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.

HG&D Work Session Report: Keep Parent & Board Approval

Culture, Education, Elmbrook

I attended the Human Growth and Development (Sex Ed.) work session Tuesday night. Several of the HG&D parent committee members were in the audience along with some interested parents. 

It was great to see many of our board members boldly standing up for the rights of the parent members of the HG&D committee as well as their own right to review and approve of specific lesson plans and materials used for Elmbrook's Sex Education program.

On a minor note, Glen Allgaier questioned the change in terms from STD (sexually transmitted disease) to STI (sexually transmitted infection). He said that the word "disease" caught his attention more than "infection." I would agree with that. Disease seems more detrimental than the term infection, especially considering some of these "infections" are fatal or incurable. The change from STD to STI was not made by Elmbrook, but was a change made by the CDC, I believe. (Update: See comment below from Cheri who notes that CDC still uses STD. Anyone know why we changed to STI?)

Another question about terminology that keeps cropping up is, what is meant by "curriculum?" This becomes important when discussing who is responsible for approving curriculum. Are we talking outcomes/general topics or actual teaching materials/lesson plans?

Dave Marcello said he would be in favor of getting curriculum in place, not outcomes. Outcomes is fuzzy.

Tom Gehl noted that it may be semantics, with curriculum, I conjure films, lesson plans, etc. 

Later in the meeting, Glen Allgaier suggested that they should just drop the word curriculum all together and just talk lesson plans and outcomes.

I would agree, because then everyone would know exactly what was being decided on. Are we agreeing to just the general topics of what is to be taught (outcomes)? or are we talking about the exact lesson plans and materials used to teach that topic?

If you remember, this was brought up before. Eileen Depka and Dr. Stewart say curriculum is the collective word for the total of individual outcomes. But State Statute 118.019 does state, "...nothing in the law prevents the [HG&D] committee from actually writing and developing lessons or a curriculum, for that matter." It later refers to "curriculum (lessons)" in their instructions.

Curriculum review is one area the HG&D committee does not agree on:

12 of the committee agreed: I believe that the HG&D Advisory Committee should review and approve all outcomes and Certified faculty should create the lessons. Grade Level parents (2 or more) should review the lessons and provide recommendations prior to adoption. Parents can review any lesson before their student participates in the class. (Current practice)*

5 of the committee agreed: I believe that the HG&D Advisory Committee should review and approve all outcomes and all lessons. Parents can review any lesson before their student participates in the class. 

*My note: It may be current practice in principle, but not in reality. At the last meeting we were told by the Pilgrim Park Principal that the binders were not available for parental perusal.  

So 5 of the HG&D committee wish a greater role in reviewing and approving the actual lessons taught. According to State Statute, they have that right.

Depka many times said that allowing the parents on the committee to approve of actual lessons would slow the process down. She seemed to favor that the teachers gather the materials--some prepared, some designed--and then parents (not necessarily HG&D parents) can look at the program. If all of that went to committee, it slows down the process.

David Marcello asked how long would that take?

One semester for the staff approval method, Depka answered. Dr. Stewart said that maybe we need to say, this is what we need done, this is the time frame.  She added, This time we are not starting from zero--some (outcomes) were not changed.

Marcello then said, we heard testimony for Pilgrim Park's Principal Galster that the binders are not in order. We ought to give support to teachers and parents sooner than later. I am in favor of speeding up the process, that is why I like the pre-printed materials. (The "Game Plan" Galster held up at the April school board meeting from Just Say Yes.)

I think Depka and Stewart said that they looked at them, but had not been given any materials.

Marcello estimated that 70% of parents probably would agree with the parents on the committee (that the pre-printed program was good.)

Board President Meg Wartman mentioned that the board had not approved of those materials. She also mentioned that as policy is written now, there is no formalized step for parent review. They then talked about where parent review would come in to play.

Dr. Gibson emphasized that the authority (for approval) resides with the board.

Steve Schwei doesn't think any board review of lessons is needed. (He earlier referred to board review as micromanaging.)

Marcello rebutted, someone should.

Gehl said, what I am looking for is elevating the voice of parents to that of staff.

The Journal reported Gehl as saying, "greater scrutiny is warranted because without it, Elmbrook and other districts have 'led to a case where (sexual) abstinence is presented as an option, but it's nowhere close to being presented as the healthiest option.'" We're not standing behind the policy that says abstinence is promoted. I looked at the pre-packaged, Just Say Yes. I liked much of it. It addresses hesitant teachers, it is uniform, transparent, consistent and aggressively promotes abstinence as the healthiest choice.

Gibson again said the way policy is currently written, (review) is not the role for the board or parents.

Marcello stood up for parents again, We'd like to see parents review this. Later he added, Why wouldn't you solicit the parents on HG&D? 

Depka stated that they want to expand to more parents to look at all materials. In just approving outcomes it took 1/2 year already. If we took actual lessons, it would take longer.

Allgaier said, We have a terrific source in this HG&D team. I would advocate for a very strong role of HG&D team parents. They will reach consensus, the ones (lessons) with disagreement will come to the board.

Wartman added, Prior to parent review, the HG&D team should review

There was lots of back an forth on the issue of who reviews the lessons. Some comparisons were made to how they approve of other classes like math, but to me, that is rather apples to oranges.

HG&D parent members, who wish a greater role in reviewing and approving what is being taught in HG&D, have every right to that role. Board members Allgaier, Marcello, Gehl, and probably Jones, seem like they are interested in reviewing/approving at the very least the HG&D lessons the committee couldn't come to consensus on.

It may not be the way we did it in the past, but that does not mean that the way we used to do it is the only way to accomplish the goal of a HG&D program. Plus, past methodology is hardly a shining beacon. Remember last year when oral sex instruction was going to be taught to 6th graders without proper approval process?

Considering there is pre-written curriculum in place that the parent members of the HG&D committee and middle school principal Galster thought excellent, it would seem pre-printed would be the more efficient place to start, rather than reinventing the wheel.

One statement from Dr. Gibson stands out as a glaring, What? Fairly Conservative talked about that yesterday. Please know that nothing the HG&D parents asked for was "Christian" material. Just Say Yes is not a Christian based group either, and an emphasis on abstinence as the best choice is the State's priority.


Past Postings: Updated: So What Happened With HG&D and School Board? April 11, 2008


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