Textbook adoption hearing – testimony, video, response to district 5.20.24

Added:

Contents

  1. Hearing Video 5.20.24
  2. Evidence/ Testimony May 20 presented by Jack Knocke, Executive Director Nassau CDF  (Below)
  3. Petitioner (Knocke/CDF) Response to District testimony (Below)
  4. Textbook adoption school board vote 4-0 to adopt book.    See video to see who supports keeping the textbook Starts at 32:00 mark

 

Evidence/testimony (Exhibit A)
Presenter:
Jack Knocke, Nassau County Executive Director
Citizens Defending Freedom

Opening Remarks
Today’s issue is a continuation cleanup of woke, DEI, racist content in our public schools. The woke, Marxist, communist, cultural transition forces are in our textbooks and the online dynamic integrated interactive materials to which these textbooks are linked.
Today, Nassau CDF comes before the board and the citizens of Nassau county to identify multiple specific objections SAVVAS World History textbook (Exhibits B, C, D) that is so concerning that we are asking for this textbook and the entire SAVVAS Series of textbooks being proposed to NOT be selected by Nassau County Schools.

As noted in our objection form, based upon research, Nassau Citizens Defending Freedom objects to all of the SAVVAS Learning, LLC textbooks due to specific textbook content, dynamic online integrated interactive materials that do not appear to have been reviewed, SAVVAS/Pearson Social Emotional Learning (CASEL.org) relationship, and Pearson alignment with Gender Spectrum Symposium and their family of transgender advocacy and indoctrination organizations.

The objections relate to inappropriate, inaccurate, and non-scientific information being presented as scientific fact in order to confuse, manipulate and indoctrinate students into woke social and political ideologies.

Tonight’s Decision
You may have been advised that this decision is seemingly small, being brought by a resident-not even a parent of a Nassau Student, a long-shot request. I beg to differ. This is a huge decision for the children of the Nassau County School District. They are depending on this board to decide if these textbooks, are suitable to teach our children. You may say “teachers can ignore the textbook and certain sections when teaching, so it’s OK.” You may say “the issues identified have been approved before, so it’s OK.” You may say “the books are on the state approved book list, so it’s OK.” You may say that the Superintendent and the District Review Committee presented them, so it’s OK. But, it’s NOT OK and if you have read the objection and the detailed materials provided, you know in your heart that it is not OK. Look at the evidence presented today objectively. The buck stops here with this School Board. That is why we are here. This is a consequential decision for our children.

When I led teams in business, some managers would bring me a report or a decision and they would say “this is always the way we have always done it.” My response was always “that’s a bad answer”. This is YOUR job now. Your decision to make. Your analysis to depend on.
Don’t ever make a decision because someone else said “we have always done it that way”, “this decision cannot be changed”, “this is inconsequential”, “it does not really matter”. Every decision matters, and I ask you to consider the facts carefully. This is a hugely important decision. Please consider the facts, consult your constituents, consult your grown children, consult state resources and pray.
Pursuant to s. 1006.28, the “district school board are responsible for the content of all instructional materials and any other materials used in the classroom” whether or not it was adopted by the state board of education, whether it was approved by a committee, whether it was recommended by teachers – they have not seen this evidence – you see it today. We all know how much time teachers have to review a 1000+ page textbook – not much. The online materials – almost no time, if any.

The textbook cover is presented as evidence. One of our reviewers pointed out and you can see here that the cover of the book does not fairly represent all races in America. The largest race in America is conspicuously missing.

A key word on the cover is “interactive”. This is not just a textbook before you for approval. The interactive dynamic online integrated resources referenced in this and all SAVVAS textbooks is a deeper dive into nefarious content that may not have been reviewed in violation of Section 1006.283 (2)(b)(8)(a), but will be presented to students as a part of the major tool of instructional materials. This interactive content is critical to the entire textbook as indicated by its inclusion on the word interactive on the cover.

The specific textbook reviewed and objected to is Savvas World History Interactive from SAVVAS Learning Company LLC for classes 2109310/2109320. (Exhibit F) and links to the textbook Flipbook in the May 28th School Board minutes.

World History/World History Honors 2109310/2109320 Savvas Learning Company LLC Florida World History Interactive, Regular & Honors (Course Group) savvas.com/FL-HS-WorldHistory

First, I will delve into the specific objections that were found on specific pages of the textbook.

