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Fairview School adopts new plan to raise state-imposed ‘F’ grade

Fairview school has a new plan to address perceived deficiencies in the language abilities of its students, and parents seem to support it this time.

Listeners may recall when in January, parents raised complaints after their children were visibly upset over changes in their classes and teachers. Parents complained, and demonstrated outside schoolboard offices.

They learned that the unilateral changes had been adopted by the principal in response to Fairview school receiving a F grade from the state, its students’ low scores on the state mandated ISTEP tests, and studies showing the its graduates went on to do poorly at high school.

The parents demanded meetings and greater consultation with school and board administrators on how the school should respond to the performance problems. Several meetings were held with parents, including one last night where the new plan was presented.

Deborah Myerson, who has two children at Fairview, attended this meeting.

“The first meeting was an attempt to respond to the states’ mandates being imposed right after January with very little advanced notice to parents and teachers,” Myerson says, “That was roundly rejected by the parents. This meeting was an attempt to re-do that with input by teachers and parents, for a new plan that will be in place after spring break.”

Under the new plan, every student at Fairview will spend two hours a day on language arts, an increase from the previous 90 minute load. The lower grades will do this in the morning and the higher grades in the afternoon.

Students will be grouped in smaller classes and specialists will be assigned to help specific teachers and groups. Myerson is hopeful that this plan will work.

“There are definitely literacy needs at the school, no question,” Myerson says, “I think the teachers are working really hard. I think there are issues with how the state is imposing itself on local education processes. Some of it will be difficult to deal with because of the high poverty level at the school, which is routinely correlated with low test scores.”

She points out that the next grade assigned to the school by the state will come out before the new plan has even begun to be implemented.

“I think people need to contact their legislators and that people locally should be in control of how their children are being educated and not be at the constant whim of the state,” Myerson says.

Another meeting for parents, teachers and administrators has been scheduled for this Thursday at Fairview School.

MCCSC Board of Trustees open meeting to discuss local ‘F’ grade schools

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Members of the public will get to hear and comment on proposals to address the “F” grades given by the state to Fairview and Highland Park schools.

The opportunity will come this evening, when the Board of Trustees of the Monroe County Community School Corporation opens its regular meeting.

The principals of the two elementary schools will present their proposals for improvement, and then the public will be able to respond and offer suggestions to the Board.

Fairview School has been in the news over the last couple months, following initial changes proposed by interim principal Tammy Miller that resulted in an uproar from some pupils and their parents.

Parental pressure and the accompanying publicity prompted the board and the principal to hold several Focus Group meetings with parents, teachers, and administrators.

Amanda Nickey is a parent of a Fairview student, was involved in the initial protests, and attended one of these focus group meetings.

“The meetings are structured and led by a staff member,” Nickey says, “They led us through big picture questions with Fairview and the community and then getting more specific about programs important to us parents. We were able to share our perspectives and opinions.”

There were two other focus group sessions, and no more of these or other parent-staff meetings have been scheduled by the school or the board. Nickey says she is taking a wait-and-see position on Fairview’s response to the public’s concern.

“It’s not over yet, and I don’t know if I’m satisfied,” Nickey says.

She says she is waiting to see if parental input gathered at the focus groups sessions will be incorporated in any plans addressing Fairview’s academic performance problems. Nickey also says there was another private meeting, called by the school board, in which a State Department of Education official was in attendance.

However, she has not seen nor heard what was addressed or proposed. Some leaders of the Fairview Parent-Teacher Organization also organized a more open meeting at Crestmont. One of the main topics was the lack of official communication with parents. This shortcoming, and a perceived lack of consultation with parents, provided the initial impetus for the protests back in January.

Nevertheless, Nickey doesn’t think that school and board communication with parents has significantly improved.

“I just got an email and phone call today about the meeting today,” Nickey says, “For a lot of parents, that’s just not enough time to know about something like that.”

The open portion of tonight’s board meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Aside from academic performance issues at Fairview and Highland Park elementary schools, the agenda also includes proposals for next year’s class pupil-to-teacher ratios, and a board resolution opposing the Indiana government’s proposal to eliminate Indiana Business Personal Property Tax. The class ratio proposal will offer a range of sizes from kindergarten through to grade 12 for the various schools.

