Paula Hill 4 School Board

October 20, 2014

SPEAKING UP AND SPEAKING OUT

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 3:47 pm

A patron asked me to explain my opposition to Common Core, to the college-and-career-ready goal that sees our children as “human capital,” and to some of the statements in Alpine’s Mission, Vision, Values and Goals that puts me in the awkward position of supporting my teachers and administrators and still speaking up for what I believe.

I see the political and ideological lines referred to in The Deseret News article as a clear-cut division between the traditional, conservative philosophies and the liberal, progressive agenda. Speaking up can be risky, as the quick label is conspiracy-nut with a tin-foil hat, and I have felt the sting of derision. Still, I owe it to my voters to express and explain, to stand up and speak out.

TWO PHILOSOPHIES
The liberal agenda has always been around, with many names and many iterations. It’s the idea of a perfect society with central control and shared wealth. There have been numerous experiments throughout history with central management to equalize wealth, that is to redistribute whatever people have to make everything equal for everyone.

It’s social engineering, and it has never worked and never will. But it is continually rolled-out with the idea that this time it will be done right. The early Pilgrims started with that idea, until they almost starved and switched to individual ownership. JFK had the New Frontier, LBJ the Great Society and the War on Poverty, and today it’s Obamacare and Social Justice. It is no conspiracy, it is an open political philosophy embraced by many well-meaning people. But it is not justice, social or otherwise, for a power (government) to take what some formula has decided is fair and spread it around. The Poles were happy when the new Communist government broke up the huge landowners’ wealth and shared their property, but they squealed indignantly about their “rights” when the same government took over their private farms to set up communal projects.

By contrast, the alternate viewpoint is a system of free will and individual choice and accountability. It can be messy, with its own set of problems that can leave some messy, less-than-desirable debris. But free men have a better chance of solving problems than relegating them to a central power to social engineer, which has never worked and never will.

A LITTLE HISTORY
Socialists began an organized push at the turn of the last century, preaching, teaching, and proselyting to achieve the seductive goal of everything being “fair.” When the United Socialist States of Russia, the USSR (the Communist party), took over Russia in 1917, the word “socialist” became unpopular and morphed to “progressive,” but the premise of redistribution of wealth was still the underpinnings.

There were many splinters from the socialist movement, with many different names and focuses (foci, if you are proofreading this). Some were simply anarchy, railing against “the Man,” while others were well organized, such as the Humanist Society which elected leaders, held conferences, and published magazines. Their first president was John Dewey, a name known and revered in educational circles even today. The first item on their list of beliefs was that there is no God, and down the list they cite relativism, or the idea that there is no absolute truth, it all depends.

Leaders in the early movement worked hard and rose to the top in three major areas: government, education and the media. If you look at a map of the United States, you will see the vast middle of the country colored conservative red. The blue areas of concentration are on both coasts and the big cities: Hollywood, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and most university towns.

GOALS IN EDUCATION
It’s easy to spot the liberal agenda in politics. It’s the platform of the Democrats, or the Left. And we certainly see it in the media, just listen to the news, or the Hollywood celebs on this crusade or that. And we know it flourishes on the college campuses.

In education it’s not so black and white. And many of the progressive goals sound great, and good people see goodness. I work with the best people in the world, doing commendable work and achieving great goals. It isn’t the details that alarm me as much as looking at this big picture and sometimes seeing the progressive goal for centralization, standardization, and equalization.

The fuss, and the passion, is currently with Common Core, including SAGE testing and the possibility of data mining, created by a national committee with national standards and goals, the very definition of central control. We are allowed to add 15% but cannot delete any part, and teachers and parents can’t to see the tests, except for fifteen parents with one encounter under questionable circumstances.

And liberals never give up, these are just the latest iterations. When these fail, and they will, they will trot out more new programs with the same agenda: more central control and more social engineering. Watch for the next new reform to be global and based on environmentalism.

MY DREAM
Call me crazy. But I have my own vision for education, education with a goal of seeking truth and light. It’s a Utah vision, for Utah kids, Utah parents, and Utah schools. I see a hundred points of light, hundreds and hundreds of classrooms, free to innovate and individualize and create, working under the aegis of the State of Utah, Constitutionally given the authority for education within its boundaries. We have the talent to create the best education system. We are unique—let that uniqueness be our strength. Let us be independent in our stand for what we know to be true and correct.

I have taught all over the country—Texas, California, Washington, D.C., New York, Utah; and in many parts the world—the Caribbean, the South China Sea, Mexico; and I say unequivocally that we have the best teachers, the best administrators, the best schools. We don’t need to be “common,” we are already exceptional. Let’s harness that exceptionalism and stand independent, Utah education for Utah children.

October 11, 2014

MY EFFORTS TO DISAGREE AGREEABLY

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 10:32 pm

Seek First to Understand…

Four years ago, my first campaign for school board, my joke was that I was able to annoy anybody—The Heritage Foundation didn’t trust me because I had been part of the education establishment (25 years as a teacher) and the Eagle Forum leader pretty well shredded me on her radio program. On the Establishment side, the Alpine Teacher’s Association refused to endorse me (I had not asked) with no explanation (maybe they knew I had never joined the union) and I heard of comments from a couple of local principals which were definitely not favorable. I joked, “Something for everyone to dislike!”

