Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Liveblog! LCSD Board Meeting, September 2nd, 2008

I forgot to put up a warning post earlier, but I'll be liveblogging tonight's LCSD board meeting. Watch this post.

Away we go! Going put new material at the top of the post this time rather than the bottom. I lied; it's staying at the bottom.

Note: Things in brackets are my voice.

7:10 PM: The board is staying in executive session longer than usual. Kelley has reported (in fact reported at 6:50 or so) that the Chair expects them to start the public meeting a few minutes late.

Laura Baker, a parent who filed a complaint about the math program at the high school (rumor has it that the filing of the complaint and the fallout had a role in the district's declaration of an academic emergency; more on that later, maybe), is circulating a packet that contains the DH story on the declaration of academic emergency as well as a copy of her complaint. Good move on her part. She is also circulating a sign-up sheet for people who want to be kept informed of what happens on this issue. Not a bad idea, but I didn't sign it.

7:20: Meeting starts.

7:21: Audience comments. Unsurprisingly, Laura Baker is first. Immediately turns around and notes that it's not about teachers; instead, it's about kids. Directs individual comments to each board member - notes how helpful they've all been.... with an odd pause when she got to Mr. Alexander (though she did offer the most praise for him). Baker: "I went to school here; we know it's a good place." Keeps calling the board "you guys." Notes that once the formal complaint was filed, it was only two days before the declaration of academy emergency showed up in the paper. [She hits three minutes; Josh notes it, and at least ten people in the audience offer to give her their minutes.] Baker: Asked board members if teachers are afraid to come forth to Robinson, board, etc. "Every one of them said they were afraid to come forward with consequences of jeopardizing their job".... shocked that this has been going on so long..... noting that parents are hiring tutors.... reiterates that it's not about teachers..... OK, she's going off the rails a bit here: Makes a connection between paying a tutor a lot of money and the suggestion they should get good grades.... her voice is very emotional.... she's standing and addressing the audience now. Makes the claim that the audience "can all do math." 7:29: Going off about cell phones in the classroom... "there was other things that happened in the classroom" but since Finch and the Board know.... trails off. Wineteer politely asks her to finish, noting the board agenda item. Audience applauds.

7:30 PM: Dean something - notes that he brought up the math problem years ago, and is incredulous that it hasn't been handled yet. "All this community is looking for is an administration with honesty, integrity and leadership qualities, and right now I don't see that." audience applauds.

7:31 PM: Steve Wallace.... two kids.... thanks board and Robinson for listening and declaring an emergency.... notes that kid @ LHS is an IEP student. What he says his son experienced: "teacher is a desk jockey".... "helped groom the athletic fields".... "teacher so far behind on grading that he couldn't offer a grade".... "teacher had not read his [IEP] file" when we went and asked him how our son was doing. Wallace: why did the declaration take so long?

Observation: The crowd is really, really taking it to Robinson - they see this as being uncovered and they see RIGHT THROUGH the declaration of emergency.

Wallace: "I question how teachers are going to fix this if it's been a problem for the last eight years." [Dennis: With few exceptions, the entire math staff at LHS has turned over in that time.]

7:34 PM:" Paul Meadowbrook: 1st-grader & 12th-grader. "We weren't active until our 8th grade teacher warned us about what was going to happen at the high school with the academy system." Had paid tutoring.... got a B.... tutor said he thought she had gaps.... [I bet his daughter feels great about that] .... ended up taking class at LB she'd already had [this is pretty common].....

[Observation: How does Lebanon compare to other schools IN DETAIL? Both grades and assessment scores, plus changes over time, and accounting for demographics.]

Meadowbrook: Robinson thinks the solution is for teachers to talk to teachers... we don't have curriculum [WHO DOES HE THINK DEVELOPS THE CURRICULUM? IT'S TEACHERS TALKING TO TEACHERS.]

