Commentary: A Board Elected to Heal the Wounds Should Not Instead Divide the Community

school-stock-2It is perhaps easy to forget just how much the events of the winter of 2014 divided the community. When Nancy Peterson in the winter of 2013 first pulled the VSA (variable services agreement) of volleyball coach Julie Crawford, it began a long saga that would lead to an administrative decision not to renew her contract that summer, and a school board 3-1 vote, with Ms. Peterson dissenting, to overrule that.

However, in late January 2014, the district decided to pull her VSA after an investigation found evidence that she had retaliated against Nancy Peterson’s daughter. Nancy Peterson went public with the complaint against the coach – a move that would backfire and lead to her resignation in early March 2014.

The episode badly scarred the community. Last fall, the community got to elect a new board – three long time incumbents chose not to seek reelection, and in May the board appointed Alan Fernandes to replace Nancy Peterson.

As then-candidate Madhavi Sunder told the Vanguard last fall during the campaign, “I definitely think that the problem with the volleyball episode last year went far beyond the fact that we didn’t have a conflict of interest policy. We spent $22,000 and countless personnel hours investigating a complaint involving a board member’s child. This really could have been handled and should have been handled differently.”

It was Alan Fernandes, the board member who directly replaced Ms. Peterson, who made a critical point during the candidates’ forum in September, stating that rebuilding trust is critical because, without trust, the community is not going to continue to support parcel tax expenditures that enable the school district to fiscally stay afloat.

He would later tell the Vanguard, “The recent situation surrounding Nancy Peterson’s resignation brought to focus the issue of trust and conflicts of interest for school board trustees. Specifically, the Peterson situation highlighted the fact that a school board member must represent the community at-large. Further, it brought to the community’s attention that district policies must be drafted for the community at-large and implemented in a consistent manner so as to not favor a school board member or active volunteer anymore than a hard working guardian.

“Last night’s forum reiterated that the misuse of the public’s trust is still on the conscience of the community,” he stated. “There were questions about trust and conflicts of interest. One member of the community asked each candidate to explain what special interests each candidate represents. Although I do not represent any one particular special interest and stated that at the forum, I do have children in our schools and want them to succeed, but not at the expense of other children in our district.

“My top priority as a board member is to restore the public’s trust,” Mr. Fernandes reiterated. “The school board needs the confidence of the community to effectively develop and implement policy and procedure for the schools.”

Barbara Archer, now a board member herself, agreed that rebuilding trust is important. She noted, “Our community is engaged in our educational system probably more so than many other communities.”

And yet we arrive once again at a critical juncture, where trust is being frayed and the community is threatened with division on the issue of GATE/AIM.

For some already, they have compared the decision to pull coach Crawford’s VSA to the June 18 decision by the school board not to renew AIM/GATE Coordinator Deanne Quinn.

Shama Hakim Mesiwa writes in a letter to the local paper, “Quinn has been an employee of the school district for two decades and a widely respected administrator of the AIM/GATE program in Davis. I see this as another step in the board’s unwise decision to rapidly dismantle the AIM program.”

She continues, “I fear that because of this school board’s recent decisions regarding the AIM program, the Davis public school system is deteriorating. Children whose educational aptitudes make it such that their needs cannot be met in traditional classrooms will not receive the services they need to thrive academically and socially. Many families making decisions about where to buy homes will look elsewhere.”

For Kathy Russell, a teacher, this is a big loss for the district. She writes, “Every year, many of us GATE teachers consulted with the GATE coordinator on curriculum ideas, horizontal planning within grade levels, and vertical planning and consistency between elementary and junior high classes. Lost.

“We teachers and Quinn consulted on ways to motivate the 10 to 20 percent of our gifted classes who were non-producers. Contrary to the ideas presented in the UC Davis economists’ report and in many people’s beliefs, not all gifted learners are high achievers! Lost,” she continued. “The coordinator attended our gifted classes to make suggestions for improved class dynamics and curriculum delivery, categories unknown to most principals. Lost.

“In addition, I had gifted classes with vision-impaired students, hearing-impaired students, ESL students and students with a variety of hurdles to leap before they could begin learning: health problems, disorganized families, learning disabilities, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Tourette’s syndrome, OCD and perfectionist syndrome,” she writes. “I have had students in pain from depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, family upsets, cutting and attempted suicide, but all teachers can attest to these student troubles.

