• Emily Berry

Full email thread: our Superintendent on Student Transfers

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

Readers, our district superintendent Bryan Davis emailed me earlier today taking issue with the way I framed my recent post on transfers out of our high school.


Here is what he said:


From: Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us>

to:Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com> cc:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, tkenney@shorewood.k12.wi.us.edu, Joseph Patek <jpatek@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, LeVar Ridgeway <lridgeway@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Sun, May 6, 2018 at 4:11 PM

subject:

Concerned with Statement on Transfer Students

Emily,

I have concerns about a statement below written in your latest blog:  

https://www.berryschoolsblog.com/home/are-students-of-color-and-their-families-giving-up-on-shorewood-school-district

Specifically the statement below in reference to the email I sent on April 3:

📷

Here is the actual email I wrote on April 3, listing the primary reasons of transfer as behavior, residency and moving:

📷 Your statement misrepresents the context of our transfer numbers.  You leaving out the reasons of behavior, residency and moving as the primary reasons students move, as I stated in the above email, is concerning to me and leaves out necessary context.  In fact, the following statement is the only reference you made to behavior, residency and moving: 📷 Please be more accurate in future communications.  I also again encourage you to be part of the community solution of making Shorewood a more comfortable place to live and learn for our students and families of color. -Bryan

__________________________________________________

I thought the best way to offer context would be to just publish our full email thread. In case you don't want to read it all, I've bolded the parts that Dr. Davis felt I should have noted earlier.


For clarity, I'm posting sequentially, starting with my first inquiry, March 1, and ending April 28.

__________________________________________________

From: Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com>to:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Tim Joynt <tjoynt@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, tkenney@shorewood.k12.wi.us.edu date:Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 9:50 AM

subject:Transferring students

Hello,

   I understand that SHS has had quite a few transfers recently, including many African-American students. I'm worried by the possibility that we are losing an unusual number of students mid-year. It seems like that would be very disruptive to the students' friends, to clubs and teams they are a part of, and to the school community in general. I have a couple of questions I was hoping you might be able to answer:

  1) What kind of information does the district gather from families who transfer? 

  2) Does the superintendent review each transfer to stay ahead of any trends or respond to anything that might be pushing families out? If you do track the numbers over time, could you share whether there is in fact an unusually high number of transfers out this year, or if what I'm hearing is maybe just anecdotal?

  3) Is there district  policy that would tie number of transfers out to administrators' performance assessments?

  4) Do administrators meet with families who want to transfer students out, to find out if there's anything the district can do to convince them to stay, or just help other students who may share the same experiences?

   This is not urgent and I understand you all are very busy with a lot right now, especially this week with ACTs and conferences. No rush, but when you have time in the next few weeks I would appreciate anything you can share.

   Thank you so much for your time and thought,

  -Emily Berry

__________________________________________________

Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us>

to:Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com> cc:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Tim Joynt <tjoynt@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, tkenney@shorewood.k12.wi.us.edu date:Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 10:59 AM

subject:Re: Transferring students

Emily, Thanks for the note.  I will get back to you within the next couple of weeks, as you requested. -Bryan

__________________________________________________

Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us>to:Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com> cc:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Tim Joynt <tjoynt@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, tkenney@shorewood.k12.wi.us.edu, Joseph Patek <jpatek@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 11:21 AMsubject:Re: Transferring students

Emily,

Below are answers to your questions. 

1) What kind of information does the district gather from families who transfer? Attached is the withdrawal sheet.  We collect this information.  Many times families don't fill this out and we receive a records request from another school indicating the student has moved.

2) Does the superintendent review each transfer to stay ahead of any trends or respond to anything that might be pushing families out? If you do track the numbers over time, could you share whether there is in fact an unusually high number of transfers out this year, or if what I'm hearing is maybe just anecdotal?  I review the transfers as an aggregate group to look for trends that are occurring.  Behavior, residency and moving are the primary reasons students move.  We have had a few more transfers due to athletics this year than normal.  This is something we will keep an eye on.

  3) Is there district  policy that would tie number of transfers out to administrators' performance assessments?  No.  Penalizing administrators for families changing jobs would be counterproductive.  This would also incentive administrators not to enforce the residency requirements and overlook significant behavioral issues that occur.

  4) Do administrators meet with families who want to transfer students out, to find out if there's anything the district can do to convince them to stay, or just help other students who may share the same experiences?  Our administrators are working with students and families on a regular basis to support them and keep them in Shorewood.   This provides us with more insight on the reasons students are moving out than families typically put on the withdrawal sheet.

___________________________________________

from:Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com>

to:Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us> cc:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Tim Joynt <tjoynt@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, tkenney@shorewood.k12.wi.us.edu, Joseph Patek <jpatek@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 10:39 PM

subject:Re: Transferring students

Thank you so much, Bryan, for the answers to my questions.  May I see the aggregate numbers of transfers out by year/month for whatever time period is easily accessible? I am just curious how transfers compare over the past 3-5 years or so to this year.I get the sense you wouldn't collect this, but are these tracked by race or any other demographics? As I mentioned, I am hearing about a lot of African-American students deciding to leave SHS, but if it's actually not an unusual number, that will show up in the numbers, I would think. And as before, not a rush -- if these numbers are something you can get your hands on in the next few weeks, I'd be grateful. If you need more time or need me to file a formal request, just let me know, I am happy to. Thanks again for your time, Emily

_______________________________________________

Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us>to:Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com> cc:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Tim Joynt <tjoynt@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, tkenney@shorewood.k12.wi.us.edu, Joseph Patek <jpatek@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 1:36 PMsubject:Re: Transferring students

Ok.  I will check out what I can provide.  What is the concern?

