Will MCCSC’s support for IB program go equally to high and low poverty schools?

I’m posting my comments to the MCCSC Board of Trustees at the April meeting. They were made before our director of elementary education described the cost of the program. I still feel this is a worthwhile investment, as long as we do not lose something valuable in return…and as long as it is made equitably.

First, I want to thank administrators and our school board for encouraging and supporting three MCCC elementary schools as they apply to the International Baccalaureate program. I am excited about this initiative. I attended an information session about this process at University Elementary last week. I came away with the impression that University’s staff is deeply prepared for and deeply committed to the challenge of becoming an IB school. It sounded like a lot of work. Teachers will be collaborating to develop a curriculum in which all subjects are thematically related around areas of inquiry, giving students the opportunity to explore subjects deeply, from many angles, and to connect and apply them in concrete ways. The program will also have a world language component.

Here are the goals that the IB program has for its learners: that they be inquirers, thinkers, communicators, and risk takers…that they become knowledgeable, principled, open-minded, caring, balanced, and reflective. The program aims to be developmentally appropriate and to support students’ social and emotional development.

These are worthwhile goals, and I believe that they reflect what Bloomington as a community wants for its children–for all of its children.

Of the three schools applying to become IB schools–University, Childs, and Templeton–two are very privileged schools that are already perceived as highly desirable. University and Childs have so much. In addition to their excellent and stable staffs, they serve well-educated and relatively affluent families. They have many parents who volunteer, and PTOs that fund-raise a lot of money.

The IB program represents curricular enrichment. My sense is that it will be a powerful draw and that it will have an effect on the perceived desirability of school-residential areas and thus on local real estate. It has the potential to exacerbate differences in school populations, or, if it is begun in Title 1 or less privileged schools, to lessen those differences. That is why I am very glad that Templeton is also applying.

I am grateful to our administrators for initiating and supporting the IB applications. I want to ask you, as a board, to encourage our administration to locate such efforts in a balanced way, with at least one Title I school for each lower poverty school. If the program goes well, I would love to see a plan for expansion that is very deliberate and transparent about distributing this curricular enrichment across schools.

I hope that one of your goals, as a board, is to strive for equity in the opportunities and quality of programs offered to children throughout our district.

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An Indiana voter pleads: vote for Torlakson in the Democratic Primary

I just sent an e-mail to my family, asking them to vote for Torlakson for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Torlakson is the incumbent, a career educator. His challenger, Tuck, is a Harvard MBA and former charter school executive. So why am I looking across the country to California and feeling strongly about this?

Here are some principles that matter to me:

  • I believe that public schools should be under the local democratic control of the communities they serve.
  • I believe that educators themselves should be well-prepared and certified professionals who are involved in creating the curricula they teach and in making decisions about the school environment–like class sizes, qualifications for positions, and the support staff and wraparound services needed. Unions are an important part of that. Here in Indiana, our legislature has basically gutted the teachers’ unions. In the next county over, teachers’ salaries will be capped at about $37,000 per year. Who is going to go into teaching? Who will be able to afford to make it a career? My kids benefit greatly from having deeply experienced teachers.
  • All children deserve access to a broad, humane curriculum that includes the arts, sciences, p.e., history, foreign languages, civics, literature, and math.
  • There is no magic bullet for improving education. Public schools need good facilities and resources, especially teachers and support staff like nurses, social workers, and libraries staffed by school librarians.
  • Public education policy should not be set by those who stand to make a profit from education tax dollars, like testing companies, school curricula publishers, for-profit charter companies, tech companies that are making services for schools–and the investors in those companies.

Here are some of the initiatives that are called, by the people pushing them, “education reform,” and that I and many others would call “corporate reform.” They are the things pushed by the Broad Foundation (and the Gates Foundation, and the Walton family, and I’m sure they would be pushed by the candidate that Eli Broad is supporting):

