Idaho challenge books discussed at Nampa School Board meeting

After the board voted last month to remove 22 books from its school libraries, the books were collected, inventoried and kept in the district’s storage warehouse.

NAMPA, Idaho – This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

The Nampa School Board discussed a variety of topics at its regular meeting on Thursday night, including the acting assistant superintendent’s contract, standards-based grading, and the challenge book disposal process.

The meeting included two public hearing portions, one to discuss the district’s budget for the upcoming school year and one for proposed increases to the dining program. However, no attendees signed up for public comment on either point, and the board did not discuss the points further.

Here are some of the highlights of the meeting.

CONTRACT APPROVED FOR ACTING ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT

The board has approved the contract of Waylon Yarbrough, principal of Nampa High School, to become acting assistant superintendent for the upcoming school year.

Yarbrough would return to be principal of Nampa High School after his year as acting assistant superintendent.

“Mr. Yarbrough is a great educator,” Acting Superintendent Gregg Russell said. “There’s been a lot of change in the district, and I’m really proud of all the people who have moved to different places, and Mr. Yarbrough is a great example of that.”

Under the approved contract, Yarbrough will earn $129,709 for the next fiscal year – July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.

STANDARDS-BASED RATING PRACTICES: HELPFUL OR HARMFUL?

The council also discussed the practice of standards-based scoring 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 throughout the term, a standards-based grading system “measures mastery of a content standards student by assessing their most recent and consistent level of performance.”

All schools in the district use the system, which was implemented in elementary schools in 2014, and at the middle and high school level in the 2019-20 school year, according to the district’s website.

But while the standards aim to create a more accurate snapshot of student achievement, some students and parents in the district have expressed confusion about them.

Administrator Tracey Pearson said there have been instances where students who put in consistent effort throughout the term earned the same “number” as “students who didn’t put in as much effort”. It 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 his senior year.

Administrator Marco Valle echoed Pearson’s ideas, saying that in his meetings with staff, teachers and students there was a lack of understanding about how the system is supposed to work. He estimated that 99% of the people he heard from did not approve of the system.

Administrator Mandy Simpson questioned the 99% figure, saying that all administrators should have access to the same information from customers in the district, and administrators should share the information they hear from their customers with each other. , including people’s names and positions on a topic.

“When we’re trying to make big decisions it’s really hard, but it’s really hard when we don’t know the details and we don’t have hard numbers,” Simpson said.

The board voted unanimously to have a meeting where the superintendent can provide more information and allow public participation as soon as possible.

DISPUTED BOOKS TO KEEP 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 bonded 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 those books, Chairman Jeff Kirkman said.

During public comments, Nampa Banned Books Fan Club President Lance McGrath asked the board to reverse their decision and return the books to school libraries and classrooms. McGrath’s group held two readings on the school district’s lawn, one on Monday and one before the Thursday night meeting, as previously reported.

RELATED: Records: Single challenge issued against Nampa textbooks before council ban

Shelby Dewsnup, a math teacher at Nampa High School and an academic advisor to the school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance student group, also spoke about the ban.. Dewsnup said that while LGBTQ+ students in this group highlighted the need to create a safe space at school for people with different gender and sexual identities, many experienced bullying at school. The vote to remove books that reflect the experiences of young LGBTQ+ people has also had a detrimental effect on students, she said.

“All of our students deserve safety and representation; you don’t provide that,” Dewsnup said. “You can start doing better, first by not getting rid of those books, by going through a process, by learning what you can, and then… by unbanning your books.” His comment was applauded.

Administrator Brook Taylor made a motion to keep the books in reserve and put them through the disputed book process once it is approved by the board. The motion also provided for allowing trustees, on an individual basis, to request a copy of the books in order to assess them.

Valle, who made the original motion to remove the books, voted against, saying he was “surprised” that council members did not do their due diligence to assess the books before voting to remove them.

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, learn more at IdahoPress.com.

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