This is free. Everything about it free. And conversely, I’m not getting any money from blogging at all.

That’s the internet in all its beauty. I love it and use it frequently. But I suppose I’m taking advantage of the system.

There are a growing number of sites that require you to pay before you view. Others simply solicit ads – those maddening pop-ups that you try to ignore. What works?

None of it.

It’s really not all that difficult to figure out what the legitimate sites are in cyberspace. Who can you trust? Probably not the ones with an ax to grind or an agenda to proffer. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read them. Entertainment is part of communication.

But what are we going to do to preserve the information stream? I could point out that fewer and fewer outlets are willing to pay a living wage for reporters to seek out the facts and tell the truth.

Maybe this goes hand in hand. The polarization of politics, the disinterest in hearing the opposition and the ease with which we can offer our own points of view as fact.

It could be that the world has to learn to settle for something less. Your paycheck may not be as hefty as it once was.

Still, we need to figure out how to sustain good information. Ideas?

Open Source of Controversy
Also: Think Again, Ain’t No Sunshine
By Katharine Biele @kathybiele
Open Source of Controversy
Given that everyone uses Wikipedia—even when warned of its limitations—it’s good to see that the Wiki wonks are hard at work on integrity. First, according to tech-news website Ars Technica, Wikipedia has temporarily blocked most members and staff of the U.S. House of Representatives from editing anonymously because those bad boys have been saying things about Donald Rumsfeld being an alien reptile, and that Choco Tacos are a favorite in House vending machines. Now we have Anthony Willey, a BYU grad and Wikipedia administrator, taking on religious editing. He got started because the post about Mormons focused on polygamy. Duh. All religions are fair game, and account for the top 100 “altered topics,” according to Religious News Service. One Newsweek commenter suggested that Wikipedia is leftist drivel and people should turn to Conservapedia.

Think Again
Seems the governor can’t please either of Utah’s leading dailies when it comes to education. Columnists in both The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News took on Gov. Gary Herbert for his lack of testosterone on the issue of the Common Core. Paul Rolly “expressed concern” that Herbert is becoming a tool of Gayle Ruzicka and the like, while John Florez pointed out, again, that Common Core is not a socialist program “foisted upon us by the federal government.” Florez also noted that Herbert has backed Common Core before. But now, as elections loom, things are different.

Ain’t No Sunshine
Solar energy in Utah is a hot topic, and Rocky Mountain Power is here to light the fire. RMP wants to add a solar fee to users’ bills to pay for using the grid. It’s a fairness thing, they say, since RMP still has to maintain and operate the grid. OK, we get that, but there’s something odd about the idea of penalizing solar users. RMP studied a neighborhood served by the Northeast Substation, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, and figured that if everyone installed panels, solar would still reduce peak demand only by 7 percent. So much in the state focuses on coal generation—an area where there are plenty of financial incentives. RMP likes wind and natural gas—can you say “fracking”?

Everyone is glad that Gary Smith “just with us.” Welcome back, and all that. What does that mean? Was there a life-threatening incident here?

Gary’s talking about network upgrades like at West High which cost $1 million and they’ve got a grant for Highland. The district has struggled with homework folders so kids can access work from home. They’re looking at tools like Sharepoint and Googledocs, which opens up the world more than they want, and stuff that shows promise, but frankly, it all just scares them. Microsoft may be more narrow than they want. How could that be?

Oh dear, they’re also strained by nonstandard devices (you know – iPads and SmartPhones) because they think they’ll need a whole support staff. And what about students bringing their own devices and connecting wirelessly, but uh, they a worried about viruses.

Board member Heather Bennett just wants to be able to connect to Google during meetings since she has to use her phone instead. Heather wants to get on the district website, but can’t. Board member Doug Nelson says nine years ago everything was very hardware-oriented. And ooo things are so complex now. Heather says its harder but more important.

Gary says its really about connectivity and the district hasn’t done a good job. How do you keep kids (and maybe teachers) away from those negative influences? Maybe you shouldn’t because teachers feel pretty danged restricted in the present environment. Gary says they allow teachers to go more places than students. How nice.

Google counts over 1 billion sites, and if you’re a control freak, filtering technology is always a challenge.

How loose do we become? That was the question. Doug says at some point you have to open up enough so people can get in trouble with a capital T and then get in trouble for that. We can just make a reasonable effort and have penalties.

On that note, Superintendent McKell Withers notes that a majority of educator license revocations in the state are for internet violations. Wow.

Heather says she hears frustration from teachers who are dealing with all this arcane technology. This is not going to get better, but worse. Gary’s talking about the old days when he wrote code. He’s not sure how they do anything anymore, especially with 1,400 teachers using a system. Now they’re talking about apps. Gary doesnt have any answers about how to stay ahead of the curve – you know, the creativity curve.

Board member Rosemary Emery says school websites aren’t up-to-date, but that’s because each school is responsible for its own site. The district just kind of helps out. They use something called Contribute so a team can be updating their websites instead of just one person. They’re just figuring this out?

We’re talking about online writing programs at the Salt Lake School Bard meeting tonight because virtual education seems to be the thing of the future. What kind of thing we don’t really know. Maybe it will grow virtual adults for us. Many adults are already there.

Board member Heather Bennett noted that, no matter how good you think the language arts program is, it’s still It’s possible for kids to go through high school virtually without any feedback. Meaning person-to-person feedback.

Oh yes, and the library is kind of virtual, too, as the district works on getting e-books there. I hope they buy Kindles for everyone since you can read them by the pool.

I’m not making this up. The district has purchased and distributed 440 netbooks in all non-Title I elementary schools and has finally – yes FINALLY – provided YouTube and social networking training for more than 670 teachers. This is so they can spy on – I mean keep up with – their students.