  • Test-based “accountability” and grading of schools and teachers according to the test scores of their students. This may sound like a good idea, but it’s got some fundamental problems. The basic one is that test scores correlate most strongly to the socioeconomic status of a student’s family. There all all kinds of things that affect children’s test performance that are outside of the control of schools and teachers. Inevitably, schools that serve inner city, low income families are labeled “failing.” (Now, some are good and some may have severe problems, but I don’t think that test scores reveal the difference.) Test-based “accountability” like that imposed by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top creates perverse incentives for schools to teach to the test and to use cheap tools marketed to improve test performance–wasting money that could go toward hands-on science experiments, for instance. Such so-called “accountability” creates incentives to narrow the curriculum to the subjects tested, which tend to be math and “language arts.” These punitive tests have made it politically possible to privatize education: label a school failing, close it, and open a charter in its place. The charters have no better average test performance–but they can have high teacher turnover, which is profitable because salaries stay low, but not good for kids’ education.
  • Channeling public money to charters and private schools through vouchers. Now, there are many wonderful private schools, but I think public money should go to public schools with democratic oversight. Private schools have mechanisms through which they can select their students, but public schools have a mandate to serve everybody. In Indiana, over 95% of the private schools receiving voucher money are religious schools.
  • Pushing so called “blended education,” also marketed as “personalized education.” This model involves having children sit at computers for part of the day doing pre-packaged test prep. A computer room that looks like a call center can have seventy to one hundred kids overseen by two teachers. This is not what I would want for my kids, but hedge fund managers or legislators who send their kids to private school may believe that it is a financially sound way to educate inner city children. A number of Indianapolis charter schools with this model are slated to open soon. (There are also wonderful charter schools. They are much more likely to be found in areas that serve high income or well educated families, but they also mean a loss of resources for public schools with locally elected school boards.)

So-called “reformers” have managed to push their agenda successfully by donating a lot of money to politicians and by co-opting the language of social justice and civil rights. Unfortunately, Obama’s Secretary of Education (not an educator himself) Arne Duncan is a key player.

Here’s a little more on the background of the California incumbent and the challenger:
http://my.firedoglake.com/garycohn/category/charter-schools/

Here’s a Reuters piece about hedge funds.
http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/usa-education-investment-idINL2E8J15FR20120802

And the Parthenon Group executive, Lytle, who is quoted at the beginning of it also gave a Powerpoint presentation in 2009 in which he stated that “all students are not equal; some are more profitable than others.” (http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2014/02/all-students-are-not-equal-some-are.html). These investors are channeling a lot of money to politicians from both sides of the aisle. Tony Bennett, our state superintendent whom we managed to oust in 2012, was receiving huge amounts of out-of-state money from corporate donors.

–Jenny

The letter MCCSC school board members wouldn’t discuss

At the January 28, 2014, MCCSC board meeting, board member Sue Wanzer asked other members of the board to collectively oppose HJR-3, the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Indiana. She wanted them, as a board, to simply send a letter stating their opposition to the amendment to the legislative delegation, speaker of the house, governor, and superintendent of public instruction.

Board president Keith Klein had refused to put Sue’s request on the agenda, but Sue was able to make a motion to add it and to read the letter she had written. Our board of school trustees would not agree to amend the agenda to discuss Sue’s proposal. Jeanine Butler, David Sabbagh, Keith Klein, and Kelly Smith voted against it. Martha Street abstained, while Lois Sabo Skelton supported Sue.

I asked Sue if she would be willing to share her letter here. I have pasted it in below. I hope you will read it and judge for yourself: how well did the MCCSC school board members represent our community by declining to stand up for the civil rights of employees, students, and their families?

Dear Representative XXXXXX:

The MCCSC Board of School Trustees opposes HJR 3 and asks that you also will oppose this constitutional amendment for the following reasons:

Acceptance and Inclusion:
Since Bloomington and MCCSC have long celebrated and embraced all diversity, any action that might hurt any residents of our community, hurts us all.

HJR 3 will not just keep away members of the GLBT community, but many others who view discrimination by the government as intolerable and will choose to live and work elsewhere.

Health and welfare of our students:
We wish to send a message to all children that their family structure, no matter the composition is valued in our school corporation.

We want to ensure that our students know we support all families and no one is less important because of their parents’ sexual orientation.  Recognizing those marriages as legal will help children understand that they are just as valued as any other children.

From the Bloomington City Council Resolution 13-15:

“Marriage inequality harms families and children
According to the Williams Institute’s analysis of 2010 U.S. Census data, approximately 497 same-sex couples reside in Monroe County, 16 percent of whom are raising children; approximately 274 same-sex couples live within Bloomington’s corporate boundaries. Historically, Bloomington has boasted one of the highest per capita populations of same-sex couples in the nation.

