The Shenandoah County School Board discussed a policy regarding a review process for textbooks and library books during its work session on Thursday.
A revised version of the policy includes a requirement to create a review committee for textbooks and library books.
Board member Cynthia Walsh said she would like to see a separate policy for textbooks and library books.
“I don’t think the same process should apply for library books,” Walsh said. “Instructional material is presented to the class to do their work. Library books are choices.”
Board member Brandi Rutz commented that she doesn’t believe in banning books, but that they should be open for review for the school libraries. In an example, Rutz read a short excerpt from a book titled “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Mass, that contained sexual and explicit content. The book is currently in the libraries of Mountain View and Central high schools. “We have stuff like this, that has a brief overview and seems pretty harmless, and we’re leaving it,” Rutz said. “Is that the best choice for kids?”
Walsh said that the school librarians need to be involved in the conversation before the policy is changed.
Rutz emphasized that she is fine with separating the policy for library books and textbooks, but that library books should not come through without being under review.
“There is gonna come a time where we’re gonna have a parent sitting up here, looking at what their kid has and we’ll have to answer for it,” Rutz said. “It would be nice to say we have a process.”
Board members agreed that they would like to involve the school librarians in discussions about the composition of a review committee.
Also during the meeting, the School Board discussed whether its 2018-2024 Strategic Plan needed to be updated or if a new plan needs to be created. The strategic plan is a roadmap for the school system to determine and prioritize its goals.
The following are the goals of the 2018-2024 Strategic Plan:
• Positive school climate and culture — Every student and staff member contributes to a culture of respect and positive relationships.
• College, career and citizenship readiness — Students are empowered and equipped to develop their passion for learning.
• Family engagement and community connections — SCPS engages with parents and community partners to enable students to be emotionally ready to access their learning.
• Recruit, support, and retain enthusiastic professionals — SCPS provides a positive and engaging environment so that staff feels valued, empowered, and supported.
• High quality and adequate facilities and learning environments — SCPS facilities and learning environments are current, adaptable, flexible, and support collaboration, creativity, rigor, and authentic learning.
“I would sort of like to let some folks review it,” Walsh said. “I don’t necessarily think it needs any big changes.”
Board Member Dennis Barlow believes that the school division has done a great job in accomplishing some of these goals and moving upward, but he also pointed out that academic performance should be included as a goal. “The greatest need in the last year is some glaring problems that we have with academic performance,” Barlow said
Rutz said that parents should be included in achieving the goal of creating a positive school climate and culture goal. She said that student behavior at home may translate to the classroom, and it depends on how parents are participating and reacting to their child’s behavior.
“They play a key part in what goes on in the classroom,” Rutz said. “Parents play a part in the culture.”
After the discussion, Superintendent Melody Sheppard said that the board would most likely want to make some minor revisions to the strategic plan by adding an academic performance goal and revising certain goals that involve student behavior.
“Tweaking our strategic plan is the direction in which we should go,” Sheppard said.