Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

UPDATED: So what happened with HG&D and school board?

Education, Elmbrook

There were about 40 residents attending last Tuesday's School Board meeting--most of them because of the HG&D topic.

Early in the meeting, one man from the Christian Civil Liberties Union threatened to picket Elmbrook's building project if the school adopted the controversial oral sex warning policy in the 6th and 8th grade.

At about 8:05pm, Dr. Stewart began her report by stating the HG&D team had 2 tasks. One was to look at policy and make recommendations and the other was to look at the curriculum and outcomes. She then asked the board if they had questions.

Steve Schwei requested that the chart of outcomes for each grade level be reprinted, so the rationale would be noted for every outcome: 73 Outcomes were unchanged, 38 updated, 17 new, and 19 eliminated. 

Ms. Depka clarified that Outcomes were the individual pieces of the total Curriculum picture.

(Please note that while those definitions may be Ms. Depka’s and Dr. Stewart’s interpretation of those terms, they do not reflect the entire HG&D team’s definition of “curriculum” or use of the term “curriculum” in the DPI’s instructions for HG&D. This issue is too large to cover here and will have to wait for another post. Just be aware however, that the DPI states, “...nothing in the law prevents the committee from actually writing and developing lessons or a curriculum, for that matter.” and refers to curriculum (lessons) in their instructions.)

Dr. Stewart (I think it was her, not Depka) stated that there were 2 areas that the HG&D team did not come to agreement on. One regarded the use of substitute or alternate lessons. Often the substitute materials are unrelated lessons, and they are not consistent. Should the substituted lessons be consistent so parents could know ahead of time what they would be? Should the substituted lesson be graded? This topic still needs further discussion but is not a hill to die on. 

The other area the HG&D team could not come to consensus on was much more important. Once outcomes are agreed upon and approved by the team, who develops and approves the actual lesson materials for each outcome/curriculum item? This is a question that needs answering.

According to the packet handed out at the board meeting, our present policy is that the lessons and materials are set by faculty and then reviewed by parents, not the HG&D team: 

*Currently, policy directs the Advisory Committee to make recommendations on curriculum/outcomes only. Faculty then creates lessons for the curriculum/outcomes and chooses educational materials to be used in the lessons. A public review by grade level parents is then held to obtain input prior to finalization of lessons. Once lessons are finalized, lessons and materials are available in various venues for review so parents have access to lessons and materials children will complete. Parents then can determine if they want to 'opt opt' of la lesson. The committee provided their views in the form of a survey, which can be used by the Board of Education for a final decision. 


*(Again, this is how Dr. Stewart is portraying the policy on curriculum development, not what State Statute 118.019 mandates.)

But does the current or future policy prevent a teacher from straying from the lesson? How would a parent know the level of detail and diversity in a broad Outcome?

Example: In the 1st grade one of the Outcomes is to "Describe different family structures". That could be rather innocent or not. One parent might just assume that means discussing how some families only have a mother and children, children living with grandparents, or some other traditional arrangement. But could a teacher go into detail about Johnny has two daddies or Johnny has two mommies or I don't even want to think about the possibilities?

By leaving the actual content of the lesson up to the faculty, there could be a very wide spectrum of information taught to the children because there is no hard-set curriculum in place at the time the HG&D team is approving outcomes.

If I were on the HG&D team, I would want to know exactly what the lessons plans were for each outcome before I would feel comfortable approving it.

If I were a parent of an Elmbrook student, I would want these lessons to be consistent and scripted. That way I could look at each topic and decide if I felt this was appropriate for my child or not--ahead of time.

It seemed some sort of easily accessible binder with the content of each lesson for parents to look at ahead of time does not really exist at the present time. The HG&D committee recommended that "Lessons should be available online for parent review, as well as at the Central Administrative Offices, schools, and local libraries."  (That would be an improvement!)

The board and members and the audience were flipping through the 36 page packet of proposed outcomes for each grade level during this time. Board President Meg Wartman emphasized that none of the proposed changes to the current HG&D curriculum would take place until Fall of 2009. 

