Piedmont Neighborhood News

What's happening in Piedmont, CA

Board of Education Update

Posted by drewbendon on September 27, 2008

Want to know what’s going on with your Board of Education.  Here are some notes from the last meeting.  And here’s the link to find the “packet” of information discussed below, followed thereafter by some of me own ramblin’s.

The New Havens

ATI Architects provided an update on the new Havens building and presented elevation drawings (see packet section 1, page 6).  The project is currently 1 month behind, but they will be adding staff to the project and expect to submit drawings to the DSA (Division of the State Architect) on November 4, 2008.  DSA review is estimated to take 5 months.  Demolition is anticipated to begin in the summer of 2009.  Logistical issues remain regarding the housing of students in the buildings to be demolished.  Also, cost estimates appear to be on target, but more detailed information will be available when the drawings are complete.  Cottong & Taniguchi have been selected as the landscape architects.  The firm worked on the Exedra Plaza.

The Budget

The Board conducted a public hearing and approved the 2007-08 “unaudited actuals” and the 2008-09 Revised District Budget (see packet sections 1 and 2).  The Board approved a temporary borrowing of funds from the Measure E account for current operations, which will later be repaid to the Measure E account.

NOTE:  The budget is tight and contains little room for change without impacting the number of teachers in the classroom.  Recent budget shenanigans in Sacramento indicate even greater need for local support.  Support your schools as you can.  They are, after all, a primary reason many of us live here.

Various Resolutions & Board Policies

The Board adopted the following resolutions and board policies (see packet section 3):  Resolution 02-2008-09 “Resolution on Sufficiency of Textbooks and/or Instructional Materials,” Resolution 03-2008-09 “Adult Education Program Plan,”  Revised Board Policy 5145.3 “Discrimination/Hazing/Harassment (Including Sexual Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying, and Cyberbullying” – Student Version,” “Revised Board Policy 4030 “Discrimination/Hazing/Harassment (Including Sexual Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying, and Cyberbullying” – Employee Version,” and “Adopt Gann Limit.”  There was also a first reading of a new Board Policy 0520.3, “Title I Program.”

Draft Action Plan for 2008-09 District Goals

The District has developed an outline of its goals for 2008-09.  This roadmap (see packet section 3, beginning on page 34) identifies the areas of concentration, the individual or team developing the area, and an anticipated time frame for the project.  These projects may be in the initial stages of development (or not yet begun) and will continue as ongoing projects.  The action plan can be a helpful tool for parents looking to find out whom to talk to about a particular area of the educational system.

Some thoughts on STAR test results, the GATE program and Everyday Math

Recently folks have complained about the “complainers” and about the Post’s coverage of these issues.  I was unable to attend GATE meetings, but followed along via e-mail.  Similarly, I could not attend Curriculum Council meetings but followed the Everyday Math discussion and attended Board Meetings where it was addressed.  I have also spoken with many of the parents who have been involved in these meetings.  My experience is that these parents are bright, hardworking, concerned and committed individuals whose interest is in improving PUSD education and the public process as well.

If you were to take the time to delve into the specifics of the STAR test results you would see some interesting tidbits.  For example, look at the scores for 2nd to 5th grade Math exams.  Why does Beach school have a significantly greater percentage of students who score as “advanced” than either Havens or Wildwood?  STAR tests and API results are just one factor in assessing the health of our schools and we shouldn’t be overly concerned about them, but we can learn something from them and we should make the effort (and the school district is).  Instead of denigrating them, we should thank those parents willing to commit their time to raise these issues with the Board of Education.

Similarly, my impression has been that GATE program parents were trying to make sure that all of our students are challenged and taught at their own levels.  Doing so has no detrimental impact on the student population as a whole and is not special treatment.  We should address the needs of all of our students and if some folks feel that their kids needs aren’t being met, how else is the district to find out.

Finally, about Everyday Math.  This is the most interesting one to me, because my impression was that the students whose parents were concerned about the program were often strong math students.  From what I’ve seen in the program, strong math students have the most to gain.  They won’t miss the drilling and they get the benefit of learning about expanded pathways to math solutions.  I’ve also seen in my own children two very different approaches to teaching the new math – one that looks suspiciously like the old math.  One of the strengths of this system is supposed to be consistency across the board.  One of the things the “concerned parents” were concerned about was the ability of the grade school teachers (with their own strengths and weaknesses) to deliver on this promise of consistency.  We’ve already had parent education nights and the teachers have had and will have training in Everyday Math.  The diligence in implementation of this program owes, in part, to the concern raised by parents throughout the process.

Folks, critical analysis and critical thinking are not the same as “criticism” with its negatively charged connotations.  The community members who take their time to “complain” raise issues that might not otherwise  be addressed and help to improve our schools as much as the folks who raise money.  We have fine schools in Piedmont, but like everything else in this world – except my wife – they can be improved.  Get involved.

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