Analysis: Ways to Get to Five Votes on AIM Reform?

Alan Fernandes with Susan Lovenburg looking on last week
Alan Fernandes with Susan Lovenburg looking on last week

It was interesting going back over all five of the school board members’ comments from last week’s school board meeting on GATE/AIM. Given the late hour and the length of the meeting, there was a lot of texture to the comments that was missed the first time.

I think that Alan Fernandes was right when he said, “We mostly talked about our vision and our ideals, but I haven’t heard a lot of (specifics),” and in this case the devil really is in the details.

In my view, the question remains, can we get to a place where all five board members feel comfortable supporting a reform proposal? A lot of people seem confused by my stance here, arguing that we make 4-1 and 3-2 decisions all the time, so there is no reason why we have to go 5-0 here.

My consideration is practical. To get to a 5-0 vote requires there to be compromise where both sides get something that they want while conceding things they would rather not concede. For me, and really every school board member I have spoken to — and I believe I have met with four of the five on this issue specifically — while this is a divisive issue, and an important issue, it is not the most important issue. For me the achievement gap and early childhood education are far more important.

So, can we get to a place where we can fix the things that most people agree have been wrong with the program, while at the same time keeping in place the aspects of the program that most can agree on? If we can, this issue may not completely go away, but it will allow us to move on to address the other more important issues.

Of the board members, it seemed like Alan Fernandes was most actively thinking in terms of ways he might be able to craft some form of compromise. He argued in his comments that this change is not “earth shattering,” instead saying, “We’re still going to do what we do here. What we do here is really serve not only the most unique and gifted and talented and high achieving students, but we endeavor to serve everyone.”

His compromise is to “phase things in” for the purpose of collecting data.

I am not sure I really agree with Alan Fernandes here. While we may not be moving mountains, putting in place changes that may well cut in half a program that a segment of the community deeply values seems rather drastic. Adding to that concern is the lack of research or data to justify the change.

I will admit, I was a little taken aback by the lack of a data-driven process. When Board Vice President Madhavi Sunder said, “It looks as though this proposal seriously limits access to the self-contained program,” she asked for the educational or other rationale for raising the cutoff score to 98.

Superintendent Roberson responded that they didn’t know the rationale for the 96th percentile score either. His report acknowledges that the scores in other districts range from 90 to 99 across communities. He reiterated that this was based on a number of conversations. He even acknowledged, “We are not married to that number.”

Whenever I have pushed on the issue of the lack of educational justification raising the cut-off to 98, the pushback is there was no rationale for the 96th percentile cutoff to begin with.

I get it. Basically the district at some point in time in the distant past threw a dart onto the board that landed at the 96th percentile. There was no justification that we can discern for that cut off. Other districts have different cut offs.

However, we have been hanging an important educational program from that dart for years now. And so we can move the dart around with again no justification but we are moving that entire education program with it. And we are thus uprooting or potentially uprooting a lot for no reason that I have heard articulated in any clear or conclusive way.

Now I do understand that the AIM committee itself had long discussed the possibility of raising the cutoff. That decision apparently grew more urgent when the lottery was put into place.

That made sense. I think Alan Fernandes nailed it on Thursday with regards to the unfairness of the lottery.

Superintendent Roberson stated that he hoped they will not need it, but they are not going to eliminate it. If there is more demand for the program and more students qualify for it than there is capacity in the program, the lottery would be used to match the demand for seats with the available supply of seats.

Alan Fernandes said, “The existence of the lottery in my view seems to suggest that for those are unsuccessful in the lottery, we’re not meeting a need.” He said this “suggests that there are some people whose needs are not being met.”

Superintendent Roberson tried to sidestep it, saying that “it means we don’t have enough seats.”

But Mr. Fernandes pushed the point, “For people who want to be in the program… For those who are unsuccessful in the lottery aren’t able to be in those classrooms that we believe are best suited for them.”

Mr. Roberson continued, “Having the lottery shows me there’s more demand for the program than we have seats.” And he acknowledged that it was, in Mr. Fernandes’ words, “a laudable goal to no longer have a lottery.”

The problem with the lottery is that there are kids who we believe might benefit from the AIM program, but who are unable to realize that benefit due to size constraints. I have come to believe the same about raising the qualification limit to another arbitrary point.  The fact that this is a supply problem, not a demand problem, suggests that the solution should be a real increase in supply rather than a contrived decrease in demand.