I was very open about wanting to be a bridge of sorts, to be able to work with all opinions on issues, while still defending the principles that defined me as a person and as an educator. I can’t find the You Tube video I made (do they expire?) but it is a clear statement that I intended to work together, seeking first to understand, and then to be understood (we don’t often get to the second part, but hope springs eternal…)

I was also clear on my rejection of the influence of progressive educators such as John Goodlad (heck, all the way back to John Dewey, the first president of The Humanist Society), which put me at odds with the Alpine School District and their partnership with Goodlad’s group. It is not such an issue these days, but I still have it in my cross-hairs and work to reform our philosophy statements where I can. It seldom is allowed to come to a vote, but I push here and there, and when I lose the vote, which I always do, I lose graciously.

I took my lumps as a new board member, pairing up with Wendy Hart for support, sometimes coming out of meetings feeling pretty beat-up. But time passed, and my efforts to disagree without being disagreeable have been the underpinnings of my relationships with my colleagues and we have developed a workable relationship.

So this election the AEA has chosen to endorse me. Again I didn’t ask, in fact I missed the routine interview, and I was quite surprised to be endorsed. It is well-known that I stand firmly against Common Core, as well as a few other positions the administration supports. But it is also well-known that I do so with courtesy and the spirit of working together for the benefit of the entire district, children, teachers, patrons and tax-payers.

September 20, 2014

LEHI, SARATOGA SPRINGS, EAGLE MOUNTAIN MEETINGS

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 4:03 pm

MEETING WITH THE CITIES

It was interesting to meet with the mayors and staff of the three northwest cities in Alpine School District. The meeting with the Lehi City Council was one of the regular District/City luncheons, hosted alternatively by each group, to share information and concerns. Lehi City planners showed the growth of this once-quiet once-small town, and it was amazing. Lehi population equals about the same as Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain combined, and the growth rates seem comparable. They gave information on the four largest CDA’s (tax incentives) which were IMFlash, Adobe, Xactware, and Thanksgiving something (my notes are sloppy on which development it was), expiring as late as 2034. Interesting to see the numbers, but hard to compare to what might have been with allowing the free market to work. Just not enough information, and the bean counters don’t count that way.
I left that meeting a bit early to make it to Westlake (a bit late) for the Westlake Inter-agency Network (WIN) which coordinates the efforts of both Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain and includes police, fire departments, support agencies and schools. Most of the principals of the Alpine schools and charter schools attended. Saratoga City planners showed growth patterns and projections, including roads and businesses, and
Mayor Pengra of Eagle Mountain was there with his city planners to give us an over-view of their growth and plans. What a lively–and lovely–area to represent!

September 14, 2014

AND THE NEXT DAY

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 9:11 pm

REQUEST FOR TAX INCENTIVE FOR OREM MALL

There is a lot of buzz about the request for a tax benefit for the Orem Mall, to be re-branded University Place.  I was surveyed by Pat Jones, of Dan Jones and Associates, where I first heard the plan proposed (to tell the truth, it was pretty blatant for a supposed “survey”).  I am not on the Buildings and Grounds Committee where representatives came to pitch the plan, but I followed all the discussions, right up to last week when the Board had a public discussion. The next step, at the October meeting, will be a vote. 

I would like to explain the pros, and then give my take as to why they are wrong. Please click the paula’s commentary on the right-side-bar,  #1 orem mall

 

SEPTEMBER, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 4:59 am

FUNNY HOW TIME FLIES

Helloooo, Blog.

I see you have missed me.

I know it’s not very nice, but I have been spending time with your cousin, Facebook. He’s fun for small talk and joking around, and has introduced me to so many of his friends. I have been able to reach out to many of those who post and we have had some great conversations. I can also “like” others and be part of their conversation, too.

I also run around with Email quite a bit. It’s a very private friendship and allows us to talk about sensitive things. It’s the best part of my job, working one-on-one with patrons and helping them address their concerns.

I hope we can be friends again. There are some issues I would like to talk to you about that Facebook and Email just don’t work with well.

So, how about a date?

February 5, 2013

JANUARY 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 5:10 am

JANUARY 8 BOARD MEETING

NEW BOARD MEMBERS     The first Board meeting of 2013 began with the swearing in of two new board members and the re-installation of another. Brian Halladay will represent the Pleasant Grove cluster and Scott Carlson the newly-formed Lehi cluster. Lehi has been my area for the past two years, giving me two high schools, three middle schools and twenty elementary schools in one hundred square miles, 25,000 of the 70,000 students in ASD. Whew! While I have loved my Lehi constituents and worked hard to cover our vigorously growing region, true local control demands a Board member representing Lehi. So with both reluctance and relief I welcome the new configuration, which reduced the Orem Board members from three to two—Terry Peterson retired, and Debbie Taylor now represents both the Timpanogas and Orem High clusters. JoDee Sundberg (Mountain View cluster) was elected with me (Westlake cluster) two years ago, along with Wendy Hart (Lone Peak cluster) and John Burton (American Fork cluster). We run again in 2014. (Clusters consist of a high school and all its feeder schools)

