On September 20th, the school board approved a very new set of goals. You’ll be surprised how different they are. A few of the new goals are laudable, a few others sadly disappointing. Here are last year’s goals. Immediately below these you will find this year’s goals. I’ll help with the edubabble.
1) Goal #1: “Standards and Assessment Understanding.” From listening to the Sept. 6th TRSB meeting, by “Standards” this seems to refer to standards relative to curriculum. “Assessment” relates to reviewing various test scores for students as they progress through the year. This sounds promising so long as the board keeps squarely focused on adjusting standards to meet the Common Core Standards and keeping tabs on student assessment results to judge the effectiveness of instruction. I worry that this exercise might turn into a blame the standards and/or assessment exercise. Educationists have been known to quickly turn from looking to improve outcomes to gaming the assessment. Despite being less than clear, this goal seems, for the moment, a good start at trying to improve educational outcomes.
2) Goal #2: “Integrate family, school and community into the district wide strategy for student success.” Hmm… Somehow in the past, kids got educated without parents being ‘engaged’ with schools, and the community knitting them sweaters by candlelit vigil. The community is as engaged as it needs to be. Sandown residents give 66.55% of their property taxes to support education. Any more support and our selectmen would be serving lunch in the schools’ cafeterias. Calling on three generations of family and the fire department to educate a child is nothing less than an abdication of duty disguised as sociological enlightenment. There is a self-serving condescension going on in education today that thinks that kids with busy, or even neglectful parents and kids from economically disadvantaged backgrounds cannot be effectively educated. Educational statistics broken down by race and income are an insult to every kid and nothing but a crutch on which teachers and school districts can hang their failings. Have some respect for your charges, please. Let the firemen do what they do best and don’t expect parents to be any more than supportive.
3) Goal #3: Capital Improvement Plan. Good. Let’s hope for no emphasis on ‘bond ready’ anything.
4) Goal #4: “Public Relations” The board will publish a district report card within the next three months. That’s good, but I’ve just published one a few days ago as it happens. (See blog entry “Do more teachers = better results?” ) The district’s results do indeed need a PR firm so you don’t stage a property tax revolt. I welcome a truthful district report card and hope the board will produce one, but I strenuously object to my tax money paying a PR firm to tell us that while our high school kids are behind the national average in SATs, really everything is hunky dory.
5) Goal #5: “Retreat” By Sandown’s standards, the SAU boardroom is itself a retreat of spa-like luxuriousness. At first I was gasping for air in sheer incredulity at the suggestion of a retreat. Turns out from listening to the September 6th recording, that the “retreat” is a long, untelevised brainstorming session open to the public. It was proposed as a non-travelling retreat by Mr. Barczak, but the “non-travelling” descriptor was left out leaving me to wonder if the location of this session is still to be determined.
Thus we come to the school board’s prickly relationship with transparency. On Sept. 20, 2012, the board voted with just one opposition, (thank you, Mr. Barczak), to condense meeting minutes drastically and in place of a written account of discussion to insert in the minutes timetags referring to the video recording. The chairman said the aim of written minutes would then be to provide a “framework without specificity.” You see, so eager is the board to embrace and engage time-starved parents and the community, that it now requires them to go to the video, hours long and minutes to download, in order to find salient information. If you think this is a step forward in transparency, I have some windows with condensation between the panes to sell you.
Also on Sept. 20, the board voted to have a trial school board meeting at a school instead of at the SAU building. (Ms. Steenson vigorously objected. Thank you!) This was suggested by Mr. Bealo as a community outreach initiative, but the board seriously underestimates the consequences of technical difficulties at remote meetings. Live TV broadcast will not be available and audio capture will be challenging. Sandown residents who have long struggled to hear town meetings on their TV’s full volume, will have good reason to be skeptical of the soundness of this new arrangement should it pass trial. Oh, and did I mention these recordings are now part of the official minutes?
This post was written on Sept 30, 2012 8:00 pm. As of this time the Sept. 20th meeting minutes were not posted online. I understand school board meeting minutes are not posted online until they have been accepted though there is no reason draft minutes should not be online since they are legally required to be public. You can speak of engagement and outreach all you want but when you fall down on basic transparency there’s little trust on which to build.
Credit: TRSB’s new goals were brought to my attention by a friendly parent. Thank you.