Wow, the district is also adding Twitter and Facebook to professional development. I guess we’ll be teaching quirky abbreviations and writing in less than 140 characters.

Some classes use iPads to write answers to questions that appear on the teacher’s Smartboard and everybody gets instant feedback -besides being able to play on the iPad. I should mention that the district also uses some kind of camera so teachers can see how other teachers are teaching. I hope they also provide some kind of professional grooming for the camera.

Parent involvement is coming up, and of course, how puzzled parents are by the homework their kids are bringing home – particularly in middle school. Yes, there gets to be a point at which you can’t really help your child do his work.

On to science: apparently most of our science initiatives come to us via grants (or various off-shore accounts, but definitely not the legislature). Moving on to Social Studies, board chair Kristi Swett asks how it’s going with that piece about teaching kids we live in a republic not a democracy. chuckle. I guess Kristi’s glad she’s not being secretly videoed.

Now the budget update. The budget cut for the district will be $2.2 million, and don’t let anyone tell you nothing is being cut. The significant change – professional staff cost formula was put into the WPU or something, and then Alpine had a come-apart, so the legislature didn’t do that. The state still has to make some decisions on formula distribution, which I guess means how the cuts are spread around the various districts.

Not sure about funding for k-3 reading or optional extended day kindergarten, which might get cut so monies can go into some kind of assessment dealie.

Janet Roberts says basically SLCSD is down $26 million from last year if you fund for growth. In the world of politics, this makes perfect sense.

Calendar choices. The board is going to talk about the feedback now. Everybody really appreciates Patrick Garcia’s work on this, maybe more than normal because he’s been coughing and choking in the back and is obviously really sick. Maybe they won’t appreciate him so much when they wake up with bronchitis.

Feedback: We don’t like a lot of change. A couple of high schools had issues about when the break occurred because it came at midterm. And of course, there were comments about extracurricular activity.

Doug wonders if they don’t mess with calendar next year, can they figure out how to start on a Monday and introduce a fall break for a year down the road. The discussion breaks down into whether the board can put off for a year something they asked everyone to hurry up and comment on for this coming year.

Doug just came up with a word I didn’t know. “We’ll be creating a lot of AGITA, if we do this.” I think it’s a medical term. You know, heartburn. I have it.

OK, so an email is going out saying thanks for your input. Later.

Alama Uluave felt compelled to speak. We’re putting the cart before the horse, he says. We don’t know what cart or horse.

McKell Withers talked about the laws coming up. There were 55 bills on education passed, and that’s not helpful.

Tonight we’re sharing budget information about the Salt Lake School District. Ah the legislature! SB1 includes a 7 percent cut and growth. Ouch. Whenever they take funds and redistribute them, it could be a cut for the district. This means $9.6 million in cuts and redistributions (for at-risk students and accelerated students).

Apparently, the legislature is looking at making block grants out of at-risk funding, so no one knows yet what that’s going to look like. The district is still hopeful that these cuts won’t materialize.

But, the district is pretty sure that they’ll lose about $1.15 million in one-time money – things like the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Program.

Janet Roberts wants us to notice that SB1 has already cut $91.2 million, although some committee chairs are merrily putting money back into their pet projects. Then in an exercise meant to depress everyone, Janet showed how much the district has cut itself over the last three years. Bottom line: more than $3 million in efficiencies, etc.

We have a $250 million budget, and still we’re able to add certain positions like assistant principals for elementaries. Janet has categorized all the programs in the district to show us where we can cut, but our eyes are glazing over already.

The Base Program apparently accounts for almost 70 percent of the budget, and this is the area that the district can go hacking away at. Now we’re hearing how wonderful NCLB is because it has provided money for things like class-size reduction. Can’t touch that – unless the legislature decides to kick out the feds.

Heather Bennett notes that even though they said it last year, they didn’t make themselves clear to the public. It’s that don’t-blame-us thing, because of course, it’s not their fault.

Superintendent McKell Withers notes that the legislature is talking about current-year cuts, too.

Now that everyone’s totally flummoxed by the figures, we turn to policy revisions. Rosemary Emery isn’t in favor of policy changes because of something teachers worry about. Don’t ask teachers to put something in the computer weekly if you have 200 students. She doesn’t think it’s educationally sound.

She thinks it’s the principal’s duty to, I guess, handle the teachers.

She can tell us that making a tentative calendar is fruitless. No you can’t do it. If you teach to a calendar, you won’t teach to the child. Or whatever.

Doug Nelson has had some frustrating experiences with ESIS, which is the computer program he’s supposed to look at as a parent. Rosemary says she wants to say “regular basis” instead of “weekly.”

OK, Doug says, a first-year teacher might have trouble putting out a calendar, but geez they know when the report cards are coming out. How about modifying it? He wants to see the “game plan” even if you change it.

Rosemary’s having none of this. She’s taught for over 37 years, and this ain’t the reality. She’s never met her calendar expectations once. Egad.

Amanda Thorderson wants to know if there are big projects in a class, and when approximately they’re due. Her kids aren’t too good at telling her when the cheese is getting binding.

Heather says if you don’t have anything to report, don’t put it in.

Rosemary says it’s an issue for the core teachers. Math, English, Social Studies teachers can’t get them in on time. Leave it up to the principals. Somehow this isn’t different than letting kids into the halls early. hmmm

Doug can’t “live” with the statement that teachers don’t have time to tell parents what’s going on with their kids. Rosemary now says she’s put in a lot of zeros in her career.

Alama Uluave has crunched the numbers and figures that teachers have to spend 16 hours additionally each week to write a report. Other board members are looking quizzical.

