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Meeting Recap: ERCSB Curriculum and Philosophy Committee - October 4, 2022

STEAM @ Cooperative Middle School

Jess Carcereno-Wheeler and Andrew Irving gave a presentation on what they have currently been working on with students at CMS. They demonstrated a collaborative problem solving activity that they have students do, discussing how these types of activities get kids out of their comfort zone to work together.

They also showed examples of projects students have been working on in class:

  • Making examples of human joints with 3D printers

  • A hand project, which will culminate in students building a robotic hand

  • Vex robotics, where children program the movement of the machine and which teaches kids how things do not always work correctly the first time.

Currently the STEAM program is a trimester program (students meet every other day for 30 days).

Book Banning in Schools

Mark Giuliucci, EHS Librarian, spoke about how today it was a “troubling time to be a librarian.” He discussed how the total number of book challenges in the country for 2022 is set to exceed the 2021 record. He stated that these challenges were occurring in “bunches” and seem to be “planned challenges from outside groups.”

He then walked through the steps that he goes through to buy books for the EHS library. He has a set of criteria to follow, which then helps if he ever has to defend his reasoning for purchasing a book. He explained the process that happens if a book is challenged, as there are several steps that occur before a book would ever be removed from the library.

  • At first he and the principal would have an informal meeting with parents to determine where the concern lies, and he said usually it stops there.

  • If it goes a step further, then a “request for reconsideration form” needs to be completed, and a key question on this form is “have you read the book in its entirety.” Giuliucci explained that this is extremely important, as it is important to not take phrases or portions of a book out of context.

  • And if it still continues, then the request goes to a committee to be evaluated for removal.

Giuliucci reiterated that 95-99% of the time, the process never goes past the first step, and at EHS he has never had to remove a book from the collection.

He stated that he does have concern going forward, since it appears groups are organized to challenge 10 or more books at a time. He provided a document that had more detailed steps for dealing with book challenges (John Start High School Model). He suggested that ERCSB adding this procedural document, since the current procedure is not as detailed.

Bob Hall (SB member) asked if a book is removed from one library in the district, will it be removed from all? And Superintendent Ryan stated that each library had their own policies, so that would not occur.

Kimberly Meyer (SB member) asked if there was a way to communicate to parents so they understand how books are chosen for purchase, and Giuliucci said he was willing to speak with anyone interested in the process. Meyer suggested that this process be weaved into a newsletter that parents receive.

DEIJ in the Classroom and Divisive Concepts Bill

Andres Mejia, DEIJ director, gave his report on what he is doing in regards to DEIJ in the classroom. He reported that he was helping educators look at their classroom materials to determine whether it is inclusive and following the guidelines for the divisive concepts bill. He gave an example of looking at materials surrounding Thanksgiving, since this holiday would soon be occurring. He encourages educators to look at the stories they are telling with their materials (including materials like books and what is put on school/classroom walls).

  • Who are the main characters?

  • Are the stories about victimization or resilience?

He emphasized that he was not excluding materials, but adding to what is already taught.

Regarding HB2, example of issues that educators face are how to deal with transphobic, homophobic or racist incidents in the classroom. He reported that teachers want to make sure they are saying things that do not go against the bill.

Meyer whether he was seeing any trends in the type of work he was doing. Mejia replied that some of the common themes were issues with gender identity and the use of pronouns. He was helping educators understand policies.

Hall stated how our community needs what he is bringing to the table and thanked him for his work, giving the example of how history was taught differently when he was younger. Mejia stated that it was important to view history through an equity lens, where you could tell history through different perspectives to show all sides of the story.

Hall also asked how he shared his time between CMS and EHS. Mejia stated that there were diversity committees in each school, so he attends those meetings to see how he can help. Also, if student groups ask him to come in, he does that. He gave the examples of speaking with students of color at EHS who meet with him and report how they had never had a person of color to speak with. At CMS there is the use of affinity spaces, where students can come together. He reported that there is no one way to do DEIJ in the classroom.

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