ELECTION of BOARD OFFICERS     We also elected Board officers for the next two years. We work closely together, and seven is not such a big number that there are any surprises. Wendy Hart and John Burton ran for president, and I ran for vice president against JoDee Sundberg. John is our new president and JoDee the new veep, which I pretty well knew going in, but both Wendy and I wanted to provide a choice that would lead to discussion. If I am re-elected in two years, I will run for Board officer again. As I pointed out in discussions with my fellow members, I am a gracious loser, and I have plenty of practice as I often lose the vote on the Board. Hey, that’s good—my campaign promise was to speak up and to offer new and fresh ideas, so be happy for me, I am doing my job. Just not as vice president.

JANUARY 22 BOARD MEETING- study session

SPACE CENTER  The Space Center staff is currently in rehearsal and missions should be operational in the next week or so. The immediate short term plans are to run the Space Center at Central Elementary, even though not all of the simulators will be used, such as the Magellan. Clients will be limited to fifth grade so those children who might have missed out on this memorable activity during the updating will have a chance. There will be no after hours or weekend missions.  Long term plans are still on the drawing board. Options include a new building next to Central, or building on ASD property near the water tower in PG, or a partnership with Thanksgiving Point, who can offer 4,000 sq. ft. in the Dinosaur Museum that will be vacant immediately.

LEHI HIGH SCHOOL The re-build of Lehi High will accommodate for the growth anticipated before the second high school is open in 2016. There will be an 18-room satellite on the far north end of the school property (currently parking) ready for 2013-14, paid for by bond funds. The next project planned will be a three-story brick and mortar addition of 12-16 classrooms to be built at the southwest end of the school, projected to be paid from district funds. Future plans include an auditorium, also three-story, that would be an anchor for the school, and built dependending on funding.

THIS ‘N THAT

SCHOOL SECURITY  I have had many, many emails and letters about school security, as the shootings in Connecticut before Christmas have left us all more aware. The District has a safety committee that is reviewing a plethora of issues and has already directed some changes. It just wouldn’t make sense to list what they are doing and point out to the whole world (well, at least you, Dear Reader) any weaknesses. But all safety systems are being examined and 

USBA CONFERENCE   Alpine Board of Education members attended a two-day conference at the Little America Jan. 11-12. There were classes and training, including one very well-attended presentation on finances by ASD Financial Officer Rob Smith, displays and exhibits, discussion by and with legislators, and way too much to eat (burp).

BUS BARN IN SARATOGA SPRINGS Plans are moving forward for the bus barn on the northeast corner of the ASD property anchored by Westlake High, with a berm and landscaping to screen the buses. Housing the 100+ buses that serve Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain should save money for the District (and the taxpayer).  The Herald article mentioning natural gas facilities is a little premature, but we are discussing the option. There is natural gas available at the old bus barn in Lindon as a courtesy to the area, as ASD buses do not use natural gas.

TEXT BOOK SELECTION I have been asked about the selection of texts, especially history books, as patrons have become aware of the possibility of choices they feel may not be appropriate. Let me explain: classroom books are not only a school level decision, but a teacher choice. True, there is a list of approved materials at the state level, but the truth is teachers are in charge. When I taught social studies, as an adjunct to my English classes (a wonderful combination!) I cobbled together my curriculum from a variety of sources (all hail the copy machine!) and only have a vague recollection of texts available.

That being said, the question should be raised at the classroom level. If this is your child, it’s pretty easy to talk to the teacher. But if you do not have a direct connection, all patrons have a right to ask (politely) school personnel what resources are being used. Just stop by any ASD school and make a request.

SNOW DAYS We certainly have had some weather! When the snows hit, you can find out about closures at the ASD website by 6:30 a.m. and it will also be posted on Facebook and Twitter.

I had my own blizzard (small) of emails and phone calls last week from parents who did not agree with the District decision to hold school. I have passed on these comments to the decision-makers, and realize the quandary. When schools are open, you kind of assume the roads must be safe, and some patrons found themselves in situations that were certainly dangerous. My route to a Board meeting that is usually 15 minutes was 50, so you have my sympathy.

But there are so many consequences to a closure, it’s a hard decision to make at 5:30 on a dark winter morning. There are people in every corner of the District reporting in, and consequences must also be considered. Parents must scramble for day care, transportation details are shuffled, and then there’s coordinating with those not in the school system. Then comes April, when we do the make-up, another set of problems.  When I was teaching, an unexpected day off just meant my lesson plans were scrambled (and I usually did school work that day anyway) and I would have to change or cancel any plans I had for spring break, knowing I would be teaching to very small classes.

For the future, I would suggest the old nurse’s slogan: if in doubt, keep ‘em out. Of course there are consequences to that choice to, but another cliché, Safety First. Teachers should be pretty flexible with students who miss.

