CUSD will move forward with Common Core preparation

At the Thursday, August 15 meeting of the Claremont school board, a proposed agreement with a company that provides software and training to schools transitioning to the new Common Core standards, was temporarily tabled over questions about whether their contract adheres to state educational code.

The district is planning to pay The Synced Solution, LLC $54,000 this year and $42,000 the following year, a course of action recommended by a Common Core steering committee composed largely of teachers, according to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Bonnie Bell. The money, according to the August 15 agenda, will come from “Common Core” funds.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Joe Tonan—a teacher at Sumner-Danbury school and a member of the Claremont Faculty Association—spoke to the board, expressing his concerns about spending Common Core funds without a public review.

In Governor Jerry Brown’s 2013-14 budget, the state set aside $1.25 billion to help California schools transition to a new set of English and math standards in 2015. This translates to about $200 per student, or $1.4 million for the Claremont Unified School District, Ms. Bell said. With the funding, comes a stipulation that districts spell out for the public how they will use the money.

Mr. Tonan reminded the board of this provision and said that in his understanding, it meant the school board must hold a public hearing on how Common Core funds will be spent before being used. In response to his comments, it was agreed the Synced Solution contract be pulled from the night’s consent agenda.

Board member Hilary LaConte suggested if a public hearing is indeed required before any Common Core money is spent, perhaps one could be held coinciding with a special study session on graduation requirements, set for Monday, August 19 at 4 p.m.

In an interview on August 16 however, Ms. Bell said after some investigation on the part of the district, it was discovered CUSD did not have to hold a public hearing before spending any Common Core money. In order to make sure the public is properly informed, the district will provide information of their plan at Monday’s study session. The board meeting will be held in the Richard S. Kirkendall Education Center, located at 170 W. San Jose Ave. in Claremont.

It should be noted that California schools have not yet received their promised Common Core money, which is to be distributed to districts in 2 payments. The first of these is expected some time this fall. Any Common Core funding will have to be spent within 2 years, with a deadline of July 1, 2014, Ms. Bell said.

The Common Core, which is being adopted by 45 states as well as the District of Columbia, is intended to replace rote, “fill-in-the-bubble” aspects of today’s STAR testing with assessments gauging deeper levels of understanding, including significantly more writing.

“The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers,” according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative home page.

The next regular meeting of the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education will be held on September 5. It will be held earlier than usual, beginning at 5 p.m. 

—Sarah Torribio


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