Mar 11 2018

OPINIONS: Piedmont DAY OF ACTION on School Safety March 14 : Math Pathways, Measure H1, Athletic Director Turnover

Board Marches Toward Change

    On February 28th, Sarah Pearson, the President of the Piedmont Board of Education, opened up a discussion about change. Initially leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, she stood in the center of the semi-circle table, surrounded by the four other members and the Superintendent. This was the second meeting of the month, as the Board meets bimonthly on the second and fourth Wednesdays in the Council Chambers of City Hall to discuss issues involving the School District and seek to make decisions that will improve the schools.

To start the meeting, Ms. Pearson introduced Mr. Kessler, the president of the Association of Piedmont Teachers (APT), who spoke about APT’s concern for school safety in relation to the February 14th shooting in Parkland Florida. He explained that the group had voted to declare March 14th a day of action, suggesting the possibility of letter writing to officials, moments of silence in respect for the people who died, murals, and marches. His words later prompted Board Member Doug Ireland to show his support for APT, and to voice his concern for the safety of teenagers in Piedmont and across the country.

Superintendent Randall Booker expressed his support for APT’s actions. He mentioned the nation-wide plans for showing respect to the victims of the Parkland shootings on March 14th and spoke on behalf of the School District in supporting students in taking part. He spoke of the importance of standing in unity during times like these.

Mr. Ireland spoke passionately about a couple different issues, including the mental health of students and the environment that Piedmont families create at our schools. He expressed horror at the number of students who are in states of, or who have ever been in states of, depression and at how many have contemplated suicide. Drawing connections between depression and stress, he mentioned the intense environment surrounding college that exists in Piedmont. He voiced a desire to change the level of expectations that are placed onto students as they apply and decide where to go to college.

In response to the recent resignation of the Athletic Director, a common occurrence for Piedmont High School in the past two years, he admitted that blame has to be placed on the parents and community. His assertion set the tone for the rest of the meeting: a desire for change.

Continuing with the theme of changing and improving, Dr. Cheryl Wozniak presented to the Board about past and future opportunities for members of the community to learn about diversity, inclusion, equity and other issues.

The Let’s Talk sessions have been successful, with many Associated Student Body members from the High School attending, along with other faculty and members of the community.

As expressed by Dr. Wozniak, there will be more sessions for people to attend, along with other events, including the “Unity in Community” assembly, which is organized by students. These attempts are all in the hopes of teaching people about diversity and engagement in order to fulfill new social justice standards for administrators.

Terry Montgomery spoke to the Board about measure H1, and the Board moved to accept her report.

Next, Pete Palmer presented the new Safe School Plans. The plans focus on emergency drill protocol, with the major change being the implementation of lock down drills. Amal Smith, a Board Member, spoke in favor of this change, mentioning that the frequency of fire drills has allowed students and faculty to have memorized the protocol. The Board approved the plan.

The next major item on the agenda was the issue of the new Math Pathways proposal. Dr. Wozniak also presented the proposal, explaining the changes that were being made and the many options that students will have if the proposal is passed by the Board. The changes would allow students entering high school to have the opportunity to study over the summer and then take an assessment to accelerate and take a more advanced class, for example.

Personally, I think that having so many options about math classes could be a bad thing. Students at Piedmont are constantly stressed and many take on very hard classes and have large work loads. Adding more options, and therefore more ways to seemingly get ahead or excel, will only cause the stress level of students to increase.

Math teacher, Diana Miller, later told me that she, along with others members of the Math Pathways Committee, attended the meeting to hear the information presented and the Board’s decision. The Board voted three to two in favor of the changes, which pleased Ms. Miller. The discussion was not a brief one, and had been going on for months. Ms. Miller said she was “impressed by the depth of discussion between the five Board members before the vote”, as all members thoughtfully considered what is best for the students in Piedmont.

by Zoe Adams, Piedmont High School Senior


A Community Uniting For Change

On a rainy Wednesday evening on February 28th, School Board Members and various representatives met in City Hall to discuss pressing issues such as the Parkland shooting, the March 14th walkout, and the various proposals for new math pathways.

Twice a month on Wednesdays, the Piedmont Board of Education meets in City Hall. The five elected members from the community meet to discuss and come to conclusions on academic issues in the Piedmont Schools, deal with tough topics plaguing the town, and find a balance between the governing body of Piedmont and the residents. At the School Board meeting on February 28th, the Board predominantly discussed how the shooting in Parkland, Florida raises important conversation, and additionally, the different math pathways that will be put into effect next year.

At the beginning of the meeting, 6th grade teacher Gabriel Kessler discussed his concern, along with the other teachers and parents, about the events in Parkland. Kessler voiced his inspiration from students around the country, and stated that at a school meeting, the Board voted to declare March 14th a day of action for school safety. Additionally, Kessler reported that the march will be in favor of safety, and there should also be teach ins throughout the day to reach social justice. Lastly, Kessler made it clear that teachers like himself must model behavior for his students, as should the rest of the community.

Additionally, Superintendent Randall Booker spoke in response to Kessler, adding important points such as testing the emergency systems, drills for added preparation, and the need for everyone to speak out if they hear or see anything suspicious.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Kessler and think it is imperative that action is taken to raise awareness for the events that transpired in Parkland. We must come together as a community to make our voices heard, and we must additionally come together to teach, learn, and discuss these tough issues.  In my opinion, the walk out on the 14th is a step in the right direction not just for our community, but for the nation as a whole. Students need to realize how powerful their voices are, and how small actions can make a difference on a global scale when they come together with teachers, parents, and other members of their communities.

Doug Ireland, a member of the School Board, spoke about the results of the student surveys, stating that almost all students have a teacher they feel they can go to if they need to talk. Ireland additionally voiced how hard it is to be a student, and how there is so much that is swept under the rug, including issues on drugs, alcohol, and students hurting themselves. Lastly, Ireland spoke about his concern about the Athletic Directors leaving, and how some blame can fall onto the community for this, and how we need to be more tolerable as a whole.

On the next main issue of the night, Dr. Wozniak spoke about the issue of the Math Pathways. Wozniak explained that there are four different options available, but they are all about compression. Additionally, it was noted that one purpose of the new pathways are so that students who never reach Calculus are not penalized by colleges for the pathway they take. This is an important issue because students should take the courses suited for them without having to worry about any negative consequences. There was additionally talk about adopting a new Middle School compression pathway; this way the school can truly uproot the old ways to make way for the new. Wozniak also stressed the idea of adopting a calculus path that matches the design of College Board courses as well.

Many spoke out from the audience about the proposed Math Pathways, a few stating that they very much value the simplicity of the original pathways, and stressed that the new ways can lead to students missing the integral basics that they would not be able to grasp in the new, compressed courses.

After the meeting, I spoke with Piedmont High School Principal, Adam Littlefield, about the issues presented throughout the evening.

Mr. Littlefield explained that he tries to attend the School Board meetings when they pertain to items that relate to the High School. Additionally, Mr. Littlefield stated that he attended the meeting on Wednesday because he wanted to be there to answer any questions regarding the new Math Pathways and the emergency plans being put into place.

Mr. Littlefield expressed his pleasure with the results of the meeting, due to the reasoning that both items were approved by the Board. He did not voice any concerns, however, because most potentials questions get addressed before he attends the meetings.

by Bella Oglesby, Piedmont High School Senior 
 Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Leave a Comment