The district's statement begins with allegations that a parent accused the district of using students as political pawns. That is simply not true. I was at that meeting, and the parent who spoke at that meeting read the mission statement for an advocacy group that she belongs to. Coincidently, the audio recording for this November 18, 2014 board meeting is no longer on the district website. But you can read the mission statement, that the parent read aloud, here. You will notice that the mission statement does not refer the Ken-Ton School District in any way. It mentions only Ken-Ton stakeholders. It is likely that many parents will take umbrage to the district's recent statement that accuses this parent of attacking the district. The statement makes the district look foolish, which detracts from the high-standing image that parents of our district have worked towards. To reject sincere parent concerns and to dismiss parents with a repugnant public statement is contrary to everything that a responsible school board should stand for. I cannot let such an inaccurate statement go. It is simply untrue.
The district's statement goes on to say, "The State requires Ken-Ton and all the other 700 school districts in New York to follow the curricular mandates set forth by the Board of Regents, the Commissioner, and SED." That is false. The district is NOT REQUIRED to use the NYS Modules that they have recently mandated for all middle school teachers. The Ken-Ton Board says in their own Board Policy Manual that, "There shall be locally developed written curriculum guides for all grade levels and subjects in the School District." This is found in Section 8111 of the Board Policy Manual. Notice that they refer to 'locally developed curriculum'. The district is NOT required to use the NYS Modules, but in spite of that fact, the district decided to require every Ken-Ton middle school teacher to begin using the NYS Modules this year. It was a district choice, not a state requirement. Here is a copy of the memo that was sent to Ken-Ton teachers this fall informing them that the district decided to use the NYS Modules.
Finally, the district's statement claims that there is no contradiction between the teacher's contract and the use of the NYS Modules. This is disproved very easily. The teacher's contract (seen below) says, in Section 4.10.4, that "The District and the [Teacher's] Association agree to continue to work toward greater individualization of instruction." The obvious nature of the NYS Modules is that they are standardized, not individualized. There is no denying that this is a direct contradiction. False statements are never helpful to an informed dialogue.
By nature, I am forever looking for solutions. The Ken-Ton School Board says in their statement that "Each and every one of us truly appreciates the time people take to present their thoughts during public comment. This is a valuable way for the Board to hear from the community about thoughts and concerns related to the District." If the board truly believes that public comments are important, then they should create an opportunity for open dialogue with parents, agree to some actions, and then allow the parents to hold the board accountable for the actions that are agreed upon. This will unite parents with the district, and create an opportunity to move forward for progress. Parents have been pleading for collaboration with the board on these issues for over 2 years, but no attempt has been made by the board to engage in discussion. Suppressing parents is not the way to go.
Eric Mihelbergel is an individual advocate. He is not officially affiliated with the Ken-Ton School District, Kenmore Teachers Association, or any other Ken-Ton entity, association or group.