The Gadfly attended the March 28, 2022 School of the Osage Board of Education meeting at 6:00 p.m.
Alison Shnider, BJ Page, Dale Law, Darrick Steen, and Todd Miller were present.
Before you start reading, I just want to let you know that every vote on everything at this meeting was guaranteed to be 5-0 because the current board votes unanimously for whatever the Superintendent wants. There are seven members of the board, including a President and a Vice President, but none of that matters because there has never been a single vote where one of the members of the current School of the Osage Board has ever voted against anything in the last 20 years.
We (the parents trying to hear) have been pretty patient with the School Board as they have adjusted to the idea that parents and taxpayers are actually paying attention to their meetings, but maybe it’s time for some tough love. I know that some of this is going to seem kind of uncomfortable, but I assure you: I’m a School of the Osage parent just like many of you.
We’ve endured multiple meeting venue changes, police deployments at the meetings, our childrens’ personal data being released by the Superintendent to Panorama, being recorded on video in the parking lot after meetings by School of the Osage employees, and an evolving district policy on public comment.
In the end, we just want to see what our Board of Education is talking about. It’s not that complicated. We, the parents, want to hear what they, the Board of Education, are talking about. So I go to the meetings and write about it, because so many parents can’t.
So here we go:
This particular meeting was held in the Osage High School field house. They still had their tables in a U-shape formation with the open end of the “U” facing the audience. They also had no microphones. This is a setup that is perfectly suited for a private, confidential business meeting where all of the participants need to face each other. I was in the front row and it was almost impossible to hear what they were saying most of the time.
The Board of Education is a public governmental body that is supposed to be open to the public. The board members should be facing the public and speaking out to them. I’m almost tempted to diagram this out like a football play, but I’m pretty sure that all of you understand that if you want someone to hear you, you need to face them. That means looking at our faces.
I know what I look like and it’s not pretty, but the board members signed up for this job.
It also requires that you need to speak into microphones. I realize this might cut into the special moments when the Superintendent coaches a School Board President under her breath to say something on the record or they want to mutter to each other about a mom who is nervously speaking before them in Public Comment.
I’m sorry, but these are public meetings and what is said at them should be clearly recorded for the public to hear.
So instead of thanking veterans for our service, let’s just agree to use some microphones. Some of us are a little deaf from all that veteran shooting on your behalf. And look us in the eye.
As the Agenda unfolded,
There were some students and groups brought up for acknowledgement which was very nice. I don’t generally write about these items to keep the students out of the meeting reports
The next item was the OPEN FORUM.
Stacy Neal, who is running for a Board of Education position, was the only person to speak before the Board.
She led off by asking if any members of the Board of Education had ever tried an iReady lesson. None of the board members said anything. Stacy Neal is a School of the Osage mom and I’d rather let you watch the video than talk about it
Stacy really did a fantastic job of explaining her concerns with iReady Math in the Osage Middle School and her childrens’ frustrations with being tested by software applications instead of human teachers. I agreed with her 100%. The Board was generally attentive except for Vice President Alison Schnider who pushed her fist into her cheek and acted like a petulant child while she talked.
Stacy’s short presentation raised some great questions:
Should iPad software teach our kids or our grandkids? Does that sound normal? Isn’t it the job of human teachers to assess our children? Should we let computer software evaluate our kids’ math knowledge?
I can’t imagine how the teachers back in 1985 figured out how much math we knew! They must have used some sort of sorcery!
How did you and I ever graduate from high school without the aid of computers?
The Board said nothing in response and she returned to her seat.
The next agenda item was the Math Resource Approval. This section was up for approval for a new math resource for grades K-8. That sounded pretty timely based on Stacy’s recent words before the Board.
A bunch of big-wigs from the various math departments got up and told the Board they wanted to get a new textbook to replace the old one.
They said that they recommended purchasing enVision for K-5 and iReady for 6-8th Grade.
At this point, I want to give Board Member Darrick Steen some credit here because he broke out of the row of frozen statues that usually represents the BoE and asked the Math Bosses what the role of iReady is in the classroom? Was it used as a curriculum practice tool?
(The other Board Members looked on like totem poles. No questions. All of the parents in the audience were stunned that the BoE members didn’t seem to know how a primary tool for our kids like iReady actually worked.)
Since Darrick asked and seemed to expect an answer, the Head Math Boss answered that students take a diagnostic test to help teachers know what math concepts they have mastered. She said that they had a tracking system to figure out where all of our children are in their computerized math progress system. As the kids progress through the iReady sessions, it adjusts the difficulty based on the child’s performance. They’re all being tracked.
