School Board considers new textbooks

By Ruthann Carr, correspondent

At the March 13 School Board meeting the administration presented the high school social studies textbook recommendations from the review committee for purchase.

It was a first look for the board.

Andrew Pullen (Columbia) said he wanted to get copies to look over.

Brenda Gilliam, executive director of instruction and finance, said copies were at the administration office and the high school. Anyone can stop in and read through the proposed textbooks.

The board plans to take a second look at the proposal at its April 10 meeting. Any Fluvanna resident wanting to speak to the board can do so at that meeting.

The recommended books are:

  • Civics – Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt;
  • World Culture and Geography Survey – Cengage/National Geographic;
  • America, A Narrative Story – W.W. Norton;
  • Sociology – Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt; and
  • Virginia and United States History – Pearson.

The total cost for teacher’s editions and copies for students is $49,031.40.

The Fluvanna Review sent an email to Gilliam asking about the process of choosing textbooks. It also asked her how many times she’d been through the textbook selection process.

Gilliam replied that the state offers a list of approved textbooks but schools are not required to use books on that list. Any choice is expected to meet the Virginia Standards of Learning.

The school forms a committee of parents, teachers, administrators and community members to review the books, then makes a recommendation to the board.

Gilliam said she’s done this many times in her career.

“This is probably the eighth time I have gone through the textbook adoption process,” she wrote in an email. “The level of feedback that we have received from the School Board or public has varied over that time. We had originally planned to ask for action on the item at the April School Board meeting. Since there have been some concerns expressed we are planning to move the action until May. This will give the committee time to address any concerns or questions that have been raised.”

Pullen posted on his Pullen for Fluvanna School Board Facebook page that he found “issues” with one of the textbooks.

“This is why it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we know exactly what is being taught to our children, that what they’re reading is objective and that history lessons are not being motivated by outside politcal [sic] forces,” Pullen stated in his post.

When prompted by a commenter to cite what his concerns were and on what page, Pullen said, “I’ve found a lot of historical inaccuracies and discussion about ‘privilege’ or other terms that are politically, rather than historically driven.”

Asked several more times from readers of his page to cite specifics, Pullen did not respond.

The Fluvanna Review emailed each School Board member asking what they understood about FCPS textbook selection process, if they agreed with it and if they had any concerns. If they had concerns, they were asked to cite specifics.

Neither Pullen nor Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) responded.

Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) explained in detail the selection process: “Eight teachers and eight community members serve on the selection committee. They began meeting in October. The committee established a timeline, chose books to review and submitted the recommendations at the March meeting.”

Johnson said she was comfortable with the process, mainly because it is a thought-out policy and a wide range of people vet selections. Added to that, the opportunity for the public to weigh in satisfies Johnson.

“I think it’s a good system of checks and balances,” Johnson wrote. “I’ve reviewed all of the recommended texts (not all that were under consideration) and have no significant concerns. Since these are social studies/civics texts, I reviewed them with a particular interest in neutrality of political views and religious information, and the absence of gender and racial stereotypes.”

Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) and Brenda Pace (Palmyra) also replied to the email stating they were satisfied with the selection process.

“I have reviewed all of the textbooks that are being recommended for purchase,” Stewart wrote. “I find them to be engaging, stressed higher order thinking, and provided resources for students to draw their own conclusions about a variety of topics. I have no doubt that teachers will need to supplement the text, have activities they have used in the past that they plan to continue, and will decide over time which parts of each text will be successful without modification. I trust that the recommendation of the committee was made with careful consideration of our students’ needs and their ability to address the curriculum.”

Pace said in the eight years she’s served on the School Board she didn’t recall any “major issues” with textbook selection.

“The fact that staff, parents, and community members have the opportunity to review text books provides options for concerns to come before the board,” Pace wrote. “I feel the availability to review the textbooks is important, especially for parents.”


Social studies textbooks available for review

The Fluvanna County School Board will take a second look at the textbook committee’s recommendation at its Wednesday (April 10) meeting.

The recommended textbooks and instructional materials will be on public display at the School Board Office weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through April 9. Questions about the evaluation and adoption process should be directed to Brenda Gilliam at or 434-589-8208.

The public is invited to comment to the School Board about the adoption at the April 10 meeting.

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