There was a full house if not a full quorum, as Trustee Don Nurge was away from town, at the November 8th 2011 BCSD Board of Trustees meeting. The monthly School Board meetings are a great place to learn first hand what is happening in our schools and in the district as a whole.
If a person can’t attend the actual meeting, all of the available webcasts are posted at blaineschools.org. It’s also a place to formally voice one’s opinions, concerns, and requests to the Trustees to be considered and responded to by these individuals who are entrusted with the oversight of our school district.
During last night’s meeting, Liv Jensen, Paul Hartzel, Erik Ruggeri, and Owen Scanlon each completed and submitted a “Request To Appear Before The Board” form prior to the start of the meeting. The Public Comment begins at 8:20 minutes into the webcast of the meeting.
Ms. Jensen, a Consulting Engineer, spoke about the large amount of time reformed “discovery math” requires. “While it may be true that reformed math develops a deeper understanding or a deeper conceptual understanding, we need to be honest about the cost. …the cost of a reformed math curriculum is covering less material, as well as less practice and review of the learned material.”
Mr. Hartzel, a full time Hailey resident, former professional baseball player for the Los Angeles Angels and mechanical engineer, gave an historical overview of mathematical processes first being discovered. Through the examples of his daughters’ educations, he went on to stress the benefit of teaching these known mathematical processes and having students practice them. He stated that “in the pursuit of feeling good about mathematics, we have lost our way.”
Mr. Ruggeri, also a Consulting Engineer with Power Engineers with an impressive Curriculum Vitae, stated that he had to work hard to achieve all he earned through his mastery of higher mathematics. After reviewing Investigations in Numbers, Data and Space as well as Connected Mathematics 2, he has concluded that “I would not have been able to achieve what I did with the current BCSD mathematics texts.”
Mr. Scanlon, an architect by profession, stated that we have lost an entire generation of architects due to lack of employment. He opined that perhaps this new math is just what we need and “maybe we should give it a go.” Each of these speakers full remarks are available for view in the webcast and their remarks will be included in the official minutes of the meeting.
At October’s School Board meeting, requests were made during the public comment time for independent legal review of BCSD compliance with School District Policy and Idaho Legal Code when purchasing the new math textbooks. In this month’s meeting, two agenda items addressed these requests.
Patricia McLean – Director of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, in her Curriculum Report gave a detailed review of the Math Textbook Adoption Process. Her full report begins at 49:42 minutes into the webcast of the meeting. Key points in her review include the exhaustive measures undertaken by the Math Task Force and Math Committee Members to search for and select textbooks. A primary criteria was that the texts prepare students for the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) assessment tests, which will be implemented in 2014. One of the concerns Blaine Parents have had is that these texts alone will not fully prepare students for the CCSS assessments. In her review, Ms. McLean stated that the School District recognizes the need for supplementation. She stated that Blaine County teachers are already experts with the subject matter that these texts leave out and that their expertise enables teachers to fill in the holes as needed. Ms. McLean and district staff are working toward creating a consistent math system throughout the county.
In addressing the lack of compliance with District Policy 602.3, Ms. McLean stated that she read all of the District Policies upon her hire as Director of Curriculum. When assembling the Math Task Force and Math Selection Committee, Ms. McLean stated that she “must have forgotten” about this official policy mandating inclusion of parents on textbook adoption committees. Once the committee was formed, “I asked the teachers if there should be parental review, but the teachers said that historically there have been no parents on such committees in Blaine County,” Ms. McLean claimed. During Ms. McLean’s review of the math textbook adoption process, Superintendent Barber expressed his regret that the policy was not reviewed at the time and stated that “I wish we had included parents.”
Of note in Ms. McLean’s review is the fact that Dr. Jon Brendefur, director of the Idaho Mathematics Initiative, will be coming back to Blaine County in just less than two weeks to further train teachers and to instruct parents at one of the Parent Math Nights district administrators promised to arrange. I am looking forward to hearing and learning from Dr. Brendefur again – as I’m sure many others are as well. A Parent Math Night is scheduled for Monday, November 21st.
The Board Chair Report by the Chairman of the Board, Steve Guthrie, immediately followed Ms. McLean’s review. It begins at 127:15 minutes into the webcast of the meeting. Chairman Guthrie read a statement on behalf of the entire Board of Trustees. After thanking all who had made comment either with concerns or for support, and thanking the work of all who selected the texts, Chairman Guthrie stated:
“Future changes in education reform, specifically Common Core State Standards, requires that our students need to be prepared for future assessments and have the proper tools that will allow them to succeed in a very competitive global environment … Your Blaine County School Board of Trustees supports the approved Math Adoption and understands that supplements and professional development and all other measures outline by Ms. McLean will be followed.”
Chairman Guthrie went on to address the request for independent legal review of BCSD compliance with Idaho Legal Code. The Board obtained two legal opinions, one from the Idaho Schoolboard Association and the other from their local counsel. Both opinions state that no violation of Idaho Code occurred. Both of these opinions are available upon request through Board Clerk, Laurie Kaufman.
“In conclusion,” stated Chairman Guthrie, “the Board regrets any oversight that may have occurred in regards District Policy 602.3. This was not intentional and is a clear reminder that District Policy must always be reviewed and understood prior to actions undertaken by District Administration or the Board of Trustees.”
Additional comment was then made by Trustees Kathryn Graves, Paul Bates, and Shawn Bennion. All the school Principals were in attendance and each was asked for his opinion on the current state of mathematics in Blaine County. These comments can be viewed in the webcast. Many of the parents and teachers in attendance then excused themselves from the rest of the meeting.
When the time came for the final agenda item of Additional Public Comment (174:50 minutes into the webcast), I raised my hand and was acknowledged by Chairman Guthrie. After thanking the Trustees for considering and responding to our requests, I stated:
“It is my understanding that it is also District Policy to have a written curriculum before textbooks are adopted. I don’t understand why there is not yet a mathematics curriculum written. I speak as a parent who has been involved in my school, but has not been involved on a district level, so there’s probably something I’m missing. But I don’t understand why a curriculum is not yet written and why it was not written before the textbooks were adopted. It appears to me from my narrow perspective, from my very small view at Hailey Elementary that teachers floundered with the new materials because they had no new written curriculum and no benchmarks to aim toward. I respectfully request that in the future there be a written curriculum in a subject before textbooks are adopted.
I have one more question. When will the new math curriculum be completed?”
I thanked the Trustees once more for the opportunity to speak, be heard and have concerns addressed. I thanked them for including the public to be part of the process.
Other items on the agenda were
- Accolade of Julio Mitma and Doug Shiner, Hailey Elementary Custodians
- Assistant Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer’s Report – Mr. John Blackman: Aesop, Web-based Automated Substitute Placement System
- Woodside Elementary School Program Report
- Investment Policy – Mike Chatterton, School District Treasurer, and
- Communication Goals – Heather Crocker, Communications Director.
All were of interest, especially the Woodside Elementary School Report, and I learned much at this meeting. I joined the Hailey PTA Board as a way to be involved and to better know what happens within the school. I plan to continue to attend School Board of Trustee meetings. Of course I’m interested in the education of my two children, and I’m also interested in the education of all the students in Blaine County. The education they receive now directly effects the adults they will become in the future. And who isn’t interested in the type of neighbors one will have?