My turn: District's numbers not 'questionable'

Posted: Monday, April 07, 2008

A March editorial urged the Juneau School District to give voice to the "disadvantaged" students.

The district's plan for moving forward with high school education in Juneau is designed to do just that. One of the pillars of the Next Generation plan is personalization. The intent of personalization is to give each student a voice and meet each student's needs.

The editorial wrongly implied that all the students who did not make a choice were placed at Thunder Mountain High School. So far, every family who has made a choice has gotten their choice. In any application process, there always will be individuals who don't get their paperwork in; the district has and will always need to have a mechanism to assign students.

The district has been responsive to community voices throughout the years of the second high school process. At the request of the Native community, the district held an additional public meeting which was in addition to 10 public meetings held during the past four months and extended the deadline for submission of selection cards. The district has made every effort to identify those who have not turned in cards and to contact them personally. Of the students who did not select a school or program, students who live close to Juneau-Douglas High School were assigned to JDHS, not TMHS.

No one ever said that those students who have not turned in a card would be "perfect" for Thunder Mountain. What was said is that a smaller, nurturing environment could be perfect for students who may be unengaged in their school and need extra support.

The intent in assigning some students to TMHS was not to level out demographics. The demographic effect as a result of that decision happened to contribute to a comparable balance of demographics between JDHS and TMHS. The district analyzed the effect on demographics to ensure that there would not be an imbalance between the two schools.

The district's numbers are not "questionable" as the Empire states. The numbers rely on what students' families report when they register. Parents are the sole authority in identifying student ethnicity. The Empire uses as evidence an unrepresentative example of a small ethnic category which very few families report.

There's no question that this is a complex process, one our district has never before facilitated. There's no question that it won't be perfect. There also should be no question that our only local newspaper would make every effort to be accurate and careful, regardless of how complicated it is.

• Peggy Cowan is superintendent of the Juneau School District.



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