Payson School Board Meeting: The Beyond Textbooks “Con”
If you read Michele Nelson's Payson Round-up article Common Core Prompts Textbook Worries about this June 8 meeting, you will have very little idea of what really happened. My article which follows focuses on the board's adoption of Beyond Textbooks. There were two other issues that deserve some truth. 1) The board decided to dump old textbooks (titles unknown), and 2) Board member Sheila Deschaaf wasn't amused by a very deceptive agenda item, causing the board to delay a more thorough discussion before voting to approve "Restarting the Payson Arizona Online Instruction (AOI)." Unfortunately, there just isn't enough time in the day for me to cover all of the "spin" coming from PUSD's top officials.
Team Case-Wyman missed their calling. They should have been trial lawyers. Using their masterful skills of persuasion, plus all forms of fallacious arguments (eg., argument of incredulity, argument of authority, proof by verbosity, appeal to fear, red herring, straw man, bandwagon, kettle logic, etc.), they convinced three board members to ignore hard evidence and vote to renew PUSD’s contract with Vail District, and once again adopt Beyond Textbooks.
These two individuals convinced board members to disregard hard evidence presented by two members of the public to vote against the renewal. Ms. Darlene Younker and I presented: Exhibit A: Arizona Revised Statute 15-721(F)(3) paying close attention to (G) which defines "textbook." ; Exhibit B: Vail’s Intergovernmental Agreement, Exhibit C: Beyond Textbook's Award for delivering “curriculum” digitally.
The most critical issue for us, however, is that parents, grandparents, and the public have the right to view materials being taught to Payson’s students, unhindered. The internet has given us the ability to tap into millions of documents all over the world. However, when it comes to viewing Payson's school district online textbooks, technology has had the reverse effect. We see far less.
The board should never have adopted BT in the first place. Back in 2013, assuming the board members actually did a "close read" of the Intergovernmental Agreement, their proper response should have been: “We cannot sign a contract that prohibits the public from viewing these materials!” But that didn't happen.
The current board had an opportunity to do the right thing. It seems there is money for subsidizing foreign exchange students, but not for Payson's kids. Highly paid school officials are also highly skilled at dismissing the legitimate concerns of both the board members and the public. We hear of "local control." Controlling the locals is precisely what Dr. Greg Wyman and Brenda Case do on a regular basis.
So, after Ms. Younker and I presented our exhibits to the board members, Dr. Wyman (referred to as the "Boss" by the president of the school board), emphatically and authoritatively stated, “I don’t believe we are violating the statute!”
“Believe?” Since when do we “believe” or “disbelieve” laws? Isn't this the same guy who told parents that it was against "the law" to opt their children out of AzMERIT? And then produced the Arizona Attorney General's "opinion" as "the law"?
After expounding on his disbelief (“argument of incredulity”), he brought up his vast professional experience (“argument of authority”), which, after several minutes, devolved into his “verbosity argument.”
All of this was followed by his “fear” argument, citing the enormous financial and time-consuming costs to the district to adopt genuine, open, and transparent textbooks.
None of these fallacious arguments disproved, or even addressed, the evidence against the adoption of BT.
He then called on Director of Student Achievement Brenda Case, who, along with four Student Achievement Teachers, were hired specifically to teach teachers how to teach the Common Core standards as they are presented in Beyond Textbooks.
Ms. Case provided several red herring arguments, none of which had anything to do with the issue. In fact, Ms. Case stated that, “Even if new standards are adopted, BT will adapt to include them.” (a plug for job security)
In a complete disregard for meeting order, Ms. Underwood allowed members from the audience to serve up their own red herrings. Payson Round-Up reporter Michelle Nelson and director of technology Joni de Szendeffy chimed in with a discussion of Google Docs.
And finally, Ms. de Szendeffy used that old reliable tactic of asking a rhetorical question to which she knows the answer. She asked Ms. Case: “How many school districts have adopted BT”? Ms. Case responded, "Oh, 90-something.... They’ve even expanded out of the state!”
Ms. de Szendeffy: “Well, that says a lot.”
Yes, it tells me you just pulled the “bandwagon argument” out of your bag of tricks.
You guessed it. After the board voted 3-1 (Shirley Dye voted no) to retain BT, I escaped in utter disgust, while my sanity was still intact.
Click HERE to read Darlene Younker's statement to the Board on why they should NO to renewing the contract with Vail.
Click HERE to read my statement to the Board on why they should vote NO to renewing the contract with Vail.
Click HERE to read an article I published a year ago titled “Is the Use of "Beyond Textbooks" Violating Arizona Law? You Be the Judge."