Aitkin School Board Graphic

A two-hour discussion that included testimony from two alumni and a letter from a parent was replete with questions about terms, the role of the curriculum committee, and whether CRT is “a thing” with regard to grade school curriculum, topped business at the Nov. 15 meeting of the Aitkin School Board.

Board members patiently listened and worked to keep the discussion fact-based and to call out misinformation and fear-based assumptions.

No motion was passed, but board members agreed to have the district’s policy committee draft some language with respect to what kinds of materials can be included in teaching materials at the district’s schools.

Former student Jody Johnson, who is the mother of former student Zachary Johnson, gave heart-felt comments about how she had spent time helping students and staff in Aitkin understand the lives of students with disabilities like her son’s. She said that helping students develop the skills of compassion and empathy had transformed her son’s experience and those of other children who were different in those or other ways.

Johnson said that giving young (pre-school and kindergarten) students those skills had the potential to transform their own school careers and those of their classmates. She was speaking in support of the social-emotional learning curriculum, or SEL.

District parent Allison Rian affirmed the perspective that CRT is not a real consideration in k-12, because it is not part of any school curriculum. She did say that SEL could help young children recognize and cope with their emotions, feelings and reactions and was value-neutral. Rian supported the use of the SEL curriculum, which is not a standard set by the Minnesota Department of Education.

The third public comment was read aloud and referred to both CRT and gender identity teaching, neither of which are part of the curriculum. There seemed to be confusion about the terms, how they were or were not related, and what they meant for Aitkin Schools.

Aitkin Schools has a curriculum committee that has not had reason to meet in a very long time, Superintendent Dan Stifter said.  Committee assignments happen in January and a plan to have the committee meet to consider specific curriculum and decide on representation on the committee could be revisited then.

In new business, board members voted to conduct an audit of the Capital Projects Levy campaign.

Superintendent Stifter shared the need to auction off some non-functional school buses. Board members agreed to use Janzen Auction Services this year, but offer the option to other auction houses in the county in the future, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

The board approved the appropriation of $450 per year more to get the extra phones the district needs.

The agreement between Lakes and Pines and the district was renewed, with unanimous support.

Finally there was a discussion about the Aitkin School Forest, which could be in the path of a MnDOT project on Hwy. 169 north of Aitkin. Board members will contract DNR Forestry to find out the legal situation with regard to ownership of the forest.

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