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La Jolla public school representatives still seek math answers

Members of the La Jolla Cluster Association and others meet April 21 online.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

A meeting to discuss math placement will be held Monday, April 25, in the Muirlands Middle School auditorium and on Zoom.

After hearing from a mathematics subcommittee on lingering concerns about new district math policies, members of the La Jolla Cluster Association, which represents the five La Jolla public schools in the San Diego Unified School District, discussed ways to gain partial autonomy at their April 21 meeting online.

The subcommittee, formed after months of complaints and questions from parents and teachers about a new SDUSD math initiative, seeks potential solutions.

Much of the concern about the initiative, called San Diego Enhanced Mathematics, has focused on access to particular class pathways and how students are placed in accelerated courses.

Subcommittee co-chairwoman and cluster parent Jen Burney said the group is primarily focused on the district’s math placement policy for the upcoming school year, noting an interim policy will be in place.

The interim policy for middle school is based on fifth-grade math teacher recommendations, a student’s fifth-grade midyear math grade and “parent voice,” Burney said. Parents may request a waiver to change the placement once notified.

She said the cluster will hold a meeting to discuss math placement at 4:15 p.m. Monday, April 25, in the Muirlands Middle School auditorium and on Zoom.

Burney said the subcommittee identified a “deep importance of conveying to parents that the instinct to push children toward accelerated math may often be misguided and isn’t necessarily helping them.”

Muirlands Principal Jeff Luna said the meeting will seek to clear up misconceptions about courses offered at the school and will include a Q&A with the Muirlands math team and administrators.

He said the in-person portion is limited to one parent per family. The Zoom link is at bit.ly/MathNightApril.

The three candidates vying to become the next San Diego Unified School District board member for District C (which encompasses coastal San Diego) spoke at the La Jolla Cluster Association’s Zoom meeting April 21.

As it did at the Cluster Association’s March meeting, the math discussion April 21 turned to questions about what the association can do if it decides to move away from district policies that it feels do not benefit La Jolla students.

Muirlands math teacher and cluster representative Rob Tindall said at earlier meetings that the association was originally formed to discuss local issues not addressed by the district and to collaborate on solutions. He wondered if the cluster’s original agreement with SDUSD, which spells out a process through which cluster schools can request a change to an educational program, still holds.

SDUSD Area 5 Superintendent Mitzi Merino said she asked the district about its memorandum of understanding with the association and learned that “it had expired [and] is no longer in place.”

Tindall said “we need a guiding document [or] some direction from the district or something that we create on our own” to facilitate the cluster’s attempts to gain decision-making ability in certain areas.

Fran Shimp, who helped establish the Cluster Association, said the original agreement with the district outlined “a procedure of how we should be approaching the district when we want something different.”

“I don’t think you need a signed contract to say we want to ask the district for something different,” she said.

Shimp suggested proposing an idea to the district “using the terms laid out in the MOU without [referencing the] MOU.”

Merino said she would share a cluster request with district officials once it’s been supported by all school teams.

“I don’t think folks have been in the collaborative space to figure out what we want collectively,” Merino said.

Cluster co-chairwoman Heather Polen said she would work with cluster members via email to progress toward a unified request.

The next Cluster Association meeting is at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, May 19. It will be the final one of the school year.

For more information, visit lajollacluster.com. ◆