PA Coalition for World Class Math

                                Settlement in CPM "Algebra" dispute Fairfield 7/25/13


School officials, parents agree to settle math book battle

Updated 5:14 pm, Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Board of Education will establish an "instructional online interactive forum" for Algebra 1 students and adopt new regulations for implementing pilot programs in local schools as part of a settlement reached by parents, the board and state education officials this week on the months-long controversy over "pilot" use of an Algebra textbook.

The five parents who filed the complaint with state education officials over use of the CPM Algebra 1 book during the last academic year have agreed to withdraw their complaint against Fairfield school officials, and the state's Board of Education and commissioner will not require or ask for any further action by the local board.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the settlement terms in a closed-door session Wednesday. The agreement states the board does not "in any way admit" the complaint has merit or that the board violated policy, while the parents do no admit that entering into the agreement means their complaint had no merit.

The plaintiff parents, including Dawn Llewellyn, whose husband, John, was nominated this week to be a Republican school board candidate, filed a complaint over the book's use with state officials earlier this year. The group contended that, under state statutes, any new textbooks used in the district must be approved by a vote of the full board, something that was not done with the CPM Algebra 1 text.

School officials contended that since the book was in use as part of a pilot program, formal approval by the board was not needed. Last spring, however, the school board decided to drop the CPM text and use a different book in the coming academic year.

On Wednesday, after about one-half hour behind closed doors to discuss the proposal with their lawyer, Stephen Sedor, local school board members emerged in public session and voted in favor of the deal. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed by the board at that time, but a copy of the agreement was provided to the Fairfield Citizen on Thursday.

The online forum will be available for use by students who were enrolled in Algebra 1 classes during the 2012-13 school year, and feel they need help in mastering the subject. The forum, which will be online for the first semester of the coming school year, will be staffed by a certified math teacher for three hours a week. Student participation in the program is voluntary.

Superintendent of Schools David Title also recommended administrative changes designed to keep school board members and the public better informed about pilot programs in the schools. Those administrative regulations set a definition for a planned pilot program, and outline the approval process necessary before such a program can be implemented. Parents of affected students and the school board would be notified at least 30 days before any pilot program is implemented.

If a new textbook or core instructional program is piloted that involves more than 30 percent of the students in a grade level or course, or extends beyond one semester, it must be approved by the Board of Education.

A state Board of Education hearing on the controversy that had been scheduled for July 17 was postponed in anticipation of the complaint's settlement.

In a statement issued Thursday, the parents said they signed the agreement for several reasons, including, "We cannot condone further spending on legal fees by this district who would prefer to defend their mistake at all costs rather than to remediate it."

They said signing the agreement will force the board to adopt a binding policy on pilot programs, and establish the online forum.

"Our hope was that both of these provisions would have been provided for by the board and the administration, voluntarily, proactively, and locally, in the education interest of our students," the parents' statement reads. "Instead, it required a formal complaint from parents and intervention from the state ... The only way to read these two provision is as an admission of responsibility and an attempt to make amends by the Fairfield Board of Education."

"We are pleased to report that a settlement has been reached between the parties in the 10-4b matter involving the Fairfield school district," state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said in statement released with the settlement. He said a settlement conference earlier this month was "solution-oriented and led to a resolution of the dispute. By working constructively, the parents and the Fairfield Board of Education have achieved an outcome that benefits the Fairfield district and its children."