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PAUSD mismanaged Multivariable Calculus decision

Student-staff meeting step forward, but district needs to increase discussion, transparency

In Spring of 2023, the board of education made the decision to stop offering Multivariable Calculus to high school students during the school day. After facing pushback on this decision from both students and parents, the board eventually agreed to offer Multivariable Calculus after school.
But the course is still not part of a student’s official transcript, the class is after the school day instead of during school hours, and the District has not been clear about its reasons for removing the class in the first place.
Assistant Principal Erik Olah called students together in September for a meeting to gather opinions on a seemingly unresolvable Multivariable Calculus dilemma that has been ongoing in the district for months.
Though this meeting was an important step forward in reaching a resolution, the district needs to keep stepping up its communications and transparency in order to find a compromise. Before this meeting, it was difficult for all but the most committed students to speak their minds on this issue.
The only avenues for feedback were through petitions and board meetings, and there are problems with both. Board meetings happen only once every two weeks, there is a signup process in order to speak, and speaking times are limited to only one minute.
Students have even resorted to signing up for consecutive speaking slots just to be able to deliver their entire message, instead of getting abruptly cut off at one minute. But while Olah’s September meeting was better than anything that came before, this progress is hardly enough.
One step forward does not compare to the marathon of an issue that the board’s decision has presented. And despite all the good that came from this student meeting, only 21 attended — including both Principal Brent Kline and Olah.
While this lack of attendance could easily be interpreted as students not caring about Multivariable Calculus and a sign that the board should move on, it is more likely a result of a lack of publicity for the event.
The only notification students had that this meeting was coming up was one Schoology message a week before, with no reminders or follow ups.
Keeping this in mind, it is undestandable many students forgot about it.
Also, rather than freely talking about the issues with the group, administrators had us write our ideas on sticky notes and put them on a sheet of poster paper. This method made the meeting less effective and prevented us from speaking our minds.
Ultimately, the biggest issue the district has failed to address – and has given multiple contradictory answers to – is why isn’t Multivariable Calculus offered during the school day? The core of the issue is rooted in a lack of transparency from the PAUSD, which needs to communicate better with students and parents to make their intentions clear.
Without transparency, criticism makes sense. If students’ complaints about the Multivariable Calculus issue are never addressed, it looks like the district is ignoring us. Yet somehow, despite the lack of transparency and all the other obstacles, we have made progress.
There is a Multivariable Calculus class, which wasn’t guaranteed last year. The class is on campus, even if it’s not during school hours. It isn’t perfect, but we’ve made a lot of progress.
It seems like the Board and administrators aren’t so much an enemy as a stubborn manager. It is ultimately up to students to communicate and attempt to reach an agreement. But if district officials continue to ignore us, then it becomes a problem. In the end, the September meeting was a huge step forward in terms of listening to student opinion. But one step by itself isn’t enough.

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Gavin Lin
Gavin Lin, Assistant Managing Editor
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