Hominids
Flipbook page 87, Textbook page 5, Hominids, supposed early humans (Lucy) living 3,000,000 years ago? A hominid? Millions of years ago? This entire section is lacking in scientific, verifiable facts. There are absolutely no scientific facts to prove these statements. In fact, the text states that this was “invented/discovered” in around 1950. There are no proven scientific techniques that have been verified to accurately test and verify bones, rocks or other things that go back tens of thousands of years or even millions. It is all made up. There are only theories that are unproven.

Yet, it is being presented as scientifically factual. The evolutionary theories presented in these educational materials fly in the face of Judeo-Christian values taught to our children at home and in our houses of worship. The objective of this content is to create a clear divide between parents/churches and children. Obviously, parents and churchs are wrong because schools are to be trusted. S. 1006.31 (2) (b) requires only inclusion of materials that accurately portray, whenever appropriate, humankind’s place in ecological systems”. The above materials are not an accurate portrayal. This is a completely erroneous conclusion presented as scientific fact.

We have the opportunity to NOT perpetuate a lie to our children that is presented as fact. If you google, “how the world was created” you will see articles from NPR, National Geographic, universities, these articles refer to the “myth of creation”. Google queries state that these myths presuppose the existence of some kind of divine or absolute power. We are asked to trust the science. You decide who we should trust.
There are new scientific discoveries in mtDNA, Astrophysics, and Archeology & Literature that support the case that Creation as described in the Bible is true and accurate. These scientific facts were shared by Nassau Resident Rich Lamken with this board and district staff on May 10th and are attached as Exhibit F.
mtDNA proves that there were a limited number of generations since creation and that all of us here in this room and around the world are descended from a single female. One single family line.

Ask yourselves why these breakthrough scientifically proven facts were omitted from a world history textbook? It may be because those scientific facts do not fit the CASEL.org guidelines that promote humanism, Marxism and a non-God narrative. You may recall that CASEL.org is the champion organization for Social Emotional Learning (SEL). While publishers, billionaire funders, LGBTQ backers of SEL claim that SEL is good for children, Nassau County should take a hard look at ANY AND ALL curriculum and materials that are SEL based as they could be harmful.

CDF has shared our concerns about SEL, published them on our website, shared with you school board members and even presented personally to our Superintendent at our CDF August 17th, 2023 meeting. It is no secret. Parents on the Level slides presented by Marsha Metzger. (Exhibit Q)

Industrial Revolution – Communism/Darwinism
Another concern presented with a similar theme is found on Flip page 522 text page 440 – The graphic references 4 notable happenings of “The Industrial Revolution”. Two of the the most notable issues of the industrial revolution the Communist Manifesto and Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species? See the graphic in your notes. These are obviously two of the most notable Marxist/Communist happenings that the authors of this textbook want children to think are important. Because these notable events are so important, the textbook must present them for study under the guise of Industrial Revolution. How do these two events play a part in the industrial revolution? There is nothing industrial about either of them. Maybe the authors seek to present them as the beginning of a “revolution”. Communism as a political movement defined as being devoid of God. Darwinism suggesting that man evolved from apes rather than were created by God as our American founders codified in our founding documents in the 1700s. Did capitalism contribute more to the industrial revolution?

Why would the authors, insert a communism and a debunked book on evolution in the Industrial revolution? It seems that the objective of this content is also to create a clear divide between parents/churches and children.

Referenced resources – WRI (Exhibit G)
On textbook page 918, (flip book page 1000) students were asked to use a report from World Resources Institute (WRI) (formerly The New Climate Economy). Globalist reporting claims fossil fuels are the root of “climate change” and goes on about international globalist initiatives to eliminate fossil fuels. This is not accurate or scientifically proven information but is sourced from International NGOs supporting globalist policies. Facts and figures should be presented in textbooks and not politically charged, globalist political policies.

