May 27 2015

Learnscape, Out of Date Text Books, Math Programs, Parcel Taxes, Volunteer Jennifer Fox

May 13th School Board Meeting Report by Piedmont High School student Derek Cheung –

On Wednesday, May 13th, I went to the School Board meeting at Piedmont City Hall.  By 7:05 p.m., I took a seat in the back row and waited for the meeting to get underway.  Within five minutes, the room filled up rapidly, as all seats were filled and some people had to sit on the stairs.  The meeting started at 7:15 p.m., and begun with the Pledge of Allegiance.  School Board President Andrea Swenson opened the meeting, stating that the School Board met in closed session at 6:00 p.m. and no action was taken.

The meeting started off with community announcements.  First, a brief discussion took place about Association of Piedmont Teachers (APT).  Swenson recognized Gabrielle Kashani as president of APT, and she stated that teachers who work outside of the classroom will be getting extra pay.

Swenson asked if there was anyone from the public who wanted to speak on an item not listed on the agenda.  A Piedmont man, Rick Schiller, had a hand written speech that was prepared beforehand, and he talked about school taxes on parcels.  He made statements about how our school’s taxes are one of the most expensive in the state, and how Piedmont taxes are financially difficult to afford and pay.

Senior Miles von Hermann stood up and stated that the textbooks at Piedmont High School are outdated, as many of them were published in the 90s. Von Hermann said today’s issues are not included in the curriculum, and there is writing on the pages. Von Hermann concluded that new textbooks would benefit students.  Swenson jokingly added that Assistant Superintendent Randy Booker is already taking note of his complaint.

By 7:20 p.m., Swenson talked about speeding cars driving by schools.  She stated that the City will get speed monitors, similar to the ones on Oakland Avenue. Swensen warned the community that officers will be issuing more tickets, and to watch your speed while driving by school streets.

Less than minute later, a presentation was delivered by Superintendent Connie Hubbard.  She recognized Piedmont resident and photographer Jennifer Fox as recipient of the 2015 Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award.  When speaking at the podium, Fox said she was asked to attend the AP Art Show at Piedmont High, and chose a piece of art as the 2015 Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year. There was one art piece that stood out to Fox.  It was by senior Ying Zhou and represented “beauty is in our lives.”  Fox and Zhou took photos together with the art piece.

By 7:30 p.m., Assistant Superintendent Booker introduced the Youth Educators (YEds).  Booker introduced adviser John Hayden and three of the Youth Educators and asked them to step to the podium.  Hayden gave a brief background of Youth Educators, stating that YEds is a social and emotional welfare program for 8th graders, and that with the help of 21 YEds, 8th graders will feel safer in high school.  Hayden stepped aside, allowing Tom Jara, Chloe Lee Rowlands, and Nate Pedan to speak to the School Board and community.  The three YEds mentioned that being in this program made them a better people, and that they loved spending time with the 8th graders.

By 7:40 p.m, Swenson introduced review items on the agenda.  First up, Assistant Superintendent Booker introduced a request that the Board approve the naming of the Learnscape at Piedmont High School (PHS) to memorialize beloved science teacher Eileen Rohmer.  Booker introduced Piedmont High School history teacher Courtney Goen to the podium, to add more details about the Learnscape. Goen described the development of Learnscape as a community effort, and thanked the Piedmont Beautification Foundation (PBF) and the Parent Club for their support.  Ms. Goen added that with the help of Ms. Bailey’s AP Art class, they are proposing to put up a mural designed by Dominic Frost in honor of Ms. Rohmer.

After Ms. Goen’s presentation, the Board asked me to step forward, as I had filled out a speaker card beforehand on this topic.  I went up to the podium and said: “I am a recent Eagle Scout and for my project I built signage for the Piedmont Middle School (PMS) Learnscape.  I know the Learnscape at the Middle School has tables and benches for students to hang out at lunch, after school, or some teachers even bring their students down there on a nice day. Back when I was in Middle School, that space where the Learnscape is now, used to be a parking lot.  The students should be grateful and lucky to have an area like Learnscape.  I know the Learnscape at PHS is not going to be as large a space as PMS, but will there be benches and tables for students to utilize?”