I have heard, at least from some, that they might be willing to consider raising the limit, if it can be done in a way that is inclusive and diverse. Some have suggested that a way to forge that compromise would be to bring back Deanne Quinn, who would be able to ensure that the new smaller program remained diverse.

I was also a little surprised when I went back through the comments, at the moderate stance that Tom Adams took. He said, “What I really was concerned about with the proposal is going up to 98 – for the simple reason that as one of our commentators said, there’s this issue of equity if the previous year it was 96.”

Is there a place for compromise? I’m not sure. What I heard from Susan Lovenburg was some well thought out philosophy, but not enough specifics on how to get to that well-articulated philosophy.

I think that Barbara Archer acknowledges that we have a community divided on this, but I don’t have a good sense as to whether she would go for an interim step this year.

Archer raised an interesting point in her comments that the board passed a motion in June that “the focus of the assessment would be to identify students whose needs cannot be met in classrooms which fully implement best practices of differentiated instruction.”

The problem is, as someone else pointed out, that the motion actually addresses the wrong issue.  I believe we need to identify students, not whose needs “cannot be met” in the mainstream classroom, but rather whose needs are better met in a self-contained classroom.

I think we have gotten too wrapped up on size and should deal not in philosophy, but rather need.

So here is what I would suggest as a year one landing spot that might be able to gain the support of a 5-0 vote.

First, keep the assessment level at the 96th percentile.

Second, eliminate, as we already have, private testing, but allow transfers and students who miss the OLSAT in third grade to take a make up exam of some appropriate sort.

Third, implement the HOPE scale pilot program concurrent with a re-deploying on the unconscious bias training (which I was told was a one-time training five or six years ago and which we should be doing anyway).

Fourth, implement the new second stage retesting for those with risk factors and those who scored within the margin of error.

Concurrently, we need to get really good statistics on (A) the number of students in the self-contained program, (B) the number of students who opted out of the self-contained program, and (C) the ethnic and racial and socio-economic status breakdowns of the program as compared to the student body at large.

And then come back after this has been in place for a year – so that would be after the 2016-17 school year – to reassess where we are and whether we need to ramp up the qualification profile.

In the meantime, the district should focus on what everyone seems to agree it needs to do – figure out how to implement the best practices of differentiated instruction.

—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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51 Comments

  1. zaqzaq

    David,

    Your proposed compromise makes sense.  You should add to it that the district needs to develop the advanced math track in the AIM program used in 4th -6th grades in neighborhood schools using differentiation and cluster groups.  In 2013 the board directed the district to do this and based on Clark Bryant’s comments it does not appear to have happened.  Getting the accelerated math track up and going successfully in the neighborhood classrooms using differentiated instruction would be actual evidence that it can be done.  Using this as exhibit one that teachers can meet the needs of all students in the neighborhood classes could have calmed many parents and supporters of the current AIM program.  Now we get to the question of why the advanced math track was not implemented in neighborhood classrooms successfully.  Was it because the district decided not to follow this instruction or was it because they could not make it work using differentiated instruction and cluster groups?  Did the district come up with a common plan for all sites or did they just pass it down to the sites to each individually come up with a plan?  It would be interesting to see how many of the AIM identified students went into 8th grad math in 7th grade.  And of those children what percentage were in the self contained AIM classes.  This would be one indicator as to whether the self contained classrooms benefited the students in them over similar students in the neighborhood classrooms.

  2. wdf1

    Vanguard/Greenwald:  I will admit, I was a little taken aback by the lack of a data driven process.

    What data would you be looking for that isn’t already available?

    I ask because it’s a very common issue you make about education these days, “Let’s get some data to help make our decisions.”  But there are a number of questions for which there is little or no appropriate data available.  We insist that students take standardized tests because we think it will provide the data that we hunger for.  And when the data doesn’t quite address the question of interest, then problems arise, especially when we insist that the data we’ve just collected should have meaning.  It ends up cheating a number of students who score within a defined qualifying range as well as a number of students who score outside.