Rosemary says your main goal is to prep for the kids, not to put things into ESIS. Student board member Bianca Ramirez was pretty darned smart, saying she can see both sides of this. Maybe weekly is too much.

Heather wonders if biweekly would work. Rosemary just wants it to say “regularly.” This apparently is a huge issue for the board. Heather says they avoided certain words like “syllibus,” because no one wanted to create one.

Kristi Swett says the principals say they’re having a tough time getting their teachers to use ESIS. Meanwhile, there’s a constant flow of parents who call in frustrated by the lack of information. Where’s the compromise?

Doug says you need to be specific to principals about what they should do.

Doug went to a teacher conference last week and half of his kids’ teachers hadn’t put anything in ESIS. Kristi notes that the principals want direction from policy, and that’s the reason they’re putting weekly in.

McKell says explicit directions help parents and kids. Heather says it’s been really helpful to read a teacher’s blog or post on UEN, even if it’s general, but at least they’re communicating.

Oh, BTW Laurel Young is a disembodied voice again, but she really doesn’t know what to say. No easy answers – semantics. Hey, bring it to a vote, she says.

Now Kristi wants a little feedback on what people want. Oh no! This sounds like a survey! Doug wonders if they put how many interactions with a child – two or three – before they make some kind of notation.

This is a point in kids’ lives when they really have to have expectations, Heather says. While Kristi wants to put this off because it is, after all, painful to listen to, McKell says the principals have asked for this kind of direction. So this will be an action item for the next board meeting. Unbelievable!

Alama thinks there should be some other options, but he doesn’t know what. He’s not against the communication thing, but hey, he’s got a self-motivated daughter, sooooo. On the other hand, he has a kid he has to check every day. Ask more than a week or greater than 7 days, he says. I’m still processing that one.

Heather wonders if he’s saying every parent should tell a teacher how often they want to be communicated with. Now Alama wants to tweak technology without one shoe fits all – whatever that means.

McKell says, gee, this is just access to current information about the student. It’s not a report.

Finally, Kristi shuts this down and says it was a great conversation. I guess she must have understood it.

Now that they’ve turned to School Board Legal Status, Responsibilities, and Ethics, Alama says he doesn’t feel comfortable with it – something about the board’s interaction with the media. He doesn’t have specifics, but wants to discuss it more.

Oh, he has some reflections he wants to share. The relationship with the superintendent. His question is about the policymaking arrangement they have. He thinks the committee model is a bottleneck and needs to be opened up. How do the rest of us participate in the formation of policy. He has some serious concerns about the way the system is set up, and I think he means he’s feeling left out.

If it’s their primary duty to set policy, then everybody needs to be equal – or something. Heather notes that anybody can request to be on a committee and she’s happy to yield her seat. But Alama isn’t happy. He wants more rotation. Enough to make you dizzy.

Oh there’s another issue – the evaluation of the district. Heather tries to say the policymaking committee should prevent hours and hours of discussion over one word – oh! didn’t that just happen? – and the board as a whole makes policy. So what’s the problem?

Alama says he’s just looking at the system, whatever that means. Amanda says hey, let’s tell everybody monthly what policies they’re going to address. God help us. I’m thinking an intervention is in order.

Kristi wants more feedback. Haha, so what’s new? I think this is feedback, isn’t it? Rosemary seems to know what Alama means. “Clearly we are losing students,” she says. Dropouts is what she’s talking about. She’d like to know what’s happening in the schools and that’s the kind of district evaluation she wants. Maybe they need a committee to look at the whole thing.

OK committee is the answer.

McKell remembers when they used to bring department level reports, but the board said it was too much. That was 3 or 4 years ago.

Alama’s thinking is you need a separate committee for the district evaluation or else he’s not doing his job … only half his job, which he notes is 50 percent.

Doug says a couple times they’ve faced really complicated stuff and they held meetings with a few board members to kind of educate them. Is that a precedent? Get a limited number of board members together for a purpose. I can think of what that purpose would be. I’ve seen it on Criminal Minds.

Calendar feedback: This is what the board asked for from schools. They’ll discuss this feedback at the next meeting, but who knows if they’ll change anything.

The subject tonight is school choice – not the kind of school choice you hear from Parents for Choice in Education – meaning VOUCHERS. This is about a public school district helping to create choices in education to benefit kids. That, with the idea that not every child learns the same way.

First on the agenda is the Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE). They “hope to affect change beyond its walls.” Their teachers are working on professional development with other teachers throughout the district. In their opinion, all charter schools should be chartered by districts. They don’t know how independent folks figure it out. I’m sure some of those independent folks could tell him it isn’t easy, and gee whiz, wouldn’t it have been nice if school districts had been open to charter schools from the beginning? But let’s not dwell on the past. Yet.

Science still seems to attract more boys than girls. Oh duh. Their strategic focus is on how they pursue kids – read, girls. They said it’s hard to judge their impact because this is a school “empowered by choice.”

This is their breakdown on academic choice on the west side of Salt Lake.

159 from the Northwest – 54 percent
17 from Southwest
68 from East
total out of district 46
From private or other charter schools – 25 -9 percent
total into the district = 71 or 25 percent

Heather Bennett noted sadly that it’s almost impossible to get from Glendale to SLCSE.

There was some concern that academic choice in Rose Park wouldn’t work, and would the community come out in force and make this a neighborhood school. The answer was yes.

SLCSE is looking at adding 11th and 12th grades. They want to add internships, mentorships and service projects. They have some limited choices, as do all charters – few if any athletics, few extracurriculars.

SLCSE is pretty popular, with 160 applications for 35 openings in 6th grade. Overall they had 307 applications this year, which shows people are looking.

In answer to critics who fear charters are out to steal students from neighborhood schools, they say,”A school’s reputation is its best marketing tool.”

