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Lengthy and Eventful ACS Board of Education Meeting

Well guys, that was certainly an educational meeting that we had this evening. For those of you who didn't have the pleasure of being at the BOE meeting in person or watching it live you can find the recorded meetings here (once it uploads).

school board
Oh look it's the School Board! And they're blurry.

The June 27th meeting began with 24 members of the public in attendance. It was a nice mix of teachers, staff, and concerned citizens. Following the pledge, Dr. Schuelein gave his superintendent's report brief. He commented on the excellent attendance and good weather for Friday's 147th commencement of Andover Central School. He announced that the code of conduct presentation was postponed until the July 11th board meeting. He also announced that expanded reimbursement from the state was approved, so ACS can continue offering free meals to all students in the coming school year. Dr. Schuelein also gave a shout out to Mr. and Mrs. Bannerman and other staff for putting on an excellent field day for the students. He closed his commentary by reminding folks that the Andover Farmer's Market was going to be held this week.

The public commentary section followed and there was a fair amount of public commentary. Amy Brown went first, and I'm just going to list her questions and comments below in the order in which they were presented.

  1. Does the superintendent plan to move here? It's been a year....(and it looks like Andover has been bamboozled on that front once again. -ok she didn't say that part)

  2. Why is there such a high turnover of teachers at the district?

  3. Why have we hired uncertified teachers at certified pay?

  4. Has the board asked the out-going teachers why they're leaving?

  5. Why are we moving 6th graders upstairs? Were teachers included in this discussion? Additionally, will teachers be given more pay or prep time to develop new curriculum for the new classes?

  6. Where did the $16k in funds that the graduating class of 2022 had raised for their class trip go after the cancellation of the senior trip?

  7. Why does the superintendent leave early on Fridays and come in late on Mondays?

  8. Why was the teachers' grievance rejected?

  9. Why do we have an assistant superintendent, and what does that position do for the district?

  10. Why was a curriculum committee formed if the suggestions were not used?

  11. What are we doing about the vaping issue at school?

  12. Where did the covid-relief money all go?

President Perkins thanked Amy for her questions and for bringing them to the board. He opened the floor to the next member of the public which was Devin Davis. Devin wanted to know if the board was aware that in previous years ACS was 4th in the state for teacher turnover. She additionally wanted to know what ACS was doing to retain and recruit teachers. Brian said that there have been several recruitment efforts but did not speak to retaining efforts.

The next public commenter was Molly Carlin who read a letter to the board about her experience as an employee of ACS since 2011. Molly questioned why she was let go and not hired for the position for which she'd been a long-term sub. Molly stated that she'd been told that a more experienced person had been hired, but since Molly is certified and the candidate hired was still pending certification she questioned if this was true. Molly referenced letters of support from other staff and parents of students in addition to her increase in education and certification. Molly also mentioned feeling bullied, belittled and harassed by an unnamed administrator. She closed with "Why was I not hired? I think I'm owed that."

Board President Perkins stated that the board cannot legally address personnel issues in a public forum. He declined to address further statements from Ms. Carlin.

A couple of members of the public that did not introduce themselves followed. The first stated that after many years at the district she questioned what had happened this year. She stated, "This has been a year that we're not proud of." The second speaker stated that she did not like how Molly had been treated and that this was "despicable."

Allison White, former elementary 12:1:1 teacher, stated that she had resigned after feeling like she did not have enough support. She said that she felt harassed and verbally abused by a supervisor and that she felt she needed to leave for her own mental health and well being.

Devin Davis, former teacher and community member, spoke next stating: "There was a common vein, and the board should be paying attention to why people are leaving...Andover is a great place, and it's worth figuring out what is happening." Dr. Samantha Gavin followed this up by asking, "Why after all the chaos of covid were teachers feeling more defeated and less safe?"

