Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Round-Up for Tonight's Board Meeting

The first order of public business today for the School Board is to have their Work Session on the district scorecard from 4-5 p.m. The presentation isn't available as of this posting so I'm not sure what the district plans to say. (Feedback from parents, feedback from principals, ??)

Then there will be quite an interesting event at 5 p.m. which is a parent appeal on the use of a textbook. I myself have never seen this (I know it has happened before but I've never been to an actual hearing). Each party (district and staff) each get 10 minutes and then 10 minutes for Board review and determination. (The Board review on the website consists of the Board policy. What is interesting about the policy is that it states there should be an orderly process for appeal but then doesn't name one OR name an outcome should the district lose its case.)

Then the Board will adjourn for 30 minutes and all the usual suspects will file into the Board room for what should be an interesting (although predictable) meeting. There is supposed to be a video presentation by students from Ballard but I don't see that on the agenda anymore. As I mentioned elsewhere, I am next to last on the speakers list. I'm not posting my remarks yet because I don't want to give anyone a heads up. (Although it shouldn't be a mystery what I might say although I am going to be pretty hard on the Board and rightly so.)

I always like to make a predication how long it will take for the district to actually get to any real business. It's incredible but somehow the first page of the agenda seems to take at least an hour and a half to two hours. I still think that any staff presentations should come at the end because it's a long time for people to wait to hear a vote outcome.

I'd clock the TFA vote at about 8:30-9:00 p.m.

Again, why not TFA?
  • tried it 16 years ago - didn't work then
  • TFA is not cost neutral (whether the donor pays the TFA fee or not - by the way, the average TFA fee is $1500 but we are paying $4,000). We will be paying for overhead as well as mentor teacher time especially for Special Ed. Interesting that Special Ed parents don't feel their children get enough as it is but now the qualified Special Ed teachers will have to teach AND watch over someone else's classroom.
  • Don Kennedy, COO, at yesterday's Operations Committee meeting complained to the Board members that staff was feeling the strain of having to work on too many new initiatives. How does bringing on TFA work help?
  • We have a brand-new teachers contract with incentives for good teachers and supports for struggling teachers. How about giving that a year or two to work with the teachers we already have?
  • No teacher shortage with plenty of unemployed qualified teachers around. Why import more?
  • TFA is a lot like charter schools; a few good, a few bad and a lot of in-between. So out of 20-25 TFA recruits we might get 3 (?) good ones. Yes, that's really going to close the achievement gap.
And number one (with a bullet):

NO PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT. It's wrong, it's unfair and it's disrespectful.

It shows that the district and the Board don't really believe in TFA because they don't have the courage of their convictions to put it out there for public discussion about who is teaching in our classrooms. We were expected to vote for a levy to support the great (and supposedly historic) teachers contract; that's the level of public engagement they like (and want). But actually sitting in a room and explaining, with data, remarks like "best and brightest", well, that's a little too scary for them.

12 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Phyllis Fletcher of KUOW did a story on the materials appeal. It was a balanced story that did a good job of explaining the issue.

The text in question is Brave New World. While there isn't anything inherently wrong with the text, it isn't taught properly. Huxley's use of Native Americans as a metaphor for natural human life as opposed to the artifice-filled lives of mainstream society in his dystopic vision requires more careful treatment than most schools and teachers give it.

The superintendent says that the solution is to train the teachers to teach it right.

From Ms Fletcher's article:
"A Seattle School District committee agreed to take "Brave New World" off the curriculum at Nathan Hale High School. But Sarah Sense–Wilson wanted Superintendent Maria Goodloe–Johnson to take it off the curriculum for the whole district. The superintendent found the book had not been taught in an appropriate or sensitive way at Hale. But she told Sense–Wilson the proper remedy for that was professional development for teachers who want to use the book."

chunga said...

Melissa - what happened 16 years ago with TFA at SPS?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Chunga, I only just found out about this. I don't know the particulars only that TFA was indeed here and was at RBHS and while a couple of teachers were good, there was a lot of staff time in hand-holding and basically mentoring these teachers. That it didn't stick says something.

Chris said...

Someone in Times comments on Jesse's article says a similar thing about West Seattle back then.

hschinske said...

My heavens. I actually agreed with the superintendent on something. Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket.

Helen Schinske

Sue said...

I am amazed I agree with the superintendent as well on this one. Perhaps hell just froze over?

Better teaching of the book; not banning the book is the correct path here.

Jan said...

I am with the Supe on this one too.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, but if you had heard (and I will write this up) the staff person, Kathleen Vasquez' tortured explanation of why they don't have PD yet, then you would at least suspend the use of the book. It was unbelievable and clearly shows she believes the teachers aren't ready.

Meg said...

Given how subjective the interpretation of any piece of literature is, should there really be professional development devoted to a single work of it? Sure, there are generally-agreed upon ways to view the themes of widely read and discussed books, but... pushing a certain way to teach a work of literature sounds uncomfortably like standardization to me, something I don't agree with.

Literature can be really, really uncomfortable, and is often intentionally so. Refusing to teach it because characters or even the book itself expresses racist/classist/sexist ideas seems crazy to me. Maybe I'm missing something.

I'm with the Superintendent here.

hschinske said...

Meg, it was the supe herself who used the term "professional development." If you've got a particular book on your syllabus that's fairly central and that you've been teaching for a while, and you see some pitfalls in the way it's been getting taught, yeah, it would make sense to have professional development.

PD can take many forms, including teachers meeting to hash out various approaches to the book, perhaps with an outside voice facilitating, but with the basic decisions being school-based.

(There were also posts about this issue on the Nov. 11, 2010, Friday open thread, if anyone is interested.)

Helen Schinske

Meg said...

Helen - thanks. I just read through the documents on it, and the professional development makes more sense.

I feel for the parent. I feel for the kid. Even so, I don't quite understand making the jump from "this book has offensive material that needs to be handled and discussed in a culturally sensitive way" to "this book should not be taught. At all."

hschinske said...

I was telling my daughter about the case, and she said that she hoped Huxley hadn't meant to imply a pun on Brave New World and Indian braves (yes, she knows the Shakespeare quotation, so it wasn't that she wasn't recognizing that). I hope not, too. It would really have been ghastly. I don't think so, given that the "braves" thing doesn't come from the Southwest at all (more a James Fenimore Cooper thing).

Helen Schinske