Staying The Course
Farmington school board keeps controversial course
despite community objections.
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RENOVAT I ONS
or the second month in a
row, concern over a new
course kept members of the
Farmington Public Schools'
Board of Education, as well as adminis-
trators and community members, at a
school board meeting until nearly mid-
night on Tuesday, July 15.
On June 17, board members had
approved, by a 4-3 vote, a new elective
course called International Affairs,
which will be introduced at the dis-
trict's three high schools this fall.
At the July 15 meeting, parents and
other community members again
voiced their objections to this course as
well as to the elimination of the
required 12th-grade course in U.S.
government. About 75 people attended
the meeting because of the curriculum
issues; several voiced their support for
The parents who opposed the cur-
riculum emphasized that they were
fully in support of the district's offering
a course in international issues.
However, they objected to some aspects
of the curriculum for this
specific course, including
what they consider left-lean-
ing sources, and asked the
board to delay its implemen-
tation for a year.
A dozen speakers said such
a delay would give the com-
munity and experts in the
teaching of international
issues a chance to fine-tune
the curriculum, eliminating
any biases and fashioning a course they
feel would be more attuned to the
needs of high-schoolers.
The new curriculum, as it stands,
incorporates many suggestions from
parent Don Cohen, a former Michigan
Anti-Defamation League director. In
addition, the district has pledged to
submit the curriculum to experts in the
field, give teachers of the course several
days of advance training and conduct
ongoing and course-end evaluations.
However, the board refused to recon-
sider its June 17 decision to go ahead
with the new course for fall 2003. In
Related editoral: page 27
addition, the 12th-grade American
government course will not be reinstat-
ed. It will be folded into a ninth-grade
Dr. C. Robert Maxfield, superin-
tendent of the 12,000-student district,
said meetings like Tuesday's, in which
members of the community take an
active role in the education of their
children, are part of the reason he got
into the education business 40 years
In response to what they perceive as
deficiencies in the process for curricu-
lum review and implementation in the
Farmington Schools, several parents
and other community members have
formed the Farmington Public
Education Network (F-PEN).
The group had requested documents
through the Freedom of Information
Act to prove the district failed to give
advance notice of curriculum changes
or of the June 17 vote on the new
The group prepared a multi-media
presentation on their requests, which
included a statement of five
principles for more open
communication. Dr. Maxfield
gave verbal permission for
Cohen to set up equipment
to make this presentation
Tuesday; however, permission
was rescinded by board presi-
dent Priscilla Brouillette.
"This is a meeting of the
board at which public com-
ment is allowed," she told the
audience, "not a public hearing."
Some who submitted requests to
speak wanted to cede their time to
Cohen to explain F-PEN's positions,
but were not allowed to do so. At
times, tempers flared on both sides.
Parent Linda Stulberg, an F-PEN
member, told the board "too many
troubling questions remain regarding
the development of the international
issues menu and the corollary decision
to eliminate the senior civics class
Stulberg called the course outline
and recommended resources "totally
"Too many of the key concepts and