During the September Flambeau school board meeting, school board members and administrators continued discussion on curriculum, resources in the classroom and the possibility of a bullying program.
In the open forum, Sara Baker, Ruth Opachan and Doug Verdegan spoke openly about concerns they are seeing. Baker said she is concerned about the lack of transparency on the school board and a withholding of information. She also expressed a concern for a lack of training and orientation for new board members, saying, “We owe it to our community take training.” Baker believes that whether new to the school board or having been on the board for 18 years, it’s important to have fresh knowledge of best practices on how school boards operate.
Opachan shared her love and pride of the district however, said she believes change is much needed. Believing the school and the board need people who work together, are willing to share knowledge and are able to agree to disagree, however she said it’s not the case. Opachan expressed disappointment with finger pointing, a constant tug-of-war and a focus on the problems instead of solutions.
Verdegan shared concern for the board not having a feeling of openness and questioned whether the closed sessions are being used correctly. Verdegan referred to, what he believes, are the wide descriptions used on the agenda to go into closed sessions instead of specific items.
School board member Mike Schuetz opened the discussion on curriculum adjustment and said he sees the current curriculum working in the elementary school but is unsure it’s working as well in the middle and high schools suggesting the curriculum isn’t a one-size-fits-all and that there needs to be communication for new ideas.
In referencing the presentation he shared during the August school board meeting, Schuetz said he doesn’t want the school district to only meet thresholds for student achievement and stay there. Schuetz said he wants to look at growth factors and said that looking at the last two years, it’s low.
Elementary Principal Vince Ross said that the curriculum being implemented and developed is focused on academic growth and achievement. Using Build Your Own Curriculum allows teachers, especially high school teachers, to collaborate and network with each other for best practices.
School board member Pat Anderson expressed concern for how student achievement is reflected in the school’s state report card. Anderson said that curriculum depends on each school district individually and may be successful in other districts, but he believes it’s not successful at Flambeau and that curriculum shouldn’t be on a computer.
District Administrator Erica Schley clarified what Build Your Own Curriculum is, saying it’s a tool for teachers to organize curriculum.
High School Principal Craig Cahoon said Build Your Own Curriculum has the needed standards built into it and offers teachers quicker access to more resources. Ross reaffirmed Cahoon saying the teachers are teaching learning targets and the school does look at what resources and lessons are being used.
According to Schley, Build Your Own Curriculum eliminates teachers leaving out aspects of standards and forces them to be more culpable. This reduces problems and allows teachers to have conversations about what they are doing in the classrooms, says Schley.
Anderson and Schuetz focused on resources in the classrooms, both stating that teachers need more resources.
Dean of Students Ted Alberson said the messages of teaching and learning often gets lost, saying “it’s about [teachers] getting in there an rolling up their sleeves. You erase the human element of what teaching and education are by focusing only on resources.”
Schuetz wants to see teachers make time to discuss curriculum and suggested a committee be formed for that purpose. Schley advised the board this is what the school is doing now, that teachers are given common planning time to work together on building curriculum.
Offering support, school board member Joel Taylor said “it seems like you’re already doing what we’re asking you to do. You’ve always built your own curriculum, only now you’re using a computer so others can look at it.”
Anderson questioned how curriculum is done and whether the school is allowing every resource to be used. Taylor confirmed that the board has never denied a teacher’s request for textbooks.
Schley urged and encouraged all of the board members to attend any of the meetings where teachers are working on curriculum. Anderson said, “I’ve got a job, I can’t come.” Schley replied stating if you want to see what teachers are doing “you gotta make time.”
Discussion during the September school board meeting also included talks on a bullying program. Schuetz first suggested an after school bullying program in the August board meeting. Schuetz said he believes an after school program is needed and would allow the school to “enroll bullies into the program as punishment and to give them some enlightenment and self-reflection.”
Alberson acknowledged that while bullying takes place everywhere, the school cannot label children as bullies. Schley said a bullying program should be run through the school’s guidance program for all kids during class time.
There is a difference, says Schley, between conflict and bullying and that sometimes kids need to work things out; offering kids should be taught the skills to talk things out and resolve conflict. Taylor agreed with Schley saying these skills should be an integrated component in classrooms.
Further, Schley suggested that if the school is awarded grant funds from a second round from the safety grant awarded earlier in 2018, the school could look into implementing more mental health programs to help develop these types of skills.
The next regular school board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17.