Sunday, October 18, 2009

IB program/ call for parent involvement

On the October "Start a new post," Anonymous wrote:

Schenley/IB parents left out of the loop again

A diploma program IB teacher recently related this story:

IB diploma teachers have been asking for a reconvening of the IB steering committee so that teachers in the diploma program could have a chance to have their voices heard and generate more parental involvement in the development of the IB 6-12 school. The DP coordinator has made this request for us several times to Cate Reid with either no response or a reply that she would get to that at some point in the future. Last week, the IB faculty worked together for 3 hours on some common issues regarding the program. There is a growing sense of unease among IB diploma teachers who feel like their concerns "from the trenches" are being dismissed and that the school is starting to feel like a big middle school rather than a complete IB program that blends a new program into a strong well-established one.

Again, the point was to have steering committee reconvened. Toward the end of the meeting, there was a brief discussion with a PFT representative, asking for the union's assistance in getting this steering committee back on track.

The union rep called Derek Lopez right there and reported back right after the phone call. Mr. Lopez said the committee is no longer needed, that the recommendations from the committee were now in the hands of Dr. Walters and that it was up to him to have implement those changes. This caught everyone off guard, including the several DP teachers who had been on the steering committee and felt that the job of the committee was far from done.

Schenley parents, IB parents -- are you still out there? Are you willing to roll up your sleeves again and help?

32 comments:

Questioner said...

Does anyone have a copy of the recommendations of the committee refered to in the post?

amymoore said...

You can count me as one parent who will do whatever I can to try to preserve the IB program. Dr. Walters needs to be aware of the 25+ year history of the program and that the teachers and staff of Schenley are a huge part of the success. Someone should remind him of the 8? years that it took to get MYP certified. Does he want to start all over recertifying the DP programme just because of his control issues?

PUREReform said...

And for those who feel they cannot express support publicly but would like to be involved- notify us privately at purereform@gmail.com.

Kathy Fine said...

Count me in. The treatment of the staff and students in the schenley portion of the IB program is horrible. Schenley students confined to one small area of the building (an area that ironically had a sign posted "Danger Asbestos" during renovations). Ski club for 6-10 grade only. Lack of necessary courses for seniors. Moving teachers that have developed outstanding classes over years from the 12th to the 10th grade. Gym space that won't come close to accommodating middle and high school sports simultaneously. The list goes on. Let's speak up for these children.

Anonymous said...

The attitude seems to be that teachers are easily replaceable and experience counts for little, and that creating the appearance of a great program is more important than creating an actual great program.

amymoore said...

IB teachers are not easily replaceable. I have been told by several teachers that if the IBDP proramme loses more than 6 teachers, it loses its authorization. I don't know how that will work with the transition from 6-12, but at least the international governance recognizes that teacher stability is critical for ongoing programs. I understand the fear of the current Schenley teachers in speaking out--their jobs are at stake--but we need their help and information to successfully make changes. I hope they will help us and not just quietly transfer.

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with Ms.Fine. Schenley has half of the building. 9th and 10th graders largely have one wing, and 6th, 7th and 8th graders have slightly more upstairs (which to me at least, constitutes the other half) I understand the situation with regards to what happened to the old Schenley building and agree completely that the current administration made a decision, asked for public input that they intended to ignore and did what they pleased, anyway. That said, I think a great many exaggerations appear in her posting and would like to hear more regarding physical space. I'm also at a loss about the movement of "teachers" from 12th grade to 10th grade.
Please explain. The original posting here is quite disconcerting but I am left to wonder if hearsay isn't being put forth in some cases. Lastly to amy, I thought the IB program was being preserved, as the entire program rolls into one in a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

To the teacher who posted the original commentary, could you please shed some light on the concerns of the steering committee and your feelings, in general?

Anonymous said...

No schenley does not have half the building grade 11 and 12 are not allowed into the 9 10 area.

Kathy Fine said...

I am only commenting third hand regarding the amount of space, but I am not using hearsay in any other instance.

1) there was a "danger asbestos sign" in the space that the Schenley students were moved to.
2)The ski club excludes 11 and 12 grades
3) a very talented teacher was told that if he wanted to keep teaching at the IB school, he would have to leave the 12th grade course that he had developed over about a decade and tech 10th grade
3)during the basketball season, there will be 4 teams sharing one gym. This was presented to the district and ignored.

These are all realities at schenley today.

Questioner said...

