ROCKWALL – Five candidates are running in the May 11 school board election for two seats on the Rockwall ISD Board of Trustees to replace Board President Doug Hamilton and Dr. David Loftis, who are stepping down after many years of service.
To help voters decide whom to vote for, TheRockwallNews.com asked each candidate via their Facebook pages to provide background info, provide three or less reasons why voters should elect them, plus provide their views about CSCOPE, the highly controversial school curriculum, and what school safety improvements are needed.
Following are answers from Bill Watts, running for Place 4; and Bryan Pope, Shana Young and Jim White, running for Place 5.
Jon Bailey did not respond, despite more than one request.
1. Bill Watts (top row left photo):
II. Reasons To Vote For Bill (in his words):
1) Rockwall ISD needs to become financially responsible to the taxpayers for how the taxpayer dollars are used. I will vote to balance the budget and reduce debt without asking taxpayers for more money. Rockwall ISD needs to look at the education of our children, discover the strengths and weaknesses and devise a plan or plans to effective strategies to improve student achievement not just look to improve test scores. CSCOPE is not the answer and should be discontinued. The curriculum that aided our UIL winners be successful should be brought back until something better is found. I will work with any group to discover areas for improvement and seek advice from teachers who are the backbone of the education system towards the goal of student achievement.
2) Rockwall ISD should keep a librarian at each campus. I know that there are other cuts that can be made within the budget; it’s just a matter of looking for them. I will work with other board members to find the money to keep a librarian on each campus.
At a time when the Rockwall ISD is in financial crisis, this issue has all the more significance. One of the most important assets of a school campus is about to be eliminated, the school librarian. The school librarian has too many roles within the individual campus to list but their importance to the campus is irreplaceable.
3) Rockwall ISD must have secure campuses. I will work with the other board members to devise a method to make our campuses as safe as possible.
III. Why He Is Running (in his words):
“I decided to run for the Rockwall ISD school board so that I could expose this CSCOPE madness to the Rockwall ISD board and work to replace it with a traditional curriculum that we know will work.”
IV. CSCOPE (in his words):
“I became aware of CSCOPE many years ago when a teacher buddy called me and said, “You won’t believe this but we were told that we have CSCOPE this year. I’ve got to spend the next two weeks learning about it and then rewrite what I’m going to teach. We’re not going to have any books. The principal is touting the fact that we are going to save money and he is giving each teacher two reams of paper. CSCOPE will save the school so much money.
A few weeks later the teacher buddy called me and said, “This is a joke! They are making me spend two weeks on stuff that I taught in the first few days with the old curriculum. I’ve already had to by a box of paper and next week I’m going to have to buy another because this CSCOPE #### requires the printing of so much junk. My grade level is spending every moment and evening printing. Our old printer broke down and the principal did nothing but blame us, (the teachers) for breaking the printer.
Last year I learned that my grandson didn’t like it and listed things that he didn’t like. A close friend’s daughter also complained about CSCOPE last year. Many of my teacher buddies whose school adopted CSCOPE said the same thing: “We hate it!”
This year was about the same but I didn’t really follow what was going on until I came across Michelle Smith’s posting concerning a CSCOPE information session in Plano. No one could attend and I told everyone I would go. The information was overwhelming. I hadn’t realized that CSCOPE was part of the Common Core, program designed to take over the ISD’s across America by the federal government. I’ve researched the Common Core and it is a snare using federal dollars to entice states to adopt the program. The more I researched the CSCOPE program I realized that it was not a curriculum based product but a computer program that could be altered at any time with a haphazard scope and sequence and some misalignment with the TEKS.
As far as I can tell, CSCOPE used a back door in Texas education law, the regional centers (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.8.htm ) to circumvent TEA and State Board of Education. Somehow they managed to entice regional centers into helping them sell the program. Apparently there is a lot of money involved in this approach. I’m still trying to get information on the money trail. When you follow the logic of this approach someone at TEA and the State Board of Education had to be looking the other way. The number of schools that have CSCOPE as their curriculum indicate a “blind eye” somewhere. You can find the Texas Education Law at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Index.aspx to check for yourself.
I’m a computer nut, a geek, have to have the newest and best in technology; therefore, I put together my own computer. I just love it! Enough geek speak, I just want you to understand I love technology! I also understand what technology can do because it is so fast and easy to use.
The CSCOPE program is designed to be updated at any time. For example, if it’s being used in New York and the teachers are on lesson 49 the color pink, the operator can change lesson 49 to yellow without any trouble so that the teachers in the next time zone are teaching the new lesson 49. If a lesson causes problems in Texas the lesson can be changed before the lesson gets to the next time zone. This has been demonstrated with the lightning speed that the CSCOPE people can change what was being presented concerning the burkas (I have conflicting reports on the burkas but I am going to leave it in this publication), Tea Party, and other misinformation that people discover to something that is less problematic.