WRI supports calls for “Climate Action and Justice” . These globalist, extremist groups seek to create activists as a part of educating children. If one looks at the relationships of organizations like WRI, the trail leads to radical global climate organizations and then to extremist organizations, for example, supporting Palestine. One simple dynamic link can go down a rabbit hole that students should not be led down. Of course, all of the internet is available for searching. But should our school textbooks provide a direct guided tour from supposed credible sources into climate change theory and globalism? When we allow textbooks to normalize various activist ideologies such as climate change or globalism over American ideals, we are allowing these publishers to undermine our kids and the truth. In the words of one of our reviewers, “this is political indoctrination in a textbook.”
Manipulation of the “energy” discussion

Flippage 564 (Text page 482) creates an interactive study into energy today.
The title is Take Action by Learning about Energy Sources. Question is “As the Industrial Revolution showed, inexpensive energy sources are vital to economic growth. What new forms of Energy might drive the economy of the future? Choose from Solar, Wind or Electric energy.“

This is a total manipulation of the discussion of energy. Why no reference to abundant fossil fuels, clean nuclear energy, water energy (dams) three of the most popular, economical, and efficient energy sources today. This exercise seeks to indoctrinate children into the climate crisis discussion pointing them to less efficient, more costly, and in some cases more negatively impacting the environment sources of energy. Giving only supposed “green energy” options focuses their study away from economical, clean, popular energy sources.

Dynamic Online integrated interactive materials

The textbook name is World History Interactive. The SAVVAS interactive strategy starts in their elementary school social studies materials “myWorld Interactive K–5 social studies encourages students to explore their world, expand their thinking, and engage their college, career, and civic awareness.”
This is a critical component of our complaint because these online materials that are integrated with the textbook and interactive for students were not initially available for community review in violation of s. 1006.26 (2). Access to some of the resources is still not available as of May 9th. If that is the case, how did teachers review the online materials? A special request was required and provided after the review period had closed to get access to the online materials.
According to SAVVAS, social studies curriculum and Digital History Curriculum is defined as “Discover our K-12 inquiry-based social studies curriculum, promoting democratic values, community, and cultural diversity…Our social studies resources and digital history curriculum are grounded in a deep understanding of civic ideals and practices, active citizenship, and global conversation.”

According to s. 1006.26 (2), the online digital integrated interactive resources are integral to the SAVVAS textbook and education curriculum. The online digital integrated interactive materials serve as an integral part of the major tool for instruction of the subject and therefore MUST be available for complete review by teachers, parents and residents.

Access to the Online materials requires each student to have and use their cell phone to take a picture of the page with the symbol in order to view the online materials. Online materials are not available via a computer or laptop because of this feature. (Or at least I could not figure out how) When Florida and US legislatures seek to limit mobile phone social media usage, this textbook is connecting the mobile phone to the textbook. Is that a wise “enhancement” to education?

SAVVAS Digital Library promotes “Comprehensive prebuilt lesson plans for popular titles give teachers everything they need to guide classroom discussions around inclusion and acceptance.” Acceptance of what? None of this material has been reviewed.

SAVVAS history interactive states “History is more than the story of past events—it’s the chronicle of people, their decisions, emotions, and viewpoints. Our award-winning U.S. History Interactive brings a modern lens to history”… “U.S. History Interactive renders key historical moments relevant to 21st Century students through multiple perspectives; engaging primary sources, background reading, and immersion-based activities.” When and how were these materials reviewed. Access and review notes suggest that there was minimal if any review of the online materials.

On May 2, Nassau CDF submitted a Public Records Request (Exhibit H) for access to all of the online materials that are an integral component of the SAVVAS World History Interactive textbook. The resources referenced in the textbook include:
• NBC News – NBC Learn myStory videos and Essential Questions
• SAVVAS Realize,
• Constitutional Rights Foundation
• Interactive Social Studies
• Connections to Today
• Quest
• SAVVAS Project Imagine
• World History Interactive
• Active Classroom Strategies
• Comparing Viewpoints
• Mastery System
• Interactive Primary Sources
• BOUNCE to activate videos

When I met with Mr. Durham and Ms. Drake, Mr. Durham acknowledged that while he was able to provide us with access to the BOUNCE resources, he had not heard back from SAVVAS regarding access to other online resources.

Though online research, we discovered that the Savvas Realize application received very low marks in a review website receiving a rating of 1.23 stars out of 5 stars with 283 reviews. (Exhibit I)

One specific example of online materials is..

ONLINE LINK Flip book Page 590 . text page 508 link. This is a link to a video that starts out …
Nationalism broke apart many empires in the 1800s, but it also served to unify one very powerful country, Germany….
This sounds like a statement that undermines nationalism and the concept of a sovereign nation and patriotism. This also links the word nationalism to German Nazis. That is subtle and concerning statement. There are some who seek to brand patriots and Christians as Christian nationalists. Including this statement in the textbook online video shows how textbooks help students create a perception and usage of words that can be misconstrued.

