A revised Richland School Board policy will make it easier for students of teachers attending the school where their parents work to stay with their classmates heading to middle or high school.
The board unanimously approved the policy change Tuesday night. Board Chairwoman Phyllis Strickler and member Heather Cleary initially opposed the change, saying it could worsen overcrowding at two of the district's middle schools.
"I understand the desire to stay with kids you've been with but it's difficult for us to do that," Cleary said.
But comments from Kristi Beach, a Badger Mountain Elementary School teacher whose daughter is one of two students denied a middle school transfer, and from fellow teachers and staff urged the board to change the policy, both to serve the students and to help retain quality employees.
"We're out there for everyone's kids, so can we have this for our kids?" asked Carin McClelland, a Badger Mountain Elementary School first-grade teacher.
The district's previous policy guaranteed students of teachers a spot at their parent's building but the student then had to apply for a transfer to move on to the next school.
Administrators denied Beach's request to send her daughter to Carmichael Middle School along with the students she grew up with at the south Richland school.
Carmichael and Enterprise middle schools are overcrowded and the district has limited the number of transfers there. The district offered to send Beach's daughter to Chief Joseph Middle School instead.
Beach told the board that Chief Joseph is a good school and has good teachers but that it wouldn't be logistically possible for her family. She can get her daughter from their Kennewick home to any school in the morning, but neither Beach nor her husband are able to pick her up after school, though her daughter's friends' parents would be willing to help.
Likewise, the difficult transition that accompanies the middle school years makes it all the more important her daughter stay in a school with her friends, Beach said.
"They need to have that strong family," she said.
Beach said she would have to apply for another job in the Kennewick School District so she could support her daughter and other children if the board didn't approve the policy change Tuesday.
McClelland and several others said that losing Beach would be terrible for Badger Mountain as dozens of students would lose out on her excellent teaching and dedication. They added that many of them came to work for the district because of its past commitment to them and promise to accommodate the needs of teacher families.
Board member Rick Jansons, who proposed the policy change, said the district has invested a lot of time into Beach, who also is a trainer in the district. He acknowledged that Beach teaches at his own daughters' school but that is not why he was advocating the policy change.
"To me, this is a business decision," he said.
Strickler and Cleary said they do not want to lose Beach but the cramped classrooms at Carmichael leave the district in a tough spot. Assistant Superintendent Mike Hansen said that while staff's student transfer requests are few, fulfilling them would limit the number of spots at some middle schools available to others.
Beach and the other staff from Badger Mountain made a strong case, Strickler said, causing her to reverse course along with Cleary. However, the board requested follow-up information next year on how the policy change affected transfers and said it could revert back if it causes problems.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald