’t suffer the turnover of other schools, and have another amazing student teacher almost ready to take the reins as at least one of our teachers will be retiring in the next couple years… We are set! We are just shy of a few students!

  • SoHum local/parent

    Instead of closing schools it would be nice to see the district offer a “higher” education school, such as A. R. For high school. They could start the the program in elementary with high standards for both the parents and students. Parents who are willing to agree to the strict behavior and expectations are more likely to help with school functions and bring their kids to school ready to learn. Also busing would be less of an issue because parents will make sure their kids get there! My child rides public transportation everyday to C.R. For $70 a month. Her education is important to us and to her. Offer a school that is outstanding and they will come.

    I understand it takes money and time to build a reputation, but seeing how this district already has two elementary schools I feel they are stuck, like a horse with blinders and not looking at other options that could be available.

    Mary, you might want to contact A.R. and see how they did it. I know the school was started by two teachers who wanted to improve the education for their students.

  • Be thankful the kids have a school to go to, otherwise they might have to graduate from the school of hard Knocks. All schools are not equal.

  • I wish I could be there, but I will be at AJJ getting the kids ready for the talent show.

  • I’m from So Hum lived here my whole life my kids will never go to either they are both crappy schools!! I pay for private schools and no I’m not no rich dope grower I work my ass off to make sure my kids get a better education!!! Maybe instead of letting your little pot princesses sit at home send her out to work!! Maybe spend half the money most of you do on trucks clothes and other stupid bullshit you buy on your kids education!!

  • Weott is dead. You can’t even buy a gallon of milk there .

  • Why don’t the parents move to the district they want their children to attend. Private school would have the same benefits as well but guessing they don’t wanna pay. Seems a little unfair to the children who are having to have extra kids in their class.

  • If you really care for your kids don’t make them rude the bus for 50-90 minutes.
    Totally just uproot all the kids you don’t think belong and send them thier. Oh that sounds rough ,

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