I’ve received several phone calls and e-mails from teachers and parents who are frustrated by a mix-up in book orders for schools.
Here’s the latest one, from Sequoia Elementary parent Stacey Roth, which I received less than an hour ago:
“I thought I’d let you know about the snafu with MDUSD elementary schools math books.
Classrooms in grades 1,3,4 and 5 still do not have math books. Teachers and administrative staff are not getting a straight answer from the district. Some of the excuses from them: the truck broke down, they were shipped to the wrong address. Simply, it seems they just weren’t ordered.
It’s nearly October and the math books are nowhere to be found. Not sure how teachers can teach without books. My kids are at Sequoia Elementary, but it appears to be district-wide.
Thanks for the consideration.
~ Stacey (Roth)”
I got a similar email Sunday from Sequoia Elementary teacher Elaine Murphy, who wrote:
“As a teacher for the past 23 years in MDUSD, I am frustrated that we are now 4 weeks into the school year and my students do not have the adopted materials for Math and Social Studies. At my site, Sequoia Elementary, the students at grades 1, 3, 4, and 5 do not have the workbooks for these 2 subject areas. This represents a new low for MDUSD. At the very least, we teachers have always had the textbooks available for our students in previous years!
We have been told many stories about why this problem exists. (My favorite is ‘The delivery truck broke down.’) But why do our colleagues at other sites have the workbooks? It appears that books were distributed to the lowest performing schools first. Yet the Williams settlement, which we must post every year in our classrooms, states that the district is legally mandated to provide textbooks to every student. We are now out of compliance again!
I am aware that our district has many major problems at this point in time. Yet the district is required by law to provide the textbooks for its students. The current Math adoption presents 28 chapters at Grade 4. We must cover one chapter per week, and even at that pace, we will have to double up on Math chapters in the spring in order to be ready for the STAR Test. We are scrambling to cover the lack of workbooks by making copies of Math worksheets to provide the practice our students need. This is a huge waste of time and resources!
Someone dropped the ball at Dent Center. As teachers, we depend on the support staff at Dent Center to do their job so we can do ours!
The responsibility for the ordering of textbooks is out of our hands. Yet now we are struggling to provide improvised instructional materials for our students.
When will the workbooks arrive? Parents and students alike are asking me that question every day. Please investigate this situation!
Sequoia Elementary School”
Last night, Trustee Lynne Dennler told me the district had initially given workbooks to the “Williams” schools. These are low-income schools monitored by the County Office of Education.
“I understand they’re now in,” Dennler said. “I said, ‘I’ll help drive them around.’”
But, the district said she didn’t need to do that, Dennler said.
A few minutes ago, I spoke to Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support.
“We did have some mixup,” she said. “We lost our textbook coordinator through budget cuts two years ago. This past year, we had to take care of it through three departments. We kind of had to piece it together.”
Since the school year was cut short for district office clerical employees and school secretaries, the district didn’t know about the ordering mixup over the summer, Lock said.
“But we do have them on order,” she said. “Some of our schools have not gotten the workbooks, but principals have been making arrangements to have them copied, so we are providing those.”
She said some schools were given priority for the workbooks because of the Williams lawsuit.
“We need to make sure they have all their instructional materials and that the facilities are acceptable,” she said. “The county monitors that every year at the beginning of the year, so we did make sure the schools had their books. But for the rest of the schools, we had an alternative — to make copies.”
Lock said workbooks are for first- and second-grades and are “consumable,” where students tear off the sheets of paper.
“Some of them are coming in and the publisher said we should have them by the end of this week,” she said.
But, the district is also short warehouse staff, she said.
“We’re waiting for the warehouse,” she said.
When I mentioned Dennler’s offer to drive the workbooks to sites herself, Lock said: “At this point, we have people who are working at the warehouse who are working on it. I thought it was a great offer and we’ll let her know.”
I also spoke to Peggy Marshburn, spokeswoman for the County Office of Education. She confirmed that the county visits specific sites to check Williams Act compliance, but said that all schools are required to have adequate instructional materials and that any school in the state can make a complaint.
“So anyone who is concerned about anything that’s related to Williams can make a complaint about it,” she said. “Schools send a quarterly report about any complaint and the resolution of those complaints.”
However, she said consumable workbooks would not be covered by the act.
“The materials are core material and textbooks,” she said. “Consumable workbooks and supplementary materials are not part of what we are looking at.”
Based on the emails and phone calls I’ve received, I’m still a little unclear on whether the materials that haven’t been received are covered under the Williams Act.
Are you satisfied with the district’s solution to the workbook/textbook shortage?