By Charly SHELTON
Tuesday night, after much discussion, Glendale Unified School District Board of Education approved a motion to adopt new books. At the biweekly school board meeting, the last meeting of this school year, there was much debate and discussion over a consent calendar item proposing adoption of seven books for GUSD schools. Six of those books – the AP European history book, the AP biology book, the Spanish for the native speaker book, the French book, the German book and the Korean book – were approved without a fight. But the Spanish book, ¡Qué chévere! by Alejandro Vargas Bonilla through EMC Publishing, was met with some resistance.
During the public comments section of the meeting, before the information item or consent calendar item were brought to the floor, members of the public spoke to address the issue.
“As we receive your young men, as I work with your teachers and mentor them, as an AP teacher and AP grader and a Spanish I teacher as well, I’m concerned that with this amazing school district that you have … the current book selection I’m afraid is not in line truly with our new world language standards, with our new AP exam – language and culture,” said Natalie Ardagna, teacher and mentor at St. Francis High School, who receives students from GUSD middle schools transferring to the Catholic high school.
Her concerns were echoed by Laura Rivera, Spanish teacher at Rosemont Middle School who was part of the textbook review committee chosen to select a new Spanish book from several options.
“I’m concerned that the textbook that is up for adoption is not aligned with the standards for [these] reasons: there is no authentic text, no primary source which drives our common core standards, it’s culturally insensitive,” Rivera said. She went on to cite tech problems with a cost prohibitive website companion to the book and the quality of the material itself.
This all comes from a discussion held in November and December 2015 over the need for new textbooks. The last time the foreign-language department adopted a new textbook was the 2005-06 school year and after more than 10 years of use, the books are falling apart and it is becoming harder to find copies of these books, which have since gone out of print. A coalition of teachers from several schools throughout the district was created for each department looking for new books and they reviewed several different options available from publishers around the country. In each of the subjects, a consensus was met by those teachers and one book was recommended to the school board for adoption. But that consensus was, apparently, not unanimous among the Spanish department as the book that was chosen for recommendation is still up for debate at the school board meeting by one of the members of the textbook review committee.
Upon hearing the concerns, board member Jennifer Freemon proposed to explore the option of starting ¡Qué chévere! as a pilot program for a year to test it out. But, as it turns out, the cost to try it out as a pilot is about the same as the cost of buying it outright, because a good number of books would still need to be purchased. Overall, it will cost the district between $384,000 and $730,000, depending on publisher and what is included in the package, as far as online access, videos, workbooks and more. There are approximately 3,224 students in the district in Spanish levels one through six, and most of the book options explored range between $100 and $190 per student. Assistant Superintendent Lynn Marso also pointed out that there were similar concerns with the other textbooks proposed for selection, so delaying adoption of this textbook may not necessarily fix the problem, just switch the title.
After all discussion, the motion was approved unanimously to adopt all textbooks. For more information, visit GUSD.net.