“The point is that these gifted students who people think can learn anywhere and who make classes so easy, do not get a pass on any of these heartaches, and the critical help that the GATE coordinator provided for these students, their parents and their teachers is lost. Quinn participated in individual education plants, parent-teacher-student conferences and family consultations, helping find solutions between home and school to assist the student in attaining as much learning as possible. Lost,” she writes.

“There are parents who thank the coordinator for saving their children’s academic lives, but help for future children? Lost,” she concludes. “Is the district counting on my vote for the next bond issue? Lost. I do not believe the bond issue is ‘for kids’ when the Davis school district has just disenfranchised its many gifted students and their families.”

Last fall we asked the school board candidates: What is the biggest lesson we should take away from the Peterson scandal from last winter and what steps would you take as a school board member to prevent its recurrence in the future?

For Barbara Archer it was, “The biggest lesson that we should take away from the Peterson issue is that a board member must always do what is best for the district even if his or her own child is involved in a situation.”

For Tom Adams it was, “Trustees must remember that they have an educational civic mission, and they must model the behavior that we want to see in our students. In addition, trustees should allow for teachers, principals, and coaches to do their job and recuse themselves from issues of personal involvement. Also, trustees should participate in the training on how to be a good and effective trustee that is given by the California School Boards Association and should plan on participating in learning opportunities throughout their tenure. Lastly, the trustees must be responsive to parents but remain focused on the needs of our students.”

And for Madhavi Sunder, she focused on the broken complaint process and looking into a restorative justice practice as better suited to resolving various complaints.

The issues this time around are not the same – however, the lack of transparency is concerning. The Vanguard believes that the public was poorly noticed for the decision that occurred on June 4 and that the decision to go against staff recommendations and not renew the VSA was premature at best. It gives the impression that the board is moving forward with plans to dismantle the program prior to public discussions on the matter slated for September.

That is not a good way to restore trust or resolve conflict and we hope that the board majority will rethink their approach before public confidence is completely exhausted.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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55 Comments

  1. wdf1

    Vanguard:  The exchange with Susan Lovenburg is indicative of the response the Vanguard received. She said in a text: “I will not be commenting on this personnel issue.” The Vanguard received identical responses from Barbara Archer and Tom Adams. Ms. Lovenburg did not say that she has voted no on this particular VSA each time it has come to the board.
    When the Vanguard pressed the issue: So you are telling me that the decision was based on personnel issues rather than policy?

    source

    The agenda for the June 18, 2015 meeting indicates that one of the items in closed session was:

    II.a. Discussion and possible action on personnel listed on the Consent Calendar.

    I think the information you’re looking for is what was discussed in closed session.

    1. DavisAnon

      It would be interesting to find out whether this was discussed at all. My gut feeling from watching the meeting is that it was not, but I could be completely wrong. I understand it is ‘closed’ session, but I wonder if it would be ok for a Board member to confirm or deny whether it was discussed without divulging any more?? David, do you know if that is allowed?

  2. zaqzaq

    Just wait until the board mandates that all student athletes participate in PE class instead of using the time for study.  That will create a storm of parent anger causing further divide with parents. It is coming soon and will make some people really unhappy.

    1. hpierce

      Your point eludes me… I used team sports in HS to get OUT of “regular” PE. Preferred running and playing tennis to the other regimen.   Am interested in what your point is.

      BTW, I do believe in mandatory PE. If we eliminate sugary drinks, we should also be committed to the rest of the anti-obesity equation.

      1. zaqzaq

        HP,

        Currently students participating in school sports do not have to take PE as they get credit for it for participating in school sports.  There is a movement to eliminate this practice.  It will cause the school board to create more strife when they implement it.  I disagree with you.  If they are doing sports outside of PE they should have the time to study or take a different class.  Forcing them to do PE is a waste of time for those students.

  3. Anon

    Letting go the AIM Director BEFORE supposedly making any decision on AIM gives the appearance the School Board majority has already made up their mind on changes to AIM, BEFORE there is opportunity for full public discussion/input.  I can almost guarantee that this sort of questionable process (even if perfectly legal) will almost certainly result in sowing seeds of distrust, making it much more difficult to get future school parcel tax increases (or perhaps extensions) approved.   Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.

