"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

State Board Allows Greater Local Control for Middle School

The State Board voted in a 9-6 vote to allow greater flexibility in Middle School for local boards and parents. They still require English, Math, Science and History, but the electives are to be determined by the local board. They require PE, Fine Arts, CTE, Health and so forth to be offered, but not required, by law/board policy, for every child. This will allow us, as a local board, to set the requirements and any exceptions at the district level.

Below is my email thanking the State Board for this greater freedom. Many people are very concerned because the news headlines read that the State Board had eliminated PE and Health. They didn't eliminate it, they are opening up the requirements so the local boards can customize as they see fit. This is a huge win in the local control column. Please take a moment to thank the State Board for this action.

*****************************************************************************************************************
Dear State Board Members,

I just want to thank you for supporting increased local control last week in allowing us, as locally-elected school board members, to set the requirements for elective courses such as Band, PE, and CTE. Thank you for having the confidence in us, and the parents we represent, to be allowed the flexibility to legally make exceptions for students who don't fit the mold, who might have reasons for not needing PE, Health, CTE and so forth.

The biggest problem I see in education is we are trending toward more centralized control and more standardization. While we all acknowledge the individuality and uniqueness of every child, too often in a large system, such as ours, that individuality can be shut out and lost as we try to mandate all things to all people. And yet, the best answers are always those that allow more freedom for the individual to make the decisions that most directly impact himself or herself. In this case, that means the parents and those elected, most directly, to represent them.

For those of you who disagreed with the decision, I hope you will give us a chance, at the local level, to prove that we are worthy of the trust of our communities. I fear that our schools are becoming too aligned with testing and results and pushing for workforce skills and missing out on the wide variety of educational opportunities. So, be assured, that I will be on the front lines of making sure that we continue to offer a full complement of classes to meet our individual students' needs.

I hope going forward you will be inclined to look at the high school requirements, in a similar vein.

Additionally, it would be fantastic if you allowed districts to choose to adopt a non-integrated math option and to go with the traditional sequence of Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, pre-Calculus and then Calculus. An additional track that would allow for Algebra 1 to start in 8th grade like it used to before we adopted the Common Core standards for math in 2010 would be fantastic. It would allow the average student to take Calculus as a senior without having to cram 4 years' worth of high-level math into 3 years. (I have heard that the concern is SAGE testing, and I'd be happy to address why that shouldn't be a big issue at all.) Personally, I would combine Intermediate 1 and 2 and pick the most important topics from both (the majority of Int 2 is of greater importance than Int 1, despite that the CC standards in the Appendix stated that you could start Algebra 1 in 8th grade after completing their 7th grade sequence. They are incorrect.) Even better, just restore the pre-Algebra standards from 2007. Of course, in my world of worlds, the 2007 math standards would be adopted in place of what we currently have, but I digress onto my favorite topic. ;-)

Sorry for the length of my email. I am just so thrilled to finally see just a bit of control returned to our local boards and parents! This is something that people have wanted since I ran for the first time in 2010. When you knock on people's doors and talk to them, their concerns always center around what isn't working for their individual child. We need to allow greater flexibility just like this going forward.

Sincerely,

Wendy Hart
Mother of 3
Alpine School Board Member for Alpine, Cedar Hills and Highland

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

HB215--CSE: No One's Child is Safe While the Legislature is in Session

Disclaimer: the topic of this blog post is mature but it is necessary for parents to be properly informed about their children's education.  Comments will not be accepted for this post.

Mark Twain famously said, "No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session."  He should have added children to the mix.

The most pressing issue, in my opinion, is HB215.  This modifies state law to allow for greater latitude in teaching children sexuality education (also known as Comprehensive Sexuality Education or CSE) which, as it has been implemented in other states, goes far beyond biology and medical facts. HB215:

 1) decriminalizes providing IUD's and abortion services to minor children without parental consent and
2) REMOVES some common-sense prohibitions from school curriculum guidelines in K-12.

For example, current law includes the following that will be removed should this law pass.

1. Stressing the importance of abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases. *
2. Instruction is not allowed to facilitate or encourage the violation of any state or federal criminal law.*
3. Local school district material is not currently allowed to go into "how to", including erotic behavior, etc.**

Our current state law allows for abstinence-based instruction, not abstinence-only.  It is also Opt-in, meaning parents have to agree to let their children participate.  Parents also are able to review the contents and in many cases are invited to attend.  To see the current FAQs from the State Board website, click here.  These FAQs indicate what is CURRENTLY being taught.  Everything proponents of CSE and this bill state, are already being taught and discussed.

The media is trying to portray our current instruction as being too prudish and not providing students with accurate information.  A poll asked Utahns if they preferred an ***abstinence-ONLY approach versus a comprehensive approach.  No definition of what these two terms meant was provided. Most people approved of the 'comprehensive' approach.  But it most decidedly didn't ask if instruction in erotic behavior should be included in K-12 school curricula.

