Jul 28, 2014
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CB School Board Affirms Middle School Schedule Change

Despite impassioned pleas from parents, board says it backs administrative recommendation to cut electives, increase class length

CB School Board Affirms Middle School Schedule Change CB School Board Affirms Middle School Schedule Change CB School Board Affirms Middle School Schedule Change

Despite being called cowards and puppets of the administration, despite being compared to the captain of the Titanic, despite being accused of being responsible for the downfall of civilization, the Central Bucks School Board held its ground.

Unless the state intervenes, starting in September, middle school students will see their class periods extended and the number of electives they can take cut.  

For nearly two hours Tuesday night, parents and students slammed the board for its decision to make such a radical change to the middle school schedule. They claimed it was a move made to save money, not enhance education, and that it was done with little or no input from the people who will be affected the most.

"This is not a happy chapter in the history of the Central Bucks School District," said parent Christine Hall.

Nearly 40 people commented at the meeting, which was . Two weeks ago, the school board meeting room proved to be too small and .

Several recurring themes ran through the audience comments Tuesday night: what prompted the schedule change, why weren't parents informed earlier, and why was it decided so quickly? Most asked the board to abandon the plan and take it up after more deliberation.

Buckingham Township resident Doug Keith, the father of two daughters at Cold Spring Elementary School, urged the board to "slow down, be heroes, be cheered." He compared the board to the captain of the Titanic, who moved full speed ahead in the darkness despite advice to slow down.

Lou Bell, of New Britain Township, said he came to the meeting with no hidden agenda, just a desire "to do what's best for the children." He called the schedule change "not a reasonable decision by intelligent people." 

Board member Stephen Corr said he has faith in the administrators who proposed the plan. "These are nine of the best educators in the state," he said. "They get results.

"This is the plan they came top with," he added. "You want us to get input from experts and that's what we did. We believe this is the appropriate schedule for middle school."

Corr did admit, however, the board could have done a better job communicating with the public about the change, similar to the issues with b, which surfaced about a year ago.

"We didn't learn from that," said Corr.

Corr took issue with those who want to know what problem the district is trying to fix with the schedule change.

"I don't think we need a problem to solve," he said. "We should always be moving forward." 

Before the public had its say, members of the administrative committee that recommended the change extolled the virtues for students and teachers. They talked of more in-depth learning, predicted more opportunities for student-teacher interaction, and promised more chances to apply concepts learned in class.

Nick Chubb, principal at , said his teachers are "excited by the opportunity to have 56-minute of instruction to teach the current curriculum." 

His assistant principal, Geanine Saullo, said fewer classes will allow students to dive deeper into the existing curriculum. "Less is more," she said.

Ken Martin, the assistant principal at Tohickon Middle School, said the new schedule "gives teachers more time for instruction and students more time to learn."

Some in the audience scoffed at the report, however, calling it a desperate attempt to paint a positive picture of the schedule change. They said teachers and administrators are afraid to speak out against the plan for fear of losing their jobs.

"Lies, lies, lies," said Raymond Parker, an attorney. "Where's the backup information? If one or two teachers are in favor, that's not a reason to make a change. It's not just lawlessness, it's robbery. Don't tread on our kids."

Beth Darcy, with two children at Lenape Middle School and another at , quoted Thomas Jefferson ("All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.") in asking for someone on the board to have the courage to challenge the administration. 

"I know some of you are afraid to be ostracized," Darcy said before leaving the microphone to a standing ovation. "We are here to offer you cover. Please, someone do something."

In the end, however, the board did nothing.

For now, the new schedule for middle school students will go into effect in September.

But, as the crowd left the auditorium, a woman suggested the battle may not be over.

"We'll see everybody again in two weeks," she said loudly.

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