November 27, 2012

End of the year post

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 1:49 am

To Blog or Not to Blog … and the results are in

To those who answered my query about blogging, thanks for the positive—and kind— responses. That was a happy surprise—blogs are more or less a message in a bottle, you toss it out there and never know who may actually read it. Apparently enough of my friends are interested that I will commit to continue blogging, with the caveat that there may still be gaps. Life is what it is. And for my dear friend Lewis, who has counseled me from day #1 to not try to do too much, thanks for the good advice.

Tweet, Tweet, Twitter

I did not get a single email response saying the reader preferred Twitter, but I have had some sign on as followers. It’s actually kind of fun, and not the complication of Facebook. I insisted my dear husband, Mr. Wonderful, sign up and list me as his only “follow.” I have lured him into what we call “the dark side” (technology for seniors!) first by coaxing him into following my GPS (it saved our lives in Europe) and into texting me (very handy to find each other after one of my zillion meetings), and now Twitter.  We’ll see how this charming, old-world reactionary fares with this account.

Architectural Committee Selected for both Lehi high schools

The committee has been selected to decide on architect/s for the rebuild of Lehi High and the building of the new Lehi high school. The decision target date is January, but could be extended. They will look at architectural designs as well as the needs of the schools and make decisions to present to the Board before opening the discussion to the public.

One charge for the committee will be to include the purposes of a high school as the “place the community wants to gather,” a true community center. I love that underlying purpose of our schools.

Committee members are:

• Pete Swiderski – teacher at Willowcreek Middle School

• Rhonda Mortensen – ASD employee – Human Resources, patron of Lehi community

• Bert Wilson – Lehi Mayor

• Derek Todd – City Administrator – students in Lehi High and Lehi Jr.

• Joel Perkins – Principal – Lehi Jr.

• Sam Jarman – Asst. Supt. K-12

• David Mower – Principal – Lehi High

• Kraig Sweat – Physical Facilities – Construction Supervisor

• Ellie Bodily – Lehi District Community Council

• Chris Ivory – representing Ivory Homes – neighbors to the new school

• Scott Carlson – new ASD Board Member – LHS Community Council

• Jess Christen – Administrator – Supervisor over High Schools

• Chuck Bearce – Director of Physical Facilities

A.    Existing Lehi High  I am personally thrilled that we have been able to keep the old Lehi High School, what I call the Grand Old Lady, rich with generations of tradition. Of course I don’t mean as it currently stands, but with a complete rebuild as one of the three high schools currently under construction (Lehi, Pleasant Grove and American Fork).The master plans call for work done in phases, with completion projected within six years:

Phase I has been the remodel of the office and entry, the two-story classrooms built on the north, and installing artificial turf to allows multi-use of the athletic fields.

Current plans authorize an 18 classroom satellite building for the spring of 2013 to accommodate student growth

Phase II There has been discussion of starting with another two-story classroom addition as early as next summer.

Phase III future plans will include rebuilding the gym, lunchroom and parts of the main building.

B. New High School Timeline

November 2012 – Architect committee work started

January 2013 – selection of architect

February 2013 – steering committee (review designs – provide input)

March 2013 – selection of contractor/Construction Manager

July 2013 – finish design plans

October 2013 – Building & Grounds final review

Feb. 2014 – Bid construction

March 2014 – Start construction on new school

August 2016 – Open new high school

Board Meeting Tuesday, November 27  at Vineyard Elementary School

Study session 4:00 p.m.  A review of student enrollment projections.

Board meeting 6:00  Action Items

1. Utah Consolidated Application (The Board will vote on the district plan for student achievement that puts us in compliance with state requirements)

2. Property Agreement with Eagle Mountain (The Board will vote on the signed agreement for property for a new elementary school in Eagle Mountain north of SR 73 that will relieve overcrowding at Pony Express and Hidden Hollow–yay!)

New DCC members

I have appointed Vicki Shell to represent Saratoga Shores Elementary and Vista Heights Middle Schools on the District Community Council for the Westlake cluster. Earlier Kindra Jones agreed to represent Cedar Valley, Eagle Valley and Mountain Trails Elementary Schools, our schools to the farthest west–and I mean, waaay out there! Thanks for your service, Vicki and Kindra. I also appointed Paul Hancock to represent North Point, Lehi and Traverse Mountain Elementaries in the Lehi cluster, who will serve for the new board member (see the following)

New ASD School Board Members

Welcome to Scott Carlson, who was elected to represent Lehi on the Board beginning in January, 2013, and will start by replacing himself on the DCC where he now serves. This will cut my area of representation in half, a welcome relief after covering 100 square miles and almost one-third of the largest district in Utah! However, I can’t quite let go of my Lehi friends so easily, and will continue to represent my old home town unofficially. We also welcome Brian Halladay who will represent Pleasant Grove. Terry Peterson is stepping down from representing Orem as the city goes from three representatives to two with the census results. So the new Board will have quite a few changes.

Changes at Willow Creek

We will miss Principal Kestin Mattinson at Willow Creek Middle School, who has resigned for personal family medical reasons. Jarom Becar, the assistant principal, will be acting principal until a replacement can be appointed.

