Are Bond Issues Being Voted on in Your School District? Read What’s Happening to Parents Who Ask Questions in Sikeston.
What’s going on in Sikeston, MO regarding the school bond issue? Parents are treated dismissively (even as their tax dollars are being used for public education delivery and their children receive services), teachers are bullied, parents are bullied and transparency is hard to find. Reprinted from Missouri Moms Against Common Core:
Sikeston Bond Saga: Part I
Bond issues are being pushed all over the state of Missouri. One school district in particular can teach the rest of the state from the lessons that parents are learning there. In this community if you do not go along with the bond, you are targeted and marginalized. Bonds and levies are all the rage in many, many districts. Common Core and the unfunded mandates that accompany are a big reason districts are pushing these initiatives so heavily across the state. Technology is needed in order to comply with the new education reforms in the state that are linked to MSIP 5, and a district’s accreditation. Professional firms come into your districts in many cases and help organize the efforts in your community to WIN the bond issue. In the case of one district in Missouri that approved a bond issue last year, the architect firm, ACI BOLAND, organized the effort, messaging, and the talking points very carefully. What they did not tell the tax payers was that when the bond was voted on and approved, that architect firm was in line to make a bundle for getting the bond issue passed. Yes, they help organize the PR campaign for your school, hoping for a win (they are pros at this), and then they take their LARGE piece of the pie once the bond is passed. Is that the same that is happening in your community? Do some research into this topic and see what you find.
Here is that architecture firm’s website:
The way the bond was introduced in Sikeston….
In Sikeston the citizens received this memo from the School Board letting them in on the fact the board was pursuing a bond:
On July 26, 2013, the Board of Education took bids and selected Cockrum and Associates from Olive Branch, MS to estimate the cost for the Sikeston R6 bond proposal. If the public votes in favor of the April 8th bond proposal, then the process will begin by putting out bids for a General Contractor. The General Contractor will be encouraged to hire local contractors to complete some of the specialized work on the project.
Here are a couple of questions…”took bids and selected Cockrum and Associates to ESTIMATE the cost for Sikeston R6 Bond Proposal.” What does that mean? Is a bid thought to be an accurate number, or an ESTIMATE? What is an estimate on a PROPOSAL? What kind of proposal did Cockrum give the district? Can the public see that “proposal”? Did they charge the district to come up with an ESTIMATE or an actual bid for the structures? Will the services of Cockrum and Associates be retained if the bond is passed, and for what price? This question is asked since IF the bond is to pass the bid for the general contractors will be put out at that time. One would assume the general contractor would negate any further need for Cockrum. Maybe that will happen in Sikeston. But, these are questions worth asking. Just simple questions that beg to be answered.
NEXT HUGE CONCERN….
The parents who are speaking out against Common Core are being blamed for causing negative effects on the bond issue. Some have even been told not to speak out against the bond. Seriously? Why can’t we have an honest conversation about the bond without being tagged as “haters of the school”? The school board members have said they don’t want to deal with Common Core because it will bring negative press to the bond issue. Your school board members seem to be more concerned about million dollar buildings than what the children in the district will be subjected to with the implementation of Common Core, and what is happening right now inside the buildings our children attend. They are not willing to have the most important conversation with a concerned public, all it appears they want to talk about is the bond. Why do we expect that if we build new buildings the climate of our district will be any better? To be brow beaten and bullied to pass a bond is not okay with many of us, and that is what it feels like. This is not acceptable to many, many parents in this district.
EXAMPLE 1: Some teachers are feeling pressured to show support for the bond as school board members/administrators push the issue on a daily basis right now with teachers. Teachers are sharing that administration has asked them to give names of parents in their class they feel can be contacted and persuaded to vote FOR the bond issue. It appears that the district has turned over parents private email addresses and contact information in order to “target” parents in attempts to sway them to the “in favor” column. Many teachers do not agree with the bond issue, but they have been sucked into the mayhem and dare not reject playing the game in fear of the consequences. Teachers were sent an email from administration earlier this week asking for their names, if willing, to be placed on a list of supporters to go into the newspaper. What happens to those who say, “no”? They are identified as dissenters. This is not okay. The school is NO place for electioneering. It is not fair to our teachers. Teachers should be left alone to teach, and should be able to keep their political views to themselves. Their privacy should be respected. They should not be used to promote something that many do not want.
