Why Are Students Leaving?

More than 300 students have left GUSD in 2005 and have quietly
enrolled in other public schools
Gilroy – The presentation appeared clean-cut, to the point.

In 2005 more than 300 students have left the Gilroy Unified School District to attend other public schools and 42 percent of those parents claim its for convenience, because of their job.

The other major chunk, 29 percent were already enrolled in another district last year and don’t have to submit a reason to GUSD for approval. A total of 24 percent said childcare was the issue, 4 percent said they had moved and 1 percent claimed that social/emotional issues made the transfer a necessity.

But those numbers, presented by Juanita Contin, GUSD coordinator of parent involvement and enrollment at Thursday’s meeting, were met with skepticism.

“I didn’t see any of the reasons I have heard from people,” said Trustee Rhoda Bress. “There are other reasons and I didn’t see those on the list.”

Those reasons, said Bress, have more to do with academics and attitude than childcare and careers.

One of the board member’s friends fits neatly into the employment slot, since she works in Morgan Hill, but that’s not the real reason her child attends school there. The woman’s husband works in Gilroy, but the couple thinks a better education lay up north.

And the number of students ditching GUSD and heading up the 101 is increasing. In 2004 about 260 students requested interdistrict transfers compared to 300 in 2005.

Enrollment was up 1.1 percent but that still translates to a district loss of $770,850 in average daily attendance for the 2005 school year.

The number of students transferring into GUSD is far lower. In 2004 about 120 students transferred into Gilroy from other cities and in 2005 about 150 students transferred in.

If parents aren’t coughing up the real reason they’re leaving, it probably has something to do with the Allen Bill.

Parents must fill out a form justifying their need for the interdistrict transfer. According to the Allen Bill, the district only has to grant transfers to students for employment, childcare, change of address or for a specific program, said Contin.

The district requires back-up materials as proof, such as letter from the employer. Child care is only an issue for elementary school children and the district asks for documents to back up the claim.

Contin said the district wouldn’t allow any other reasons, but that doesn’t mean parents don’t find ways around the rules. Fake addresses or false documents could raise the numbers even higher.

Students who were approved last year can stay in the district and don’t have to renew the request. Because other districts adhere to the same rules, Contin said the students transferring to Gilroy are coming in for the same reasons as those leaving.

Most of the students transferring into Gilroy are driving from southern cities including Los Banos, Hollister and San Juan Bautista, while GUSD would-bes are heading north.

“The basic trend is mostly people are going north for employment,” said Contin.

Employment is the standard district line, but Bress isn’t buying it.

While on the campaign trail Bress said she often hears complaints about the quality of academics in Gilroy schools and she thinks there’s a perception among some families that the education they will receive in another public will be superior.

But all the complaints weren’t necessarily related to academics. Most of the parents told Bress they left GUSD because they “did not feel welcome when they were in the district and they felt like their needs were not being addressed.”

Morgan Hill resident Dina Campeau received a similar response from the more than 1,000 parents she interviewed for her survey on local private school attendance.

Parents said they left the district, either for private or other public schools, because district administrators weren’t listening to their concerns. One parent, whose child still attends GUSD, said she was treated horribly by administrators.

When the mother went to the district with a concern, she was often told that if she didn’t like how they did things to transfer to a private school. Administrators would tell her “are you sure you belong in a public school,” the woman said.

Another Gilroy parent finally yanked her child out of Rod Kelley Elementary School after her requests to move her son out of a predominantly English language learners class, were unheeded. The mother said the boy’s progress was being slowed by the other students.

Bress said she thinks the district has made some progress but she’s still concerned about the negative attitude, such as a comment made by Steve Brinkman in a recent Dispatch article.

In the article, when asked if he was concerned about the private school leakage in Gilroy, the assistant superintendent said: “All the rest of our schools are impacted. So, basically, where would we put these kids. Quite frankly, we don’t have space for them.”

During Thursday’s meeting, Bress addressed Brinkman’s remarks in a speech to the board.

“It’s time to be proactive, we must be responsive to parents concerns and find out what it will take to bring their children back to GUSD and then act upon it,” Bress said. “It’s also time to put out the welcome mat. Any rumors you may have heard that the parking lot is full are not true. You are needed here. You are wanted here.”

Out of GUSD

260 students left in 2004

310 students left in 2005

Into GUSD

120 students entered in 2004

150 students entered in 2005

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