Apr 6 2015

School Board: Pathways for Math and Computer Science Discussed by School Board

School Board Meeting Report by Piedmont High School student Marie Marchant

On Wednesday, March 11, I attended a School Board meeting at City Hall, which is held every second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. The purpose of the meeting was to go over new courses for the high school, budgets and to hear from the community and any concerns or input about the education system in Piedmont.

During the meeting the main issues addressed were the new middle school and high school pathways for mathematics. Randall Booker, the head of the new program proposal, emphasized how students can choose new pathways that suit them academically and in a way that makes approaching math courses a more comfortable process regarding their understanding and maturity.  Included in the new course pathways is a Summer School option where students can take a course in four weeks over the summer, 3 hours a day, contrary to many other summer courses elsewhere that can take up to 6 weeks.

Doug Ireland, one of the board members, wasn’t in favor for the summer program because of feedback from other summer programs at Piedmont and how few students enroll. He was also concerned it would be a waste of the School District’s money and harm the budget. However, all of the other board members were in favor of the summer program.

Andrea Swenson, another board member, loved how there are so many options for students and because there are so many different types of students, this program will try to relieve some of that stress that Piedmont is notorious for putting on their students.

However, I would be concerned it would put more pressure on students to take the “harder path” or the more advanced pathways because their parents want them to get to a higher level of math quicker or because that is what students feel is expected of them, not because they feel as if they are ready to challenge themselves. I also think that it could possibly make choosing classes more difficult not only for the students but for the counselors as well; the more specialty classes the harder it becomes to figure out schedules for all of the students. Booker also mentioned that support classes are built into the budget, meaning that students have the option of self study, and that there is no requirement to take summer courses to get into calculus AB.

Another large topic was the proposal for a new set of computer science classes. High School Principal Brent Daniels spoke about redesigning the computer course to make the class more relevant, including new subjects such as robotics, web design, computer applications and more. Mr. Mattix, the computer sciences teacher spoke about creating a mobile apps development course, which was suggested by the parent community. The course would be at college level, a 5 unit course, and made for more advanced students looking to challenge themselves. The University of San Francisco has offered to help with the development of the class and try to make it a possible AP course.

A couple other topics were brought up by some people in the audience as well. One woman, she did not state her name, was representing the Parent Clubs and talked about the recent visit WASC paid to the school. It was reported that WASC was extremely pleased by the school and specifically with the new bell schedule, they also highlighted the Wellness Center and how important they thought it was to give support to the students.

The Parent Clubs also reported on creating a mini fundraiser for the teachers lounge because they have felt that it is outdated and has become a storage area.

My interviewee, Ms. Betsy Anderson, Recreation Commissioner, came to the board meeting to encourage people to take a survey on the Piedmont Recreation Department. She said that the Recreation Department is open to all feedback and they want to know what programs are being used the most and if there is more that they can offer to the community for example programming for adults. She said that she has already sent emails out to many in the community, but she just wanted the school board and those at the meeting to take the survey so that the recreational department can get more information about what the community particularly enjoys having around.

The School Board meeting touched on a number of other subjects such as the School District budget, recent activities of the high school students, such as Camp Everytown and much more.

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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