Team Application Process Undergoes Changes

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Team Application Process Undergoes Changes

By Emma Boczek

team photo

Team students experience nature first hand on one of several back packing trips that they plan throughout the school year.
photo by Bridget Lowry

 

Sophomores applying to the Team program this year experienced changes in the program’s admission process, following the district’s near discontinuation of Team last school year.

The new process will be lottery-based, though “we may have to adjust it for diversity,” first-year Team teacher Leonard Gucciardi said.

In February of last year, the school board voted against eliminating Team, a one-year alternative education option for juniors within the district that includes internships, community service and wilderness experiences.

At that time, Superintendent Laurie Kimbrel criticized Team as being too costly for the district and serving predominantly white and high-achieving students. In an email after the vote, the school board expressed a commitment to “a collaborative effort between administration and the Team staff so that recruitment efforts can be expanded to encourage a greater variety of students to apply and so that acceptance criteria are explicit, transparent, and available to all stakeholders.”

Gucciardi said the Team admissions process would account for many kinds of diversity.

This is a shift from past years, in which Team teachers interviewed applicants in order to get “the pieces to fit together,” said Ford, who is serving his first year as a member of the school board.

“We want all the schools to be represented, we want a wide range of grade point averages, we don’t necessarily want everyone with 4.0 grade point averages,” he said. “We want special education represented, we’d like ethnic diversity, sexual orientation diversity would be good.”

According to current Team teacher Nikole Denton, this means that in the future, “we’ll have buckets for different groups and we’ll pull from those buckets,” she said.

“We think it’s less complicated and a more fair process,” Denton said. “We’ll see if it’s effective in giving us a balanced class.”

According to Ford, the use of a lottery that accounts for diversity is “a direct response to concerns expressed by the board at last year’s re-evaluation of the program.”

Ford also said that prior to the board’s re-evaluation of the program, parents of students rejected from Team had complained that the admissions process was too subjective. With the new lottery system, though a Team class cannot be carefully crafted through interviews, “rejected students will no longer feel personally rejected,” Ford said.

Colby D’Onofrio, a current Tamiscal senior who entered Team last school year from Tam, said that the removal of interviews in favor of a more random selection could adversely affect the program.

“The interview I think is crucial to the application process,” she said. “It is a chance for the teachers to really meet the student, who may be completely different than how they looked on paper.”

Without interviews, D’Onofrio said that “the class will be kind of a gamble,” but she added that she was willing to give the new process a chance, since “change always seems sudden and unwanted.”

Current Team student Madi Karcs is more optimistic about the success of the lottery system.

“It’s definitely a new way to choose people… so nobody really knows if it will be efficient,” Karcs said. “But I do think that it seems like a fair way to determine who will be in Team next year.”

To be eligible to apply, sophomores needed to attend one of three orientation meetings this semester.

Applications, due on May 8, required sophomores to obtain two teacher letters of recommendation and write a short essay explaining why they want to be in Team. According to the Team website, applicants will be notified in mid-May of the results.

Sophomores applying to the Team program this year experienced changes in the program’s admission process, following the departure of 23-year Team teacher Chuck Ford and the district’s near discontinuation of Team last school year.

The new process will be lottery-based, though “we may have to adjust it for diversity,” first-year Team teacher Leonard Gucciardi said.

This is a shift from past years, in which Team teachers interviewed applicants in order to get “the pieces to fit together,” said Ford, who is serving his first year as a member of the school board.

In February of last year, the school board voted against eliminating Team, a one year alternative education option for juniors within the district that includes internships, community service and wilderness experiences. At that time, Superintendent Laurie Kimbrel had criticized Team as being too costly for to the district and serving predominantly white and high-achieving students. In an email after the vote, the school board expressed a commitment to “a collaborative effort between administration and the Team staff so that recruitment efforts can be expanded to encourage a greater variety of students to apply and so that acceptance criteria are explicit, transparent, and available to all stakeholders.”

Gucciardi said diversity would come in many forms in the Team admissions process. “We want all the schools to be represented, we want a wide range of grade point averages, we don’t necessarily want everyone with 4.0 grade point averages,” he said. “We want special education represented, we’d like ethnic diversity, sexual orientation diversity would be good.”

In practice, according to current Team teacher Nikole Denton, this means that “we’ll have buckets for different groups and we’ll pull from those buckets,” she said.

“We think it’s less complicated and a more fair process,” Denton said. “We’ll see if it’s effective in giving us a balanced class.”

According to Ford, the use of a lottery that accounts for diversity is “a direct response to concerns expressed by the board at last year’s re-evaluation of the program.”

Ford also said that prior to the board’s re-evaluation of the program, parents of students rejected from Team had complained that the admissions process was too subjective. With the new lottery system, though a Team class cannot be carefully crafted through interviews, “rejected students will no longer feel personally rejected,” Ford said.

Colby D’Onofrio, a current Tamiscal senior who entered Team last school year from Tam, said that the removal of interviews in favor of a more random selection could adversely affect the program. “The interview I think is crucial to the application process,” she said. “It is a chance for the teachers to really meet the student, who may be completely different than how they looked on paper.”

Without interviews, D’Onofrio said that “the class will be kind of a gamble,” but she added that she was willing to give the new process a chance, since “change always seems sudden and unwanted.”

To be eligible to apply, sophomores needed to attend one of three orientation meetings this semester. Applications, due on May 8, required sophomores to obtain two teacher letters of recommendation and a write a short essay explaining why they want to be in Team. According to the Team website, applicants will be notified in mid-May of the results.