March 12 Board Meeting–Board Member Resigns, Coronavirus update and No Discussion on Sex Ed.

This is just a recap of the March 12, 2019 TSD Board meeting.  A couple prefatory notes (1) Unlike most of the Board meeting recaps, I added in quite a bit of commentary, and (2) For some perspective, this meeting was held the night before the Governor shut down schools statewide. 

There were a couple take home points from the Meeting(recorded audio can be found here):

Here are some highlights(with quite a bit of commentary from me):

  1. Rita Luce has retired. Rita served on the Board for over 15 years and the District is planning some type of ceremony.  The TSD Board plans to conduct interviews in early May.  With Rita’s retirement, the Board now has only one member who has served more than 5 months.
  2. As it routinely does, the Board approved the Consent Agenda, which deals with quite a number of significant fiscal issues. As is almost always the case, there was no discussion.
  3. Gender Inclusion policy and school calendar for 2020-21 were each approved without discussion.  I could not find these policies on the TSD website yet, but will get them up when links area available.  The drafts of these items discussed at the last board meeting are pictured in the blog we published from that meeting and can be found here.
  4. There was a first reading of the proposed revised graduation credits.  Each of the Board members who were present seemed engaged, and had questions for Shawn Batstone, who was presenting on the topic.  The version that is being circulated requires 24 hours of credit, but does allow for a waiver of up to 2 hours of credit.  Here is the link to the current requirements.  
  5. Coronavirus—-Sean updated the Board on the Coronavirus. The day of the meeting, King and Pierce County schools shut down until April 24th.  Sean went through many precautions being undertaken by TSD, some significant changes being made with respect to scheduling and building maintenance.  The theme was that TSD, and the other Thurston County Schools, would follow the direction of the Thurston County Public Health Department.   Sean was very thorough, and spent a lot of time talking about various courses of action being undertaken by TSD.

*******As it turns out, the day after the Board meeting all of the Thurston County schools followed suit and announced that all schools would be closed until April 24th.  

Notably, during the public comment period, Tim Voie, (TEA representative) used his time to talk about communication he has been receiving about the coronavirus.  He even pointed out that several of the teachers and other community members have concerns.  Tim expressed the cooperative work going on between TEA and TSD administration regarding potential issues that might arise(like closures).   However, the Board asked no questions of Tim, and engaged in no dialogue about the Coronavirus. 

Sean also talked about the possibility of online learning in the event of a closure, which seems unlikely in the short term given some state and federal requirements.  In essence, it sounds like OSPI is saying that TSD cannot provide online education to some students without provided the same opportunity for all students.  In talking with Sean, it sounds like there are some barriers to implementing an online program districtwide.   At the time of writing this, it appears OSPI is optimistic that a plan may be in place to provide online learning around March 30th

  1. Sex Education Bill—The School Board declined to discuss or take any action, regarding SB 5395

SB 5395 is a controversial bill awaiting the Governor’s signature that significantly revamps Sexual Education for K-12 students.  Here is a link to a recent blog I drafted on SB 5395. 

At least a few schools districts have taken a public position, advocating for their community.  Prior to the meeting, Sean Dotson advised me that the item could be added to the agenda if the Board deemed that it warranted attention. 

I, and many other TSD parents, asked the TSD Board to do the same and address SB 5395.    I received no response from any of the Board Members, which was surprising.  However, once I watched the Board meeting video, I realized the Board is going to take a “wait and see” approach, and does not intend to undertake a proactive approach in the short term.   

This was disappointing to me as I know many TSD families have strong opinions(both in favor and against).  What I do not know is how any of the Board members feel or what any of them would like to see happen.  Many districts have taken an active role in communicating with legislators, the governor and OSPI.  However, we have no indication what advocacy, if any, the TSD Board has undertaken.

I do appreciate the law, if signed, does not go into effect until 2021. However, many TSD families have asked TSD to advocate now, and the Board has declined to do so.  This lack of action is disappointing, especially given the routine absence of substantive discussion by the Board on important topics. 

  1. Breath of Fresh air during Board member comments.

Darby Kaikkonen used her Board member comment time to discuss a review of the attendance policy.  This was a breath of fresh air.  Darby had been reviewing some of the attendance policies, and put forth some concerns.   Sean Dotson indicated that he would work to further this discussion with the Board. 

