Trumbull school board approves more diverse books, curriculum

The Trumbull Board of Education recently approved some culturally diverse additions to its middle school and high school curriculum.

The Trumbull Board of Education recently approved some culturally diverse additions to its middle school and high school curriculum.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

TRUMBULL — Hoping to diversify its offerings to students, the Board of Education approved three new culturally diverse books to be added the middle school curriculum.

It also approved a curriculum guide for a jazz band course and for an already-existing African American/ Black and Puerto 
Rican/Latino Course of Studies, both of which are at the high school level.

At Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent Susan Iwanicki spoke about the potential changes, which had been discussed at the October meeting of the board's curriculum committee. The books being added to the middle school level, she said, were the result of an increased focus on diversity at that level.

"The teachers were asked … to continually reflect on where they could diversify our offerings for student choice and really expose students to different cultures," Iwanicki said.

The middle school is adding two books at the sixth grade level and one at the seventh grade level to "complement what teachers are already doing," Iwanicki said.

The books being adding to sixth grade are "Harbor Me" by Jacqueline Woodson and "Inside Out & Back Again," by Thanhha Lai. Both of these would would be used in book clubs with students.

"Harbor Me" is about a group of six kids who meet weekly without adults to discuss the various issues in their lives. "Inside Out & Back Again" is about a Vietnamese family who flee the country for the United States during the Vietnam War.

The book being added at the seventh-grade level is "I Will Always Write Back," by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda, a nonfiction book about two young pen pals who live in different parts of the world.

Board member Julia McNamee praised the selections as "wonderful texts I think students will really respond to."

Also discussed was a new jazz band course that would be led by Trumbull High School band and music teacher Joshua Murphy. Iwanicki said the band class would incorporate many different kinds of music, such as Latin music.

According to the course description, students in the course "actively create, perform, and respond to music" and will be expected to perform at "concerts, music festivals/adjudication and other community performances."

The program would be an afterschool activity, but students would get credit for it. 

"The work that (Murphy) really did was to try to make sure that it was a formalized look at the standards associated with music and jazz band," Iwanicki said.

The last program discussed was a formalized curriculum guide for the African American/ Black and Puerto Rican/Latino Course of Studies, which is offered as an elective for students in grades 10 through 12.

Iwanicki said the school is required by the state to offer the class, though students aren't required to take it. Two sections of the class ran last school year and two are running this year. The students study African American/Black history the first semester and Puerto/Rican Latino the second semester.

"The reception has been very positive here in Trumbull," Iwanicki said. "We’re really proud of the work that has gone into this course to really make it accessible for students."

The board voted unanimously to approve the addition of all of the books, and to approve the curriculum guides for jazz band and the history course.