CANTON — Recent concerns raised about the Common Core Standards prompted the school superintendent to prepare a frequently asked questions series to present at the school board meeting Thursday and post on the district website for the public.
Six people spoke at the meeting, with three speaking in favor and three opposed at the meeting, which was conducted with only emergency power for most of its three hours Thursday after storms delayed discussion for about 30 minutes.
Dr. Frank Petruzielo had copies of the frequently asked questions about Common Core dispersed at the meeting, along with a pamphlet from State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge, to “separate the fact from fiction.”
“I know that there are people who maybe think this was a local decision, but really it has been a state decision,” Petruzielo said. “These are expectations for all students, they aren’t dependent on where a student lives or who his parents are.”
Petruzielo said that from 2012-13, last school year, the Common Core Standards began to be implemented.
“Folks who have had very strong opinions about Common Core and what they think it is and isn’t, the appropriate place to raise those issues, I would think, is with the governor, the Legislature, the state Board of Education,” Petruzielo said. “Because it was that group that accepted $400 million from the federal government in order to participate in Race to the Top, and as a condition for participating in Race to the Top, Georgia, like 45 other states, agreed to have Common Core Standards of performance for kids so that there could be both local, state, national and international comparisons.”
The FAQs sheet passed out to people at the meeting explained the source of the Common Core State Standards.
“The development process began in 2007 when President George W. Bush was in office and included input from business leaders and K-12 and higher education experts,” the handout stated.
Petruzielo said the Common Core Standards are not a curriculum, and said there were no plans to buy new textbooks as a result of adopting the new standards.
“Implementation of these standards are part of the state of Georgia’s Race to the Top initiative and the School District’s Five-Year Strategic Plan, which was unanimously approved by the school board last year,” Petruzielo said.
He said the Common Core State Standards do not control what curriculum is used, and said curriculum is still governed at the local level by the school board, superintendent and staff. Petruzielo also said that the standards will not change what children learn, either, just when they learn it.
“For example, instead of the current common practice of learning fractions in the fifth grade,” Petruzielo said. “Under Common Core, fractions are now a fourth-grade math subject.”
Six people signed up to speak about technical board policy changes proposed by Petruzielo, which he said are “simply intended to reflect the state’s and CCSD’s current agreement on statewide transition to these standards.”
At the meeting, Petruzielo said, “the proposed board policy change has no effect on the school district’s continued use of Common Core Georgia Performance Standards for English, Language Arts and Mathematics or on Georgia Performance Standards for other subjects.”
The first to speak was Jack Staver, a tea party activist from Woodstock.
“Contrary to popular belief, it did not go through the state Legislature,” Staver said. “The public would like to know whether any member of this board or this administration has had any part in development of Common Core Standards.”
Next to speak was John Carter from Ball Ground, who received loud applause following his comment.
“Common Core is not a creation of the Obama White House, it is in fact a product of a collaboration between Republican governors primarily and most notably Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and our own Sonny Perdue,” Carter said. “It enjoyed bipartisan support until the last few months.”
Jennifer Hall, a CCSD teacher, spoke after Carter.
“Attacking the Common Core Standards, which are beneficial to students throughout our nation, have rigor and relevance and are supported by educators, is not going to accomplish the goals that we all want for our students,” Hall said. “The standards are not the curriculum, states and districts still have the responsibility to set the curriculum. Teachers are still free to choose the methods and materials.”
Dean Sheridan said he was opposed to Common Core because of concern for the budget.
Susan Bryg said she felt similarly worried about the budget, and asked if private and home schools had to follow the Common Core Standards.
Amie Hannon said when her family moved from Illinois to Georgia, she wondered why the same grade was learning different things in different places. Hannon said she had been a teacher for more than a decade and was Teacher of the Year in 2010.
“I applaud the state of Georgia for being among the 45 states,” Hannon said. “I appreciate the opportunity to provide more critical thinking than I ever have because these standards, according to corestandards.org, are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world. Why would anyone oppose such a statement?”
The board voted to approve the first reading of numerous board policy changes, including the policy involving changes to reflect the district’s adherence to new standards.
Also at the meeting, Petruzielo announced that, as a result of further budget cuts, two more instructional days can be brought back. This move will bring the total number of instructional days up to 179. The number of furlough days will go from eight to four. Savings as a result of privatizing custodial and grounds services are the reason the board is able to restore more instructional days.
“The School Board and I are committed to returning students to a 180-day calendar, as our primary mission is teaching and learning, and I appreciate the efforts by the Ad Hoc Budget Committee to make this proposal possible,” Petruzielo said.
The board voted to authorize the superintendent and his staff to begin negotiating a grounds maintenance contract with the Seasonal Designs company. The company scored 97 points out of a possible 100, the highest score of all the evaluated companies. The cost is estimated to be just less than $500,000.
The board also announced the on-schedule and under-budget completion of the replacement E.T. Booth Middle School, which will be open for the first day of school in August.
The CCSD tentative budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year is $321 Million and an executive summary is available on the CCSD Open Government Project Web page.
The board voted to table the budget and to approve the spending resolution. The next meeting will be July 24 at 7 p.m.