At last night’s meeting of the Whitewater Unified School District’s board, the board heard (and approved on a 6-0 vote) the online platform for students choosing the virtual instruction and required staffing. (Video, 43:50.) Some students have chosen a purely virtual format, and much of the board discussion was about an all-virtual provider. The district chose Edgenuity as its wholly virtual model, a model that will include district employee oversight over students’ virtual instruction on that platform. Many other students will take classes through a format that that includes face-to-face meetings and online instruction from district teachers.
Embedded above is the video of the meeting; at the bottom of this post is a district description of the choices between the two options for 9.1 to 9.25. (Some parents will perhaps remain with the virtual option through the school year; others may change from one format to another as public health conditions change.)
A few remarks —
1. The Description of Instructional Options. Beginning early in the discussion, the district’s administrator described the main purpose of the meeting as explaining the preferred platform for those students choosing a virtual option. (Video, 7:00.) The curriculum director described that virtual platform offering (Video, 7:50), and how the virtual model for elementary school students will be different from virtual instruction for students in grades 6 to 12. (Video, 11:30.)
2. Complicated. Beginning about a half hour into the meeting, a board member bemoans how complicated all these options will be for parents. (Video, 28:10.) It’s not notably complicated at all. It only becomes complicated when one drifts from the main line of discussion into peripheral matters: JEDI options (Video, 24:54), or a question about picking and choosing between virtual options that anyone listening to the prior presentation with attention would know is not part of the district’s preferred method (Video, 12:55).
Most people are very sharp, and perform equally complicated tasks daily: reading labels, making purchases, using technology. These matters are only too complicated if one underestimates others (while perhaps overestimating oneself by proud comparison). There’s vanity in supposing that only some can grasp these choices.
Anyone who can compare prices that include shipping costs (Video, 56:09) should manage this discussion without feeling it’s notably hard to do so.
3. Good Order. This board is in the habit of allowing questions at any point in a presentation, even when it’s not topical. (Video, 25:00.) Board members should exhibit greater personal discipline, and wait until presentations are done before interrupting to ask a question (including, of course, tangential ones). When a presentation is done, everyone should have a chance – in a guided round robin – to ask questions. If a board member has no questions on that topic, he or she need only say ‘no questions at this time.’ One could always return for a second round, in the same guided way, to see if new questions have emerged when the first round is done.
Perhaps a tolerance for interruption seems to this board as mere courtesy to one of their own. All of this comes at the cost of clarity of communication. Allowing a conversation to be sidetracked is less at the the board’s expense than at the community’s expense. A public body that manages its meetings this way creates its own problems, and worse problems for those it claims to serve.
4. Confidence. Early in the district administrator’s presentation, she observes that the school administration has grown more confident in its approach. (Video, 4:40.) That’s evident across these meetings, whatever one thinks of the particulars of these plans. I’ve no prediction about the course of the pandemic in Whitewater, but the collapsing athletic programing in districts beyond the city at least suggests a difficult autumn. It’s simply not the case that leaders of all those programs – many of them near but outside Whitewater – wanted to cancel, or were timid. The public health conditions of this country are notably worse than any rational person would have hoped, and ignoring our circumstances will not make them ago away.
5. Translations. I’m a native English speaker who lives in a multilingual community: Whitewater, Wisconsin. The district’s English-language summary sheet, embedded below, should also be published by the district in Spanish.
Previously: Whitewater Schools’ Community Focus Group, 7.8.20, The Whitewater Unified School District’s Proposed Fall Instructional Plans, The Whitewater School Board’s Decision on Early Fall Instruction: 4 Points, Whitewater School Board Meeting, 8.3.20: 6 Points, and Whitewater School Board Meeting, 8.10.20: 9 Points.