As expected, parents - especially those at Club Boulevard Elementary - came out in full force at the school board meeting tonight to express concerns about the use of the Reading Street curriculum across all elementary schools.
By my count, five parents made public comments before the board. I outlined many of the parental concerns as well as district response in a post I made earlier today. I won't repeat much, but this was the first time the superintendent and some board members offered a public response, so I want to share some of that.
It was superintendent Carl Harris who made the official response following public comments. Harris said the district would never do anything intentionally to limit the level of learning that can be achieved in the classroom. He did, however, acknowledge that there had been a "communication breakdown" - especially at Club Boulevard. He reiterated that Reading Street was not being newly introduced anywhere - all schools have used some version of it already.
"I would certainly never, ever support anything that was not in the best interest of our parents," Harris said. "Proficiency is a minimum level of achievement."
If you stayed at the meeting, you would've also heard several allusions to this 'curriculum controversy' by board members.
Prior to approving a policy that provides guidelines for "empowering principals and teachers to achieve a culture and climate of excellence," board member Leigh Bordley declined to vote for it because she had some concerns that perhaps the policy wasn't doing enough. (I will try to post a copy of the policy if I can get an electronic version soon.)
"I would like to see us do more to involve more teachers in district-wide and school-wide decisions," said Bordley, while also referring to the reading program concerns as an example of possible problems.
This led to some discussion amongst the board about why the policy should be approved (and it was, by a vote of 5-2; Bordley and board member Frederick Davis voted against it). Board member Stephen Martin raised a few issues that I thought were relevant to this particular discussion.
"A curriculum change does not simply happen from the top down," Martin started. He reiterated that teachers and subject coordinators from schools meet with board members in lengthy, thorough committee meetings to decide which materials to purchase and what shifts in curriculum should occur. It's an "incredible planning process," he said.
"We have an evaluative process on every new program," Martin said. "It gets vetted. It doesn't just trickle down."
Again, parents at Club Boulevard are expected to meet tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. District officials are also expected to be present to answer any questions.