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January 18, 2020

School board reacts to Sobrato student petition on math dept.

A student’s petition calling for change in the Sobrato High School mathematics department caught the attention of the local board of education, and one trustee requested having an open discussion on the matter at a future board meeting.
Trustee Gino Borgioli brought up the issue near the end of the June 6 school board meeting—a point where board members can suggest new business items they’d like to be put on a future agenda.
“I trust emphatically these students and what they say, and they gave that missing information that I was hoping would come out from our staff,” said Borgioli in trying to make his case to the board. “It was just stunning information.”
Board President Donna Ruebusch said the board needs to tread lightly on any board discussion spurred from the petition.
“I caution you personalizing or identifying one subject area particularly,” said Ruebusch in her response. “I’ll work with the superintendent to bring this forward as an education issue and get it to that level which I think is appropriate for the board.”
Sobrato student Lauren Buckley, who titled her petition, “Create Change in the Math Department of Ann Sobrato High School,” continues to gain supporters from current and former Sobrato students along with some of their parents and students outside the north Morgan Hill high school. The petition on change.org is up to 439 supporters since she posted it last month.
“The math department at our school is leaving people behind,” states Buckley in the petition she created May 4. “In my experience as a student in the Common Core program at Ann Sobrato High School, I discovered that the math department does not tailor its teaching needs to every learning style of its students.”
Many of the petition supporters left their reasons for signing along with electronic signatures. The petition was then submitted to the Sobrato administration, according to change.org.
“If we want to improve student achievement, we’re going to have to look at these things,” Borgioli persisted.
Trustee Ron Woolf, a retired teacher and administrator, came to the defense of the Sobrato faculty and instead pointed the blame at the state’s new curriculum.
“I don’t think its teachers. I think its curriculum…I agree with some of the students and what they said,” Woolf said. “We, as board members, need to…not talk about the curriculum at Sobrato HS, (but) talk about the curriculum that the state requires the teachers in California to teach.”
The Common Core State Standards were adopted by California legislatures in 2010. Currently, 42 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the CCSS. These standards are designed to supply students with a deeper understanding of course material as well as better equip them for college and career readiness. A key component of the CCSS is peer learning, where students are put into groups and required to figure out problems amongst themselves. Students are reliant on being placed in a strong group with others who care about their grades or they all suffer, according to students students who commented on the petition.
Buckley’s goal in posting the petition is “to create dialogue with the administration” to generate change at Sobrato, specifically with the weighted grading system, the pace of moving from one lesson to the next and differentiating the instruction to student needs.
“We hope that by doing this, we can help students in the future to learn this subject and be able to take higher-level math classes in high school and college,” Buckley concluded.
Trustee David Gerard did not want any board discussion on the subject to single out Sobrato, but agreed that some sort of discussion needed to happen in the future.
“It’s a broader question, not just Sobrato. It’s not a question of blaming teachers. It’s something that requires a lot of thought because it is complex,” Gerard said. “Obviously there’s some concern and we want to show that we are addressing that as a board.”
Trustee Mary Patterson was more impressed with Buckley and the hundreds of student supporters taking the initiative to bring the issue to the attention of school administrators.
“What I found stunning about the petition is that 350 high school students wrote, were empowered, exhibited leadership….(and) felt safe enough at their school to talk about this,” Patterson said. “There’s huge positives out of the change.org petition.”
The next scheduled board meeting is June 20. The board president and a designated board member, along with the superintendent, decide what goes on the agenda for each meeting. That agenda is made public the Friday before the meeting.

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