Talk about the law of unintended – or not – consequences. Freshman School Board member Michael Clara was put in time-out by a groundswell of teachers and a former state senator during a March 5 meeting of the school board. It all started with a discussion a few weeks ago about student assessments.

How this morphed into a “conversation” about teacher evaluations is perhaps the issue. OK, the two are related, much like learning is related to teaching. But the school board likes to keep it simple. Or at least singular.

Christine Marriott, Data Coordinator for the district, makes the explosive comment that in some schools, you have 50-60 percent ineffective teachers – mainly because there are a lot of newbies. Hey, you’ve got to give them a chance to grow. And she’s hoping for differential pay for teachers in Title I schools (hope, hope, hope) because the turnover is huge.

Clara wanted the discussion to revolve around teachers, but the other board members would have none of it. Basically, they said later, Michael. It takes at least three board members to move something to the discussion agenda, and that wasn’t happening.

Just to be clear, Dr. Doug Nelson has no love lost for Clara. He doesn’t even really like him – to the extent that he overstates the issue. Dr. Doug got kind of huffy, saying Clara’s not “speaking accurately” when he says they have no effective teachers on the west side. OK, well, that wasn’t quite what he said – but it was close to what Marriott said. Ouch.

Well, meeting adjourns and Clara runs out an files a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission. As former state Sen. James Evans noted, this is not the way to win friends and influence people. No, no, no. The art of diplomacy, the power of persuasion, blah blah blah. Someone needs to get a clue that you do have clout when you’re in an elective position, but it often comes from working hard behind the scenes and gaining support from colleagues.

Meanwhile, there’s been a whole lot of press about the issue.

Why the fear of historic preservation? Knee-jerk and unfounded, the fear emanates from the American Dream — a belief that anyone can realize the dream of home ownership, and with that, gain private property rights.

In fact, it is the Fifth Amendment that speaks most eloquently to private property rights: “Nor shall [anyone] be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” Together, these two clauses constitute the “due process” clause and the “takings” clause.

This excerpt from the Bill of Rights in no way restricts the ability and desire of homeowners to create historic districts. The mere fact that a homeowner may need to adhere to a process for renovation does not mean the homeowner has been deprived of his property or that the property has been “taken” by the government.

The benefits of historic preservation are many. The myths abound. Here are the Top 10 Myths about Historic Preservation:

The Top Ten Myths About Historic Preservation
Despite unprecedented awareness of historic preservation around the country, a surprising number of misconceptions still abound. Some people close their minds to preservation based on inaccurate information, while others cling to unrealistic expectations about the impacts or benefits of preservation tools. Below is a “top ten” list of the most prevalent myths about historic preservation.

Myth #1: “If a property is designated as a historic landmark, it’s protected forever and can never be demolished.”
Fact: One of the commonly misunderstood aspects of the National Register is its authority to protect against demolition or alteration. Many think that a property listed in the Register can never be demolished or altered, or that the government will assume legal responsibility for the property if it is threatened. No such protection exists in federal or state laws. Rather, two laws have been passed requiring that National Register properties, as well as places determined eligible for the Register, be protected if the demolition or alteration is linked to a federal or state government undertaking. The two laws are Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the State Agency Historic Resources Preservation Act. Specifically, all state or federally funded, licensed, or assisted projects (such as the construction of a state highway, a sewage plant, or a bank), must be reviewed by the state historic preservation office. However, the government (state or federal) has no such authority when a private individual or company, a city, or a county wishes to demolish or alter a National Register property. They may legally do so without consulting the historic preservation office. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the state historic preservation office to act as the advocate for all National Register properties, and this can best be done with the support of a strong local preservation constituency. Often, the designation of a historic building, historic district, or archaeological site to the National Register will spark community interest in its history and its historic resources. It may prompt people to make the extra effort to save a historic property if it is threatened with demolition or alteration. Together these intangible benefits can work in concert with the financial incentives available to places listed in the National Register.
Although demolition of a historic landmark would be strongly discouraged, there are no federal, state or local laws preventing demolition.

Myth #2: “Historic designation will lower my property values.”
Fact: Study after study across the nation has conclusively demonstrated that historic designation and the creation of historic districts actually increase property values. Why? In part because historic designation gives a neighborhood or an individual historic site a distinction that sets it apart from ordinary properties. Many buyers also seek out the unique qualities and ambiance of a historic property. Historic district designation gives potential homebuyers two rare and economically valuable assurances: that the very qualities that attracted them to their neighborhood will endure over time, and that they can safely reinvest in sensitive improvements to their home without fear that their neighbor will undermine this investment with a new “monster home” or inappropriate new development.

Myth #3: “If my property is designated as historic, I won’t be able to change it in any way, and I don’t want my property to become like a museum.”
Fact: Owners of designated historic structures can make significant changes to their property. Historic preservation laws, at their essence, are not meant to prevent change, but, rather, to manage change. The tool to manage change is the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, the nationally accepted benchmark for evaluating changes to historic structures.
The standards don’t require that every element of a historic site remain intact: you need not keep every doorknob! However, the most significant, or “character-defining,” historic elements of a property should be retained. New additions to the historic property are allowed, but should be compatible with the site’s historic architecture. The standards urge the repair of deteriorated historic features, but do allow for replacement where the severity of deterioration leaves no other option.

