Superintendent recommends six-period schedule for Liberty High School

November 28, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

NEW — 9:15 p.m. Nov. 28, 2012

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen recommended Wednesday for Liberty High School to switch to a six-period schedule.

For nearly two decades, the school has used an eight-period block schedule where students take four 90-minute classes each day. However, in order to establish a common, districtwide high school schedule, and to give Liberty students more time to study core subjects, the Issaquah School District is considering changing Liberty’s timetable.

Rasmussen made his recommendation to the Issaquah School Board during a work study session. The main reason, he said, is because the existing block schedule gives Liberty students 127 hours per class each year, where Issaquah High School has 161 hours and Skyline High School has 165.

“What I am saying is: I don’t want lower standards for a group of our students. I don’t want them to be short-changed,” Rasmussen said.

“The reality of the education world is changing,” he added, listing new teacher and principal evaluation models and common core assessments as examples of the new challenges. “If we are moving forward, then we’ve got to consider a change.”

Earlier this month, the Liberty Schedule Committee voted unanimously for a seven-period school day. While the compromise would give students the desired minimum of 150 hours of class time, Rasmussen said its price tag of $888,000 is beyond the district’s reach.

“Is $888,000 — in a $170 million budget — unattainable?” asked board President Brian Deagle.

The superintendent answered that if he did have that money to spend, he would spend it elsewhere.

Rasmussen’s six-period recommendation would not call for additional staff and would give Liberty students 160 hours per class per year.

The superintendent also included recommendations to provide more electives, which has been a major point of contention. One idea is a pilot program next year that would provide Metro Transit-style busing for seventh-period electives at all three comprehensive high schools. The extra buses would cost an estimated $150,000 a year.

It is now up to the school board to decide whether to approve Rasmussen’s six-period recommendation or leave things the way they are. The board is set to make that vote during its Dec. 12 meeting.

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3 Responses to “Superintendent recommends six-period schedule for Liberty High School”

  1. Valorie on November 29th, 2012 4:00 am

    At 6 periods a day, it is very hard for an academically minded student to take a rigorous academic schedule. Five of your six periods are filled with the college required English, history, math, science and foreign language requirements so students only have one period each semester for PE, music, art, drama, business, etc. If you have the means to pay for outside classes to cover your interests or your passions, 6 periods works fine but if not, 6 periods each day only allows you to choose one interest area. Within the confines of the school, 6 periods a day won’t allow you to be an athlete and a theatre geek. If you need extra help in your classes, there is no time in the schedule to allow you to take electives at all.

    At the moment, the school district is willing to pay for busses to allow for that extra 7th period. What will students do when the district can no longer afford to pay for that extra bus? The cost of transportation or of taking outside classes will fall on the families.

    I’m all for extending the amount of time kids have to focus on core subjects but unless the school district is going to remove PE and other elective requirements, I think the students and their families will end up paying for too many classes.

  2. Arthur McEntire on November 29th, 2012 11:39 am

    I have been a Liberty parent for the past 7 years. The schedule at Liberty is great. It allows the kids to gain experience in fields where their interests lie outside of the core classes. That Skyline and Issaquah High Schools only have 6 periods is a real shame and in my opinion should be changed.

    The Liberty Schedule Committee unanimously voted for their proposed 7 period schedule. This committee is made up of the Principal, Teachers, and Parents. This unanimous vote should say something and mean something. This schedule, although not offering as many elective choices as 8 periods, still preserves an elective base where a student can choose to do Band and something else in the same year. With the 6 period schedule, it would be difficult to do Band (or any other elective) for the 4 years and be able to pursue other elective interests. This is not a good situation for the students. The 7 period schedule allows electives such as Band to be participated in all 4 years with the ability to still pursue other elective classes and in the process obtain a well rounded education.

