The father who made this statement was one of 14 parents who stepped up and for almost sixty minutes publicly expressed their concerns about Dr. Moon's report, opinions about the failed implementation of the Learning for All Plan for students throughout the ability spectrum, and who implored the board to finally discuss what they plan to do to remedy the obvious harm that has been felt by some of the D181 students. The father challenged the board to work together and end what he described as a reign of decline.
We couldn't agree more with this parent's statement and along with over 40 parents, teachers and administrators who were in attendance and hopefully many more who were listening by podcast, we waited to see how the board would respond.
We are pleased to report that following public comment, the board -- all SEVEN board members who were present (THANK YOU MR. NELSON for attending two meetings in a row!) did engage in a meaningful discussion about next steps. Despite the fact that Dr. Schuster -- who we consider to be in the lame duck stages of her superintendency -- had not intended for any discussion to take place on Monday (as indicated in the Board Doc Q&A's), the board spent the next 90 minutes discussing with each other and the Department of Learning administrators the topic of the Learning for All plan.
Each board member asked questions and seemed genuinely interested in addressing the parent concerns. The board recognized that there is a desire by some parents that grade level instruction be offered as soon as possible for any student who wants it or needs it. Further, some of the board members recognized that there is also a concern that as a result of the Learning for All plan, students at the high end of the spectrum may not be getting sufficient challenge or growing academically as they previously did under the old programs. Board Member Garg went so far as to bring a motion to have grade level instruction reinstated immediately -- while at the same time keeping parts of the Learning for All plan intact so that students who need more challenge or want to try more accelerated work than they might previously have been identified for under the old criteria, will still have those opportunities. Board Member Heneghan seconded the motion. A discussion on this motion followed and ultimately Ms. Garg tabled her motion after the board reached consensus that the administration should first discuss Dr. Moon's follow up report with the teachers and principals AND ask the teachers what they think about the idea of reinstating grade level instruction as an option for students. The board indicated that this should be done promptly so that it can then further discuss the issue and make some decisions.
While some parents may be frustrated that no decision was reached by the board on Monday night, their decision to gather more information first from the D181 teachers -- our front line soldiers -- was, in our opinion, appropriate, especially if the board plans to revisit this topic promptly.
What was clear from Monday night's discussion was that the board has taken an important first step to fixing a curriculum program that is clearly hurting students. Now, the hard work will begin. The board must get confirmation from teachers that grade level instruction is appropriate for some of the students in D181 and must be offered. We hope the teachers are willing to acknowledge this, just as some have in discussions with concerned parents. It is time for the teachers, parents, administrators and Board to all get on the same page and acknowledge what is happening, rather than have parents speaking out, teachers quietly having discussions with parents and the administration turning a blind eye. The board seems willing to finally address the concerns and we hope they push ahead with this plan and work together and with all of the impacted constituency groups to remedy the problems with the Learning for All Plan.
We could point out and express concerns regarding some of the representations made by Department of Learning administrators in response to board member questions (as some parents have already done in comments posted since Monday night), however, we want to emphasize the positives in this post. In our opinion, it is very important to focus on the fact that the board seems willing, ready and able to put an end to the reign of decline and work together for the benefit of each student. We hope they don't let us down.
So we end this post with some thank yous:
We thank our Board of Education for having a public discussion.
We thank each board member for expressing their opinions and conducting a meaningful discussion that ended with some "next steps" being laid out.
We thank Board Member Garg for bringing her motion to reinstate grade level instruction. (Ms. Garg, you are MORE THAN JUST A MOM!!)
We thank our Board of Education for realizing that the current situation and parent concerns can no longer be ignored.
We thank our teachers and principals in advance for the discussions you will now be asked to have on the Learning for All Plan, Dr. Moon's report, parent concerns and the question of whether grade level instruction should be reinstated.
We look forward to the next board discussion.