Pandemic Push-Out Stifles Public Engagement

Eyes on the Board of Education: November 18, 2021
by Karel Kilimnik

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes

The District’s Pandemic Push-out affects everyone in the District: parents, students, educators, community members. When we had no choice but to stay home, meetings were virtual and human contact was minimized. The Board took advantage of our isolation by continual minimizing of  public participation. Instead of becoming more inclusive and more committed to listening to the District’s stakeholders, the Board and the Hite Administration have used the quarantine as a means of putting more distance between their directives, procedures, and policies.and those affected by them. When we won the battle in 2018 to abolish the School Reform Commission, we had great hopes for a School Board, albeit an appointed one. The Board increased community engagement with the establishment of four committees: Finance and Facilities; Student Achievement and Support; Policy; Family and Community Engagement. After two meetings, the Board disbanded the Community Engagement Committee. Last year, they disbanded two more, leaving only the Policy Committee, which met only four times a year (APPS found out last month that Policy will now only meet twice a year). In an December 2020 article Board members told Chalkbeat last year that Board meetings will look different, with more public engagement and discussion of data. In truth, there has been much less public engagement and much more data analysis–up to two hours at every action meeting. Only when APPS members complained did the Board allow public speakers to be placed ahead of the Goals and Guardrails session.  In January, the Board implemented Speaker Suppression procedures capping the number of speakers and cutting speakers’ time.

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Testimony of APPS and community members to the Board of Education, September 23, 2021

Click on the title to read a transcript of the individual speaker’s testimony.

Board Must Hold Hite Accountable by Lisa Haver

Board of Education, Do Your Job! by Stephanie King

When Will Accountability Become Part of the Board’s Focus? by Dr. Cherie Micheau

End the Incompetence! by The Racial Justice Organizing Committee

Speaker Suppression Continues by Diane Payne

No to Empowerment Charter re-Application and No to renew Tech Freire by Ilene Poses

Classroom Air Quality Needs Improvement, Now! by Lizzie Rothwell

Learning While Healing by Lynda Rubin

Board Finds New Ways to Disrespect Community

Ears On The Board of Education: September 23, 2021

by Diane Payne

The Board’s deliberate and mean-spirited disrespect for the students, parents, educators, and community members  was the lowlight of this meeting. Board President Wilkerson moved speakers way down the agenda, calling on them after a lengthy presentation. At this “hybrid meeting”, the Board allowed into the auditorium only those who signed up to speak in person. With about 80% of the room empty,  at least 50 people could fit with more than adequate distancing.  After all, the Board has no problem with filling classrooms  with little ventilation to capacity or having students, in the words of Student Representative Rebecca Allen,  “packed like sardines” in hallways.  In fact, half of the Board members attended virtually, including Julia Danzy and Marie McColgan, who have supported all of the administration’s plans for full return to school buildings since last year, falsely claiming that most parents supported the administration’s plan.  Once again, there was a persistent echo in the auditorium, making it difficult for attendees to hear. The camera was positioned so far back that those viewing at home could not see the faces of the Board members or tell who was speaking. 

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Ears on the Board of Education: April 22, 2021

by Lisa Haver and Lynda Rubin

The Board continued its repressive speaker policy by excluding four APPS members from speaking at this meeting. Their topics were also excluded. The sign-up window opened at 5 PM Monday and closed just a few hours later, so it is likely that many other members of the public were not heard.  Education activists who can only speak every other month are now limited to an average of one minute per month to speak before the Board votes on items representing hundreds of millions of dollars.  

APPS did achieve some victories.  The Board voted to withdraw the Item to grant KIPP Charters several amendments including enrollment expansion.  APPS had written a letter outlining the many issues, beginning with the various names of the school on different websites, asking that the Item be withdrawn until the facts were sorted out by the CSO and presented for public scrutiny, including the reasons why the CSO was recommending that KIPP’s entire request be granted. APPS had also communicated to the Board in written testimony, letters and research reports about why they should vote to proceed with the non-renewals of Universal Bluford and Daroff charter schools. The Board voted for non-renewal.  

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