Marriage equality is good for children. As recognized by the American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP), decades of peer-reviewed research is clear that a child’s well-being is more affected by the strength of the relationship between parents, and by a couple’s socioeconomic resources, than by their sexual orientation. Studies consistently demonstrate that children raised by same-sex couples are just as successful and well-adjusted as those raised by opposite-sex couples. As declared by the AAP, all children have a right to the financial, psychological, and legal security that inheres in legal marriage of their parents.”(Bloomington, IN Common Council Resolution 13-15, December 4, 2013)

Employment:
Marriage inequality harms economic development and hurts business. We wish to attract and retain the best and brightest staff.  As an employer, we desire that the state do everything to be welcoming and inclusive.  Discrimination could keep top candidates from seeking employment within our schools. Indiana business leaders such as Eli Lily and Company, Cummins, Inc., the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce oppose HJR 3 due to the possible negative effects on employment and economic development.

As a school corporation, we wish to attract the best and the brightest to our school corporation and not lose those who currently live in Indiana or may relocate to Indiana because of discrimination enshrined in the constitution.

We ask that you recognize that we need to do everything possible to attract the most qualified to our state to live, work, and contribute to our economy, but most especially to attract the most talented educators to help us continue to create a prominent school corporation, and not limit our possibilities by turning away those who would view Indiana as unwelcoming. Passage of HJR3 will only hurt those efforts.

In conclusion, we ask that you oppose HJR 3 and instead focus on the very meaningful issues affecting children and their families including job creation, economic development issues, poverty issues, increased funding for public education, and support of our teachers, students and families.

Yours sincerely,

MCCSC kicks the diversity can down the road

People were standing in the hall when I got to the school board meeting tonight, and there was no chance of sitting in the room itself; it was packed and had been for at least half an hour. (Several half rows of seats were reserved for kids, parents, and teachers from Templeton, who were the recipients of an award.) I counted later; there were at least twenty-five of us in the hall and probably another thirty to forty in the meeting room.

I had read in the Herald-Times today that the two assistant principals at Tri-North were finalists for the principal’s job (vacated recently when Gale Hill retired). One is a black woman who has been an assistant principal at Tri-North since 1997, with 22 years in education. The other is a white man with 15 years in education who took the job of assistant principal at Tri-North in 2011. MCCSC selected the one with less seniority at the school, less time in MCCSC, and less education experience. The personnel recommendations were up for approval by the board tonight.

I wasn’t able to hear the first ten or so people who gave public comment (there was some glitch and the lobby television was not carrying the board meeting), but then I moved close enough to the door to catch words if I strained to hear them. Those giving public comment were overwhelmingly African-American. School board guidelines prohibited them from saying anything personal about the candidates. Speakers expressed bafflement about the decision-making process; they expressed concern about implicit bias; they asked for explanations. Many spoke passionately about the need for diversity in the teaching and administrative staff and the lack of progress on that front since the 60’s. One young woman said that after elementary school, she never had a teacher of color. The director of the office of diversity education at IU told the board, “Your decisions have larger implications in the community.” He had led sessions years ago on multicultural competence with MCCSC educators, and they had looked at racial patterns in suspensions. The administration at the time did not want him to break down the numbers to discover if some teachers were more likely to suspend students of color.

The man in front of me said, “Consider diversity as a solution to segregation. Black children need to be around black people. White children need to be around black people. Children need to be in diverse situations.”

Another man told the board, “Take a look at yourselves as a board. Take a look at your principal administration. I bet you everybody is white.”

One woman said that when she came to Bloomington in 1969 and her daughter started school, she looked around the classroom and saw no representations of people who looked like her daughter. She asked the teacher if she could bring in pictures of people of color, and did so, cutting out pictures from Ebony magazine. Months later, her daughter asked her, “Mama, when will I have blue eyes and blonde hair?” That little girl is now the only black teacher at University school.

Another person who spoke said his parents had been in some of the last segregated classes in Bloomington; his father was in fifth grade at Banneker while it was the African-American school.

[Two people, including myself, voiced concerns about moves that may signal a lessening of investments in school libraries, but more about that, and about other agenda items, in another post.]

When public comment was finished, board president Keith Klein moved quickly to the next agenda item. After that was done, he interjected a “thank-you” to the public for their comments. Dr. DeMuth also proceeded through the superintendent’s report and then thanked those who came. She said their input was well thought out and that MCCSC would put together a group to work on diversity recruiting and retention. She said, “We need to strengthen that piece.”

