An organization named Citizens for Sound Academic Standards hosted a debate/forum on Tuesday in Carson City, NV. Present was Nevada Department of Education officials who support Common Core. Dr. James Milgram and Dr. Sandra Stotsky were there to oppose Common Core.
The Nevada Department of Education officials didn’t come out of the debate so well. So Nevada State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga issued a statement pulling out of another forum that was scheduled in Fallon, NV.
The Nevada Department of Education was invited by the Citizens for Sound Academic Standards to participate in a forum they organized in Carson City to discuss the Nevada Academic Content Standards based on Common Core. The organizers invited two professors from out-of-state to participate in the forum. As with all requests to engage in a discussion about Nevada standards, my staff invited Nevada teachers to participate in this discussion. I consider our educators to be the most credible and knowledgeable speakers about Nevada’s standards. This fact was communicated to the organizers and to the legislator who reserved the room in Carson City. When my staff arrived at the forum last night, they were abruptly notified that the Department’s teacher presenters, including an associate superintendent and educators from the Carson City School District, would not be allowed to speak at the forum. Attempts by my staff to provide teachers a voice in the conversation about their standards were met with a disrespectful, if not aggressive, response. Worse, one of the organizers physically removed a Nevada educator invited to speak on behalf of the Department; that educator filed assault charges with Legislative Police earlier today.
This is not the Nevada way of engaging in public discourse. I am compelled to denounce the Citizens for Sound Academic Standards and the visiting professors for silencing Nevada teachers to speak at a public forum and for resorting to intimidation tactics before and during the meeting to silence teacher voices. There is room for differences of opinion on this topic, but I cannot support participation in a forum that incites bullying and censorship. Department staff will not participate in the Symposium on Common Core scheduled to occur in Fallon tonight, or any other event involving these organizers and their out-of-state professors. Furthermore, I expect these individuals to apologize to Nevada educators.
Well, that’s one perspective. Frank Schnorbus who is chair of the Nevada Homeschool Network was there and offered his perspective in an email last night.
First, as we all know but apparently Mr. Erquiaga doesn’t know, the “two out-of-state professors” weren’t just any professors. State Superintendent Erquiaga was invited to be one of the two panelists for the State, but apparently he had other things to do, so he sent the Deputy State Superintendent. Maybe Mr. Steve Canavero didn’t tell Mr. Erquiaga who they were. I’ll let that rest.
Second, the moderator announced the rules at the beginning of the event, and they were clear to everyone in the room. Except to our Deputy State Superintendent. It was odd to watch the commotion on that side of the room. While Drs. Stotsky and Milgram made their opening statements they were facing Steve Canavero and Judy Osgood, the Nevada DoE public information officer. Mr. Canavero then made his 10 minute presentation, listing the dates when the DoE etc publicly informed all the citizens of Nevada all about Common Core. Ms. Osgood then left her seat, and after some discussion, a Mr. Aaron Grossman took the 2nd seat. Mr. Canavero introduced him as a school teacher who is currently on special assignment, and Mr. Grossman made a 10 minute presentation (so unimpressive I can’t remember what he talked about.) Everyone in the auditorium expected Mr. Grossman to remain in his seat, but he left. The “two out-of-state professors” made their rebuttal, to which the DoE was supposed to respond. At this point Mr. Canavero announced that the DoE would be rotating their panel, to which the professors (and nearly everyone in the auditorium) objected.
Third, time for questions (written or faxed in only) was given. The moderator gave a special exception to the written question requirement to Senator Hammond, who besides being a legislator is also an active school teacher. Senator Hammond went to a microphone gave a little background on these aspects, as a teacher and as a legislator, and posed a question to the DoE. Mr. Canavero apparently felt that, since Mr. Hammond seemed opposed to Common Core, that the DoE had a right to call a REAL teacher to the microphone to counterbalance. The moderator denied his request.
Fourth, Mr. Canavero forgot that both Mr. Grossman (who had spoken for ten minutes) and Mr. (Senator) Hammond are school teachers, and made his outrageous statement that no teachers had been allowed to speak. Apparently accustomed to being ridiculed by the audience at State Board meetings, Mr. Canavero was selectively deaf to those who loudly pointed out that teachers already HAD spoken.
It was clear from the outset that everyone in the room was prepared to be respectful and to allow discourse. Applause was appropriate and uniform when everyone was introduced. But it was clearly disruptive when it became obvious that the Department of Education wasn’t prepared, or wasn’t able, or wasn’t willing, to answer the arguments made by Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Milgram. The most Mr. Canavero could do was cry foul with the process.
Apparently I missed the side show of a Nevada educator being physically removed from the room. With people on that side of the room milling about and changing seats it wasn’t possible to follow everything. All I can say is that I didn’t see or hear any physical violence or loud shouting or commotion with someone being dragged out. When listening to the discussions in the audience during these procedural disruptions by Mr. Canavaro one could hear the words “cry-baby”, “petulant”, “rude”, disorganized”. Parents applauded when Mr. Canavero said that in all his years he had NEVER had a teacher be denied the right to give their input.
I listened to a radio talk show this morning that centered on this event; I was only able to hear parts of it. All of the callers that I heard who had attended were appalled and embarrassed by our Nevada Department of Education, as was I. Over the decades I have worked with many good people in that department, but there has been an organizational change in the last few years and now the DoE is an arm of the Governor’s office. There isn’t even the pretense of parental participation in our schools. Our Governor thinks that education is the key to getting elected to Harry Reid’s Senate seat, and so he’s all in for Common Core. Our experience as homeschool leaders and lobbyists of working with this Governor’s office at the legislature has been dismal…
I find it humorous that the Nevada DOE think they deserve an apology because they were not allowed to break the agreed upon debate protocol. Wow.