Heather gave testimony to SLCSE, because after all, she had a daughter who entered the first 10th grade they had. The belief in the power of diversity in education, as long as standards are high.

She also thinks a discussion on science education is warranted. And the cat’s out of the bag – well, maybe the hawk. Apparently, one of the teachers has been working with HawkWatch, and has been tagging the birds and keeping stats in really comprehensive graphs.

Now we have to listen to something about a conference they’ve attended. This is the kind of event that allows you to throw around important names like Arne Duncan. Superintendent McKell Withers thinks the best news is the Department of Education gets to collaborate, but they haven’t done it very often. This is a Compact, but don’t get me wrong – it has nothing to do with immigration. The focus on student achievement has transcended typical labor-management obstacles of yesteryear, or some such thing, they said.

They want their next collective bargaining agreement to reflect student achievement and that teachers are safe and all that. Change is hard, he says. I wonder if the conference was in Wisconsin.

Susan McFarland – aka UNION – says they don’t want to be “resistors” but “at the table.” Hey, no kidding. Board president Kristi Swett figures communication is important so they can build all this trust with the unions. Let’s not micromanage – haha – not to overstep their responsibility, but to focus on policy. I guess they needed to send the Legislature to that conference.

Bottom line: everything is about student achievement. McKell thinks expectation is that kids can’t wait, you have to move forward. Wherever. I guess they thought they were in some kind of trouble, but Salt Lake wasn’t invited because they were so bad.

Heather notes there was press about districts that dropped out before the conference, but Kristi had answers to that – something about they weren’t able to get all the signatures they needed.

Oh, Amanda Thorderson wants to know what they’re actually going to DO now that they’ve been to this conference.

McKell says they’ll look at the Written Agreement in a different way. He keeps talking about not being afraid of CHANGE. I wonder who’s going to have to change here. Oh, Susan says they haven’t looked at anything yet to see if they need to change or not. So there.

Meanwhile, board member Alama Uluave is “starting to have hope.” We’re not sure why. Oh, it has to do with “transcending.” Start with the student being No. 1 on the list and supporting those who do the job (teachers). He just wants to spell out all the values, whatever they are beyond Students First.

Board member Laurel Young tonight is a disembodied voice, and apparently can’t hear much. We can’t hear her, either. Is she in Hawaii?

Now McKell gets to talk about the LEGISLATURE. ugh. He calls it “bad stuff.” Now there are 100 bills with language and 19 boxcars under the ed topic. There are a couple that help a little bit.

HB123 – No position yet, but heads up – it modifies funding and moves board to two-year terms instead of four. So much for stability. Still being held.

HB166 – Joel Briscoe – remember him? – probably won’t go anywhere, but increases the board leeway.

HB269 – Civic and character education, challenge is that it takes money from land trust funds and dedicate to civic ed. Oh, there goes THAT money.

SB38 & 63- K3 reading amendments meant to be helpful.

Revenue projections for state – woohoo, more money for the structural deficit, but of course, the legislature is ignoring the governor’s budget. They’ve dismantled so many pieces of the funding structure – which none of us ever understood anyway – that they can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. For sure, the legislature doesn’t understand it. So now it looks like a 3.5 percent cut for education.

Many of the bills are, indeed, “backpack funding bills,” which would allow kids in ANY school to take funding with them. This supposedly is for charter schools, but it’s really about “school choice” – voucher-style.

Now Laurel has some question about lacrosse, which we’re not sure what this means. Oh, it’s about the clubs law, whatever that is. And she did say she’s enjoying the sunshine, wherever she is.

New board member Rosemary Emery wants to know why the student-teacher ratio changed. Janet Roberts is trying to explain to her. But Rosemary’s not happy that she couldn’t find it in the minutes. And she wants copies of the ADMs. And she’s confused about whether you rely on ADM or fall enrollment to fund teachers. The change came about because West High was having trouble funding teachers once fall enrollment was determined.

Also the SCCs want to know when they come and talk about the high school schedule. McKell doesn’t think a report should be given until it’s a year out. Heather says data should go to the principals first, but it looks like Rosemary’s just mad tonight.

Rosemary now thinks they want to talk about start times and all. But that still goes through their own school.

Fred Fife is here talking about reapportionment and fair representation. Everyone clapped, but let’s face it, the west side isn’t going to get any more representation than they’ve ever had. And this is even though about half the students in the district live on the west side of the city.

Another speaker asked for transparency and maybe a website to track the precinct-ifying. The problem is that the school board really kind of follows the city. And some of think the city follows the state, which as you know, enjoys the practice of gerrymandering.

Rosemary Hunter – University Neighborhood Partners – came to ask that as the board approaches redistricting please be transparent and seek involvement. There are informal networks of community leaders who could help in this process.

Julie Miller, principal of Wasatch Elementary, noted that they have a persistent 30 percent gap between hispanic and caucasian students. She’s worried about their arts programs because of declining scores – especially in language arts. “The arts are the very breadth of discovery,” she says.

Heather Bennett asked if Julie had any ideas about how to measure the effect of an integrated arts program. The Sorensen Foundation apparently is looking at that for the legislature, which will probably think it’s an evil socialist plot.

Now we’re talking about Exceptional Children Services. Collaboration and support are the keystones, according to Randy Schlebe. This is one of the largest staffs with over 100 people. But some of these kids need one-on-one support.

So I wonder if Margaret Dayton knows that Salt Lake District believes it has a responsibility to provide special ed support to the private schools in the area. Amanda Thorderson wants to know how things are shaking out now that Sue Sakashita is gone and no longer leading the Extended Learning Program – for the district’s gifted kids.

Randy doesn’t think things are disjointed or fractured, but rather are “synergetic,” a new word which we in the cheap seats kind of like, even in the era of Sarah Palin-isms.

