Le Monde Immersion
Board Meeting Minutes
Atlas Immersion Academy Parking Lot, Portland OR
Sunday, November 8, 2020
Called to order 3:02pm. In attendance
Board: Shouka Rezvani (non-voting), Ben Melix-Stanciu, Ali Garfinkle, Michal McCamman, Dory Hobbs, Jarod Hobbs, and Karen Kitchen.
Parents in attendance.
- The board reviewed and approved audit from end of year, Q1 financials, July board minutes, revised budget, and hand book updates.
- School Report and Facilities Update
From a facilities perspective, the building remains mostly closed. A few staff remain in the building with protocols in place for safety. Using this empty time to work on facilities updates related to Covid, such as installing touchless dispensers. Facility should be ready if/when we might be able to attempt a hybrid model. The ventilation filters have been updated and we have purchased air purifiers for each classroom. Shouka would like to install outside handwashing stations as well, but there are some challenges both in terms of plumbing and creating an environment where the water is being used by third parties.
The school continues to face and try to address the challenges of comprehensive distance learning. Some families have significant challenges, other families report that they are doing fine or even that their student is thriving. The biggest challenges are in kindergarten (hard to engage and create an immersive environment) and upper middle school (emotional stress). At this time, the teachers unanimously prefer to remain at a distance; the notion of a hybrid model poses health and academic concerns. Shouka has regular meetings with other charter leaders from around the state to compare notes. The hybrid examples currently being attempted do not seem like a good answer for anyone (shorter days equals way less learning hours, disruptions for working parents, and those who must remain doing distance learning are forced to do almost exclusively computer programs). We purchased Swivels that can follow teachers as they teach in the class, as well as other technology that does allow a 360 degree view of the classroom. Many concerns about simulcasting classrooms into homes, due to privacy concerns.
Starting to incorporate fun activities such as a magician to do live shows for the kids in December, as well as some live plays and escape rooms. Middle school electives seem to be going well and are according to the kids and their desires, so we have a gamut from social activism to D and D class, to fashion class, digital photography class, yearbook, creative writing – all from the kids suggestions that they provided to Shouka. Because the middle school students are often working independently, we see more concerns around engagement and attendance, so hired an assistant for the middle school to help with parent/teacher/student communications and supports. Engagement is generally high at elementary level high during live classes, with the exception of kindergarten. Staff are very stressed as a group. Shouka expressed appreciation for the staff putting in far longer than regular hours. She has been providing tokens of appreciation: one Friday funday Shouka purchased Kendi’s How to Be Antiracist book that some are discussing, gave water bottles, small gifts trying to show support.
It is a challenge to find balance and meet the very widespread and diverse needs of different families. Some parents want late starts to the day, other early starts. Some ask for more Zooms, others ask for fewer. Some want all assignments to be submitted only electronically, while others ask only for paper. Staff are trying to create flexibility, talking to parents who are asking for fewer assignments and zooms and for the most part parents are not asking for more (though some are). The school will defer MAP assessments until mid-year; they provide useful information about where our students are and display issues, but with the other challenges already being faced at the start of the year the teachers expressed a desire to defer MAP until later. In the meantime teachers are doing other assessments to try to ensure that individual student needs are being met.
New Oregon law ‘All Students Belong’ Law (prohibiting use or display of traditional hate symbols) –specifically calling out confederate flag, noose, and swastika, though other symbols can be included. This creates an additional process to go through if these items are displayed at school. The new law is written broadly and is not very clear. How is this different than current hate speech provisions? Shouka will be looking at statewide policy templates along with other Charter leaders and will provide to the board via email; the policy must be posted on the Le Monde website by January 1.
Title IX harassment law has revisions that will be incorporated, including new procedures involving 2 different layers of review after investigation. We will update the policy accordingly.
Shouka worked with the banks to have the PPP loan converted to a grant. We also received a $1500 Tonkon Torp grant and $9000 Keller Foundation grant; these will be reflected in the November financials. Receiving these grants this year is very good because we know many in the parent community are facing financial hardships and so we are limiting requests for donations, and we do not know what next year will bring.
A former parent in attendance at the meeting requested that a change be considered to allow enrollment after the 2nd grade. Shouka receives questions regularly about this, both from previous families as well as new families, not all of whom have any French language background. One major problem is that admitting students without any prior French in upper grades makes it extremely difficult to meet their additional needs, and without very significant support they can fall behind. The board discussed that there are different rules that apply to charters as opposed to district schools–charters cannot do language assessments as a condition of enrollment. In addition the school has physical restraints with current classroom size. Board discusses revisiting when Covid and size constraints are lifted, and we can focus on providing the correct staffing to support new students and class needs.
Board likes the idea of attempting a statutory waiver with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) in the future of the requirement that Le Monde not assess French proficiency of new applicants (for upper grades) as a condition of enrollment. The process involves completing a webinar, writing the proposal, obtaining district approval, preliminary review by ODE staff, and finally hearings with the ODE board. There are specific equity considerations asked as to why a charter school wants to waive specific statutes. Overall the Board feels positive about increasing student numbers if we have the right amount of staff, but our current situation does not allow this (staffing and space issue). Waiver process only takes place twice per year. Shouka would need to first seek district approval of any waiver requests before submitting to ODE. Board chooses to revisit question in Fall 2021 when there is more staff capacity to work on proposal and district communication. The board voted not to change the policy of only allowing admissions through second grade, but asked Shouka to look into obtaining a waiver of the prohibition on language assessment as a condition of enrollment for upper grades and agreed to reconsider this policy in a future year.
The Board also discussed the challenges to the school from that statutory requirement that half of its teaching staff be Oregon licensed, not charter registered. The intent of this statute is to ensure that there is a high percentage of qualified staff. However, at Le Monde where French proficiency is so integral to being a good teacher, the licensing requirement imposes additional challenges, and we have found over time that some of our best teachers are not licensed. Having this statutory requirement means that sometimes our diversity is impacted, as we are unable to hire a new candidate from an underrepresented minority group who we view as having the best French proficiency and skills, because they don’t have a license and their hire would not meet our required percentages. Since we view our charter registered and licensed teachers equally, and we are one of the best performing schools state-wide as evidenced by state tests and other metrics, we would like to obtain a waiver of the licensing requirement to allow us to hire the best possible candidates. The Board requested that Shouka proceed with trying to obtain such a waiver from ODE
- Le Monde Parents
The Le Monde Parents Co-Chair Jen Stack advised that she had no news to report since many were electing not to socialize (even virtually) during the pandemic, but that the parent group is working toward creating a virtual Science Fair for students and possibly some class social events.
- DEI Committee
The new parent-led Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Committee shared an interest survey to families, and 23 families responded. About ½ families said they would come to virtual events, others asked for resources for families. The Committee is planning several events, including an October event to strengthen connection and knowledge of Haiti. Cooking event with a local Haitian chef, about 12 families participated. Committee is working on its own website and currently has 40 people on the listserv. Meeting structure will include a leadership circle (prepares for quarterly meeting, first one in Oct) with 20 people remotely. Meetings will be held the second Thursday of the month. Families can also sign up for the newsletter. Still building more events – Haitian/Creole stor- telling around Haitian independence in January, Black History Month recital, virtual connection hour for BIPOC families, Native History month.
Meeting adjourned at 5pm.