Despite complaints from some parents, the Frederick County Board of Education has upheld the decision by county Schools Superintendent Theresa Alban to continue using the controversial Social Studies Alive! third-grade textbook until 2014-15.
The school board announced its decision on Wednesday, nine days after board members allowed a group of parents to appeal the superintendent’s recommendation in a closed session.
Board members found that the superintendent had “valid, sound and reasonable” arguments for recommending that county schools not discard the controversial text immediately, according to the board’s decision.
Alban argued that it makes no sense to discard the book now, when the school system has limited resources to buy a new textbook and the state is looking to implement a new Common Core curriculum that will impact elementary-level social studies. The superintendent was also concerned about replacing the textbook because there is the possibility that the school system can fill the void using online resources.
Alban said that she had no doubt that the textbook will need to be replaced, but she did not want to obligate the board to do so within a specific timetable, according to the decision.
“Her decision was not arbitrary and was not unreasonable,” school board President Angie Fish said.
Fish, along with school board members Kathryn Groth and Jean Smith voted to uphold the superintendent’s recommendation. Board members Brad Young and April Miller voted against it, while James “Jimmy” Reeder Jr. and Donna Crook were absent from the appeal.
Soon after the school board released the decision, Alban send out a public statement through the school system’s Find Out First email notification system.
“... Whether or not a particular decision is validated is less important than the process I use to make decisions,” Alban said in her statement, which also appeared in a video. “That process works: It’s clear, transparent and fair.”
Alban said she felt the board’s decision justified her recommendation.
“I have fiduciary and ethical responsibilities to this community,” she said in the statement. “It would be easier and sometimes less controversial to make decisions for the sake of expediency. But that’s not what an effective leader does, and that’s not how we work at FCPS.”
However, Alban’s response, which became public immediately after the board announced its decision, angered the appealing parents more than the board’s actual decision.
“I am offended,” said Cindy Rose, a parent from Knoxville who believes that the Social Studies Alive! textbook promotes liberal beliefs and has been fighting for a year to remove it from county schools.
Rose said she anticipated the board’s ruling especially because more conservative board members were not present at the appeal.
But Rose was upset with the Find Out First message because the school system had previously refused to send out a letter to parents informing them that there had been concerns about the content of the social studies textbook.
“If we are partners, then why didn’t you inform parents there had been concerns?” Rose asked.
Rose now plans to take her complaints to the state, where she will appeal the school board’s decision before the Maryland State Board of Education. Her hope is to get rid of the book as soon as possible.
The “Social Studies Alive!: Our Community and Beyond” textbook has been a part of county schools’ curriculum since 2004, and is one of 15 to 20 printed and online resources that teachers use for third-grade social studies.
But parents like Rose have criticized the book for, in their view, not teaching facts objectively and promoting liberal ideologies on health care, public education and government.
A task force examined the book and recommended in March that the school system replace it with a different text as soon as possible. But Alban decided to delay the removal until the 2014-15 school year.