El Molino backers push school district to address loss of students to Analy
Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 10:16 p.m.
The West Sonoma County School District board was pressed Wednesday night to make addressing enrollment inequities between El Molino and Analy high schools a priority in the upcoming school year.
El Molino, which currently enrolls about 670 students, has steadily lost students since hitting an enrollment high of 1,200 students in 1998-99. Analy is at capacity with about 1,380 students.
At the district's annual goal-setting session Wednesday night, board members were urged to do more to curb the steady rate of transfers from El Molino into Analy.
“I really think we need to look at the overall reason that students are allowed to transfer and tighten it up and really look into it,” said Paige MacDonnell, parent of an El Molino graduate and a current freshman. “I'm experiencing a lot of frustration. I have friends who are transferring on transportation and it's absolutely not a valid reason for them.”
Currently, there are five reasons a transfer would be accepted, including a hardship related to transportation, childcare or employment; a class that is offered at one campus and not another, or a medical or social condition.
Some El Molino supporters have questioned whether every transfer granted is legitimate.
“I'm experiencing a lot of frustration,” MacDonnell said. “I have friends who are transferring on transportation and it's absolutely not a valid reason for them.”
Participation in sports cannot be a reason, but parents at Wednesday night's board meeting said El Molino's teams are suffering because of a smaller pool of students to pull from.
“I swim against 60 kids at Analy and I have 15 kids,” swim coach Harry North said. “We can't even come close to filling the events.”
El Molino Principal Doria Trombetta asked the board to make clear how transfer policies are to be implemented equitably and said a process needs to be in place to confirm that reasons given for a transfer are legitimate.
Currently, students who cite the need to take a particular class are required to be enrolled in the class within 15 days but other reasons for transfers are more subjective and difficult to monitor, officials said.
As of April 17, 57 students had successfully applied to transfer from El Molino to Analy for the 2013-14 school year. Six more applications were pending and four had been denied.
In the current year, 73 ninth graders who live within El Molino's boundaries actually attend Analy, 58 of whom cited El Molino's status as a Program Improvement school for failing to meet academic targets laid out under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Analy also failed to meet those targets, but it is not penalized because it does not receive Title 1 funds.
In December, the district moved to reject federal Title 1 funds for the 2013-14 school year, meaning El Molino would be freed from penalties — including the ability to transfer freely — under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Title 1 was expected to bring in $90,000 earmarked for socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Those funds will now be paid from the district's general fund, said Superintendent Keller McDonald.
The board is expected to adopt goals at its May 8 meeting.
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.
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