OK, I had to start with that just because that phrase drives my husband insane.
DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT WATCH OR PARTICIPATE AT THE SCHOOL BOARD MEETING BECAUSE THAT WAS SOME INSANE SHIT AND WHY CAN'T I DRINK?
You know when you CAN'T EVEN to like infinity? We are there people.
As you know by now, unless you've been living under a rock here in the Conejo Valley or just legitimately don't read anything I write, tonight was the school board meeting to discuss the opt-out policy presented by board trustee Sandee Everett.
As you'll recall, last month, the board agreed to designating a superintendent's committee (comprised of four teachers and four administrators) to submit a policy that would address "the need" of a formalized procedure for opting out of core literature, should parents wish to prevent/protect their children from reading apparently anything other than the classics? (That's what we're being told anyway.)
So a committee was formed and a policy was submitted. Apparently this is where the beginning of the end began. Trustee and newest member of the school board Everett reviewed and was not satisfied with the policy the committee produced. She decided to approach them with amendments to their policy. Teachers shared disbelief that the amended version to their policy was essentially a complete overhaul, while Everett insists that the teachers told her they were not willing to work with her in any way regarding policy changes. If I'm being quite candid, I imagine if I were a teacher, the sheer volume of "um's" Everett is able to incorporate in a sentence would leave me absolutely dead inside... so maybe that's why they couldn't commit?
We know these reactions happened because of emails that circulated and Everett's comments tonight at the board meeting.
So, essentially the result of this was that a "new" policy was submitted by Mrs. Everett, and Mrs. Everett alone. This policy is described as an amendment to the old policy and sort of like an amended version of the committee policy... so it's apparently an amended version of an amended version? I don't even know. What I do know is that basically two policies are floating around: the one that was attached to the agenda tonight that was authored by Mrs. Everett and the one NOT included for review on the agenda tonight — the committee policy.
And you see, while they're trying to say they basically took the committee's policy and tweaked it... they didn't, or they wouldn't have submitted it on behalf of only Mrs. Everett. If it was a collaborative effort, it would have been referred to as the committee policy, not the Sandee Everett policy.
Now this is where you are going to want to start banging your head. I mean, continue banging your head.
Board president Mike Dunn insisted via email this morning to a constituent that the only policy submitted for inclusion was the one authored by Mrs. Everett. He also attempted to boldly make this lie tonight at the board meeting. We know this is a direct lie. A flat out lie. WHY? Because Dr. Connolly formally requested for the committee policy to be added to the agenda for discussion IN WRITING. That's right folks... Betsy COMES WITH RECEIPTS. She's a gal after my own heart. I make it a policy to have EVERYTHING in writing so the Dunns of the world get called on their bull-fucking-shit.
Not only that, Superintendent (NOW OFFICIALLY, so we can drop the interim) BACKED UP Dr. Connolly when she stated this at the board meeting, and recalled that Dr. McLaughlin called her after the agenda meeting with Mr. Dunn to inform her that Mr. Dunn REFUSED TO PUT THE POLICY ON THE AGENDA.
Say whaaaaat....? Yep. That totes happened.
Remember during last month's board meeting when Dunn suggested that Everett write up a policy and she was like: "Oh woe is me, no! I don't feel comfortable writing a policy on my own!" WELL FOLKS, WE ALL DUNN BEEN HAD. Because the only policy that was presented to the community this evening was.... SANDEE EVERETT'S VERSION.
Are you connecting the dots?
1) Create fake, contrived outrage over a book that isn't controversial (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (PTI) ).
2) Board members with agendas can then say they'll ONLY approve the book (that was approved by UACT and the curriculum committee) if it allows for the formalization of an opt-out policy.
3) Pretend that you care about community input and designate a superintendent's committee to create policy.
4) Ignore policy and have board member write the version you want approved and push it down the pipelines.
5) Show favoritism to extremist, far right special interest group Unified Conejo, who rallies activists that are non-CVUSD residents to appear and speak about the protecting students and parent choice.
Are you with me so far? That's where we're at. More dots to follow.
Now here's what I find interesting. 100 speakers turned in speaker cards tonight. So you know what Sandee Everett proposed? She asked to flop the general order on the agenda and place board comments BEFORE public comments. In doing so, she then took quite a severe portion of the meeting providing a presentation on the similarities and differences between her policy and the committee's policy.
Now, wait.a.tick. The committee's policy was NOT placed on the agenda for discussion... therefore I'm not convinced it was actually legal that Mrs. Everett be able to talk about a policy we don't get to have a discussion on, and that wasn't presented to the public BY THE BOARD, in order to bolster her own policy proposal.
No. no. no. no.