Catch-up  Since I have been so sloppy about keeping up my blog, I will share a couple of past issues. Much of Board work is routine, and to the casual observer would be B-O-R-E-D work (luckily I enjoy it, one of life’s little fairness awards). But once in a while I dissent, don’t sway the opinions of my fellow, but still feel I ought to explain myself to the larger community.

Values Before my tenure, the previous Board participated in creating ASD’s Mission, Vision, Values and Goals statement http://alpineschools.org/board-of-education-2/mission-vision-values-goals. As the policy committee reviewed the document, they brought recommendations to the Board to include a fifth value, Renewal. My input was that I would include another point: nowhere have we articulated a value that is shared by the educational leadership as well as the larger community, and that is the sovereignty of the family. Language creates reality, and putting ideas into words gives them a concreteness that would be appropriate. My suggestion was supported by Wendy Hart, opposed by others, and was sent back to the committee (the following Board meeting a patron, Robin Allred, supported my proposal during community comments).

New Eagle Mountain Middle School Boundary decision I also represented my little community of Fairfield, with an elementary school of 136 students, in their request to keep their middle school students at Vista Heights rather than move to the new middle school in Eagle Mountain. The Superintendent expressed some of the practical reasons to follow the boundary committee suggestions, which were valid, but then so were the concerns of the Fairfield parents. In the end, the Fairfield students will go to Eagle Mountain, they have generously conceded and will be, I am sure, very happy there, even though it is not as convenient as having their students close to Westlake.

ps Are you texting for the David vs Goliath contest, where Cedar Valley Elementary is competing for much-needed playground equipment? Daily until Dec 19. Text 1327pbf to 95248

And the merriest of Christmas, with the Spirit of our Dear Savior in your homes and in your hearts.

 And for 2013—bring it on!

June 19, 2012

June Board Meeting

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 6:53 am

TONIGHT’S BOARD MEETING(Tuesday, June 19, 2012)

BUDGET, RE-APPOINTMENT OF SUPT, and this and that

Two items of special interest will be approving the 2011-2012 Final Budget (the money ASD has actually spent) and the 2012-2013 Tentative Budget (the money ASD plans to spend), and re-appointing Superintendent Vern Henshaw for another two year term.

BUDGET

Let me explain in fairly simple terms an issue that the Board has been wrestling with, and (don’t panic, it has a happy ending) it has to do witha tax increase! When the Legislature changed the funding formula for charter schools from coming all from property tax (a state-wide tax) to part coming from local property tax (right out of the ASD budget) our children took the hit: charter school children get the average state amount per pupil while Alpine students are funded well below the average, and now they lose again. Many school districts raised property taxes to make up for the loss of revenue, but Alpine chose to stay the course.

The first year the loss was for about $500,000, but each year the Legislature has upped the amount, until this year ASD loses $1.2 million. And the Legislature may raise it in the future. There has been a push for transparency, so that your property tax bill can clearly identify the amount you pay for charter schools, broken out in the line item marked Alpine School District. The bill passed the House, but never made it out of committee, so you, as taxpayer, don’t know that a portion of your property taxes marked for Alpine actually goes for charter schools. And, to add to the frustration, with the money coming through Alpine, there is no accountability, no way for you, the taxpayer, to know how your money is spent, as opposed to ASD’s public, on-line budget.

It starts to make your fairness bones ache.

Meanwhile, a major push on the Board has been for class size reduction, just as we are seeing needed moneys being siphoned off. What to do, what to do?

Hey, how about raising taxes—just a little, just the amount that goes to the charter schools. That would even things out, and that was the discussion.

Then the good news—final revenue figures were actually better than projected! The amount? $1.5 million—yay, no property tax and we can still work toward reducing class size! We are currently able to fund 30 additional full time teachers on a permanent basis. Hats off to our business administrator, Rob Smith, and his budget staff, Jim Hansen and Teresa Newman, for their excellent work. I am continually impressed by the fiscal management of the district.

SUPT. HENSHAW

Of course the driving force behind the District’s fiscal performance is the superintendent. We will be reappointing Dr. Henshaw for another two years, with the same health and retirement benefits as other employees. He, and Business Administrator Rob Smith, will also be given a raise comparable to other employees.

YES, COMMON CORE—OF COURSE

I plan to attend the August meeting of the State Board to listen to the discussion explained below:

FROM WENDY’S BLOG

http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2012/06/to-tax-or-not-to-tax-budget-2012-13.html
The State Board of Education will be voting in August on whether or not to remain a governing member, to change to advisory member or to withdraw completely from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC), which is creating the state tests all Utah public school students (district and charter) will take come 2014-15, along with 30 other states.  (What is tested is what will be taught.)  Our original agreement with SBAC, as included in our federal Race to the Top application, Phase 1, was just a non-binding memorandum.  In the Race to the top, Phase 2, this non-binding memorandum was replaced with a signed, legally-binding contract. (See page 286 for the signed contract with SBAC.) Additionally, the SBAC consortium signed a legally-binding cooperative agreement with the Federal Department of Education.  So, via our contract with SBAC and their agreement with the Feds, our state tests are subject to Federal control and supervision.  Interestingly, the state board never discussed or voted on this contract with SBAC.  State Board President, Debra Roberts stated in a public forum on April 26 that the contract was not legally binding because the board never voted on it.  However, it was signed by the Board President, the Governor, and the State Superintendent.

