Missoula school board member alarmed by proposed MCPS policies
Missoula County Public Schools Board member Mike Gehl contacted KGVO News over the weekend to express alarm about two incidents he said occurred at recent meetings.
Gehl congratulated MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson after his resignation and announcement that he was moving on in Montana education.
“Superintendent Watson has tendered his resignation,” Gehl said. “He’s going to finish the school year and he’s going to move on to bigger and better things for himself and I wish him the absolute best. The concern for me was during our meeting last Tuesday when we met, and immediately they will push to appoint an acting superintendent.
Gehl said Watson had already chosen an acting superintendent, but he was more concerned about an alleged comment from Superintendent Watson.
“A quote from him was ‘I won’t ask the person to submit an interview or a public vetting process to the board,’ and that alarmed me a bit,” he said. “I was just thinking maybe if your listeners were as alarmed as I was, then maybe they would reach out to the public comment section and let their voices be heard on this. They (the board) gave us three potential dates this week. I didn’t have that substantiated. I don’t know when it will be and I don’t even know who the candidate is.
KGVO contacted Superintendent Watson for clarification on Gehl’s statement.
Another incident that concerned Gehl was a policy regarding the introduction of “teaching materials” not subject to board approval.
“Another area of concern for myself and another board member who spoke out against this was a section that said, ‘selection of other educational materials is not subject to board approval.’ In other words, the citizens of the community elect and appoint the members of the council and those council members should oversee the educational materials that occur in the schools, and this council policy is going to change that so that the council does not have no more supervisory authority on this material.
Below is Missoula County School Board Policy Section 2311.
‘The provision of appropriate teaching materials is essential to an effective educational program. Every effort should be made to provide all students with quality basic materials to meet the established objectives of each class and program of study. The superintendent should establish procedures for the selection of instructional materials. The Board must approve and provide the necessary instructional materials used in the delivery of the curriculum. Basic instructional materials should be selected by the superintendent, or designate, and approved by the board prior to use. Testing of programs or materials may be authorized by the superintendent for a period of up to one school year prior to adoption by the board. Materials approved for pilot programs should be limited to specified classes. Adopted documents in each field of study shall be reviewed at intervals not exceeding five (5) years or in a manner consistent with the state standards review schedule. All materials adopted must support K-12 articulation and align with MCPS grade level standards, benchmarks, and expectations. Approved on: October 8, 2013.’
Gehl said the selection of textbooks was within the purview of the council, but was concerned about the adoption of “teaching materials”.
“The law states that the textbooks are specifically designed or stated in the law that the board has supervisory power over that,” he said. “But we are starting to split hairs a bit. Now, instead of just talking about textbooks, we’re going to talk about other educational materials, and we’re going to take that authority away from the board and leave that to the staff and administration.
Gehl told KGVO in a recent interview that another board member vowed not to see each other again in person “as long as he’s a board member.”