Just what exactly are the priorities of the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD)?
Every parent and taxpayer would love to know. But unfortunately, these priorities do not seem to be clearly presented in any readily available public communication. This makes it difficult to understand what the district is doing, why they are doing it, or hold them accountable for their performance. It’s time for the district to be much more transparent with the public.
That’s why I would like to suggest these five priorities for CUSD, which should be communicated clearly and made readily available to the taxpaying public that supports them.
Catch up on learning loss from recent school closures. Some information indicates that our students are up to two years behind on their academic achievement. Many are falling behind, and CUSD must take this seriously.
Ensure that Reading and Math proficiency is greater than 50% at every school. CUSD should direct massive amounts of resources to any school that falls far below this standard.
Increase student retention. The district must compete effectively to increase their headcount by better satisfying the demands of parents who will ultimately make the decisions on which schools their children attend.
Increase staff retention. It is critical to reduce the turnover rate for Certified (Teaching) Staff and Classified (non-Teaching) Staff. But CUSD must remember that issues with staffing aren’t always about money. While that is certainly something that needs to be examined, staff working conditions should be carefully considered as well. And the district should ultimately work to determine the primary reasons that staff leave their positions and take appropriate corrective actions.
Improve career and technical education. CUSD should refocus attention back to developing practical knowledge instead of social conditioning. The primary mission should be to develop functional adults capable of supporting themselves and contributing economically to the community.
If CUSD is serious about the future of its students, it must refocus its priorities. And it should take a much more pragmatic approach to its communication. This will not only make the district more relevant, but it will improve engagement with the community, especially the parents who have the ultimate say in how their children are educated.
Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board.You can find out more about his campaign here.
The COVID-19 pandemic expedited the political battleground shift to schools, alerting parents to the presence and impact of controversial concepts like Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and leading to the launch of grassroots organizations to navigate the new territory: Courage Is A Habit (CIAH) is one of the latest.
CIAH publishes resources focused on defining and identifying hot-button topics prevailing in K-12 classrooms in Arizona and across the country: diversity, equity, inclusion, and their presence in a variety of controversial educational practices like CRT and SEL.
In one of their more recent initiatives, CIAH issued a guide to facilitate communication between parents and educators: “10 Questions Every Parent Should Ask.”
In May, CIAH put together an informational video explaining the ideological progress from Marxism to communism and its relation to controversial ideologies in schools like CRT.
Additionally, CIAH collects videos published by teachers discussing controversial social justice topics under a filing series labeled “Classroom Exposed.”
As AZ Free News reported previously, Collaborative Academic Social Emotional Learning (CASEL) helped bring SEL into mainstream practice.
CIAH also offered a sample parental opt-out form for educational materials from or concerning the National Sexuality Education Standards, Future of Sex Education (FSE) Initiative, Sex Etc., Advocates for Youth, Answer, Sexuality Information and Education Council U.S. (SIECUS), Planned Parenthood, the Kinsey Institute, any and all “Pride” vendors and/or third parties like Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), CASEL Competencies or any evidence-based SEL programs, Black Lives Matter (BLM), CRT, the 1619 Project, and the COVID-19 vaccine.
The opt-out form also revoked parental consent for discussions on abortion, birth control or contraceptives, sexual activity, sexual orientation, and gender ideologies or theories.
For parents and community members navigating the increasingly heated landscape of open records requests — which, as AZ Free News reported, led to Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) to publicizing the names of records requesters and redacting all staff names in records responses — CIAH compiled resources on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
FOIA is the federal law that requires governmental transparency.
A bill introduced by nearly one dozen legislators to require public bodies to provide the public with more information before discussing public matters in private under the guise of seeking “legal advice” is being strongly opposed by the very public officials who can currently conduct many discussions in secret.
Rep. Beverly Pingerelli (R-LD21) and 10 co-sponsors of HB2804 want to amend two statutes related to public meetings, executive sessions, and legal advice. Their bill passed the House last week and is now assigned to two Senate committees where its attempt to ensure more transparency in public meetings has garnered resistance from nearly every city and town, several elected school superintendents, and the County Supervisors Association of Arizona.
A public body is allowed by law to hold an executive session for the discussion, consideration, or consultation of only nine types of matters. One is to obtain “legal advice with the attorney or attorneys of the public body.”
Some officials claim they need flexibility at any time during a public meeting to move into a non-public executive session to obtain legal advice on any item on the agenda. That is why many public bodies utilize a generic disclaimer on every meeting agenda advising that the members may convene an executive session during the meeting with no further notice.
However, many citizens and public-transparency watchdogs have complained in recent years that public bodies are misusing the legal advice clause to privately discuss a variety of issues which could -and should- be discussed in public.
And that is where HB2804 comes in. The first thing it does is limit the situations in which legal advice can be used as reason for an executive session to the other eight subject matters permitted to be discussed in an executive session.
The bill would also require meeting agendas that include specific notice of any executive session under the legal advice clause to note which of the eight subject matters apply to the agenda item.
Such changes are long overdue, according to Diane Douglas, who served as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2015 to 2018.
“The legal advice clause of the Executive Sessions statute -or the ‘get out of jail free’ clause as I call it- undermines the intent of Open Meeting Law,” Douglas told Arizona Daily Independent. “It should only be used very sparingly and only when a public discussion will compromise a negotiation, settlement, or an employee’s legally protected privacy.”
But Douglas says various public boards, commissions, committees, districts, as well as cities, towns, and counties currently end up discussing matters of public interest behind closed doors by “dragging an attorney in” even if the matters would otherwise be required to be discussed in public.
“Often times legal advice or discussion, that will not otherwise compromise a decision of the board, is of equal interest to the public being served,” Douglas said.
Douglas also notes there is already a simple solution for situations where an issue comes up during a meeting that requires legal advice, but an executive session has not been properly notice.
“Table the discussion and bring it back when proper executive session notice has been made,” she said.
The other eight types of subjects a public body is allowed to hold an executive session for include discussion, consideration, or consultation on matters of employment, assignment, or appointment; records exempt by law from public inspection; litigation and settlement discussions; contracts subject to negotiations; negotiations with employee organizations; international, interstate, city, town, tribal council or Indian reservation negotiations; school safety matters; and negotiations on the purchase, sale or lease of real property.
HB2804 would also require that any public body meetings related to the “goals and objectives” by which an officer, appointee, or employee of the public body will be evaluated “must be conducted in a public meeting.” However, any actual discussion or consideration about the person’s employment, assignment, or appointment would be done in private unless the person requests a public discussion.