    Just for the record, I am not necessarily a fan of the AIM program, have no children in the DJUSD currently, had no children in AIM, and I have been a public school teacher.  I have a whole different philosophy on class instruction (call it old fashioned) than current practice.  When my children were in the public school system both here and elsewhere, I had to do a lot of work with them at home because the schools were doing such an inadequate job of teaching my kids.  Don’t get me wrong, my children have had some excellent teachers, but they have also had some very poor ones.  The “new math” doesn’t work well, nor does the “see-say” method of reading, and these flawed techniques have cropped up in different iterations over the years.  JMO

    1. hpierce

      You may well be correct, but an alternative theory is that you might want someone other than one who has been chin-deep in a program to evaluate whether the program needs to be re-evaluated on a major level.  I can see it either way.  At the City level, one of the main reasons (as I understand it) that Pinkerton was chosen as CM was to take a critical look at changes the CC thought might be needed, rather than using the acting CM, or another in-house candidate.

        1. hpierce

          Why wouldn’t you go with your ‘expert’?  Do you really think the administrators have a good ‘handle’ on the program?  If, so, why aren’t they assigned to fill in during the process?

        2. Davis Progressive

          depends on what you are looking to.  my guess issues like identification and private testing would involve more research oriented approaches than practical experience.

        3. hpierce

          Your post worries me… I’d expect the director to be an SME (Subject Matter Expert) in BOTH program and testing for program applicability.  But then, I’m not an educator.

    2. wdf1

      Anon: Letting go the AIM Director BEFORE supposedly making any decision on AIM gives the appearance the School Board majority has already made up their mind on changes to AIM, BEFORE there is opportunity for full public discussion/input.

      Jeff Hudson, Davis Enterprise, 9 Aug. 2012: Attorney files complaint over Davis GATE program

      One of the demands of this lawsuit was the removal of the GATE coordinator at that time.  I can see the possibility that some on the school board may have seen that person as being an ongoing legal liability if employment had continued.  School board discussions around legal issues also happen in closed session, so we can never know the nature of those discussions if all school board members are exercising measures of confidentiality.

       

        1. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

          You write: “some on the school board may have seen that person as being an ongoing legal liability”

          How is that claim consistent with the fact that the School District administration supported her continuing in the position?

          Also, the only two lawyers on the board–Fernandes and Sunder–supported Quinn.

          Are you trying to find excuses for an unsupportable decision–first by saying “personnel” decision, and now by saying “legal liability”?

        2. wdf1

          My comments above are probably too speculative for my own good.  I only point out the article as an example that there are likely reasons discussed in closed session that we will never know.

          1. David Greenwald

            Madhavi told me that her comments were based on conversations she had with Ms. Quinn and not anything that came up during closed session. She could not comment on whether or not there was any discussion of this in closed session.

        3. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

          So is this your claim now? Trust the 3 person board majority whom I helped elect. They have good, special reasons for firing Quinn, even if the School District and the two lawyers on the board don’t.

      1. wdf1

        VoR:  So is this your claim now? Trust the 3 person board majority whom I helped elect. They have good, special reasons for firing Quinn, even if the School District and the two lawyers on the board don’t.

        I say that her VSA was not approved for reasons that were discussed in closed session.  That’s it.  Do you dispute that?

        I’m making no judgement on whether those reasons were valid or not.

  4. Davis Progressive

    to me this is nancy peterson all over again.  susan lovenburg is the key – she’s the one who has been pulling the vsa each time.  she also is the one on the board who voted against july crawford’s appeal and wrote the letter with sheila allen it was time to move on.  she has gotten a free ride so far, but it’s clear she has a vendetta against gate and is the one pulling the strings.

    1. hpierce

      I disagree… on many levels… this seems to have morphed from an issue about a program, to an issue of a person, irrespective of the programs or its needs. And also tends away from the students the program was ostensibly designed to serve.

      wdf1 gave a clue… what was discussed in closed session re: the VSA.

    2. Napoleon Pig IV

      For reasons quite obscure to this mere porcine, Lovenburg is anti-education and the last person who should be on a school board. She is also clearly the alpha of the Lovenburg-Archer-Adams pack. Combine that fact with the unfortunate reality that we have a weak and poorly informed administration, and we can project continued decline in the quality of public education in Davis, which of course will have a negative ripple effect on the future quality of our barnyard as a whole.

