FLORENCE — After forming a committee to study options, holding two special meetings and hearing public comments, the Florence Unified School District Governing Board voted to reject a sex education curriculum called “Love Notes” to be taught by the Pinal County Health Department in FUSD high schools.
“I want to thank the district committee that worked on this, the teachers and the representatives of the district,” board member Tammy Quist said at the board’s July 12 meeting. While the majority of the committee favored Love Notes, 40% did not, she said. Quist also thanked the Pinal County Health Department for the many presentations it gave and for answering questions. She added a huge thank you to all the parents, students and other community members who attended meetings, emailed and called.
“We heard you. The vast majority of you said that you do believe that sex education is important and our students should have an option for sex education. However, as we listened to the health department, we did not feel like this was the best option,” Quist said.
She said the curriculum is not inclusive and leaves out many groups. The health department said in its last meeting with the board that it has to supplement the curriculum with other things to meet their standards and the state’s standards, Quist said.
“Why get into a new curriculum that doesn’t even have what we need?” Quist asked.
Board member Jim Thomas added his thanks to all those Quist mentioned. “Everyone did a great job. It just didn’t come up to the standards that we felt were necessary,” he said. The Arizona Legislature provided a new aspect by requiring certain things that in the past haven’t been an issue. Some people didn’t think it went far enough, many parents thought it went too far, Thomas said.
“I’m thinking the prudent thing to do,” he continued, “is delay this for awhile and see what other districts are doing.” He said there are only two other districts in the county “who are doing anything, and neither one of them is using Love Notes.
“I would like to see what other districts in the state are doing, what their success is, if any. What their level of participation is, that’s important, too,” Thomas said, noting that parents must “opt-in” for their students to take the class. In the meantime, the district’s efforts could be better spent helping struggling students come up to grade level, Thomas said.
Thomas’s motion not to approve Love Notes passed 4-0. Board member Roger Biede was absent. Quist asked that next month’s agenda include reconvening the district committee to discuss finding a research-based curriculum that meets the needs of the district and students, and do further research on what other districts are teaching.
According to the meeting agenda, Love Notes is a comprehensive healthy relationship education curriculum that teaches adolescents and young adults (14-24) how to build healthy romantic relationships, prevent dating violence and improve impulse control.
The program is designed to build young people’s skills for cultivating healthy relationships, selves and sexual behaviors; planning and pacing relationships and sex; self-efficacy and resilience around relationships; proven communication skills; and understanding how family formation impacts children. Love Notes consists of 13 one-hour lessons on decision-making, communication, and sexual and overall safety.
In other action, the board approved FUSD’s annual expenditure budget. FUSD Finance Director Beverly Myers reported that with a general budget limit increase of $5,625,212, the district will add $4,000 to the base salaries of all certified and administrative staff, classified directors and related service schedules, and add $2,096 to the base salaries of classified staff, plus matching benefits. This will help FUSD be competitive with neighboring districts, Myers said.
For hourly classified staff, the state minimum wage increases by $1 in January, but FUSD has opted to begin paying it early, effective July 1, plus matching benefits. The district is spending another $250,000 to increase the hourly and daily rate of substitute pay in hopes of attracting more substitute teachers.
For the remainder of the increase, the district will increase liability/workers comp insurance by $169,800 and spend $95,157 on private placement tuition and contracted related services.
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