Secret Deals and Speaker Suppression

Ears on the Board of Education: November 18, 2021

by Diane Payne

The Board practices speaker suppression in many ways. They abolished the committees that offered the school community a way to engage in real dialogue and deliberation. They gutted the official speaker policy, changing the rules from month to month and meeting to meeting. Those are obvious methods. But there are other ways to silence people. One is to add official items to the agenda after the sign-up window has closed, such as the charter renewals, so that only charter company representatives have a chance to be heard. Another is to add staff presentations to the agenda the day of the meeting, making it impossible for people to have a chance to comment or question. The Board does not post staff presentations before or even during the meeting, with the same results. And with only two minutes to speak, it is difficult if not impossible for people to address their issue and also ask a question about information presented during the meeting.  Of the thirty speakers allowed to sign up, eleven did not show up. That meant the Board only had to listen to nineteen adult speakers, silencing an unknown number of speakers (including three APPS members who were barred this month), disenfranchising the public, undermining democracy, and shielding themselves from accountability.  

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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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