Some people left after the comment period, but many stayed (and folks in the hall took the places of the Templeton group when they left). The room was still full, a sea of mainly black faces, as the meeting proceeded through a number of agenda items.

When Mrs. Chambers gave the personnel report, which included the hiring for the principal position, the board unanimously passed its recommendations. There was no comment, no question, no motion, and no abstention from any board member.

Then most of the audience left. They stayed in the hall, talking quietly, and several came back in and sat down again. An elderly man behind me said in a low voice that many years ago he had applied for a job in MCCSC and been turned down.

The rest of the meeting passed in a blur for me. Board members gave individual comments at the end, expressing support for the hiring decision and affirming Dr. DeMuth’s proposal for a diversity committee.

I strongly recommend viewing the public comment portion of this meeting on CATS when it becomes available.

For Indiana Legislators, Some Choices Get More Respect

A conversation today with an assistant in Rep. Robert Behning’s office helped me understand the attractiveness of vouchers to Indiana legislators.

Per-pupil voucher funding is less than per-pupil funding that public schools receive. The remainder is pooled and distributed to public schools.  Since it does not go directly back to the schools that have lost students, who are overwhelmingly in low-income districts, this constitutes upward redistribution of wealth. And the supermajority in both houses seems to approve of this kind of redistribution.

Keeping in mind that Indiana’s supreme court just decided that vouchers do not violate the state constitution because the money goes first to the parents–not directly to the private, over-90%-religious schools who then immediately receive it–I asked Behning’s assistant why the private schools who are the beneficiaries of our tax dollars will not be held to the same accountability standards as our public schools. He then said something about choice. My translation (not his words): Legislators respect the “choice” of families to send children to private schools, so accountability is not necessary.

My question, then, is why those parents’ choice is more respected than the choice of parents who send their children to their local public schools? Is one choice more equal than the other? One requires no justification, but the other requires a massive testing machine and test-based A-F grading system?

Behning’s assistant: “Remember, we don’t give voucher parents the same amount per pupil that goes to public schools.”

Me: “Are you saying that private schools shouldn’t be held to the same standards because they cost the state less money?”

Assistant: “No, that’s not what I’m saying.”

I’m thinking I need to work on my phone manner. I start polite, and I grow irate, and in the moment it’s hard to remember it’s not this young man’s fault. Wait a second…he’s working for Behning! He must have voted for Behning! Maybe it is his fault!

Working toward healthy, hunger-free kids

Today I was able to sit in on a meeting of MCCSC’s Coordinated Health Issues Committee (CHIC). It includes school personnel (staff and teachers), community members who work with organizations that serve children, IU Health and Southern Indiana Pediatrics representatives, an IU School of Public Health professor, and one current and one former school board member.

The bulk of today’s meeting was devoted to a presentation on the new USDA guidelines for school lunches that follow from the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) that Congress passed in 2010. As I sat listening to our food services director, I felt a growing gratitude for those who shepherded these new guidelines into law (the Institute of Medicine? public health bureaucrats?). Seriously, this is a major achievement of the Obama administration. It emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low fat dairy. Only school meals that meet the dietary requirements will be reimbursed by the feds. Children must choose a vegetable or a fruit for the meal to count as a meal. No longer can a cookie or chips count as a grain (gasp).

Vegetables are now sorted into subgroups (such as dark greens, red/orange, legumes, starch) and starting next year, schools will be required to serve at least one offering of each subgroup each week.

Another key part of the HHFKA legislation is that USDA now has jurisdiction not just over school meals, but also over all food served at school during regular school hours. This covers vending machines and the “competitive foods” such as a la carte options that typically include stuff like Gatorade and chips. It seems likely that this will be phased in slowly and will be somewhat limited to having healthy options.The USDA has just released the text of its proposed rule, available through a link at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2013/02/0019.xml. Since it’s about 150 pages, I’m hoping to find a summary. The public comment period has just opened; we’ll be able to provide feedback through www.regulations.gov. Without having read the proposed rule, it seems to me likely that the snack food industry will have ample comments to make. We owe it to our kids to weigh in as well.

While in Indiana vending machines are not allowable by law in elementary schools, they are present in the middle schools and high schools in common spaces where the kids hang out. I asked our food services director if there had been any discussion about reducing or eliminating them. The answer was, “Not really, so far, because the sales from the machines support school activities.”

