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Greenwich School Board Must Vote on IB Expansion

Introducing the International Baccalaureate curriculum to Greenwich middle schools and the high school is a critically important decision that must be decided only after careful Board of Education deliberation.

In 2008, before proceeding with IB at New Lebanon School, a committee was formed to evaluate all possible elementary school curriculum options and themes. This committee, after many meetings, reported to the board, where public comment was given. Only then did the board vote on IB implementation for this school. I voted for it as part of a racial balancing magnet solution.

To date, none of these legal and common sense requirements to safeguard the public interest have been followed with the significant expansion of IB into our secondary schools.

Only several weeks ago, after my requesting them of the superintendent, did I see for the first time copies of the International Baccalaureate Organization agreements with the district for IB implementation at Western Middle School. At no prior point in time were these documents circulated to the entire board.

I was shocked that the documents include representations to the IBO that the Western Middle School principal "was able to secure the approval from the superintendent and the Board of Education to implement the IB Programme" at the school. I never recollected the board approving this implementation, so I reviewed board minutes. My review makes very clear the board protocol to approve "implementation of IB" at a given school. No such protocol has been followed here.

Yet Chairman Anderson signed a March 2010 letter addressed to an IBO representative, stating that he (significantly, not "we") "supported the implementation" of IB in the "Greenwich Public Schools." Such letter was written on board stationary, signed by Anderson as "Chairman of the Board."

While the board did approve the 2010-11 budget, which included IB professional training, it has never voted to approve implementation of IB curriculum in our secondary schools. There has been no Board meeting where there was a discussion followed by public comment and a board vote of: the alternatives considered, their relative pros and cons and feasibility, the implications of IB implementation or required current and future financial commitments.

Board policy provides that the chairperson can only sign "instruments ... to carry out ... the will of the board." To date, the "will of the board" has never been determined and recorded to be "explicitly supportive of the IB programme" at any public meetings.

Did the board chairman and others exceed their authority by not first obtaining explicit board approval in public view? Would any documents that were signed, as a consequence, be invalid? The chairman's role requires him to protect the board's prerogatives to approve significant changes in our schools.

I have very serious substantive reservations about the IB program. We cannot discuss the substantive IB issues, without first ensuring that due process has been followed, allowing for full information and discussion. In the absence of that, one can only draw negative inferences about how IB proponents believe the public is likely to react.

The Board of Education must be transparent and accountable to the public it serves. If the Board does not do so, we are failing in our most basic duty to protect the interests of those who have placed their trust in us.

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