Time now for the public comment... 

A young woman--a former Elmbrook student--stunned the audience with her comment that went something like this: (Watch the cable broadcast for her exact words--I don't have cable.)

I learned what oral sex was in 8th grade 'cuz I caught 2 kids doing it (in the bathroom?) at Pilgrim Park. (That is what I wrote down in my notebook--I could be wrong.) She went on to say something about how there was a 4 year gap between them addressing the subject and this incident indicating that in the meantime diseases were spread. Evidentially she and other kids thought, "it didn't count as sex" because they (teachers) didn't talk about it. Her premise was that you couldn't control being exposed to the subject, but The one thing you can control is who tells them about it.

I'm thinking, so you saw this going on and because no one ever told you about it before you thought it was a perfectly OK thing to do? I would not think that would be the reaction of someone witnessing that act. One very good question to ask yourself, if you are ever in doubt about if something is right or wrong is, would I do this in front of my parents or a trusted adult? If the answer is no, then chances are, it isn't a good thing to do. But that is just me.

We seemed to have a president who was also confused about "it didn't count as sex". I think the confusion points to a broader issue. There needs to be some sort of guiding principles to place in our minds and the minds of our children, because it is not possible to "warn" or "instruct" about every possible subject, fad, or rumor. A basic, Any sexual pleasure apart from that with your spouse is sin, and I will set no wicked thing before my eye, pretty much covers all areas. These of course are faith based. But statistics on depression and disease do support these faith based premises.

Needless to say, the audience was a little taken back by that young woman's comments. 

Later, when Don Galster the principal of Pilgrim Park and member of the HG&D team spoke, he noted that he had been here for 4 years (well after that young woman's time at Pilgrim). Don pointed out that the members of the HG&D team, who were present in the audience, were the middle school parent representatives. He stated that things were more volatile at the Middle School level. Things were unresolved. Something needs to happen at the Middle School that is different (not like the former student's example though!)

Principal Galster then made a very good observation. Whenever Elmbrook made the decision to do their own material, it may have been because there were not good materials available. We have a Middle School curriculum now that drifts off into Phy. Ed., Science, etc. The binders (with lesson information) are split up--they are all over the building.

He explained that parents want to know what their children are going to hear (but can't because the binders are spread out.) There are very good materials out there (now); there is curriculum that parents have supplied. Every sensitive topic is scripted, written in appealing way, with scary graphs and stories. If a parent walked in, they could show them (what the lessons would entail.) 

This was a camp program, but it is good, he said as he held up "Game Plan"  by JustSayYes. Elmbrook doesn't have to create the perfect program because it already exists!, he concluded. The audience applauded.

Other parents spoke. Since I am running long here, I will save them for another post.

Since that meeting, there has been quite a bit of commentary about the board meeting on Fairly Conservative. One comment surprised me; it was from the young woman who spoke at the board meeting. The content of her 2nd comment is a bit different from what my impression was on Tuesday. Her first comment seemed more definite, the second more rumor. Only the cable broadcast can confirm the first.

Comment 19 "When, in my opening statement, I said I first learned about oral sex from my peers when 2 kids were caught doing it in the bathroom in 7th grade. I will admit right up front that this could be pure speculation, but that isn’t the point. The point is that one person started saying it happened, and suddenly, by the end of the day, every kid at Pilgrim Park was talking about oral sex in the bathroom, and a fair amount of students (myself included) didn’t know what a [it] was. So, I had the pleasure of learning it from another 12 year old."

The meeting went on and it became very clear that finalizing the new HG&D program will be a monumental task. As Meg Wartman stated earlier, nothing will change until fall of 2009. But given the ordeal ahead of the HG&D team, the board, and faculty, I'm thinking they will be fortunate to be finished by then!

Since there are good materials out there now, I do wonder if adopting one of those programs would be the better way to go. I like the idea of scripted and consistent.  I also like the idea of the lessons being on DVD.

Still to come, Comments from the HG&D team parents and Are we following the State Statute correctly? 


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