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April 18, 2021

Comments

Just Visiting

If education is as good as the teacher providing it, there are some superstars at BIS, there are some fair-to-midlands, and there are some drags. Our experience is that the social studies/English teachers are pretty strong, the science folks are pretty good, the math teachers are good for the kids who are ahead, but otherwise below average. Math seems to be a constant struggle for BIS to hire well (this has been going on for a while).

The music and drama are amazing for a public middle school with almost no dedicated funding.

Language arts (what we called "foreign" language) is frustrating that not every 6th grader who wants it can take it. Again--that's a funding problem, not really a BIS/BSD choice. Also strange that Italian is there, but no French or German. Probably just a fluke of hiring.

The elective "wheels" largely look better than they are, and seem to have a high percentage of teachers that aren't well liked.

The new classrooms are nice, and have made the school environment significantly better. Well worth it.

All that said, it's a pretty good public middle school, and it will get your kid ready for BHS.

Mom

Not much has changed then over the last 10 years. Our experience was like yours Just Visiting.

Bella V

Is a world language teacher leaving? It the cost reduction plan they showed a reduction in World Language. What does this mean? It sounds like a position was eliminated. What language was it? Spanish? Italian? Chinese?

Cheese Touch

BIS is simply too big. If your student isn't a problem, they are just a number and might get completely lost. Our child figured it out quickly- do the bare minimum and you will be fine (and even get special awards if you are the only one not acting up in class!) but won't learn much. A few great teachers, many mediocre ones. Not sure what the current situation is regarding honors or advanced tracks in math or language arts, but a few years ago they decided to just dumb it down for everyone.

Leslie

My daughter's tutor (math of course) said she gets five times as many requests for math help as any other topic.

Left the District

It has been over 5 years (so maybe things have improved since), but we left BIS and went to another district because BIS wasn’t working at all for our middle-schooler. High staff turnover (30% to 40% per year) and the administration’s unwillingness to hold students accountable were major factors. Also, while the elementary grades were challenging (both in content and expectations) and a great school environment, 6th grade was neither. Being in the other district made BIS’s deficiencies stand out even more. It’s amazing what can happen when you have a stable faculty and strong school administrators that have high expectations for all students.

Phinancier

That staff turnover rate seems overstated to me. Didn't we see the actual numbers here during the last bond measure move?

Phinancier

Found it https://www.burlingamevoice.com/2020/02/school-bondsand-then-there-were-3.html#comments

Unless all of the turnover is at BIS the numbers don't jive

Left the District

Should have clarified a bit: 30-40% turnover in certificated staff teaching ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies. In the elementary school, there was typically turnover of one or two positions each year. During our time at BIS, I think it was north of 10 each year. Each year we were there, every teacher we had (who wasn’t Band or PE) was in their first or second year at the school (they were not necessarily first- or second-year teachers though).

Pete

History Repeating itself?

https://www.burlingamevoice.com/2011/06/bis-survey-low-morale.html

Joe

Nice find, Pete. I had forgotten about that vintage post! That is a helpful clarification, Left the District. Thank you.

Unimpressed

I echo Just Visiting’s assessments. I have a kid at BIS right now and couple others in the past, and I don’t think things have changed much since the 2011 post having just read it.

Many of the humanities/ELA teachers are very good, some being true gems, and the curriculum is good too. Science became decent with few very engaging teachers after they stopped teaching using animated websites as their main lecture and curriculum source and teachers actually were allowed to teach instead of students staring and clicking at web sites. Music and drama is great, thanks to funding from BCE and local arts foundations to keep it going. None of our kids took foreign language, so can’t comment on that aspect, but they seem to be having difficulty retaining or backfilling teachers after retirement/relocation.

But worst of all, math is atrocious. They can’t seem to retain math teachers, and may be only one teacher or two is decent in the entire school, rest being mediocre, one downright hostile. One year, they had a string of subs teaching the class for the entire year since they couldn’t keep the position filled. I think we had like, 4 different teachers for that class during the year. By start of 3rd trimester, the remaining math teachers from other classes had to do a rotating shift to cover that class for the remainder of the year, and needless to say the class content suffered greatly. Also BSD chose a horrible math curriculum called “Swun Math” that confused most students and made math tedious and not fun at all. I’m sure Mathnasium has benefitted greatly helping students decode what Swun Math convoluted. Despite Swun documents were riddled with blatant errors in the answer keys and teacher manuals (pretty sad when 5/6/7th graders call out the errors in quizzes, etc and have to dispute it with teachers...), BSD continued to contract with them until the board finally wised up and decided against renewing (too late for our kids who suffered through most of it already). But Swun Math pain was not BIS-only, but was a district wide issue. Just glad that will be gone esp for those who still have years to go in BSD.

