The May 10 board of education meeting began with recognition of the many students who earned a seal of biliteracy over the last year in Spanish, French, Chinese, Latin, German, Arabic, Polish and Korean.
The seal signifies that the students speak two or more languages at a proficient level. Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche congratulated them and noted that some of the languages are not offered in the district, so students learned on their own through family and cultural centers.
The theme of celebrating different cultures continued throughout the meeting as one student called in to ask about giving students three days off for Eid, a Muslim holiday. Board member Corrien Elmore-Stratton echoed that during the discussion on reviewing future calendars.
For calendars currently under review, board member Rosy Arroyo made the case to celebrate Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany, on Jan. 6 to incorporate the Latino community, rather than having an in-service day in March between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and spring break.
“When I presented it a year and a half ago to discuss, that was the reason why,” Arroyo said. “To incorporate Latino culture. It’s not that we don’t do a good job of it in the district, but I’d like to see more of it, and I think that would be just one more aspect of supporting our Latino community.”
The meeting also focused on ongoing projects and issues. Regarding school start times, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kwame Morton will expand the committee on the subject to include parents and representatives from the elementary schools. It expects to have a recommendation for the board by January 2023.
On the issue of physical education/health, Meloche explained that local districts expect to build their curriculums around the state standards. He anticipates information on the updated curriculum will be shared publicly in August.
“There should never be a mystery about what’s being taught (or) what that looks like,” he said.
Assistant Superintendent LaCoyya Weathington discussed elementary-school redistricting, noting that there were four areas being considered on how to redistrict the schools based on the board of ed’s previous discussions. They included cleaning up the map “to make it make sense,” having special programs across the district in different buildings, making transportation more efficient and minimizing student disruption.
Weathington noted that the district is not trying to have the same special programs at each building, but rather shifting programs to those that don’t have programs at all. Adding new programs will change the number of kids who can be at any given school because the number of available classrooms will be impacted.
The school dress code, known as “Dressing and Grooming,” was also up for discussion. Board member Jennifer Fleisher said the policy committee acknowledged the need to update the code because of its negative bias towards female students.
“(Girls) can receive conduct infractions because of the clothing styles, and we talked about how it’s very difficult to buy certain clothes,” she explained.
The committee also discussed the impact of the dress code on students who express their gender identity differently at graduation, an issue it hopes to address in focus groups.
While no action was taken, the policy committee agreed to strike “action” from a policy that would remove a board member after he or she misses three consecutive “action” meetings, as the line between work and action sessions have been blurred over the years.
Also up for discussion was the creation of a new policy regarding virtual attendance. Of the two options being considered – two times a year or once per quarter, excluding extenuating circumstances – the latter was more favorable to the board.
The next board of education meeting will be on May 24 at 6:30 p.m