School district officials hope to make summer school a reality

The Vashon School Board unanimously passed a $16.1 million spending plan at its meeting Thursday night with a verbal commitment to pursue a summer school in the upcoming fiscal year. No funds, however, were earmarked for the program.

Bob Hennessey, a board member with a keen interest in seeing the school district develop a summer school, asked Superintendent Michael Soltman to develop a policy that would enable the district to begin a program next summer. Specifically, he said, he wanted Soltman to figure out a way to allow students to get a higher grade if they successfully complete several weeks of summer school covering a subject they had performed poorly in.

“I think we need policy guidance that will obviate the problem next summer,” he told the superintendent, referring to an effort this summer that was derailed after teachers objected to raising grades.

Hennessey and other board members also asked Soltman to consider whether the program is tuition-based or funded some other way.

After the meeting, Hennessey said he was pleased by the board’s informal approval and feels confident the district will find the funds in its $16 million budget for what will likely start out as a modest program.

“I know my colleagues, and I didn’t see one iota of opposition,” he said.

He had considered putting forward a motion calling for a summer school, but decided it wasn’t needed when he realized the concept had support.

“Finding the money is not the issue,” he added.

But Hilary Emmer, a citizen activist who has led the charge for a summer school, said she was frustrated that the board didn’t establish a line item to support a summer school or appoint a committee that included community members to flesh out the details of the program. She asked for both at Thursday’s meeting.

“I’m worried about the outcome and the process,” she said. “And I’d like to be a part of the process. I feel shut out.”

At the same time, she said, she’s pleased that the school board is taking seriously her call for a summer school. “I may not agree with how they’re proceeding. But I’m extremely happy they’ll be proceeding with a summer school next summer,” she said.


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