There are some fun acronyms in special ed: HAS, for instance, means Highly Aggressive Students, and Artic Classes, which means something about Articulation for kids who are having trouble with speaking.

Alama Uluave wants to know about how you treat kids who lick the floor, and how you handle the other kids being jealous because they’re not getting attention. This started a discussion about what happens at home or at school and you can meld the two, which really means that there’s no answer to the licking-floor question.

Heather wants to know about setting aside 15 percent of IDEA money to prevent overidentification of any group of kids among the special ed population. Randy says it was a concern about overidentification of English Language Learners and kids of color, but with autism rising and in districts where you can access identification tools, we see overidentification of white kids.

Alama felt it was necessary to talk about how giving a kid a calculator and then giving him or her another two days to complete their assignment really helps with their confidence level. I’m sure that has something to do with special ed.

Now for the BUDGET. The recommendation is that all take 7 percent cut. Growth in students is huge. The legislature wants to set aside $92 million and won’t tell anyone where they’ll distribute it. Like a shell game or something.

The structural imbalance was $3 million, had a plan to get down to $1.2 million until the bad news on Monday. Now the leg wants to get rid of funding formulas, which guarantees certain populations are taken care of.

Greg Bell apparently told McKell that there are “new realities” and the norm will be “starving the beast.” The legislature was really mad because districts couldn’t track textbooks. “The new normal means it’s never coming back.”

Now for the common elementary school calendar. Egad. The idea is to save $125,000 by scrapping the year-round schools. Amanda said it’s been difficult, but really was a kind of process. She first thought the money was secondary. The info on test scores, though, showed that there’s not a lot of difference and “we’re not putting students first.” And then the budget discussion tonight just literally scared the pants off everyone.

Why isn’t this a site-based decision now when it was 20 years ago, asked Rosemary, who’s Major Issue since being elected appears to be site-basededness. McKell said it wasn’t site-based, but the schools were allowed to weigh in. Heather says it was always a part of the budget discussion, and that now that we look at the data, it doesn’t make sense to keep them.

Rosemary says we’re eliminating some school choice, and she agrees with Laurel Young on this, which is positively puzzling since Laurel was never a school choice person.

Alama’s been struggling with this, too. He’s saying something like it’s meaningless to compare two failing schools. Anyway, he saw year-round schools out-performing others, but oops, that’s not the case now. Oh yeah, and he’s talking about school choice, too.

Oh and he thinks there’s a double standard in the district. I guess this means if the year-round schools had been on the east side, they wouldn’t be targeted.

Kristi Swett says it’s not about de-valuing choice, but oh gosh, they may have to eliminate some choice programs if the data indicates. We have to make hard decisions sometimes, she says.

Amanda says there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the calendar committee and its process. I think this is a little digression, but who am I to say. The calendar lands in the status quo, she says.

Heather agonized over it to, and she’d like to give everyone a fall break and what they want. But the data on Title I schools doesn’t make significant difference for kids, and may handicap them slightly.

Eek, Doug Nelson says he’s going to rant, but knows the decision’s already been made. Still, how come we start school on a Wednesday when we could start on a Monday and throw in those extra two days during fall break.

McKell says with a common calendar, you could ask the district to survey all the schools about whether they want to have a longer fall break.

Well now he’s done it. They’re making Patrick Garcia go up to “testify” while one of the SLTA people is agitatedly pointing to the calendar options. Still they went ahead and voted in favor of the Common Calendar and Rosemary and Alama voted no. Goodbye Year-round (or year-roundish) schools.

Patrick says they could easily gather info from the schools about coming back to school a couple of days earlier. McKell wants to get this back in three weeks. So it looks like they’ll have the info by the March meeting.

Talking about the achievement gap we are listening to Alama Uluave go on and on about the theoretical and how anxious he is for kids to know what photosynthesis is. Superintendent McKell Withers reminds him that they’ve spent big bucks sending people to Mexico to recruit teachers and growing our own. But Alama tells us, what he wants to see is results. He knows for a fact one-on-one works and he’s going on about the theoretical anyway.

8,410 students or 34 percent of district need help.
Comprehensive guidance model in Utah is pretty white,middle class. Duh.
Students come with big gaps in transcripts, and with refugees it’s hard because they may have none. Attendance issues need to be added focus so they don’t slip thru cracks. When kids leave ESL classes, they’re fed to the wolves.
As counselors they’re not given enough information about post-secondary other than four-year college.

This is the first Salt Lake City School Board meeting of 2011, and already our really new member – Rosemary Emery – is having her day. Right off, she didn’t like the Consent Agenda, which in most meetings, is, well, not an issue.

She didn’t like that the words “Mutual confidence and respect” were eliminated and she was very, very concerned about the Shared Governance piece. The board added that it has delegated shared governance to the superintendent, and Rosemary wants to know just what that entails. Does that mean it falls under the super’s purview or just to see if it’s implemented, and gee, shouldn’t this be a process of the board?

Superintendent McKell Withers answered that the wording was taken verbatim out of the Written Agreement – you know, the teachers’ contract. I don’t think Rosemary liked this answer, and said she didn’t see that part in the WA.

More from Rosemary later.

Oh boy, Tab Uno is about to speak. He knows he’s not crazy, he says, but he wants to talk about air conditioning. Way back when Jackson Elementary was built, the board voted to build the air ducts, but no air conditioning. Hey, who’s crazy here? Then 17 years later, the board voted to put in air conditioning.
Now the board has to talk about a school calendar, and Tab hopes that y’all consider public use of taxpayer facilities, and to better prepare students for real-life experiences and accommodate parents better, don’t go back to 19th Century farm-based schedule, make a daring decision like the boundary decision of 1987, now a more universal, uniform system of scheduling.

