Graphic by Zeyada Negasi
The topic of Interdistrict Transfers within the Acalanes Union High School District has been a controversial talking point for many. Interdistrict transfers are an agreement formed between parents/legal guardians who wish to enroll their student(s) at a school outside their district, and an outer, desired school district.
The AUHSD Board Policy currently states, “Although students generally must attend school in the school district where their parents/guardians reside, the Governing Board recognizes that there are justifiable, compelling reasons for interdistrict transfers. Upon request, the Board may accept a student from another district and may also allow a student who lives within the District to attend out-of-district schools on a case-by-case basis to meet individual student needs.”
Back in June of 2018, AUHSD halted interdistrict transfers for the first time in an estimated 20 years, this policy went into effect during the 2019 school year. On the AUHSD board website it can be found that interdistrict transfers were shut down due to what appear to be financial reasons, the board website states, “The Governing Board adopted a revision to Board Policy 5117 Interdistrict Attendance in March 2018 providing restrictions to the interdistrict transfer attendance program given the fiscal implications of being a district of basic aid status in 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.”
For some,this reinstatement was a win due to the racial implications that many feel come with closing our district to transfers. Dina Mirmotalebisohi, a Las Lomas senior, touches on these highly-debated racial implications, “Acalanes is segregated, it is predominantly white and that is transparently clear. The Interdistrict Transfer Bill, opens an opportunity for students who were once denied an education, within the Acalanes Union High School District due the location of their home. This opportunity allows students to attend a school in the district as a transfer.” Mirmotalebisohi is one of many students pushing towards a more diverse campus and curriculum, as the co-founder of Diversify our Narrative at Las Lomas. Diversify our narrative is a nationwide organization that various school districts can participate in to push for diverse texts within school curriculum.
The Acalanes Union Coalition for Transfer Students is an instagram organization who pushed and publicized the state of transfer students in the AUHSD school district. AUCTS is an organization made up of students, AUHSD graduates, and other AUHSD stakeholders whose main goal was to reinstate the district transfer policy. Within the two years that AUCTS was pushing for reinstatement, the organization created and reached goals for multiple petitions, attended many school board meetings as public commentators, and emailed proposals to AUHSD school administration. Their movement soon gained momentum which came with a large following of student and parent support, Athena Davis the AUCTS Digital Media Section Head Athena Davis commented on that support, “AUHSD students were essential to this policy being passed. Additionally, students mobilizing also increased parent awareness and support, which the Board takes very seriously. This was a student and alumni-led effort from the very beginning, going all the way back to 2018.”
When interdistrict transfers were officially approved the board stated, “Based on recent feedback from district stakeholders, an ad-hoc subcommittee of the Board prepared a revision of BP 5117 for Board consideration. The policy allows staff the flexibility to approve interdistrict transfers and provides priorities for the process.” This reinstatement leaves many concerned about the budget. On September 16th, 2020 when the proposal was passed, many arguments within the board meeting were made regarding school districts gaining or losing money due to transfers. Board member Kathy Coppersmith said“The district these students leave will lose money because they are highly likely not bBasic aAid schools and they will lose their income, so we are stripping another district of very needed funds by accepting their students.”
The most common way a district would face larger cost cuts is typically in regards to teacher employment, specifically staff reduction. Despite this, in 2019 Superintendent Dr. John Nickerson in an interview with The Orinda News, saidtated “Elimination of new transfer students will not result in a staff reduction.”. The absence of staff reduction alongside this policy reinstatement is relieving to all, but it does pose the question of where the district may suffer financially due to the policy reinstatement.
Despite all-around controversy, tThe AUHSD board has now taken a steps in the direction of making it clear that race and diversity will be taken seriously within the district. Mirmotalebisohi summarizes saying, “As the Interdistrict Transfer Bill has been reinstated, we as students can expect to see some needed changes. To start off this is a wake up call to many who, prior to the reinstatement of the bill, felt as if the lack of diversity in our curriculum and student body was not as pressing a matter as it truly is.”