Testimony of Zoe Rooney to the BOE, July 23, 2020

For a meeting that wouldn’t usually happen in July, that was added in response to a pandemic and the need for urgent action, this agenda has a lot of “business as usual.”

It is upsetting, when lives are literally on the line, to see non-urgent items listed, especially given that there haven’t been any committee meetings, not even a pretense of public discussion, and the items were posted a mere 72 hours before this meeting. 

If you wanted to follow your word about focusing now only on the most urgent of business, you would table anything not directly related to reopening until the August meeting, and only after committee meetings when they’re discussed in public.

I’ve adjusted my testimony from my original plan because I’m really disturbed by much of what I heard earlier in the presentations and by some of the softball, leading questions from some board members.

As you may know, another educator and I put together a crowd-sourced document of questions submitted by students, families, and school staff about the reopening plan. There have been more than 730 submissions and the document contains more than 400 questions. 

The huge response to this and other unofficial feedback shows the failures in communication from the district, as well as  how folks don’t feel that they’re truly being heard.

An FAQ with partial answers and unrealistic promises doesn’t show that you are hearing people.

You seem to think you have created “solutions” that address folks questions and concerns, but because you don’t actually hear us, you continue to not only miss the mark, but fly wildly off course while leaving the people who need strong leadership the most in the lurch.

I am frankly shocked at the partial information, misinformation, and lack of concern showed earlier in this meeting about facilities issues such as ventilation. The information shared by people who are ostensibly charged with protecting public health ran directly counter from to other sources of guidance from sources such as the EPA and Harvard’s School of Public Health.

I am disgusted that you are pretending to suddenly care about the students who need the most supports when you have been blatantly unconcerned through years of your own policies that you have refused to address that have allowed school segregation to increase, closed schools in poor Black and brown neighborhoods, and put on the complete travesty that is your Extended School Year that does an active disservice to students with significant special needs. 

What I see you doing is putting a band aid on pandemics.

This in true in your response to the pandemic of white supremacy, in the way you are asking for free labor from people of color on your equity coalition.

This is true in your quote unquote plan for reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the way you are making choices that will be sending students and staff into unventilated, unsafe schools where they will almost certainly face illness and death.

In relying on bandaids, instead of on real solutions, you are letting these wounds fester until they cause the trauma you’ve let school inflict on Black and brown students, and the destruction of our public schools you are currently inflicting through this reopening mess.

This is your leadership and your legacy.