The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 Board approves development proposals
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved two proposals regarding professional development, one of which with dissent, at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.
A $55,900 proposal with the AVID Center, which will come out of the education fund, to provide professional development over two days in June at South Elgin High School to Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) staff was approved by a 5-1 vote, Jeanette Ward voting no. Board member Traci Ellis was not in attendance.
Ward said “I love what the acronym AVID stands for” and emphasized the focus on individuals, but the professional development will include two sessions that are controversial and divisive and added those sessions go against the whole point of AVID.
Among the sessions that will be offered are two titled “Culturally Relevant Teaching,” one for “Transforming Educators” and the other for “Empowering Students.”
The description for “Transforming Educators” states it will teach staff “to work with their sites to conduct a self-examination and address issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and accountability through a growth mindset. The strand will provide a framework of effective methodologies that validate the culture of all students in the classroom and on the campus.”
The description for “Empowering Students” states it “brings educators together to explore strategies and lessons that help empower students through examination, validation, and celebration of their own and others’ cultures. Come ready to engage with colleagues in community-building activities and critical conversations around race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and other culturally relevant topics, all designed to equip participants with practical strategies for empowering students in our classrooms, schools, and districts.”
For Ward, these sessions are promoting group-think which runs counter to the individual.
“This is the dividing of people by different groups and focusing on what divides us instead of what unites us,” Ward said. “Conversations about race, gender, class and sexual orientation… are best had in the home with parents present.”
Ward said AVID “is supposed to be focused on individuals, not groups. Conversations about race, gender, class and sexual orientation are not relevant to encouraging students to apply and succeed in college unless they are majoring in community organizing. The descriptions of these sessions are about advancing leftism and focusing on what divides us instead of what unites us.”
On the AVID program itself, Ward said it’s a “great idea” that challenges “students to take responsibility for their own lives and encourage those who perhaps would not have considered going to college to go to college. As the first in my family to complete a bachelor’s degree and then two master’s degrees, I love encouraging students to achieve what might not have been possible in their families in previous generations.”
Board members Sue Kerr and Melissa Owens disagreed with Ward. Kerr said the sessions were “important” for “teachers to have” suggesting that white teachers need to be told how to teach minorities.
“We are trying to show teachers, many of whom are white, middle-class teachers, how they can deal with our very diverse student populations,” Kerr said. “It’s not saying that you’re going to have this discussion in class.”
Owens said she “can’t understand throwing away” the professional development over two sessions, which are among 27 sessions, and “I can’t see how that does a service to the teachers that need this professional development.”
On the controversial sessions themselves, Owens said that dividing students within racial, ethnic and other groups actually promotes individuality, not group-think.
“It speaks to the individuality of our students and how each student comes to our classrooms and our district with their own individual identity,” Owens said who added it’s “helping teachers recognize the individual diversity of our students.”
The other professional development proposal approved was $93,800 with Dale Carnegie Training, to come out of the education fund, which is for the district’s operational staff. It was approved by a 6-0 vote.
The $93,800 price, or about $1,876 per participant, was an increase from the original proposal presented on Dec. 4, 2017 of $66,000, or $1,320 per participant. Bruce Phelps, interim director of business services, said the administration previously “inaccurately added the total up” on the spreadsheet.