Council Rock school board approves books despite some backlash


By Brett Duffey

At its June meeting, the Council Rock school board approved the inclusion of two novels in next year’s district curriculum – despite opposition from several board members.

The two novels in question were “The Giver,” a dystopian novel for young adults written by Lois Lowry, and “In the Time of the Butterflies,” a historical fiction novel by Julia Alvarez.

Audience members who expressed support for the books included Washington Crossing resident Priscilla Linden.

“I am alarmed that two books already recommended last month at the education committee meeting are being chosen for possible removal from the approved curriculum tonight,” she said. “The professional judgment of our teachers and the positive responses of our students should not be censured by a small group of politically motivated adults.”

Board members Bob Hickey, Michael Roosevelt, and Kristin Marcell have expressed concerns about the age-appropriateness of the books.

Hickey said, “If this (‘The Giver’) was a high school book, I’d be a yes. But for a new seventh grader, in light of everything he’s been through for the past two years, at this point, I think this is an inappropriate book for his age.

Board member Kristin Marcell added: “I have a daughter who is this age, and I think of the past two years in terms of what she’s been through… Some of the themes in the book relate to me. also in terms of some of the more tragic events that have happened in Council Rock recently.

Board member Marianne McKee, who favored separate motions to approve the two books, sought to clarify why the board should approve them.

“I would like to remind you that we are here to support education, which means supporting educators. They are our professionals, they are the ones in the classrooms who recommend materials to us, who have taught books, or who have seen children enjoy books of rich literature that should be made available to our students.

Board member Edward Tate agreed. “I think a book that has stood the test of time that our teachers recommend and is loved by our students deserves board approval.”

Board chairman Edward Salamon acknowledged the anguish some parents may be feeling, but ultimately said he trusted the administration of new superintendent Dr Andrew Sanko to remedy any reported books. in the future. As such, the council voted 5 against 3 (one member absent) to approve the two texts.

Another topic that generated a lot of discussion from the board was the approval of the textbook resource Membean, an elementary vocabulary assessment that the district currently employs.

Board member Michael Thorwart had particularly strong feelings about the program after his child had a negative experience with it.

“The better you were, the harder it became to get the grades you wanted because it punishes people who excel,” he said.

Salamon asked administrator-at-large Hannah Pressman to clarify the program and address some of Thorwart’s concerns.

Pressman said, “If you do better and better in the program, you may get harder words or more words than other students…The emphasis is not on the grade, but rather on the words.”

Other members also expressed concerns about the program’s grading system, but said those concerns could be addressed by the new administration. The final vote was 7-1, with Thorwart being the only “no”.

The meeting ended with two more people (Brittany Kosin from Jamison and Gregory Beatty from Holland) making public comments regarding the need to teach civics in schools and update district mental health programs. , respectively.

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