Monday night’s school board meeting saw, among other items, athletic recognitions, a student report, live video from the middle school’s slot car club, a report on closing achievement gaps, outreach to homeless students, modifications to the district’s COVID-19 protocols, approval of the teachers’ contract, and an update on the district’s budget.
The full agenda for the meeting is available. Update, 2.23.21: meeting video embedded.
A few remarks —
1. Was there a live translation into Spanish? If I missed that option, then the error is mine. If the district did not provide translation, then the error is Central Office’s (the building with deficient public meeting space where administrators work). It does little good to offer translation only sporadically. It takes many meetings to make a service work, and gain popularity for it.
2. The Middle School Slot Car Club. How could a person who believes in education not be inspired? Large numbers of students, of all backgrounds, enjoying a club in which they find, modify, and race small cars around a track. There were serious presentations during the 2.22 meeting, but no presentation was as enjoyable as live video of excited children enjoying and describing their club activity.
3. Washington School’s Work on Closing Achievement Gaps. It’s a truism to say that people make history, but not in conditions of their own choosing. What matters fundamentally is how one addresses the conditions in which one finds oneself (and others). Here we are, all of us, and there are gaps across our community. What will we do? Addressing achievement gaps shapes history, so to speak, by striving to create a better future. The presentation is embedded below.
4. Homeless Outreach. There are significant numbers of homeless students in the district. Their condition will neither be wished away nor ignored away. The presentation on district outreach efforts is embedded below.
5. Changes to COVID-19 Protocols. The board unanimously approved changes to protocols, or new protocols, at the superintendent’s recommendation: not to close a building after three confirmed cases, a new quarantine policy after vaccinations begin, and reductions in email notifications about COVID-19 cases to once weekly.
6. Budget Planning. Embedded below is a presentation on the district’s budget planning. No district in the area has all it wants, and Whitewater Unified isn’t different. The district, however, is not facing a budgetary crisis, and can manage well enough.
These last years, too much has been spent on buildings, and too little on services, but existing plans are adequate to produce a reasonable budget.
COVID-19. It’s true, as a board member noted, that the board has tried different approaches during the course of the pandemic. (This has always been understandable: the early pandemic presented great uncertainties.)
Many in the community jumped quickly to a firm position on instructional policy, whatever side of this issue they were on. ‘Had to be open’ or ‘had to be closed,’ and in either case insistent that they knew the correct approach. These many people had every right to express a view, but they had no expertise whatever in epidemiology (and neither do I).
The best approach for commentary has been to withhold a comprehensive critique of district policy until after the pandemic abates.
Cats and Stoves. Twain reportedly observed that
“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”
How will this superintendent, these administrators, and the school board react to the experience of touching a hot stove?
One can begin to see the contour of the answer.