Goals & Guardrails: BOE Needs to Listen to Students, Parents and Teachers

Testimony of Stephanie King to the BOE, 12/10/20

Good evening. My name is Stephanie King and I’m the president of Kearny Friends, representing Gen Philip Kearny Elementary School in Northern Liberties. 

I want to commend you on the Goals & Guardrails. The goals are aspirational; the guardrails would be a welcome environment to achieve those goals.

And I am here to tell you that you cannot achieve any of those things unless you repair the trust and relationships with the people in the schools: the students, parents, and teachers.

You say you want every student at grade level for math & reading. But you refuse to listen to when teachers tell you what they need. You steamroll their voices to authorize $1.7 million for a new learning system they don’t want and are begging for other supports. You depend on the largesse of parents to fundraise for books in libraries and software licenses like First in Math – both things Kearny Friends has had to pay for our school, that other better off schools afford easily.

You say you want to end “practices that perpetuate systemic racism and hinder student achievement.” But you refuse to listen to students when they tell you they want cops and metal detectors out of school. You’ve refused to look at data put in front of your face about the inequality and segregation between schools. 

You say you want parents to feel “welcomed and encouraged to be partners in their child’s school community.” But you refused to listen when parents told you the classrooms weren’t safe and they didn’t want the Digital Academy. You listened instead to a bunch of consultants who prepared slick presentations that you had to abandon when we raised our voices in unison.

Your Goals will just be a bunch of numbers and your Guardrails will just be a bunch of pretty words unless you can stop viewing us as your constituencies and not adversaries. There are people ready and willing to do this work. I know, I have met SO many of them. 

But we are so tired. We’re tired of every budget shortfall leading immediately to the talk of layoffs or closing schools. How about laying off some consultants, or the IT outsourcing on tonight’s agenda that told me to put my kid in a cyber charter when I called YOUR hotline for help with Google Classroom?

We’re tired of another list of metrics being thrown at our schools without the support to back it up. You’re going to expect my school to double our math and language arts proficiency, when you come in almost every October and level someone away from us, so NOBODY knows what they’ll be teaching with any finality until November of each year?

The Goals & Guardrails are good. But without engaging the parents, students, and teachers, it’s just another nice Powerpoint that shows you care more about presentations than about us.