There seem to be various enforced separations not just between the 6-8 students and the 9-12 students, which was expected, but also between 9-10 students and 11-12 students. Apparently because not all 11-12 students are IB the 9-10 students are considered part of a 6-10 school. To the extent possible 9-10 students need to stay in their area and teachers are assigned to either 9-10 OR 11-12 (although there are exceptions- if for example there is just one teacher of a particular language one group or the other is going to have to go out of their area). Instead of 6-8 ski trips and 9-12 ski trips, information was handed out on 6-10 ski trips; perhaps there are also plans for 11-12 trips but the numbers might get small.

amymoore said...

I will try to expand on some of Kathy's comments. Last year, the Schenley ski club had to cancel its first trip because without a freshman class, there were not enough students to hire the bus. Upperclassmen typically have more commitments and the freshmen were needed to supply the numbers. They later made arrangements for a smaller bus and did take two trips. This year, Schenley is only 2 classes and it will be even more difficult to fill a bus and also to meet the group discount. The 6-10 school already has signs up to sign up for their trips. Most of the 9 & 10th graders that I know would rather do school activities with the high school, not the middle school. Although they might need to be together on the bus, once on the slopes, I don't think my senior son will pay much attention to the younger kids so I don't see why the two schools can't be combined in order to get the needed busses and discounts.

amymoore said...

As to the building, I don't know the facts and figures on the division of the space. I do know that it seems like the 11th and 12th grades are squeezed into a box in one hallway. It is worse because of the lack of windows. Having lunch at 10 am, is more than just inconvenient; it is unhealthy. Even the College Board recognizes the importance of maintaining blood sugar. For the SATs students are advised to bring healthy snacks.

I have no idea how they are going to work out the usage of the gym especially during sports seasons. It was a problem last year when it was only 10-12; how will they manage with another entire school being added? They obviously haven't managed the cafeteria usage in a good way.

amymoore said...

I do not feel comfortable talking too much about the teacher issues. I do talk with people and there seems to be a widespread fear of the future of Schenley teachers. If the IB teachers are not comfortable with what is happening at the new IB and decide to leave, where is the continuity that is needed? Teaching an IB class is VERY different from teaching even an AP class. It is important to know how to prepare for the exams and assessments.

The situation with the 20th Century history teacher was probably the straw that broke the camel's back for me. If you go on ratemyteacher.com, look for the teacher with the highest number of responses. He was definitely a favorite with the students and most seniors looked forward to having that class. He wanted to continue teaching the class. His replacement, although a good teacher, is not as strong in that area (by his own admission) and does not want to teach the class. Students who are attempting the full diploma don't have many choices of HL classes: English, history, world language if you are taking Spanish, French or German, and either visual arts, film, ITGS, or psychology. You must take 3 HL courses and if Japanese or Russian is your language, that is not an option. We need the best possible teachers to help our students pass these exams.

Questioner said...

It's true, the issues are not spelled out. It sounds, though, like there are teachers who believe the program would benefit from additional input from parents. The request does not seem unreasonable.

amymoore said...

We thought the program was being preserved also. Even though the Schenley kids didn't want to have their school split, the so-called compromise of having the 6-12 phased in could have been done with much more cooperation and communication between the two former schools. We know that Schenley is on its way out and that the new school will be different but couldn't it be possible that there are some things that the new IB could learn from teachers that have been involved in the program for years? Somehow in this battle of egos, this turf war, our kids are suffering. The remaining Schenley students and the remaining Schenley teachers feel like they are unwanted stepchildren (the term I have heard repeatedly is more graphic).

Anonymous said...

I do not have a horse in the race here but from my perspective I think the only way the parent voice might be heard would be without last names of Fine, Moore or ?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that as soon as new/different parents speak up...then those names are x'ed out too.

In the 10th grade year, I'll be surprised if there's a "first" graduating class with 100 kids in it. They've set up a school with far fewer options for different classes and with no real way in after that 9th grade break point.

Seems like that's something else that a parent/teacher/administration group could look at

Do they need to accept more kids at 9th grade?

Change the numbers at different grade levels?

At what size is a "high school" not able to offer enough options to keep the parents that are attracted to an IB program?

Questioner said...

The incoming 9th grade is not full, so it's more a matter of attracting than accepting more students. Parents and kids could if asked explain why they or their friends did or did not choose the program.

Kathy fine said...

