by Peter Bowman

If you do not have the time to watch an entire meeting video, Peter Bowman offers his impressions for your speedy reading pleasure.  (Click here for links to BOE meeting videos.)

Peter Bowman is a retired Grade 6 ELA teacher from Kalakaua Middle School.  In his many years as a highly qualified educator, he taught all content areas and from Grade 6 to Grade 8, and worked as a tech coordinator and outreach counselor.  He also has served on the HSTA Board of Directors.  Newly retired, he has turned his attention to the Board of Education and become involved in improving the public education system in Hawaiʻi.  Currently he is a student of the Philosophy for Children class offered by the University (Manoa). You can reach Peter at:  p.bowman@earthlink.net.

Quick links to meeting highlights:  9/15/15, 10/6/15, 12/1/15, 4/5/16

 

April 5, 2016

Student Achievement Committee Highlights

Testimony points:

* Lost planning time a challenge.
* Weighted Student Formula not working.
* SPED teachers visit too many classrooms (12+), pay too low (tired from 2nd jobs).
* Co-teaching needs more plan time to work.
* Daily requirements not doable in a day.

Brian Delima, “Sped kids need a sense of belonging & friends.”

Youth Risk Behavior Survey: More successful since protocol was changed to “passive consent” (opt out). Some 2015 trends revealed, go to CDC website to see the latest & how we compare.

CSSS presentation: Overview of system and much self promotion. Everything is rosy! (My growing gut feeling is that any agency that starts with a PowerPoint & follows with self-promotion is not going to address the real issues going on out in the field-deflect & avoid! Would love to see an objective survey of what teachers say about CSSS.)

UH SPED department-“spotlight school” details shared-everything is ducky (too rosy).

DOE Inclusion data shared; how it is being done & how well it works & why (good info).

Some better discussion points:

* No social goal in IEP’s
* A challenge is working collaboratively with others (teachers-SPED & reg Ed)
* Good leadership (professionalism) needed
* SPED students are students-everyone’s responsibility
* Need for common definitions-reduces disagreements
* Work on working relationships-co teaching is hard for that reason
* Don’t narrow the target-move the whole group (student body)

General Business Meeting Highlights

Focus: Assessments (testing), college readiness

Presentation-Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii-much self-promotion & accolades (I was immediately skeptical). Their one student did give a decent speech about gaining confidence after being bullied and isolated much of his life. Saying they helped at-risk kids with academics made me skeptical again!

Assessments-reports Schatz to the board: “Kids are only tested for only 7 hours and results used to assist instruction.” De Lima,”What’s all this we hear about schools shutting down to do testing? Multiple teachers are complaining.” No discussion over test-administering trainings and practices, practice tests and practice test trainings, how many days, no, weeks/months, it takes to give those 7 hours of tests to the whole student body on the school’s limited computer network (& the Science to 8th graders).

 

December 1, 2015

Board of education members are working for teachers and students!!!

This intense meeting was about board members questioning department reps on issues that matter; why glo’s are ignored (M. Cox), social promotion and rushing thru curriculum instead of learning it, measuring learning in different ways to decrease failure rate (B. Delima), problems with iss & suspensions or not suspending (kids don’t learn, continue to disrupt learning), teachers taking on jobs of others; getting parents to take more responsibility (Delima), getting social services to help with overburdened teacher responsibilities (H. Minn), defining what is learning and a focus on relationships and processes that work like groupwork and project-based activities (H Minn, B. Delima), getting an ELL policy that honors student contributions in their way from their culture/perspective (G. Chun). Mr. Minn has lots of experience and advocates for empowerment at the school, teacher, and student levels! Most of the board members are parents, and former or current teachers or administrators.

My take: as critical as I am of the board, their passion for doing what is best for schools, teachers, and students is the overwhelming priority, and rightly so. The department reps are predictable with lots of “bright spots” and self-promotion, but the board members are steadfast; “then why are scores so low, teachers so overworked, and students so disengaged???

The fact remains that there is a strong disconnect between the board and the actual issues of teachers and students in the field.  They need to hear from teachers! And students! And parents!     How many parents could explain the common core? What an ac-fin plan is? What Wonders or Springboard are? These are the things that the board members struggle with, and push to get answers to, at the board meetings. I venture to say they are just as frustrated as teachers are, about the same issues.

We are hoping teachers will advocate for the support they need and be brave enough to speak out on what is not working. Start by going on boe watch and giving some testimony (you can submit written testimony to the board). Watch some of the videos (they are often long & dry but worth knowing, and this is a good one). The system will not change until we do something different. Let’s advocate for academic and social safety to speak our mind honestly, and not worry about repercussions from our administrators (they sometimes have the same issues with their C.A.S.’s / supervisors).

 

October 6, 2015

Student Achievement Committee Highlights

Twelve policies were gone over / updated & either adopted or revised.  Some notes:

Character Education:
Make virtues an integral part of their personality” deleted (too vague) Also questioned Is it working? What is being done in schools? Board wasn’t sure.

