OCALA, Fla. – Parents of students in Marion County will have the opportunity Wednesday to weigh in on textbooks the district is considering for next school year.
"I believe that a parent is a child's first and best teacher. Nobody knows that child better than that parent," superintendent Dr. Heidi Maier said.
The Marion County Public Schools District is adopting its own textbooks instead of using a state-approved list.
"Per state statute, there is an availability for school districts to choose their own textbooks and we took advantage of that," Maier said.
Maier told News 6 the process started about a year ago after parents shared concerns that students were not reading at grade level. The district decided changes needed to be made, starting with how students were learning.
Marion County is the first school district in the state to select its own textbooks. Maier says the district created a list of qualified options and then formed a committee made up of teachers, parents, and community members who were nominated by the school board and superintendent.
The district held a public input meeting Wednesday so parents and guardians can review the books and provide their comments.
"We expect high expectations from these textbooks, depth of content, rigorous reading, but we also want our community values to shine through and that's what the best part of this process is. We will have the control," the superintendent said. "Between the whole committee, the whole voting process, we are going to be choosing excellent textbooks for these kids."
Parents tell News 6 they are excited about the changes and believe it should be up to the community to determine what students learn.
"Gives us a choice. Don't let it just be what somebody else that's not even in this area...we know and our teachers know what our kids in this area need," parent Tina Sopp said.
But some parents worry all the choices and differing opinions could make the selection process difficult.
"You have so many parents with so many different ideas," parent Rick Tuck said.
Maier tells News 6 the members of the committee went through training. There is also criteria set for each subject matter and grade level to determine the best textbook.
The public input session is from 5 to 8 p.m. at Marion Technical Institute on Fort King Street in Ocala.
The committee will vote on which books will be used later this month. Maier says the recommendation will then go to the school board to make the final decision. A vote is expected in the beginning of the new year.