Three Stooges or DVUSD Study Session?
Why Pick Just One
Happy September, Secular Fam! We are one month into the school year here in Arizona, and the school board meetings for this 2023-2024 school year have consisted of conspiracy theories, racism, bad boardsmanship, and bigotry.
Today, I’m offering up a recap of a study session in Deer Valley (DVUSD). For those who may not be up to snuff on all things School Board, a study session is a public meeting where school boards and staff can discuss issues happening in their district to learn more about them (hence the word “study”).
During my time on a local school board, we had study sessions about school safety, strategic planning, and board member behaviors. I’m a big fan of study sessions, and always welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with fellow board members.
[gif of Curly from the Three Stooges getting in a brawl at a restaurant]
And I’ll let y’all guess which board member I might be referring to with this gif.
The meeting opened in the typical fashion and right out the gate, there was a request to move a couple of district reports about summer programming and school safety to the beginning of the agenda. Despite Board President Paperman and Vice President Fisher displaying once again they know nothing about parliamentary procedure, the motion passed, 3-2.
My favorite part of this discussion was when Board Member Carver said, “the problem we have here is…we have folks on the board openly say that they don’t care what the policies are in governing the governing board when it comes to our conduct and how to deal with things in a business fashion,” and essentially said that since Members Fisher and Paperman seem to enjoy meetings that go to midnight, for the parents’ sake, it makes sense to move the district reports to the beginning.
This, of course, was seen as a huge conspiracy by Vice President Fisher, and she (of course) had to explain her vote by saying she’d gladly say nay and that it was “an obvious setup” and exactly what she predicted, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.
District staff gave reports about summer programming and school safety. There was a discussion about School Resource Officers (SROs), school counselors (both wellness and academic), and about Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). It seems that DVUSD is aware of mental health issues affecting their students, and is trying to be proactive.
A couple of parents showed up to share their frustration about how the district handles bullying, and said that their calls for help haven’t been acknowledged. It was kind of hard to follow because the parents basically said that they haven’t received any correspondence while district leadership said they have answered their emails. I’m sure we’ll see these parents again, as they were clearly upset.
VP Fisher basically told staff that they aren’t handling school safety correctly, disparaged Social Emotional Learning (SEL), threw out a bunch of statistics without citing sources, and advocated for more discipline in schools.
Next up for discussion was grading practices for the 2023-2024 school year. So real quick, let’s talk grading practices. There’s the traditional letter grading model of A-F grades and then there’s something called Standards Based Grading (SBG). SBG means that you grade a student based on their mastery of a specific state standard.
Here’s an example from the 7th grade reading standards for literature: “Compare and contrast how texts from different genres address similar themes or topics.” Once a kid can demonstrate mastery, they receive a grade of “proficient” or something similar.
I’ve worked with both types of grading practices, and IMO, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I also never gave kids a grade of zero. A 50% is still an ‘F’ so if I had a student who didn’t do an assignment, I gave them 50% AND gave them the option to turn in late work for credit.
This is always a contentious issue, and I’ve heard ALL the opinions about both methods, but basically, the “bootstraps” crowd seems to dislike SBG and would disagree with my philosophy of allowing late work and never giving zeros. During the last academic year, shortly after Board Members Carver and Simacek joined the DVUSD board, the board voted to transition BACK to traditional letter grades.
Long story short, it was an abrupt and unexpected decision that left many in the district scrambling. It seems the board realized that the move away from SBG was jarring, and so they appear to be trying to help teachers with this transition, but honestly, I have no idea why this item is up for discussion.
The discussion started with a very lengthy PowerPoint presentation that was apparently created by President Paperman, and there were so many misspellings and so much bad grammar my English teacher-brain nearly exploded. I normally don’t get too hung up on bad spelling and grammar, but folks, she is an “Education Program Specialist” with the AZ DOE and has a master’s in education from ASU according to her LinkedIn.
Additionally, listening to her read every slide with her monotone affect and mouth so close to the microphone is no easy task.
Why this was a discussion item is beyond me, y’all. While President Paperman kept saying this was brought to this study session for “full transparency,” as an outsider, it seemed like an opportunity to complain about the rollback from SBG to traditional grading?
But honestly, very little of the agenda items brought by Paperman and Fisher make sense to me. Like, my face usually looks like this at DVUSD meetings:
From what I can tell, they wanted to share the findings from their SUPER SCIENTIFIC SURVEY about SBG to like, “gotcha” the district? Still not sure, and it seemed like a huge waste of time and resources.
The conversation continued with both Fisher and Paperman denying reality and data that was collected, so that must be super-fun for their colleagues and staff to deal with every other week.
And then Dr. Finch said something that had me guffawing at my computer screen. VP Fisher accused Dr. Finch of not caring if teachers want to leave, and he said, without missing a beat, “I don’t care if you leave,” and I was so happy to see Dark Finch make another appearance!
(You can watch this exchange at the 2:06:25 mark: https://livestream.com/dvusd/events/10949281/videos/237473873 and be sure to check out the reactions from the rest of the board 💀)
How this man shows up to such a toxic work environment on a regular basis and counters all the mis/disinformation being spread by two members of his board is nothing short of heroic, and we need people like Dr. Finch in Arizona. Sadly, this past spring, about three times more superintendents left their roles than what we normally see.
Dr. Finch is dealing with the worst of the worst, and I’m so grateful he’s sticking around. The Deer Valley community is lucky.
Next item up is about HR termination processes. This was brought to the board by VP Fisher, and she opened by insinuating that DVUSD only allows due process when it feels like it (I highly doubt that to be the case). She said that the district protects abusive teachers without providing any facts to back up that allegation.
If any of what she said is true, it would seem that the district is teeming with people who hate children and want to viciously beat them on a daily basis and the higher ups turn a blind eye. Again, I doubt that is true.
I’m not sure what this was all about, but a new trend in public schools with these Purple Parent/Moms for Liberty (M4F) folks is to target staff that they don’t like to the point where they’re being called out by name like in Scottsdale (SUSD) and Peoria (PUSD). Board members are not the head of the HR department, and when they act like they are, it will have a chilling effect on hiring staff, or result in a lawsuit like it has in PUSD.
Next was a discussion about the budget, and then district staffing, where VP Fisher showed everyone that she lives in a different reality than the rest of us and provided a bunch of “alternative facts” that just about everyone present pointed out were incorrect. She also whined about districts that receive desegregation funding for some reason…
The last thing on the agenda was about student activity funding, and was brought to the board by VP Fisher. It was really hard to follow why she was angry about this topic, but it sounds like she disagrees with the district’s legal counsel and that she’s worried about diverse clubs being offered to kids?
(Sorry, y’all, this was a 4-hour meeting, and I feel like when I listen to these people yammer on I lose brain cells).
And that’s a wrap folks. These meetings don’t have to go till 11:00 PM or midnight. Not if we get sane, rational individuals who support public education elected on these boards. Maybe that’s you? Or maybe you know someone who should run for their local school board. If you or someone you know wants to be a part of our school board support team, let us know by filling out this form!
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