      The best scientists among us have yet to figure out how to quantify the loss of what might have been. One thing is clear, however. As long as the Lovenburg pack rules the day, no sheep or pig in his or her right mind will vote for additional school taxes. Oink!

  5. MrsW

    David, yesterday I suggested that your readers would benefit from knowing exactly what tasks, in 2015, the Aim Coordinator (AC) has the responsibility and authority to perform.  Ms. Russell is a retired teacher and taught when the GATE coordinator was a full time position.  As I understand it, in 2015, coordination of teachers is non-existent.  I am sure that your readers will correct me, if I am wrong.  I believe that in 2015 the AC position currently has two responsibilities 1) to administer IQ tests and 2) create AIM class lists.  That’s it.  After picking the team, so to speak, the analogy to sports is no longer valid. It is not the AC coordinator’s job to develop students.  Teachers, administrators, and parents may consult with the AC, but are not required to follow any advise.  Students do not interact with the AC over the 7 years they are in the program.

    Letting go the AIM Director BEFORE supposedly making any decision on AIM gives the appearance the School Board majority has already made up their mind on changes to AIM, BEFORE there is opportunity for full public discussion/input.

    I agree with this statement.  And I am so grateful for the Vanguard for paying attention.  I need to have hope, that in the end, this situation/conflict will work out for the benefit of AIM students.  As I have thought about these last few days of posts, I realized I am worried.  I worry that by focusing on Ms. Quinn, we are distracted from the role, a role we have seen consistently erode over the last 5-10 years to the point it is practically clerical.

    1. aimteacher

      As an AIM teacher, I would like to correct MrsW…. I met with our coordinator many times throughout this school year; however, only once I believe with the district’s support.  What I mean by that is, as AIM teachers we are supposed to have the 5th Wednesday (whenever it happens during the school months) as an AIM “articulation” meeting.  Unfortunately, due to other circumstances (deemed “more important” meetings) all but ONE meeting was cancelled.  This just isn’t fair.  We called our own meetings and/or communicated through emails in order to be prepared for various demands.

      There were several AIM teachers who also went to AIM or CAG trainings on our own time.  There were several of us that also took part in Professional Growth opportunities to better align ourselves and our classrooms over the district.

      Deanne has never missed a parent/teacher/student meeting whenever she was asked.  She is a stiff supporter in making sure that the whole scope is thought out and the best decision for the individual student is achieved.  She has always been willing to be a part of the follow up process also, even without being asked.

      Frankly, only Ms. Quinn and AIM teachers TRULY know and understand the scope of GATE/AIM students.  Not every kid fits in the same hole.  Nobody can really speak about this population of students unless you have been in the “trenches” with them.  They have just as many diverse needs as general ed students, plus more.  While their IQ or aptitude can be “off the charts,” their social skills can be drastically under developed.  They can have an amazing and over the top conversation about real world problems and then be SO insistent that “so-and-so” was unjust out at the pogo game last recess.  There are days that I spend more time on social problem solving and resolving social issues then I do teaching academics.

      I am not saying that my program is without faults – that would be a lie; however, a perceived personal vendetta to totally revamp the program without (1) talking to the parents/students involved, (2) having serious yet tough discussions with Ms. Quinn who has with HUGE and WIDE  history of the program and (3) doing it at the 11th hour – is clearly a bad message to send out!

      There are SO many misconceptions out in Davis about this unique set of young students.  It saddens me that their program could literally be crumbling around them during this next year.

      1. hpierce

        Aimteacher… thank you for your service.  

        The fifth Wednesday of a month occurs about 4 times a year.  Two of those, in calendar year 2015 occur during summer or winter holiday.  So you’re good with two ‘collaborative’ days per year… at most?  Another problem with the program, and less of a need for a full-time ‘director’, in my view.

        1. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

          aimteacher–thank you for correcting the record here–Quinn does a lot more than identification, as you write. And she’s only a .4 employee, paid about $30,000 a year.

        2. aimteacher

          A full time coordinator would be awesome!

          hpierce – no we are not good with only 2 collaborative days, which is why many aim teachers meet with Quinn on OUR OWN time – that was the point that I was trying to make in my first comment.  The district office staff does not really appreciate or support AIM.  Quinn has been our one staunch supporter over the years.  Nobody else honestly knows what goes on IN an AIM classroom, nor knows/understands how to communicate with the parents.  The program is being pick away by haters of the program, without remotely understanding what the program is really about!

