Board eliminates Summit curriculum

Jeff Guy

With a 4-3 vote and after much heated discussion, the USD 353 Board of Education eliminated the Summit curriculum from Wellington schools at its most recent meeting.

The Summit curriculum is to be fully eliminated from the district this July. The curriculum, which was added as part of the district’s redesign plan mandated by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), was controversial, with some in the community vehemently opposed. Eliminating it without another curriculum in place has generated some controversy of its own.

Concern was voiced for students and teacher under pressure to learn yet a new curriculum but others were happy to see the Summit curriculum eliminated.

“I never got to experience Summit but I was in school when it was going on and I watched a lot of my friends switch schools because of it,” said WHS graduate Piper Fisher. “I watched a lot of my friends cry over it. I honestly think that it is a good thing they got rid of it.”

During the BOE meeting, board member Tom Henning said he pulled up a mental health survey, showing 70 percent of students at WHS had suffered from depression.

“I guarantee if we voted out Summit right now and do another one of these, it’s going to be a completely different graph,” Henning said.

Henning said he has heard from kids who said they used to like school, but now hate it due to Summit.

Board member Jason Newberry, speaking remotely to the board through Zoom, said, “Tom, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but I will tell you, I had people come up to me today and say, ‘Do not make a rash decision on this. My kid needs it.’ I’m not discounting what you’re saying. I have people coming to me saying the other.”

Board member Carol Hadorn, a retired teacher, expressed reservations about eliminating Summit without another curriculum in place that had been studied and that the community would be given time to buy into.

Board member DeAnna Garver said she had confidence to vote it out because local teachers handled COVID-19 challenges with success.

“They had to figure out something fast,” she said.

Garver later made a motion that they vote on whether to eliminate Summit. Henning seconded the motion. Garver, Henning and Zeka voted in favor. Board member Chuck Buckman, who had not expressed any desire one way or the other during the meeting, proved to be the swing vote, voting in favor of eliminating Summit. Mangan, Newberry and Hadorn voted not to eliminate it.