Please ask yourself this question; “Do I want a product that is being used as a curriculum that is not vetted and can be changed at any time to educate my children, grandchildren or others children?” A second question, “Do I want a product like CSCOPE that is not vetted and not adopted to be used to educate our children?” Textbooks are vetted and go through an adoption process, CSCOPE was not. I’ve served on committees to adopt textbooks and it is a long heart-felt process trying to decide what is best for the children. One last question, “Would you risk your child being exposed to something that could be harmful?” Remember, CSCOPE can change its content at any time. The materials that we can view in the computer lab at Rockwall ISD may be changed at any time. Therefore, what you see may not be what your child can see.
As a counselor I have an oath to “do no harm” but the CSCOPE program does not have an oath because it is based on the philosophy of the Social Constructivism Ideology of the Progressive/Liberal/Radical Theories of social learning and those ideals are based upon the notion of collectivism, socialism and governmental control of individuals. I began posting the materials that I had collected at the Plano meeting on my Facebook page and Michelle Smith let me post on her web site as well. The more I posted I realized something needed to be done. I saw a post that said someone needs to educate the citizens of Rockwall on CSCOPE.
At that time I decided to do something about it and offered to speak anywhere, anytime, and any place about the CSCOPE program. A few days later after talking to my wife I decided to run for the Rockwall ISD school board so that I could expose this madness to the Rockwall ISD board and work to replace it with a traditional curriculum that we know will work. Little did I know that there was already opposition to the CSCOPE program and I was ecstatic! Even if I am not elected I am making contacts within the community and I can be a voice against CSCOPE in the future.
As a retiree I have a vested interest – the children are the future – and without an educated, productive population, I don’t have a future and neither do you! None of us in the United States will have a future if our children are not provided with an education that will promote values, a correct history of the United States, great science and math lessons, and a language arts program that teaches reading, writing, spelling, and grammar. CSCOPE and the Common Core do not provide such an education.
There is enough evidence that CSCOPE is not providing what it promised to the ISD’s who are using it at the present time in Texas. It is an untried and untested product that was not vetted and was not recognized by SBOE and there are serious efforts to do away with the CSCOPE program within the state at the present time. Rockwall ISD adopted CSCOPE to save money but there wasn’t any reason to change from the old curriculum that had been working in the past. If you check the data there are years where the Rockwall ISD is acceptable and years where it is recognized. Why spend more money for a product that is unknown when, with some effort on the part of the administration a solution could be implemented. The elimination of text books was the major money saving method that was promoted by the administration. Text books are adopted every 10 years and many things change within a 10 year period. I agree but not in math, reading, language arts or writing. The two subjects that change are science and social studies. If eBooks were adopted for those two subjects, changes could be made to the text without too much trouble and the changes would be vetted as they were implemented.
CSCOPE makes changes on a whim without being checked or vetted. The problem is at the administrative level. There was not any guidance on how to improve the performance of our students to the campus level administrators. Instead the administration introduced an untested product and if it failed to achieve the desired results they could blame it on the curriculum.
I’m an outsider looking in on a problem that was aggravated when an unknown was introduced. I’ve worked on committees to improve performance at campuses where I have worked. The solution could be as easy as introducing tutoring groups or purchasing a new textbook. The problem that I find when I look at the data is that a few campuses were causing the ISD rating to be lower from the previous year’s rating. The ISD rating is determined by a complicated method that compares the different groups and subgroups and even though the test scores were high overall one or more subgroups could bring the rating down. Improvement for the ISD could just be as simple as working to improve those groups.
Something needs to be done for next year. A simple method that could be implemented for next year without great cost could be to go back to the old curriculum that was responsible for the UIL wins of this year, determine where the problems are and work towards solutions at the campus level. The administration would have an entire year to study each campus and implement desired changes for positive results in the years to follow.
V. School Safety Improvements Needed (in his words):
“When the issue of the security of our children is raised I think of all the in-school plans that are in place at the individual campuses. The drills, the preparedness of the teachers and administration, the security features for individual campuses and I wonder if there is anything else we could do. But as we have learned from other areas of the country any security can be breached. Therefore, it is with reluctance that I support an air-martial type of security at our schools. This type of program must, and I underline must be carefully planned and implemented. I feel that law enforcement or Para-military personnel under guidelines set by the state of Texas should be in charge of the training. I also think Rockwall ISD should look into grants that may be available for the implementation of such a plan.”
2. Bryan Pope (top row middle photo)
II. Reasons to Vote For Bryan (in his words):
“I am the most qualified candidate in my race. The fact I have previous School Board experience is extremely important as is my education, my civic and business background and my leadership abilities.”
III. Why He Is Running:
Said he has vested interest in making RISD the best it can be because he has a son who is a freshman at Heath High School
IV. CSCOPE (in his words):
“C-scope should be fully evaluated at the end of this school year. I know the District has been working to address many of the criticisms and I have heard a number of teachers and the two high school principals say it is a good curriculum management system and should be kept. However, many parents don’t like it because it lacks transparency, they object to some of the social studies content and in some cases the content does not match up with the unit tests. As I said at the PTA candidate forum, “you don’t quit your job until you have found a better one” so part of the evaluation process for me would be to see if there is a better curriculum management system for our District and the children it serves.”
