Gunn High School Administration: Recognize Student Voice in our Schedule Changes
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Dear Dr. Herrmann,
For the third year in a row, Gunn High School has changed its schedule. Just when we thought we could settle into a new rhythm, we are being forced into a fourth schedule.
We recognize the need for this change ― not only do we need to implement a new Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) program, mandated by our School Board, but we must also resolve a 23-hour instructional minute deficiency in our current schedule. These needs are legitimate, and we understand that a schedule change is necessary to implement the former and solve the latter.
However, throughout the process, there has been a significant lack of student input and what we see as serious dysfunction in the procedures. This petition seeks to address the seeming refusal of the Administration to solicit significant student voice in the schedule change process, and also suggests a compromise schedule that meets everyone’s needs.
We respectfully ask that our principal, Dr. Herrmann, along with the School Board and Superintendent, listen to students requests and work together for compromise.
A list of the problems with the whole process can be found at the following link, as to not clog up this petition: http://www.tinyurl.com/GunnSchedulePetitionIssues. Please do read these.
Students feel that the Admin has gone above the rules of the Scheduling Committee, has made a negligible effort to solicit student voice, and refuses a reasonable compromise with the masses of students who want to see one occur.
Admin, to us, has not shown significant desire to compromise with students, but we are still willing to approach them with a solution of our own. Hopefully, you have read the Issues link above, to understand the reasons for our claims and the basis for our compromise.
Currently, Gunn’s bell schedule can be found at http://www.gunn.pausd.org/bell-schedule. The schedule is the product of two years’ work, and most students like it. It has reduced homework loads and has allowed for a more relaxed climate on campus. The decrease from the regular 5 or 6 classes a day (in our 2014-15 schedule) to only 4 or 5 classes per day (in the 2015-17 school years) has lightened both backpacks and hearts. The changes made to reach this point have been positive, and most students support it.
One of the more popular holdovers from our old rotating schedule is Thursday Tutorial ― a study hall on Thursday afternoon, after school has ended, where students can get help from teachers without being mandated to stay in one place (or on campus). It allows them to stay as long as they need to get work done, and allows students to really get to know their teachers better. In the schedule versions we’ve had this year and last, we have balanced Tutorial with a mandatory Tuesday morning Flex time, a study hall where students must check in somewhere on campus. Flex time has its advantages, but in no way does it offer the same advantages that Tutorial has. (See the Issues link above for access to survey data and comments that corroborate this claim.)
Due to the legitimate arguments made about Instructional Minute deficiencies and the need for Social-Emotional Learning, taking away Tutorial as we know it, an optional study hall, seems to be the primary course of action.
Students accept this demand. However, we ask for a simple compromise in return. Instead of moving Thursday Afternoon Tutorial into a Thursday Morning Flex, we ask that Gunn Admin make Thursday Afternoon Tutorial a mandatory Thursday Afternoon Flex. Given the administration’s demands to eliminate Tutorial as we know it and to incorporate the SEL curriculum, both of which have been difficult for students to accept, we respectfully ask that the change not interfere with the academic lives of students. For SEL to be received well, students should not lose a key component of their academic lives at school.
While a mandatory Thursday Afternoon Flex would not offer some of the advantages of a Tutorial, it preserves the ability of students to stay longer than they would during a regular morning Flex Time, allowing them to retake tests, redo labs, and make-up lessons. Instead of staying after school from 3:30 to 5pm, they could stay from 2:30 to 4pm and get the same amount of work done. Preserving an afternoon Flex would solve our athlete question: around half of Gunn students play sports, and, in the event that their games are on Tuesday and Thursday, they will not miss two classes per week (they would only miss one). Keeping an afternoon Flex also preserves A Period’s status as a morning class ― currently the option that Admin touts has A period, currently a definitive morning class, placed twice (out of three times a week) in the afternoon, and once at the beginning of the day. All of these major problems would be solved with our compromise schedule.
In a small straw poll conducted in three of four class Facebook groups (not Seniors), it is clear that this solution is favored (7% margin of error with a 95% confidence level, using a population of 1922 students): http://www.strawpoll.me/12502858/r
What does Administration get in return? It gets rid of the instructional minute deficiency, for one. There will be space for SEL no matter what, and Gunn students would be happier with the outcome than they would have been with one of the four options proposed previously in the survey put out by Administration.
In this compromise, Students are willing to provide the goodwill needed to implement SEL successfully, contingent on seeing Administration listening to student voice and giving us something that we desire. This compromise is the best way to achieve this goal.
Gunn High School is an amazing place. The opportunities we have here are limitless, thanks to our amazing teachers and the great community in which we live. We could not be placed any better to succeed in the future. And, rightly, Gunn Administration is also to thank for this. Since the suicides two years ago, we have seen them working tirelessly to try and benefit us. The addition of more counseling, a Wellness Center, more emphasis on alternate paths to success, a sincere desire for a less cutthroat school climate, and the schedule we have currently are all examples of how Administration has acted in our best interests.
However, repeated schedule changes and hot-button issues like Weighted GPA, Securly, Social-Emotional Learning, and last year’s AP Test scandal have significantly lowered the trust between students and Administration due to a lack of transparency and what students see is neglection of their input in issues that matter to them.
When it comes to the large trust gap between students and administration, listening to student input is paramount ― any administration has the responsibility to bridge trust gaps with those they oversee. Here would be a wise place to start. We think that if Gunn’s Administration wants to cultivate a better relationship with the school’s amazing students, the source of their prestige as administrators of the #1 public school in the state, they can start here by listening to student desires.
We are happy and ready to work further with you on this issue. We respectfully ask that you please accept our compromise ― listen to our voices, and we can put this matter to rest.
Sincerely, (alphabetized for each grade)
Advait Arun ('18)
Tolga Beser (‘18)
Sonny Christofilis (‘18)
Kevin Dee (‘18)
Ryan Dinh (‘18)
Will Jackson (‘18)
Nathan Krantz-Fire (‘18)
Brian Kwon (‘18)
Shiv Rustagi (‘18)
Kyle Petersen (‘18)
Herman Singh (‘18)
Micah Alon (‘19)
Stephy Jackson (‘19)
Siddharth Jain (‘19)
Hannah Kim ('19)
Arjun Prabhakar ('19)
Ian Shin ('19)
Claire Cheng (‘20)
Chris Liao (‘20)
Elisa Moraes-Liu (‘20)
Mallika Parulekar (‘20)
Ichiro Tomaszewski (‘20)
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