Field trips:
Efforts to make private trips into school sponsored so teachers may be compensated (by school) and not breach perceived ethical code of conduct. Pending further discussion.

School Community Councils:
Process questioned. Are SCCs working as intended? Deferred to Nov mtg pending principals feedback (Rep Brian Delima’s suggestion).

School calendar; next 3 SY calendars discussed extensively (Stephen Schatz), 2 approved (not ’18-’19). Many considerations went into the calendar process, including union contracts, equal quarters, omitting hanging days (1-2day weeks: kids & tchrs skip!) ending quarters before breaks, parental desires, matching UH calendar.

Impressions of 10/6/15 SAC Meeting

This committee seemed genuinely concerned to question anything that needs looking at in order to be best for teachers & students. Actual teacher, student, and parent feedback was sorely missing and decisions compromised due to this lack of relevant data (Amy Asselbye shared some parent & student perspective). Others, including chair Halagao, asked good clarifying questions to help decision- making.

General Business Meeting Highlights

All items discussed in the Student Achievement Committee mtg were gone over & explained.

Dept. rep Carlson went over heat abatement updates & relevant details. PV panel AC systems seem to be one of the better options currently being considered (possibly with retrofitted clear louvers to let in natural light)

Impressions of 10/6/15 GBM

There was a sense of urgency commitment on the part of Mr. Carlson & the board on the heat issue. Mr. Carlson also mentioned noise as a factor affecting learning adversely in schools he visited (real world feedback!). Don Horner seemed very confused on some issues but asked clarifying questions which helped all to understand (thanks, Don) The flavor of this meeting was more business-like (just sayin!).

IMPORTANT!

NEXT BOARD MEETING WILL BE IN THE EVENING!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20TH @ 5 PM

TEACHERS & WORKING PARENTS CAN ATTEND!

If you wish to speak about any of the agenda items, get to the meeting 5 minutes early to sign up to testify.  Testimony is limited to 4 minutes. Agenda Items will be posted after 4:30 PM on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 here:

www.hawaiiboe.net/Meetings/Notices/Pages/default.aspx

 

September 15, 2015

Human Resources Committee

Topics:  Department Directed leaves & Leaves Pending Investigation

Through the Chair & others questions to the Department rep,  it became apparent that many of the cases were frivolous or small misunderstandings, additionally complicated by much procrastinated timelines justified by explanations of  “the principal changes schools” or “the VP retired”, etc. Board members politely shared that if they were teachers on leave, especially if innocent, they would have a hard time waiting for a ruling. The chair suggested more timely follow thru, so the Department could not pay them if they were guilty, or pay them (& get them back to work) if they were innocent. After making that suggestion it was decided that the topic would be revisited at a later date. The board seemed to be very supportive of doing justice for the teachers, and for the school. It looked to me (and the board I think) like oversight that could be easily remedied. I was impressed by the committee’s fairness & diplomacy, esp. Chair DeLima, reps. Cox, Asselbaye, and Halagao.

Finance and Infrastructure Committee 

Topics:  DOE sustainability/energy efficiency update, heat abatement program, 3 other operation budget issues.

Most of this was lots & lots of detail on infrastructure specifics and self-promotion in the Department’s utility report. I kept wondering if board members may have not wanted to ask questions due to the contractor/engineer-speak that was coming a mile a minute. Lest they look unqualified by their lack of techno-understanding. From what I gathered many fans were going in many classrooms (that chair Chun imparted were not a real solution) and that many attempts were being made to upgrade electrics for AC and pay for it with solar panels. That seemed to be the Department focus. No other cooling solutions were discussed, such as starting school later.  HSTA pres. Corey testified on ideas to do more quicker given the many concerns, complaints, and health scares that he was aware of due to the heat.

General Business Meeting

Topics: Summary reports of HR and FIC committee meetings, then Smarter Balanced Assessment results.

The report data was well explained. The big deal here was looking at the actual first-time data of Hawaii kids on the SBA, and compared with other states (that shared data publicly). Hawaii 4th graders were about in the middle (of other reporting states). There were other mixed results in different grades, and later on the evening news Matayoshi said we all expected lower results due to the newer, harder assessment. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how many states DO NOT use the SBA, prompting the thought, “Why do we?”

Overview of 9/15/15 Meetings

As this was my first Board of Ed meeting, I was impressed by certain aspects, such as how board members seemed to keep “What’s best for students & schools” in mind and not get lost in details. Also the diplomacy and use of visuals and testimony. Other facets seemed not so efficient; involvement of visitors, explanations or overviews (or histories) of topics being discussed, and blatantly the lack of involvement (or possibility of involvement) of teachers in policy and input that directly affects them and their students more than anyone else. Oh teachers can listen in live, but we are all busy teaching! Having meetings available for viewing later by teachers would be a huge step forward, if you can’t get teachers to come & testify live. That also assumes that teachers would want to get out from under the debilitating workload to look at what the board is deciding (about their future), without feeling guilty or even more overwhelmed.