[“Let’s dial Drones 49 through 53 up to 11 on Quadratic Equations. More monitoring is needed on Drones 46-48 for Word Problems!”]
So what happens if your kiddo is good at math and keeps advancing through the iReady system? The Math Boss said that the iReady system will ‘stretch” her and start testing her on math problems she hasn’t been taught yet! That sure as heck sounded to me like you’re setting them up for failure.
How the Hell can you test a young girl on math topics that her teacher hasn’t taught her yet? Stretching? That’s a quick way to destroy some self confidence in a young math wiz. But what do I know? I’m just a Gadfly.
I could write more about this, but personally it was very upsetting. This was a real epiphany as I sat in the meeting.
I remember that my youngest had really done well in math in OMS and we were very proud of her achievements. Once she got into 8th Grade, we would notice that she would be really stressed over her iReady and she wouldn’t finish the last few problems.
As proactive parents, we would help out, but push her to do the work herself. Her constant refrain was that they “hadn’t learned how to do those problems yet.” I was skeptical but now I began to think that maybe I was the Jackass. Because I trusted the curriculum. And I failed her. I trusted the school over her.
The same way we have all trusted Osage. Again.
Why would you give a kid a problem you haven’t taught her how to solve and then pretend that your focus is on building up her esteem? What kind of measurement does the emotion of her failure register on your Kid Analysis Program?
The next agenda item was the Communication Plan. They want to hire a Communication Director who could communicate with “one clear voice” for the School District. Sounds sweet. Maybe I should apply for that job.
The next item was Legacy Recognition Ad Hoc Committee. This discussion was about setting up a committee that would let graduated classes contribute something to the school. Like a brick or a bench. Darrick Steen got involved at this point and wanted to make sure this item didn’t interfere with fund raising for the graduating classes’ graduation events. That seemed reasonable.
They talked about this for ten times as long about this as they did about the childrens’ math curriculum.
We finally got to a topic that I could understand: lunch.
USDA Student Waivers Ending. USDA has pulled the funding for free meals for breakfast and lunch. That’s it. Summer school will be covered through DHSS. Starting next year, federal subsidies will only support subsidized lunches based on family income.
There was an immediate impulse from the Board to try to fix this situation. Board member Dale Law wanted to know how much it would cost to make up the difference to provide the free meals? Nobody knew.
Is that a bad thing? Families that need it should just put in for it and apply for the discounts.
Should a family that owns a yacht and three homes on the lake get free breakfast and lunch at school? There was a lot of hand wringing from the Board about this issue, but families who need the meal support can still qualify for it based on income. It just seems a little silly to be moaning over this issue when rich kids are Grub Hubbing meals for all of their friends for lunch at OHS and OMS while free meals are cooling in the kitchen…Just keeping it real….
The next agenda item was for an internet upgrade for the school district. It sounded like this was going to be an increase in service capacity for the school district.
Final item was for over $3,000,000. This was the bid acceptance for the FEMA storm shelter for Osage Middle School that I’ve written about previously. I think they accepted it? Who knows, because nobody can hear what they mutter to each other and I somehow got so worked up over math…
And that was that. They adjourned for a Closed Session for Personnel matters
2 thoughts on “March 28, 2022 School of the Osage Board of Education meeting at 6:00 p.m.”
I do not have a student at this school, but I am a taxpayer.
This school looks pretty mediocre when it comes to state ranking. It would be nice if the administration listened to a concerned parent and took their criticism seriously. When you are an average performer there is definitely room for improvement.
My wife and I who are both engineers had to teach our son Algebra because the math team at his school for Algebra was arrogant and stupid. Even though most of the GT class was failing. The math team was mad at me for this, and many of the parents were jealous because their GT students were left behind.
His AP Calculus teacher on the other hand was amazing. All of her students only receive 5’s on the AP test.
Curriculum quality even in very good schools can be inconsistent. My experience is with schools that all rank higher than School of the Osage. It would be nice if the school administration listened to parents instead of us either accepting the failure of our children or the challenge of teaching our children on the side.
Our daughters have had great teachers, good teachers, and bad teachers. Overall, I’d say it’s a school district that works really well for students, especially if their parents are engaged and paying attention. There is a tendency for the establishment (teachers, administration, alumni) to react forcefully against any suggestion of change or questioning of procedures as far as the Board of Education is concerned. This just encourages me to stay involved and makes me more curious about why they don’t want people to ask questions.