    Examples of such questions are, “how should we identify students who belong in AIM/GATE?”  (given them the OLSAT and maybe some other tests) “how do we know that our students are receiving an appropriate education?” (give them the STAR or SBAC test)  “how can we objectively know if a student can handle college?”  (give them the SAT or ACT)

    I just got through reading this article, which is related to the above theme:

    Results of Removing Standardized Test Scores From College Admissions

    1. hpierce

      I hope that whatever decision is made, it is not to focus on students’ HS “success”, their college “success”, but their “life” success…  the ability to contribute to society… their ability to form loving relationships… at the moment of death, the culmination of life, what does it matter what grades did you get, what colleges did you attend?  How do we want to be remembered?  I’d be content to know I made a positive impact on the lives of many others.  Hope I ‘get there’.

      1. wdf1

        hpierce:  How do we want to be remembered?  I’d be content to know I made a positive impact on the lives of many others.  Hope I ‘get there’.

        I’m sure Pearson or ETS are developing a standardized test for that this very moment.  :-/

    2. Matt Williams

      wdf1: What data would you be looking for that isn’t already available?

      I think David was pretty clear in the article when he said, “we need to get really good statistics on (A) the number of students in the self-contained program, (B) the number of students who opted out of the self-contained program, and (C) the ethnic and racial and socio-economic status breakdowns of the program as compared to the student body at large.”

      The statistics that David calls for appear to me to be constrained by the supply issues that the current program has. I would add some statistics on the unconstrained demand for the program as well.

      1. wdf1

        Matt Williams:  I think David was pretty clear in the article when he said, “we need to get really good statistics on…

        That data wouldn’t be hard to get, but if the means for identifying students is questionable, then the data that you list is of questionable value.  Discussion so far doesn’t seem to have resolved how to appropriately identify AIM/GATE students.

        1. Matt Williams

          wdf, how do you identify a student who is underperforming as a result of learning challenges that are impeding his/her ability to get the most from the standard curriculum track?

          The reason that I pose that question back to you is that the reason that the student is under performing can be very diverse. ESL students are going to have very different challenges than ADD students or bi-polar students or partially deaf students or partially blind students.

        2. wdf1

          Matt Williams:  how do you identify a student who is underperforming as a result of learning challenges that are impeding his/her ability to get the most from the standard curriculum track?

          Train teachers to identify such students, or secondarily, train teachers to recognize traits that suggest calling in a specialist to make the call.  Apparently this is done in other states like Maryland.

          1. Matt Williams

            Let’s sit down and have a cup of coffee. I suspect it would be a lively time.

            Thank you for your engagement.

  3. sos

    The problem with including students who don’t require, but may learn better, in a separate classroom is that it will include everyone…all  students would benefit from a scholastically homogenous classroom. As a parent of a high achiever who qualified for AIM on the district OLSAT, but who stayed in the differentiated regular classroom at NDE, I know how well differentiation can work. After losing the differentiation program when my daughter started 6th grade, I also know how poorly the non-differentiated classroom works. The district is seeking to provide a separate classroom for those students who cannot learn in the regular classroom using standard teaching techniques, often referred to as under-achieving gifted.  A score of 98 with a beefy search and serve will give them that population (they won’t all score high). If they use the 96 cut off, it will include a significant population of high achievers. Putting these two types of students together means serving neither one. You could create two programs within AIM, but then you have to explain to the parent of the remedial student, why their child doesn’t get a separate classroom when it would clearly help them learn better, too.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “all  students would benefit from a scholastically homogenous classroom. ”

      that’s an incredible statement.  if true, then we’re doing things wrong.

      1. sos

        The point is every student would benefit (at least scholastically) from learning with a group that learned in the same way and at the same speed…it’s the basis of differentiation. But when you make the leap from differentiation to separate classrooms based on “learning better”, you are talking about every student from remedial to high achiever.

        1. Davis Progressive

          so what i’m hearing you saying is that you believe that the self-contained gate students are better off being in self-contained gate, but all students are better of in such an environment, therefore we should either not have that environment or limit it – is that a fair representation of your view?

      2. ryankelly

        For the families that had students at NDE around 1999-2003 (or thereabouts) and earlier and experienced the extremely successful  and popular differentiated program there, it seems absolutely reasonable that many students currently in GATE would do very well in a differentiated classroom.  No need to have a pilot.  It worked very well and is what many understand to be what a really good program looks like.  I think that current parents have never experienced it or seen it in action, dismiss it as unworkable.  They narrow it down to math acceleration, etc., which is a poor test.

