Posted Date: 07/16/2020
Board of Education Approves Return to School/Re-Entry Plan for 2020-21;
first day of school would be Monday, August 24
The Board of Education Monday night approved the Return to School/Re-Entry Plan for 2020-21 with some changes, as recommended by Union’s District Re-Entry Task Force. Union will offer both in-person and online options for students to return to classes next month, with a slight delay in the first day of school as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The first day of school will be Aug. 24, 2020 and the last day on May 25, 2021.
Other key developments:
“In the last four months, we have all had to deal with an unprecedented level of change,” said Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler. “I know it has not been easy for students, parents and teachers as we adjusted to distance learning and an end to the school year that none of us would ever have predicted. In true Union style, everyone adapted quickly to the new Covid-19 reality.”
Union students will have to commit to one choice – either in-person (traditional) or virtual school (at home) – for the entire semester. Traditional in-person learning is the default position, so if the district does not hear from parents, the assumption is their child has opted for traditional school. Once parents select a learning option, their student will be committed to that option, either virtual or in-person, for the entire semester.
In the event school is cancelled for any period of time, students will be provided instruction through distance learning.
Parents have until 5 p.m Monday, July 27 to decide, a week later than Union administrators had originally recommended. An earlier deadline would not have given parents enough time to weigh the options, board members said.
View Learning Options In-Person learning OR
“There’s a lot of information to be considered,” said board member Stacey Roemerman. Details about classes offered under the virtual option were shared as part of the Re-Entry Plan.
“What I’m hearing from parents is that they are happy that we are moving forward with a plan,” Hartzler said. “It won’t be a perfect plan, but it’s a plan.”
No plan will be perfect, said Roemerman, describing the reentry plan as “a jumping off point” that will continue to evolve before the semester begins August 24. Changing that deadline, however, prompted the board to postpone the start of school for a week to give teachers enough time to finalize plans for classes. This will provide the district more time to make adjustments.
Also, Union has suspended “Late Start Fridays” for the 2020-21 school year, so school start times will be consistent on a daily basis for the school year. Please check the website to see if your school start/end time has changed. Some slight adjustments were made for students in grades 6-9.
In a recent survey of parents, 67 percent of parents said they prefer their child attends school in person with safety measures in place to protect them. The remaining 31.4 percent said they would prefer a virtual or distance learning option. (About 2,600 parents responded in all, representing approximately 25 percent of our student population).
“We are pleased with the options provided by our Re-Entry Plan, but it’s important to know that this document will be updated on a weekly basis,” said Hartzler. “As you know, the situation around Covid-19 continues to change, so we will update the plan as we go along.”
Students and staff will be required to wear a face covering at all times while in a school building or in a school vehicle unless they are alone in the room or vehicle. (Face coverings do not include bandanas or scarves).
“Please know that the health and safety of our students and staff continues to be our #1 priority,” said Hartzler. “Union Public Schools will continue to follow the guidance and expertise of state and local officials in order to protect our students and staff.”
Please check the Union website weekly for updates at www.unionps.org/coronavirus.
You may view the reentry plan here: English Version / Spanish Version. . PLEASE NOTE: The details in this plan are subject to change as directives from governing authorities and health officials respond to new information and developing environmental conditions. Under this plan, school will now start Monday, August 24; this is the only major change to the calendar at this time. Masks will be also required.
Union committee to revisit ‘Redskins’ mascot
Union Board Members voted unanimously to appoint a committee that will review the district’s “Redskins” mascot, 17 years after an earlier board voted unanimously to retain the mascot. The board will appoint a committee that will spend the rest of 2020 studying the issue, with members including advisers from the Creek and Cherokee nations.
The committee will be introduced at next month's board meeting on Aug. 10. The committee would be comprised of about 35 members with various outlooks, including Native Americans. Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler hopes to have an answer on the mascot issue by the end of this year.
“In a democracy, each generation has to make its own decision,” said Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler. While saying the committee would be free to support retaining the mascot, Hartzler reiterated his call to change it.
Ironically, the move happened on the very day that NFL team the Washington Redskins – who had maintained for years that they would “never change it” – announced they are retiring a name that has long been denounced by Native American groups as an ethnic slur.
The timing, however, is coincidental, Union officials said, as they have had internal discussions since last fall about the possibility of dropping the mascot. Board Member Ken Kinnear said the mascot discussion was inevitable, and “it obviously has been accelerated” because of the national discussion.
While many Native Americans find the term offensive, Kinnear said “it was never intended that way” when Union chose the mascot in 1945.
Most of the 14 people who lined up to speak at the meeting, however, do find the mascot offensive.
“It is inappropriate for our school to continue to use the term ‘Redskin,’” said Dezeray Edwards, a Union parent of Cherokee descent. “Regardless if any offense is intended, it is an ethnic slur. We have an obligation to our kids to do better. This is the perfect opportunity from an ethical perspective and from a community perspective to create a mascot that better represents the diversity, strength and character of our Union community. It’s never too late to do the right thing.”