Anon 6:30, not sure what you mean by the last name comment. Please explain.

Anonymous said...

Well Kathy...you and RodneyDangerfield might have something in common. It is unfair, but could be true. I can't say I have ever seen a volunteer more dedicated to a cause than you have been.

One more thing, is it possible that IB is a temporary sacrifice while everyone touts Sci-Tech? Is it possible IB is seen as being in a rebuilding period now with 6-8?

Anonymous said...

Well Kathy...you and RodneyDangerfield might have something in common. It is unfair, but could be true. I can't say I have ever seen a volunteer more dedicated to a cause than you have been.

One more thing, is it possible that IB is a temporary sacrifice while everyone touts Sci-Tech? Is it possible IB is seen as being in a rebuilding period now with 6-8?

Questioner said...

The thought seems to be, why build from scratch instead of building on the work of 25 years? And a pledge to meet the needs of ALL PPS students includes students in schools or programs being phased out.

Kathy Fine said...

Anon 7:28,

You are right on;

-my name is certainly synonymous with "thorn in the side" to this administration.

-there has to be lots of other names besides ours to effect any real change.

Someone needs to organize IB/Schenley parents.

Observer said...

I'm a little confused here. Is it possible to feel for Schenley kids and understand that their true high school experience will never actually be possible AND walk a mile in the shoes of IB 6-10 students who have been placed in the same building? Isn't the culprit here really some entity beyond the current residents of the actual Reizenstein building?
I tend to think that both the IBDP and IBMYP programs are worthwhile and good options for our kids. It's a shame that there has not been better management/oversight of this process. I am sure that a happy medium could have been found.

Questioner said...

The programs are worthwhile; the building not ideal for 3 different groups to use at once; but given that's the situation, why not have a committee to make suggestions on how to have things work as smoothly as possible for the best of everyone?

Observer said...

Questioner, I am in complete agreement with everyone who has posted here. Simply put, the kids' needs should come first, in an academic and social sense.
I salute the resolve of Schenley parents, especially given the idea that the spirit of cooperation you requested for the good of the kids was ceremoniously disregarded in the move from the Schenley grounds a few years back.
At what point does it become apparent that despite the fact that salaries are earned from tax dollars, decisions culled from taxpayer input are deemed unnecessary?

Questioner said...

And that is the reason for PURE Reform:

Transparency * Participation * Parent Engagement

Taxpayer dollars support a yearly school district budget of over $500,000- greater than the city's budget. For this, we should have more of a voice than voting for a school board rep once every 4 years.

Oscar said...

I just caught wind that one of the IB Diploma Programme teachers divulged what was discussed during a closed-doors meeting with a union representative; a discussion that has subsequently ended up on this blog. This should have never happened, and it does nothing but undermine my efforts to reconvene the IB Steering Committee. As an original member of this committee, I too want to know why it stopped meeting and what can be done to reinstitute it. I completely understand the role parents have in how this school should operate, and I welcome parent participation in resolving whatever problems affect the IB programs at the Schenley/IB, but this is not the way to do it. I have seen from previous postings that some members of this blog espouse a very divise agenda; I, myself, have been in the cross-hairs of some of its members when I tried to introduce the block schedule in the IB Diploma Programme some six years ago.

My understanding is that I will have an opportunity to meet with a representative from the Division of School Management and with a representative from the PFT to discuss staffing concerns. The issue over the IB Steering Committee does not involve the PFT, and it should never have been a discussion topic in this blog. I have been actively working on how to reinstate the steering committee, and would appreciate your letting me conclude my attempts before you get involved. The comments I have read since the post went up only seem to muddle the issue. At the same time, I welcome any constructive comments that may help in reinstating the committee.

As I don't read this blog with any frequency, please send your comments to huber.borja@gmail.com.

Best regards,

Oscar Huber
IB Diploma Programme Coordinator

Questioner said...

Thank you for the information.

The blog doesn't really have members. It is open to the public and a range of comments may be made, both divisive and constructive, but our goal is that transparency will ultimately lead to the best result. In terms of constructive comments to help in reinstating the committee, we as parents could request a prompt meeting or information on why a meeting should not be held.

Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion to the moderator here, as someone who knows nothing about the Schenley IBDP/IBMYP issues:
kill this thread and allow Mr.Huber to do things his way.

Questioner said...

There doesn't seem to be any danger of this blog preventing Mr. Huber from doing as he sees best!