Important issues aired

The last school board meeting had a very full agenda and the
most important topics didn’t make headlines.
First, I will address what became contentious
– field trips. I enjoyed field trips as a student, and have been
on more than my fair share as a parent.
The last school board meeting had a very full agenda and the most important topics didn’t make headlines.

First, I will address what became contentious – field trips. I enjoyed field trips as a student, and have been on more than my fair share as a parent.

My kids love missing a “regular” school day. I have no problem with the concept of field trips, they certainly can be educational. However, at the high school level, there is a finite amount of instructional time that can be missed. If a Future Farmers of America student who is attending the two field trips which were approved so far is involved in choir or athletics, they are missing quite a chunk of instructional time.

Choir, band and athletics cut into the daily schedule already. The issue of lost classroom minutes must be addressed, and trustees who are concerned about this issue should not be viewed as “spoilers.” Everyone agrees that FFA is a good program, but this is not about FFA. It is about developing policies which are in the best interests of students and balancing the desire to attend workshops and conferences with the necessary minutes need to master course work. This field trip issue is long overdue for a policy update.

Community leaders from Theater Angels Art League spoke about arts and music in our schools. The truth is that disparities exist in arts programs offered to our children depending upon where you live. Some schools offer Arts Alive, some offer it in select classrooms and some do not have the materials necessary to teach the program. Some schools offer music, theater or dance, while others offer none of the above. A unified school district must be committed to offering the full plate to all students. We are far from that unity today, and Theater Angels is committed to making sure that a strong curriculum includes the arts for all students.

A program called “Character Counts” was introduced. Never before have we been in such urgent need of such a program. Students must learn to be part of communities where ethics, trust and honesty are the rule, not the exception. I hope that the Board will decide to implement this at all campuses. Our future depends upon it.

I left the board meeting feeling mostly positive. That lasted about three days, then I attended the GATE Parent Advisory Committee meeting.

After months of asking, parents finally received budget details. I was one of the parents who spent time last spring determining what we would like to see funded. It was here that parents discovered that a sizable portion of the GATE funds received from the state are being misappropriated.

Without input from GATE parents who sit on the advisory committee, a decision was made by someone at the district office to fund middle school choir classes at South Valley and Solarsano. I don’t approve of using funds intended for a specific kind of program on regular classes.

South Valley and Solarsano combined have as many GATE students as Brownell does. Interestingly, Brownell receives no GATE funds for the 10 percent of its population who are GATE identified. Using GATE money to fund choir class this year makes the possibility that the district might use GATE funds to pay for a custodian next year seem more likely.

Trustees and the superintendent should look into how this happened. Marcia Brown, the new GATE coordinator, is not responsible for this misuse of funds. I ask the board to find out who dropped the ball and pay back the GATE program so that we can fund programs which benefit GATE students.

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