Sheyda Zakerion, a Union “lifer” (Class of 2011) and future Union parent, said, “I keep asking myself ‘How can I teach him about respect when sanctioned disrespect is on display at school?’ Union represents so many amazing values, and this name isn’t needed to uphold that message. It’s time to choose a symbol that matches the standards of this great institution.”
Jackson Hicks, a student at Union’s 6th/7th Grade Center, said, “I love going to Union. However, I do not like our school’s mascot. I have been voicing my opinion since 2015. I even went as far as approaching Dr. Hartzler when I was in the 2nd grade. I sometimes feel ashamed that I am a Native American and go to Union, because of how the mascot is portrayed. I am not able to show my pride for Union because all the shirts I have seen have the word ‘Redskin’ or a Native American symbol. I love to sing, and I will be joining the competition choir this year, but I am worried about being forced to sing a school song that has the word ‘Redskins’ in it. I would love to sing a school song that I can sing loud and proud.”
One of the speakers, Michael Hamilton, who watched his father defend the name 17 years ago, was the sole speaker who urged the board to keep the mascot.
“You’re going to offend tens of thousands of people who take pride in the name,” he said, suggesting that most supporters felt too intimidated to speak out.
“We look at it as prideful. Redskins were tough. They were warriors.”
Critics say the term historically referred to the scalp of a slain American Indian sold for bounty.
The Board of Education is pictured above left to right: (first row) vice president Lisa Ford, Board Clerk Stacey Roemerman, President Heather McAdams; and (back row) Deputy Board Clerk Jeff Bennett, Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler, and Board Member Ken Kinnear.
Heather McAdams Named President During Annual Reorganization
The Board of Education named Heather McAdams president during its annual reorganization. Lisa Ford was named vice president.
Stacey Roemerman was named Clerk and Jeff Bennett was named deputy clerk. Ken Kinnear, last year’s president, will serve as a member of the Board; Kinnear was re-elected to another term for Zone 5 last month. The reorganization is normally conducted in April after a board seat election, but the election was delayed to June 30 due to the pandemic.
Board Considers Policy to Allow for Electronic Distribution of Report Cards & Progress Reports
Board members on first reading are considering a revision to Board Policy 5035, which would allow school sites to inform parents about student progress and report cards through electronic means rather than printed materials.
The Board will consider final approval during second reading at its August 10 meeting. You can view the proposed changes here.
Dr. Todd Nelson, senior executive director of Research, Design and Assessment, said the revision to the policy involves two changes in practice.
The first change allows elementary teachers to inform parents using a variety of ways (documented phone call, e-mail, or paper) when a student’s performance is possibly failing or has declined significantly.
“The obligation on the part of the teacher to informing parents remains intact,” Nelson reported. “In addition, a committee has been formed to review the necessity of printing elementary report cards and the alternative of supporting online parent-portal access to grades and attendance information. Although the practice is not mentioned in board policy, we want the board to be aware that a change in this area is being explored.”
The second change in practice removes the requirement for secondary schools to print and send home or mail report cards.
“The information on student progress that is accessible by computer or phone app is much more detailed and timelier than the printed progress report,” Nelson stated. “Parents are encouraged and supported in opening an Infinite Campus portal account to access available information on grades, assignments, attendance, and assessment that is updated in real time.”
All secondary students have portal accounts to access their own progress and are shown how to use the student portal at school. When parents or students need a printed report card, they may print either a report card or an unofficial transcript from the portal. School personnel are also able to print report cards for parents upon request at any time.
This change will save the district more than $6,000 per year in mailing expenses and six to 10 days of personnel costs that recently increased because elementary report cards were also mailed home for spring semester.
“We believe that the COVID-19 adjustments have led to a critical mass of parents that access grades and other student information online in English and Spanish,” Nelson stated. “With this revision in policy, we will intensify our efforts to confirm portal access for parents, including establishing portal login at the time of student enrollment.”
Board Approves Agreement with Max Teaching Inc. for Professional Development Services
The Board of Education approved the expenditure of up to $72,000 for consulting services with Max Teaching Inc., from September 2020 through March 2021. They assist Union secondary core teachers and administrative staff.
“Depending on the pandemic situation, this professional development will take place either in-person or virtually,’ state Chasity Gray, director of Professional learning.
The cost of the training, which will decrease to $60,000 if delivered online, will be funded by a Oklahoma Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant.
Todd Luke, consultant and President of Max Teaching Inc., will provide classroom embedded coaching staff development in the area of literacy for the 2020-2021 school year.
“Due to Covid-19, our second cohort group was unable to have their coaching executed during March of 2020,” Gray said. “Therefore, consultants will provide 10 days of embedded coaching for Cohort II that was originally scheduled for March 2020. In addition, consultants will provide 30 days of embedded coaching for Cohort III. They will work with our second cohort group of core secondary teachers on literacy strategies and the research that supports the implementation of these strategies for English Learner students and striving readers.”
Coaching will take place in classrooms or virtually on a monthly basis from September of 2020 and will continue on a monthly basis until March of 2021.