Board President Brian Perkins thanked everyone for coming and bringing their concerns to the board. He went on to state when things aren't brought to the board that it was hard to know what was going on. There was some back-and-forth with the public about how much Brian may or may not use Facebook, and there were some loud declarations of "bullshit" and "baloney" which was certainly something. Brian reiterated that folks should bring things to the board meeting to discuss instead of letting things build up.

You might think the public commentary ended there, but it did not. Another member of the public questioned if the board had negotiated Dr. Schuelein's contract or was it left to BOCES. President Perkins stated that the board had been a part of the discussion, which left things a bit open to interpretation.

Another member of the public asked what the timeline for responses to the public concerns presented in this meeting would be. Perkins stated that he will address the questions presented no later than at the next Board of Education meeting on July 11th. The same person stated that she felt that the public felt pressured for time during this public commentary due to reminders of the 3-minute talking time limit and an earlier off -hand comment by Perkins in which he stated that normally they did not have a half hour of public commentary. The speaker stated that it was rude. Perkins did state that he had not limited the time anyone had spoken, which was mostly true except for Ms. Carlin whom he'd moved on from following the reading of her letter to the board.

There was some additional back-and-forth with some questioning about who was the boss of who. Perkins clarified that per the organizational structure the Board of Education was Dr. Schuelein's boss. To which it was questioned "Then shouldn't you know why these teachers are leaving?"

Mr. Gill, former teacher and current aide, suggested that it was very important for the district and the teacher's union to agree on a contract. He stated that the board of education needed to involve itself more in this process to ensure that an agreement was met before the coming school year. Mr. Gill felt that this would make for better teacher recruitment as well as better teacher retention and a better relationship between teachers and the administration.

Following Mr. Gill's statements Brian again thanked everyone for their commentary and moved forward with the board agenda. There was a presentation by Kathryn Slavinski from the curriculum committee which had a slide show and everything. After the fireworks of the public commentary Ms. Slavinski did her best to bring some excitement and interest to the presentation. The new curriculums presented were Aero Scuba, 6th grade Spanish and Into Math for elementary.

Dakota Whitesell gave a very nice talk on how cool scuba is and how it teaches science through hands on learning with the added benefit of expanding student horizons. He seemed very jazzed about it, and I'll bet if you ask him about it next time you see him out-and-about he'll fill you all the way in. There was some concern from the public about funding for the scuba course, which has been funded primarily with grant money and some additional stimulus funds. Jen Joyce offered to write something up to present before the next board meeting to fully explain the funding for those concerned.

Ms. Slavinski covered the 6th grade Spanish curriculum, which is learning Spanish, but in 6th grade. ACS will be partnering with Alfred University to give 6th grade students a head start in foreign language. This will include in-class instruction from an Alfred University professor in addition to guest teaching by Spanish-speaking teachers. Ms. Slavinski continued on to present the Into Math K-5 program. She thanked the full committee for their time and dedication in what was a very thorough review of the available curriculum. The curriculum sounded nice. I don't really know much about curriculum though so I'm taking their word on that. Though they did say there was an online resource with videos and tutorials for family to help assist kids with homework concepts which sounded useful (although studies show that homework in elementary school does not have a strong correlation with achievement* so do with that what you will).

There were a bunch of questions back-and-forth, and honestly the meeting was long, and if you're all that interested you should read the minutes or watch the video once they're posted. After the presentation they approved a bunch of stuff, then adjourned at 7:33 which was frankly almost my bedtime. I took 6 pages worth of notes on this meeting guys, and I really tried to keep this some sort of brief, but I failed and for that I am sorry.**

This meeting was unfortunately a 0/10. The meeting lasted well over an hour, clocking in at 1 hour and 33 minutes. The attendance and public engagement were definitely positives, and it was good that the teachers and public were able to be heard. I really enjoyed the curriculum presentation; however, any meeting over an hour is an automatic zero from me, and the vibes were just not great in general.

*Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), 1–62.

**Not sorry

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