For information on how CSE is being marketed here and used in other states, please download this PowerPoint.  If you look at lines 136-144, lines 191-197, lines 220-240 and lines 260-26 in HB215, you will see what state law is being changed that will now allow CSE curricula as outlined in the PowerPoint.  The worst part is that CSE downplays the risk factors that lead to unwanted pregnancies and STIs.  In the interest of providing a 'more comprehensive' sexual instruction to our children, we are doing them a grave disservice by downplaying the risks (both physical and emotional) that accompany sexual activity.

The job of the schools is not to promote a view of society absent reality.  Our job should be to present the facts that our children will need about this important topic.  Everything else, parents can choose to present at home.

Additional resources:
Talking Points on HB215: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzUjUSlTes-4XzNOTzVHZnZiQjg

War on Children video (10 min or 35 min documentary):  http://www.comprehensivesexualityeducation.org/

1 hour presentation by Dr. Miriam Grossman, M.D. on a CSE curricula being implemented in Ontario, Canada.  About 19 minutes in she compares the instruction on smoking and alcohol to CSE and then provides medical information that most people didn't learn in school either.  Note: This is what CSE should actually mean.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21YvYPD56-U


* [(b) (i) That instruction shall stress:]
137          [(A) the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity
138     after marriage as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases; and]
139          [(B) personal skills that encourage individual choice of abstinence and fidelity.]
140          [(ii) (A) At no time may instruction be provided, including responses to spontaneous
141     questions raised by students, regarding any means or methods that facilitate or encourage the
142     violation of any state or federal criminal law by a minor or an adult.]
143          [(B) Subsection (1)(b)(ii)(A) does not preclude an instructor from responding to a
144     spontaneous question as long as the response is consistent with the provisions of this section.]

** [emphasizing abstinence
192     before marriage and fidelity after marriage, and prohibiting instruction in:];
193          [(I) the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior;]
194          [(II) the advocacy of homosexuality;]
195          [(III) the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices;
196     or]
197          [(IV) the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage;]

***Utah law allows for an abstinence-based approach, not abstinence-only.  So, the poll was disingenuous to begin with.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mission Statement and Murdock Canal: Jan 3, 10, 17 Meetings

The two top issues for Board meetings this month are the Mission Statement will be addressed at the Board Retreat on Tuesday, Jan. 17.  And a resolution supporting the Murdock Canal road construction from 4800 West (Highland/Cedar Hills by Harvey Blvd) to 100 East (Alpine Hwy in Highland) will be voted on.  Board Agenda for Jan. 10 is here.

Mission Statement
The mission statement is "Educating all students to ensure the future of our democracy."  Seven years ago (yes, time flies) there were concerns about the mission statement.  The first concern is that our country is a republic, not a democracy.  (For a good video on the difference, go here or see the embedded video above.)  Democracy is a concern because it implies that the common good, as determined by the majority, outweighs the rights of the individual.  Other concerns had to do with John Goodlad, whose Moral Dimensions of Teaching, formed the basis of the mission statement in Alpine School District.  In reading Dr. Goodlad's books (The Moral Dimensions of Teaching and Developing Democratic Character in the Young), I found quite a few ideas that didn't square with my understanding of individual, unalienable rights discussed in the Constitution.  I think it is safe to say that Dr. Goodlad is focused on creating a more socialistic society in America than currently exists, and he hopes to do so through education in the youth.  I'll admit this is a very controversial situation.  But that's the point.  Our previous board had discussed finding a mission statement that would be less controversial and would appeal the the vast majority of our taxpayers and patrons.  If you have suggestions for the mission statement, you are welcome to email the board members or make public comment at any of the Board meetings.  The next meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 10 @ 6pm.  (You will want want to come a few minutes early to sign up.)



Murdock Canal Road

For years, a proposed East-West road has been proposed near the Murdock Canal in Highland.  Highland City is planning on building this road.  However, due to certain legal requirements and the proximity to the Utah State Developmental Center, the State Legislature must give its approval for this new development.  The City Councils of Highland City and American Fork have passed formal resolutions in support of this construction.  Cedar Hills has voiced its support for this construction project as well.  On Tuesday, Jan. 10, @ 6pm, the Alpine School Board will consider a resolution in support of this project, as well.  I, personally, am in support of this project.  Those involved want to make sure that all parties are taken care of, while allowing an East-West corridor that facilitates quicker times to AF Hospital without using SR-92.

Non-Discrimination Policy and Property Purchases

Also, a discussion about possible changes to our non-discrimination policy will be addressed, and several property purchase resolutions. To read the policy proposal and the resolutions, download the "Meeting Documents" found here.)

Summit Energy Proposal
A proposal to obtain Natural Gas through Summit Energy instead of Questar for our secondary schools is also on the agenda.  The proposal shows a significant cost savings on an annual basis.  Summit Energy presented to the Board on Jan. 3, 2017.  You can listen to the audio here.  (Additional Media->Board Meeting start around 8min in: http://board.alpineschools.org/2016/12/21/january-3-2017-board-meeting/)