So going back to BIS math... Acceleration program acceptance guidelines for “algebra in middle school” was poorly set up, and their effort to even try to come up with an updated path is underwhelming. Few years back, a parent got so frustrated with their criteria that they posted a very public online blog and complaint, brought it all the way to the board. Administration all of a sudden allowed all the students they previously repeatedly denied, immediately into accelerated program. And those students they initially denied saying they’re not good enough? They’re getting A’s thank you very much. At any rate, with their resistance to figuring out reasonable math acceleration criteria, “Let SMUHSD figure it out and deal with it” seems to be their plan. When common core math was implemented 7 years ago or so, they used the changeover as an excuse to first eliminate both algebra AND geometry, and all associated acceleration. Only after parental uproar of students having to repeat 8th grade math after taking algebra already, etc, they reinstated algebra... only to come up with a non-transparent criteria to acceleration that you don’t know about until a parent start digging or start wondering why your child who is bored in math because it’s unchallenging is not in the acceleration path. When they finally made their criteria visible after much complaints, it was so non-sensical so more parents questioned and challenged it. Now they gave up and said, “anyone who wants their child to skip math8 and take algebra, go ahead.” How do they expect a kid they thought is marginal or worse and have been prohibiting from acceleration, is going to do well in algebra after skipping a full year of 8th grade math, esp during distanced learning? I fail to understand their logic or justification other than “blame the parents if student fails”. Principal is on record few years back stating that the reason they eliminated geometry and will not bring it back was because they got tired of fielding parental complaints and was stressing the staff out. So instead of correcting their faulty criteria, first they try elimination, and when that didn’t work, they just made it a free-for-all. Impression I’ve been getting is that they are not really interested in student succeeding in math. What they are doing is setting them up for failure or be bored out of their minds, in favor of less work for the administration and evading responsibility for not having to come up with a transparent, reasonable, and defensible criteria (meaning, if parents want to challenge the decision, there is a clear procedure to follow for the appeal and escalation) to math acceleration. Parents are not stupid, but they seem to think we don’t know anything, patronizing when responding to our inquiries, and try to pull a fast one and hope we don’t notice their inconsistencies. Perhaps they hope that the turnover is so fast, no one will know the history, or something... Now after pandemic overhaul, instead of using this as an opportunity to asses better math acceleration criteria, they decided for the coming year, to force everybody to standard math (yup. If you were in accelerated math program, you get to repeat math8) and if you want algebra in 8th grade, it’s independent study and extracurricular online web curriculum paid for by the school, but parents get to essentially homeschool algebra. Joy. So they went from “be highly restrictive who can enter math acceleration program,” to “let any 8th grader who wants to take algebra take it, even if it means completely skipping a year of math8 this past year”, to “no one take algebra, but if you insist, you’re on your own via online third party curriculum we will pay for” extreme next year. Ummm.. ok. It’s going to be interesting how well that is going to go.

For the past several years, I’ve been just rolling my eyes when the administration starts speaking how they are making kids ready for STEM fields and 21st century learning. How can they even claim that when they can’t even produce a stable path to algebra in middle school? Algebra in middle school is first step on the road to calculus in high school and first step to STEM prep, and it’s been a standard curriculum option to keep capable students engaged for half a century—it is not a controversial super-acceleration, nor should be difficult to sustain it. As-is, BIS math has been dumbed-down in comparison to what was commonly available for decades. At minimum the administration is shirking their responsibility because they are afraid of complaints. If this issue only surfaced in the past year due to the pandemic difficulties, I would understand. But it’s been going on for 7-8 years, so they have no excuse.