I was very happy to learn that there is now a salad bar at each school in MCCSC. For reasons of hygiene and food safety, the salad bars at elementary schools are required to be monitored by an adult; thus they are the first thing to get shut down if a staff person calls in sick. MCCSC’s food services director said that some principals are devoted to their salad bars and will monitor them personally if staff is short, mentioning specially Mark Conrad at Rogers. Thank you, Mark!

Another cool thing going on: New Tech High School has an after school cooking club that meets twice a week. It was born when a student told the food services manager there that he wanted to learn to make himself healthy food when he got home several hours before his parents.

P.S. Today was a meeting of the full committee, but most of the time CHIC members meet in their subcommittees, which include “social and emotional climate,” “family and community involvement,” “health education,” “physical education/school health services,” “food and nutrition services,” and “school facilities/school site staff health promotion.” I am so glad we have professionals from various parts of the community who are volunteering their time to helping strengthen our schools’ support for kids’ and employees’ health. If you wish to bring an issue to the attention of a subcommittee, or to participate as a parent representative, please contact Becky Rose, Director of Student Services, at rrose@mccsc.edu.

Hold the infomercials, please

Attendees at tonight’s board meeting were treated to a description of how Panther Plus (i.e., the extra time at South conferred by the longer day) is being used by teachers and students. The message: the levels of collaboration and student progress are impressive. The medium: a ten-minute video, introduced by the South principal, complete with a scripted student conversation, talking department heads, fade-ins, images of industrious students and lively clips of drama improvisation and band rehearsal. Oh, and some upbeat music, tying it all together.

Did the students whose faces and voices were featured volunteer to participate because they appreciate the longer day? Or did they just happen to be in a class  whose job was to produce this public relations effort? Either is entirely possible, but the point is that there was no way for me, sitting there, to know, or to know how representative their experience might be. Any movie is a tightly controlled artwork. It conveys a point of view. More nuanced ones entertain divergent views or explore conflicts before taking a position, but this was your basic low-bar propaganda piece. Do I sound offended? I was offended. I was attending a meeting in the expectation of hearing data presented and discussed, some questions, some conversation. Not to consume pre-processed content.

Board members reacted approvingly. Keith Klein said, “My hat’s off to anyone who was involved with this.” Lois Szabo Skelton praised the principal for his leadership in exposing students to a scheduling pattern that will help them their whole life with their organizational skills. Sue Wanzer said, “This production was something special…we’ve got to take this show on the road.” Watch for it to appear on the MCCSC web site, as several board members recommended that it be placed there. They should think twice about that. I’d like to think their constituency cares more about a transparent and thorough evaluative process than about high production values.

Trust but verify

In one of her first public events here in Bloomington, our new superintendent stressed that the safety of students was her first priority. At tonight’s school board meeting, she unveiled a plan MCCSC is taking to enhance that safety: keeping all doors locked during the school day and installing closed-circuit cameras to record the front entryways so that visitors can be allowed in by buzzer. It’s going to take some time to accomplish this, because currently none of the inner entryway doors have locks.

Are you feeling safer? Or are you feeling a little confused? When we enclose our students in locked buildings, what are we saying to them about safety? Whom exactly are we keeping out? On what visual basis would a receptionist decide who looks like a threat? Would this practice actually deter someone with malicious intent?

At my daughter’s school, all doors except the front entry are locked during the day. I see the logic of that. I also like the fact that I can walk in the front doors, smile at the secretary if she’s in her office, fill out a visitor’s or volunteer’s tag, and go directly to my daughter’s classroom. When I sign my name in the log, I often see that fifteen others have signed in before me. I like seeing this. It says something about our school community… that the school welcomes parents, that parents value the school and want to support the teachers (and yes, that they have the luxury to be able to do so). When I see the names of all the adults who have come into the school that day, it makes me feel connected to my community, and yes, safe.

How do we learn whom to trust and how? Is safety a matter of installing locks or of building relationships? Can we really have it both ways? I’m concerned that focus on the first could erode the second…and that would be a sad trade-off. The choices we make create a culture, and culture has a real effect.

Appealing to our fears may be the emotional equivalent of the Indiana law that, in the name of safety, requires us to bring only packaged and store-bought snacks to our schools. That law is a nutritional and environmental absurdity, doubly bad for our children’s health.

South does not have a librarian

…And the high school won’t next year, either, according to the budget MCCSC board members approved  Tuesday. Instead of a librarian (or “media specialist,” the current term), the library has two part-time support staff.

