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Beaverton parents math advisory group disbanded by school district

Members of a group of parents concerned about adoption of a new math curriculum said they're disappointed that the group was effectively 'fired,' or disbanded, late last month.

Mike Mihalik, a Beaverton School District parent who was a member of an ad hoc math parent advisory group, said he was told Nov. 30 that the group would officially be disbanded on the advice of Superintendent Jerry Colonna.

Mihalik is one of many parents who pushed for more community input during math curriculum evaluation during the past year. The advisory group was formed as a result, he said.

'Over the past few months, we added parent and staff members, and met monthly with (Deputy Superintendent) Sarah Boly,' he said. 'At our meeting on Nov. 30, we were 'fired.' '

However, district spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler said Boly listened to the concerns of the group and told them they could express those at a new math adoption review scheduled for this spring.

Wheeler said 'fired' was too strong of a word.

'It wasn't a district-sanctioned group,' she said. 'They're not employed by the district.'

Last month, the district hired the Portland law firm of Miller Nash to study complaints about adoption of the new math curriculum.

That includes questions about whether current or former district employees involved in the math adoption process had a potential or actual conflict of interest that could violate state law.

The firm also will look at the process used by the district in adopting the math curriculum to see if it complied with state law and district board policy.

In addition, it will determine what relationship exists between the Oregon Mathematics Leadership Institute and the district, and if the relationship complied with district board policy.

Mihalik said he would have preferred that a separate law firm other than one that does regular work for the district had been hired.

He has concerns over whether they could offer a frank and candid appraisal of the math situation.

Wheeler said the independent review and the investigation by the law firm is ongoing but that the report should be given to board members no later than Dec. 14.

She said most likely the contents wouldn't be discussed until the January Beaverton School Board meeting.

'Certainly it will become a public record at some point,' said Wheeler.

Last month, Mihalik and Christi Feldewerth, who served as chairwoman of the district's budget committee last year, and John Wilkins, a former Beaverton School Board member, met with Colonna regarding their concerns about the math adoption procedure.

Mihalik said they presented information to Colonna regarding whether there have been conflicts of interest as a way to determine how seriously the group would be taken, said Mihalik.

Mihalik has said the group's goals are simple, emphasizing that 'one size fits all does not work with math.'

He said the district needs more choices such as different curriculum for those in special education or in talented and gifted programs.

In addition, they want direct instruction and want to provide the same options and opportunities for all students regardless of what schools they attend.

Ann Jacks, a Beaverton School Board member who was the only board member who didn't vote for the latest math curriculum adoption, said she helped the parent math advisory group get off the ground.

'I think parents of this group really want options for their children,' she said.

Meanwhile, Mihalik is the moderator of bsdmath, a Yahoo news group he says has more than 130 members.

The group, which has been discussing the math issue, can be found at www.groups.yahoo.com/group/bsdmath

Mihalik said his group would continue to push for changes in math curriculum.

'We're not going to let it die,' he said.