  6. ryankelly

    The postings here are bordering on hate speech, in my opinion.  One of the moderators of the Vanguard has predicted recall elections likely.  We’ve just had an election, and the candidates were fully vetted by the community.  Readers of the Vanguard are ignoring widespread support for the direction that the Board is going in.  Just look at public comment during the last Board meeting where the large majority of people speaking were thankful and in support of the Boards actions, including one teacher representing the teachers from one Davis elementary school.

    Since there was discussion during closed session (we are assuming) and she knew her colleague’s reasoning and also how the vote would go, Sunders outraged and inflammatory comments and references to the Deanne’s personnel file were made for the benefit of whom?   Certainly not the community of Davis.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “Since there was discussion during closed session (we are assuming) and she knew her colleague’s reasoning and also how the vote would go, Sunders outraged and inflammatory comments and references to the Deanne’s personnel file were made for the benefit of whom?   Certainly not the community of Davis.”

      it seems more likely that the closed session dealt with the superintendent evaluation than the vsa.

      “The postings here are bordering on hate speech, in my opinion.”

      criticism of public officials isn’t hate speech – certainly none of this is worse than you’re repeated anti-sunder posts over the last year or so.

      “Readers of the Vanguard are ignoring widespread support for the direction that the Board is going in. ”

      i see a more split public, but so far more people have spoken out of the change, but many of the gate parents i know, were not even aware that major changes were on the horizon.

      1. wdf1

        DP:  it seems more likely that the closed session dealt with the superintendent evaluation than the vsa.

        The superintendent evaluation was not on the consent calendar.  The superintendent evaluation was item II.c. in the closed session agenda for the June 18, 2015 school board meeting.  Item II.a. is what we’re talking about, which references the personnel actions on the consent calendar.

        1. DavisAnon

          I just reviewed old Board agendas. The statement “a. Discussion and possible action on personnel listed on the consent calendar for personnel employment/status actions.     “ seems to show up on all of the meeting agendas, so this appears to be standard text rather than an indication of the administrators position being discussed that night.

        2. wdf1

          DavisAnon: seems to show up on all of the meeting agendas,

          I, too, noted that.  If there is an issue to discuss about an employee that might draw three votes in agreement, then that’s where it would be discussed.  Employment issues are not supposed to be discussed in open meeting.  Under what other situation would it be discussed?

    2. Napoleon Pig IV

      “The postings here are bordering on hate speech, in my opinion.”

      Really? I don’t see much “hate” posted among the comments on this article. Disagreement and concern maybe, but not hate. Contempt maybe, but not hate. Of course, the term “hate speech” is a political phrase often used for propaganda purposes rather than to illuminate more complex thoughts and ideas, so I suppose it’s fair to bandy it about as desired. Oink!

    3. hpierce

      “The postings here are bordering on hate speech, in my opinion.”  Guess I missed those, or have different ‘filters’.

      I’m one of the ones who are glad the Board is revisiting the program, hopefully making sure its serving population it is intended to serve.  I’m convinced it has run a bit ‘amok’.  I strongly support the concept, but have many, many concerns about how it has/is/will be run.

    4. Don Shor

      The postings here are bordering on hate speech, in my opinion. One of the moderators of the Vanguard has predicted recall elections likely.

      I’m the only moderator, just for the record.
      Here’s what I said earlier:

      If they continue in this manner, with such disregard for process, public input, and the impacts of their decisions on hundreds of students and parents, I consider it very likely the recall petitions will be circulating by late 2015.

      Do you disagree with that assessment? And in what possible way could that be considered “hate speech?” Or were your two sentences not related?

      1. wdf1

        Don Shor:  I consider it very likely the recall petitions will be circulating by late 2015.  Do you disagree with that assessment?

        If the result is the elimination of self-contained AIM as an option, then I think you are right.

        But if the process adds the option of differentiated instruction in the regular classroom and keeps self-contained AIM, then no.

        Right now I see the latter situation as likelier.

        1. Don Shor

          I wonder if teachers who receive training in differentiated instruction are eligible for pay increases for that.

          If in fact the board goes in the direction of reducing self-contained AIM and directing more of the applicants to differentiated instruction in regular classrooms, it raises the issue of whether there would still be sufficient enrollment numbers for different grade levels of self-contained AIM.

