Tuesday, December 13, 2005

BOE meeting topics

Last Tuesday was the first BOE meeting I attended since election to the Board. Despite the election of new officers and a fairly clean slate, we addressed many issues.

  1. Dianne Kaplan deVries, Ed. D represented the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding and outlined who the organization was (a 501(c)3 nonprofit) and their goal of reforming educational funding in Connecticut. The Board chose to continue the dialogue rather than take an immediate position on aligning with this group.

    While her presentation was certainly spirited, my primary concern with the concept is that the State's richest communities already receive the lowest state education funding and our perennially poorest communities get the greatest funding. Given this already 'unequal' funding the schools academically perform in inverse proportion to state funding (the big city schools routinely struggle and southwest Connecticut schools do well).

    The paradox is inescapable. If fairness is re-legislated as averaging out funding across the state, wealthy communities will get more funding despite no crying need for it and cities who have the crying need will likely lose funds. That is, unless educational funding is suddenly increased dramatically, small town Connecticut will still not receive any relief - (let's not kid ourselves here - in New York such 'reform' resulted in massive cuts in educational funding - see; here).

    Personally, I also didn't like the obfuscation of the word 'Justice' - tax reform is tax reform but this is a minor thing compared to an issue such as segregated schools.

    Apartheid education, rarely mentioned in the press or openly confronted even among once-progressive educators, is alive and well and rapidly increasing now in the United States. Hypersegregated inner-city schools--in which one finds no more than five or ten white children, at the very most, within a student population of as many as 3,000--are the norm, not the exception, in most northern urban areas today.
    - Jonathan Kozol
    (We'll come back to this issue soon.)

  2. We also discussed improving reading comprehension and aptitude. I had been thinking about an idea for some time that was warming received as a suggestion that should be tried. That is, the development and digital warehousing of podcasts of reading material and study guides used here in Region 19. Advanced students with good voices can read aloud and record MP3 study guides that students can use to help them read their assigned work. This will help those needing help without looking like they're studying and the digital tutor volunteers can get community service credits for their goodwill efforts.

  3. EO Smith's Principal, Mr. DeLoreto presented a number of topics, one of which was the fact that the school library was reducing its dependence on hardbound material and increasingly leveraging online digital resources - a great idea that broadens the pool of resources while reduces the cost of purchase and storage of temporal materials. [After the meeting, Mr. Silva noted that many school librarians are already [in]formally meeting to proliferate this idea across the district.]

  4. Mr. DeLoreto also took some pride in the fact that our class sizes are reasonable.
    I happen to think this is important information for parents for two reasons; 1. smaller class sizes are usually a metric indicating a better learning environment and 2. it means our teaching staff is not overwhelmed (and there's still way too much paperwork and nonsense coming from the outside for my taste).

  5. The cost of busing jumped out as quite an expense. [We'll revisit this as well].
An issue that I'll return to soon will be the rethinking of compulsory education, the re-invention of the high school curriculum as a stream of consciousness rather than a series of inoculations, and the integration of educational activity into our communities.

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