It was suggested during the June meeting that a letter be sent changing Utah’s status from Governing Member to Advisory Member.  The Board was told that Advisory status would alleviate our obligations to the consortium.  State Board Member Dave Crandall read the contract and indicated that our obligations would be the same with the exception of losing our vote in the consortium.  Based on Member Crandall’s information, Board President Roberts declined to sign the letter, since there was no apparent advantage.  Kudos to Mr. Crandall for his follow-up!  Because of this, the full board will be voting on whether to withdraw completely from SBAC this August.  Without the direct obligation from the consortium to the Dept of Ed, Utah can adopt the Common Core standards and still determine it’s own tests.  Currently, there are no financial penalties for this course of action.  There is, however, concern that we may not receive our (illegal) No Child Left Behind waiver if we pull out of the testing consortium.  Once we are granted the No Child Left Behind waiver, we are obligated, as far as I can tell, to maintain the Common Core standards and SBAC testing until such time as the Federal government determines we need to do something ELSE in education.

ELL FAMILY LITERACY CENTER

I spent the last eight years of my career at Orem Junior High working with English Language Learners, as the first ELL teacher at the school and pretty much in charge of the program (Cathy Freeman joined me later and was a great asset). Wouldn’t you know it, just as I leave, the program takes these tremendous jumps that I could only dream of, including the young volunteers of Latinos in Action and the ASD Family Literacy Center for English Learner Families housed at my old school, OJH.

The following is from the FLC newsletter:

Since 2008 the English Language Learner and Family Literacy Center (FLC) has been a gathering place for Alpine School District families to learn English, life and technical skills, and the tools to enable children to succeed in their education. This year the FLC extended its outreach to include a community garden and Latino in Action volunteers who assisted in the childcare and computer classes. Also, a new English curriculum and assessments were adopted to align with federal standards. The computer skills class challenges dozens of patrons who attend. Next year the FLC will continue to expand to benefit more families in the ASD community.

GRADUATIONS

One of my favorite “responsibilities” is attending high school graduations, where I get to speak for five minutes (and whoever remembers what is said at graduation) and shake hands with the beautiful young people who marched in to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” There were about four hundred graduates at Westlake High School, and four hundred more at Lehi High the next day, and every graduate was a thrill to meet. I ended my speech with:

Enjoy today. It’s your day. It is all about you, and it should be.

We celebrate you, we honor you, and we love you.

But for all the tomorrows, let it be about everyone else,

            the people you will love,

            those whom you will serve,

            and those who will depend on you.

Let your future reflect your noble characters and all that you have become,

            and all that you will become.

And then, on behalf of the Board, the District, and the State of Utah, I was privileged to accept the graduates and hand them the diploma that certified that one part of their life had been completed, and another would be just commencing.

I also serve on the Board of Directors for Mountainland Applied Technology College (MATC) and was pleased to conduct the graduation at Mountain View High School. Again I shook hands with the loveliest young people I could ever meet, and loved every minute.

 

May 15, 2012

May Board Meeting, etc.

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 5:26 am

I have learned many things serving on the Board, which has been very rewarding to an educator who labels herself a Lifelong Learner.

One of the things I have learned is that I am not a very good blogger. But, oh well, still trying, so here is another installment.

BOARD MEETING MAY 15 Board meetings are held at the District Office once a month from April to August and in December. The other months, September to March, have two meetings each month, the first at the D.O. and the second held at different schools.

STUDY SESSION 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. The study session is a public meeting, and where much of the board work is done. May’s meeting has two purposes:

(1)   to share reports from the recent National School Boards Convention

(which I attended in Boston last month, then Mr. Wonderful and I rented a car and toured from Palmyra, New York, to Kittery, Maine, and yes, it was grrrreat!)

(2) to review the proposed 2012-2013 Maintenance and Operation Budget of almost $400 million

(M & O is defined as everything except buildings, buses, and other long-term stuff, and discussed extremely well in Wendy Hart’s blog: http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2012/05/money-and-management.htm )

BOARD MEETING 6:00 p.m. starts with routine business, then the superintendent will present property agreements. An action item will be the school calendar, and reports will be on membership. Details can be found at the district web site: http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgibin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=1131

CLOSED SESSION will follow, in which the board will continue the process of evaluating the superintendent that began with board members meeting with the executive director of the Utah School Board who is facilitating the process. We created lists of areas of competence and areas for improvement that were then put in survey form for board members to respond to, which will be the basis for a formal evaluation.

Closed session is discussion only, as all contract decisions must be voted on in an open meeting.

COMMON CORE

My blog goes to a wide variety of readers, so a controversial topic like Common Core is difficult to comment on without giving offense. Alpine School District is implementing the program, and as a member of the school board, I support an administration that is a leader in educational excellence.

