I was late, but the “Recognition” portion of the meeting was rolling and rolling and rolling – lots of people to give credit to. You could tell folks were getting a tad tired of the obligatory clapping.
Update: Video Recording is now available
During Public Comment, one lady got up and started to share about an issue her son had in school, but was shut down because she started talking about how an administrator got involved. I felt bad for her, because she was getting rather emotional and when she was shut down, she left in a huff. The Board President invited the parent to bring the issue up in private, but from the look on the departing woman’s face, I doubt that will happen. I wish there were a better way to handle those kinds of situations. [Edit: She starts to talk at 37:23, and I think her name is Esmeralda Hernandez - I tried to call but did not get past several ring tones]
Gaby spoke for the PTA Council and introduced the new Council President, Anna Simon. Welcome to the Council, Mrs. Simon.
The 1st reading of some new policies was quickly glanced over. Seemed like most of dealt with student well-being and health and tied into community relations. Apparently in the past the district has had issues with parents taunting other parents/students near school grounds (hence “safe school zones”). Jamar asked some pointed questions about any policies concerning staff on student harassment and it was indicated that those policies are covered elsewhere (not a part of the current changes). I am thinking that some feathers were ruffled by his questions. It was conveyed that administrators were trained about 3 weeks ago in these procedures with the expectation that they would go and train building level staff. It sounded to me like there was little to no follow-up.
The bulk of the Board Meeting was consumed by the “Standards Based Grading” (SBG) high school presentation by the two principals, Mr. Greg Johnson and Mr. Joe Williamson. I am glad it was only about 5 slides. I was a bit confused about SBG; what they talk about sounds like a great idea (ability to track and measure each student individually), but I kinda thought that was already happening. I heard that it was already in the elementary schools. So if we already have this tracking going on, then how come students still fall behind? It is not clear to me how whatever was pitched is actually going to be such a huge boon to us.
In fact, Ileana Saveley asked how progress is measured. It sounds like teachers are supposed to evaluate each child via various different methods, basically judging how they “rehearse” the information as a measure of how it has “sunken in” (the principals words, not mine). And then some really clutch statements came up. Like, “kids who know how to do school are not necessarily learning anything.” “Parents are helped by thorough communication”. A couple times, Mr. Joe Williamson told the Board that they “should have high schools that are leading the pack in the District, even in the State.” After all these statements, my head was spinning.
As a huge critic of how education was “done” at the University of Illinois, and as a part-time teacher trying to one-up everyone else at Parkland and mostly failing, I often wonder how education is “done”. And then it gets me to thinking, education is not so much different than life in general. As Joe said, we are always learning (funny how Miles Horton said the exact same thing).
So what is all the big fuss about? Really. Is all this extra measuring, quantifying and note-taking actually helping our children learn better? From the two teachers I have talked to and a couple others, it sounds like the paperwork and extra meetings are killing them (the teachers). If the teachers are being deflated like balloons, you can only imagine the effect that has on their abilities to teach. In that light, all this concentration on analyzing performance seems very adult-centered – I have a feeling the kids don’t give two squats about the data. And I know about analyzing performance; I get paid to do that on high-end database systems.
I’ll have to leave off with that. If you were there or saw the video, please feel free to correct me where I am wrong.
PS – there were a number of other items on the agenda - Basically every item in the “Consent Agendas” (Sections 9 and 10) have attachments but were not covered during Open Meeting. Which struck me as a bit odd. But right now I am too tired to think it through all the way.