        1. Don Shor

          For the families that had students at NDE around 1999-2003 (or thereabouts) and earlier and experienced the extremely successful and popular differentiated program there, it seems absolutely reasonable that many students currently in GATE would do very well in a differentiated classroom.

          ryan, I agree with this. It would be great if the district would set up that program again, show that it can work, and encourage gifted-identified students in that direction. But that isn’t what the district is proposing. They are saying “differentiation is a philosophy, not a program,” and implying that teachers will be trained to implement it. They aren’t paying the teachers for training, they aren’t giving them time off for it, they aren’t mandating it. So they aren’t proposing an NDE differentiated program for the whole district. They could do that and show that it can be done again. Meanwhile, they could review the results of the piloting of the new testing protocols, see how well the new AIM committee functions, and continue to get feedback as they gradually raise the threshold for OLSAT.

        2. zaqzaq

          ryankelly,

          Math acceleration is a perfect test for differentiated instruction using cluster groups.  On cluster does the advanced math track (AIM track) for three years  Two years ago the board directed the school district to implement this and they have not done so.  They have had two years to prove that they can develop a differentiated model for all schools for only one subject, math.  Talking and doing are two separate.  The school district is all talk and not performance when it comes to differentiated instruction.

          How big were the classrooms at NDE back in 1999?  Did they have 32 students in them?  My child’s AIM class has had 32 students in it at times.  Most parents with children in AIM classes are skeptical that it can be done.  Prove it can be done now where it is a philosophy that the teachers by their contracts are not required to use.  If the school district wanted to go to a differentiated model why wasn’t it put into the last contract?

        3. MrsW

          The NDE program lasted until Judy Davis retired, the Spring of 2008. That next Fall, Valley Oak was closed and an AIM strand was placed at NDE. And that was that.

          NDE classes in the early 2000’s were something like 20 in the K-3 classes and 27-32 in the 4-6 classes. The 6th grade had 3 strands and the students rotated between the 3 classes. With AIM being placed at NDE, there was no more rotating between classes; AIM classes are self-contained.

      3. sos

        No, not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying the students in AIM are the same students as the regular class, and all of these students would benefit from working with groups that are at the same level academically. We can acheive that with differentiation. Even if we could (or wanted to) separate all students, you would still have to differentiate because students often work at different levels in different subjects.

        1. Don Shor

          We can acheive that with differentiation.

          I don’t see an actual program of differentiation being proposed or implemented in conjunction with the changes proposed to GATE. The message seems to be either that the teachers are already doing it, or it will happen as they get trained voluntarily. But there is no evidence of a clear program to get them trained, it isn’t mandated or resourced, and we have no staff recommendation as to followup, monitoring, or feedback. In short, differentiation is being proposed as an answer for the dozens/hundreds of students who will no longer be in GATE (that would have been under the previous procedures), but it isn’t actually being implemented with respect to giftedness.

        2. sos

          “I don’t see an actual program of differentiation being proposed…”

          I absolutely agree! And that’s where we need to push the district to develop concrete and specific plans for both the program and the implementation. Differentiation can work, but only if the district and community get serious about it. But the more we focus our attention on maintaining the current mixed ability AIM program, the less we focus on developing a legitimate differentiation program.

          1. Don Shor

            Develop the “differentiation program” first. The district staff said, twice, verbatim, “differentiation is a philosophy, not a program.” So, what you are saying is at odds with what the staff are saying.
            After it’s in place, the teachers are trained, the new testing is piloted and assessed, the parents and teachers and principals have bought into the changes — then you can talk about raising the OLSAT to 98%.

        3. sos

          Matt, I think it’s a staff issue (mainly). The board gave the district a directive last spring that included developing a differentiation program. That doesn’t appear to have happened yet. It wouldn’t be appropriate for the board to develop the program, but it is appropriate for the board to hold the district’s feet to the fire.

        4. ryankelly

          Don – Maybe we need to separate the two..no, three ideas.

          1) Change the method of identifying GATE students. Discuss.

          2) Raise the qualification score for AIM self-contained classes to produce a narrower band of ability for self-contained classes.  Discuss.

          3) Implement ways for all teachers to offer differentiated instruction to students in their classes, across all classes in a grade level at each site, across the District (where appropriate).  Discuss.

          Do each of these things really have to hinge on each other?

