In publication since 1991, Wrangler News is distributed free every other Saturday to more than 18,000 homes in the Kyrene Corridor area of South Tempe and West Chandler, and is supported by local and regional advertisers.

  Search past and present issues of the Wrangler
    Site search Web search                       
   powered by
Contact Us Links Media Kit Make a Payment Previous Issues

Back Home Forward

Meeting stirs new KMS complaint

By: Mark Moorehead

December 8, 2007

A letter to parents from Kyrene Middle School principal Susan Poole seems not only to have raised concerns over a drop in the school’s academic ranking but unleashed a volley of other complaints.

Poole’s letter was sent home Oct. 24, advising parents that, as a result of KMS’ lower state-determined academic ranking for 2007, their children could transfer to one of two Kyrene schools with higher scores.

A number of parents expressed concern over the letter, and Poole hastily convened a meeting, notice of which was posted on the school’s Carver Road marquee over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Although the announcement was limited to those passing by the school, about 40 parents turned out for the session, as did Schools Superintendent Dr. David Schauer and a number of administrative staff members.

Poole explained open enrollment and how it relates to funding from the Arizona Department of Education, followed by a suggestion that the audience divide into smaller groups for further discussion.

But parents, arguing that the group was manageable at its existing size, declined to break up and turned the forum into a gripe session over open enrollment, declining test scores, homework policies, crime, bullying and other complaints.

The increasing number of open enrollment students raised a particularly hostile response. Open enrollment refers to students who live outside the Kyrene district’s boundaries. KMS currently has children enrolled from areas Valleywide, including south Phoenix and the city of Maricopa, resulting in its being designated a targeted-assistance school under federal Title I provisions.

Out of KMS’ total enrollment of 1,247, slightly more than 350 are open enrollment students, accounting for 29 percent of the school’s population.

Changing image

In other discussion, one parent noted that she moved near Kyrene Middle School because of its previous stellar reputation, which she said has recently changed for the worse.

Poole, however, defended open enrollment, citing the diversity of the KMS student body and suggesting that benefits accrue in myriad ways, including being a more accurate reflection of the world at large.

Schauer, the district’s superintendent, also supported the open enrollment process, noting that enrollment numbers in Kyrene schools have been on a decline. Those reduced numbers have resulted in a corresponding drop in revenue to operate schools and pay teacher salaries, he said, requiring the district to use innovative strategies to boost revenue.

Schauer noted that 3,200 open enrollment students are being accommodated in district schools this year, resulting in $14 million in funding that otherwise would be unavailable.

As to other concerns, some parents at the meeting said they feel that academic standards have been declining at KMS.

More than a half dozen members of the group, including Kyrene Corridor resident Sandra Gertsch, described what they consider clear signs of deterioration in the education of their children.

“I have lived in the school district 14 years,” Gertsch said. “Two of my older children went to KMS and they are excelling in high school and college.

“However, my two older children had more homework and were challenged more when they attended KMS.

“My younger son, who attends KMS now, is not challenged enough in his classes. I can see this clearly when I compare his experience at KMS with that of his two older siblings. I’m concerned my son may not be adequately prepared for Corona (del Sol) High School.”

Another resident said he has lived in the district 18 years and also had two older children attend KMS. Lately, however, he said he has observed a decline in the academic standards, claiming his child only rarely has homework.

Poole said, however, that the allegation academic standards have declined at KMS is not backed up by data she has showing AIMS and other test scores have been relatively unchanged for the last 10 years.

Although those figures were not immediately available, a comparison of  2007 AIMS scores with those of all six middle schools in the Kyrene district showed KMS with the lowest scores in both math and reading proficiency and the highest number (29 percent) of open enrollment students.

The average number of open enrollment students district-wide is 16 percent, according to Poole.

Other concerns

Yet another concern expressed by parents at the meeting was that of increased criminality.

Poole acknowledged that calls to the Tempe Police Department have been on the high end at KMS when compared to Kyrene middle schools in general, but not excessive, she said.

Poole added that KMS, as well as the district’s other middle schools, have a full time Tempe police officer on site during school hours.

Assistant Principal Scott Sofsian reassured parents that KMS has a zero tolerance policy for violence, with penalties that are more strict than other Kyrene schools. Resident Marcie Beaudoin, a parent of two children, cited bullying as the reason she removed her children from KMS, adding that she now drives her children to Pueblo Middle School.

“My daughter was bullied repeatedly at KMS and when (she) informed administrators of the episodes she was told she might be exaggerating.

“When I spoke to the administrators, I received polite acknowledgement of the complaint, but no action was taken.”

As the meeting wound down, Schauer, the district superintendent, overheard a mother sitting in front of him remark, “They aren’t listening to what we are saying.”

Said Schauer:

“I’m the superintendent, and I’m listening.”



Photo by David Stone


web site hit counter