Despite concerns, Bermudian board members create and appoint themselves onto a new curriculum committee

The Bermudian Springs school board created a curriculum committee during its meeting Tuesday evening following a long debate. The committee will act as another layer between the curriculum council and the broader school board.

The board has spent other meetings debating whether to create the committee and what its purpose would be. During Tuesday’s meeting, the board discussed who would be on the committee and whether creating one was even necessary.

Board treasurer Ruth Griffie and member Jennifer Goldhahn have pushed for the creation of the committee, saying it would allow parents and other community members an inside look at curriculum still in the development phase. This would boost transparency and allow for greater parent involvement, according to Griffie and Goldhahn.

They initially asked in December about serving on the already-existing curriculum council. Griffie said she had previously served on the curriculum council in about 2000.

Other board members have wondered whether such a committee is necessary. The curriculum council works on developing curriculum, and Dr. Shannon Myers, assistant superintendent of the district, presents information from those meetings to the council as there are developments.

Goldhahn said the creation of the committee, which will likely meet during the day, will let parents have another opportunity to hear discussions if they are unable to make it to the board meetings.

Board member Matthew Nelson also expressed interest in being on the committee along with Goldhahn and Griffie.

A vote to increase the number of committee members from two to three failed with a vote of 5-4, with vice-president Daniel Chubb, Goldhahn, Griffie, assistant secretary Mary Kemper, and board member Travis Mathna voting against it.

Griffie and Goldhahn were then nominated to join the committee in a 5-1 vote, with Nelson, secretary Douglas Knight, and board president Michael Wool voting against it. Board member Corey Trostle abstained.

Community reaction

During the time for public comment, community member Amy Leatherman worried creating the committee would make curriculum writing needlessly complicated.

“Dr. Myers has done an excellent job of making the curriculum more transparent than ever before,” Leatherman said. “I am concerned because curriculum writing is intense. If we are spending time explaining standards and the needs of the students, it will take twice as long to write curriculum.”

Leatherman also questioned why there needed to be increased checks into the curriculum writing process.

“Leave it to educators,” Leatherman said. “No other job do we try to take over or tell someone how to do their job. Teachers are professionals who have earned their degrees to do their job. We do not help doctors do surgery, lawyers write briefs, CEOs how to do their business plans, so let’s not do this to teachers. Teachers are professionals who are excellent at their job.”

Another parent in the district also questioned the move, saying Myers was competent at sharing curriculum information with the board as it is necessary.

“In my history of listening to the board meetings, I have appreciated her way of presenting information to the public and the board,” the parent said. “There was talk of condensing the massive amount of information from curriculum meetings so that people can easily understand them last night. I can think of few people more qualified for doing that than an educator with years of experience, especially if they’re more familiar with the process than anyone else and have said they’re willing to break it down into sections.”

The parent also said the board is too quick to step in rather than allowing the administration to work out problems on its own.

“I’ve listened to several meetings where the school board has tried to form committees or create policies as a result of a concern brought to the board,” the parent said. “I feel that we should give our administration the time to handle these concerns brought to them, and if that doesn’t work, then I feel like that’s when we start opening the discussion to policies or subcommittees.”

The same parent said board discussions were beginning to “feel political,” mentioning the caucus meeting on Monday night also felt that way.

“Some might disagree with me on this comment, but from listening to the meetings over the past couple of years, I can’t help but feel like the school boards have become a focal point for culture wars,” the parent said.

Jennifer Zerfing, another community member and former school board candidate, said creating a separate curriculum committee to improve transparency may backfire.

“My concern is if parents are concerned about curriculum and they want to hear the whole story, now instead of coming to one board meeting where Dr. Myers presents the whole story, now they have to go to another public meeting and then still come to the board meeting for all of the other business,” Zerfind said. “For people who maybe can’t make all of those meetings, my concern is that it would reduce transparency. I’ve heard from other people, as well, who have liked the shift towards transparency that we’ve seen in this district. This seems like a major step back in the wrong direction far away from transparency.”

In addition to discussing the curriculum committee, the board also approved several volunteers and extracurricular contracts for coaching, summer camp, and other positions.

The board will hold a caucus meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 13. A regular board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 14. Meetings are held in the high school auditorium and are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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