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Archive for January 26th, 2009

More on SBOE sessions

Posted by Texas Education on January 26, 2009

From Laura Ewing~

SBOE Actions Continue to Reinforce Concerns:

As I observed the SBOE sessions on January 22 and 23, 2009, my concern continued to increase over the members’ disregard for process and fair play. The actions simply add fuel to the reasons that Ellis introduced a bill to remove all legislatively given powers to the SBOE.

1. Why did the majority of the board vote on a substitute statement for the biology TEKS when that statement simply re-introduced the original evolution issue?
The original biology TEKS wording states:
Scientific processes. The student uses critical thinking and scientific problem solving to make informed decisions. The student is expected to:
(A) Analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information; “

The majority of SBOE members voted against the above statement on Thursday. Yet, the majority voted to add several amendments to the TEKS, including, (2) Scientific processes. The student uses scientific methods and equipment during field and laboratory investigations. The student is expected to:
A. know the definition of science and understand its limitations. (7) Science concepts. The student knows evolutionary theory is a scientific explanation for the unity and diversity of life. The student is expected to:
B. describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.

My three concerns are that (1) “sufficiency and insufficiency” is simply a substitute statement for “strengths and weaknesses.” (2) The new student expectations apply directly to evolution. (3) Several noted scientists in attendance expressed concern that this statement does not really make sense.

The second reading and final vote for the Science TEKS will be in March.

2. Why did 4/5 of the Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund vote to hire a company that charged twice as much as the others?
Agenda item: Approval of the Selection of a Firm to Provide Investment Counsel Services for the Permanent School Fund and Authorization for Contract Execution by the Commissioner of Education.

There were three firms brought forward for consideration.
• Kuhns, with the highest rating, requested an annual fee of approximately $430,000. They currently hold the contract with TEA.
• Kenupp, with the middle rating, requested an annual fee of approximately $418,000.
• New England Trust, with the lowest rating of the three, requested an annual fee of approximately $1,000,000.

The newly appointed committee, which included members who had no prior experience working directly with these issues, voted 4 to 1 to recommend hiring New England Trust. Bradley, Nunez, Agosto, and Dunbar voted for. Lowe voted against.
On Friday, the full SBOE voted to postpone the decision till the March meeting.

Two notes of concern: 1. The PSF investments were not found to be tainted by the Madoff Scandal. However, New England had made investments with Madoff. Does this bode well for their decision-making process? 2. Why did the committee vote to end a contractual agreement with a firm (Kuhns) that has a strong reputation for integrity and knowledge and enter into a contract with a company (New England) that will charge twice as much?

One last note: the committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund does have long agendas to discuss at every meeting. So, they are going to meet during the off months in Austin so they have more time to deliberate. While I agree that they need more time, will this reduce the transparency of their deliberations and decisions?

3. Why did one PSF committee member not recuse himself from the votes when he had a conflict of interest?
Mr. Agosto, SBOE District 3, held a meeting with New England Trust. He stated that this meeting had to do with his personal business and not that of the SBOE. An internal audit was conducted, and it was recommended that because of his business dealings with the firm that Mr. Agosto recuse himself from the discussions and votes. He did not do so. Furthermore, when Geraldine Miller attempted to raise concerns about his participating in the process, Mr. McLeroy told her that her comments were not pertinent to the discussion on the selection of a firm to provide investment counsel services. I believe her discussion was very pertinent.

4. Why does the greater metropolitan Houston area have only 6 teachers on the social studies TEKS committee?
The social studies TEKS are the next ones to undergo the refinement process. Educators, parents and community members were encouraged to apply to serve the refinement committees. Each member of the SBOE pulls from those applications and makes his/her own nominations. However, only 6 people (all from Conroe) have been included from Houston and its suburbs. The region with the largest population was not included because its representatives (Dunbar, Leo and Allen) did not appoint anyone. Bradley only appointed two community members from Lumberton, which is not even in the district he represents, District 7. So, our district has NO representation in the TEKS refinement process.

5. What are some possible changes to the SBOE?
Six of us met with Representative Howard on January 22 to recommend possible changes to the SBOE. Those suggestions are here here.

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