Board Spending on Contract with Playworks

Testimony of Jennifer Byiers to the BOE, October 22, 2020

My name is Jennifer Byiers.  I’m the parent of a 5th grader at CW Henry, our catchment public school.  We have worked with PlayWorks in the past, either from a grant, district funds, or private fundraising.  I recognize that not every school has the privilege to be able fundraise those kinds of dollars.  And I believe PlayWorks to be a valuable program.  I wish we had enough money so that every school could receive recess conflict resolution coaching for students and climate staff.  But now is NOT the time for us to spend $800,000 on a service to students who may not be present in person to receive it.  I understand Playworks is working diligently to pivot their program for on-line learning.  I am strongly opposed to having our kids, who are already in front of screens 5 hours a day, adding synchronous learning scheduled during their recess.  I’d be willing to bet I could get a petition together, just in the NW, with hundreds if not thousands of parents who agree. 

More importantly, I’m not comfortable that we have the necessary PPE, not to mention adequate ventilation in our schools.  Every penny should be directed on student and faculty safety, not add on programs, as wonderful as they are.  I would also be interested to know, if you are going forward with this spend, how much it has been discounted by PlayWorks to refund what was paid last year.  I am not sure if you can share that information during this meeting or in the minutes.  So far, in the meetings I have attended, I’ve heard the vote yes to every penny it’s been asked to spend.  I think now, during Covid, this board is under a much stronger microscope and you should expect to hear more from us about your spending.   We will be combing through every line and you should expect an increase in information requests.   

With the rest of my time I would like to hear from the board about PlayWorks specifically and why you think this is critical spend, when our school just announced there is exposed asbestos and you want our kids and staff to go back next month.