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The Visalia charter school program withdrawn a few days before the start of the school year


Parents and teachers said the administrators of Visalia Unified sent a message to the administration of the Global Learning Charter on Tuesday evening: “We don’t trust our teachers. “

In a 4-3 decision, Visalia Unified voted against the renewal of Newsela, an educational app used since charter school began.

“My disappointment with the decision of some board members to cancel Newsela cannot be understated. Newsela is supported by our district office, our school site board, our teachers and families, and the work of the board. is blatant and unprecedented, ”said director Karin Aure. said Wednesday morning. “The message that these board members do not trust schools and teachers is loud and clear. They ask us to verify our biases, but do not demand the same of themselves.

By voting against the renewal, administrators are leaving Global Learning Charter students without the paid version of Newsela, meaning teachers will be using the free version for its history curriculum.

“The paid version of Newsela allows teachers to manage and monitor student reading,” Aure said. “With this decision, we are losing this opportunity.”

Global Learning Charter will use additional science programs and project-based learning units created by teachers as the new year approaches.

“I’m a little speechless right now that we’ve sent the message that we don’t trust our teachers – and it’s difficult,” administrator Jacqueline Gaebe told board members after the decision . “Teachers, I apologize for not listening and we do not support this use of the material. “

Gaebe voted in favor of the renewal.

Trustees John Crabtree, Walta Gamoian, Joy Naylor and Christopher Pope all voted against renewing Global Learning Charter School’s contract with Newsela.

At a board meeting in June, Doug Cardoza, deputy superintendent of educational services and soon to be acting superintendent, told board members that if she does not renew Newsela, the charter school will have to rewrite its curriculum. science and history before August.

Dominique Biello-Rivera is a teacher at the Global Learning Charter School in Visalia.  She is preparing to welcome her students again on a virtual platform.  With the help of Melisa Duarte, Biello-Rivera was able to customize its landing page for students.

“Serving our students and our families is the reason we exist,” Aure said. “This decision may mean that teachers have to work harder and longer, but we will be careful that this does not affect the quality of teaching for our GLC students.”

Administrators Crabtree and Gamoian have always claimed that Newsela teaches critical breed theory, although neither have provided evidence for their findings.

“When they say they’re going to teach Critical Race Theory, when they’re waving banners for Black Lives Matter, that tells me the program is biased,” Gamoian said.

Gaebe, as in previous meetings around Newsela, objected to the idea.

“These are not our standards. Critical race theory is not a standard. Black Lives Matter is not a standard, ”Gaebe said. “Our teachers and parents are here to ask us to support our students’ teaching in the standards … our teachers teach the standards. They don’t use this to teach personal biases.

Board chairman Juan Guerrero also supported the renewal of the candidacy, saying he had physically visited Global Learning Charter to see how Newsela was being applied by teachers.

Directors Naylor and Pope have not commented publicly. Pope represents District 6, where the Global Learning Charter is located.

Administrator Megan Casbeer-Soleno requested that the school make its own decision whether or not to adopt the program.

“One of the reasons charter schools exist is to take them out of the usual curriculum and give them more freedom to create their own guidelines and rules,” Casbeer-Soleno said.

The app was first approved at the Global Learning Charter School in Visalia four years ago and was part of the school’s curriculum until the contract with the district expired in July.

“We need to have confidence that our teachers who are with our children all day are doing what is best for them,” Gaebe told the board at the June meeting. “If we say we don’t trust our teachers, that’s a statement I’m not comfortable making.

Parents and teachers at the Global Charter for Learning voiced support for Newsela ahead of the vote, with some denying allegations of bias, others bluntly telling the board that it would make teachers feel like it was not. don’t trust them.

Kevin Martin, who has a student enrolled in the school, told the board he should be able to count on his teachers. He also noted that there was no bias in every video he heard as his child was learning using the Newsela app last year.

“You hired good administrators and good teachers in these schools and I had to think that if something like that were to happen, if there was a bias in teaching, they would take care of it,” Martin said. . On a related note, if (a biased curriculum) happened, I would speak in the name of elimination. But to me, it’s just a good tool in a teacher’s toolbox. . “

Yacenia Lemos told board members that she first enrolled her two children in school in order to be flexible with their schedules and because she liked the school to be creative and diverse in its education.

“Please don’t deprive our children of this opportunity to learn through creative thinking,” said Lemos. “We are concerned that if this program is removed, our children will lose the opportunity to be part of a school that offers creative ways to teach our children and that our teachers will feel they are not trusted. . “

She also said that due to the pandemic and distance learning, she and her husband had the opportunity to see what their children were learning using Newsela, qualifying the articles provided throughout the year. of “precious”.

Greg Price, president of the Visalia Unified Teachers Association, also spoke out in favor of Newsela, emphasizing its value among special education classes.

“I would challenge anyone to tell me how they think Newsela is being used in a biased way, it isn’t,” Price said. “I don’t know if people in this room understand that our special education teachers are using this … We trust our teachers to educate our students, shouldn’t we trust them to give fair and impartial material to our students? “

Lauren Jennings covers education and news for the Visalia Times-Delta / Tulare Advance-Register. Follow her on Twitter @lolojennings. Receive alerts and stay up to date on all things Tulare County for as little as $ 1 per month. Subscribe today.


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