Community Meeting, May 16, 2017, at Liberty Park Baptist Church
Thank you for attending our community curriculum alignment meeting last night. It was nice to get to discuss this important topic on our turf, without someone timing us. I want to thank Liberty Park Baptist and Pastor Scott Guffin for providing the space so we could meet as a community. They provided the chair setup and signage to direct us to the meeting room. This was so much appreciated.
There are several important meetings coming up of which you will want to be aware:
- Wednesday (tonight), May 17, 6pm, Board of Education – Anna Velasco asked the superintendent to be placed on the agenda as a delegation representative; the superintendent will allow Anna 5 minutes to lobby the board for complete curriculum alignment for Liberty Park Middle School. If you are able, please come out as a show of support for this concern.
- Thursday, May 18, 8:30am and 6pm, Liberty Park Middle School – The Board of Education and school administration will present information regarding new course offerings. This will be an opportunity to ask questions and get more information about the courses and scheduling process.
- Video presenting new course and club offerings: http://www.vestavia.k12.al.us/Page/3389
- 2017-2018 Curriculum Guide: http://www.vestavia.k12.al.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=3354
- Schedule Change Request Form: http://vestavia.schoolwires.net/Page/2319
We had approximately 30 people attend last night, which was good for a busy school night at the end of the term. The discussion centered on our community’s desire to have a curriculum that is completely aligned with Pizitz Middle School. This concern grows from a desire to provide Liberty Park Middle-zoned students with the same academic opportunities as those provided to other student in our community and to protect our neighborhood property values. With the advent of 9th grade moving to Liberty Park Junior High in Fall 2019, the issue is time-sensitive and critical.
Anna presented information regarding her experience with Liberty Park Middle 2017-2018 course scheduling.
Anna received a letter from the school stating there had not been enough students to register for French and so the class would be provided as an online course with a proctor supervisor. The letter advised if her student wanted to change course selections, in light of this information, the school could make a course change. Anna felt the implication was that the school expected the delivery method would make their family desire a course change, since someone checked with her student to say, as a paraphrase, “We haven’t heard back from you; do you still intend to take French?” and also because the procedure for switching classes was outlined in the letter. (If the course was equivalent to what was promised initially, there would have been no need to outline the delivery method in a letter to the parent.) After further investigation, Anna discovered 6 students enrolled for French and 5 for German. Since the parent notification regarding the delivery system, the numbers have dropped for 2 for French and 1 for German.
In addition, Anna was told that the following elective classes would also not be offered due to low enrollment: Career Prep A and Coding. The school indicated Coding would be offered as Lancer Period club. (Lancer Period is a non-academic, 30-minute class offered at the end of each day for club and athletic activities.)
Anna pressed Asst. Superintendent Jane-Marie Marlin to provide more information to parents about the new course selections to boost enrollment. Parents shared there was no curriculum night or notification to parents/students regarding the new course offerings. One parent said she was not even aware her daughter had signed up for courses—there was no communication from the school to let parents know courses were being scheduled or to inform parents about the new aligned course offerings. She was unaware of the courses for which her student had applied.
In response to Anna’s concerns, the school produced a video, published on social media and sent out as a link in an email. She was told course cards would be sent home for review and possible revision, but this has not yet happened. Only a course change card has been posted.
A discussion ensued about the differences between courses offered at Pizitz Middle and Liberty Park Middle. The following are the published course guides for the two middle schools:
- Pizitz Middle – http://www.vestavia.k12.al.us/Page/2109
- Liberty Park Middle – http://www.vestavia.k12.al.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=3354
Notable differences are that the new courses added at Liberty Park Middle (French, German, Coding and Career Prep A) to achieve alignment had insufficient enrollment. Parents agreed that an online language course with a proctor is not at all the same as a language course with a qualified teacher in the classroom–the two experiences are not at all equivalent.
In the recently released curriculum video, VHHS World Language Department Chair Lisa Garrison explained world languages were “a vital tool all of our students need.” She said it was best to “begin this journey at an earlier age–not waiting until they are at the high school” because “starting a language early is always a benefit because their minds are set up [such that] the earlier they start learning a language, the easier the acquisition….” (At this point, the video abruptly trails off so that we cannot hear the rest of what she said.) Pizitz has offered all three world languages (French, Spanish and German) since before the beginning of Liberty Park Middle school. In its nine years of existence, Liberty Park Middle has never before offered French or German, although parents have clamored for it.
Also in the video, Brooke Brown, VHCS Director of Curriculum and Instruction, said, this year, LPM French and German would be offered through the Middlebury online interactive program, as well as through making use of “resources and experts from our community who can also enrich that experience for our students.” Liberty Park Middle will use this delivery system, but Pizitz Middle will not. One parent shared her child had been part of a pilot “French Fridays” offering this year, using the Middlebury delivery system, and that it had been a useless course. She said her child had gained nothing from the experience and the child said she did not understand why she had bothered to participate. Unless something changes, Although this will be the tenth year of LPM’s existence, unless something changes, it appears French and German will still not be offered as full electives with a teacher in the classroom.
After further discussion, parents concluded the following:
- Course alignment must be complete: the same courses delivered as electives in both schools to all students who enroll and the courses must be delivered in an equivalent manner. (An online delivery system is not equivalent to having a teacher in the classroom; a 30-minute club period is not equivalent to an elective, academic class offering.)
- Alignment cannot be a numbers game, because this is what has been used as an excuse for nine years, during which Liberty Park Middle students have suffered due to lack of opportunity and delivery of an inequitable learning experience.
- Parents suggest a paid advocate (such as a junior-high administrator or ombudsman for Liberty Park Junior High) to ensure that parity is achieved, not only now, but as plans are made for the addition of 9th grade in Liberty Park.
Parents were encouraged to contact the Board of Education by email to share concerns and also attend the board meeting, May 17, 6pm, at which Anna Velasco will speak as our delegate.
- Attend the BOE meeting on 5/17/17 to show support for Anna’s message regarding parity.
- Write (email) board members and the superintendent to express the need for parity to be a priority. Please provide reasons for your concern.
- Encourage your students (and get them to talk to their friends) to reconsider elective choices—choosing electives they think would best serve their interests without regard to fears it might not be delivered in an equitable manner. We need students to sign up to display the true level of interest in these classes before we can advocate for parity.
Report submitted by: Kimberly Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org)