The resolution on the business tax arises from the potential negative impact on the MCCSC budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, if the tax is eliminated.

Fairvew Elementary School To Reorganize Classes Due To Parents’ Protests

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The proposed restructuring of classes at Fairview School that brought angry parents to school board offices has been stopped, according to Beverly Smith, Director of School and Community Services at the Monroe County Community School Corporation.

“Our Director of Elementary Education Tammy Miller is serving as the interim principal at Fairview School through the end of this year,” Smith said, “She, in her wisdom as the director and a former principal, projected, suggested, and put in place some changes that would have taken place on Monday. Through some further input from staff and parents, Mrs. Miller made the suggestion to the superintendent that we not go forward with those changes. She is going to work with parents in the future to craft plans that will allow folks to work together and come up with what is best for Fairview.”

Smith confirmed reports that the proposed changes were to create smaller classes of students with below standard literacy skills.

This determination was based on a variety of performance evaluations of students including, in particular, those from the Northwest Literacy Evaluation reports.

Beyond the now suspended restructuring of classes, there was also concern expressed by parents that these changes might impact Fairview’s adoption and development of the Artful Learning program, and associated changes in teaching, curriculum and enrollment.

“At this point what we are most focused on is that, as of today, students will be returning to their original classroom assignments that they enjoyed during the first semester. School will go on as normal and Mrs. Miller will work with teachers and parents to return students to the classrooms and work together for the advancement of Fairview.”

The original and strongest complaint voiced by Fairview parents was the lack of consultation with parents by the school or district administration, or even of direct notice beforehand of the proposals prior to their adoption.

However, the parental protests brought about an immediate meeting with school board officials, including District Superintendent Judith Demuth, yesterday morning.

This was followed up with the announcement of the scheduling of Fairview Family Meetings Monday, January 13, and next Monday, January 21 at 6:30 p.m, at Fairview School.

Smith acknowledged that the parents’ protests, as well as comments from teaching staff, helped prompt the reversal of the class restructuring plans.

“It’s always wise to have as much input from all of your stakeholders as possible,” Smith said, “I believe that this situation just underscored that this practice is something we enjoy and continue.”

Smith says that consultation with Fairview parents and teachers will continue, to decide how best to address the immediate issue of students literacy, the evaluation of students’ performance, and the best means to address any perceived deficiencies.

Best of 2013 #2 – The Board vs. the State: Scandals in Public Education

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2013 was a volatile year for education in Indiana. Education leaders made national headlines with their highly visible dysfunction and disputes, most stemming from a rocky relationship between newly-elected State Board of Education Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education.

CREDITS
The Best of 2013 is a production of the WFHB News Department.
Today’s episode was produced by Drew Daudelin.
Correspondents Stephen Brown and Casey Kuhn contributed to today’s reports.
Our theme music is provided by Legs.
Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh.

Health and Education With Glenda Ritz

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 On Saturday November 23rd The Brown County Democratic Party invited the public to join a brown bag lunch session with Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and the Director and Founder of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan Rob Stone, M.D. The event was free to the public, and included a question and answer period. Part 1 focuses on Education and Part 2 on Health here in the Hoosier State. This event was recorded on location at The Seasons Lodge Conference Center in Brown County by Community Access Television services for Standing Room Only, on WFHB.

Interchange – Doug Martin: Muckraking Education Politics

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This week on Interchange, host Doug Storm speaks with investigative blogger Doug Martin who posts articles regularly on the website Schools Matter (found at schoolsmatter.info).  Martin is a native Hoosier who has been investigating Indiana’s “for profit” Education Politics for several years and will soon publish a book detailing these investigations called “Hoosier School Heist.”

Martin’s articles at Schools Matter get over 1,000 views on a regular basis. He offers readers facts rather just more opinions from one particular “side of the aisle,” he follows the money, and he names names: from the Indy Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, to politicians like Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett, to the out in the open oligarchs at the Walton and Gates Foundations, to the lower level soldiers these groups plant on school boards and grant funding organizations and who write op-eds in local newspapers under the banner of independent “Policy Reviews.”  That is, Martin relentlessly exposes every evil practice and every evil act whether performed by politician or business person.

