VERNON TOWNSHIP – A board member’s question about an upcoming conference sparked an increasingly passionate response from the school principal, who was due to attend the event during Monday’s Crawford Central School Board meeting.
Kevin Merritt’s question was about the National Conference on Education, organized by AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Superintendent Tom Washington and Ann Noonen, the district’s director of technology-education integration, will both attend the event in Nashville February 17-20.
The board of directors will vote in its meeting on Monday on the approval of the conference trip and the participation of district employees in 10 specialist meetings. More than $ 5,200 in expenses for the event will be donated by the Pittsburgh-based Grable Foundation.
“My question is what is in Grable that will benefit us – there is basically an amortization,” Merritt said after explaining that the trip was “suspicious” to him when reviewing the agenda for the meeting the people go, there has to be a connection to something at the conference he’s doing. “
The question comes at a time when school boards and district administrations are receiving increased attention, largely due to political controversies over mask mandates, critical racial theory, and other issues. Last month, board members in neighboring PENNCREST School District raised concerns about critical racial theory when they voted against a teacher’s proposal to attend a state conference for English teachers giving a talk on Using Audio Analysis to Maximize Independent Reading Time should.
The Grable Foundation, which Merritt became aware of this week, says on its website that it supports “programs critical to the successful development of children,” with a focus on the southwest region of the state. In September, Noonen announced to the board that Crawford Central was one of 33 counties in the state invited to participate in the Western Pennsylvania Learning 2025 Alliance, a Grable-sponsored effort to introduce innovative educational strategies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am very excited to learn from those involved in this opportunity,” Noonen told the board at the time.
On Monday, Washington reassured Merritt that the focus of the conference will be on empowering schools to prepare students for the real world they will face after graduation. The conference website describes the topic as “leading the way in student-centered, equitable education”.
Merritt then asked about the district’s involvement in the Learning 2025 effort. Washington described weekly meetings he had with fellow superintendents during the program where participants exchange effective strategies and called this “one of the most exciting things I do has been involved for a couple of years “.
With a rising voice, Washington gestured with both arms to emphasize as he continued his defense of the activities.
“The point here is to improve engagement. This is about making teacher guides. The point here is to make building guides. This is about superintendent meetings and you can see that I am passionate about them because the fact is they are one of the organizations that deals with education beyond what we are now and when we do we need to change training. This stuff, “he said, slapping one hand on the table in front of him,” we do to our children, it’s old, and this is one of the organizations across the country that is doing something … and says, ‘How? We engage children? ‘”
In the end, Washington answered several questions from Merritt for about 12 minutes, emphasizing the need for new approaches to education.
“We prepared the children a lot for our past,” he said, “and not for their future.”
Washington said he was getting “off my soapbox” and then asked Merritt the motivation behind his questions.
“I love to see your passion,” said Merritt. “I didn’t know the connection with South PA and how it came about.”
Washington stated that the connection began after a Grable Foundation official served as a speaker for the district faculty earlier this year.
Merritt seemed pleased with Washington’s explanation.
“If I hadn’t asked,” he said, “I wouldn’t have known.”
Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or email at [email protected]villetribune.com.