Archive for Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Book review committee to be formed again

October 29, 2003

The challenged book is going back to a review committee.

The Baldwin Board of Education decided at Monday's recessed meeting to re-form a committee to review the challenged book "We All Fall Down," despite not having a new challenged materials policy in place.

The decision comes two weeks after board members spent nearly five hours pouring over revisions to the current challenged materials policy in an effort to come to some agreement on a new policy.

Board Member Lonnie Broers said Monday the policy revision was turning into a "mind-boggling, time-consuming process."

Board Member Alison Bauer agreed.

"I think to hammer out a policy will take us a long time," she said.

Changes

Following a parent complaint of the use of Robert Cormier's "We All Fall Down" in a freshman orientation class, the school board agreed more than a month ago the current challenged materials policy would be followed and a review committee would be formed to deal with the book challenge.

Less than a week after its decision, the board decided the current policy was not clear enough and reversed its decision about the formation of a review committee. Instead, board members agreed a new, clearer policy needed to be in place before the district could make a decision on the use of the Cormier novel in class.

At its Oct. 13 meeting, the board worked until the early hours of the following morning reviewing revised policies and making suggestions in an attempt to come to some agreement on a new policy so the challenge of the book could move forward.

At Monday's meeting, Board Member Stacy Cohen said she thought from the beginning the current policy should have been used to deal with the challenged book.

"I guess I just don't understand the sudden change," Cohen said.

"The change, I think, comes from me," Supt. James White said. "I think this would take several more weeks if not several more months."

White said the issue was dividing the school district.

"That's not in the best interest of the kids," he said.

New committees

Board Member Scott Lauridsen, who was participating in the meeting through a conference call from California, said while he agreed the current issue needs to be resolved, he wasn't comfortable leaving the policy as is.

"My position on this, I don't think, has changed," Lauridsen said. "I think the policy needs some review.

"We could agree on a proposal and still won't have a good idea of how it will impact staff and patrons. I don't think we're prepared or qualified as a board to sit up there and develop a policy," he said. "We need some input from staff, administration and the community. I think a review of this policy needs to go to a working committee."

There was agreement among some of the board members that the current policy should still be changed. There were also questions about what would happen to the work the board had already spent on revising the policy.

The school board finally agreed in a 7-0 vote to form a seven-member Ad Hoc committee -- comprised of two board members, three district faculty members and two district patrons -- to look at the current policy and the board's most recent proposed policy, create a new policy from the two and bring its recommendation back to the school board for review. Board President Ed Schulte will appoint the committee.

Even though a policy committee had been agreed on, board members concurred the challenged book issue needed to be resolved soon.

"I'd like to see us revise our current policy to take care of the issue at hand," Broers said.

Lauridsen wasn't in favor of that idea, and instead wanted to give a specific set of recommendations to the committee the board wanted followed for the issue and any others that would follow.

Board Member Blaine Cone disagreed.

"That would be tailor fitting it to the problem we have and that's what we're trying to get away from," she said.

The board agreed in a 6-1 vote, Lauridsen voting against, to adopt the current policy -- with a few minor changes to update it -- until a new policy was in its place. The review committee -- which will be comprised of the building administrator, a media specialist, two teachers, the curriculum director and two Site Council members -- was also instructed to return its report of the challenged book to the school board within 30 days.

The book's return?

About 40 district patrons were in attendance at Monday's meeting, many of them wearing pinned circles of paper showing their appreciation for White and Curriculum Director Connie Wehmeyer's efforts and decisions over the challenged book issue.

No public comment was allowed at the meeting, but during the board's 10 minute recess, a TV news reporter wanted to know from the board members whether the book would be returned to the classroom since the original policy, which states challenged materials will remain in use, had just been adopted.

"I don't think it was the intent, but I think it's what we just did," Lauridsen said.

Cohen said although she didn't think it would be an issue, she thought the policy should stand, allowing the book to be returned to the classroom.

"To me, it's a matter of appearances," she said. "So it doesn't look like we're doing everything we can to target it."

White said because the placement of the book back in the classroom wasn't discussed during the motion to adopt the policy, it would be misleading to people.

Schulte agreed.

"I don't want people interpreting we're trying to back door something in," he said.

Cone said the book was still available in the library and felt it should not be returned to the classroom.

The board approved in a 4-3 vote to not allow the book to be returned to the classroom. Cohen, Broers and Bauer were the dissenting votes.

In other business, the school board:

  • Briefly looked at budget issues concerning the district. White told the board if the state legislature did not increase funding, the district will experience some problems with future budgets.

White also told the board that, after attending a county meeting, a half-cent countywide sales tax to increase funding for county districts did not seem like a viable option because it required legislature approval.

  • Met in executive session for 15 minutes for personnel reasons. No action was taken following the closed session.

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