7:38 PM: James Sundell from Oregon Education Association [he is the NEA Rep, I think both for classified and certified staff]. Rehashes classified bargaining status.... notes joint request for mediator in August... mediation is 9/16 @ 5 PM... major areas of concern: salary - 3.77% behind in COLA over last five years.... For 08-09 district has reduced the workdays for ~135 classified employees, which is 2.14% reduction.... [goes on for some time with statistics and detailed percentages]

[Josh hasn't cut anyone off since Laura Baker got permission to run over.]

Alexander: How did you arrive at the 1.3 million more figure for the LCSD?
Sundell: Oregon Dept. of Ed website; simply added state school fund grant and local revenue estimate, then compared to previous year.

7:44 PM: Lonnie Harris: Goes on for some time about conditions, tough economic conditions (gets lots of support from audience), need for raise, need to get custodians back. Audience applauds when she finishes.

7:48 PM: Lyndon Brown: Patron and taxpayer of this district. Why was the agenda not on the website until this afternoon? Could district please make sure it's up by Wednesday so people can do research and ask informed questions?

End of audience comments. Josh thanks commenters.

7:49 PM: Consent agenda is approved unanimously as is.

7:52 PM: Super's Report, District Goals #1 and 2. Vanilla. One interesting note: Contract a private company called LifeTracj to survey graduating class of 2008 - like exit interviews, but more complex. Also beginning to do some research on retention (or the lack thereof): Who leaves and why. Working with a prof from George Fox.

7:54 PM: Shimmin asks about a goal that was in previous reports but not present in this one: "Schools will enhance communication and involvement with parents." Quote: "Which of these addresses that?"

Kelley pauses, slowly walks up to board table, says "I may have omitted that."

Oops - and the audience knew it. Easily suggests that parental involvement is not a concern of the District Admin; possibly not the intent, but given everything else, that's how it's going to be read, no question about it.

7:56 PM: Skateboard policy. Suggested change from confiscation to allowing students to use them as transportation, but not on campus (and must put them directly into lockers). Suggestion comes from building level. Robinson seems to endorse.

Wineteer: Scooters? Like skateboard with handle?

Robinson: Locked up with bikes.

Wineteer: Easy to steal.

Robinson: ..... we can make changes if you'd like.

Shimmin: How is this enforced? What is the process for dealing with violations of the skateboard rule? What is the time of confiscation?

Robinson: Anyone at duty, teachers, administration, school resource officer, etc.

Shimmin: Has this been a problem in the past?

Robinson: We've been in the position of having to police, which creates perhaps an unnecessary problem.

Wineteer: I don't see how this separates between riding on campus and off.

Robinson: See line X..... notes that they can't be used anywhere on campus.

Shimmin: Sidewalk is public property.

McUne: Runs interference, explains the policy to Josh [that little interaction is reminiscent of Josh explaining things to Rick].

8:02 PM: Josh motions to pass the policy, board passes unanimously.

8:03 PM: Josh: Let's proceed with caution on the academic emergency item; "this conversation could get large."

Robinson [who is addressing the parents directly and looking very, very serious]: "You need to understand context for declaration." [Immediate rebuttal to audience accusation that declaration was suspicious.] Notes math curriculum committee.... Northwest Education Labs... 2+ year contract.... been working in elementary schools.... met for the first time this year with HS teachers.

Robinson: "We're not about creating any kind of coverup or hiding data. That's not what we're about." "Have been working to make curriculum better and give teachers the skills they need." Declaring emergency is a way to say "our best efforts have not worked." [To parents]: "You need to be part of [the solution]." "We're in fact ramping up from a considerable effort we've been making all along." Brought two math coaches from elsewhere in the district to work at LHS.... number of initiatives underway to ensure that we get the problem solved. "The fact that you are concerned only adds to our urgency." [I BET IT DOES.]

