The adoption, to cost nearly $700,000 over the next four school years, was approved 7-0 by the board Monday night.The adoption comes two years into the normal six-year cycle, but addresses issues that had frustrated teachers, students, parents and school board members. The old textbooks had been adopted for one year and then renewed for this school year.
The committee voted 9-3 to recommend the Envision 2.0 series, from publisher Pearson, for grades K-5 math, while the middle and high school educators on the panel unanimously voted to recommend the HMH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) textbooks for grades 6-12, Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry.
Complaints about the old textbooks included that they were one size fits all, did not support differentiated learning and left teachers scrambling to put together their own resources, including practice exercises. In addition, teachers said some of the texts consistently had the wrong answers to problems.
The cost is to be $683,115 for the next four school years, broken down at $250,215 for K-5 and $432,900 for 6-12. The funding includes a textbook for each student, not just classroom copies, at all grade levels. School board members said the amount was not unreasonable compared to other textbook adoptions, and BOE member Matthew Spivey said the system is much better served buying four years of texts teachers support than buying four more years of one they don’t. He also said the cost works out to slightly more than $17 per student per year.
Superintendent of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said money is available in this school year’s budget to purchase the textbooks. The system is to order the K-2 and 6-12 texts and materials immediately, while the grades 3-5 purchase will have to wait until Tennessee approves the 3-5 texts that were not on the original state-accepted list two years ago. However, she said many systems have adopted the grades 3-5 texts and the textbook waivers have been approved by the state quickly.
In other action, as previously reported, the board voted 5-1 with one abstaining to oppose school voucher legislation going through the General Assembly committee system in Nashville. Vouchers allow public money to be used for private schools. Mark Ireson voted no, while Jane Thomas abstained, and both later addressed their opposition to parts of the county’s portion of the school facilities plan funded by a $140 million bond.
In addition, the board:
— Adopted second and final readings of policy changes on food service management, discipline and foster care and had first readings of updated fundraising policies to address online fundraising, as well as updates on parent and family involvement and student wellness and a new policy reflecting a differentiated pay plan.
— Honored the Mary Hughes School volleyball team, which won its classification in a regional state championship.
— Honored high school students who won places on the All State East Band and some who made the All State Band to perform in Nashville in early April.
— Honored Austin Ramsey, a Sullivan Central High senior who is one of eight Roan Scholars to enter East Tennessee State University this fall. It marks the third year in a row at least one Sullivan County senior has won the award, which covers four years of school and provides leadership and international travel opportunities for recipients. Ramsey is the second Roan Scholar in recent memory for Central. Last year, a Sullivan East High student won the award, and two years ago two East students won it.