Parents voice concern over Channel One

Had parents been involved from the outset, Channel One might not be airing a daily 12-minute news show complete with commercials to Eagle Valley Middle School students.

But in what Principal Joanie Burris said was genuine oversight, the school's teachers, not the parents, decided in late summer to approve a three-year contract to air the show.

Eagle Valley Middle School is the first school in Nevada to adopt the program.

Channel One has provided 32 televisions, wiring, satellite feeds and about $36,000 of commercial-free educational videos.

"The result was in our haste to take advantage of a wonderful program. We wanted it in place when the school year started," Burris said. "I've only been here a couple of years and maybe I didn't understand the process."

But the merits of Channel One will be reviewed, Burris said. A survey, to be conducted before the end of the school year, will take input from parents and teachers.

Parents, teachers and Carson City School District officials- about 50 in all - attended Monday night's meeting and for two hours the group discussed the positives and negatives of Channel One. No action was taken.

The half-dozen teachers who spoke described the program as a gripping, inspiring and innovative way to spend a 20-minute period, which up to now had been wasted.

"It's valuable. It's the immediacy of the news," said Eric Anderson, an eighth-grade science teacher.

"These aren't pedophiles, they're selling pop and candy,"Anderson said. "And kids can say no... Let's not get too excited about capitalism."

The decision to air Channel One bothered some parents for a number of reasons.

Parent Ben Flemming said he made a point of becoming involved with the school district and familiarizing himself with the issues, but on more than one occasion, he said he had been blindsided by a school policy.

"Why are we having this meeting after the fact?" Flemming asked. "Where's my right as a parent? Where's my input? I want to be involved, but how does the school district want me to be involved?"

The advent of Channel One seems innocuous, but the school is on the slippery slope to commercialism, said Barbara Clark, a member of the Nevada Parent Teacher Association.

"The question is, when we open that door, how far are we going to go down that path?" she said. "The public isn't willing to pay for education, so when someone steps forward with money, we take it."

Reading, which had been identified as a school-wide goal, was being sacrificed because of Channel One, parent Ellen Eng said.

"I'm not sure that sixth and seventh graders are ready for (Channel One.) As a parent this is very disheartening to me," Eng said. "We've replaced an opportunity to read by sitting them in front of a TV. There are lots of ways to expand our children's vision of the world."

One child has opted out of Channel One and her 20 minutes is spent reading alone in the library. Her mother, Linda Csiga, asked that something more constructive be offered.

"She misses out on school news because she sits in the library," Csiga said.

The decision to air Channel One was the school's decision, said Carson City School District Board Superintendent Jim Parry.

Parry said that he signed the Channel One contract because it had strong support from the school's staff.

In hindsight, Parry said when delegating the decision to Burris and her staff, he should have stipulated that parents be involved, too.

"The parents should be involved. They need to be involved in deciding whether to continue it. I think it should be reviewed," Parry said.

The school district is in the process of developing a policy on commercialism in schools, Parry said.


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