Day 4: I survived my first BOE meeting!

Dear Readers,

First of all, welcome to the newest followers and subscribers! And to all the LIKERS and commenters—Thank you! Good to have you here.

Thanks to my neighbor and him driving us to the meeting, we had  a chance to chat on way there. He had some excellent suggestions and edits on the comments I wanted to make (and letter to send) and it was very helpful to have a veteran BOE meeting-goer giving me tips and advice. I was nervous but felt better once we got there. Oh, man, it takes a village. It does.

The first part of the evening was an award ceremony honoring outstanding  district teachers. Our Kindergarten teacher was an award recipient (nominations are made by parents–yes,  we’d nominated her.) Well, it was wonderful to cheer her on in person and see her receive such well deserved recognition. She’s a truly outstanding teacher and we LOVE her.

Each award winner got to have a little bit  about them by the presenter, including   quotes from parent/nominators (without mentioning their  names). For Ms teacher, they quoted a few of the words I’d written in my nomination letter. I was stunned once I recognized them as mine. It was a  little moment of hey you really never know where your words are going to end up —- an unexpected and happy surprise. A cool circle of mutual good going around parent-teacher-child–and it was nice to be a part of that feeling.

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It was intimidating at first. Big auditorium, all the BOE members and Super sitting behind long tables, stacks of strategic plans, and after a long presentation by the Super (with power point projections), they opened the floor to comments.I ended up speaking as did all the members present from our core parent group. Everyone did very well,  made great points, and asked tough questions.

I asked about “data driven instruction” and said, “Our district should be moving far away from this, not closer to it. Why is it not child or student driven instruction?” I asked about my concerns about the data storing company, cost, privacy concerns, etc. I told them I like  our current mode of communication with our teacher and school and want to keep it that way. I asked about their recurring use of the word “customers” in many of the strategic plan drafts and other written materials and on the district website. I was assured by the super that language was out and changed. But  “Central Services”  (formerly Central Office) will still be offering “customer service” although to students and parents, not  “customers.”

Step right up, data for sale! Come and get it!

The reaction from the room was positive and I was immensely relieved.

I didn’t feel any of our questions were really answered. I felt like there’s a wall. And some tiny slivers of cracks in some places, but mostly, a very rigid wall. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

Anyway, the super answered me. I honestly am not sure what she said exactly (except for the part about not using “customers” anymore–that was clear), although I tried really hard to follow her. Then two BOE members responded. One said, “You know, I have a friend in NY who says the Common Core is just great. Really, I’m telling you,  they love it.” As if she was talking about a brand of shampoo.  Clearly, she’s in favor of the whole corporate ed reform business plan. It was good to see the different positions of the BOE members. Subtle in some cases, obvious in others, not much ambivalence, but  a smidge from a few.

It was an interesting statement in light of this out of New York and everything we already know about other places and the growing resistance movement against Common Core and High Stakes Testing.

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There’s  obfuscation and vagueness, sound bytes, canned lines, corporate jargon, and it felt a bit  like his:

Let’s pretend I asked: What time is it?

Answer:

Well, our research shows that when the data is measurable, 80% of the students
can do better and achieve  higher expectations and scores, but we need to really give a good structure and rigor to the measurable goals–in addition to the ten week assessment cycles, which is really a long time, plenty of time to teach what’s necessary and not to be confused with NJASK or coming soon PARCC. And testing, no, not high stakes testing or teaching to the test, no, testing to evaluate where we are.  Standards are important, and we need to aim higher and everyone can be excellent. Yes, maybe the timing could be slower but we really do have the mandates from above and the State, and certainly all students can be smarter and work harder and teachers can collaborate together and share lesson plans with each other!

By time, if you mean we need answer the question about what time it is, let me refer you to our plan, which is ever-changing, and a living breathing document, and certainly, not in stone, and will be changing as time  passes. Change is hard, and we won’t change things just for changes sake. Multiple measures and data is really where we need to be in the 21st century. Let me tell you, the students will need to be college and career ready, but even if not everyone goes to college, plumbing isn’t easy. I’ve looked at those handbooks and manuals –it is  hard to read those plumbing and electrician handbooks, so EVERYONE will need to be at a certain level to succeed and we’re going to do this together over time….see what works, what doesn’t.   And will you look at the time….It’s just about that time now!

OR like this:

Question: What time is it?

Answer: We’re out  of orange juice and milk, but we have apple juice. Also, my socks are beige and one size fits all.

To sum up, I learned a lot. Still gotta fully unpack
all that was said last night. I met great people. Felt empowered. Lots of work to do.

They will win if we comply, if we are silent. If we don’t speak up, we have no chance. Our group is energized and determined. I’m grateful for my fellow parent group people.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. 
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

—Margaret Mead

Love and Peace,

Elana

3 thoughts on “Day 4: I survived my first BOE meeting!

    1. Thanks, L. It wasn’t a direct quote. Just a random assembly of some of what they said, plus some I wrote as my interpretation of what they said. I appreciate your support. Love.

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