           

        5. zaqzaq

          sos,

          if students would benefit from working with groups that are at the same level academically why wouldn’t they benefit from working in classrooms that are at the same level academically? The AIM classrooms are just differentiation on a larger scale:)

        6. sos

          Zaqzaq,

          “If students would benefit from working with groups that are at the same level academically, why wouldn’t they benefit from working in classrooms that are at the same level academically?”

          They would…great idea. Let’s form a class for remedial learners, a class for average learners, a class for good but not standout students, a class for high acheivers, a class for gifted under achievers, and a class for gifted high achievers…that might cover it.

    2. Matt Williams

      sos, your summary rings true to me. “Putting these two types of students together means serving neither one.” Setting aside the current acronyms, Mark West summed up the roots of the program with the following post back in June …

      50 years ago the program here in town was MGM (Mentally Gifted Minors) and consisted of a single 5/6 combination class taught at North Davis by Eleanor Olsen. Participation in the class was determined by recommendation of the classroom teacher and confirmed by a 1 on 1 examination by a District supplied consultant. While the kids included were certainly ‘smart,’ I doubt anyone would have describe them as ‘high achievers.’

      Back 50 years ago (I graduated from high school in 1966) advanced placement (AP) programs were at best in their infancy, so MGM wasn’t trying to serve two masters. Somewhere in that intervening 50 years, it appears (to me at least) that both the demand for and the supply of AP programs have burgeoned. It also appears that the lines of demarcation between the two programs MGM and AP have been blurred, if not completely removed.

      I can’t help but wonder whether the simple solution to this challenging problem is to simply separate AP from MGM (or whatever acronym it is currently labeled with). Having a standardized testing threshold for AP course qualification makes a whole lot of sense, but does it make sense as the qualification threshold for MGM?

  4. ryankelly

    I wonder why the demand for accelerated Math and that subject being used by some as a litmus test for the success of differentiated instruction.  Math is not a GATE subject. With the implementation of Common Core, Math instruction will be very different.  If a student stays on track, they will reach Calculus before they graduate from High School.  Now we know why GATE classes are sometimes not serving GATE identified students well, when surrounded by high-achieving students and parent demands for accelerated curriculum.

    1. MrsW

      Let’s explore math.  Since math is perceived as one of the important program differentiators, some data regarding mathematics would be helpful: (1) number of AIM participant and non-AIM participant students who enroll in and pass Algebra in 7th grade; (2) number of AIM participant and non-AIM participant students who enroll in math for all four years of high-school; and (3) highest level of math achievement for AIM participant and non-AIM participant students.  DJUSD should have 20 years of this data that include periods of (a) pre-universal testing w/98 cut-off; (b) post-universal testing w/96 cut-off; and (c) lottery w/96 cut-off.

  5. Michelle Millet

    My eleven year old daughter, started looking for an alternate safe route home from school a few weeks ago after she was called a “bitch” by a similar age boy along the greenbelt. (She was flustered and had ignored a question he asked her about her bike while she was trying to ride around him and a group of his friends who were blocking the path.) She didn’t feel comfortable riding on this section of the greenbelt any longer.

    Last year a father of students who attend Birch Lane was arrested in front of the school at pick-up, for drug possession, possession of illegal weapons, and child endangerment. His wife was arrested at home. I’m not sure what happened to the kids.

    In the school paper recently published at Davis Senior High, a student casually referenced playing beer pong and friends doing body shots off of each other at what she described as a “typical” Friday night where the kids blow off steam after a long week at school.

    I realize that GATE/AIM is an important issue in our district. But we have other issues, and we have other kids that needs our attention and our help, like the 11 year boy who feels like he needs to assert his power by calling an 11 year old girl a bitch, or the kids whose parents have been arrested, or our high school students who are so stressed out they need to do body shots at parties on the weekends, and whose behavior is so accepted by the adults in their lives that feel free to openly discuss it in the school newspaper.

    I hope at some point we start talking about them again.

      1. Michelle Millet

        I’m not sure what your point is here. Are you saying that until we figure out a way to meet the needs of our most academically gifted students that we should put the needs of our other struggling students on the back burner?

        They could at least get equal time.

        1. Michelle Millet

          My question would be this then, why isn’t the fact that our high school kids are writing about doing body shots at parties on Friday night in the school sanctioned newspaper a contentious issue?

          Why isn’t the fact that the police are arresting parents on weapons charges in front of an elementary school during dismissal a contentious issue?