EXAMPLE 2: Parents have very real concerns about Common Core and the curriculum that accompany the standards. Moms and dads have many legitimate worries as they see things happening in their kids educations that are very alarming. However, when certain board members refer to these parents they refer to them as “those Common Core parents” in a notably derogatory tone. We are taking note, and do not appreciate it. Parents know it is not a secret that in the Kindergarten and elementary grades teachers have been mandated to teach from the New York Engage math curriculum, knowing that it is not good for kids. Teachers are complaining about teaching from scripted lessons and allowed no freedom to reach kids the way they best see fit. New York state has been using this curriculum and they are failing miserably there. Why would Sikeston choose to use a curriculum that is shown to fail in other states? Teachers and parents are screaming that it isn’t working but they refuse to stop using it. Why? It is because it is aligned to the Common Core, but our administration will not admit that. Parents know something is wrong with what their kids are being taught, and teachers are echoing those same concerns. Why does it feel at times that the administration not listening?
EXAMPLE 3: The children of Sikeston are about to be used as human guinea pigs in a field test for
textbook companies who sell the assessment tests back to the states. In recent curriculum meetings held by the district, a parent asked about “SBAC FIELD TESTS FOR SCIENCE” noting that the field tests were a waste of teaching time, and not fair to children who will see no gain from taking the tests. The parent was also adamant about that FACT we should NOT be testing science standards linked to the Common Core because the Common Core is not supposed to be anything other than ELA or Math standards. The parent had legitimate concerns about this test due to the fact no data from the test will ever be sent to the state, district, or shared with parents. We wanted to know why it appears that we will be taking a Common Core SCIENCE test. FIELD tests will be conducted on our children for the sole purpose to collect data . When this question was asked of Chuck Mays (Sikeston Curriculum Director), he denied that it was the SBAC (which is the assessment connected to the Common Core). He told parents that the science test was the MAP test (which is the old version of the Missouri assessment). Parents know that MAP tests have never been administered on line, yet the field test will be. It did not make sense that the MAP test would be changing their format right before the contracts are set to expire. The questions were legitimate and well researched. Parens felt their concerns were not received as legitimate. Mr. Mays vehemently denied the test was the new Common Core test for Science (SBAC). However, a letter sent home to parents addressed the “field tests” as noting them to be SBAC (not specifically science, just the field tests). Chuck Mays, however, it felt was trying to convince parents these tests are for MAP Tests. The only thing that makes no sense about that statement is the FACT that the MAP Test as we have known it has been administered through a contract with the vendor that will expire after the Spring tests. Missouri will no longer administer the MAP tests. We will be moving to the SBAC Tests. Why would anyone try to convince us that the tests our kids are taking are for research on a test that the state has acknowledged that it will no longer pay for. SEE PROOF OF THIS HERE: http://dese.mo.gov/news/2013/Vendor_Assessments.htm
Again, it should be noted that there were meetings held by the district after months of concern. Parents were invited to brief meetings with little notice given, at inconvenient times where many parents walked out of those meetings frustrated with more questions than answers.
See the letter sent home to parents:
App used by Sikeston Teachers shows that Common Core does teach History and Science. It is NOT just ELA and Math:
EXAMPLE 4: The school board and administration recently have diminished the concerns shared among many parents about the requirements of the new Common Core Standards and how it will transform our curriculum to align to the standards. They have said again and again, those scary curriculum stories will never happen here in Sikeston. They are wrong. Just a week ago it has been acknowledged that our school board voted on and approved (said to have been unanimous, but we can’t get the minutes from the meeting until April apparently) history and social studies textbooks that many tax payers and parents in our district may find objectionable. We have been told that books on the list were found to be highly controversial all over the country and books on the list have recently been BANNED from the Miami Dade school district, and Tennessee schools among many others. The reason they have been banned is due to their heavy pro-Islamic content, while diminishing the Christian faith.