 

A vendor partner of SAVVAS Realize is “Knewton”. Knewton is an AI Company (Artificial Intelligence).

As discovered in the SAVVAS terms of use, Knewton is an AI partner tracing the usage of the online resources. This partner’s algorithms are incorporated into the textbooks online resources. Has anyone looked into the AI component of tracking students activities, directing lessons based on AI tracking, storing data on the students and sharing that data with third parties?

From SAVVAS Realize TERMS OF USE
Additionally, some Company products delivered via the Service utilize an adaptive learning algorithm provided by Knewton, a third party. By using the Service, you consent to the Knewton terms of use, found here.

Knewton’s (Wiley) terms of service
We are continuously changing and/or updating the Knewton Online Courseware…. Accordingly, we may add or remove functions, features or Content from the Knewton Online Courseware at any time

The Knewton Online Courseware enables Educators to submit content (including, without limitation, any textual, graphic, audio or video content) to the Knewton Site and make available for users within the Knewton Online Courseware… We have no obligation to preview, screen or monitor any Educator Content that may be submitted by any user”

In order for you, your teacher and your institution to use and fully benefit from the Knewton Online Courseware, Wiley needs to receive and store information from you regarding your interactions and performance when interacting with the Knewton Online Courseware… This Usage Data is automatically collected, stored, used and shared by Wiley… As part of our relationship with you, Wiley will also create and maintain a personalized learning history based on your Usage Data and personal identifiers you have provided”

An article referencing Knewton and their technology expands on the AI tools employed by Knewton. (Exhibit J)

As AI takes on more routine tasks, educators will pivot towards placing increased emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL). They will become pivotal in nurturing skills such as empathy, collaboration, and resilience — attributes crucial for success in our rapidly evolving world.

Because of the prescribed adoption policies at the State and this School District, there is not enough time to review all of these dynamic online integrated interactive materials, identify offensive content, report objections and address materials for this adoption cycle. Additionally, as noted previously, these materials can change dynamically – by the vendor or third parties. Do we really want our textbook materials changing dynamically – without review?

Information regarding access to the online materials was not provided with the notification of flipbook textbook assess possibly in violation of s. 1006.26 (2). There is also a question as to whether teachers (or any prior reviewers at the state) reviewed these online materials.

Credits Observation – SAVVAS source credits- self credits

2,737 pages of credits for World History Interactive textbook.
5,500+ references to “interactive” Savvas textbook sources looks strange.
This seems strange. Maybe this is common practice in publishing. I don’t know. They should be referencing users back to the original source, not references to their own textbooks. How can anyone prove or disprove information if over 5,000 references need to be traced to a SAVVAS textbook and then to another textbook or source?

The Pearson/SAVVAS publisher guidelines and goals

In 2021, Pearson released guidelines to specifically address systemic racism in education. Do you believe our school system in systemically racist? While the textbook may not overtly reference systemic racism, online dynamic integrated interactive materials can easily do so. Subtle content can also reflect these corporate guidelines.

These guidelines are in direct opposition to s. 1003.42(3). “(a) No person is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex.” If the assumption of the Pearson/SAVVAS guidelines is that there is “systemic racism” in education and their guidelines for publishing textbooks has this premise as it’s basis. How can the State of Florida and the Nassau County School District adopt textbooks with this as a predisposed basis for textbook development? The answer is: We cannot adopt these textbooks.
Pearson Releases Race and Ethnicity Editorial Guidelines to Address Systemic Racism in Education (Their title, not ours) 2.25.2021 (Exhibit J)
The guidelines will inform Pearson’s broader Global Editorial Policy that will be re-released later this year with enhanced standards for content relating to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social class, religion and disability.

Specifically, the guidelines identify five main challenges that are commonly highlighted in academic sources including: underrepresentation of minorities, exaggerated negative associations, limited positive associations, missing stories, and the idea that disadvantages are personal, rather than systemic.
“The guidelines produced represent a cultural shift in publishing that attempts to center race and racial equality at its core,” said Dr. Arday. “Pearson’s commitment to changing the racialized dynamics of publishing and the contents of its books, speaks to a boarder need for the educational publishing industry to disrupt how bodies of knowledge are presented with regards to texts and learning resources.