8:07 PM: Robinson: Math teachers are meeting every week to develop common, standards-based grading criteria.... based on work they are able to do.... not extent to which they get all homework done, but "how well they do the math."... may be some discretion left for teacher effort [brave to admit, but good for him[.... but overall has to be based on work student has or hasn't done.... piloted end-of-course test this year with some teachers.... helps standardize curriculum. [Observation: This is the most I've ever heard Robinson speak at once, and it's about education policy and curriculum. He speaks my langauge - not only do I think he's on the right track, but his style is one I'm familiar with. My guess is that it's the education.] Robinson: Will be putting student homework and grades online, so parents can track progress of your students.... this will be for all subjects, not just math. [Like Blackboard for LHS; I just hope it's not actually Blackboard.]

Robinson: Also responding to NCLB AYP data, state scores. [Concluding] Like I said, this is the culmination of a ramping-up progress that's been going on for years; 'we need your support." "Teachers are doing all they can to make it right; they work very hard." [Asks for input from staff]

Parent raises hand and asks "how can I help?"

Robinson FUMBLES THE ANSWER... then notes that parents should keep track of their student's grades, then not hesitate to take it to both teacher and administrator.

Parent: Peer tutoring?

Robinson: Hasn't come to my attention; maybe address on the 10th re: LHS?

8:16 PM: Mark Finch: Linkcrew. Upper-level students mentoring new students; students get training, is a year-long commitment. Small # of students. "Setting up an after-school support program for kids." "We'd love parents to come help volunteer".... teachers will run after-school hours, so parents don't need to be subject experts. [Is stumbling a little - voice is threatening to break. Sounds really nervous.] How do we identify kids earlier and prevent downward spiral.... counselors now running small support groups for struggling students during advisory... two teachers piloting two new styles of teaching, from Northwest Labs... more focused on conceptual, the why, before the process.

[Observation: No one has talked about comparator schools or the possibility of larger changes in society - or blame in general. Interesting and new.]

Baker: Very concerned about placement of students, especially given failure rate.

Robinson: Law changed. Freshmen will have to pass exit exams, current 7th-graders must pass exit exams.... class of 2014 will need three years of math, two years beyond Algebra I.

Parent who spoke in audience comments: Why didn't we hear about any of this before?

Wineteer: Why are we declaring a state of emergency now if scores are four points higher than in past years? If we have a Student Achievement System, what does it do?

Robinson: First, it's not in effect at LHS. Second, students getting to LHS are coming in with higher scores. Third, we present AYP data at board meetings and make data public.

Parent: Talked to administrators at LHS, was blown off. Why?

Robinson: I can't explain that.... I do know that if you come to me, I will talk to you. After I wrote this declaration, invited all faculty at LHS to meet and confer so they were in the loop. My personal perception of that meeting was that high school faculty were on board, they knew there was an issue, they are looking forward to doing that work.... also want to acknowledge that not only do we list data that causes concerns, but I want to expressly note that I am addressing parental concern.

Audience: What about those who can't afford a tutor?

Robinson: Dollars have been redirected to LHS to help with that.

Baker: [Holds up giant file] "This is kids who have come to me with Ds and Fs. How is it fair to have 40 kids in a classroom now... when we have all these Ds and Fs and all these new kids coming in?"

Robinson: We can adjust staffing; also, it just won't happen.

[Robinson is having to explain basic functions of the school to the audience, who clearly hasn't done their research. Admittedly, I have experience working at LHS, but still - these are questions that should be answered in meetings with teachers and administrators or other meetings with the superintendent, not at a board meeting.]

Unknown Student: What do I do now? What happens? I don't know math and I want to go to college.

Baker: "She is a prime example of what we're running into." Kids would stop going to class and just give up.

Parent: I have an A student who met with a math teacher often and it worked

Robinson gets overrun by the audience.... retreats to boilerplate language.... has been forced to say "there is a whole system in place to deal with employees who don't get it done." "I have a great deal of confidence in our math folks; I am turning to them to find solutions." [This is the closest anyone has come to assigning blame, which is good.]

[!!!! The parents and teachers are actually TALKING TO EACH OTHER DIRECTLY. THIS SHOULD HAPPEN MORE OFTEN - it is very enlightening !!!!]

Wineteer: I can tell there is a lot of emotion here. This deserves a separate time with the board's full attention. Can we have another session just about this?