Controversy continues to surround lawsuit filed by Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz

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Last week Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz announced she is suing all ten members of the Indiana State Board of Education for allegedly violating Indiana’s ‘Open Door’ law.

“She specifically believes that it was done without a notice to the public or the superintentendent, who is obviously not just a member of the state board of education but the chair, and she felt she needed to take legal action,” Daniel Altman, Press Secretary for the Department of Education, says.

In the week since, Indiana Attorney General filed a motion to strike down Ritz’s lawsuit. Ritz, a Democrat, says she will continue to pursue the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the Office of Governor Pence, who is a Republican, said that, “Pence strongly supports the actions taken by the bipartisan membership of the State Board of Education to ensure the timely completion of last year’s accountability grades.”

In response to the lawsuit, four members of the State Board sent an open letter to Ritz. In the letter, the members request that Ritz drop the lawsuit. They also mention in the letter that, while Ritz claims to work on open communication, the members have been continually frustrated by unanswered requests, missed deadlines, and a lack of progress on critical education issues.

The State Board of Education is housed under the recently established Governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation. Lou Ann Baker, Director of External Relations for the Center, says that communication between the State Board and Superintendent Ritz, who is Chair of the board, has not been ideal.

“They found out about the lawsuit through the media,” Baker says, “There was concern among the members and all then of the members reached out to communicate to the superintendent.

In the letter, the members ask Ritz to drop the lawsuit and, “Put politics aside and come ready to put the interests of students, teachers and schools first.” Baker describes how the members felt when they learned about the lawsuit through the media, and why it’s important to move forward.

“The members were surprised and disappointed,” Baker says, “I think we’re wasting energy on this topic rather than the many educational topics that need to be completed, managed and need to move forward on behalf of students and educators in Indiana. Education is one of the most critical issues facing Indiana and everyone in the country today, and our board members strongly  believe it’s important to get on with business.”

While Ritz says the alleged meeting happened without her knowledge, members of the board claim the meeting never happened in the first place. Superintendent Ritz will continue to pursue the lawsuit in the weeks ahead.

 

By: Casey Kuhn

Standing Room Only – Education Forum With Glenda Ritz

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On Tuesday, October First The Bloomington Chamber of Commerce presented an educational forum. The forum was open to the public and featured audience discussions. Speakers included Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s State Superintendent and Jeb Conrad, President of The Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. This event was recorded on Location at Deer Park Manor by Community Access Television Services for Standing Room Only, on WFHB.

Interchange – Vic Smith, Phil Harris, and Gary Crow: The State of Education in Indiana

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This week on Interchange, host Doug Storm discusses the state of education in Indiana with Vic Smith, Board President of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education; Phil Harris, co-author of The Myths of Standardized Testing with Bruce Smith and Joan Harris, and Executive Director of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology; and Gary Crow, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

Our topics will include the coercive economics of educational products corporations like Pearson Education, the funding of charter schools by foundations like the Lilly Endowment which have tremendous reach by placing employees in government to influence public policy, and the role the school used to play, ought to play, but no longer does, in developing a democratic citizen.

Discussed in the program:

Indiana Superintendent Glendta Ritz to Speak at an Education Forum In Bloomington

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The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce will hold an Education Forum with Indiana Superintendent Glenda Ritz in Bloomington on October 1st.

The Chamber has been hosting Education Forums for three years. Last year they focused on early childhood education.

This year, they return to the topic of public instruction.

The keynote speaker Glenda Ritz is the incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction for Indiana. The Chamber’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations Kelley Brown explained why they are interested in bring Ritz as their keynote speaker.

“One of the chamber’s objectives is to create opportunities where our members and the public can engage with a dialogue with decision-makers that affect the community,” Brown says, “Bringing our education leaders, specifically Glenda Ritz, allows the public to ask questions that are really pertinent to our young people, our schools and the whole education process.”

Ritz will offer general information about public education and then lead a discussion of various education topics throughout the evening.

After, there will be a question-and-answer session.

“Given some of the issues that have been in the papers about Indiana’s grading system, I-STEP and other issues, I think we will get a great many questions,” Brown says.

The Education Forum will be held Tuesday, October 1 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 at Deer Park Manor.

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