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A Statement from Dr. Hutchings

As prepared for the May 9 Board of Education meeting.
 
May 9, 2017 
 
To the Board, Staff and the Community,

Let me begin by trying to clarify our weekly board memos. I believe this issue is important because a memo several weeks ago to the Board of Education about the Woodbury science lab has, regrettably, sparked a debate that has resulted in misinformation within our school community. Our weekly communication with the Board, which we share with the community on our website, is intended to keep board members informed of the administration's progress on current work, or future work that is aligned with the District's Five-Year Strategic Plan and Superintendent's annual expectations.

A board memo has never been a tool for providing our community or the Board with a full plan about prospective work or future initiatives. Rather, it serves as a “heads-up” on things the administration is working on. We have a variety of other channels to communicate details of our work—including our monthly Board work sessions and staff presentations during Board regular meetings—in which we delve into our educational plans in great detail.

The administrative team works collaboratively with staff, students, community members, parents, and experts throughout our decision-making process. We do not make decisions in isolation. That said, I acknowledge that we could have done a better job sharing this information with our staff and community. Doing so would have decreased the misinformation about this plan.

Regardless of how the Woodbury science lab change was shared, the outcome of expanding our science experiences within our PreK-4 classrooms and increasing the real-world field trips for our youngest students should and will take place.

As I stated to the community over the weekend, this District values high-quality science education for all students. Our goal, as outlined in the District’s Strategic Plan, is to prepare our students for potential careers in science and math fields.

Research and experience tell us that science cannot be an add-on or occasional field trip. Science has to be an essential part of our core curriculum. Our youngest students must receive the foundation they need to succeed in rigorous science courses in Middle School, High School and beyond. Our data indicates that we, as a district, can do better.

This is why we are moving to embed science instruction into our PreK-4 classrooms in the 2017-18 school year. In addition to this regular classroom experience, we will incorporate an expanded variety of local field trips to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Great Lakes Science Center, local watersheds, the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes and other appropriate science institutions and locales.

We understand that many elementary families value the Woodbury science lab field trips. However, it is important for our families to understand that this refinement is intended to increase and enhance science experiences for our PreK-4 students through regular classroom science experiments and instruction, as well as real-world experiences.

Additionally, this change will give our fifth- and sixth-grade teachers and students full access to the science lab in their own school.

We are fortunate to have highly qualified PreK-4 teachers who are licensed to teach all content areas in our elementary schools. They will continue to provide a high-quality educational experience, including science instruction, for all PreK-4 students. Our teachers, administrators and other science educators will be highly involved with making our science experiences for students in PreK-4 more robust and more frequent. Our Curriculum & Instruction Leadership Council (CILC), which consists of teachers and administrators, will continue to work toward our curriculum development efforts, including our goal to provide a more robust science experience for all students in Shaker.

The District will continue to refine its communication with the school community about instructional decisions. Parents will be informed about our curriculum efforts and plan during our curriculum night in the fall of 2017. Additionally, we are working with our PTO Council to keep parents informed.

Finally, it's important that I make this public statement: I have a deep respect for the role of advocacy in a democratic society. Not a day goes by when I do not think about the many people who advocated, marched, served in the armed forces, protested, died, or who were imprisoned to make this world a better place and pave the way for me and many others to be provided the many opportunities we've had throughout our lives.

I commend our community members who are using their voices as power. That said, I hope that we can hold each other accountable in a respectable, caring and professional manner. I've received some emails over the last several weeks, and I have read some very concerning posts on social media, that do not reflect what I know we in Shaker strive to be as a community.

Our young people are watching us and looking to us as leaders, parents, teachers, and role models. All of us, starting with me, must lead by example and be able to exclude personal attacks or judgments about other people when making our point or advocating for our young people.

Social media can be a great tool for us. But tools are only useful when they are used responsibly. As a community, it is our responsibility to continue to be a welcoming environment for future generations and prospective Shaker residents. I do not believe that some of the anger, accusations and judgments I have read are a good representation of who we are as a community.

Again, I am in no way suggesting that anyone should hesitate or ask questions. I embrace and learn from the feedback. I'm simply asking that we be mindful of the delivery of the message when posted or tweeted or written in an email that is a public record and seen by those within Shaker and outside of Shaker.

All of our voices are more powerful when delivered in a caring, respectful and professional manner. Thank you. 
 
Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools 
© 2017. Shaker Heights Schools. All Rights Reserved.
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