Update 7: Your policy is to not answer questions . . . ? Really?!

As an update to the School Board meeting last night, for those keeping track of events, it was not a satisfying result.  After sitting through over two hours of discussions and materials – some of which was interesting in an academic way – what I discovered was that the people compiling statistics and graphs for the school district do not understand how to do statistics and graphs.  If you try to take the arithmetic mean of a wildly varying set of numbers, or a very small set of numbers with a large range, it’s not very meaningful.  There are better methods.  And the discussion about classroom sizes should have been handled with histograms, not historical averages.  But I digress . . .

After two hours of discussion, during which time several public audience members left due to the late hour, the floor was opened to the public for testimony.  I was called on first, with a three-minute timer for each member of the public.  Not to be overly nit-picky, but when I started by asking what to do with the (required) physical copies of my documentation, and they told me how to hand them out, it was billed against my time allotment.  Luckily, my wife and I had crafted a summary that when read aloud (at a moderate pace) only took two minutes, plus or minus a few seconds.  I have included that written summary below, verbatim.  The letter summarized our concerns, the lack of responsive answers after two months of trying to get said answers, and ended by asking very direct questions about why the school district was avoiding any public discourse or just answering our questions.

The response I received was, “Thanks for your testimony.  It’s our policy to not answer questions from the public.

Really?  What is the job of an elected member of the school board?  To not answer questions or address issues around the safety of our students?

Ironically, for a later “public testimony” that asked hard questions – about how the school district failed in its fiduciary duty by selling a $4,000,000 property for about $400,000 to another group – they did answer a couple of the questions, and provided more information.

The local newspaper (Corvallis Gazette-Times) reporter, Anthony Rimel ,was there as well.  He has talked to me privately and at the iPad event at our middle school, as well as taking a copy of my written summary last night.  I have included him on all of my emails and concerns with the school district and school board for over a month.  Before today, he has not brought up any public concerns or issues about this program or the software at all, other than a vague allusion to the Los Angeles fiasco delaying the local iPad rollout. Today, however, he finally did write about public concerns . . . and in his writing, he summarized some of my position from last night, and then flowed into the next paragraph in such a way that it “reads” as though some other school principal I’ve never met or talked to has answered or resolved the issues.  Judge for yourself:

http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/education/linus-pauling-distributes-ipads-to-students/article_f0876c6e-45b4-11e3-b2ce-001a4bcf887a.html

So it is now apparent that our elected officials have a policy of not representing the public, and the public newspaper may have a policy of not directly presenting uncomfortable information that deviates from the “official position” of the school district.

Overall, I find this an unacceptable situation.  There are more tools in my toolbox, however, and now I am wrestling with the question of whether I want to pull those tools out.

My statement from last night, verbatim:

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My name is Josh Fryman, and my wife is Hathai Sangsupan.  In the interest of time, we have prepared this written statement.  We have many diverse, complicated concerns regarding the 1:World program in progress for this school district.  We have jointly contacted every member of the School Board and District Superintendent, as well as the Principal and Assistant Principal at Cheldelin Middle School where our daughter is in the 7th grade.

The concerns we have raised about 1:World include:

  1. the incorporation of software packages on the iPads that bring many different types of security risks to students and their families;
  2. a lack of published, written policies and enforcement statements regarding system security, data privacy, access restrictions, and opt-in rather than opt-out involvement;
  3. a lack of adequate training for IT staff as well as teachers;
  4. a lack of published assumptions for device failure or breakage rates, increases in resources to manage devices, lost education time due to system problems, and related details;
  5. a lack of a sustainable funding model for this program going forward at all levels, including teacher training, support staff training, physical device replacement, and building infrastructure needs;
  6. a lack of any scientific evidence or data-driven studies that demonstrate such devices improve outcomes in a statistically significant way;
  7. what appears to be a deliberate atmosphere of not responding to concerns, and avoiding public discourse on these and many other questions;
  8. All of the formerly mentioned concerns, as well as several which we do not have time to address here, will result in the school district taking on significant new liability risks, including financial and criminal. By court precedent, these liabilities are fully transferrable to the school district individuals sitting in this room;

We have turned in paper copies of our concerns and summaries of our interactions to you at this meeting.

We are here physically tonight to ask you why you are not addressing these topics, why the school district staff and school board members do not answer inquiries about these topics, and why no public discussion is being offered?

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