Several items worth mentioning from last night's Board meeting:
Capacity Management signals move for Summit
In the Work Session on Capacity Management that came before the meeting, the Board strongly signalled their interest in relocating Summit K-12 and re-purposing the Jane Addams building as a neighborhood K-5 or K-8. They could begin by moving some students in next year, sharing the building with Summit while the District prepares an alternative location for Summit. I have to believe that a move to Lincoln or John Marshall would be a positive change for Summit as it would put them in a better fitting space with a more centalized location and better transportation access for an all-city draw school. It is possible that the new school created at Jane Addams could be an international school.
Engagement Protocols for Strategic Plan
I posted about this before, but it bears repeating. The Engagement Protocols for the Strategic Plan consist exclusively of outbound communication by the District and does not include any provision for actual engagement. Moreover, none of the projects are currently meeting the minimum standards set out in the protocols. It is weird to me that no one on the Board noticed - or asked about - either of these facts. Members of the public, however, can raise these questions by sending in their input on the engagement protocols.
High School Math Adoption
There was a bit of a confrontation between Director Martin-Morris and the new Math Director, Anna Maria delaFuente. She presented a timeline in which the staff came to the Board with a textbook recommendation by 3/15/09 and the Board approved one no later than 5/6/09. Director Martin-Morris asked if they weren't putting the cart before the horse and that the Board needed to set a curriculum before the committee could recommend a textbook. Ms delaFuente responded that the State had set the curriculum and that regardless of whether the course of study was the Integrated Math 1, 2, 3 or whether it was Algebra, Geometry, Algrebra II, the set of knowledge and skills that students are expected to learn is the same set, just in a different order. Director Martin-Morris, who appears to be getting more and more impatient with the staff's habit of bypassing the Board and usurping the Board's responsibilities, said that it is the Board's job to determine the course of study and wouldn't the Board's choice of path (1,2,3 or Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II) greatly influence the textbook choice. Ms delaFuente said, essentially, that it would not. She said that both styles of textbook supported the work and that the primary determinant was the teacher. She stated that either type of book could support either path and that the books were only the materials - that the materials supported the teacher's work rather than dictating it. This clearly shows that Ms delaFuente has no idea what is going on in our classrooms. It has been my observation that the textbook guides the teaching rather than the teacher picking and choosing elements from the text.
Ms delaFuente said that a committee would be formed to advise on the textbook adoption. She said that although it would be a staff committee, they were toying with the idea of making some of the meetings open so the public could confirm that everything was above-board. Director Bass noted that the last committee that was convened was discredited as having been stacked with people who came to it with a clear and strong preference for one type of instruction over another and that the committee was seen as a sham. Ms delaFuente said that it was up to the Board to oversee the process and assure its transparency and honesty. Director Bass asked how many student family members would be on the committee and Ms delaFuente repeated that it would be a staff committee. This was a funny moment. Ms delaFuente had given each of the Board members a copy of the state law on textbook adoption and a copy of the District Policies (C20.00 and C21.00) on it - as if to school them on these rules. Director Bass then made reference to the Board Policy which CLEARLY states that the Instructional Materials Committee and the Adoption Committee must include parents and families. So there was Ms delaFuente caught in the ironic position of not having read the Policy that she had distributed to the Board and getting schooled herself. Awkward. Ms delaFuente quickly recovered and assured the Board that the Policy would be followed.
$24 million budget shortfall for 2009-2010
Don Kennedy presented on the budget and announced that right now they are looking forward to a $24 million budget shortfall for the 2009-2010 school year. And that's before they know all of the increases in expenses. This news was greeted with an odd non-response. Perhaps people are just used to the staff announcing financial ruin at the start of every budget cycle only to announce their fiscal strength at the end of every budget cycle. Board President Chow took this as an opportunity to encourage people to encourage the state legislature to act on fully funding education. Director DeBell expressed his pleasure at getting this news so far in advance. It was a lot of happy talk for a $24 million budget gap. They will discuss the budget shortfall and strategies for closing it in finance committee meetings.