          You use the term “adds the option” but the board would more likely be reducing the option of self-contained by changing the testing or the threshold.

          It’s interesting to note via the DJUSD website that the advisory commission on AIM seems to have fizzled out. What avenue for public input does the board have now? Just public comments at open board meetings?

        2. wdf1

          At the district website, when I search on “AIM Advisory Committee,” I get plenty of hits, and references to monthly meetings, the most recent showing a May 2015 meeting.  I understand the committee is very active, though as strongly divided in its views as are reflected in public comment on AIM agenda items at school board meetings:

          AIM Advisory Committee

          Recent school board public comments often came from AIM Advisory Committee members who referenced their meetings this school year.

          Don Shor:  changing the testing or the threshold.

          From what I understand, the direction to the board is to come up with a scenario to end private testing, and to increase kinds of tests/assessments done by district staff.

          I think the district has to keep a self-contained option.

          1. Don Shor

            when I search on “AIM Advisory Committee,” I get plenty of hits

            Yes, I see that I was searching wrong.
            Increase staff work, separate out smaller AIM units, train most teachers for differentiated instruction. I see increased costs at every level. It seems that to justify that they would need to show better outcomes.

        3. hpierce

          Don… re: your 6:14 post… in my opinion, any teacher hired into the District should be ‘differentiated instruction’ – ready.  It is not only the high achievers/gifted that vary from the mean/median.

    5. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

      Hate speech? The only one spewing profanities is you–literally saying “___ you” to Don Shor, when he politely disagreed with something you said.

      And if you are going to say someone is using “outraged and inflammatory comments” please have the decency to tell us what you’re talking about, rather than maligning other people without any cause.

  7. ryankelly

    There will be almost no changes for existing GATE children, including the incoming class of 2015-2016.   There has been very little contact with Deanne Quinn with families/students for some years, with her duties being reduced to testing to fit with her part-time schedule.  If the Board moves forward with implementing differentiated instruction, then GATE families will have an alternate for their GATE identified children who are struggling in their AIM classes.

    1. DavisAnon

      Ryankelly, those assertions are just false, on essentially every level. Stating the same untruths over and over does not make them any less inaccurate. Trying to whitewash the Board’s actions does not make them any less damaging or worrying.

      1. ryankelly

        How are they false?  The testing for the 2015-2016 school year has been completed, which includes results for private testing, and these children will be admitted into the AIM program in the Fall.  Testing for next year (rising 3rd graders) is proposed to not include private testing and the district is supposed to come back with a plan to expand retesting  by the District using tests that are appropriate.  The Board also asked the District to come up with a plan to implement differentiated instruction in regular classroom programs.

        Saying everything I say is false or a lie over and over again, doesn’t make it so.  That you are clearly worried, it is obvious.

    2. wdf1

      ryankelly:  If the Board moves forward with implementing differentiated instruction, then GATE families will have an alternate for their GATE identified children who are struggling in their AIM classes.

      Plus the added differentiated instruction option will also serve GATE-identified students who currently are not in self-contained GATE.  What kinds of students are we talking about?

      –the parents philosophically don’t want AIM instruction in a self-contained environment, but rather want differentiated instruction 

      –families would have to split sites in order to have official AIM (self-contained) instruction; that is a hardship that would impact families to different degrees

      –families participate in another magnet program — Dual Immersion, Spanish Immersion, Montessori.  Right now to participate in (self-contained) AIM, families must choose one program or the other — there is no self-contained AIM option in those magnet programs.  It would be nice to not have to do that

      –other sites that don’t have self-contained AIM may have other desirable programs and services unavailable at a self-contained AIM site, such as stronger ELL services, Bridge Homework Club, possibly ACES

      The discussion of differentiated instruction has currently been temporarily derailed because of a Brown Act complaint that “differentiated instruction” wasn’t listed in the meeting agenda so as to permit the board to give direction to staff on differentiated instruction for a future agenda item.  I think the Brown Act complaint will be rejected, but we’ll wait and find out…

      I see the board eventually (next few months perhaps) having the discussion about differentiated instruction in the general classroom, as proposed in Lovenburg’s motion.  I think clarifying differentiated instruction as a policy for most/all classrooms would be a benefit to more AIM/GATE-identified students who aren’t currently in self-contained AIM/GATE, as well as for non AIM/GATE-identified students.

