The Muscogee County School District's alleged textbook shortage isn't as extensive as a school board member has insisted but officials should improve their communication to parents and schools about the availability of textbooks to be taken home, according to the administration's report.
The day after promising a survey of schools to determine whether the district has a textbook shortage, as District 8 representative Frank Myers has alleged, superintendent David Lewis delivered the results. In an email Thursday night, Lewis sent the Muscogee County School Board a report from chief academic officer Ronie Collins, who along with her staff conducted the survey.
The Ledger-Enquirer previously reported that, after Myers made his allegation during Monday night's meeting, board members exchanged heated emails about the issue. The emails included a link to posts from residents on the Facebook page of Nathan Smith, a frequent critic of the board. Those emails and posts alleged textbook shortages at seven schools: Allen, Carver, Fort, Jordan, Hardaway, Shaw and Waddell.
According to the survey of principals, however, only two of the district's 53 elementary, middle and high schools indicated a textbook shortage, but both had simply resolved explanations:
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At Allen Elementary School, principal Karen Garner reported that the two third-grade teachers said they didn't request social studies books because the Reading Wonders program "does such a good job" of integrating social studies with the reading curriculum and the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.
At Waddell Elementary School, principal Shiann Williamson reported that students lost six Reading Wonders books. "The school will incur the costs of replacing the lost books," the report says. "These books are available in the MCSD warehouse and are able for immediate delivery."
Collins also reported on the investigation of two specific complaints from parents Lewis received in emails:
At Jordan High School, "that student has access to textbooks," the report says.
At Hardaway High School, "the parent has met with his child's teachers and was afforded the opportunity for all questions/concerns to be addressed," the report says.
Collins noted as well in her report, "All students have access to class sets of textbooks. If there is a need for a student to access a textbook to take home, the student or the parent can make this request to the teacher.
"However, teachers use multiple resources to support student learning of standards. The textbook is not the curriculum but can be used as a resource to aid in teaching the curriculum."
But she acknowledged the district hasn't made that point clear enough to enough folks. Collins suggested two ways to improve:
"We need to effectively communicate to all parents that they have the right to request a textbook to be taken home from school in order to support the student and/or parent as needed."
"We need to provide schools with specific procedures to follow on providing textbook access to students for at home use."
Collins promised in the report that the MCSD Division of Teaching and Learning will submit to Lewis by May 1 a plan to achieve those improvements.
"Please know that we will continue to address specific situations regarding instructional materials as we are made aware of them," Lewis told the board in his email.
All of which satisfies board chairman Rob Varner of District 5.
"The survey supports what Dr. Lewis told the board on Monday, and in previous meetings: the District does not have a systemic issue regarding students and their access to textbooks," Varner told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Friday. " Students have access to textbooks, which are only one of many sources that instructors use in teaching the curriculum."
Myers, however, isn’t satisfied.
"I think the continuing debate as to the issue of textbooks is going to make for a very lively school board meeting on May 11,” Myers said in email Friday to the Ledger-Enquirer. “I look forward to addressing these issues in full at that time."