Similar guidelines for content relating to gender, LGBTQ+ and disability from Pearson employee resource groups will inform the Global Editorial Policy and advance Pearson’s commitment to being a fully inclusive and diverse organization that reflects the communities it serves. Link to full article
Pearson/SAVVAS’ goal of “Cultural Responsive Learning” is centered around Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as a core tenant of their instructional materials. SEL from CASEL.org is a key component. The dynamic online integrated interactive partner resources are a key component to used to deliver hidden and unreviewed content that is targeted for delivery to students. (Pic from Savvas website)

SAVVAS’ Reading with Relevance is the only novels-based SEL program certified by The Center for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which has rigorous criteria for SELect Programs. Relevant, Diverse Literature This program’s foundation is that students’ feelings about themselves and their lives directly impacts their ability to engage with and succeed in school and work.

SAVVAS aligned with Positive Action to deliver SEL. The platform delivers SEL materials and captures student data – for teachers. “we realized that Pasela would generate volumes of data that could be sorted, collated, and visualized in meaningful ways.” A key component of SEL is capturing behavioral, academic and other information on students.

Magruder’s American Government Interactive High School Government Curriculum Planning pages for each topic and lesson make implementation and pacing easy for teachers. Also includes Active Classroom Strategies and ELL/SEL support. Interactive Digital Course: hosted on Savvas Realize®, include robust digital tools that give teachers flexibility to use a digital, print, or blended format in their classrooms. One sample video we observed was titled “Revolutionary”.
Another article “World’s Largest Education-Content Publisher Promotes Radical Political Agenda in U. S. Schools and Government”. (Exhibit L) This article by Jonathan Butcher Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation Education Policy department. Concerns with Pearson including Marxism-inspired ideas including CRT, DEI, and gender issues.

SAVVAS research by “Parents on the Level” (Exhibit M) founded by Marsha Metzger. In this research, uncovered several concerns with Savvas/Pearson. Including their participation as the Gender Spectrum conference in 2020.

Champion sponsor of Gender Spectrum Symposium
As the CHAMPION sponsor of the 2020 Gender Symposium (Exhibit N), Pearson/SAVVAS made clear statement of what it means to be a champion of the “culture shift” in education.

 

This conference along with the sponsors, presenters, and speakers makes an eye opening statement about who this publishing company, SAVVIS/Pearson, really is. It appears to be a activist publication company with motives that go well beyond presenting historical material to educate children. Exhibit O – Media Coverage. Plus links below.
2020 Gender Spectrum Conference
2022 Conference Speakers https://2022gsfc.sched.com/directory/speakers
Gender Spectrum – Gender Support Plan form

Education should be about learning the truth, through a clear lens of history, not through a clouded lens of Social Emotional Learning, warped gender ideology, “culturally responsive learning”, and racial equity manipulation.

The CEO of SAVVAS was quoted as saying that SAVVAS “represents a new tradition of innovation that includes “new digital technologies, diverse classrooms, broad social trends, and new research-based teaching and learning practices that are transforming education as we know it.” Ed Week May 6, 2020

Conclusion
Based on the facts and evidence presented to you today, it is obvious that SAVVAS Learning LLC textbook World History Interactive is in breach of numerous Florida statutes necessitating rejection of this textbook and all SAVVAS textbooks under consideration.

We ask that you NOT adopt the SAVVAS Learning LLC World History Interactive textbook for Nassau County. Additionally, because of the facts and evidence presented to you today, ALL of the other SAVVAS Learning LLC textbooks are unfit for adoption in our Nassau County Schools. Every textbook is built on the same model of textbook and digital online integrated interactive materials that are critical to the major tool of curriculum. These textbooks, the publisher and online interactive curriculum conflict with the values of the majority of parents and residents of Nassau County. Online dynamic integrated interactive materials that are CRITICAL to the use of the textbook and are unavailable for review in violation of Section 1006.283 (2)(b)(8)(a) and therefore are prohibited by state statute from being accepted for adoption. Observations of select online content was only available after the review window closed.

It appears the intent and motive of Savvas is to change traditional values of education to include a narrative reflective of a current sociopolitical slant. Our students deserve a well-rounded education, not a political indoctrination.