    We have schools to educate our children. It is interesting that Dr. Rasmussen says that he would spend any extra money someplace else other than making more choices available to our children. He’s the leader of our education system and he wants to stifle our children’s ability to be well rounded. This is wrong. Board President Brian Deagle asked, ““Is $888,000 — in a $170 million budget — unattainable?” with the clear implication that it was not unattainable. I agree. It is attainable. It can be done. And I believe that the students and parents at Skyline and Issaquah HS would also agree for their schools. Bellevue Schools currently run on a 7 period schedule and they are the top School District in the state.

    I don’t know why Dr. Rasmussen is so intent on stifling our children. He has wanted to restrict Liberty students for years and was unsuccessful the last time a few years ago. He is at it again with a transparently deceptive process of allowing a committee to come up with a schedule that meets his 150 hours in class requirement. I’m sure he “knew” that the only way to do this would be with a 6 period day. I imagine it came as a surprise to him that the committee found a way to preserve a 7 period day and comply with his 150 hour requirements. It is absolutely no surprise to me that he ignored the committee’s work and advocated a 6 period schedule anyway. For me, it was a foregone conclusion. I find it very disconcerting that he thinks he is so clever to come up with this charade of allowing the committee to have a “voice” only to ignore it when it does not go his way. It is clear he has no intention of listening to the committee, the teachers, the parents, nor the students. His mind is closed to any alternative. In effect, he wants to dilute the educational experience of our children and he is determined to do this. For the life of me, I cannot understand the fact that our top educator has this kind of thought process.

    The decision on this will be made by the School Board on 12 Dec 2012. I urge ALL Issaquah citizens to come to the Board meeting and voice your concerns about this issue. I have raised my voice on this issue many times and will again on 12 Dec 2012. This is a subject that is too important for our children and their future.

  3. Brian on November 29th, 2012 12:49 pm

    Time to vote Rasmussen out.

  4. Julie Colehour Mitchell on November 29th, 2012 2:04 pm

    I am a Liberty parent and was a member of the Liberty Schedule Committee. I was very disappointed last night when the Superintendent recommended to the board that Liberty move to a straight six period schedule. At the work session the district presented a lot of reasons against an eight period schedule and an argument was made for the six period schedule. Only a small portion of time was spent on responding to the seven period schedule recommendation from the Liberty Schedule Committee. The reasons stated for rejecting the seven period recommendation were cost and staff planning time equity issues. When pressed later in the meeting by the board chair, Dr. Rasmussen indicated that: “We have the money to do it, but that is not where I’d spend it.” The cost would be about $880,000 of the district’s $170 million dollar budget. Just .52% (one half of one percent) of the districts total budget. In addition, the district has received an alternate seven period schedule option from the community that has no extra cost — they seemed to have not seriously considered either seven period option.

    I believe that the fundamental issue here revolves around whether our school district values only teaching core classes or whether it values producing well-rounded children that have the opportunity to experience more than just core subjects. In the work session it was clear that the district is only placing value on core classes and trying to ensure high test scores. I do not believe that this is consistent with the district’s mission and goals nor the community’s values.

    Having studied this issue deeply over the past several months, I also do not think there is any clear data that shows that Liberty kids will be better off or perform better on standardized tests if we go to a six period schedule.

    The district and board have received substantial community input on this issue. 615 community members signed a petition in support of a seven period option and a PTSA survey showed that 87% of parents and 95% of students want a seven or eight period schedule at Liberty.

    In my opinion, forcing an arbitrary change just so that all schools are on the same schedule, without any certainty of a desirable outcome for Liberty kids, is not the right path. I sincerely hope the board looks at the lack of data and the significant community input and votes to reject the recommendation made by Superintendent Rasmussen.

  5. Sally on November 29th, 2012 9:07 pm

    Seems like Liberty had a unique special schedule which was working for them. I am sorry to see the betrayal by the Supt. Is this the way Rasmussen is trying to be noticed. I wonder how long it will take the Board of Directors to find a new person to head this district. One with knowledge, vision and buy in to this community and school district. In the meantime Liberty, who are your advocates?

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