The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Development proposals ratified by U-46 vote
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved two professional development proposals, with Rosa Consulting ($27,000) and MiraVia LLC ($45,600) out of the education fund, at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 14. Board member Jeanette Ward voted no on both.
In her just over two years on the board, Ward has opposed some curriculum and professional development items for their one-sided nature with board members supporting those proposals showing little willingness to debate and even levying personal attacks against Ward.
These proposals marked the first semblance of a debate amongst the board on such issues. Board member Traci Ellis was not in attendance, and both were approved by 5-1 votes.
Included in the professional development are videos that will be shown to administrators and teacher leaders. Ward watched the selected videos that were given to the board but was told they were “proprietary” and could not be shared publicly.
“Given that the taxpayers are paying for these materials, I believe taxpayers should have a right to see the materials,” Ward said. She did not release the videos but gave an overview of what she saw within them.
The videos appeared to be showing how a teacher can better indoctrinate students rather than molding young minds to be able to think as Ward said one video on “how model teachers instruct students” showed a teacher reading “The Encounter” by Jane Yolen to fourth grade students.
Ward said that book teaches students “how evil (Christopher) Columbus was and how he stole land from Indians. This is a skewed and one-sided view of history.”
On social media, Ward posted a resource on Columbus that she said gives a “balanced” view which shows the complexity of the topic rather than a simplistic, one-sided view.
Another video shows the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson being read, a story “where each year a lottery determines what member of the community must die,” Ward said.
“The teacher states that the class is focusing on ‘tradition and culture’ and that ‘different cultures believe those traditions are right,’” Ward said. “The subtle implication is that all cultures and traditions are valid, just different, like the one in the story.”
Ward later said she was not necessarily opposed to the books used in the videos but rather how those books were taught within the videos.
Board member Sue Kerr said her perception was that “it’s not about content but about a process” shown within the videos which Ushma Shah, assistant superintendent of elementary schools, said “it is about the teaching” and how to “manage a classroom.”
“These are not U-46 teachers,” Shah said. “These are examples of different kinds of teaching, and the audience is not actually teachers. The audience in our use of the videos is administrators and teacher leaders.”
Board member Melissa Owens judged Ward for judging a culture that uses a lottery to choose which “member of the community must die” as morally wrong.
“I have to say that it’s disappointing to hear a quote like ‘the subtle implication to students is that all cultures and traditions are valid,’” Owens said. “I really hope that we are not in a district with the incredible amount of diversity that we have, I really hope that we are not putting out the message out to students that the cultures and the traditions that they celebrate are invalid.”
Ward responded: “Certainly a culture that draws a lottery to kill one of its citizens yearly, I mean that would not be a valid culture.”
Despite saying it was wrong to call some cultural traditions wrong, Owens replied: “There are things in this culture that I don’t celebrate. That doesn’t make the entire culture invalid.”
Shah told Ward “we really do have a shared understanding of the kinds of things we want going on in the classrooms” and that the district doesn’t want to indoctrinate and “debating ideas… is a shared vision that we have.”
“It would be easier for me to vote for this if less controversial videos were chosen,” Ward said. “I’m just trying to give you some context from where I’m coming from.”
Ward added in regards to “The Encounter” video: “I don’t know that fourth graders possess the ability to be able to debate whether the book that was read aloud to them was correct yes or no. They’re not presented with another view of Columbus.”
Shah said the point of the video is “observing teacher’s practice” and it was a short clip and “we don’t really know if there were other texts used in that classroom…. That’s what our hope would be.” But Ward said: “Given the reactions of the fourth grade students it would seem to me unlikely that another view was presented to them.”
In regards to “The Lottery,” Kerr said she read that story in school and “it had valid lessons.”
“We do have controversy, and we have to address it and we have to address it well,” Kerr said.
“To me it wasn’t necessarily that ‘The Lottery’ was the problem, it was the way it was presented by the ‘model teacher’ who made the point that different cultures believe those traditions are valid as if all traditions are valid like their tradition to kill one of their members yearly,” Ward said.
Kerr said “that is not the message of the book,” but Ward said: “I know, it’s the message of the teacher though, it was the implication of the teacher.”