Dr. Lisa Gonzales
Anticipating District Growth
In many areas of California, districts are experiencing growth. From building new schools to redistricting, closing schools to opening magnets or focused campuses, growth can significantly impact families.
Having been through closing of schools and redrawing boundaries while a principal in San Jose Unified, and through research in my doctoral program, the leadership needed by school leaders to manage the growth is critical.
The most important information needed is reliable enrollment projects and data from prior years. Effective enrollment planning begins with strong, consistent data. The projections affect programs, teacher assignments, hiring, capital improvements, and more.
Secondly, district facilities must be considered in all long-term planning. From facility usage to the need for new construction, which needs to be considered far in advance, a focus needs to be on long-term growth at all times.
When notable growth is on the horizon, a key step is to form a Task Force to focus on the data. The team should include leaders, union members, community members, parents, and even a board member if that is the culture of the district. Wide representation should be included, especially in a larger district. Likewise, including underrepresented minority group members will go a long way when recommendations need to be made.
The team should review enrollment data, trends, growth in certain areas of the district, changing community patterns, and new housing developments. Concerns should be brainstormed and addressed along the way, especially as the need arises for boundary changes and movement of specialized programs.
Don't ever underestimate the political nature of growth, redrawing boundaries, and new schools. When I was in San Jose Unified, I was mortified when I attended a board meeting. Our most urban schools are located in the downtown core. Two schools were considered for closure. Through an interpreter, a parent spoke out and said, "I don't want my kids going to X School because they have cockroaches and rats."
This was a painful comment to hear, as if any child should be in a school rampant with cockroaches and rats. Clearly healing was desperately needed once the school boundaries were redrawn if that was the perspective of parents.
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