Feb 23 2015

Student Report: February 11 School Board on Common Core, Bond Refunding, Social Psychology, Computers, and Restrooms

Student Report on the School Board Meeting of February 11, 2015 by Ami Felson

On the calm evening of February 11th, 2015, I set out to visit the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education Meeting, which meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month in the Council Chambers located at City Hall (120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA, 94611). The purpose of these meetings is to make sure that the Piedmont Unified Schools are successfully creating a safe, educational, and pleasant school experience for all students in the district.

The most time prominent agenda items discussed at this particular meeting included the presentation from the director of KNN Public Finance discussing the board’s options for the refunding of 2006 series A and B general obligation bonds along with the Common Core standards of mathematics pathways and the revised reading of Social Psychology curriculum.

For the bond refunding presentation, Blake Boehm, Director of KNN Public Finance, presented a PowerPoint presentation to the board as Board Member Doug Ireland explained the technical financial terms to the audience watching. Randall Booker presented the Common Core standards for mathematics from higher elementary school up until the brink of high school graduation.

Hillary Cooper stood up as a parent of an eighth and ninth grader to agree with the fact that all sixth graders should be in the same math course and should be tested on mathematic advancement later on in middle school or early in high school.

Lisa Joyce, a parent of a tenth grader, thought that in order to implement these Common Core classes we need statistical analysis from Middle Schoolers to see what they want and what will work best for them.

Jessica Burg, another parent, wondered how the mathematic prerequisites would alter what science classes students are able to take.

Kalla Krokowski, a sixth grader from Beach Elementary School, stated that she wanted to be challenged with the math classes that she took because she was bored a lot of the time in class with simple problems that her teachers have consistently assigned.

Julie Kasky, an alumni of the Math Task Force, noted that she would like she would the board members to publicly inform members in the Piedmont community regarding these Common Core considerations.

Lastly, Larry Haukens, a Piedmont student parent and Math Task Force member, recognized that this is a big decision and the entire School Board needs to critically think about this dramatic change to the school curriculum. Additionally, Piedmont Unified School District Board Members Rick Raushenbush, Doug Ireland, Amal Smith, Sarah Pearson, Andrea Swenson, Constance Hubbard, Michael Brady, and Randall Booker commented on copious issues throughout the evening.

One issue that caught my attention at the meeting was definitely the issue regarding having a Social Psychology class offered in the summer. Although Mrs. Pearson thought that if enough sophomores signed up for the class it would create that inclusive and special community that the class already creates during the school year, I believe that many students will miss out on a big part of what the class offers.

One aspect of the class consists of giving random classmates presents outside of class just to emanate kindness.  I don’t see how that can be done without having every student go to another student’s house, which can just lead to much chaos and disorder. Also, students learn the most from this class by talking to each other and reacting on what happened in class every day after class, and it is nearly impossible to do that if the students are home playing video games instead of passing by each other in the hallways during passing period, where conversation is far more casual.

I figured out that Mr. Doug Ireland chose to become a part of the PUSD Board of Education because he “wanted to make sure that this Common Core roll out worked well” and make sure that “we can honestly talk about ten year, evaluation, what [the teachers are] doing, and how well they’re doing it” and “[he] thinks they’re under-appreciated”, so he wants to make sure that they get acknowledgement for all the hard work they put into their jobs every day.

Ireland is “actively going to outside sources from other districts, people who [he] know[s] in the world of education to get [him] educated around teaching” and he’s “visited all the sites…to get first-hand views on what’s happening in the classrooms so that [he] can have an educated perspective which [he] can bring to the board”.

During the meeting, I decided to question what happened to the old PC computers that were replaced a little while ago with new Macintosh ones in the Piedmont High School library. Randall Booker responded by saying that they were all put to E-waste because they weren’t very robust.

Doug Ireland questioned why I’m asking that particular question and I explained that I am a member of Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries, which refurbishes Oakland School Libraries that have been nothing more than empty rooms for a long while. Volunteers put barcodes on donated books, enter them into the system, shelve them, etc.

One crucial part I forgot to mention is that the reason why I was asking was because I thought that these schools could’ve used these computers if the old PCs were still in storage, but clearly since they’re not, that information has no use to getting them nicer computers.

Also, I mentioned that there are several issues with the male restrooms including the lack of locks on the stalls, irregularly refilled soap dispensers, and one broken hand dryer. Overall, speaking out to the board was a little difficult because I only had one opportunity to state everything that I wanted to say and there was so much going through my mind at the time that it was pretty hard to do so. Nevertheless, going to the meeting opened my eyes to how members of our Piedmont community collaboratively meet twice a month to bring up, discuss, and solve current hot- topic issues in our school district.

Ami Felson, Piedmont High School Student

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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