We are about to talk about the Common Core in math. They’ll be offering “challenges.” Here’s the background. They’re called the National Standards, but not federally mandated. They were put together by a team or coalition of the states – just in case any Tea Party activists are concerned about the socialist tendencies. You know, they allow common assessments and state standards. Yikes.

Uh-oh, these are lessons learned by other countries. They’re “internationally” benchmarked.

Elementary standards focus on foundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and decimals.

Amanda T. asks if this would affect ELP kids who move at faster pace. This is a good question. There is opportunity for acceleration but not quite in the way we’ve thought of it in the past, says the expert – Barbara Kuehl.

ELP world accelerates them forward without the conceptual background, she says. Things get really interesting in high school. Traditionally we go Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II. But international, secondary math I, secondary math II, and secondary math III. That’s Path B, which our state chose.

Barbara, BTW, has a really loud and grating voice, but we know she really believes in this.

Rosemary wants to ask about kids who want to go to the U. The state office task force included a lot of higher-ed folks, who apparently really like this Plan B.

Heather Bennett wants to know if there are states that haven’t decided which way to go. But of those who have chosen, a little more than half chose the traditional way.

K-2 is already being implemented and next year they’ll have to implement something with language arts.

Now, she shows us what she calls a “really complicated chart.” Let’s start with 9th grade. They’re in Algebra and they’ll just continue on and will not experience the common core. But the kids in 8th grade will “experience” the common core next year. There’s a difference between an honors course and a regular course, but we’re not sure what it is. This chart has some fuzzy lines (technically, they’re striped) where the state isn’t sure where it goes from there.

Rosemary is worried about textbooks. There are two issues, says Barbara, because there are no books. Ha ha. They wouldn’t need a full geometry or algebra text, and it’s the question that keeps Barbara up at night.

Heather wants to know if we can do e-books. Maybe.

Barbara says they know they need to start talking to parents, and help them “understand.” This should be interesting, since Barbara doesn’t quite understand it all.

Doug Nelson wants to know how realistic it is for us to pull together content for mathematics that’s no dependent on purchasing from a publisher (and then selling it – adds Laurel Young). Amanda wants Barbara to use her pull to get a publisher to do an e-book. I guess publishers are advertising that.

Rosemary wonders about the poverty rate, and how poor kids can access an e-book. Doug says the kids wouldn’t be buying it. Oh no. We’ll give them a Kindle – or whatever it is when this comes about. That was a little exaggerated.

Heather talks about kids who are on a higher path, and the International Baccalaureate to make a clear pathway. Jolie says yes, but the yes is difficult. The other big concern is what is does to concurrent enrollment classes, but that’s being “hammered out.”

The colleges, Barbara says, don’t like the AP credits and hope we don’t accelerate the students like we do. Heather says parents are worried their kids will not be able to advance the way they could.

Alama Uluave says there needs to be something for kids who can’t do basic math. He wonders if we can’t use YouTube to teach because that’s where he goes to learn stuff.

McKell says we have to expect the state to step up or it won’t work. I think that means money!

Meanwhile, I apparently missed the results of the board leadership election, but we’re getting two more years of the present model – President Kristi Swett, VP Heather Bennett.

Channel 5 is here, but not exactly rolling. I think they must be waiting for the Action Item that is Equal Employment Opportunity, although I’m not sure and I actually think the feisty discussion has already taken place. Anyway, here’s what the new policy says:

It is the policy of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education to prohibit discrimination in employment on the
basis of age, color, disability, gender, genetic information, marital status, national origin. pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors.

OK I wasn’t going to write about the Backman Elementary power point, but the principal, Dahlia Cordova, is pretty persuasive. She built into her budget money to provide for subs so she could send her teachers to visit other schools’ classrooms. This is a school that’s 16 percent homeless, with 90 percent members of racial or ethnic minority groups. Sounds like they’re really moving forward.

Here comes P-2, the Equal Opportunity policy, which they waited to bring up until after G-19, which was the really contentious nondiscrimination policy they put into practice last time around. Heather wanted to wait until now to see if they could match it to G-19, and she would like to add “gender identity” to this one.

McKell says the list is longer and broader than G-19. Heather is just wondering why we wouldn’t add gender identity.

Patrick Garcia offers that this is an  equal opportunity policy -  a pre-employment piece. We are trying to get really clear about criteria by which we hire. It’s based on their skill set listed in the job description … based on factors related to the job itself. To him, adding gender identity doesn’t really do anything on pre-employment. It’s a non-issue.

Rosemary says, well, then why not put it in? Amanda moves to add gender identity after sexual orientation, so it’s in alphabetical order or something. There was a question about discussion, and only Alama said, well gee, they’ve debated it already and it’s over, way over, so we might as well align it.

They amend the policy, and then Doug moves that they approve the policy itself. Meanwhile, I’m looking at the Channel 5 camera, and maybe they just left it running and went to get coffee. Nope, I’m wrong, this is on the common elementary school calendar. Now they’re at the cameras.

Doug wants to discuss this. The teachers in the year-round schools want to talk to board members to provide a viewpoint that didn’t make it to the board in the surveys they had. He thinks a common calendar is good since it’s $130,000 a year, but he’d also welcome a chance to talk to the teachers if he could.

Janet Roberts conveniently brought the budget-cut options they talked about last year, especially one-time money.

Rosemary says that’s $5 a student, and she’s been contacted by people concerned about west-side schools. She thinks the board has done a whole lot of things without parental involvement. She speaks the Shared Governance words, again. And she points to discrimination because the west-side schools are getting short shrift. She’s not convinced that the survey gave anyone a full picture. Or whatever.