That being said, I must state that I am still uncomfortable with a national curriculum, with centralized power in a field that cries out for individualization and innovation. But I am comfortable with vigorous debate, scrutiny of all facets of Common Core, and keeping a spotlight on the implementation as we work out the kinks of a mandate that has never been piloted and has no data to testify to what it can produce.

From my perspective the dust-up in the last few months between proponents of Common Core and those who oppose it has been very positive. I see those who are devoted to the concept of common standards being asked to examine every aspect, which can only be healthy, such as the State School Superintendent, Larry Shumway, moving to modify Utah’s arrangement with the testing consortium that is funded by the federal government. That means a lot of different sides are being heard, a lot of questions studied, a lot of voices speaking up. Kind of like democracy in action.

MORE NATIONAL EDUCATION?

The first time I read about Common Core, it was in a newspaper article, long before I heard any discussion of the issue, so this story felt a little like déjà vu. This is about science standards being developed by 26 states, with the aim of all 50 states to accepting them

I was assured by two different presenters at USBA training last summer that Utah would never accept national standards in science or in social studies, as these two areas were too value-laden (that to an old English teacher who watches implementation of national standards in language arts, as though what children read and write could be strictly objective).

Front page in USA Today May 5:

New educational science standards due out Friday give teachers hope that they can turn around U.S. students’ lackluster science performance.

Twenty-six states have agreed to help develop them. Wheeler and others hope educators in all 50 states adopt the standards

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-05-08/school-science-test-score/54873156/1

My brief research on some of the groups developing the standards includes those who list their agenda as implementing Common Core, so, it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck ….

January 30, 2012

JANUARY WRAP-UP

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 7:58 am

JANUARY BOARD MEETINGS

The Jan 10 meeting was very short (lucky Scouts working on their merit badges) and mostly routine. Wendy Hart abstained from approving the claims, and brought the issue to a discussion by the Board of whether we are actually “approving” the hundreds and hundreds of items which we obviously cannot have studied in depth, and if this gives the impression the Board is actually overseeing District finances. Her reasoning is sound, and is explained in her own blog http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2012/01/claims-board-meeting-jan-10-2012.html. But this is the way it has always been done, and we will continue the practice as is. My own take is that it is redundant, but it is traditional. I would be more comfortable with the word “accept” the claims, as we are accepting what our financial people have done with the budget we have already approved, but I am okay with “approving” the claims every month.

Jan 24 was the dedication of the new Riverview Elementary School in Harvest Hills, with a really cute program from the children and then the usual Board stuff, Mark Clement’s remarks and yours truly giving the dedicatory prayer. The one action item was approving a resolution authorizing the issuance of up to $55 million in bonds to begin Phase 1 bond projects (details on the ASD website under “Board of Education”). The time table was moved up a couple of weeks to take advantage of market conditions. Rob Smith at the District is  happy to explain the details (better than me) and he kind of likes to show where they are saving tax-payer dollars.

ASD DISTRICT BOUNDARIES

For background, Alpine has seven districts in the district (huh? Yes, they are called districts—but I always refer to my “area” to be a little clearer). Each board member should have 1/7th of the entire district in their district. Until Westlake, there were seven high school “clusters” and seven board members, so it was neat and tidy.

With the growth in the north and west, and a second high school, I now have two high school clusters and 1/3 of the entire district: 25 of the 79 schools! District 1 currently covers Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs and Lehi, with a very strange boundary in the northeast corner that puts Traverse Ridge in my district, but they vote in Highland/Alpine. With the rapid growth, the district is way out of proportion, with District 1 having one school board member (me), representing a population almost equal to Orem, which has three school board members.

With the new census, that will be equalized, and the districts have been redrawn. Some of the original proposed boundaries were pretty weird, but the County Commissioners, who draw the map, have settled on a proposal that is as fair as possible and recognizes cities boundaries over population equality.

There will be an election for three board members in November: the new Lehi representative; the representative for the two Orem districts that will be redrawn as one, currently held by Terry Peterson and Debbie Taylor; and the regular election rotation for the Lindon/Pleasant Grove district, currently held by Mark Clement. Candidates will file in March, and there will be a primary election with the top two candidates in each area going onto the final November ballot.

I will still represent Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, but Lehi will now elect a board member to work with me—no matter how they draw the lines, Lehi will always be my people (I lived in Lehi for seven years, and Mr. Wonderful taught at Meadow for eleven years). Wendy Hart, Alpine/Highland; John Burton, American Fork; and JoDee Sundberg, Orem, will also hold their seats for two more years, although some of the districts have boundary changes. The maps are based on registered voters, and my new district will be somewhat smaller than the others. But with growth, I don’t expect my reprieve to last very long!

There will be a public input meeting tonight, Monday, January 30, at 6 p.m. at 100 E. Center St. Room #1400 in Provo, and they will adopt the final boundaries at the regular Commission meeting Tuesday, January 31, at 9 a.m. The detail map is posted on the County’s website: http://www.utahcountyonline.org/Dept/COMMISH/Data/WNData/SchoolBoardAlpine12712.pdf.