If Savvas is not appropriate and McGraw scored lower, the school district should not settle on McGraw but should look for better options that will teach our children with accurate and value based content.

If Nassau accepts SAVVAS, you are essentially confirming the instruction of the atheism religion that denies the existence of God. Consider your votes and your decisions carefully. This is not an overstatement, based on the evidence presented and much more in the textbook and online materials, you will find that this is true.

Pursuant to s. 1006.28, you, the School Board is ultimately responsible. The prior approval or inaction by other bodies has required parents and residents to be the last chance in the screening process to stop the adoption of textbooks. At this time, you should ask, how did we get here in the first place.
Statute 1006.40 (3) (b) (2) specifically states that the Nassau County School District may allocate 50% of the instructional material budget for textbooks outside of the state approved textbooks. (Exhibit P)

Based on this detailed review, there are a few questions that should be asked:

• What practices under your control in the Nassau County School District should be potentially changed? Why did the state review process not identify these concerns?
• Why did the Superintendent recommend these textbooks for approval?
• Why did the teacher review process not catch the obvious errors in science and fact and not identify the political indoctrination examples?
• How did this textbook get approved thus far?

This is not over today, you have quite a few questions to ask and find the answers regarding the entire textbook adoption process. I have taken some of these questions to the FDOE also.

I appeal to the Board and the Superintendent to invite parents, citizens and CDF to get involved in this process earlier in the next cycle and encourage a more detailed review at the state level.

Testimony Exhibits List

A. Testimony/Evidence document (This page)
B. Nassau CDF objection form filed 4.26.24
C. Nassau CDF objection attachments document 4.26.24
D. Nassau CDF Press Release 4.26.24
E. Savvas World History Interactive Textbook/Cover
a. Flipbook link from NCSB – 3/28 meeting in board docs
F. Lamken email and scientific data omitted from textbook
G. WRI – Word Resources Institute – fmerly The New Climate Economy
H. PRR 5.20.24 access to Online textbook resources
I. SAVVAS Realize online rating
J. Knewton AI article with SEL
K. Pearson Race and Ethnic Editorial Guidelines
L. Heritage Foundation – Pearson Content Agenda
M. Parents on the Level – SAVVAS research
N. Gender Spectrum Conference Information
O. Gender Spectrum – media coverage
P. Statute 1006.40
Q. Marsha Metzger, August 17, 2023 Nassau CDF meeting slides
R.
S.

 

Petitioner Response to District

Public Hearing

May 20, 2024

Due to the expiration of time at the Textbook objection public hearing, I am providing my response to Mr. Durham’s Nassau County School District’s (District) testimony at the May 20 hearing directly to Mr. Brett Steger in lieu of cross examination as agreed upon at the conclusion of the hearing.

If the District wants to add any further responses to the Hearing Official and Board, we may be better suited to deal with this in a follow up public hearing.

  1. District does not rebut any facts presented by Petitioner
  • Despite the fact that a substantial portion of the testimony and evidence presented including extensive links to backup and clarifying information was provided to the DISTRICT and NCSB on April 26th and updated as draft testimony and presented to all parties on May 9th. DISTRICT’s response did not refute any of the facts, objections and exhibits presented in our testimony.
  • Many references in the textbook were shown to be historically inaccurate, scientifically unproven, and politically slanted consistent with SAVVAS published corporate guidelines. None of the specific items were rebutted by the DISTRICT.

 

  1. Does objection form meet the requirements of 1006.28(2) (a) (3)
    The question in documents provided by Mr. Durham asked was requirement met? Answered NO
  • While DISTRICT acknowledged that the objection filed fully complied with state and NCSD policy, DISTRICT’s response started with the fact that there are 5 possible boxes for objection that Petitioner could have selected in order to object to the textbook. Because Petitioner only checked one box, that somehow lessens the severity of the objection.  Durham did not acknowledge that the objection filed links to a CDF web site Press release along with numerous detailed attachments/links consistent with the prescribed textbook objection process.  The box checked did indicate a valid objection.  The 179 pages of testimony and evidence along numerous website links and documents presented at the hearing clearly indicate that there are valid concerns that every citizen and parent in Nassau County should be concerned with due to violations of several state statutes and FDOE policies noted in testimony.
  • DISTRICT’s handout to NCSB members erroneously claims that “However, the objection does not identify specific content (material) that it objects to.” This is a patently false and disingenuous claim.  In the April 26th email with the objection form provided to Durham, Burns and the school board members directly, links were provided to “attached” materials to the objection to articulate the specific content objected to.  For the DISTRICT to claim that there were not specific objections and to put this in their written testimony as a claim of invalidity of the objection is offensive to the community with regard to transparency and honesty. The link to the attachments was included in the DISTRICT statement citing inadequacy, but DISTRICT did not include in their testimony the specific objections that were noted in the attachment creating the incorrect impression that specific objections were not made.