The board needs to cut $3.3 million next year, so there’s going to be a lot of talking. Kristi said they had a larger discussion with SCCs, but she doesn’t know why the teachers think there’s been no discussion.

Heather says she has no objection to putting it off a month to hear from teachers. I argued that they needed to get ballots. She say through every Whittier meeting and asked for thoughts, but she has heard from no teachers there at all. Meadow Lark and Rose Park teachers have sent her comments. She’s a little pissed that people are saying there hasn’t been a discussion.

Hmm the process in the Written Agreement doesn’t allow the board to go back and tweak calendars once the calendar committee has come up with alternatives. She wants to make sure we close the loop of communication, and that people realize if there’s no data that says it’s positive.

Alama is saying that parents in his district choose to go to the year-round schools, but boy he should see the shaking heads of the teachers union folks. He thinks this is a big humongous change and he thinks they should wait for all this input. Doug says he’s not advocating for more input from the community because there isn’t enough time, but hey, he’ll talk to the teachers.

In the end, Kristi gets a little miffed and wonders where all the breakdown in communication comes from, since the board has been out there communicating away. Heather offers a substitute motion, and the board agrees – sort of – to table this discussion until February so the teachers will have a chance to bitch.

December is an interesting time for the Salt Lake School Board. People aren’t really focused on school because, of course, they’re more interested in malls and extreme consumer activities. And the board is a bit of a lame duck, although still quacking. Board member Mark Maxfield was defeated in the November election, primarily because he couldn’t see any need for a policy of non-discrimination that would include gays and lesbians and LGBTs, which kind of wraps all of them together.

Just in case you want to read the proposed policy:

First off, the district is inserting language to prohibit discrimination in employment because of sexual orientation. It’s supposed to be parallel to G-19, which is the major one they’ll be considering tonight. We don’t know why they want to talk about this first, since it will most likely have to be changed.

No, they’re not there yet. Now they’re discussing S-3 – There are apparently strong feelings about elementary school calendar preferences and so the board is going to look at this. Sounds like there’s big bucks attached to this, if you don’t choose a common calendar. Something like $50,000-$100,000. OK, I admit this is hard to follow. It’s really about student discipline.

Kristi Swett notes they have this great paper that Janet Roberts has created, and it shows all the efficiencies of going to a common calendar.

Now we’re back to Student Discipline, but Alama Uluave really wants to do G-19 first. If we resolve G-19 first, we’ll resolve all the other things, he says. But Heather says, gee, all the board members thought S-3 should be passed as is. So why put it later? Hey, I don’t get it, either.

Now, thank you, thank you everyone for giving us such great information, good conversation shared with all, and we’re doing due diligence, Kristi says.

Comments from small group meetings? Nah. Alama says amend G-19 remove sexual orientation and deleting something about S-3. Mark seconds, but really wants something else, he says.

“… for religionand remove “sexual orientation.”

Heather says we’ve had gender in it from the beginning. Alama is OK with gender, but not sexual orientation.

Neither Amanda Thorderson nor Heather can support. Laurel Young amends motion to go back. ummm But she thinks confusion is that no one’s happy with this as it is. With Alama’s amendment, it still doesn’t .. uh, maybe we need to go back and revisit this policy.

Alama says its a very complex subject and deserves more discussion. There’s a lot of emotion with it, and a lot of disagreement. What’s upside? I still question the process, he says, cause this is a permanent decision and effects  whole lota people across the board. There are assumptions that are wrong. He wants to answer the unintended consequences. Yah, it’s popular, but he can’t operate without constituents and this is divisive and all.

He’s lost sleep over this. Who’s this benefiting; how many? Who is it? How many in the district? We have other issues. And this is permanent and won’t be changed, he says. The messages he gets are about leaving it to the legislature.

Amanda says we’ve discussed this for a long time. At the retreat, and on and off since she’s been on the board. I keep hearing that it’s such a divisive issue and I have not got a single email or phone call saying do not do this. Every one says it’s about time.

“I believe this does affect the education of the kids and we do need to address it,” Amanda says. And of course, she has an amended amendment or whatever, too.

Mark would support Alama or Laurel, but says the attorney doesn’t want to add a protected class. Heather notes that the lawyer said that would be in law, not policy. hmmm

Mark has heard from Amanda’s people who won’t talk to her because it’s not politically correct, and they won’t talk to Heather, either.

Alama says it’s a mistake – prediction is that it will cause more problems than it will solve. The elevation of one group over all others is to put them over all the others. There are other issue besides those who have “feelings,” he says. Putting them on a pedestal is to discriminate against the rest.

There are other ways, using an inside-out process. This is just mandated from above. We have not included parents to come up with alternative solutions.

If we pass sexual orientation, then gender identity is right next. What am I going to tell my child about same-sex attractions, he asks. We are part of 25 in the nation that does not have protection.

Is it worth it? Is it worth it for student learning? Or are we going to embroil ourselves in someone else’s battle.

Doug Nelson says he’d have trouble supporting the amendment. He thinks it’s more divisive for the board than it is for Salt Lake City. He also thinks people expect board members to vote. It feels like we’re not fulfilling our responsibility and our oath of office, if after discussing a topic for several months, we don’t actually take a stand and vote for it, and he admires Alama for taking a stand, but well, stuff it.

“We have engaged in a civil debate, and can still work with one another for years to come, then we will have given the schoolchildren of this district a real good model.” And gay and lesbian people don’t go away. Not so much putting them on a pedestal. I think the intent is to make a level playing field.

Heather says important to remember that terms apply to everybody. I have a race, a sexual orientation. It’s not OK for you to discriminate against me because of that … If you says it puts someone on a pedestal, it’s a misreading of the law.

