Loading...
Item 9 BOT Packet » ' Kim Sutter Item #8 — Trustees Meet'�� ~ ' Sent: Monday, February "". 2""" '2^" ' ',' To; Kim Sutter ' Cc: mrosevear@�veatiakeacad*myoqJ Subject: Student Trip Letter for tonight's meeting Attachments: ThpLettecdou � Dear Mrs. Sutter, l ! will not be able to attend tonight's School Board moeting, but wanted the School Board to have the attached letter as input tn their discussion about school trips. ! realize with the school's new management team that a number of opportunities for change are being addressed and appreciate the opportunity as a parent to help shed light on the concerns created by our former travel policy. Thank you for your help in getting the attached letter to our School Board members. 8inmane|y. Ann Dunlap Westlake Academy Parent The year's hottest artists on the red carpet at the Grammy Awards. AOL Music takes you there. | \ 1 ^' To the Westlake Academy Board of Trustees, Before enumerating various opportunities for improving student travel at Westlake Academy, I would like to commend this Board for taking up this issue. Most of you simply inherited what has become the status quo and are as anxious as the many Westlake Academy families to improve it. Thank you for your effort and foresight. In the past, Westlake Academy was saddled with a travel model that excluded parent chaperones. This unnecessarily ran up the cost of trips and, as with the New Mexico trip, took venues off the list of possibilities because school staff was not available to meet appropriate chaperone minimums. For other trips, chaperones were hired only at the location, compromising student ratios during the travel portion of the trip. Worse, part-time staff spouses with children were counted in chaperone headcounts despite the obvious distraction. Finally, under the old system, parents were asked to send their 10 year old children, out of the country, against State Department recommendations, without parent chaperones. The legacy of these decisions is why we are here today. In considering appropriate change, it is time to give the Westlake Academy parent community the opportunity to help the school make meaningful trips possible by including parent volunteers as chaperones. Obviously, parents would in no way replace school staff in leading various trips. However, rather than hiring security guards at great expense, appropriate adult ratios can be achieved, day and night, for free simply by allowing parent volunteers to pay their own way. Further, our prior regime's exclusion of parent oversight has given the impression that there was something about school trips to hide. In one fell swoop, the cost, the transparency and the camaraderie between parent and school can be improved simply by including the opportunity for parents to chaperone. Obviously, not all parents can go on all trips, but from among those that pass an appropriate background check, a lottery could be held to determine which parent volunteers would fill the roles of chaperone for the various trips. In addition, the school should annually form a parent input and feedback group. Not a decision making group, but one from which to get ideas, explore costs and student interest. This should be done on a voluntary basis, perhaps by grade, even if we therefore had "too much" input. However, to hand-pick such a group would defeat its purpose. By way of example, last year, over Spring Break, a group of 8th grade families took the identical trip offered by the school to Washington DC. We followed the exact agenda, number of days and airfare. Our cost—$750 per person—was half what the school had required. In addition, on that trip we found school after school and quizzed each group about their parent and chaperone ratios. The smallest ratio we found was 1 adult per 3 students. The greatest was 1:1. Schools are making these trips, but they are managing their costs and improving their chaperone ratios by including their parents. This approach kills three birds with one stone. Not only do you lower the cost of your trips, and get the ratios you need, but you also improve the support for the trip from those who are paying for it: the parents. Please do not misunderstand these recommendations. New Orleans, at$500 per person, is a FANTASTIC 9th grade trip. It has tremendous history & heritage and can offer deeply meaningful community service. However, as offered, at more than $1000 per person for a bus trip to New Orleans, it is completely out of the question. Lastly, we cannot talk about school trips without considering the needs of those who cannot or do not choose to participate. The alternative learning offered to those who stayed behind last year was nothing short of busy work. The students who stayed behind were no more remedial than those on the trip. If the students on the trip did not need the busy work, neither did those left behind. Offers of local opportunities with similar ethnic experiences (museum exhibits, plays, bakery tours, etc.) were turned down flat even though these recommendations included parent chaperones and transportation. Likewise, on the secondary side, instead of offering something linked to the trips the other students were taking, lectures were given, projects and assignments were made with due dates. Not only were these completely independent of the information imparted to the students on the trips, but the traveling students were in no way held accountable for the information or projects their counterparts at home were required to complete. The only local excursion, a trip to a local college, was offered to but a few students. This WONDERFUL idea should have been the basis for the entire week, offered to all the secondary students as"Get a Head Start on College Week". Again, I realize most of you did not create either the problems we have had in student travel or even the system that allowed these problems to arise. I do, however, strongly recommend that you incorporate these three things into any solution you adopt: 1) Use parent chaperones. 2) Prior to selecting trips, create a Parent Input and Feedback group. 3) Match the work and experiences for the students left behind with that imparted to students on the trip. Sincerely, Ann Dunlap