The books embrace this concept:
Since the later 20th century, use of CE and BCE has been popularized in academic and scientific publications, and more generally by publishers emphasizing secularism or sensitivity to non-Christians.
The CE/BCE notation has been adopted by some authors and publishers wishing to be neutral or sensitive to non-Christians because it does not explicitly make use of religious titles for Jesus, such as “Christ” and Domin- (“Lord”), which are used in the BC/AD notation, nor does it give implicit expression to the Christian creed that Jesus was the Christ.
The school board was made aware of the concerns before their vote. We have been told they voted in favor of the controversial books any way.
Late last week a concerned mom went into the Sikeston Central Office and filed a Sunshine Request for the list of approved books. She asked for a copy of the textbooks and a copy of the minutes from the last board meeting so she could see how each board member voted. Superintendent Williams responded to the Sunshine request with the letter below:
If you will take note…NO TRANSPARENCY! Instead of book titles he told her the subjects that would be approved, but did not offer the list of textbooks as she had requested. If the books are no big deal, then why not honor the request for titles? If the controversial books do not exist on the list, then show us the list. Why do we have to jump through so many hoops just to get answers? This is exactly why many of us have a growing issue with trust. There will be another Sunshine request filed being even more specific in order to obtain the list of books that will be introduced into Sikeston classrooms this fall, as Sikeston Public Schools has to turn those over to her by law. Unfortunately it appears if you don’t ask the question, or know how to ask the questions in EXACTLY the right way you will never get the answer you are looking for the first time. That is evident by the letter from Superintendent Williams above. In all the pages NOT ONE TEXTBOOK TITLE as had been asked for. Why not? Trust…is gone. This is one reason why.
The examples raised should elicit questions about trust for every tax payer in the Sikeston school district. If the board members and the administrators in our district are not willing to answer what should be the easy questions of the citizens and tax payers, why should we TRUST these same people to oversee MILLIONS of tax dollars given to our district by the tax payers. TRUST. Do we trust what is going on in our district? Is there transparency and a welcoming spirit toward the parents who love their kids and are not willing to just blindly go along? Why should we believe that giving these same people MILLIONS of our tax dollars will change their attitudes and approach to how they treat people who do not agree? Can we trust an administrator who will not turn over book titles so parents can KNOW what their kids are learning, and from what sources? Can you imagine how you might be treated if you dare try to ask about how your tax dollars are being spent during construction if things appear to be off schedule? If the way we have been treated lately is any indication….good luck with that. Unfortunately, most parents have learned that truth and transparency are hard to find these days. I can’t imagine passing the bond will help this problem.
We know that in many districts, the bonds have passed and in turn communities have seen sharp increases in property taxes. However, projections in many districts were grossly underestimated as to how much it would cost to operate and maintain the new lavish buildings. In those cases tax payers are holding their breath knowing they could soon be solicited again for increases in the levy once it is maxed out and those districts are forced to deficit spend. We also know that in many districts new buildings have kept teachers from seeing raises due to the operating costs to run the buildings that strip funds that would go to give teacher raises being re-allocated to operation and maintenance costs. Additionally, it must be noted that your PROPERTY tax and your PERSONAL PROPERTY taxes will go up if the bond were to pass. As the real estate market continues to recover from the recent collapse of the economy, in many districts where bonds have recently passed homes have been reassessed, and in turn homeowners have seen their taxes increase yet once again. Be ready for those possibilities if you vote YES. You must see the whole picture before walking into that voting booth.
Think very carefully about this bond issue. Throwing millions of dollars at buildings does not make kids smarter. “PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT” does, if we are to believe what we have always been told. THAT is always touted to be the most important factor in a child’s education. But, from the way many parents have been treated as of late, it must be asked if the bond is really about kids. If it is, then I suggest those who are so adamantly trying to pass this bond issue take a step back and realize KIDS have parents who are paying attention ….and those parents VOTE. I won’t vote for the bond, but I do vote for being a welcomed part of the education journey my kids are on. I don’t care about beautiful buildings. I care about the truth, and I care about my children. Sometimes less is more when the truth is hard to find. Until our district chooses to operate with full transparency and welcome authentic parental involvement new buildings won’t fix the woes that many share in our community.