From my emails, phone calls and the crowds that show up at Sacramento City Unified school district board meetings, I can see that one proposal is causing the most conversation:
Interim Superintendent Susan Miller's idea for two Grade 7-8 schools that are 27 blocks apart (2 miles). She wants the school board to "consider alternative program delivery model" for Kit Carson Middle and Sutter Middle: "one school program, 1 leadership focus, blending of staff."
Much of the consternation has been because of the utter lack of detail. What, exactly, does Miller mean by this proposal? The Editorial Board of the Sacramento Bee does yet not have a position on this proposal, nor do I as an individual. We need much more detail -- and so does the public.
But I'd like to raise some issues.
The main problem to be addressed seems to be Kit Carson. The building has a capacity for 1,256 students. It peaked out at 728 students in 2003-04 and has been declining precipitously since then. This year it has enrollment of 478 -- and that is expected to drop again next year. It had been in Year 4 of Program Improvement (one year away from drastic action) in 2005, but exited in 2006; unfortunately, this year, it's back in Program Improvement status, not a good place to be.
If you close that school, then you have to figure out what to do with 400 to 450 students.
If you keep it open, you have to find new ways to attract students -- i.e., you have to put a successful program in there.
Interim Superintendent Miller believes, apparently, that the Sutter program can be replicated -- not by creating a whole new program from scratch, but by utilizing the leadership and staff that have made that program successful. Why do Sutter parents think that's not possible?
Could the existing Sutter campus do more with students if it had two smaller campuses of 800 students? Why is working with 1,200 students in one building better than working with 800 students in two buildings? Recall that Sutter had 800 students only a decade ago. It is only since the 2001 school year that the school has had 1,200 or more students. Is 1,200-plus really the right size for that school? Why wouldn't you want to go smaller?
Expanding Sutter's program to include Kit Carson (even if in 2 separate buildings that are 2 miles apart, 27 blocks) could benefit Sutter -- because it would create smaller class sizes.
For example, Sutter has 61 teachers for 1,294 students (an average of 21 students per teacher). Kit Carson has 28 teachers for 478 students (an average of 17 students per teacher, and is expected to decline again next year).
If you do as Miller suggests, limiting enrollment at the two schools combined at 1,600, then you could have smaller classes. You could have, say, 42 teachers at each school working with 800 students (an average of 19 students per teacher). Why wouldn't that be a good thing?
Anyway, it seems that between declining enrollments and budget difficulties, this is a time to get creative. If not Miller's solution for Kit Carson and Sutter, then what other solutions? Send in your ideas.