The Board members routinely use their member comment time to talk about sporting events they have attended, musicals events they have attended, quality time spent in the schools, or other uplifting good events in the TSD community.  While I appreciate there are a lot of great things going on in TSD, we receive such a small amount of information from the Board members that I really appreciate a Board member actually discussing core board member functions(like TSD policies) during member comment time.  I  am hoping Darby has started a trend. 

The next meeting is set for March 26th, but it sounds like it will be done via electronic means.  

Resources for Online Learning during Covid-19 Social Distancing.

This past week has brought on many changes for each of us. One of those has been how to keep our children learning while schools have closed for at least 6 weeks.

As each of us navigate the homeschool experience, several resources keep popping up from companies that are offering services free of charge.  I thought it might be helpful to have these resources listed in one place. The list is comprised of the resources I have come across during the past week or so.  Hopefully you find some of them useful.

Some that don’t fall into the homeschool category, but are important are the following:

Here is the list of “homeschool help” resources.  If you find a new one, let me know and I will add it onto the list. 

  • This one has many different resources and is a pretty comprehensive list of some great free resources can be found on this website:  http://www.amazingeducationalresources.com
  • From Audible.com: With all of us experiencing varying degrees of social distancing and school closures, we have created something that we hope makes our customers’ lives a little easier. At stories.audible.com, you will find hundreds of our titles available completely free. The collection has been handpicked by our editors and is a mix of stories to entertain, engage, and inform young people, ages 0–18. 
  •  www.musicplayonline.com is a fantastic interactive music website for elementary ages (and probably older). All students can access it now for free.
        • Username: snow
        • Password: 2020
        • They’ve had a lot of traffic so check back later if it’s down.
  • The Crash Course has lots of resources for high school and middle school students.  There are also some for younger kids too.  https://thecrashcourse.com

“Each show will feature a science lesson, math activities, interactive games, and stories. If you’d like to share your creation with other families who are following along with Quarantime, post it to Instagram with the hashtags #quarantime and #sciencemomsquad. Feel free to tag me too! We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Each day we post a simple worksheet that goes along with the show. You can find those at www.patreon.com/sciencemom.”

  • Actor Josh Gad (voice of the snowman in Frozen) is reading books to kids online.  You can access these through Twitter.  Go to your Twitter account and search for his name, the videos are all on his page.
  • Learn all about geography and fascinating animals on www.kids.nationalgeographic.com
  • Practice math and reading skills all while playing games at www.abcya.com
  • Hand out with your favorite characters all while learning at www.pbs.org

Sex Education Bill (SB 5395)-What You Need To Know

SB 5395 makes a few significant changes to the delivery of sexual education in schools and is one of the more controversial bills to be considered in recent memory.  As it deals directly with education, I figured a blog might be of interest to our readers. 

The law on the books at present(which I will refer to as the “2007 law”) was passed in 2007 and can be found here.  https://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.300.475.

The current bill(which I will refer to as the “2020 law”), has been passed by both bodies of the legislature, and will be become law absent a veto by Governor Inslee.  http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2019-20/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5395-S.E.pdf?q=20200308161935

The language in the 2020 law pretty much mirrors the 2007 law with a few exceptions, but those exceptions have become lightning rods when it comes to the discussion.  

WHAT ARE THE EXCEPTIONS OF NOTE?

First, the 2020 version mandates Comprehensive Sexual Health Education(CSHE) in grades 6-12 beginning in September 2021, and grades K-5 beginning in September 2022.  Under the 2007 law, CSHE was voluntary—Districts and/or schools could choose to tackle the subject or choose not to do so.  So, we are going from a “the Districts can teach CSE if desired” to a “all public schools must teach CSE.” Futher, while the quantum of CSE required is vague, the law does say CSE must be “an integral part of the curriculum” at public schools.

Second, the 2020 version requires all public schools to use curricula approved by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction(OSPI).   At present, schools can choose their own curricula, but that option is limited as the law limits the choices to what OSPI approves.  

For the most part, the remaining provisions of the 2007 and 2020 laws are pretty similar.  The 2020 version has updated some of “medically scientific” and “evidence based” definitions and also requires compliance with RCW 49.60, which is known as the Law Against Discrimination, ensuring consideration of all protected classes of people.  I have heard little conversation about these provisions and they appear to lack any controversy. 

However, the State mandating CSE, while also dictating the curricula, has garnered a lot of attention so I figured it was worthy of a discussion. 

VIEWS ON THE MANDATE

I have my own views, which may be the subject of another blog, but I am going to try and present an objective point of view on this, offering information provided by both sides. 