It’s not to put dark skinned people, women in a special class … it’s to say it’s not acceptable to discriminate based on those characteristics.

Alama says Wisconsin enumerates the classes. Where will it stop. Trivialized – tall, skinny? He starts to talk about higher ed, but apparently has something wrong, and Heather calls him out on it. But he says it’s just not going to stop.We’re giving attention, time, money, resources and high risk. We’re putting our children’s education in jeopardy for NOTHING.

Mark disagrees because the legislature has five more conservatives now, and he doesn’t want to alienate them. Look what happened to President Packer when he gave his talk.

Kristi says she’s not happy with bringing conservatives and liberals into this. And she says S-3 is the bullying policy, and hey, it’s different from discrimination.

Bianca says it does involve kids. Both the policies have an effect. What happens to you as a child, stays with you forever. It’s a very controversial and important.

Kristi says bullying can lead to discrimination and prejudice. Amanda says it can rise to level of discrimination.

Called for vote on the amendment. Laurel, Alama and Mark vote in favor. Motion fails.

Laurel wants to make a point. Her request was that it go to the community, and she feels that it has gone to the community. Students have had the opportunity to weigh in on it. We do not want any discrimination.

She has problems with policy addressing students and staff.

Laurel moves that G-19 be two poicies: one for staff and one for students. Alama seconds. Mark can support it.

Heather speaks against it. We’ve been talking about this for more than five months in all of its various iterations. And talking about it on board for years. She was not persuaded that it was necessary to separate it; she was willing to do it, but feels like they have to move forward now.

No laws are permanent. We can change them if we need to. It only increases animosity and divide.

Kristi shuts Mark down and asks for a return to civility. She says the direction was to take the policies back to committee and then come out. Mark, of course, thinks everyone is lying through their politically correct teeth.

Doug says his perception is if split it into two parts – he thinks a majority of board members who’d want sexual orientation and gender identity in both policies, and that would render this discussion moot. He thinks there would be two identical policies then.

Motion to split G-19 back under subcommittee’s direction. Same 4-3 vote.

Back to the original DRAFT policy. Amanda wants to make amendment.

She recognizes there is a difference between employees and students, and could be addressed in administrative policies (which they like to call APs). So she wants to add gender identity.

Heather wants to change — it is a violation of this policy to “tolerate” to “ignore” harassment.

Alama says tolerate means “respect.” But Heather says, gee, this is a prohibition.

Kristi wants to make another friendly amendment. We don’t know what it is.

Heather says there are pamphlets, etc … for employees that explain sexual orientation.

Amanda clarifies: add gender identity and to change tolerate to ignore. Whew!

There might be a time when the line has to be drawn with gender expression between employees and students, but Amanda thinks it can be addressed in those APs so that actions are appropriate.

Heather just wants to say as to edcuational relevance to the policy, clearly it applies to our students. You just have blinders on if you suggest that the comfort level people feel has no effect on students. Message I want to send is that we are welcoming to all people who are willing to do the work of educating kids.

Alama, if this is the direction we’re heading, what are the benefits. Is there something tangible that can be measured on this lasting decision? What about ramifications of what we are doing tonight; huge, far-reaching and lasting. Is it benefiting the seven children only?

He really wants to see some measures. And if it happens, and we don’t deliver, what are we doing about the risk?

Doug says, well, if there’s 5 percent LGBT – those are the ones really affected by this, but as a white, heterosexual guy, I’m not affected by it, but i’m certainly in favor of it.

Just a statement of fact: the SLCSD does not discriminate. Fourteen years ago this board closed down every club because one school had a gay club.

The measurement of the civil rights movement 50 years ago you can see in our president today. Someday we will have a gay or lesbian president.

Alama – every day I see kids being beat up, slammed against the cement. He’s not worried about what happened to Obama.

Doug says 5 percent of those kids are gay.

Alama says he knows they exist, but he doesn’t know who they are.

Mark says neither he nor Alama want any kid to be harassed, but S-3 is good ‘nuf. And that’s what the lawyer  says.

Pregnant silence. No more discussion.

Motion: (again?) passes 4-3. Oh, that’s just to amend it.

Doug moves approval of G-19 in amended form, and Amanda seconds.

Alama just reminds himself that they’ve added gender identity.

Motion passes. To much applause.

Now they want to talk about S-3. Alama wants to change something about being “perceived” to be overweight. Heather says kids can be bullied about being gender-non-conforming, and can just be a perception. Now we’re into semi-colons and phrases. Doug likes to have “who are” as well as “who are perceived to be…”

Alama says we’re putting them up on pedestal again. He thinks it’s the same thing to say they’re perceived or if they are.

OK, now Alama says he’s been discriminated against because of his nose and his race. Why can’t we all be on a level plain?

It will read: “students who are, or are perceived to be overweight; students who are, or are perceived to be gay, lesbian …”

Alama wants to take out the “who are.” Just to cover the bases, he’d add “who are different than you.” Well, who’s YOU, Heather asks. OMG.

McKell Withers says, well, that would protect everyone but you, whoever you are. Kristi has lost track of where we are, but no one knows what the amendment is, and there isn’t a second.

Alama restates his motion, and Mark seconds. Heather says she thinks it’s still important to have both. All this says is we recognize that this class of students is more likely to be bullied. Alama doesn’t like to treat this group better than others.

Heather points out that it says “all populations.” We believe and know that these students who fit these categories are likely to be targeted.

Motion: Fails

Alama – “to better protect our students.” Why are we shifting the responsibility to the schools?

McKell says it’s expected that each school addresses this issue. Alama wants to add “district.”

Now he’s going to change it to “the school district will help each school formulate a policy …” McKell reads something and says it’s covered.

S-3 passes with one dissent.

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