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More questions on SEL

| February 16, 2022 12:30 PM

An article which appeared in the Jan. 25 edition of the Hungry Horse News highlighted a group of parents and community members who are concerned about the recent introduction into the Columbia Falls School District of an educational curriculum called Social and Emotional Learning, commonly known as SEL. The author of the article, editor Chris Peterson noted that many of these people “…don’t even have children attending Columbia Falls schools…”

I am a member of the group and I do not have children in the Columbia Falls school system. Does that make my concern for local education issues less valuable and less valued that those who still have children in schools? 

I have been a resident of Columbia Falls for 43 years. My wife and I have put 3 children through School District 6.

Plus we hosted two exchange students who each attended classes in SD6 for a year.

My wife enjoyed working for the school district for 25 years. I worked for Columbia Falls business for 38 years.

We have paid the (ever increasing) taxes on behalf of the local schools. We care about the Columbia Falls community and about the children in our community. These children will eventually guide our country by applying the values they have learned at home, at church and at school.

We are concerned that the children are given a proper academic, cultural and moral education, so that they can successfully guide the USA to a free and happy future. 

The HHN article also reports that the Board has now refused to allow a public discussion of this SD6 curriculum at a scheduled Board meeting or at a special meeting.

Without SEL being on the Board meeting Agenda, the only opportunity for the public to communicate with the School Board is during the Public Comment segment of the Board meeting. Even then an individual is only allowed to speak for a maximum of three minutes, more or less, as determined by the Board Chairperson. The Board is not permitted to answer questions or respond in any way. These time and dialogue limitations do not allow for a detailed presentation of concerns or the opportunity to engage in a productive conversation.

Below are some of the still unanswered questions that I presented to the Board during my Public Comment time on Jan. 10.

Who selected and introduced SEL into the School District 6 curriculum?

Who determined that valuable academic time would be devoted to this non-academic exercise?

What was the review process that led to the adoption of SEL?

Were the policies outlined in the Curriculum Development and Assessment and the Instructional Materials, Sections of your Policy Manual followed? {See Sections 2120 and 2311}

Were parents and community members involved in making these decisions?

Who administers this program in the individual schools?

What measurements are in place to review the program to determine if it is achieving School District and parental goals?

The Board has yet to answer these and many more questions.

The SEL curriculum is now firmly established in all the Columbia Falls schools. But it is still not too late to hold a parent-community-school discussion to make certain that the outcomes from this program meet the goals and objectives of not only the School Board, but also of the local community and most importantly of the parents.

Whether or not you have children attending School District 6, please take a moment to ask the School Board to join in the discussion.

We still have time. SEL is new in our schools and has not yet progressed into the more “woke” presentations that may soon follow.

If we delay too long this conversation will become much more difficult and contentious.

Joe O’Rourke

Columbia Falls