They also pretty much got rid of parent-teacher conferences over the past few years, unless your child is having academic difficulties and a teacher wants to talk to you. So if you have high performing but with boredom/disengagement/lack of challenge issues, you’re out of luck. When they did have conferences, sometimes they restricted your appointment to only one of the 5-6 teachers, or they just randomly assigned a teacher for you to meet to convey your concerns. So if you wanted to talk to a math teacher but assigned to conference with a humanities teacher, that was it. It was useless (esp with 5min meeting duration). No wonder they had excuse to get rid of it since it was so useless the way they implemented it.

Beyond academics, bullying goes undisciplined. Individual teachers do their best, but when a student becomes so disruptive to class, caught bullying, or received complaint and is sent to the office... nothing happens. So disruptive and bullying kids keep it up, other students are penalized due to reduced instruction time while the teacher spends time dealing with with the disruptions, or be harassed and miserable, but administration just sits on it until the trouble makers graduate and is then out of their hair.

In addition, Principal/ast principals are so bent on “weaning” parents from kids coming out of elementary school, they come across very distant and cold, and uninviting. While I understand the intent of dissuading helicopter parenting, they don’t make a distinction between legitimate concern vs parental micromanagement. As a result, there is very low parental involvement interest (except in music/drama, and may be sports which is run by Burl Parks & Rec), and almost no sense of community. Going from k-5 community to BIS was like coming to a screeching halt. PTA did a formidable job organizing COVID testing and other faculty aid through the pandemic and opening for in-school learning, and they do what they can with small group of dedicated parents (considering the size of school, parental involvement % is tiny), though. Also, the teachers did a tremendous job with distanced learning, going through drastic schedule and continually adapting to curriculum changes, and we are very grateful for their amazing efforts. For that, they get full marks and more. And they did manage to open the school fully when most other cities and districts are still barely open for on site education. So for pandemic response, the whole staff get full marks, and our thanks.

But administration based on pre-pandemic performances? Not impressed. Principal’s MO is “if going gets tough fielding complaints and we can’t defend our illogical rules, just get rid of it,” or “Ignore it and the trouble will graduate and go away within 2-3 years, and problem solved”.

Enuf said.

Giovanni Miller

The talk of a Nextdoor thread is about the elimination of the Italian Language program at BIS.

BIS sent out the following message:

2) Italian is no longer being offered at BIS after this school year. Our Italian teacher Lisa Biccari is moving, and due to budget reductions the board voted to not replace her position.

First this statement is a violation of privacy and doesn't address the real issue.

I ran into another parent at Starbucks and she told me that the Burlingame School District Superintendent made a recommendation to the Board to eliminate 10 positions. This measure was taken to mitigate the $4-5M budget deficit the School District was headed towards.

I believe the staff who had their positions eliminated were give a Golden Parachute. Also not sure if these were Voluntary or Involuntary layoffs or a mix.

Often times with these types of layoffs part of the labor agreement is that they can not rehire for the position. Hence the positions, services and or programs are eliminated.

So it sounds like cutting the Italian Language Program has nothing to do with the Teacher moving away. They could have easily hired a new one within the Bay Area. And it has nothing to do with funds. The bottom line is that the Supe carefully reviewed the positions / programs and decided Italian Language is 1 of the 10 positions to eliminate.

Thank the current board for voting to eliminate these roles / programs and jobs, and thank the prior board and previous Superintendent for getting the Burlingame School District into deep financial trouble.

These above statements are factual.

It seems that the Board is not looking out for the best for the students and schools. It seem like the Board is very political for reasons to feed their own ego and agenda.

Greta Stunnedbird

It's so very sad to lose the Italian instruction at BIS. What a great tradition. It probably means no more exchange students.

Is the Math Disaster still in place where to get into 8th grade geometry a student had to get a 95% on a test that included geometry?

MM

Hello.

I was wondering if anyone has more insight on the impasse between BSD and the BEA regarding salary negotiations (other than what Superintendent Mount-Benites announced last night and what the BEA website says).

Superintendent message: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfum9ac1VuE&feature=youtu.be
(impasse statements start at 0.57)

BEA statement here:
https://www.burlingameeducationassociation.org/


MM

Just found a write up on the Daily Journal on the topic:
https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/local/impasse-called-over-pay-for-burlingame-teachers/article_c2f0a58e-c02e-11eb-bdf3-978cfed524e2.html

Older school district parents have noted that in the decades they’ve been with the BSD they have not seen discussions go this far (we “newer” parents, i.e., less than 10 years in, wanted to now if this was par for the course). Our teachers have been instrumental in the continued upward spiral of our students and overall positive morale in our school community. I’ve personally seen them go above and beyond the scope of their work. I certainly hope the Administration finds a way to grant them the cost of living increases they have more than earned especially this last year.

