If you watched the Sept. 15th board meeting, you would see high pressure sales tactics in full flight aided and abetted by the SAU. Thank you to Stefanie Dube for being the sole board member present to push back. Had I been able to attend the meeting, I would have been another vote and voice in favor of responsible deliberation and governance.
“Achieve 3000” is an on-line reading program the SAU was introducing to the board for the first time. The $167,000 program had to be approved for purchase that evening, we were told, or the teachers would not have an opportunity for professional instruction in September when the program needed to be rolled out to the students.
In the course of board discussion, it was revealed that this program had been approved by the Superintendent’s Leadership Team before it was ever breathed to the school board. Not only that but the program had been in trial for the previous year without the knowledge of the school board. But wait, there’s more.
The program had been budgeted for purchase but was not identified as such to the budget committee or the school board so…… the board had to vote to transfer money from one line to another in the budget to pay for their decision to purchase the program. Had the program been included in the correct line, there was a chance the differential would have been questioned. Instead, it was hidden in another line with a built-in surplus. I’d like to know what budget lines were involved but your need-to-know-nothing board didn’t ask. They’re perfectly fine with the deceit that was built into the budget last year – no questions asked.
Danville’s Ms. Dube was the sole vote against approving this program at this meeting and also transferring the money between unknown accounts. Finally someone is awake at the switch on our school board! Ms. Dube referred to a policy that requires curriculum changes to be approved in a meeting subsequent to their presentation to the board. Mr. Bealo said there was no such policy and it was merely a practice of the board.
Well, there is a policy (IGA) and the board violates it all the time, so in fact there is no practice to respect it; Mr. Bealo was wrong on both counts. (Policy IGA is reproduced at the end of this posting.)
Now apart from the objectionable procedural stuff going on about this reading program, do I think it is a good idea? Well, thanks to being able to do some research after the meeting, which is why the policy is in place, I have these questions:
- We have invested heavily in a similar program called Reading 180. Why are we getting a duplicative program?
- Are we going to be paying for both 180 and 3000?
- What were the results of the pilot program from last year specifically?
- What evidence do we have that Achieve 3000 has improved reading in other districts where this is being used? There was no data presented about this whatsoever by the salesmen at the meeting nor did the board ask.
- What other programs where looked at and why was this one selected?
- What is the cost of this program in relation to other programs of this kind?
Here you can read a teacher’s criticisms of Achieve 3000 which I found very enlightening: A teacher talks about Achieve 3000
All this is too late, of course, because the board succumbed to high pressure sales tactics. Seeing is believing in this case. Watch the board’s discussion. The reading program is introduced at 00:20:45 but the discussion of interest begins at 00:56:00.
TRSB Meeting Sept. 15, 2016 (Start watching at 56:00)
Policy IGA CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT AND ADOPTION
It is the policy of the Timberlane Regional School Board to provide a curriculum that is aligned with statewide and national standards, that is coordinated throughout all buildings and grade levels, and that fulfills the mission and goals of the Timberlane Regional School District.
It will be the responsibility of the Superintendent and the professional staff to make recommendations to the School Board that will ensure curriculum and instructional practices that are up-to-date and consistent with the responsibilities of contemporary education and standards established by the New Hampshire Department of Education.
The Superintendent will establish curriculum committees for the on-going study of curriculum improvement, including the selection of new instructional materials, as found necessary and desirable to implement this policy.
The Board believes it is important to empower our professional staff to recommend and support the implementation of instructional change. All teachers have professional obligations to the school beyond regular classroom duties, and these obligations include work on curriculum committees. It is expected that all teachers will make contribution to curriculum development.
The School Board will support efforts to investigate new curricular ideas, develop and improve programs, and evaluate results through appropriation of funds for specific curriculum development proposals approved by the School Board. The Superintendent will make recommendations to the Board regarding the specific level of funding for approved proposals.
The School Board will review all curricula developed and written by the professional staff in the schools. No basic course of study shall be eliminated or new courses added without approval of the Board, nor shall any significant alteration or reduction of a course of study be made without Board approval. No action will be taken on proposed changes by the Board until the meeting following the presentation by the administration so that Board members may have the opportunity to review the proposed program. Additionally, no course in the Program of Studies will be cancelled in the academic year without approval of the Superintendent or designee.
The Board in reviewing and evaluating curriculum recommendations may solicit community opinion.
NH Code of Administrative Rules, Section Ed. 302.02(f), Substantive Duties of Superintendents
NH Code of Administrative Rules, Section Ed. 303.01(g), Substantive Duties of School Boards