Dist. 125 candidates differ on parental involvement with curriculum
At a few recent meetings Stevenson High School board members have heard from parents who object to selections on student reading lists and want to be more involved in choosing what their kids read.
Although publicly appreciative of the parents' interest in the curriculum, the board rejected a request for the creation of a parental committee that would review and approve curriculum choices.
But the issue isn't over.
The seven candidates running for four seats on the school board April 5 are divided about how involved parents should be when it comes to crafting reading lists.
Three incumbent candidates and a newcomer running with them maintain reading-list choices should be left to the teachers.
However, three opposition challengers in the race believe parents should be more involved when it comes to selecting what students read.
Based in Lincolnshire, Stevenson High School serves that town and parts of Buffalo Grove and other communities. All four seats on the ballot carry 4-year terms.
The incumbents running are: Bruce Lubin, Terry Moons and Merv Roberts. A newcomer named David Weisberg is running as part of their team.
The opposition group consists of challengers Kim Brady, Charles Cardella and Kathy Powell.
The candidates spoke about reading lists and other issues in questionnaires for the Daily Herald.
Lubin, the board's president, said parents should speak with teachers or department heads if they object to an item on a reading list, and see if an alternative assignment is available.
However, he insisted neither parents nor the school board should decide what books are added to the curriculum.
"We appropriately count on our faculty and administration to choose books that help educate our children," Lubin said.
Moons said it's up to the board to set district policy, not reading lists. When some parents recently complained about students reading "The Flamingo Rising" and "The Casual Carpool," the board asked members of the communication arts department to talk about the issue, and the board members were satisfied with what they heard, she said.
Alternative selections are available, she said, and all synopses of all assigned books are available for parents.
Roberts agreed with his slate-mates and said curriculum decisions should be left to teachers. He does not support parental veto of book lists.
"We had a few parental advisory groups to several departments in the early 1980s. It proved to be counterproductive to developing a quality curriculum," he said.
Weisberg sided with his electoral allies, too.
"I certainly don't think parents should be micromanaging the curriculum at Stevenson," he said.
Additionally, Weisberg said he read "The Flamingo Rising" after the controversy arose and found nothing wrong with its content.
As for the opposition group, Brady said parents should have a say in what books are named to reading lists.
"Many parents in the district have suggested offering additional book options with higher academic reading levels," he said
Parents should not, however, be able to veto books assigned to students, Brady said.
Cardella -- one of the community members who questioned the school's reading lists at a meeting in December 2010 -- believes administrators and teachers must partner with parents when it comes to educating students.
He said it's wise for the board to listen to parents who object to reading materials, particularly those that don't "line up with the traditions or values of families."
He favored offering more reading choices for students, especially on assigned summer-reading lists.
Of the opposition candidates, Powell took the strongest stance on parental involvement with curriculum, saying they should have a voice in the selection of reading materials.
"By listening to parents' concerns, the board is better equipped to weigh various factors ... regarding content," she said.