          Why isn’t the fact that 11 year boys are using sexually degrading verbiage to bully our 11 year old girls a contentious issue.

          The fact that none of these, or other issues like them, are contentious enough to get some attention while we focus on meeting the academic needs of our most talented students is disturbing to me.

          1. Don Shor

            School board members can agendize any subjects they want. They can direct staff to address these issues in public meetings. Perhaps you should direct this concern to the president of the board and the superintendent. I’d bet they’ll be more than willing to have the board discuss them.

          2. Matt Williams

            Those are three really good questions Michelle, and I suspect the answer to each of them is the acronym WIFM. The universe of parents who believe that GATE/AIM affects them directly (the FM part of WIFM) is quite large. In addition the universe of students ho believe that GATE/AIM affects them directly is quite large. The reason that GATE/AIM is so contentious is very well defined by the words “What’s in it for me?”

            With that said, each of your three issues actively impact a much smaller universe of parents and students, and the “for me” part of WIFM is much more elusive unless you area parent or student who is directly involved. In addition, for each of your three issues, I suspect that there is more awareness amongst students than there is amongst parents. The reason I say that is that many students who are aware of any one of your three issues may well be reluctant to tell their parents about the issue because of fear of repercussions and/or reprisals.

            So, with respect to your last paragraph until there is heightened awareness and that awareness more actively pushes the “selfishness button” of parents and students, issues like GATE/AIM are going to overshadow the three very important issues you have described.

        2. wdf1

          Michelle M.:  Thanks for raising those issues.  Regarding your child’s incident, I would also raise it with the site principal.  Regarding the other issues, I agree with Don Shor.  Raise it with the board of trustees and the superintendent.  Sometimes these things don’t show up on their radar because either no one or very few people say anything.

        3. Michelle Millet

          Regarding the other issues, I agree with Don Shor.  Raise it with the board of trustees and the superintendent.  Sometimes these things don’t show up on their radar because either no one or very few people say anything.

          I appreciate this, and these points I brought up were 3 of many I could have that reflect some issues that I think are being addressed on some level within our district. My larger concern is the seemingly disproportionate amount of time and coverage that one program within the district is getting, above all others.

    1. Biddlin

      First off, philosophically, and since I have no standing in that issue, I agree with you on the boards priorities, wholeheartedly but like many things in Davis, the cart is pushed up the hill, just in case pulling encourages peripheral development.

      ” My eleven year old daughter, started looking for an alternate safe route home from school a few weeks ago after she was called a “bitch” by a similar age boy along the greenbelt. (She was flustered and had ignored a question he asked her about her bike while she was trying to ride around him and a group of his friends who were blocking the path.) She didn’t feel comfortable riding on this section of the greenbelt any longer.”

      Did you contact the rude boys’ parents?  Make a police report? If someone had frightened my daughter that much there would have been some accounting done. I think it’s important to nip these beginner misogynists in their hyper-testicular buds.

      1. Michelle Millet

        I don’t know the boys. But I’m keeping a close eye on the park in which it occurred, especially when my kids and others their ages are riding home from school through it.

    2. Michelle Millet

      Regarding your child’s incident, I would also raise it with the site principal.

      The kids involved were not from my daughter’s school, I’m not sure which they attend.

      But as a Board Member of Davis Bicycles! I have raised it with my fellow board members as an issue to potentially be addressed under safe routes to school. I’ve also shared the story with relevant school district and City of Davis employees.

      1. MrsW

        I am struggling to articulate my thoughts… but I am so heartened to read about people in our community who care about being the “Village” for our children–that they be safe on the way to school and safe in school, physically, emotionally and intellectually.

        Michelle, Thank you

  6. Anon

    Superintendent Roberson tried to sideswipe it…”

    Don’t mean to nitpick, but your use of the word “sideswipe” has been driving me crazy!!!  Do you mean “sidestep”?  Sorry for the mundane!

    By the way, the Vanguard’s compromise solution sounds quite reasonable to me…

      1. Anon

        LOL  Normally I don’t care that much about about usage, especially because one can expect the occasional mistake or typo.  But this one (sideswipe versus sidestep) for some reason keeps bugging me!  Another one that drives me bonkers in the use of “on accident” instead of “by accident”!  You know, like scraping nails on a chalkboard drives some people wild!

        But I digress… 😉

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