Wednesday, July 24, 2013

College In High School, & Other 7/23 Highlights

Well, it's finally happening for real:   attended my first Hillsboro School District board meeting as an actual member, rather than just sitting in the audience.   As I promised during the campaign, I'll try to post highlights after each meeting.   These aren't a substitute for the official minutes-- I'll skip a bunch of boring stuff and focus on the interesting bits--  but should be able to give you the general idea if you couldn't make it to the meeting.   (And of course, as with all my posts, these are just my take, not any kind of official statement by the board as a whole.)

So here are the interesting topics from last night:
  • Podcasting the board meetings:  Fellow new member Glenn Miller suggested that we record the meetings and make them available on the web, an idea that I seconded.   Communications Director Beth Graser explained that they had considered this a few years ago, but fees to broadcast on public access TV were prohibitive.   Public Access TV???  Does anyone really remember that still exists?   Upon further discussion,  we agreed that we could podcast these things for nearly zero budget, assuming we accept the limited video/audio quality of our current equipment.   Hopefully we'll be able to implement this sometime soon.    I really think the public deserves a full record of these meetings, instead of just secondhand minutes and blog posts.
  • The new chair:   Following board tradition, the majority voted for current vice-chair Kim Strelchun as our new chair.   She seems very dedicated to board work, and I'm sure she'll do a great job.   My favored chair candidate, Monte Akers, was elected as the new vice-chair.   I think Monte's 40 years of accounting experience will be increasingly relevant with all the financial troubles going on.   And Monte holds a special place in my heart, having been the only local elected official to speak out against the Hillsboro Hops stadium boondoggle, which I was very unhappy about.
  • The Youth Advisory Council:   A presentation by a great group of kids who have been very involved in the community.   But one aspect of it made me a little uneasy-- one of their goals was "political activism", and they talked about all going together to Salem to demand more money for K12 education.  Have they really thought deeply about this issue, or are they being used as political pawns?    How many of them have been exposed to conservative ideas, or to the concept that maybe PERS reform might be a more sensible request at this time than just begging for more money?
  • School Bus Purchases:  The district needs to buy some new buses, to replace decaying ones from the 80s.  But what really worried me here was a remark that due to new state emissions standards, we would have to spend an extra $15K per bus in the future (we have a fleet of 150+ buses), plus upgrade our garage facilities.  This is an example of an unfunded state mandate with real costs to the schools.  When I asked what the total cost to HSD of this mandate would be, nobody had exact numbers.   I asked if we could get some more detailed data on this; I will follow up with the superintendent and in future meetings.  
  • College and Career Pathways.  A new program for helping students to comprehensively plan their futures.  I saw a lot of good stuff here:
    • A web interface for parents, students, and counselors to share info on a student's strengths, weaknesses, and career plans.   
    • When assessing student strengths and weaknesses, a question-by-question breakdown of recent standardized tests will be available, with individual questions linked to relevant subtopics.
    • Increased opportunities to do college-level work in HS, and take classes within their school for college credit, encouraging every student to see themselves as potentially in college.
    • I did have a couple of concerns here.   
      • We need to make sure we are also allowing for potential vocational education & other non-college choices.   As I pointed out in the meeting, there are plenty of 20-something college-educated Starbuck's cashiers, living under crippling bankruptcy-proof debt, who could have been much happier at this point in their lives as experienced, financially-secure electricians.   
      • Will the "college credits" be as good as the real college courses?   I could easily envision a student who completed Linear Algebra thru PCC being totally lost when they try to move on to advanced classes at a top engineering college afterwards.   We need to track the students who get out of these programs, and make sure we are not setting talented kids up to have a much tougher time in college.
    • Another question to keep in mind:  does the ability of so many non-exceptionally-talented HS students to complete college level classes indicate that our HS standards are getting higher, or that our college standards are getting lower?

No comments:

Post a Comment