-Bryan

__________________________________________________

Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com>to:Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us> cc:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Tim Joynt <tjoynt@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, tkenney@shorewood.k12.wi.us.edu, Joseph Patek <jpatek@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 1:59 PM

subject:Re: Transferring students


Thank you, Bryan, I appreciate it.

The concern is that we may be seeing a mass exodus of African-American students this year (and more planning to leave next year). Maybe the stated reason in some cases is athletics, but the underlying reason for some sounds like it is a perceived lack of support for students of color academically and emotionally. I realize that this could be anecdotal and also am keeping in mind the extensive professional development that has happened across the district around race. It's also in part a question of what we can do to support kids who could be convinced to stay. Unfortunately, the response to the kids who have left so far has been described to me as "don't let the door hit you on the way out." Sorry to relay a harsh comment.

I am not blogging about this yet because I don't have a sense of whether this is the experience of a few or constitutes a pattern. I think regardless of what the numbers say, I would like to see the district do more detailed exit interviews, even if they aren't for every single family, but recognize that would have to be voluntary on the part of families, and you can't make it a polygraph, so it would only be as revealing as families choose to be. In addition to the talk I've heard about African-American students feeling adrift and unsupported, I also hear regularly now of families of high-achieving students deciding that SIS and/or SHS is not offering a challenging enough curriculum for their kids. Again, that seems like something leadership might track via exit interviews or could perhaps even prevent with interventions. 

I know there will probably never be zero voluntary transfers out, so I'm not suggesting we pour resources into convincing every family to stay -- just that interviewing families more in depth might help you understand how to support students remaining in the district who may be experiencing the same challenges.

Hope that helps. Thanks again for responding and being willing to share information. 


Emily

__________________________________________________

Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us>to:Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com> cc:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Tim Joynt <tjoynt@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, tkenney@shorewood.k12.wi.us.edu, Joseph Patek <jpatek@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 3:12 PMsubject:Re: Transferring students


Emily,

Here is the data by race on students who have moved out transferred out since 2013-14.  As I mentioned before, behavior, residency and moving are the primary reasons students move.  We have had a few more transfers due to athletics this year than normal.  This is something we will keep an eye on.

                                 13-14             14-15            15-16               16-17                  17-18

White                           9                     8                  3                      7                          8

African American         3                     8                  5                      2                         10

Hispanic                      0                     0                  0                       1                          2

Asian                           1                     0                  1                      1                           4

We are continuing our work to support our African American students being more successful in our system through professional development with our staff and research with our students and parents that will provide us insight into how to better serve their needs.  The School Board has set academic and behavioral expectations disaggregated by race in our student results policies.  Our staff is committed to grow and better serve our African American Students and Families to reach these expectations.


-Bryan

__________________________________________________

Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com>

to:Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 11:27 AMsubject:Re: Transferring students

Hi Bryan,   Just realized I never responded to this message and wanted to make sure I thanked you for taking the time to gather these numbers and send along. I am concerned at the disproportionate number of students of color transferring, so I might have some other follow-up questions, but wanted to first to acknowledge the time you spend responding already.   See you later at the board meeting,    Emily

__________________________________________________

Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us>to:Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com> cc:schoolboard <schoolboard@shorewood.k12.wi.us>, Administrative Council <administrativecouncil@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 6:59 AMsubject:

Re: Transferring students

Emily, Thanks.  A few actions our District is taking to assist our students of color and their families: Collecting Exit Information - As you saw, we are collecting information from families moving out and from staff members who have worked with these families while they were here to improve our services and better meet students and families needs. Recruiting Staff Members of Color - Research has shown that having adults who look like students helps students feel connected in school.  We are working with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Milwaukee Alumni Networks on developing a pipeline from their teaching colleges to the Shorewood School District.   Conducting an African American Research Study - We are currently conducting a research study with our SIS and SHS African American students and their families on their experiences in the Shorewood School District.  The results of the study will be used to inform our professional development, practices and policies moving forward. Facilitating Professional Development for Staff -  We completed our second year of our RaceWork professional development with staff and are planning our third year.  This focuses on staff growing in three areas:  1) High Quality Instruction and Building Relationships with Students and Families, 2) 

Understanding the history and ongoing realities of racism nationally, regionally and in our community in areas such as:

Stereotypes, Laws, Housing

Covenants, etc., 3)

Seeing yourself and students as racial beings in past, present and future settings.

Sponsoring Community Conversations on Race - We have partnered with the YWCA and Shorewood Public Library on facilitating community conversations on race.  This has been in the form on current event convesations and book reads.   Leading a Diversity Workgroup focused on improving outcomes for our African American Students:  We have a group of community members that meet quarterly to monitor the progress of our district on the achievement of our African American students in behavior and academic achievement and provide insight and resources to help support our staff, students and families.   I encourage you to begin to be part of the conversations and solutions moving forward.  It takes a village to overcome our racial biases that are grounded in the founding of this country and continue to manifest themselves in different ways up until our present day. National housing and student achievement data indicates we live in the most racially segregated metropolitan area in the United States.   It is a tall task.  If we can all work together, I am confident, we will see improved outcomes for our students of color. -Bryan

__________________________________________________

Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com>to:Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us> date:Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 6:01 PMsubject:Re: Transferring students

Hi Bryan,

Thanks again for gathering this information. Just wanted to confirm that what you sent is for the high school only, correct? 

__________________________________________________

Bryan Davis <bdavis@shorewood.k12.wi.us>to:Emily Berry <emilyberry77@gmail.com> date:Sat, Apr 28, 2018 at 2:08 PM

subject:Re: Transferring students

Correct.

Sent from my iPhone


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Emily Berry

Shorewood, WI 53211

emily@berryschoolsblog.com