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135 teachers attend Common Core meeting in Potsdam

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POTSDAM - The Potsdam Central School District recently hosted a town-hall style meeting for teachers in the district to voice their concerns with the Common Core to board members and administration.

The Common Core, a federally mandated curriculum has drawn the ire of not only teachers, but parents for a variety of reasons, including the way it was implemented, the amount of time the lessons take to complete and the difficulty of the material it contains.

Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said the meeting was attended by 135 of the district’s teachers, mostly from the elementary and middle school.

Board of Education member Rachel Wallace said she considered the meeting a success.

“I was grateful for the opportunity. I think it was a terrific opportunity to have said out loud things that needed to be said out loud,” she said. “Our teachers are really looking for leadership from us.”

Ms. Wallace said the teachers need to hear from the district’s administration what it considers to most important: test scores, or students actually learning the material.

Members of the board tasked the administration Tuesday night with speaking to representatives of the teachers’ union and reporting back to them with some suggestions on what they can do at the board level to help.

Board of education member J. Patrick Turbett said he felt like there was a lot of pressure from teachers to move away from the Common Core, something that’s simply not possible.

“You’re already into it. You might as well keep wading through it, and when you come to the banks on the other side this will be easier,” he said.

Mr. Turbett also said he’s expecting the students to exceed the expectations of the district, teachers and their parents.

“I’ve got a feeling the kids are going to surprise us, positively,” he said.

Board of education member Judith Hinman said one of the things she took from the meeting was the Common Core is simply taking too much time.

“It’s taking an hour and a half to teach a lesson and it’s taking an hour and a half to prep a lesson,” she said. “Teachers are taking work home with them at night and teachers are taking work home with them on the weekends.”

Mr. Brady said one thing that has been discussed is attempting to find some funding that would allow the teachers to work collaboratively with each other outside of the standard school day.

Board President Christopher C. Cowen said from what he has heard there is a first grade class that is 24 lessons behind schedule. Meanwhile a fourth grade class that he’s aware of is on schedule.

“I had a parent teacher conference today. I have a daughter in the fourth grade. I asked her how she does it,” he said. “The teacher replied, ‘We don’t have time for anything else.’”

Mr. Cowen compared it to skipping a rock across a lake or pond.

“It’s like skipping a rock across the water, you’re only hitting the high points,” he said.

Mr. Cowen asked the administration to check in with other teachers to see where they stand in terms of the curriculum schedule.

“Do we have any idea if this is a problem with one grade or is it across the spectrum?” he asked.

Mr. Brady said he would look into that and then report back to the board.

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