Robinson: Such a session should include faculty and teachers.

8:35 PM: Alexander: We're behind the curve; we talked four years ago about an alternative school, and "the answer was SAS". "How many more students will be thrown under the bus?" [OH SHIT. MORE ON THIS LATER.]

Baker: Session at LHS; everyone is invited to come and learn about what's going and what is happening.

Wineteer: Can we attend as a body? Fine, it can be a special meeting, but we should all be there.

Robinson: Solutions should come to board from teachers, parents, district administrators.... I think we have taken on an agenda that is sufficient...

Wineteer & Robinson: Hammering out logistics for meeting w/ school board members present.... "calls for some unprecedented attendance by the board."

[Wineteer is just calling on board members now - protocol is changing =)]

Baker: We need student input as well. Parents want to be there, need to be there.

8:39 PM: Alexander: This town isn't about secrets... when a board meeting happens, most people know what's going to happen. [WHAT PLANET IS HE ON? NOTE TO SELF: GET TRANSCRIPT OF THIS, CHECK FOR ACCURACY.]

8:40 PM: Alexander moves to schedule a special session September 10th; LAURA BAKER CUTS HIM OFF and asks what time works for parents; Jennifer Walter notes how hard that is on teachers, and Laura Baker says "it's not about the teachers, it's about the kids." [This starts a whole side conversation about what the role of the board can be and how it intersects with public meetings law.]

8:44 PM: McUne and Fisher: Meeting is a good idea, but we need to make sure and do it right.

8:46 PM Audience member: Where do we obtain curriculum, what are others doing that works, we want to come prepared with good questions. Is there a website we can look at?

Robinson: Each course syllabus should be made available to the public each year... those can be made available sooner, if they are ready. Will soon be available on a regular basis.

8:47 PM: Parent: Was told that transferring classes was not an option; last year, daughter failed her first class after being told there was no place to transfer to. Teachers and counselors told student there were no other options.

Robinson: Can move between systems for two classes

ENTIRE AUDIENCE: "We were told no!"

Robinson: It's not a no because of the academies, but because classes fill up.

Wineteer cuts everyone off. [I WONDER WHAT SHERRIE SPRENGER THINKS?]

Wineteer: Meeting regarding math crisis is 6 PM, September 10th, HS auditorium, media will be informed that board expects to attend.

Robinson: That ends my report, Mr. Chairman. [That's priceless - he was deadpan.]

8:50 PM: 10-12 audience members leave; many in audience are talking.

Wineteer asks audience to be quiet.

8:53 PM: Alexander, regarding the possibility of a contract for alternative education: "We'd be better of giving the money to a charter school [than put it towards an alternative education contract]; maybe they could hire another teacher with it!" [Not only is he wrong on the merits, but it's more evidence that he supports the charter school over the district he's running. Second, as an audience member near me muttered, "what makes him think the charter school would accept him?"]

8:57 PM: Motion made and seconded to approve contract - I was responding to blog comments =)

Fisher: We have an obligation to help students, even those that get expelled from a district school. This contract will give them another option, another way to to make grades and succeed.

McUne: Concur with Chris; any options we have for kids is good. Do we have any estimate of the number of kids that are involved in each alternative education option?

Robinson: Generally between 30-50 total for all programs.

Alexander: Where's this done at? [sic]

Zarate: Online, so wherever there is a computer. Can even happen at LHS. Students receive online mentor; McUne notes that there is a lot of material support.

Zarate: All teachers teaching these courses are highly qualified in the State of Oregon. They are teachers.

Fisher: Does this include math? [No one answers]

9:01 PM: Motion to approve contract passes unanimously.

9:02 PM: ACT Results - LCSD piloted a program with ACT. LCSD is sticking with ACT; "is a curriculum-based measure that really looks at college readiness;" SAT just indicates if student is ready for college, but says nothing about how well a student will do once there. ACT does provide that information.

Zarate: Got results. Tim Geoghagan (sp?) is working at DO position, is testing coordinator. Will present test results.

