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Ripon Unified transfer uproar solution now up to teachers

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POSTED July 17, 2009 1:50 a.m.
RIPON — Not even his position on the Trustee on the Board of Education spared Mike Fisher from being one of the parents that had to worry about whether his child would be transferred to another school because of budget constraints.

When he started to think about it, the longtime resident who just began his first term on the board couldn’t make much sense of the documents that had been distributed. And knowing if they didn’t make sense to him, they probably weren’t going to make sense to other parents either.

At the top of his list of glaring concerns was the policy that students that voluntarily transferred would be given preference when and if those positions were to open back up again – regardless of their position of the official transfer list that had students arranged based on their enrollment date at the school and whether they had siblings.

Seeing somebody who was 60th on a list of 61 people voluntarily agree to transfer somewhere else just to jump in front of somebody who might have been first back in,  didn’t seem right to him.

“What we had here was a freak situation – where the terms of this program weren’t even disclosed until May 11 but people as early as April 17 had voluntarily agreed to transfer their students to other schools in the district,” Fisher said. “There’s no way that a parent could have had all of the information needed at that point.

“What we have here is a quagmire – I don’t like speaking badly about anybody, but I just don’t like the way that this was handled.”

Weston Elementary parent Kelly Bergman could barely contain her emotions as she read her statement to the board outlining how she felt that the splitting up of her twins – based on the numbers that had been provided to her – violated the very transfer policy that the board had adopted the previous spring when the same issue first became a major source of contention.

Superintendent Louise Nan said she felt for Bergman, and knew that the situation had become a shaky one for parents.

“I know that is a heartbreaking situation – it’s also taking place in the worst budget year this state has ever seen,” Nan said. “I’ve been yelled at, cursed at, and threatened with physical violence, and Mrs. Bergman never did any of those things.

“And at the same time, this might be the most unusual thing that I’ve ever seen in my 25 years of public education.”

To remedy the situation, Fisher suggested to Nan that the proposals being allowed classroom size increases through 2013 by the State of California – in response to the swelling budget concerns – be altered to the reflect the average of the students in that given grade level plus-or-minus three students.

At Weston Elementary it would equate to a classroom size of 28 to 34 students for the sixth grade class, and the policy – which will be brought back for formal board adoption at their next meeting – will be reflective of the numbers for each of the schools in the district.

Having that flexibility, Fisher said, gives the superintendent the leeway needed to keep as many students at a given location as possible to avoid the displacement that had caused such an uproar.

The matter may still have to be negotiated with the Ripon Unified School District Teachers Association before it can become final.

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