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Natrona County School District 1 approves computer science primary learning resources, despite some objections

The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees have approved a set of computer science learning materials, though the decision wasn't without some disagreement over vendors' stated support of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Members of the NCSD Board of Trustees discuss a selection of computer science learning materials. (Tommy Culkin, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — On Monday, the Natrona County School District Board of Trustees voted to approve a set of computer science primary learning resources, though the decision came with some debate from board members.

The primary learning resources, which were the recommendations of the Board Academic Steering Committee, included a variety of materials for grades K–12 and can be viewed below.

However, not all board members were in agreement. Trustee Mary Schmidt raised concerns with the company’s educational philosophy, in particular its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“These philosophies do, for lack of a better word, taint how these curriculums are produced,” Schmidt said. “Several of the companies that are on this list to be voted in tonight definitely subscribe to these educational philosophies, and I don’t believe that computer programming should have that.”

Schmidt also raised concerns that computer education standards placed on young elementary school children only exacerbate the responsibilities of teachers.

“That’s another objection I have to this, is inundating teachers with one more thing to teach when all we should be focused on is reading, writing and math at the elementary levels,” she said.

Other board members, however, were in support of the recommended resources. Trustee Michael Stedillie countered by saying the commitment to the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion were part of some of the companies’ mission statements but played no part in the actual materials.

“We have been told, correctly, that these concepts are found in mission statements of various vendors,” Stedillie said. “What we have not been told, and no examples have been given, is that those concepts are present in the materials that the vendors produce. We’ve only heard that they like the concepts.”

Stedillie added that, to him, the vendors’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion were a good thing.

“So when I hear that some of the vendors recommended by our committee of computer literacy professionals seem to embrace the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion, I find that all the more reason to include those materials in our program of computer literacy,” he said.

Ultimately, the board voted 7–2 to approve the teaching materials, with Schmidt and trustee Jenifer Hopkins casting dissenting votes.