Myth #4: “Preservation is only for the rich and elite, and for high-style buildings.”
Fact: Historic preservation isn’t just about house museums anymore.
Preservation today also addresses not just grand architectural landmarks, but more modest sites of social and cultural significance. Such sites underscore that preservation can be about the “power of place” found at sites containing rich social and cultural meaning.

Myth #5: “Preservation is more expensive than new construction.”
Fact: Though this is certainly true at times, historic preservation is typically more cost effective than new construction. Why? Because the upgrades that historic buildings might need are usually less expensive than the costs of demolishing and removing the old building and building all-new foundations, structural systems, roofs, and building finishes.

Myth #6: “If I buy a historic property, there’s lots of government money available to help me fix it up.”
Unfortunately, there are few large government or foundation grants available to owners of historic properties, and even those few typically limit eligibility to government agencies or nonprofits. What is available tends to be tax incentives for private owners of historic buildings. Owners of sites listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places can take advantage of a Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit that provides a 20% tax offset for the cost of rehabilitation. Wyoming Main Street offers The Historic Architecture Assistance Fund. This fund pays for the services of architects to the owners of historic buildings or buildings located in Main Street communities to address issues involved with the rehabilitation and use of such properties. This is design based and used for things such facade renderings. Main Street Pinedale can assist property owners with this application and process. Main Street Pinedale is also in the process of setting up a facade grant program to assist property owners with construction costs associated facade improvements.
http://wyomingmainstreet.org/architectureassistance.htm
http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/Tax/Index.aspx (Federal Tax Credit)

Myth #7: “Old buildings are less safe than new ones.”
Although historic structures sometimes require structural retrofits or the addition of fire sprinklers to enhance safety, historic buildings often perform better than newer construction in earthquakes and other natural disasters. What determines the safety of buildings is the quality of construction, not age, and, in many ways, “they just don’t build ‘em like they used to.”

Myth #8: “Preservation is an un-American violation of property rights.”
Historic preservation laws no more infringe on property rights than do many other laws and rules that Americans have long accepted. Though everyone likes to believe “my home is my castle and I can do whatever I want,” this statement simply doesn’t reflect reality. Zoning laws prevent you from replacing your single-family home with an apartment building or a five-story vertical mansion. We should all be happy that such laws prevent our neighbor from putting a landfill or a skyscraper behind our back fence. If you live in a condominium (or a gated community), your property rights are limited by Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), documents that can legally prevent you from owning a pet, washing a car in your driveway, or having a basketball hoop over the garage. CC&Rs are far more onerous than historic preservation laws, yet are commonly accepted even by vocal property rights advocates.

Myth #9: “Preservationists are always fighting new development and only care about the past.”
Historic preservationists do care deeply about the past – generally not just to wallow sentimentally in a bygone era, but as a way of anchoring ourselves as we move forward into the future. Historic preservation is not about stopping change and is certainly notabout squeezing out creative and exciting new architecture and development.
Preservation allows us to retain the best of our shared heritage to preserve sites of unique quality and beauty, revitalize neighborhoods, spur economic revitalization, and, quite simply, create better communities.

Myth #10: “Historic preservation is bad for business.”
Fact: The National Main Street Center, a program that uses historic preservation to revitalize town centers and neighborhood commercial districts, has tracked economic results in 1,700 Main Street Communities. Cumulatively, the commercial districts taking part in the Main Street program have generated more than $41.6 billion in new investment, with a net gain of more than 349,148 new jobs and 77,799 new businesses. Every dollar a community uses to support its local Main Street program leverages an average of $25.76 in new investment, making the Main Street program one of the most successful economic development strategies in America. In Main Street Communities across Wyoming, in the 2010 fiscal year 31 businesses were gained, 200 jobs created, 49 building renovations completed. Every dollar a community uses to support its local Wyoming Main Street program leverages an average of $30.92 in new investment. Additionally, cultural and heritage tourism is an expanding segment with 81% of adult travelers considering themselves heritage travelers, 44% of these include shopping as part of travel plans, 67% are looking for items that represent the destination they are visiting. Pinedale has tremendous tourism opportunity to collectively develop heritage & cultural tourism in the downtown and promote the area through the lodging tax.
http://www.gozaic.com/gozaic/

I am lucky. I am alive. When I lost my job in ’92, Cobra sustained me – until it didn’t, and it was expensive, too. Finding health care for a self-employed woman was depressing, to say the least, but it happened. Not as good as with a company, and of course, more expensive. Also, Blue Cross refused to cover me and my son, for whatever reason. You know, they can just “decline” you. Thanks a bunch.

Now I am covered by Medicare. Far from perfect, but really feeling safe and comfortable. The Republicans want to decimate this, too.

What’s the matter with people? How is it that we have become a nation of the privileged, scoffing at those who can’t “pull themselves up by the bootstraps?”

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
Hit
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.

Miss
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.

Miss
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 Light.edu 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.

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