Karen Brohm, president of the West Hempstead School District Board of Education, was among the guest speakers on a podcast last month presented by Learning Revolution, a worldwide community exploring changes in education.
The program, titled “The Power of Local School Boards,” examined those boards and the importance of the decisions they make. Brohm was joined by the host, Howard Blumenthal, as well as David Snyder, former chairman of the National Council of American Indian/Alaska Native School Board Members, and Armando Rodriguez, a board trustee with the Canutillo Independent School District in Texas.
“We’ve been doing this since May, and it was inspired by the pandemic,” Blumenthal said. “We’re trying to understand what’s being done with schools not only at this moment, but also what’s being done for the future.”
Among the topics of discussion was the importance of updating a school district’s curriculum over time. Brohm noted that after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May, the district consulted with parents about making racial inequality more of a focus in the curriculum.
“It was part of the curriculum to begin with,” Brohm said, “but maybe not as much as now, because this world issue was taking place, and people needed to understand it.”
She added that since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to designate Juneteenth — June 19 — an official holiday, the study of the day’s importance would also have to be included in the school’s curriculum going forward.
“I think we need to have a better cultural understanding of the different sides,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully, that would be able to help society grow in a better way.”
Part of the purpose of updating curriculum, Rodriguez said, is to provide students with much-needed tools for 21st-century education. The integration of technology, he said, has become increasingly important during the pandemic.
“There’s certain federal and state guidelines that don’t allow us to do certain stuff,” Rodriguez said. “There might not be models on how to deal with this now, but we might have to invent them so that way, we could be able to get that data and build that research.”
Snyder, of Wyoming, explained that some school districts are more flexible than others, depending on state regulations. “Our hands aren’t completely tied,” he said, “but there are some things that are just non-negotiable.”
Blumenthal also asked what changes school district leaders would make if they could. Brohm said one of the adjustments she would like to see is for school districts to fix educational inequity. “That’s a problem because of where all of our students are coming from and the different demographics,” she said. “If we can fix those inequities on how those children can be educated, and the technology they may need, then we may be able to increase our educational levels and our graduation rates. The most important thing [is] to do what’s best for our children.”
The full podcast can be viewed at bit.ly/39pZp4i.