A screenshot of a Temecula Valley USD meeting.
The Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education debates whether to adopt the proposed social sciences curriculum for its elementary schools. (TVUSD via YouTube/Screenshot)

The Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education last week adopted a new high school science curriculum and a new online AP Economic program, but failed to adopt a new elementary social science curriculum, putting the district at risk of being out of compliance with California Education Code.

“There’s a very real, non-hyperbolic concern in regards to the current curriculum that we are using for social studies,” Nicole Dayus, director of curriculum and instruction, said at the May 16 meeting. “We have literally been…begging and borrowing where we could find this textbook that is out of print, in order to maintain what we really value in this district with our compliance for [the] Williams Act.”

Before the curriculum came to the board for approval it was piloted by 47 educators across the district’s 18 elementary schools.

“Our teachers come with an incredible amount of professional expertise in all of this, and so the judgments they’re making are very mindful of the community that they’re serving in,” Anna Tapley, director for secondary education, said.

In August, educators taking part in the pilot program were trained on the new California History Social Science Framework and FAIR Education Act before hearing from representatives of different curriculums already approved by the state. 

According to Tapley, the district’s current curriculum, adopted in 2006, does not reflect the state’s FAIR Education Act, which requires California public schools to provide fair, accurate, inclusive and respectful representation of the diverse ethnic and cultural population in the K-12 history and social studies curriculum.

From September to November, the classes piloted a curriculum by TCI. From November to February, the classes piloted the Studies Weekly curriculum. Tapley said teachers explained to parents that their children would be taking part in the pilot program.

After the completion of the pilot program, the educators evaluated both curriculums to decide which to recommend for adoption.

“There was consensus that Studies Weekly was going to be recommended for [transitional kindergarten] and [kindergarten], and TCI was the recommendation for grades one through five,” Tapley said. “What is very interesting about this is it provides a seamless transition for grades six and seven, because they also adopted TCI for social studies back in 2018.”

Tapley said materials were available for review by the general public starting in March at the district office and feedback was solicited from parents. In April, the textbooks were put in each of the elementary school libraries for parents to review along with a QR code directing them to an online form where they could provide feedback. 

Tapley said the above information was provided to the public on the elementary school websites and in the community and staff newsletters.

“We wanted to really ensure that we were flooding our district with information where parents could go to access this information, knowing that it is relevant, and people are passionate about the information that our students are receiving in regards to history and social science,” she said.

Kimberly Velez, assistant superintendent of educational support services, said the district ultimately received feedback from 45 parents whose children participated in the pilot programs and seven community members prior to the meeting.

“So the parent and community input was a little low,” she said. “It was again out for just a little less than two months.”

Board member Danny Gonzalez took issue with what he considered a lack of outreach that resulted in a lack of input by both community members and parents, the lack of curriculum for special education and English language learners, and the “inclusion of sexually based topics and the glorification of a known pedophile who happened to be an advocate for gay rights to 10 year olds, morally reprehensible and inappropriate.”

Board member Allison Barclay reiterated that nearly 1,300 students were involved in the pilot and each of their parents were notified of the curriculum being piloted in their children’s classrooms. She also addressed Gonzalez’s characterization of a fourth grade supplementary lesson on Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S.

“I think that your reference to sexually based topics and a pedophile is for sure a stretch,” she said. “The person you’re classifying as a pedophile, may I say, because I did do a lot of research on this, and I would not agree with that assessment, and this, this is age appropriate material, and so to me, it feels like what you’re getting at is you don’t like what’s in the curriculum more than you don’t like the process.”

Gonzalez said that his main concern was about the process of selecting a new curriculum, and that “without the benefit of a lot of input from parents and other community members on this topic,” he had to rely on his “parental hat to develop my opinion on this curriculum.”

“For this curriculum, in particular, I found things personally that I found objectionable, and I don’t have the feedback from the parents,” he said.

Barclay, citing concerns about falling out of compliance with the Williams Act, said that it seemed to her that if 1,300 children were given the material, and only 45 of their parents responded to a survey, then the district had “passive consent because they didn’t object.”

The Williams Act requires districts to be able to provide every student with a standards-aligned textbook, and/or instructional materials, to use both in class and at home by the eighth week of the new school year. The law states that photocopied sheets from a portion of a textbook or instructional materials do not fulfill that requirement.

“It’s not our fault that parents did not get involved,” Board member Steven Schwartz said. “This has been a problem forever in schools that parents are happy with what goes on, and they don’t say anything. And if they are unhappy, they would come here and say it.” 

As to Gonzalez’s question about English language learners and special education students, Velez said that work was typically done following adoption.

“That’s the work that’s done in that next year,” she said. “We bring in the experts to do that work.”

Board President Joseph Komrosky asked if the curriculum would allow for critical race theory (CRT) — which the board previously banned — to be inserted into the textbooks.

Barclay and Gonzalez clarified that the company providing the curriculum allows for CRT to be added to the textbooks at the school district’s discretion or if it becomes a state requirement. Both noted that if it were to become a state requirement, however, the district would have to adopt it or be in violation of the state law.

Board Clerk Jennifer Wiersma, who called the material presented in the curriculum “weak,” said the board would “rewrite policy as to how we look at curriculum, how we adopt things.” 

“The bottom line is we need to start tonight with doing some things differently,” she said.

At the meeting, there were six public comments on the item, five of whom spoke in favor of the curriculum, including four TVUSD educators. The other speaker asked that the board consider putting in lessons about the pilgrims into the curriculum, something that eighth grade teacher Edgar Diaz said happens at the middle school level.

“That’s when students understand about democracy and how that comes into the United States Constitution,” he said. “I taught that in eighth grade, not something we do at the elementary level besides some of the more basic parts, because, again, your teachers at different grade levels understand what is developmentally appropriate and what students will be able to understand at that age.”

After roughly 90 minutes on the item, which was originally slated to come before the board in early April before being pulled from the agenda, Komrosky called for a motion.

“I know what’s gonna happen here, and it’s really sad,” Barclay said before Schwartz made the motion to adopt the curriculum.

The motion failed 2-3 with Barclay and Schwartz as the only two board members voting in favor of it.

“I don’t want to put myself in a position of being a violator of [California Education Code],” Schwartz said after the motion failed. “If the three of you want to do that, that’s your choice. I will consult with my own legal counsel to make sure that if anything happens as a result, any legal penalties, it applies to the three of you and not to Alison and I.”

Following the vote, the board approved a declaration of need for fully qualified educators for the 2023-2024 school year with Barclay and Schwartz abstaining.

“How many of our qualified educators are going to say, ‘Adios, muchachos. We don’t want to work for you anymore,’” Schwartz said before the vote. “And that’s what’s going to happen as a result of what just happened on the previous vote. 

“I think this is a joke for us to even consider this, considering what just happened,” he continued. “Edgar, I apologize to you and all our staff for what just happened. I am ashamed to be a member of this board.”

Multiple calls and emails from TN News seeking information about the district’s next steps were not returned in time for publication.

In other board action: The TVUSD Board of Education honored district teachers and designated May 9 as California Day of the Teacher. The board also recognized its classified employees by declaring May 21-27 as Classified School Employee Week. You can watch a recording of the full meeting here.

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