The Albia School Board approved two late applications for open enrollment after a long discussion in a 3-1 vote with three board members abstaining from the vote.
The Jesse and Tammie Maddy family had already been homeschooling all three of their children and had submitted a request to open enroll their youngest child into the Oskaloosa Homeschool Assistance Program next year. They did not turn applications in for open enrollment for their two older children by the March 1 deadline because the parents said they initially intended to dual enroll the two children in the Albia School District.
The Maddys said they then found out that the district implements guidelines for addressing social and emotional learning concepts in all areas of the school and they do not agree with them so they don’t want their students to attend Albia Schools. They referred to the guidelines as curriculum (which they are not technically).
The guidelines from the state have been in place for two years and are not curriculum or lessons. The guidelines outline five concepts of social and emotional development.
The five areas outlined in the guidelines are:
• Self-awareness - the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emitions, thoughts and values and how they influence behavior;
• Self-management - regulating one’s emotions, stress management, self-control, self-motivation and setting and achieving goals;
• Social awareness - perspective taking, empathy, respecting diversity, understanding social and ethical norms of behavior and recognizing family, school and community supports;
• Relationship skils - building relationships with diverse individuals and groups, communicationg clearly, working cooperatively, resolving conflicts and seeking help; and
• Responsible decision making – considering the well-being of self and others, reocognizing one’s responsibility to behave ethically, basing decisions on safety, social and ethical considerations, evaluating realistic consequences of various actions and making constructive, safe choices for self, relationships and school.
High School/Junior High Principal Richard Montgomery said the concepts are not lessons that are taught, but the concepts are expected to be addressed during natural situations that call for them.
Board member Jeff Liston asked the parents if there was more that they were worried about than the social and emotional learning guidelines and Tammie Maddy stated she believed the guidelines were used to promote several things including, “critical race theory, diversity, tolerance, the LGTBQ+ agenda, that all comes in through the social emotional learning whether it’s there or not…”
Principal Montgomery said there is no agenda being pushed by the guidelines and that every student has the option to leave any class if they are uncomfortable with concepts being discussed.
“What I can’t promise anybody is that every time any bullet from here comes up is that a teacher’s going to send kids to the office… that’s not physically possible,” said Montgomery.
Superintendent Kevin Crall said he took offense at the idea that the school district was doing anything wrong in implementing the state guidelines in regards to social and emotional learning of students.
Several board members said they were uncomfortable with approving applications submitted after the deadline with no extenuating circumstances as it could set a precedent for others to make the same request.
Albia Schools is also setting up a home school assistance program that should begin next year, so the family should have resources without open enrolling. The parents said they would not be utilizing Albia’s home school assistance program either because of the guidelines.
Board member Mark Robinson said he was voting yes because he believed it was in the best interest of the students at the time. Board members Roger George, Linda Hoskins and Jeff Liston abstained. Board members Craig Ambrose and Cindy Cronin joined board member Robinson in voting yes. Board member Mallory Stocker voted no due to the applications being late and no extenuating circumstances justifying the late applications.
Principal Montgomery also said the school had been getting several calls in the last few weeks asking about rumors such as students protesting and marching in the schools, 15 minutes of every class being used to teach certain concepts and more.
“There is some really nasty, made up attacks and lies on our school district happening right now that not only can’t be connected to something and called an exaggeration, they’re just completely untruthful,” said Montgomery. “I have no idea where it is coming from but over the last couple of weeks I’ve had multiple people contact me.”
Montgomery said he just wanted the board to be aware of what was going on.
Lincoln Center principal Joellen Swartz went over the district’s Iowa Assessment scores. The state did not hold Iowa Assessment’s last year, so the 2021 scores can only be compared to 2019 scores.
Scores varied with some going up and some staying relatively steady, but several did see a decline.
In science, which only tests in fifth, eighth and 10th grades, fifth graders saw a decline in the percentage of students testing proficient or advanced, with 54 percent versus 70 percent in 2019. Both eighth and 10th graders saw an increase in the percentage of students testing proficient or advanced with eighth graders seeing an increase from 71 percent in 2019 to 81 percent in 2021 and 10th graders increasing from 66 percent in 2019 to 77 percent in 2021.
Both math and English test in third through 11th grades. In third grade, English scores saw a significant drop of 82 percent proficient or advances in 2019 to 66 percent in 2021, but in math they went from 84 percent proficient or advanced in 2019 to 85 percent in 2021.
Fourth graders saw he opposite trend in English scores, with just 65 percent testing proficient in 2019 while 83 percent tested proficient in 2021. In math they saw a slight drop from 72 to 71 percent proficient from 2019 to 2021.
Fifth, sixth and seventh graders saw drops in both scores, with fifth graders dropping from 69 percent proficient to 59 percent in English between the two years, while sixth graders dropped from 77 percent to 66 percent proficient and 7th graders dropping from 83 percent to 77 percent.
In math, sixth graders went from 75 percent to 58 percent proficient, while in sixth grade the percentage dropped from 79 to 59. In seventh grade those testing proficient or advanced in math dropped a smaller percentage from 78percent in 2019 to 70 percent in 2021.
Eighth graders saw an increase in their English proficiency percentages, rising from 82 percent to 85 percent while their math scores saw a drop from 83 percent proficient to 71 percent proficient.
Ninth grade saw drops in both scores, with English proficiency dropping from 89 to 83 percent and math dropping from 73 to 66 percent testing proficient or advances.
The 10th grade saw across the board score increases, with English scores rising from 83 to 86 percent proficient or advanced and math scores rising from 65 to 71 percent proficient.
And 11th grade saw a slight decrease in English scores, going from 84 to 81 percent proficient and a bigger drop in math going from 73 to 66 percent proficient or advanced.
Swartz said although the scores were not what the district wanted to see, student learning had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the district was still testing above the state average and at or near the top of comparable school districts.
In other business:
• The board voted to approved the Cardinal School District request to join the South Central Conference.
• The board approved accepting bids on several school buses and a car.
• The board accepted and approved the 2019-2020 audit report.
• Resignations and new contracts were approved for several employees.
• A school permit appeal was denied due to the student living to close to school, but the board said the parents could present information regarding a possible medical need for the permit in the future for reconsideration.
• The board also heard updates on ongoing construction projects and about new state standards for Iowa Administrators that will go into effect next school year.