For the past few months, we have been listening to our parents and rectifying our mistakes concerning the selection of books in our high school English Language Arts (ELA) classrooms for the Student Book Club units. We would like to address community concerns, take ownership of our mistakes, and clear up misinformation as we continue to repair trust.

We stopped each Student Book Club unit until we completed the review of all 15 books in the unit. We finished reviewing two units. Teachers will not teach a Student Book Club unit with books the committee has not reviewed. We acknowledge there was a breakdown in our process as we selected reading material for our Student Book Clubs where students self-select titles from a book club list. We first outlined and addressed this issue and our action steps at our Nov. 5, 2020, Board of Trustees meeting. In the following statement, we will provide an update on our review process and describe the steps we have taken and will take.

We asked the Community Curriculum Advisory Committee (CCAC) to vet all high school English Language Arts student choice book club selections. Currently, more than 70 parents, educators, and additional campus representatives including counselors, librarians, instructional coaches, principals/assistant principals are engaged in the vetting process together. The committee is vetting all 140 book club titles we added to our existing collections, by grade level and unit of study, throughout the fall and spring semester. We completed the review of 30 books to date, removing six books from being in classrooms. Please review the CCAC webpage to better understand and follow this ongoing process.

If you would like to join our community effort to review books, please email [email protected] for details and to sign-up.

We have also heard our community feedback in these committees, in our Board comments, letters to our district leadership, and in the community voicing various concerns. After listening to the concerns from our community, our administrators are currently working on drafting verbiage for board policy prohibiting the purchase of inappropriate literature for the assigned students’ ages. This policy language will ultimately go to the Board for final approval this summer.

The Board will discuss instructional materials selection and the local policy process at their March 25 meeting. The meeting on March 11 is a special meeting. During special meetings, Citizen Comments must be for items on the agenda. We are here to continue listening through [email protected]. The next opportunity to provide public comment on the issue of instructional materials and books in our high school ELA courses will be the March 25 Board of Trustees meeting.

This process has been longer than we all would have preferred but has been vital to give proper attention to a serious matter of balancing the needs of our students and the materials we provide. We take seriously our partnership with our parents and guardians to educate our learners and we appreciate your diligence as we lead our learners to a brighter future.

Thank you for your continued engagement in this process.

Bruce Gearing, Ed.D.
Leander ISD