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UPSD Board Approves Science Curriculum
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

Two members criticize Schaarschmidt's previous comments


            After voting to approve a new science curriculum, two members of the Upper Perkiomen School Board rebuked previous comments on the matter by a colleague.

            Last week, JP Prego delivered a series of pointed criticisms towards Trina Schaarschmidt. Emily McCormick appeared to be speaking to Schaarschmidt but did not mention her by name.

            Schaarschmidt thanked Prego and McCormick for their comments. She expressed happiness that her statements motivated some members to examine the curriculum.

            "I have no problem with you talking directly to me," Schaarschmidt said near the end of the April 25 workshop meeting. "I would have liked that a long time ago."

            The board voted 6-3 to ratify an action item approving a new elementary school science curriculum. Schaarschmidt, Sarah Bieber and Elizabeth Fluckey – who ran successfully on the "UP to the Challenge" ticket last year – voted against the measure to purchase the material from Amplify for $238,000.

            The curriculum for students from kindergarten to fifth grade – recommended by the board's Educational Programs & Services Committee – will be utilized during the   2024-25 school year, according to Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina.

            Two weeks earlier, Schaarschmidt questioned the curriculum, expressing a concern that Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives had infected it. She implied that the political affiliation of certain members of Amplify's parent company, the Emerson Collective, makes it unfit for use. She also described the president of Emerson Collective, Laurene Powell Jobs, as "the well-known left-wing operative."

            Nine years ago, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs funded the buyout of Amplify from News Corp, an American mass media and publishing company owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch. A Nov. 20, 2015 Reuters article did not include the payment price.

            Prego and McCormick, both members of the committee that recommended the material, separately objected to Schaarschmidt's earlier implication that the board "rubber stamps" items recommended by administrators. During the board comment portion of the meeting, Prego described Schaarschmidt's language as condescending.

            He suggested that Schaarschmidt, the third member of the Educational Programs & Services Committee, attend a committee meeting where issues are worked out between residents, members and administrators. Prego also stated that Schaarschmidt – who missed the April 18 EP&S committee meeting, but has attended all others, has not presented evidence where DEI is reflected in the curriculum or any of the parent company's left-wing affiliations.

            Prego suggested that when members speak on issues such as DEI, they couch their comments as opinion, not fact. In response to a comment from Schaarschmidt during the April 11 regular meeting, Prego said he "love to know" what left-wing propaganda has slipped in unnoticed and unquestioned into the district. 

            "Where is the evidence?" Prego asked during the meeting.

            McCormick said she would not allow anyone to assert that she is approving proposals without proper review. She expressed trust in the effort of Kimberly Bast, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, and her team.

            "Our review is a matter of public record and is not masking any grand conspiracy," said McCormick, who added that the curriculum was endorsed by our teachers and Bast.

            "Amplify was not chosen because its website includes a commitment to DEI. I hope you're not telling us that we should tell the students and our community that we rejected an entire curriculum ... because the company that created [it] has empathy for marginalized populations."

            Fluckey questioned the reality of a fourth-grade energy conversion lesson in Amplify's material related to the cost of implementing wind turbines. She cited the lesson's accuracy, based on the potential cost of back-up fuels and the quality of the included teacher's cues.

            Bieber proposed using a curriculum offered from Hillsdale College, a private, conservative, Christian liberal arts college in Michigan. She said a representative from the school informed her that the material could be made to align with state requirements.

            "That is free curriculum," Bieber said prior to the vote.






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