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Franklin faculty debate proper role of a newly created board committee on academics

*This article has been corrected. 

Ben Franklin teachers and board members sparred yesterday over the proper role of a new committee charged with defining long-range academic goals for the high school.

The committee’s inaugural statement of purpose sparked the controversy by asserting that it would set the school’s overall academic performance goals. Several teachers at the  board meeting questioned whether this was a committee’s proper role.

Sally Spahn, science teacher and one of two faculty members on the academic committee, opposed formal acceptance of the document as it stood.

“I still don’t understand why the committee should be establishing academic performance goals,” Spahn said. “They ought to be established by faculty and administration.”

“Frankly, I think it would be irresponsible for the board not to have some kind of understanding of where we are going academically,” board member Patricia Adams said in reply.

Spahn maintained that faculty and administration ought to have the primary responsibility for establishing academic goals, a stance shared by several others in the audience. Michael Masterson, math and computer-science teacher, said a board at the university level seeking primary control of academic performance would be accused of “usurpation”.

The discussion, though at times ardent, remained collegial. Diego Gonzales-Grande, a social studies teacher, focused on the wording of the committee’s declaration that it would be “establishing” academic performance goals. Board chair Duris Holmes offered the word “adopt” instead, signaling that there would be input from other stakeholders.

“We’re looking for consensus here. Lord knows none of us are academics,” board member Susan Weeks said.

Holmes, however, pushed back against the notion that faculty and staff should eschew oversight by a board committee. “It’s not the purview of the faculty to determine responsibilities of the committee,” Holmes said.

The board amended the committee description and then voted to adopt it.*

In other business, math teacher Darren Eady presented the achievements of the school’s robotics club, which borrowed the University of New Orleans’s engineering facility to enter a regional competition. Allison Bowler, the chief financial officer, announced a transition in banking services from Capital One to First NBC that would sharply increase the school’s interest earnings.

 

All members of the board were present except for Dr. Joe Horton, Carl Indest, Anh Cao, and Sandra Levy.

*Correction: As first published the article mistakenly said the meeting was adjourned without bringing the issue to a vote. 

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