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  • Writer's pictureLeAnn Wood

"A Teacher Heart": Random Perspectives from the Back Row

Utah State Board of Education September Meeting. A few years ago my daughter began working as a Lead Teacher in a local day care center. Her first paycheck went to Amazon to pay for classroom supplies. My question was, "Are you going to be reimbursed for that?" and her answer will stick with me forever. "Mom, sometimes you have to give more than you get." I realized that my daughter has a "Teacher Heart".

At the USBE Meeting today, during a vote to allow specific schools to exit Turnaround status, I heard from a charter school director with a teacher heart. The Board was asked to vote for four schools to exit turnaround and one school was recommended to stay for another year. Board Member Lear requested that the fifth school be allowed to exit Turnaround. It turns out that this school takes those students who are turned away from other schools and teaches them life skills. The director shared his experiences with what he called "micromanaging" that occurs during Turnaround. Additionally, he shared how an emotionally distraught student came to school the morning the Aspire+ was being given and how his first thought was, "you have to take the test today" instead of "you need to take care of yourself." He was saddened that his first thought was about his needs as the director rather than the needs of the student who needed a loving environment. He shared how he was told "if you just pull 6 kids out for intensive tutoring and get their scores up than you can get your test scores up". He was near tears as he asked for the time to focus on the needs of all of his students. He was asked about the "stigma" of being a turnaround school. This man with a teacher heart replied that if he was worried about stigma he would be at a school where he got a pat on the back more often.

As the discussion initially started my thought was, but if you still need support, don't you need the funding available to you. I was surprised to realize that no funding was preferable over constantly being told by outside sources what he needed to do to "fix" his school. The Board members acknowledged that they are bound by statutory requirements of the turnaround program. I hope that legislators will listen to this discussion and realize that this is a broken process. I remember this bill coming to the legislature nearly a decade ago and being concerned that educational consultants were going to profit from our most at-risk schools.

Random Rule Discussions

R277-609, Standards for Local Education Agency (LEA) Discipline Plans and Emergency Safety Interventions Board Member Cline and Board Member Earl both attempted to add their own definitions of "harassment and discrimination free learning" to the rule. This led to an extensive conversation on the definition of harassment. Board Member Hart expressed desire for a definition in the rule, so she moved the rule forward to be filed to keep the Board in compliance, and referred back to committee so that more research could be done to confirm that any additional definitions align statutorily.

R277-123, Process for Members of the Public to Report Violations of Statute and Board Rule Wow - lots of discussion on this rule. This regulates the appeals process which may come to the Board when someone has concerns with the sensitive materials review process at an LEA level. The Board has limited the request for an appeal to confirming that the LEA process was completed properly. The Board's legal council will review the request for repeals. Board Member Lear moved to define who could bring an appeal to the USBE. She added a student and employee of the LEA.

One thing I love about attending USBE meetings in-person is being surrounded by people who have "Teacher Hearts". For the most part, the people there want to give more to students than they get. I appreciated the staff member who shared her homemade chocolate chip cookies with me "because it's Board day". I appreciate those in the early childhood department that were excited to hear about my daughter's experiences with PEEP (Pre-Kindergarten Entry/Exit Profile). I appreciated Superintendent Nielsen who patiently explained to me how some of the Board functions work during the meeting. I appreciate the welcoming environment from members of the Board I will be working with.

Thank you to the teachers who keep our public education system going because they serve with a "teacher heart"

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