Tim presents scores. LCSD is competitive maybe a point or two lower than state and nation, but competitive.

Tim: Juniors, 2008 pilot: LHS scores are much lower than the state averages.

Robinson: Need to note that state average is made up of volunteers; we required all juniors to take it. [IF THIS IS TRUE, THEN ONE CAN'T MAKE THE COMPARISON - WHY IS THIS EVEN UP THERE?]

9:07 PM: Robinson: It's a bit of an unfair comparison; college students vs. all of ours.

Tim: See the first graph - it compares those who took it voluntarily. Much better comparison.

9:11 PM: Tim: I went to a private school; both that and my reading suggests that the aforementioned math problem is universal, it's not just Lebanon - and I'm proud to be in a district that's working so hard on this.

[By now, there are about two rows' worth of seats empty]

Reed School: Alexander: "I don't want to add any more man-hours to the proposal. Second, there used to be a restoration group. What happened to them?"

[Why did he not bring up the restoration group before now?]

Robinson: The restoration group folded due to lack of support. The question of adding labor to the current proposal is still in the same cost ballpark.

McUne: Adding 200 labor hours @ $20/hour = $4000 more to the proposal; I thought the limit was $17,000. I thought original purpose was to simply reallocate existing costs. I support the original proposal.

Alexander: Make as motion?

McUne makes, Alexander seconds - to approve as noted with deletion of 200 man-hours.

Wineteer: Any discussion?

Linda Darling: If I may, at the last meeting, you approved a facilities plan.... some discussion of budget years and allocating funds for it follows.

Motion passes unanimously w/out 200 labor hours.

Wineteer: If there are any further needs, you can always come back.

9:18 PM. Financial Report. Everyone looks tired/bored, though the board is listening attentively.

9:22 PM: Board policies. OSBA has offered revisions to IKF; just received on Friday.

Wineteer: Have five policies that can be approved tonight if we subtract IKF, which needs reworked in light of OSBA input.

McUne: Move to approve final reading of all outstanding policies but IKF.

Shimmin: Second.

Audience laughs at Wineteer in a very good-natured way at his having to read all the policy letters out loud as part of the motion.

Alexander: Did we include IKF [DOES HE EVEN LISTEN AT ALL?]

Motion passes unanimously.

Wineteer: We are looking at September 15th for Executive Session @ 6 PM and Math meeting at LHS @ 6 PM on September 10th. Next meetings are October 6th, November 3rd, December 1st. Thanks for coming.

[Meeting ends.]


Anonymous said...

No...It's not "teachers talking to teachers" in a well-run district...there is usually a specialist at the DO assigned to develop (or select and purchase) a curriculum. Guess you didn't major in education.

Anonymous said...

"ended up taking class at LB she'd already had [this is pretty common]....." -- This is pretty common because math education in this district SUCKS! Just because it's common, that doesn't make it just fine. Jeezz Dennis.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing this Dennis. Much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

I am Jennifer Meadowbrook, Paul Meadowbrook's daughter. You posted a snide remark about how i would feel about my dad making public that my tutor thought i had gaps in my mathamatical abilities. Seeing as you have no idea how I feel about it I thought I would enlighten you and your other readers. I have no shame about having gaps in math. I am a good student who does not skip class, who always does her homework and studies hard for tests. That being said, I am really not to blame for the gaps, which i readily acknowledge exsist. I have no desire to get into the debate on Lebanon's general math scores but as a senior at LHS, I feel cheated out of my education. You said that it is very common that students retake a class in college that they took in high school. Do you hear yourself? I took a class at Linn Benton that I had just finished at the high school two weeks before. This is NOT normal. It may have become the norm in Lebanon, but in general this is wrong. We should be able to take classes in high school and be able to make a smooth transition into a community college or a university without having to spend money on retakes. (My family paid for the class I took because it is offered at the high school so they do not pay. By the way, I recieved a "c" in high school and an "a" at Linn Benton.) My hope is that you will stop attacking my dad for being a wonderfully supportive, generous father to me and my younger sister and use that energy to come up with answers to the educational issues in the district.

