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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 14 ~ Oct. 11, 2000

Quite a crowd tonight. I'd guess about 45 people showed up. It's the most I've ever seen. Nice to see people involved. Also sniffer dogs (Oops, these are actually very sophisticated dogs who do not "sniff," and if they use their noses they do it in a very ladylike or gentlemanly way). That and lockers.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad_h@iname.com)

LOCKERS ~ The district has appointed a team to study the locker situation, or rather, the lack-of-lockers situation, at Monrovia High. It'll be headed by retired Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Linda Harding (Can't escape, huh?). Also, a representative of United Parents for Students of Monrovia High spoke again, this time bringing letters from chiropractors and doctors saying that lugging books around school isn't healthy for students. He added that the safety argument - that lockers can be used to hide illegal stuff - is invalid because you can just as easily hide things in backpacks, gym lockers, and cars. He urged the board to discuss the locker issue before January.

SHERLOCK HOUND ~ The board approved monthly visits to Monrovia High by dogs who are too polite to sniff, but otherwise indicate - I think by sitting and pointing with their noses or something - that they have located drugs (including over-the-counter and prescription drugs), weapons or alcohol. The dogs, which'll cost $200 a month, check lockers (Whoops! I guess not. No lockers), cars, the gym and community areas. The policy, however, "precludes the use of detection canines to 'sniff' individuals under any circumstances." Here I've been calling them sniffer dogs when they're really "detection canines." Shows what I know.

DISCUSSION ~ I was impressed because there was almost a difference of opinion among the board members about the sniffer dogs (I mean "detection canines"). I so rarely hear anything even approaching disagreement that when I do I sit up and take notice. Betty Sandford said that while she agreed the dogs would be effective at their task, she thought they might lead to a lawsuit on constitutional grounds. After raising the constitutional issue, when it came time to vote, she bravely ... abstained. (That's the sort of chicken thing I'd do.) Well, it was the first abstention I can remember, so I guess it's a landmark.

MORE DOG TALK ~ Board Member Bruce Carter said he had constitutional concerns about the dogs, but feels his concerns have been adequately addressed; Roger Graziani said he thinks the dogs are better than undercover cops on campus; and Francie Cash said that the dogs will help the school identify students who feel disenfranchised (I wonder what disenfranchisement smells like), so, presumably, the school can do something to help them. The vote, if I wasn't sufficiently clear in the last item, was 4-0 in favor, with Sandford abstaining.

THE COMMENT ~ About 40 parents of Mayflower Elementary students showed up to talk about a comment made by another parent on KGEM, the local access cable channel. The host of the cable show, Conversations 2000, spoke up too. But nobody - on either side (Were there two sides?) - said what the comment was. So, I have to lean on what I heard second hand; that a parent suggested on KGEM that her child may have been reassigned to a new class for racial reasons, but the other parents don't buy that and wanted to support the school and its principal. I didn't see the show so I can't vouch for what was said, but I got another message out of the incident: Mayflower is fortunate to have a bunch of parents who are so supportive of their school.

TRANSFER POLICY ~ Lest I overlook the issue that prompted this disagreement, let me go over it briefly: the district overestimated the number of kindergarteners it would get this year so it closed a couple classes at Mayflower and reassigned the students. Apparently a transferred-in student got to stay in a morning class while another student had to move to an afternoon class. Unhappiness. Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Debby Collins said in the future there need to be clear procedures for placing children in classes and better communication with parents. Superintendent Louise Taylor added that the district is - "by happenstance" - reexamining its transfer policy.

NAME PLATES ~ Someone asked me tonight who the people were up front who aren't board members. I glanced up and suddenly understood what he was talking about - the board members are all identified on their name plates: "Board Member" or "Board President" or whatever. But none of the staff members are similarly identified. It seems that would be really helpful to the audience to know who these folks are. Amazing that I search so hard for things to gripe about and never noticed that.

UH ~ Well, we all got to watch a five minute video called "On the Cutting Edge," which was about, uh, about... well, to tell the truth, I haven't got a clue what it was about. Something to do with counselors. It had words like "mutuality" in it. It kind of vaguely seemed to suggest that counselors are important, but beyond that, I'm in the dark.

NOT ENOUGH ~ Well, at least the video prompted Superintendent Louise Taylor to mention that Monrovia High School has a 400-to-one student to counselor ratio, which, she said, is not enough.

LATER ~ The Star-News had an article recently saying that two-thirds of area schools are eligible for more state money because they've improved their API scores. I looked for Monrovia in vain, then noticed that the article said Alhambra and Monrovia misreported their demographic information, so we're going to have to wait to find out. Well, I guess these things happen. Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Joel Shawn said tonight that the delay (until Dec. 7) won't affect the schools' eligibility for any new state money it may qualify for.

GRID MATH ~ A parent wrote to say that a friend of her daughter who goes to Wildrose Elementary "tried to do a two-digit multiplication problem along with us, just for fun. It was something like 38 x 23. She started drawing pictures of tens and ones groups and squares of lines! In other words, she didn't know what to do to solve the problem, but she could draw the problem as tens and ones! She said her teacher taught them to solve problems this way." Yup. I saw this demonstrated at a board meeting. The students solved the problems two or three ways. On the positive side, the system communicates pretty high-level concepts, but it seems to me that it is tough enough to learn one way to multiply. I suspect that with this system some kids won't be able to multiply in two different ways.

SILENT READING ~ Mary Lawless writes to say that while "a phonics based reading program [such as Open Court] can offer a firm foundation, I firmly believe that children also need to follow their own interests in reading material to develop a love of reading. I hope that adopting this phonics-based program doesn't mean our schools will drop the SSR (sustained silent reading) component of our kids' days." After attending an Open Court meeting, she heard that Mayflower Elementary is retaining it, "which greatly relieved me." She also sent the Web address for Open Court: http://sra-4kids.com/texas/ocr.html. Thanks Mary.

SHY ~ Perhaps you have wondered why I don't just ask questions of the board members or district staff when there is something I don't understand. Well, the reasons are that I'm a) lazy, b) shy and c) they seem like nice folks and if I get to chatting with them it'll be awfully hard to be critical when I think I need to be, which is, well, pretty frequently.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular meeting is Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive. And now I'm tired and going to bed. Good night.

Copyright (c) 2000, Brad Haugaard