 

 

  1. Claim: Florida Department of Education approved the textbook
  • DISTRICT’s response relies on the fact that the Florida Department of Education put the SAVVAS World History Interactive textbook on the state’s approved textbook list. Nassau County has legal and justifiable options to explore.
  • The position that FDOE approved does not give the taxpayers, parents, and students of Nassau County the comfort that district administrators take their oversight responsibility seriously enough to thoroughly vet the textbook. The board and hearing officer have been presented with substantial, compelling, and extremely alarming testimony and evidence indicating that this textbook and the SAVVAS family of textbooks have grave shortcomings with regard to specific content, SEL, DEI, CRT, Racism, Marxism, atheism, and political indoctrination.
  • Section 1006.40 (3) (b) provides clear guidance to school boards confirming you are NOT REQUIRED to adopt state textbooks but is it your option. Our local option.  Policy dictates that residents can challenge books only during this timeframe and are NOT REQUIRED to adopt a textbook by mere appearance on the state approved list.
  • Would our school district extend that logic to blindly accepting Federal Department of Education guidance to adopt new Title IX regulation requiring the allowance of boys in girls sports, bathrooms and locker rooms?   We have local discretion to ensure that our local Nassau County policies are acceptable to our community values and standards.  That is the role of our local elected school board.

 

  1. DISTRICT followed state prescribed processes – exceptions

While DISTRICT claimed that the textbook adoption process was followed, there are several facts that dispute this claim.

  • DISTRICT did not follow public transparency guidelines with regards to public notice of hearing and content of the hearing that was provided in excruciating detail but NOT presented to the public in meeting notices. Meeting notice included absolutely no material that was presented to DISTRICT and NCSB well prior to the hearing.  The public received NO information from DISTRICT with regard to the objection or attachments in the public notice posted on the DISTRICT and NCSB website or social media.    A substantial portion of the petitioner testimony and evidence presented including extensive links to backup and clarifying information was provided to the DISTRICT and NCSB on April 26th and updated as draft testimony and presented to all parties on May 9th.   None of which was provided to the public through noticing procedures.
  • DISTRICT’s response claims that the Nassau County School Board (NCSB) already voted to approve the textbook. This is an irrelevant statement with regard to the objection presented.  In fact, the NCSB did approve the textbook which then, by process, gave county residents, parents and students the opportunity to then review the textbooks for a 30-day period.  That vote by the NCSB in no way taints the ability of a county resident or parent to object to the adoption of a textbook.Until this time, Nassau residents did not know which textbooks DISTRICT & NCSB would propose to be used in our school system.  By process, this is the only time residents have to review the materials after knowing which textbooks are proposed for acceptance.
  • DISTRICT claims that Nassau teachers thoroughly reviewed the textbook. The only evidence presented by DISTRICT of the local review was a “publisher presentation” meeting that reviewing teachers attended on December 7, 2023.  At this time, publishers each made a 45-minute presentation of their textbooks to the reviewing teachers.

Teachers are notoriously hard working and dedicated individuals.  According to the DISTRICT textbook review timeline provided by Durham, teachers are provided from Dec 11-Jan 19 to review the textbooks.  Unfortunately for these dedicated workers, the textbook review timeline falls on the end of a grading period, Christmas Holiday, New Years holiday (12 days) and the beginning of a new grading period.  DISTRICT did not present any information regarding the amount of time teachers were provided during their workday to review textbooks in this compressed review period.

The detailed teacher review ratings indicate that two teachers gave SAVVAS an low rating.  Because other ratings were high, these two low ratings were virtually ignored.  In fact, there are no indications that the low teacher ratings were investigated to see if those concerns warranted local concern.

