There was an interesting presentation from district staffer Ruth McFadden (who is a program manager but I'm unclear of what). She was going over student rights changes the district wants.
Among the proposed changes:
- fighting: schools want to be able to make clear to students if they act as if "they are ready to fight or cause a fight", they will be disciplined even if there is no hitting or pushing.
- have you heard? There's a new kind of laser (green) that is more powerful than your standard red one. The district wants a ban on this kind as well. (A friend of mine got stopped in Stockholm and question for having one - sans battery - in his possession.)
- The legal office has been asking repeatedly for help on students who break the rules for riding school buses.
- Tobacco products - they want to include the new "electronic" cigarettes and flavored nicotine products. This would not include adult staff but, of course, staff cannot use these items on school grounds. Students would have to have a doctor's prescription to have a nicotine patch.
Peter also thought the laser pen issue was broad. Harium thought "laser pen" was not descriptive enough.
Betty brought up something dear to my heart - school climate and discipline issues in high school. She said it was hard to walk through the halls in the high schools in her region without hearing a lot of foul and crude language. She wanted to know what principals were doing about it.
Ms. McFadden said they did have a policy on language as "interference with school authorities" and verbally assaultive language but as directed at a person, not just conversationally. Harium said they would wind up with lists that would be hard to police. Cathy Thompson said it was a slippery slope and "futile" and we had to decide as a district what we do.
Okay, but how come this language didn't go on when we were growing up? If anyone at my high school had said motherf******, I'm pretty sure they would have had many adults coming at them from all sides. I find it appalling and I believe that we should set a standard AND stick to it. Sure there are bigger fish to fry but really, how do we help students understand what effect language can have our their ability to work and get ahead in life if we have low behavior standards? (I'm old school as you can see and I have told more than one Roosevelt student that his/her language was not appropriate for school. Ninety-nine percent of them look at the floor and say "sorry.")
Ms. McFadden also brought up cyber-bullying and the issue of updating the policy on social networking between teachers and students. Staff thought they might need to ask Holly Ferguson. Peter said Director Carr was working on this issue.
They also discussed the school calendar. What is on the table is to keep the same calendar for 2011-2012 and to change to a 4-day weekend for Mid-Winter break in 2012-2013, (taking the Friday before off with the Monday being Presidents' Day anyway). The advantage will be that instruction will end earlier in June (around the 14th) but to the directors' disappointment, no additional instruction days. Peter said it was important to tell communities the education benefits of this change. Cathy Thompson said it was part of the collective bargaining agreement and so didn't do community engagement on it.
Then there was the parade of teachers and others explaining the various instructional materials. First up was high school social studies. There was concern over both a time crunch AND not wanting to be too hasty.
There was a lot of concern over the science materials (which I note have been dropped from the School Board meeting agenda for tomorrow's meeting). It seems there was not a great concensus on these differing materials.
I was having a hard time keeping up here but it seems there are some courses (it looked possibly Physics and Physical Science) that would have no books but students could reference materials the teachers printed out for them. Harium seemed confused on why the kids had no access to on-line help. I, too, thought this weird because what if the teacher didn't have help printed out for an area one student needed help with? It would also cost quite a bit of money for 3 weeks of professional development for each teacher using this system. So books or on-line learning but only with materials available to teachers. Harium said "there's no free lunch."
Peter pushed back on this one and I was grateful. I don't think you have to have books but there has to be help for students on any and all information presented in class. Betty was not for this either. Peter said he understood the idea of getting away from books with their costs and quickly outdated material but he felt students needed access to help if they had problems with the material.
Cathy Thompson said that teachers who used this said there was better student achievement and teachers found they did less copying. She didn't state one negative to this.
There was also issues in the discussion around middle school Language Arts. Again, Peter pushed back because he felt it was limiting to veteran teachers to only allow a small number of novels (especially in Spectrum and APP even with Robert Vaughn's input and input from Washington and Hamilton teachers). He felt it was prescriptive. Staff seemed uneasy about this pushback and said they could solicit request from teachers. But Kathleen Vasquez said this would be problematic. Peter continued to push for alternatives. Betty also supported Peter's POV. There would be one grade-level novel read by all but that didn't seem to be the crux of the issue.