May 4 2016

Elementary School Redesign Reduces Art, AP Classes Controversy, School Parcel Tax: Report

April 27th School Board Meeting –

At the School Board meeting on April 27th, a variety of topics were discussed. The School Board meets twice a month and they start with a private meeting, before they have the public meeting which starts at 7 p,m. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss, events, changes, and make decisions regarding the elementary schools, middle school, and high schools.

  At the start, a woman who was dealing with finances for the School District stated that she advised that the school put money into the reserve so that the reserve becomes four percent. This was the part of the meeting where the parcel tax was discussed.

Next Mr. Matrix and Ms. Muñoz proposed a new AP Computer Science Class.  They discussed the difference between this class and other classes currently available. One of the most interesting parts of this class was how many more girls are signed up than in past years. About 43% of people signed up for the class are girls. Just a few years ago, it was less than 10% of women signed up. This is a huge change and at the this rate, the proportion will be equal. The board agreed to the class but through discussing the new AP class, a different discussion regarding AP’s and whether or not they should be allowed, limited, and how their presence has affected the student body.

School Board member  Richard Raushenbush was the most concerned about this AP classes, and felt that they needed to be discussed further.  He even mentioned eliminating AP’s or limiting how many a student could take. Although the other board members agreed that it should be up for discussion, they decided to put it on the agenda for their next meeting.

Then Ms. Muñoz went up again along with Carol Wozniak and high school math teacher Bill Marthinsen, who discussed the three new math classes. During that discussion however, Marthinsen also commented on AP classes, even handing out copies of an article he read in the New York Times regarding the topic.

Finally, a committee of elementary school teachers and principals presented the elementary school redesign, which features a different format for the elementary schools. One major and controversial change that would come along with this change is the fact that Art class would be cut, but would be “integrated” into the regular classroom through projects. Many parents are upset with this change, considering that art class is one of the few places where young students can relax and unwind.  High school math teacher and elementary school parent, Auban Willats, went to the board meeting wearing two hats; one as a math teachers supporting the adoption of 3 new math classes, and the other as an elementary school parent, considering the redesign. Although Willats understands the concepts, she worries about the cut down on art, because even if art is integrated into the academics, it still doesn’t give children the downtime art class may provide some students. Willats also pointed out a parent who questioned why tech still gets the same amount of time, but art gets cut down?

I agree with this statement, although technology class is important, most children these days are extensively exposed to technology. So why is it that tech is being somewhat more important than art? It’s unlikely that any of these children will be working in Silicon Valley anytime soon, so why can’t they equally be exposed to both technology class and art class and from there they can decide what they enjoy more or is more important to them. At this young age, it should be about exposing children to different classes and by limiting some, especially something so important like art or music class, where students get a chance to fully express themselves beyond academics.

Willats said that she plans on individually contacting each Board Member to discuss these potential changes, as well as communicate with other parents about the “lack of transparency” on the issue of elementary school redesign. Many parents at the meeting agreed with Willats in the same sense that they are upset with the inequity of many of the classes.

Unknowingly at the time, what Claire Reichle and I spoke about at the meeting somewhat went with the theme of redesigning curriculum, because we brought up the fact that there should be more emotional learning within all the schools, but specifically implemented for the young in elementary school. We based much of our information on the movie The Mask You Live In which discusses the pressure boys face to be masculine and how it affects their relationships.

Claire and I also brought up the fact that we are Peer Advisors so we go into High School Classrooms where we talk about different topics such as, stress, drugs/alcohol, and relationships. From our experience being Peer Advisors, we feel that by implementing emotional learning at a younger age, by the time those kids get to high school, rather than learn how to get in touch with their emotions or be mindful, they will already know how and it will become a part of who they are. Although the School Board didn’t make any particular comments, their body language seemed rather receptive to our ideas, or at least they understood our ideas.

Overall, the meeting covered a variety of topics, but the next meeting should be even more interesting considering they will have a full discussion on AP classes as well as continue with plans for the elementary school redesign.

Report by Emilia Rivera, Piedmont High School Senior

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

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