NAMPA, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
The Nampa School Board discussed a variety of topics at its regular meeting Thursday evening, including the contract for the interim deputy superintendent, standards-based grading, and the disposal process for challenge books.
The meeting included two public hearing portions, one to discuss the district’s budget for the upcoming school year and one for proposed food service program increases. However, no attendees signed up for public comment on either item, and the board did not discuss the items further.
Below are some of the meeting’s highlights.
CONTRACT APPROVED FOR INTERIM DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT
The board approved the contract for Waylon Yarbrough, the principal at Nampa High School, to become the interim deputy superintendent for the upcoming school year.
Yarbrough would return to being the principal at Nampa High School after his year as interim deputy superintendent.
“Mr. Yarbrough is an excellent educator,” said Interim Superintendent Gregg Russell. “There has been a great deal of change around the district, and I’m just really proud of all of the folks who have moved in different spots, and Mr. Yarbrough is just a great example of that.”
Under the approved contract, Yarbrough will earn $129,709 for the next fiscal year — July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.
STANDARDS-BASED GRADING PRACTICES: HELPFUL OR HARMFUL?
The board also discussed the practice of standards-based grading in the district. According to the district’s website, standards-based grading is different from traditional grading because instead of averaging a student’s scores across the term, a standards-based grading system “measures a student’s mastery of content standards by assessing their most recent and consistent level of performance.”
All schools in the district are using the system, which was implemented in elementary schools in 2014, and at the middle school and high school level during the 2019-2020 school year, according to the district’s website.
But though the standards are intended to create a more accurate snapshot of student achievement, some students and parents in the district have expressed confusion about them.
Trustee Tracey Pearson said there have been instances where students who have put in consistent effort throughout the term are earning the same “number” as “students who are not putting in as much effort.” This affects student morale and motivation, and causes stress for parents, she said.
Pearson read an email from a student who felt frustrated with the system and wanted traditional grading for their senior year.
Trustee Marco Valle echoed Pearson’s ideas, saying in his meetings with staff, teachers, and students, there is a lack of understanding about how the system is supposed to work. He estimated that 99% of the people he had heard from did not approve of the system.
Trustee Mandy Simpson questioned the 99% figure, saying that all of the trustees need to have access to the same information from the district’s patrons, and trustees should be sharing information they hear from their patrons with one another, including people’s names and stance on a topic.
“When we’re trying to make big decisions, it is really hard, but it’s really hard to when we don’t know specifics and don’t have specific numbers,” Simpson said.
The board voted unanimously to have a meeting where the superintendent can provide more information and allow public input as soon as possible.
CHALLENGED BOOKS TO BE KEPT IN STORAGE
After the board voted to remove 22 books from its school libraries last month, the books were collected, inventoried and kept in the district’s storage warehouse, Russell said. But the district needs a plan for what to do with the books while the board and district solidify a process for evaluating such books, Chair Jeff Kirkman said.
During public comment, president of the Nampa Banned Books Fan Club, Lance McGrath asked the board to reverse its decision and return the books to school libraries and classrooms. McGrath’s group organized two read-ins on the school district’s lawn, one on Monday, and one ahead of the meeting Thursday night, as previously reported.
Shelby Dewsnup, a math teacher at Nampa High School and the teacher advisor to the Gender and Sexuality Alliance student group at the school, also spoke regarding the ban. Dewsnup said that though LGBTQ+ students in that group have emphasized the need to create a safe space at school for people with varying gender and sexual identities, many have been subjected to harassment at school. The vote to remove books that reflect the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth has also had a detrimental effect on the students, she said.
“All of our students deserve safety and representation; you are not providing that,” Dewsnup said. “You can start to do better, first, by not disposing of these books, go through a process, learn what you can, and then … reverse your book ban.” Her comment was met with applause.
Trustee Brook Taylor made a motion to keep the books in storage, and have them go through the challenged book process once it is approved by the board. The motion also included allowing trustees, on an individual basis, to request a copy of the books in order to evaluate them.
Valle, who made the original motion to remove the books, voted against, saying he was “surprised” board members did not do their due diligence to evaluate the books ahead of voting to remove them.
This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.
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