Board member Kelly Marlow asked the board chair to consider appointing a citizen committee to study the pros and cons to Common Core, but the idea was quickly shot down.
“I want to suggest, based on a lot of feedback that I received and some of the things that the other boards around the state are having to deal with, that we as a board take on the task of appointing a citizens committee to do some research, reach out to the community, talk both on concerns and comforts, and summarize that (for the board),” Marlow said.
Board Chair Janet Read and Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo opposed the idea. Read reminded Marlow of the board’s three-hour board training session last week, where the board discussed school board member committees and reasons for not having them.
While the superintendent maintains his own staff committees, he has voiced strong opposition to these types of committees, since they often keep stakeholders from knowing all of the information at hand. Petruzielo said the policy came after a recommendation made over a decade ago by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the body that provides accreditation to many Georgia school districts, when the district faced accreditation probation.
“We just finished with board training where it was clear that the board does not have committees,” Petruzielo said. “I do not support the idea of a board committee.”
He also maintained his support for the new curriculum standards.
“Common Core is simply a statement of what kids should know and be able to do in order to function effectively in what has become a technologically rich and culturally diverse society,” said Petruzielo. “It is no longer acceptable for kids just to meet basic standards of expectation; it’s no longer OK to just trust that each teacher will decide what is important for kids to know. We’re in an international economy, our kids need to be prepared to compete with kids from around the world. To do that, Common Core standards ensure that, basically the ante will be upped. There will be far more rigorous curriculums, far more rigorous expectations.”
So far, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Over the last two years, Cherokee County has piloted the Common Core program. The pilot is scheduled for completion by the 2013-14 school year.
The school board unanimously approved the Five-Year Strategic Plan in November, which included adhering to the Common Core standards. As a result of participating in Race to the Top, the school district has received $2.8 million in federal grant funding.
“Frankly, it’s a little late in the game, I think, for the political discussion to be occurring about Common Core,” said Petruzielo. “The Common Core standards are a fundamental component of the Race to the Top initiative.”
As far as creating a committee, Petruzielo noted that when he announced the establishment of new ad hoc committees earlier this year, board members had the opportunity to submit names for those committees.
Read said she submitted names and Petruzielo confirmed that she was the only board member to do so.
“If an individual board member wanted to meet with constituents and get feedback and communicate whatever questions or concerns or what-have-yous that they have, that is always fine,” said Petruzielo. “If you start getting to the level of a board committee I think it takes on a whole other posture, which is inappropriate, which would send the wrong message, and in my opinion, which would be counterproductive to what we want in our schools and in our classrooms.”
After the explanation, Read made the final call on the suggestion.
“As the board chair, I am not going to authorize a committee because that is not how we do things on this board,” Read said.
Board member Michael Geist asked Marlow about the purpose of the citizen committee she suggested.
“So, something more like a public hearing and opportunity to get feedback and not necessarily something that would bind the board to make a decision one way or another,” Geist asked. “Is that right?”
Marlow said that was “a great suggestion.”
“I would like to see a more focused group specifically addressing the concern of Common Core,” said Marlow.
However, both Read and the superintendent noted all Cherokee residents have the ability to contact district officials with specific questions.
“I think we need to be very careful that we don’t send a mixed message to the people who work in this system,” Petruzielo said. “The classroom teachers and principals and everybody else who have been committed to implementing this Common Core already for the last two years.”
Petruzielo said Common Core represents higher standards for all students.
“I for one have never been able to understand why we wouldn’t expect the same high performance levels from kids no matter where in America they live, no matter who their parents are, no matter how well-educated their parents are,” said Petruzielo. “In no way do the Common Core standards dumb down the curriculum, in no way do they make it less robust. In fact, the Common Core curriculum represents much higher standards.”
District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said parents will continue to have access to class materials and syllabi for review, and while following Common Core the school district will maintain individualized education models.
“Students who are ahead of national averages can continue to progress at an advanced pace,” Jacoby said. “Similarly, the school district will continue to provide additional resources for children who, due to factors such as socio-economic background, English as a special language or learning disabilities, need more assistance in meeting expectations.”
In other business, the board discussed contract proposals for the construction of sewer infrastructure for Cherokee High School and voted unanimously to approve a contract submitted by Strack Incorporated.
Strack Incorporated was awarded the highest score of the four proposals in the evaluation and also submitted the lowest cost bid. The sewer infrastructure project is estimated to cost around $392,000 and will be funded by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds.
The sewer lines are being relocated so Cherokee High School can construct a new girl’s softball field.