Tom Cray

I heard the Teachers are having a rally this week. Anyone know when and where? I would like to support the teachers.

Jeff Osberg

We are meeting up at 4:30 this Friday at the Burlingame Train Station and then heading up the Avenue to share our perspective. Thank you for your support, Tom Cray and others.

https://www.burlingameeducationassociation.org/

Jeff Osberg
BIS

MM

The BEA also issued a rebuttal to the email from the BSD Board sent on May 28th, this is also on the BEA website listed on Jeff’s post:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17EjS_73_7qXH29DjiaJ-wgjdekoRaveOiV3YwakG4tU/edit?usp=sharing

This morning at drop off teachers were at the curb with signs to Support Our Teachers. Action items for supporters can include: writing an email to the Board to express support for a fair raise for teachers, attending the Board Public Meeting on June 8 to speak out, joining the teachers at this Friday’s rally at the Caltrain station on Burlingame Ave.

Zoe H

Please come out at 4:30pm today Friday June 4th to the Burlingame Ave Train Station to support our school districts teachers. Please take phots and videos and share on Nextdoor. Thank You.

hollyroller@gmail.com

The Italian Language Class was an "after school" Club...Right?

Grog Dorr

@hollyroller - don't you read Nextdoor?

Italian is one of the three World Languages that BIS offers as an Elective. The other two are Spanish and Mandarin. After this school year (9 instruction days left) Italian is being eliminated as an offering.

The school district is in big financial trouble and needed to cut some positions and programs as employees are their most costly expense. The Burlingame School District Superintendent carefully reviewed all of the positions and made a list of Non Essential roles and programs that resulted in Eliminations and Layoffs. The Supe presented this list and recommendation to the School District Board of Trustees and then voted to eliminated 12 people.

Some have tried to spin and cloud the situation.

A related concern is that the Italian Program at BIS feeds the Italian Program at the High School. Some worry that the Program at the High School will be next as it will most likely fizzle out.

This Italian Program is the only World Language Program in all of San Mateo County that has a true Exchange Program where Burlingame kids have the option to go to Italy for 2 weeks a year and Italian Kids come to Burlingame for 2 weeks a year. The Lions Club helps make this happen.

There are one or two petitions with lots of signatures in favor of bringing Italian back.

The Board Meeting Tuesday June 8th at 6pm should be a barn burner as the hot topics will be Italian and the Impasse.

For those that are interested in the Zoom link for Tuesdays 6pm Board meeting please contact the school district at 650-258-3800 or

kdiktakis@burlingameschools.org


PM Berlusconi

Hmmm- Same funding model yet no money?

I'm listening to others blame Prop 13 for this mess, but if that were true, the problems would have manifest a while back.

Don't buy the distraction.

It was someone's job to watch the cash flows and make adjustments.

The Superintendent and the Board's actions illustrate that they really don't know this town very well.


Given the history and traditions of the Italian programs at both BIS and BHS, if the BIS program is eliminated, the same fate should be handed to the Superintendent and the Board.

Balance sheets are exceptionally important. But what is even more important is how and where the money is spent.

The budget fiasco is a disaster that could have been prevented. The needless elimination of the Italian Program would be an irreversible and unnecessary tragedy.

The Board looks smart on paper.

Easy Question- How long has the BIS-BHS Italian Program existed? (and you are going to eliminate it why?)

The current leaders don't understand the entrenched value of the programs OR the full cost of its elimination.

The Board needs to understand that THEY call the shots and the administration implements orders.

Mom

I hear a lot of parents current and past are feeling a little used. They have supported BCE and parcel taxes and are paying high property taxes unless they inherited their homes but somehow the district is broke. They don't get it. They also wonder if the teachers aren't asking a bit much too.

hollyroller@gmail.com

Italian language classes are only for Art Majors and Elitist.
As far as important "World Languages," I believe, Russian, German, Arab, and Hebrew are far more important than Italian.
Dropping Italian as an elective should be a "No Brainer."

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