OTHER STUFF

I spent two days in Salt Lake at the Utah School Board Association Conference, and attended sessions conducted by legislators, one on the functioning of SCCs, and another a presentation of Latinos in Action, a program in ten of our ASD schools that seeks to address diversity in the district.

I have also been “On the Hill” with the Legislature, and will attend more sessions. There are dozens of educational bills proposed, and legislators can’t be expected to know everything. So some of us better help them!

I will be speaking with Wendy Hart at the Highland 9/12 meeting this Friday. When I get discouraged considering the tremendous forces backing Common Core, Wendy reminds me that the Founders didn’t think they could win either. So …

COMMON CORE

I am adamantly opposed to a national consortium. There is no right way to do a wrong thing, and banding with 45 states from California to New York to remove educational control from the community and homogenize learning is abdicating our state responsibility for education. Period.  Once we go down that road, it is farewell to local control and parental rights.

There are lots of details to discuss (besides the Constitutional questions) and many, many red flags, each with the assurance that all will be well, don’t worry. But I do, starting with the rush to implement a program that has no pilot, no data, no text books and no assessments, but what the heck, it does sound good so let’s build the plane as it’s going down the runway, whichever runway that might be and whatever destination we are headed for.

Then there are the test questions being formulated, such as a math problem asking students to design a brochure for customers for their gas bill (!) and are so wrong-headed someone may actually change that. There is also follow-the-money, which is a scary trail that includes the federal government paying $330M for the assessments plus the funds at every level from progressive “philanthropies.”  How about the assurance that we will only buy into math and language arts, never science and social studies which need to reflect our local values (again—!) but the title “English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technology” belies that assurance and reveals the back channels.

­­­­­­­­Never mind the details—even if the program were perfect I would oppose it. Utah knows what’s best for Utahns (I borrowed that from Texas, who does NOT participate in Common Core). We have the talent and the experience to set our own standards, borrow them from Common Core if we want, or Massachusetts, whose math standards are already higher than CC, or social studies from Texas, where our values are more closely aligned. But to entangle ourselves in a national program which has no data because it has never been tried! with all kinds of ramifications should terrify us. It sounds like Nancy Pelosi on health care, let’s pass it so we can see what’s in it. The fact is nobody knows right now. It’s just sounds like a good idea.

I have discussed Common Core with other school board members, with ASD personnel and with legislators, and have probably not changed anybody’s mind, but my mind has not changed, either. The positive attitudes I hear seem based on the idea of some “magic bullet” in being able to compare students across the entire United States, but I fail to see the value. In my nineteen years teaching in ASD, I was given at least FIVE different core standards, not evolving and fine-tuned, but each one The Anser, a totally different approach based on the latest methodology. And here we go again with Common Core. I lived through No Child Left Behind, The Answer, the Great Federal Answer—it’s hardly mentioned any more, except in little sniggers (great article in Sunday’s Deseret News about its failure—but then it didn’t take teachers ten years to start laughing about it http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700219911/At-10-year-mark-No-Child-Left-Behind-is-far-from-reaching-its-goals.html).

Wendy Hart was been running a “blog-a-thon,” writing a series of eight articles on Common Core. She shares tons of research and quotes from credible sources. For a more detailed discussion, I have included her first three installments on the sidebar to the right 1. wendy hart on common core; for her continuing blogs see http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com

ASD leaders propose that we can get better standards by reaching across the nation, getting input from the entire country. But there is a lot that has been accepted by those across the nation that does not reflect Utah values. So now we are in a consortium where we have to try to filter out those influences that we do not wish to accept? Here are actual quotes from teacher education literature that is “out there”:

“We cannot afford to become so bogged down in grammar and spelling that we forget the whole story. … The onslaught of antihuman practices that this nation and other nations are facing today: racism, and sexism, and the greed for money and human labor that disguises itself as ‘globalization.'” Enid Lee et al Beyond Heroes and Holidays

“There is no place for requiring students to practice tedious calculations that are more efficiently and accurately done by using calculators.” Marilyn Burns About Teaching Mathematics

“Content knowledge is not seen to be as important as possessing teaching skills and knowledge about the students being taught. … Successful teachers understand the outside context of community, personal abilities, and feelings, while they establish an inside context or environment conducive to learning.” Dennis Adams and Mary Hamm New Designs for Teaching and Learning

(quoted from an article by Walter Williams, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700218624/Schools-of-education-are-to-blame-for-poor-student-performance.html?pg=2)

Good grief!

Board Priorities

The Jan. 6 Board workshop created priorities to direct the superintendent and staff for the 2012 year.

These are the top six as rated by the board, the superintendent, and the business administrator.

  1. Support the list of Superintendent and Cabinet Focus items for the next 6-12 months
  2. Continue to recruit quality teachers and administrators and retain them. Mentor and train leadership
  3. Filter out low-performing teachers and administrators
  4. Address class-size issue (especially elementary and possibly subject)
  5. Increase the use of technology in instruction
  6. Have plan to reduce debt
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