Opinion: PLSD Needs to Share Problems

October 2, 2022
Following are remarks I made atthe September 28 PLSD Board of Education meeting regarding the bond levy.  My hope is that more complete information will be forthcoming to our community to help more voters “get to yes”.  Hope you can reflect on it and provide your own input to PLSD.

Good evening, my name is Mark Hensen.

I wanted to provide a few thoughts about the upcoming levy that I shared with the district leadership in early August.  First, let me begin by saying that I support the levy, however that support is based on my 3+ years of subbing experience in the PLSD schools, not the information that PLSD has provided to the community – either in the levy brochure they mailed to folks or on their website.  I believe the PLSD information provided is not complete.  Specifically, the answer to the “why” question is not well addressed.  The only answer to that question really is the 2 charts in the levy brochure showing enrollment growth and enrollment vs. capacity.  What’s glaringly missing are the actual problems and impacts being caused by school overcrowding.  For example:

  1. Is it class sizes that are too large and if so how large?
  2. Is it greater noise and distractions in the classroom?
  3. Is it an unsafe environment and if so how specifically is it unsafe?
  4. Is it poor building conditions manifested in some way and if so how?
  5. Is there increased school violence?
  6. Is there an increase in disciplinary problems?
  7. Is there increased student or teacher absenteeism?
  8. Is there reduced teacher effectiveness?
  9. Is there teacher morale, stress, and frustration issues?
  10. Is it a lack of personal connections between teachers and students?
  11. Is it reduced student ability to pay attention?
  12. Is it less personalized instruction?
  13. Is it less individualized focus?
  14. Is it decreased student performance?
  15. Is it less learning and lower test scores?
  16. Is it struggling students falling further behind?

My point is that there’s no information about what problems are occurring from overcrowding.  Numbers alone don’t tell the story.  There’s no human side of the story that some of those problems would help tell.  The brochure and website are completely focused on numbers.  A survey including the schools that are currently over capacity – PHSC & TGES – involving school staff, students, parents and caregivers regarding overcrowding impacts would have been helpful to the levy effort.  I will note that recently (13 Sept/21 Sept) I saw videos on the PLSD Facebook page regarding the hallway traffic at Ridgeview Jr. High  & PHSC – those are examples of the human aspect of the problem, but they’re the only ones I’ve seen, along with a short interview on CBS 10 yesterday that had some good, but limited information.

Moreover, the tone of the brochure and website are overly positive due to the nature of many of the numbers and comparisons provided.  To some folks it may come across like everything’s going well enough and you’ll be able to deal with the overcrowding.  Also, if numbers alone told the story, then presumably action would have been taken on PHSC much sooner since its enrollment has been overcapacity since at least 2012 according to the district enrollment study provided back in January. 

I would simply ask that you fully educate our community on the actual problems associated with overcrowding while there’s still time.  Thank you for listening.


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