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New math books might be bought

Friday, March 19, 2010

The school system might make a big investment in new math books for all elementary and secondary students next year.

The school board's budget committee met earlier this month and heard a request from the supervisors of instruction - Becky Hill and Beverly Miller - for $100,000 for new mathematics texts next year. The new books are needed to teach math to the new standards laid down by the Tennessee Diploma Project.

Some textbooks are in the budget every year, with replacements being made according to a regular schedule. This request is in addition to the regular textbook spending.

Board member Craig Michael brought up the math books at the school board meeting last week.

"I'd like to have a higher degree of confidence that people who use the textbooks get some meaningful input," Michael said.

"We need to be absolutely certain we can't make do with what we have," added board member Barbara Kennedy.

"Why are we not getting teachers more involved?" Michael asked.

"We have nothing to review yet," explained Hill. "We asked for the $100,000 because math has changed so much, all the way from kindergarten through 12th grade. Once we knew money was in the budget we would take the matter of math textbooks to the textbook committee."

"This has nothing to do with the textbook committee," Michael said. "We have math teachers who need to be listened to on whether we need new textbooks."

"I agree with Mr. Michael," said board member Harvey Jones.

In a telephone interview Monday, Michael enlarged on what he said at the meeting.

"I don't have a comfortable feeling that we are seeking advice of teachers that are closest to the subject area," he said. "Those who are in the classroom know what they need and what they don't need."

Michael said he felt "far too many" school system decisions were being made without input from the people closest to them, and that teachers' input is not getting to the board.

He did acknowledge "some progress" had been made over all, and said he thought director of schools Roy Dukes was trying to receive and listen to input from "the people who are doing the work."

Balancing the budget for the 2010-2011 school year is already shaping up to be a tough job. The budget committee received prioritized requests at their meeting, and then asked Dukes to come back to their next meeting, in April, with reductions.

Compliance with the Tennessee Diploma Project requires the hiring of additional math and science teachers, as well as guidance counselors, in addition to possibly buying new textbooks.

Michael estimated the total additional cost for the TDP to be $750,000 to $1 million.

"Getting the same amount of money locally for the last four years has put us behind eight ball," he said.