How did this happen? I thought that MCCSC and the community had sorted through this issue a couple years ago with the drastic 2009 budget cuts. All librarians were cut, then. People got really mad. MCCSC brought back the librarians and cut extra-curriculars instead, which were then saved for that year by a massive fund-raising effort. With the passage of the referendum, both received support.

At the meeting tonight, we found out that it wasn’t that simple. The principals were given the authority to allocate funds according to the needs they perceived at their schools. Apparently, at South, the principal decided to use the money for another classroom teacher and to hire two part-time library support staff instead of a media specialist. (For those of you with H-T subscriptions, here is the link to an article that describes the principals’ discretionary power. It specifies that the money in question was specifically what the budget had set aside for preventionists and interventionists…so how did the media specialist position come up for grabs?)

Board members did not seem to have a clear picture of the situation. Board president Jim Muehling asked our comptroller to clarify–didn’t South have two part-time librarians? Tim Thrasher said, no, those are support staff positions.

Kelly Smith spoke up in favor of principals being able to determine where funds should go, specifically mentioning counselors as something they might decide to cut. He also said, “Maybe you’ve got eight students in a world language class, you should be able to decide your school would be better served by another language arts teacher.”

There’s a problem here. Principals are not directly accountable to the community. The school board is. To turn budget decisions over to principals would be a profound abdication of the board’s responsibilities. A budget is the expression of a vision, and a vision has commitments and structured priorities. We need our board to work with the community to articulate what we hold necessary for our children.

P.S. More thoughts: board member Sue Wanzer asked the board to consider ways to help MCCSC’s lowest paid employees with their insurance premiums (apparently they have a much higher cost to bear than the teachers). I hope to see the board follow through on this. Sue also invited public comment on the budget.

P.P.S. I do my best to record what people say, but my quotes are approximate. Please go to CATS for the video record.

iPads: the cure for what ails us

MCCSC administrators have decided to spend their remaining federal stimulus money on iPads and accessories for sixth graders (probably) and their teachers at all of our six Title I elementary schools–Arlington Heights, Templeton, Fairview, Grandview, Summit, and Highland Park. As our director of elementary education described it, teachers will now be holding interactive whiteboards…they will “no longer be tied to a mouse.” They will be able to see how many students understand new concepts in “real time.” He added that local companies are eager to develop classroom-specific apps, “free on a trial basis.”

If you are inclined to leap out of your seat and applaud, don’t…our board members did it for you at the meeting this past Tuesday. Here’s a sampling of the response:

Keith Klein had just attended a presentation about these devices in schools, where he was blown away by “the improvement, accelerated learning, and precociousness” of twelve sixth graders, and declared, “They sold it.”

Sue Wanzer said, “This is like a dream come true…How do I get back into 6th grade? This is really about student learning…students will be able to see plants grow on a screen.”

Kelly Smith said, “I’m a techno-geek. I love this stuff.” He complimented the administration on planning to spend the money on technology rather than people (since the money is temporary, long-term staff positions are untenable).

Lois Szabo-Skelton said, “This application covers every area of learning…reading, math, and hand-eye coordination..This is a way for every child in every school system, to even the playing field.”

And Jeanine Butler said “I was amazed at the kind of equipment these kids have been exposed to.”

Okay, iPads are cool. I get that. And children at Title I schools are less likely to have had as much technology exposure. But I think we need to step back and ask ourselves, do we want our children’s classroom interactions mediated increasingly by screens? Are devices truly a powerful democratizer in the hands of children, as their makers would like us to believe? What would be alternative ways of spending the money for 800-plus iPads and their apps? Could it, for instance, have gone toward science experiments, or to support Honey Creek and Bradford Woods, both of which were written into the budget without funding sources?

Our board president, Jim Muehling, expressed a commitment to both of those programs.  This is the note I sent him this morning:

I wanted to thank you for the support you voiced for Honey Creek and Bradford Woods. My children are too young to have had the opportunity to experience them, but I hope they will be able to someday. I think that to develop a respect for and interest in nature, children need to spend time in it. I hope that MCCSC makes a commitment to give our children adequate structured and unstructured time outdoors, and to have natural materials for study so that our kids may develop interest in scientific exploration. I was a little bit taken aback by the overwhelming enthusiasm for iPads (and the mention of learning about plants by watching them on screens). I hope interest in technology is balanced by interest in relationships, community, and our environment.