Preble Shawnee’s student fees and textbook adoption opened discussion during the district’s board of education meeting, Thursday, June 26.
The catalyst to the discussion, board member Dr. Tom Crumbaker said, “I know that the fees — the prices of supplies — I know in sciences are becoming astronomical. I would like to see these increased at least two dollars for the sciences.”
Superintendent Dr. David Ulrich said it has been the intention of the board to keep the student fees as “stable as possible,” so as to not increase or decrease the amount.
“With our free and reduced lunch … when one out of every two students don’t pay fees because they are on free and reduced lunch, we only get half of the amount” of the funding, Ulrich said.
“Are we having issues purchasing everything we need to teach these courses?” board member Candace Turpin asked.
“I think that they would purchase more interesting, and have more in-depth, labs because obviously the more money you have, the more expensive labs that you can buy,” said High School Principal Dianna Whitis.
“Our science department gets, I think it’s $1,200 [for] instructional money to budget, then they get the fee money for labs. We’ve been holding still on fees for five years. If we were able to increase it, I would say it would hold our students to a higher expectation in labs, because it would be a more difficult lab.”
As the science department has the lowest score in overall student testing, Turpin said she would like to see a request for an increase of department funds, to help increase scores. “I don’t think asking two dollars is asking a lot,” said Turpin.
Using an example of 100 students who pay $10 a semester in fees, roughly half of the class utilizes the free and reduced lunch program, thus bringing in only $500 in fee profit.
“The teacher still has $1,000 [in budget funding], but has had $1,000, and that amount hasn’t increased for five years or so. So as that cost increased, that $1,000 keeps buying less and less because the cost of equipment, of supplies, of chemicals, or whatever it may be, keeps increasing,” said Dr. Ulrich.
“If we increase fees … I feel it would be better to increase instructional [fees] because we are at such a high percentage of free and reduced lunch and it’s going to come out of our budget anyways,” said Whitis.
“In the past [teachers] know [the board] hasn’t raised fees, they see that their instructional money hasn’t been raised, so they don’t come ask because they don’t think we’re going to be able to get it.”
Board president Barbara Strickland added, “I’m for it, I want teachers to have whatever they want, but if teachers needed it, I’m sure they would be complaining that they’re not getting what they need.”
Whitis said teachers do not bring budget issues to the board as they are “used to not getting it.”
The board passed the motion to accept student fees as listed, however the board encourages teachers to be more vocal about needs in the classroom.
After having recently adopted the Common CORE standards, the board must now accept textbooks relating to the new style of teaching. Boardmember Terry Willis said he has reservations surrounding the language used in the new textbooks.
In a math textbook presented to the board, Willis said he was uncomfortable using the term “fair share” when teaching averages to students. “It’s a social term that has now been interjected in math,” said Willis. Willis also stated his “math specialist” read through the textbook and found no other issues.
Willis also disapproved of the term “gender neutral” found in a public speaking textbook, and it’s definition: a psychological sex-role of an individual.
“So if I’m a male, and yet I portray myself as more feminine, then is my gender feminine?” asked Willis. “It’s a glossary explaining to you and teaching you what ‘gender neutral’ means,” said Turpin. “This is a definition we are teaching these kids … and you wonder why these kids have gender confusion, or whatever … if you’re teaching this in the classroom, you’re confusing these kids ‘am I male? Am I female?’” said Willis.
“I think you just jumped way off the cliff there. That book is teaching gender neutrality when it comes to public speaking, and what it means is when you speak to a group, you need gender neutrality. They gave you the definition of ‘gender neutrality’ in the back of the book so that kids know what it meant,” said Turpin.
“So the women were all playing football while the men were all cheering on the sideline? Is that gender neutral?” asked Willis. Turpin said that comparison is very different than what the textbook is teaching.