Category: Editorial

Successes and more…

July 28, 2023

As a recap of Monday evening’s board meeting, I wanted to mention a success – the doing away with the LBGTQ+ Guidelines which were so appalling and the merging of new material into an existing policy guideline. I believe I can speak for many of us when I say, we’re very glad we were heard by the board and Superintendent. They decided not to continue going against statutes and common sense and force an extremely biased and inaccurate document on administrators. (See revised existing policy attached.)

During the meeting, Brian Barefoot spoke of his concern that far too much time in school board meetings has been spent on policy discussions and inconsequential topics and not enough on improving academics in all of our schools. This has been his complaint as of late in the media as well. Interestingly enough, his comments relate to a number of discussions held during the meeting and also to major issues we’ve discussed the past 18 months.

What is taught and how it’s taught ought to be top of mind for Mr. Barefoot if he is concerned about quality education. The new curriculum packages from national publishers which would be purchased with our tax dollars and used for the next 5 years were a major part of those inconsequential issues discussed. (We’ve covered new English Language Arts and Math curriculums – Civics and Social Studies are next.)

The packages – textbooks and teachers manuals – used to teach ELA for K through 5th grade were one early concern. Teri Barenborg even recognized the problems in the HMH ELA curriculum which the district review committee put at the top of its list. She called Chancellor Oliva and he confirmed there were problems.

Our retired teachers/experts were not just concerned about the CRT and LBGTQ materials, they were also concerned about the actual sequencing of reading lessons and believed strongly they would set our Kindergarten and 1st grade students back. If Mr. Barefoot had listened to our concerns, maybe he would have understood the gravity of the problem as it relates to quality education.

In order to improve instruction in our schools, we need less time and energy spent on teaching Social Emotional Learning, CRT and LBGTQ conditioning and more time on academics and skills learning. That’s why we were once again concerned when we discovered the district review committee judged a number of new math packages excellent, while our reviewers found major problems in most.

Fortunately, while Mr. Barefoot thought the board was wasting its time, the FL DOE judged over 47% of the packages as faulty and didn’t approve them for purchase with state tax supplements. Our district had no recourse but to choose the best packages for teaching math – the ones our reviewers ranked the highest. One might wonder why the district review committee kept selecting unacceptable packages, but no one asked.

Another topic of discussion related to Mr. Barefoot’s concern was the new policy Ms. Jones proposed which would create a new task force after the district reaches ‘unity’ with the NAACP – once the desegregation order is deemed met by the court. This new work group would focus on improving the education gap experienced by all ‘cohorts’ not just black students. If young Hispanics aren’t learning to read as fast as their counterparts, there should be a group tasked with closing the gap.

My biggest concern about this new policy is that it may be 6 months or 4 years before ‘unity’ is met – why now? I believe that:

  1. With or without a future task force, all school board members should be focused on improving education for all students

  2. This board should not be setting policy for future boards – that should be up to the school board members at the time ‘unity’ is met.

  3. Do we really need a symbolic gesture now or even in the future to indicate a commitment to improving education or should that be the guiding force in every department and school board member now and into the future?

One might also ask “how many unelected, unaccountable task forces do we need in addition to the roles and responsibilities of every board member, the Superintendent, and staff?” The district currently has a “Climate Committee” the members of which have decided we need to spend millions of dollars on an expanded mental health program in all schools. What is the role of the Climate Committee? Why do we have it and why do we need another committee/group? Are these groups eternal or do they meet a goal and disperse? How much staff time do they take?

Yes, it’s been a contentious past couple of years, but one can say parent and concerned citizen involvement have resulted in better curriculums and programs for educating our kids. We must continue to be vigilant and stay on top of our what’s happening in our schools. Our future depends on it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other person who has tried to play a role in school board politics of late. Ray McNulty of Barefoot Media/Vero News/32963 wrote a column last week about how terrible local politics has become and how nasty these “fringe groups” are. It’s rich that he can come up with these criticisms after he’s written a number of columns attacking some candidates and supporting others. His lies and innuendoes have caused some of the polarization he now doesn’t like.

I was knocking on a door in central beach recently and there was a large sign on the mailbox, “Do NOT leave 32963 in our mailbox!” I get it.

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