      And I think Trustee Sunder supports differentiated instruction at some level.  At least she is on record as follows, with reference to AIM/GATE:

      There are concerns about the size of the program, stigma placed on children not in the program, the lottery, private testing, and the all-or-nothing option that seems to exist, because our regular-ed programs do not offer consistent or adequate differentiation to meet the needs of AIM learners in their classrooms,” Ms. Sunder said adding, “We ought to have more effective ways of meeting the needs of diverse learners in the regular classroom. We need to keep class sizes small and provide professional development to teachers in differentiated instruction.”  source

  8. iWitness

    *ryankelly, how do you know there has been “very little contact with Deanne Quinn with families/students for some years”?  Many parents, children and teachers have had frequent, helpful contact with her for all these years but you think she’s done nothing but testing.  She’s one of the most full-time part-time employees this district has.  She is replaceable at twice the cost with a tenth the experience, if that, wow.  How do you know that the current tests are not appropriate?  The Board majority doesn’t, so you’re in good company.  The TONI identifies so many highly gifted children of disadvantage, where there is a good indication, within the standard margin of error of the OLSAT, of learning or behavioral problems, limited English or limited income, inexplicably low scores in verbal opposed to high scores in math skills or the opposite.  It’s not magic, it’s the right test in the right hands.
     
    *A majority of speakers against AIM at the June 4 meeting seemed to know what was afoot.  Most pro-AIM parents did not expect the Board to take measures to end (end, not modify) the program in the dead of night.  Some still don’t know what happened — it’s vacation.  Those who came for AIM, came to register their support of the conclusions of the AIM AC, second on the agenda for AIM.  Some also registered  their disappointment with the study of AIM that was first on the agenda, by three UCD professors who looked at a small slice of the identified student population who qualified for but were not even included in the program at the time.  There was prior public access to that study, but none of the anti-AIM majority spoke about it.  Then instead of looking at the work the AIM AC did that was on the agenda, in which people really trying to come up with proposals they could all endorse reached a consensus, the Board left that for the future and took AIM apart first..
     
    *Don, the last meeting of the year for the AIM AC was on June 1 to discuss the professors’ report on their study.  The previous meeting was held May 26.  The AIM AC didn’t fizzle out.  Its recommendations were ignored.  Maybe they’ll get to it, maybe not. 

    *The “majority of speakers” at the Board meeting on the 18th was not large, a ratio of 11 against, 8 favorable to AIM, including two couples on each side who held the same views.  That’s not bad for representing a population of students that’s 20-30% of the whole.  Teachers are brave but they don’t want to be made into targets, especially with the growing reputation the District has of doing this, as David notes above.
     
    *wdf, please don’t tell parents what they want philosophically in terms of self-contained differentiated or total-bell curve-differentiated classrooms.  They have voted with their identified children’s little feet for decades.  They can weigh other magnet programs and other services and how much of their resources they can commit to getting their child to the right site — themselves.

    1. wdf1

      iWitness:  wdf, please don’t tell parents what they want philosophically in terms of self-contained differentiated or total-bell curve-differentiated classrooms.

      How do you think I’m telling parents what they want, philosophically?  I don’t think it’s in my nature to do that. I’m just sharing what I have observed/heard in public comments, which is a desire for a differentiated instruction option.

  9. ryankelly

    IWitness: *ryankelly, how do you know there has been “very little contact with Deanne Quinn with families/students for some years”?

    I know from personal experience.  I know that an AIM teacher stated here that Deanne Quinn attended conferences, but only when asked.  I know that the Administration has given the rational in the June 4 agenda that due to the reduction in staff time, retesting has been done using one test – the TONI.  This test is easier to give because per AIM Advisory Board meeting minutes in May 2015 it was explained that the test is administered in small groups and only takes 30 minutes, rather than one on one.

    The TONI identifies so many highly gifted children of disadvantage

    Per the White report presented at the March 19, 2015 meeting, the TONI is being used inappropriately.  “The TONI was not designed to replace broad based intelligence tests but rather to provide an alternative method of assessment when a subject’s cognitive, language, or motor impairments render traditional tests of intelligent inappropriate and inefficient.”  It is supposed to be used for “deaf & hearing impaired, aphasia, dyslexia, and other disorders related to spoken and written language, or not proficient with written or spoken English.”  It is being used for students with risk factors such as economic factors (free-reduced lunch), lack of preschool, allergies/asthma, parental divorce or remarriage, etc.  If this test were strictly applied to the risk factors it was intended to address and used in conjunction with other tests and criteria, then I would have more confidence in its use.

