Board makes it official: Applied Scholastics study dropped

Lovelock Review-Miner/September 4, 2003
By Troy Daulton

During a special meeting of the Pershing County School Board on Tuesday, Sept. 2, the Pershing County School Board voted to permanently discontinue use of the Applied Scholastics study program within the Pershing County School District.

Several people throughout the community, including parents and teachers, had expressed concern with the program because the books used in the program are reportedly based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.

At a special school board meeting last week on Tuesday, Aug. 26, several people spoke both for and against the program. Those who spoke for the program said that it has helped students both here in Lovelock and also across the country.

Pershing County Middle School teacher Debra Scilacci was one of those teachers who supported the program. She said that she has used the program in her classroom and it has helped several students improve reading skills. Other people from out of town spoke about how the program had helped students in their communities.

Those who spoke against the program said that the link to Hubbard was reason enough to cause them concern. Pershing County High School teacher Valdine McLean expressed her opposition to using the program. She said that she felt that Hubbard's connection to the program was her major concern.

Also speaking out against the program, were Pershing County Elementary Literacy specialists Sandy Condie and Shea Murphy. Condie and Murphy run a literacy program at the elementary school and said that the Applied Scholastics program is radically different than what they teach in the younger grades.

At the meeting last week, the school board members said that they needed more time to look at all the information that had been presented to them.

School Board chairman Shane Thacker asked his fellow board members how they would like to approach the subject of Applied Scholastics and making a decision. He said that they could either do an informal discussion and then make a motion, or a motion could be made and then have a formal discussion.

School Board member Todd Plimpton said that at the first meeting a great deal of testimony was taken by the audience and that the testimony had been articulated very well.

He made a motion that "the Pershing County School Board, upon further consideration and review of the materials and testimony as presented, hereby suspend indefinitely, without prejudice, the Applied Scholastics program." Board member Rachel Clingan seconded the motion.

Clingan said that her decision was not a reflection of any the people who have been involved with the Applied Scholastics program.

"It has helped some students," Clingan said "that's not an issue here."

She said that suspending the program is the right thing to do for the community at this time.

Board member Rene Childs agreed with Plimpton and Clingan. She said that if it is needed, the school district should look into other quality programs that currently exist. However, she said, that if another program isn't chosen to fill the void of the Applied Scholastics program, the school district should continue with what has already been used in the past.

Board member Brad Arnold said that this issue has been interesting and thought-provoking.

Arnold said that when the issue came up what he wanted to know was if the program met the needs of the district.

"After the reading the results presented by staff," Arnold said "I am not convinced that this technique, by itself, has proved or produced a mainstream improvement."

Arnold said that he is convinced that increased individualized instruction as provided by staff either in school or summer school has proven to be beneficial.

He also said that no program will be successful unless there is a committed staff dedicated to providing the needed efforts to help students improve. He also said that no staff can be effective with division amongst them.

Arnold suggested finding another effective program that isn't as divisive among staff and parents.

Thacker said that the board has always been forward looking and will continue to look for new and better programs.

Plimpton called for the board's decision on his motion following any discussion from the audience. There was no comment from those in attendance and a vote was called for.

The motion to discontinue use of the Applied Scholastics program was unanimously passed by the board.

There was confusion regarding the program L.E.A.P. (Literacy Education and Awareness Project) and it's connection to Applied Scholastics. Thacker explained that L.E.A.P. is a literacy program designed to provide dictionairies to students and there is no connection between L.E.A.P. and Applied Scholastics. However, L.E.A.P. founder Jess Jonas is a strong supporter of the Applied Scholastics program.

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