I met with Superintendent White today to discuss everything we’ve reported on. I would like to start out taking responsibility for a blanket statement I made in my first post. I wrote “It seems that Todd White, the Superintendent of Blue Valley School District, has had a plan to cut the arts from our schools since he was hired.“ As that was my first post, I was still gathering information. I didn’t mean to paint Dr. White as someone who had a personal agenda to remove the arts from our schools and apologize for that. That being said, after meeting with him I still have the same concerns about the arts in our schools, the substantial increase in core time while reducing electives time and the lack of transparency in the process. It also raised more concerns regarding the Project Based Learning curriculum that is being adopted for our middle schools.
The standard line that “no decisions have been made yet” does not ring true. While there may exist some questions as to the exact implementation, it seems clear that Dr. White has already made substantial decisions about curriculum. Unfortunately he did so without engaging the community in any substantial way. When asked about parental input, he said they sent a survey out last year. That was the only communication with parents at large the district has had and frankly I don’t recall receiving a survey despite being a very active parent with a middle school child. We’re parents, we get busy and we miss things. But with changes like these, a simple survey is far from engaging in a dialogue with the community. Scouring the public and social pages found nothing to show any genuine outreach was attempted. I cannot say what the Board of Education members think but I will be reaching out to them to find out.
So while the PowerPoint presentation may not be finalized, many of the concepts are locked in to the current thought process. Which ones are and aren’t are unknown. And the denials that this is just one of many options being considered are not accurate. Indications are they are moving towards a finalization of the plan and not considering any other options at this point. I welcome the board or superintendent to provide details and support documentation if this is inaccurate.
My concerns lie in the lack of outreach to parents and the community when making such far reaching changes. There were no focus groups, no pilot programs, no significant teacher committees and no transparency to the decision making process that I could find. Certainly we don’t need to be involved in all the minor changes, but this is an enormous shift that will require significant funds to re-train teachers and have far reaching impact for our children’s education. We haven’t even heard about the budgetary considerations of such changes, yet we are significantly down this path and closing in on implementation. In fact, on the PowerPoint presentation from the board, page 14 says parents wouldn’t be informed about these changes until November 2017 when it would be too late to do anything about them.
It’s ironic that the 3 meetings to inform the parents were only scheduled after we started this website. I suggest you go to the meetings and listen to what is being said at the meetings. Go ask questions about these changes. Listen for yourself. Look at the significant increase in Core curriculum time. Look at the significant reduction in times for electives, despite an increase in the number of electives. They are removing Art class and lumping PE, World Language, Band, Orchestra, Choir, Speech, Drama, Computers/Technology, Pre-Engineering and FACS into electives and then adding Coding, Robotics, Farm to Table and Modern Communications to the electives. Then they are significantly reducing the time for electives to 1/6 of the school day for these 14 “strands”.
I’m all for improving our schools. But there is no question in my mind that the Arts programs in Blue Valley will be decimated by these changes in both middle and high school because with the removal of the music requirement in any grade students could go through middle school without taking a single arts class. And I question the broad expansion of electives while reducing time for those electives. And that it all would have been implemented without any genuine out reach to parents and community. We deserve better.
BVSD Meetings Information
Channel 4 News Story
Kansas City Star Story – one correction is she misstates the amount of time for electives. Based on the PowerPoint presentation all electives would be 1/6 of the day, not 1/2 that she stated (70 out of 420 minutes)