Minden Press-Herald

Thursday
Oct 02nd

Concerns voiced over new STEM concept

The STEM (Science Technology Engenerining/ English and Math) program was implemented by the Webster Parish School Board (WPSB) after concerns were voiced about the cost and development of the program.

"The concept of the program is excellent," board member Frankie Mitchell said. "But it is going to need money if it is going to work like it is supposed to."

Mitchell said the program was being "hazardly" implemented.

"The most important part is getting your teachers trained, not just having students in a classroom saying 'this is STEM,'" she said. " I didn't see anything to believe that these teachers would be any different from regular classroom teachers.

"If we don't have the money to do this, we are defeating the purpose," Mitchell continued. "We cannot mislead our children and say we are giving them a quality program and we are not."

Secondary Supervisor Connie Busby agreed that funding and professional development are concerns.

"I have had thoughts along those same lines at times," she said. "We are resource poor – there is no doubt about that – but we have to start somewhere.

"We have a long way to go with technology development in our district," Busby continued. "If we do not have an expectation that our teachers and schools should incorporate this, then I don't think there will be as big of a push to obtain those things. I think we need to raise our expectations."

Mitchell agreed the STEM program is needed when she cited Blooms Taxonomy.

"STEM is not interested in knowledge, that is the lowest level of learning," Mitchell said. "STEM focuses on the application, analyzing and interpretation, these are the kind of skills we need to offer if we are going to have the STEM program. But that should be every kid, not just the top."

Busby agreed that she desired to give students more than a bare minimum education.

"I would love to see this program offered in every class, not just the top 50 students of each grade," she said. "I think enrichment and going beyond the basic curriculum is something every child should experience, but we do not have the means to have this program on a large scale. This is a place to start."

Mitchell was also concerned the board had not approved the STEM program before it was okayed by a federal judge.

"This whole idea of the STEM program was submitted to the judge without our even being aware of the program," Mitchell said. "That is one reason I asked for this information, because this is a curriculum item. I know when we have courses that are being added, it is brought before us to approve."

However, the board was aware of the central office proposal of an accelerated program for Minden schools during board and community meetings where consolidation was addressed in an effort to balance the school system's budget.

Often called a "magnet-type program" by central office staff and board members, the board adopted the change in the February 28 meeting, where all members were present.

Only two amendments were made to the central office proposal; one affected Doyline schools and the other affected schools in north Webster Parish. The board adopted the recommendation for Minden schools, which included advanced classes in elementary schools.

Busby said she was unsure if the board needed to approve the STEM program and that she was presenting the program information for the boards review and advice.

"The reason I am presenting this information is this was part of the package presented in the community meetings for Minden schools," Busby said. "This is also part of the package that was presented to the judge and approved as well."

Jerry Lott made a motion to implement the program, in light of how much work has gone into the development of the program by the central office and principals.

"I think it is certainly in order that we show support of the program," he said. "We might not be able to provide funding for the program, but it would give them an opportunity to proceed and update us on the way the program is progressing."

All board members were in favor of supporting the program, with the exception of Mitchell who was opposed.

 

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