From what I can tell, the people who are opposed to the mandate rely on a couple primary reasons.  Many people oppose OSPI and the State mandating any specific education, especially on a topic as sensitive as CSE.  They also cite a survey done by OSPI wherein 58% of respondents indicated they felt CSE should not be required in public schools

One of the biggest opponents of the mandatory CSE is Informed Parents of Washington.  https://www.informedparentsofwashington.com/.   The primary argument against the mandate appears to take the position that mandatory CSE goes well beyond what a public school should do, and the bulk of this type of education should be left to the parents.   

Those pushing for the change, led in large part by OSPI, argue that CSE is an important topic in the education of our youth, and a significant number of children do not have adequate resources at home and/or do not receive sufficient education on the topic.   There is also some societal benefit to filling in the gaps with respect to information, trying to make sure that all kids are educated and properly informed, and OSPI is well equipped to be the gatekeeper.  Chris Reykdal, the current Superintendent of Public Instruction does a good job of advocating these positions. 

Here is a recent radio interview with Chris Reykdal tackling some tough questions from a conservative talk show host. https://omny.fm/shows/the-dori-monson-show/superintendent-reykdal-addresses-concerns-over-sex

ARE SCHOOLS TEACHING SEXUAL EDUCATION AT PRESENT?

https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/washington-may-mandate-comprehensive-sex-education-for-all-public-schools-what-does-that-mean-and-other-faqs/

VIEWS ON THE CURRICULA

The most vigorous debate has occurred around the curricula.  A District must teach a curriculum approved by OSPI.  Currently, OSPI has approved a few curricula.  That list can be found here.  https://www.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/public/hivsexualhealth/pubdocs/Reviewed%20Materials%20Consistent%20with%20State%20Requirements%20Rev%2002.07.2020.pdf.  Notably, the selection is limited.  There are about a half dozen approved or partially approved programs, which address varying grade levels.   From what I can tell in an informal survey of those involved, the two most popular choices are the 3Rs and Flash.  A vocal subset of those involved have serious concerns about quite a bit of the material within these programs.

 I believe TSD currently uses Flash for middle schoolers, but could not determine if any of the other curricula are used.   Also, with the 2007 law in place, TSD, like any other district, is free to determine the quantity and content, with the OSPI standards simply serving as a suggested guideline.   That changes under the 2020 law as the parameters within which districts can exercise discretion narrow to a significant degree.

This issue clearly fell along party lines at the legislature.  The Debate on the House floor was interesting. The Democrats pushed the curriculum, and tossed aside consideration of any significant changes.  The Republicans were doing whatever could be done to create obstacles to the legislation passing.   

I watched the entire debate on TVW and the funniest moment for me was when they were debating the content, and a MATURE SUBJECT MATTER—VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED warning popped up

I did find it ironic that TVW felt the need to warn viewers that CSE material being taught to our children, and debated on the floor, may not be appropriate for its viewing audience. 

There were other comical moments, like when they were discussing an amendment to prohibit the use of Playboy and Penthouse covers(which is actually part of one of the curricula).   That amendment failed.  There was also a 10 or 15 minute debate surrounding curricula which covered “self pleasuring,” and the timing on when that should be covered in the K-12 education.    

CONCLUSION

It appears to me that those who are in favor of the curriculum subscribe to the theories that (1)more information is better, (2)the broad curriculum is a good resource and (3)OSPI provides(or will provide) adequate options. 

Those opposed to the curriculum (1)object to the mature topics being tackled, (2)are concerned that OSPI and the State will dictate unacceptable curriculum and (3)that making CSE an integral part of the curriculum spreads thinner the limited time and resources possessed by Districts.

HOW CAN YOUR VOICE BE HEARD?

It is highly likely that Governor Inslee will sign the 2020 bill, thus it will become law.  Starting in 2021, all public schools in Washington will be required make CSE an integral part of the curriculum.  OSPI will determine which curricula can be used, and while local districts can develop their own curricula, I would think doing so is pretty cost prohibitive so districts will choose from the menu provided by OSPI.  Concerned citizens should contact OSPI and your local schools boards to have voices heard.

The contact info for the the OSPI Sexual Health Program Supervisor is Laurie.dils@k-12.wa.us

You could also contact your statewide legislator and/or TSD School Board members. You can locate their email addresses here.

As always, we welcome comments, questions and suggestions any time. You can contact us at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com