Ms. Goen responded that benches and tables will be installed.  Goen added that $5,400 in donations have been collected so far, and the smallest donation was $7 for Learnscape.  The Board was in favor, and the Learnscape project passed.

I think having the PHS Learnscape will be a popular place for students to hang out during lunch or before/after school.  It is a great idea to add this unique place to the PHS campus, honoring Ms. Rohmer, who was a beloved science teacher and inspired many students.  The fact that benches and tables are going to be installed at Learnscape will encourage and welcome students to eat lunch or hang out on campus.  Plus, the Learnscape will be a great way to remember Ms. Rohmer who will never be forgotten in the PHS community.

By 7:50 p.m., Booker introduced the elementary school principals who have worked on the selection for the elementary math curriculum.  Booker introduced Cheryl Wozniak to the podium.  Wozniak presented a series of slides in a powerpoint presentation, and joining her was resource specialist Sarah Kingston.  Wozniak added that the state of California adopted Common Core in August 2010, and it was introduced by Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) in 2014.  She also added that the proposed math curriculum is Bridges and Number Corner.  Kingston spoke afterwards stating: “This new math pathway proposal meets non-negotiable criteria by grade level and meets rigor and balance in alignment criteria”.  Kingston added that when trying out the new math pathway program with students, they loved it.

Havens Principal Anne Dolid was later introduced to talk about the communication plan.  Dolid stated that there has been Common Planning time with teachers, email communications with staff, bulletin updates and Infinite Campus messages to parents with updates on adapting the new math pathways. Dolid went on to say that all teachers who voted supported the recommendation to adopt Bridges and Number Corner, the new math curriculum. The School Board unanimously voted to adopt the new math programs for the elementary level.

By 8:30 p.m., Booker introduced a proposal to pass Integrated Math 1 and 2A for PMS/MHS/PHS.  This would replace the current math pathway as discussed by all math departments.  According to Booker, these new programs will spark student interest and concepts will click quickly.

There were a lot of concerns by the School Board about these new math programs. Board Member Doug Ireland added that students would go into the next math course by barely passing the class. Board Member Rick Raushenbush questioned whether summer school can be an option.  Sarah Pearson spoke on whether textbooks for the math curriculum look promising. Department Chair Doyle O’ Regan answered that question, stating that he looked at seven products, and that high school level textbooks are not well developed. Booker added that the department will continue looking into textbooks to use in the fall and will report back to the School Board.  O’Regan concluded that there will be five courses in Integrated Math, and that there will be about 25 students in each class. School Board Member Amal Smith added that more UC’s are looking at Integrated Math.

By 8:45 p.m., Superintendent Hubbard discussed the Co-Curricular Schedule, and approval of the contract between the District and APT.  Hubbard defined co-curricular as spending extensive time outside of the classroom by a staff member.  The Board eventually approved the new schedule, and applauded APT president Gabrielle Kashani for her leadership.  I think that teachers should earn extra pay, if they are working outside of the classroom for a significant amount of time.  The teachers deserve it as they are not required to do it, but they choose to spend their personal time organizing the curriculum and class for their students.

Next, Hubbard briefly talked about contract openers.  She added that they are looking at professional growth and salary schedule, and the classified contract is on the PUSD website.  By 8:50 p.m., Assistant Superintendents Booker and Brady spoke on the RFP Process and LCAP Budget.  By 9:00 p.m., Hubbard announced that the PMS 8th grade celebration will be held June 10th at 4 p.m. at Witter Field, MHS graduation will be on the same day at 12:45 the Piedmont Veterans Hall.  On June 11th, PHS graduation will take place at 5 p.m. at Witter Field.

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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