 

  1. District did not follow prescribed textbook review process

Durham/DISTRICT provided a testimony exhibit from SAVVAS in the form of a SAVVAS letterhead document suggesting that SAVVAS and by extension the District have no obligation to provide digital course materials to the District or local reviewers for review.  By presentation with no comment, it seems that the District is accepting these statements without exception.  SAVVAS cites no specific state statutes or guidelines to justify their claims and it appears that DISTRICT is ready to accept their statements without question.

The document has no context regarding who at Savvas prepared the document, when it was provided to DISTRICT and who it was provided to at DISTRICT.  We respectfully request that the context information on this document be presented to the Petitioner and the hearing panel.

In fact, there are multiple Florida Department of Education (FDOE) guidelines and Florida statutes that require the provision of digital courseware for inspection.

1006.33 (4) Sample copies of all instructional materials that have been made the basis of contracts under this part shall, upon request for the purpose of public inspection, be made available by the publisher to the department and the district school superintendent of each district school board that adopts the instructional materials from the state list upon request for the purpose of public inspection.

As a part of the DISTRICT testimony, Durham attached a copy of the FDOE Policies and Procedures Specifications for the Florida Instructional Materials Adoption.  While he did not reference any specific aspect of this policy, there are numerous references that require the district to provide access to electronic content:

Page 3, Evaluation of Materials

Only electronic or digital sample copies of the major tool of instruction will be evaluated for adoption, except during adoptions in which ancillary materials are instrumental to the content area.

In SAVVAS’ own words, the “interactive” component of the textbooks is a critical component of the textbook making it a part of the “major tool” that requires full access and review.

 

Page 7 – Electronic format/Digital format

Per Florida Statutes, all adopted instructional materials for students in kindergarten through grade 12 must be provided in an electronic or digital format:

  • “Electronic format” means text-based or image-based content in a form that is produced on,

published by and readable on computers or other digital devices and is an electronic version of a

printed book, whether or not any printed equivalent exists.

  • “Digital format” means text-based or image-based content in a form that provides the student with various interactive functions; that can be searched, tagged, distributed and used for individualized and group learning; that includes multimedia content such as video clips, animations and virtual reality; and that has the ability to be accessed at anytime and anywhere.

 

One particular Savvas statement rings true but is not supported by their accessibility actions.  “Florida Statutes allow community members to review materials used in classrooms, specifically focusing on materials directly used by students for instructional integrity and testing security.”

 

Savvas then states that the Project Imagine digital feature is not accessible for “evaluation purposes”.  Savvas and the District by extension are seeking to have it both ways.  They claim that the interactive components are a critical and essential component of the textbook for students and then does not provide access to these dynamic online interactive resources for Nassau County citizens to review to determine acceptability of the textbook and accompanying digital resources.  It seems that teachers who reviewed the materials also did not have access to these digital resources.  What are the District and Savvas trying to hide?  There is no legal justification to limit review of the online dynamic interactive integrated materials that are stated by Savvas to be a critical component of the instructional materials in the textbook.

 

  1. Objection to Hearing Official restated

Petitioner comments conclude with a renewal of Petitioner objection to the selection of the hearing official as biased against the presentation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) materials, political indoctrination, and social contagion that was presented in the textbook.  The basis of Petitioner objection was to materials discovered in social media posts by the Hearing Official on the afternoon of May 20 that could prove bias against the case presented.

Notification to Petitioner of the naming of the Hearing Official was only received on the morning of May 20th after Petitioner request to Mr. Durham.  Lack of or late notice also violates prescribed procedure.

  1. Conclusion

In view of the specific objections stated in the objection, the Florida statutes violated, evidence presented, testimony presented, combined with the District’s lack of challenge to any specific objection, the Savvas World History textbook must NOT be adopted in Nassau County Schools.  This is a decision for the children, not to protect the District reputation, or abide by a state mandated process that actually provides the exact flexibility that the District needs to adopt the alternative Hillsdale College or Liberty University textbooks that would be much better suited to the students of Nassau County.

The District’s simplistic claim of the textbook being on the FDOE’s approved list as a justification to adopt is not justification to adopt this textbook in light of all of the concerning content and violations of Florida curriculum and review requirements.

Thank you for hearing my testimony and response.

 

Presented by Jack Knocke, Executive Director, Nassau Citizens Defending Freedom

May 21, 2024