Whitewater School Board Meeting, 1.25.21: 6 Points

Updated 1.27.21 with meeting video, embedded above.

Original post follows —

Monday night’s school board open session saw, among other items, language translation of the meeting, a report on special education open enrollment, mention of an initiative to restructure and expand athletic programs, mention of a recruiting effort to attract more students, review of the student population count, and change of title for Dr. Pate-Hefty from district administrator to superintendent.

The full agenda for the meeting is available (the board removed item 10B from consideration).

A few remarks —

 1. Live Translation into Spanish During a Zoom Meeting.  For many years, public boards and commissions have mentioned the importance of communication, communication, and more communication. A significant portion of that communication depends on translation. Offering a simultaneous Spanish language translation through a feature of a live audio-visual session is one of the best communication decisions any public body in Whitewater could make.

A live session in English, and a live session in Spanish, available via the web: the Whitewater Schools should continue this way. If there should be glitches, then they can be overcome through patient effort.

Whitewater’s new superintendent, here for less than a year, has done what we who have lived here far longer have never done.

 2. Athletic Programs.  A review of athletic programs, conferences to which Whitewater belongs, intramural possibilities, and an expanded role for an athletic director district-wide, makes sense. There was no proposal last night, merely mention of drafting one. It’s a big project, but as athletics are an important part of a school district’s offerings, the district should undertake the review.

 3. Special Education Open Enrollment.  Open enrollment is available to all regular students in Whitewater, but open enrollment for special education students is naturally limited to the number of teachers certified accordingly. (Special education for resident students, unlike that for open enrollment prospects, is not limited in the same way; the district has an obligation to provide special education services to residents for whatever number of residents qualify under the law.) The board approved recommended special education open-enrollment limits. See Graph for OE presentation January 2021 and 2021-22 Motion to approve the following space limitations for OE applicants.

 4. Overall Enrollment. Student populations may shift through slow-moving demographics or fast-moving events (like school-selection during a pandemic). There are perhaps a few who are worried about trends, but concern about these shifts yet seems ill-founded. Budget assumptions about enrollment should be conservative, but needn’t be worrisome. See 2nd Friday Enrollment Comparison.

 5. Recruiting New Students. Updates to the district website, new flyers, etc., will be part of an upcoming recruitment effort. There was no presentation of that recruitment plan last night, but rather advance notice that there will be a future board presentation. All worthy recruitment begins with this: plain and honest descriptions. This small community presents itself worthily (and effectively) when it presents itself accurately, realistically, and sensibly.

6. Superintendent. For many years, the Whitewater Schools have had a district administrator while superintendent has been the more common title elsewhere. Last night, the board adopted (restored, truly) the title of superintendent for Whitewater. This change is long overdue. There’s no legal impediment to the change (and in any event, legal realism would hold that the law should adopt conventional terms and practices where possible).

Now, the harder work: Whitewater should resume calling a school library a library, rather than an IMC, LMC, Run-DMC…whatever. Libraries store books, pictures, recordings, etc. There’s no need to describe that collection as instructional materials. If they’re in the school library, then one should know plainly that they’re instructional materials.

See Library of Congress, University of Chicago Library, Little Free Library Project

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