Archive for Friday, June 25, 2004

Letters to the editor

June 25, 2004

To the editor:

I am writing to express my disappointment with the manner in which Connie Wehmeyer and the Baldwin School Board conducted last week's school board meeting. The school board ignored the input of community members and faculty alike, and in so doing failed in their responsibility to safeguard the best interests of Baldwin students.

The only person the school board did listen to was Ms. Wehmeyer. What was her compelling argument? Ms. Wehmeyer argued that the new textbooks are better because they are filled with examples that tie math to other subjects and "real life." This is troubling: we are adopting math textbooks that are "better" because they focus less on math? With this characterization of the new textbooks, Ms. Wehmeyer supported the claim that the new textbooks are dumbed-down, and in fact, she never denied that the new textbooks are less rigorous. She did deny that adopting the new textbooks would make the curriculum less rigorous, because, she said, changing the books does not mean changing the curriculum. Anyone who remembers taking math classes can see that this is patently false: in math classes the curriculum and homework are heavily based in the textbook. In fact, Ms. Wehmeyer knows this, and contradicted herself when she said that adopting new textbooks would be a good way to force the teachers to accept curriculum changes.

Wait, force the teachers to change? Yes: instead of congratulating the math department for the achievement on the Standard of Excellence, Ms. Wehmeyer implicitly claimed that they were failing as teachers. Why? Because they're stuck in their ways and refuse to reach out to students who have trouble in math, she

implied. In the meeting, it was agreed that change is (for some reason never made clear) necessary, that the teachers need to accept this change, and that they need to be pushed or pulled "outside of their comfort zone." Contained in the entire display were the assumptions that Ms. Wehmeyer and the school board know more about how to teach math than the math teachers do and that the math teachers are failing the students because they are stupidly stubborn and unwilling to change.

These assumptions are false. First, neither Ms. Wehmeyer nor any of the school board members are qualified as math teachers. For them to assume that they nonetheless can set a curriculum better than those who are most knowledgeable on the subject is both false and extremely disrespectful to the faculty. Second, the math teachers are not failing. I'll spare you a recap of the evidence for their excellence, which is contained in my letter earlier published in

the Signal: suffice it to say that these are strong teachers with a strong record of success. Now, it is true that the math department did not used to be as strong in teaching people who have a hard time with math, but this has improved significantly in the last few years since the math teachers have been willing to admit to this weakness and work to change it. The math teachers are not foolishly stuck in their ways: in fact, we can accurately attribute the recent success on the state assessments to their willingness to try

to do new things. What they are not willing to change is the part of their program that is already highly successful -- i.e. the more advanced classes that use the textbooks in question. Ms. Wehmeyer argued that these textbooks need to be changed in order to better

accommodate for students who have a hard time in math, but the fact is, the needs of these students are already being met in other classes, and by changing the textbooks for the more challenging classes, our district will be harming the students who are able to work at this advanced level.

In the decision to ignore the advice of community members and highly-qualified professionals, the school board and administration have shown grave disrespect to a faculty that deserves not our censure but our highest applause. The school board members have made a decision that will harm Baldwin students for years to come and thus failed in their most important and, truly, only responsibility.

Kate Lammers

Baldwin City

To the editor:

I would like to thank the citizens of Baldwin, the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, Bill Harmon, Police Chief Mike McKenna, Mayor Ken Hayes, Peach Madl, Sandy Cardens, and of course, all of you who brought your awesome vehicles to our first "Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Much More Carshow."

I appreciate all of the comments and help, and hope to make next year's event bigger and better. It was a great success, you're all "trophy winners," and thanks again to everyone who helped support this event.

Star Novak

carshow organizer

Baldwin City

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