     “Most pro-AIM parents did not expect the Board to take measures to end (end, not modify) the program in the dead of night.”

    I don’t know what you are referring to.  Per the meeting minutes for the AIM Advisory committee, there are repeated entries about needing guidance from the Board.  After two research papers on the Davis AIM program, the motion is as follows:  “To provide more equitable access to the AIM program, move to eliminate the use of private testing to qualify students, beginning with students who would first be admitted to the program in the 2016-17 school year.  Further, direct the Superintendent to have staff review and recommend assessment protocols to be implemented in screening students beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The focus of assessment will be to identify students whose needs cannot be met in classrooms which fully implement best practices of differentiated instruction. Assessment will take into consideration multiple measures… Recommended changes will be reflected in the AIM Master Plan to be approved by the Board. Further direct the Superintendent to develop a plan for the district which fully implements differentiated instructional practices in all classrooms.”

    To me, this is a modification, not an elimination of GATE services to students in our District.  It is direction that has been asked for to the staff to come up with a plan and no measures have been taken other than to eliminate private testing (where students were found to have an average OLSAT score in the 70th percentiles and were not required to identify risk factors that determined the OLSAT was inappropriate and was available only to students whose parents could afford to pay for the test.)

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      Per the White report presented at the March 19, 2015 meeting, the TONI is being used inappropriately.  “The TONI was not designed to replace broad based intelligence tests but rather to provide an alternative method of assessment when a subject’s cognitive, language, or motor impairments render traditional tests of intelligent inappropriate and inefficient.”  It is supposed to be used for “deaf & hearing impaired, aphasia, dyslexia, and other disorders related to spoken and written language, or not proficient with written or spoken English.”  It is being used for students with risk factors such as economic factors (free-reduced lunch), lack of preschool, allergies/asthma, parental divorce or remarriage, etc.  If this test were strictly applied to the risk factors it was intended to address and used in conjunction with other tests and criteria, then I would have more confidence in its use.

      as the vanguard pointed out in march – white has this wrong – http://www.davisvanguard.org/2015/03/analysis-nonverbal-tests-for-aim-identification-of-minority-and-disadvantaged-students/

      it’s not just a text for people with aphasia or disorders, but also low income students who do not have solid verbal skills.

      This is explained succinctly in a Duke University article about “Minority Children in Gifted Education,” written by Jack A. Naglieri, a professor of psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive Development at George Mason University.
      They write, “Most parents know that school administrators use intelligence tests to identify gifted children. What most parents do not know is that the content of these tests can have a powerful influence on who is identified as gifted and who is not. The tests can block minority children, especially those with limited English-language skills or limited preschool experience, from admission to special programs, or they can be the keys that let these children in. It all depends on which tests are used.”
      It is important to differentiate between “a test of achievement and a test of ability.” In other words, students can be smart, but not know much. Therefore, “Nonverbal tests offer a different way to identify children with high potential.”
      “The verbal and quantitative parts are difficult for children who have limited English-language skills and have had few chances to develop literacy skills,” they write. “Nonverbal tests of general ability are designed specifically to measure intelligence independently of language and math skills.”

      part of the problem here is that the district is relying on expert advise from people who are not experts in this particular field.

  10. ryankelly

    it’s not just a text for people with aphasia or disorders, but also low income students who do not have solid verbal skills.

    The tests can block minority children, especially those with limited English-language skills or limited preschool experience, from admission to special programs, or they can be the keys that let these children in. It all depends on which tests are used.”

    Testing students with limited English skills is a valid use of the TONI, per the researcher’s data.  The fact that the student is low-income is not.  Or other factors that the District is using the TONI for, because it is an easy test to give, can be given to a small group of students at a time and only takes 30 minutes, and the test administrators time has been reduced to part-time.

    part of the problem here is that the district is relying on expert advise from people who are not experts in this particular field.

    I agree.  That’s why I referred to the researcher’s findings.  I believe he took his data on the appropriate use of the TONI from the author’s of the test.

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