V. School Safety Improvements Needed (in his words):
“I like the District’s idea of forming its own police force. I have talked to persons with experience and they don’t believe we need an officer in every elementary school. I think the proposed RISD police force would provide additional security to the entire District, if needed, they could go on bus trips out of the District.”
3. Shana Young (Top row right photo):
II. Why She Is Running (in her words):
“People ask me all the time why a young mom would want to run for school board. My answer is simple. I want Rockwall ISD to be the academically excellent school district I know it can be. I want our kids to get the best possible education from the best possible teachers. As a teacher, coach, mentor, and leader for the last 6 years at Rockwall-Heath High School, I bring the hands on experience and educational expertise at a time when our district needs it most.
III. Reasons to Vote For Shana (in her words):
IV. CSCOPE (in her words):
“Texas ranks 49th in educational spending, which is one reason why 80% of districts in our state use CSCOPE. There is also no other comprehensive K-12 curriculum out there. It is a cost-effective means for districts to help close the achievement gap. Rockwall ISD has been Academically Acceptable 5 out of the last 9 years. We failed AYP on multiple campuses and at the district level. What we were doing was not successful on a test that is average at best. Now we are in the midst of STAAR, and as a former evaluator of STAAR testing questions in Austin, I can say it is much more difficult than TAKS.
CSCOPE is not the best choice, but it was the only choice at the time. With the help of textbooks, Rockwall ISD has been writing its own curriculum for years. I was a part of that curriculum writing team. One problem is that we only adopt textbooks every 10 years, so until the textbook companies decide to become more cost effective and up to date by going online, they are not a viable SOLE source for curriculum. A second issue is we as teachers were never trained in how to write curriculum. We are masters of our content areas, but writing curriculum for the following year in two days in the spring was not effective.
I would love to see Rockwall have its own curriculum. But it is not something that happens over night, or even over a summer. It must be planned and budgeted for, and since our budget is approved in June, I do not see it happening this year. CSCOPE is far from perfect, but our teachers are currently working to make it the best it can be for us. They are adapting questionable lessons and assessments to make them the right fit for our district’s vision.
As far as CSCOPE indoctrinating students… Our teachers are the messengers of knowledge in the classroom. To say our kids are being indoctrinated by CSCOPE implies our teachers are spreading that message and that is not something I fear in Rockwall.
Parents not having the ability to help their kids with homework has been a major concern for me with CSCOPE. As a board member, I would require every lesson be available before I put my support behind CSCOPE. Any curriculum we adopt is going to have issues. And it will always be a work in progress. Those are fixable issues. Secrecy, however, will never be the answer to anything.”
V. School Safety Improvements Needed (in her words):
“At a recent board workshop discussing budget and security, I think all board members agreed that security is a concern. Rockwall ISD currently has officers at every secondary campus. The plan is to add officers to the elementary campuses as well. When you have a county made up of several smaller towns, jurisdiction becomes an issue. We can’t have Heath officers at a Fate elementary school. One proposal was for Rockwall ISD to start its own police department. This allows us to hire our own officers, do a better job at controlling overtime, and gets rid of the jurisdictional confusion. It will also save taxpayer dollars.
It is also important that we as a community continue to have an ongoing dialogue with our children about what’s going on in their lives. Open communication is vital to a strong family, and in turn, a strong community.”
4. Jim White (Bottom row photo):
II. Why Jim is Running:
Said he has vested interest in making RISD the best it can be because he has two daughters attending RISD schools.
III. Why Vote For Jim (in his words):
IV. CSCOPE (in his words):
“I am a conservative, Christian man and those values guide my actions. Regarding CSCOPE, as it stands today, with little to no access for parents to review lessons and no way to assist their child in studying, and no way to judge for ourselves whether the lessons are appropriate or tinged with controversial material, I find it unacceptable. There must be oversight by parents, and preferably the State Board of Education.
I have concerns regarding CSCOPE. As it stands today, with little to no access for parents to view what their children are introduced to through the lessons, and no oversight by the State Board of Education in regards to content, it is not a curriculum that meets our requirements. Parents of students need to have access to material their children are presented with for many reasons. Assisting our children in learning and participating in their education, as a good parent does, is instrumental to their success.
The State of Texas is evaluating CSCOPE and currently there is legislation proposed that could have a significant impact on its viability and future within our schools. Furthermore the TESCCC trying to make changes that allow it to meet some of the concerns raised by parents and taxpayers. We need a curriculum that will provide a solid and exemplary education, and we need to consider this turmoil as we look to the future so that we don’t end unprepared.”
V. School Safety Improvements Needed (in his words):
“School security is something all parents are thinking about in the aftermath of the tragedy in Connecticut. Our schools use security measures effectively in many cases, but very few schools in any district are prepared for something comparable to what I mentioned above. I think diligently researching technology, policy, and procedures that take recent events into consideration are necessary. Rockwall ISD does and should continue to look for new and time proven methods of maximizing safety, while being mindful not to turn our schools into oppressive learning environments. This should a major focus and I will be an advocate for this process.”
By J.J. Smith