by Diane Payne
Eight of the nine Board members were present as were the two student representatives. Member Chris McGinley was absent. Once again, the Board failed to provide adequate copies of written materials including the Action Items to be voted on; a few copies were available at the back of the room, on a separate table, in binders. Board President Wilkerson displayed on the large screen how members of the public can view meeting information on their smartphones or tablets. Even if community members have the technology, which many do not, attempting to view pages of material and attachments is close to impossible on a small screen. When the Board is spending millions and making decisions affecting students and staff, all members of the public should be able to have easy access to all meeting materials. APPS members sent a letter to the Board after the October meeting asking the Board to address these and other issues.
The Board approved minutes from the October 18, 2018 Action Meeting.
The meeting opened with a lovely student performance from a Frankford High School musical group. Six student musicians and their teacher went to considerable effort to perform at this meeting which took place during the first snowstorm of the season. Most surrounding public school districts dismissed early in order to ensure the safety of students and staff in treacherous conditions. Not only did the District fail to dismiss students early but made the questionable decision not to postpone this meeting, despite dangerous travel conditions being reported on TV and radio. Even more disturbing was the Board’s decision not to send the student musicians home. Couldn’t they have been rescheduled for the December meeting? President Wilkerson’s attempt at humor fell flat when she commented about getting the meeting started so that everyone could “begin their 3-hour commute home”.
Dr. Hite’s remarks began with extolling the expansion of the arts programs in schools. Since 2013, he said, there have been steady increases in arts programs in the schools; there are 450 art teachers, and every K-8 school now has instrumental music. Hite stated that all students now have access to “the arts” and that research supports the importance of this to student achievement. Remember that 2013 was the year of the “Doomsday Budget” when the Hite administration cut art and music, librarians, counselors, secretaries, NTAs, and foreign languages from schools across the district. Is it really an accomplishment that 5 years later some of that was given back to our students?