Dennis said...

Anon @ 7:53 - it's both, or it should be. I would hate to work in a district where teachers got no input on curriculum. But yes, there should be experts.

Anon @ 7:56 - It's common even for students who do well to have to retake a class when entering college - colleges would rather have students retake a class and then do well in subsequent classes than start at the next step and fail. For example, I took Algebra I in college having finished LHS with a B in Pre-Calculus. I could have started at a higher level, but OSU recommended I take that class. It worked out well for me.

My point is simply that it's not due to math education being terrible necessarily, but to a few other factors. I'm not saying the math program at LHS is good, but that the picture is significantly more complex than "math education in this district SUCKS!"

Anonymous said...

Dennis -- I went to high school in another state -- When I went to high school I tested out of the high school math classes I had completed and ready for college level math! You seem to think that because you also had to back up and retake some math and it "worked out well" for you to spend time retaking something you already took in high school, that then this is just fine. I don't want Lebanon students to have to redo high school courses when them get to college! You may see this as normal having gone through the Lebanon educational system yourself, but where there is quality curriculm and consistent high-quality instruction -- it is not normal (OK maybe it is in districts with parents who don't care -- but that's obviously not the case here).

Dennis said...

Jennifer, thank you for commenting. I will say up front that if you ever want to contact me directly, my email address is listed on the front page of this blog.

As for your comment, I am not blaming you for gaps; I have many, many gaps in my education and abilities, and always have. Rather, I am noting that Paul Meadowbrook made note of it during a board meeting. I would hope he talked to you first about it. I know if my parent had talked about my educational experience when I was in HS, I would have been upset.

Paul Meadowbrook's statement that there is no curriculum in the LCSD regarding math is a factual error. I am sorry if that bothers you, but it's just wrong. He could have said "the curriculum is not good and needs changed," and that would have been OK. But to claim there isn't any curriculum is just hyperbole.

Dennis said...

Anon @ 9:01 - maybe it's because I went to a public university, but I feel comfortable using myself as an example only because it was a story I heard often. Certainly others had different experiences, but mine was pretty common, even accounting for students who went to higher-achieving/better-funded schools.

Jennifer, I should also add that I have no idea what kind of father your father is, and it's simply not my place to comment on that. I did not intend to imply anything on that front, and I apologize if I did.

Roxy said...

I also had to retake math at LBCC that I'd already taken at LHS. I finished LHS with Algebra II and wound up in Math 95 at LBCC, although I should've been in Math 111. Also was a good (A's/B's, not a single "C" at LHS) student -- pre-academies.

As far as I knew, it was just how it went.

It may be wrong, but I'm guessing if you talk to other students at LB, you'll find they've also had to start in Math 65 or 95... But it's just that: A guess. Now that would be interesting data -- across the board, not just LHS students.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem may be teachers like Jennifer Walters who obviously do not think they should be required to take the time to collaborate with parents on solutions to the problems that plague our district. I am happy to say, however, that in my experiance most teachers in Lebanon do not mirror her anti-parent attitude (although my children are still in elementary school).

Dennis said...

Anon @ 8:27 PM, care to offer any evidence for that assertion?

Anonymous said...

Not just the teacher mentioned, I know of another one who has very, very limited availability--unless you want to get to the school at 6am to get help, you are pretty much out of luck.

Anonymous said...

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I have had two students take classes from Jennifer Walter. I have gone on two field trips, emailed with Ms. Walter on countless occasions, and been invited to a special presentation in her classroom. Once, when she felt my student was making some bad choices called and we met and discussed it.
Ms. Walter is tough. My son, who is in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon (and on the Dean's list) butted heads with Ms. Walter regularly. But- when he could write an A paper in the above mentioned Clark Honors College, he was happy to have had her. She may not be warm and fuzzy.
Ms. Walter is so much for working with kids and parents. I don't think you should speak to a subject that you don't have first hand knowledge. Edda

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