Who Objects to a Teacher “Code of Ethics”?

Published with Permission of Kristen Williamson

From: Kristen Williamson [mailto:kristen.williamson@me.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2018 10:16 PM
To: laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com
Subject: Mark Finchem’s HB 2002: Parents ARE Outraged…At District “Leaders” Who Permit Activism at the Expense of Academic Scholarship

Laurie,

I read the article (https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/laurieroberts/2018/12/19/payback-time-redfored/2365587002/) you wrote in the AZCentral regarding HB 2002 and wanted to reach out to you to inform you that Mark Finchem’s bill and bills other legislators are working on to protect our children in the K-12 schools are absolutely needed. Activism is permitted in the classroom and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

I am a parent with a son in the Scottsdale Unified School District who, for the past 15 months, has been providing credible evidence of activist curriculum and teaching instruction that is allowed to continue because of Arizona’s weak education laws and the state’s lax education accountability system.  All levels of district leadership, including Governing Board members, have been provided ample opportunities to remedy these issues, but they simply refuse to compel district leaders to comply. In fact, certain individuals in leadership positions who should be the gatekeepers are the very ones ushering more of the activist curriculum in. District leaders permit teachers to pollute the academic environment by pushing various social, economic, or political adult-themed political narratives with “curriculum” of their choosing. This is beyond inappropriate.  Districts are not in compliance with, nor have they been for years, basic state statutes like A.R.S. 15-721 and statutes that  relate to Arizona’s unique decentralized “local control” structure codified in A.R.S. 15-351.

My sister has been a teacher for 25 years, and clearly there are many teachers who are doing their job well. Those teachers should be singled out, the exceptional ones given bonuses and elevated to leadership positions, while the activist teachers and district leaders should be shown the door. Parents are leaving the public schools in droves, particularly in Scottsdale, and it is precisely because of the low quality curriculum, and lack of leadership and oversight.

The issues’ I’ve identified sadly extend to the Arizona Department of Education and our state teaching colleges like ASU. I’ve been communicating for months with various legislators, State Board of Education members, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and even Dawn Wallace, Governor Ducey’s Office of Education Director and providing them with specific evidence of issues that need to be investigated and addressed. The State Board of Education is looking into what investigatory powers and oversight authority they have with respect to districts not in compliance with state statutes and situations of activism that go unaddressed at the local level, in addition to issues within the ADE.

The Superintendent and Governing Board have the duty to ensure that all activities and all personnel are in accordance with the laws of the state of Arizona, the rules of the Arizona Administrative Code, and the adopted policies of the Governing Board, among other critical responsibilities. This is not happening.

The type of curriculum at the Scottsdale Unified School District is night and day different from what my daughter encountered at her charter school just a few miles away. Hers was deep reading with complex themes that dealt with virtue and vice, but pointing children toward uplifting sentiments so that they developed a strong moral compass. The charter school also had a very strong History program (not Social Studies) and read many rich primary source documents that the students discussed via Socratic seminars. My daughter and her classmates were all writing 10 – 15 page papers in their junior and senior years, which is in stark contrast to my son drawing his name in block letters and never writing one proper literary analysis paper in his entire time at SUSD. I was completely comfortable with the curriculum and the professionalism with the teachers and leadership at my daughter’s charter school, while I feel distrustful and extremely disturbed by what I see occurring at the public school my son attends.

Something is seriously wrong.

I’ve provided a local reporter with the Scottsdale Independent significant documentation and copied her on many, many emails to district leaders and Governing Board members. You can read the article to get a feel for some of the issues, but I have significant documentation to support the allegations. My work experience as a CPA with a fraud and litigation background has trained me to build a documentation trail and that’s what I’ve done. Other parents have formed a separate parent group as state mandated Site Councils that should serve as the parent oversight are not functioning as designed by district leadership. The entire system was so poorly designed from the beginning and is broken. Parents are to have “local control”, but that’s a false narrative. Rather, problems continue to get brushed under the rug by district leaders who don’t want to be held to account.

https://www.scottsdaleindependent.com/news/susd-parent-alleges-curriculum-lacks-substance-teaches-activism-instead/

There are parents across this state who are, in fact, communicating serious issues within our K-12 system, and we’re just now getting legislators to take parents’ concerns seriously. These legislators are being courageous and working to safeguard the children and attempting to reinstate academic scholarship in the classroom. Parents need the State Board of Education members to also work to better understand what parents face at the local school district level, and institute a whistle blower policy, a Parental Bill of Rights framework, and a much stronger accountability system.

Parents are going to continue to push their legislators and other state agencies to take the issue of K-12 education seriously. The kids deserve better.

I spoke with another investigative reporter this evening who has asked me to provide him evidence of examples of some of the problematic curriculum and other issues within the ADE. If you would like further details, I can be reached at (480) 250-3355.

~ Kristen Williamson

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