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Valpo School Board begins discussions on learning

Updated: March 21, 2014 11:44PM



VALPARAISO — Citing as an example the job of “social media manager,” School Board President Mark Maassel said five of the top 10 jobs today didn’t exist 10 years ago.

The board called upon Superintendent Michael Berta on Wednesday evening to facilitate the discussion on the nature of the 21st century learner.

Maassel said several members had attended a meetings on that topic held by the Indiana School Board Association in September and believed the topic would fit the discussion format Berta had used at Portage Township Schools to come to consensus with the community on important issues.

Much of Wednesday night’s opening focused on how discussions should and should not be conducted. Berta outlined what they weren’t: gripe sessions or forums for personal agendas or opportunities for self-advancement.

What they should be, Berta said, are opportunities to find “what is best for 6,300 students.” He pointed to the board and reminded the group that the authority to make decisions “sits right here.”

Chris Pupillo, member of the Strategic Planning Committee’s communications committee, said work needs to be done to attract people in the community beyond “the usual suspects.” He encouraged Berta to use the tools available on the school’s web page and other strategies outlined by the plan.

To illustrate the process of discussion and building consensus, Berta began with the question: “What is curriculum?”

Answers varied from “readin’, writin’ and ’rithmatic” to learning “how to think.”

Berta said corporations call such variety in concepts “variance.” It is the enemy in an organization, he said. For homework, group members were asked to come back next month with a one-sentence definition of curriculum.

Retired teacher Debbie Frey said she liked the process. “It’s been transparent. That’s good,” she said.

School board member Jim Jorgensen said understanding how students learn will inform how teachers teach and ultimately what facilities facilitate that learning.

The board invited the community to join the discussion on the 21st century learner at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 28. It’s regular business meeting will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 20.



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