And that presentation was long as fuck. And I'm also legit serious when I say that "um" was incorporated so heavily throughout the presentation I'm convinced we could have shaved off 25 minutes. Look, I know public speaking isn't for everyone, but for fuck's sake. I was legit starting to twitch every time I heard "um." I'm pretty sure I'm going to have nightmares about it tonight. Also: CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WOMEN'S REPUBLICAN FEDERATION or something like that (it's simply too late for me to google that shit)... now that Sandee has cancelled her previously planned appearance to speak on "SAVING OUR CHILDREN'S MINDS: FIGHTING THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM" due to public backlash, you have saved yourselves from that.
But what really just tickled me: this happened during board comments so then other board members naturally arrived at their turn to present comments. Dr. Connolly presented her feedback to Mrs. Everett's presentation, and then, as has been standard of past board member comments, updated the community on everything she had been involved in that contributed to her role as a board member since last board meeting. Some dumbass from crowd "Let parents parent" shouted to Dr. Connolly that she was filibustering... because obviously he's new here, and to any standard operating procedure of any board meeting. Dr. Connolly was not the one to switch the agenda to her benefit to make a presentation. (And let me just say... I'm not a hater of presentations. It was clear that a lot of time was put into the comparison charts. I think that is very useful information and would have been wonderful IF WE WERE DISCUSSING AND REVIEWING TWO POLICIES.)
And while we're on the topic of the "Let parents parent" sign... it's literally the stupidest response to a school board issue I've ever seen. I mean you're flat out advertising you don't have the ability to think a concept through, and probably shouldn't be in charge of what your children read.
Let parents parent? Boo boos. Honey bears. Sugar muffins. I am QUITE confident that a teacher has not marched into your house, smacked you in the face and told you how to change your child's diaper while insulting your ability to parent. Like, I'm at least 99.324% solidly certain that's never happened to you. No one is controlling your ability to parent... however, your insistence that public school curriculum be catered specifically to your personal preferences is not conducive to letting teachers teach. You are literally at a school board meeting, on a school campus, insulting teachers and questioning their credentials and experience. It's like actually what you are doing... so either own it or don't. MISS ME with that "let parents parent" shit.
Now, I want to address my issues with this circus. I can't say I'm a hard advocate for an opt-out policy. Students need to be exposed to diverse concepts. Teachers are trained in how to guide them on sensitive material that expands, challenges, engages and teaches students about the real world. Shielding them (as much as we want our babies to stay babies forever) is not setting them up for success. Further, it's not a right. The state, as we've been over multiple times at this point, does not grant parents the right to opt out except on three occasions — core lit isn't one of them.
That being said, I am pro parent-involvement and supportive that the CVUSD does work with parents on an individual case-by-case basis when a true desire for opting out is requested. If the district and community felt the language needed to be clearer on this ONE element and practice, fine. But that's not what happened... the policy I read also included language on the review and selection process for literature and additionally includes supplemental materials.... even the books in the school libraries (from my understanding of what I read and reviewed.) **** So, book banning got brought up a few times and I want to address this because some of it mirrors the conversation regarding "PTI" and potential book banning. I think perhaps it was being used too liberally here, which took away from the main point.. BUT, if you're putting processes in place that potentially allow for a re-review of past curriculum and implementing a parent committee to participate in the review of new curriculum, there are ways to weight that in such a way that books be removed from curriculum and don't be introduced to curriculum. It's not a concrete consequence, but what it could potentially result to is an indirect banning or censorship of certain books that don't receive board approval. I think that point was clearly highlighted when book banning was brought up as a concern.
So, the policy in front of us is not the one we, the public, were being told was being created (it's not JUST a formalized procedure for opting out), and it's not presented from the committee the public was told would be submitting a policy. Now in candor, I did not have time to read the committee policy, which UACT posted on their website on Sunday, and I'm not terribly familiar with previous policy, but the warning language on syllabi, via email and suggested asterisks for "mature"-rated books seems excessive to me. If that verbiage is old, I still feel the same way regardless of who wrote it or which version it stems from.
Asterisking a book is like black-listing it. Parents who have any minor concerns but lack the time to read and review the material for themselves may instantly request a "safer" choice. You can't pretend parents won't use the opt-out policy, and that they just want to know which titles are considered "mature." If they weren't going to do anything about it, then they wouldn't be demanding warning labels and you wouldn't be demanding a policy to give them one. That's pretty basic.
It was actually super weird to me, and not a well-thought out comment in my opinion for the face of Unifed Conejo, Mrs. Chen, to act insulted by the insinuation that parents would not research the books on their children's syllabus while simultaneously demanding that the syllabus come with warning so that she knows to research the books. WUT.
Damn. I lost my place.
Oh yeah. This would be a good time to mention that while Mrs. Everett insured she had plenty of time to speak, she, on hot mic, asked Mr. Dunn to cut the speaking time even shorter from public comments which had already been shortened from three minutes to two minutes. He didn't bite on the first request from her... but stay tuned! Anyway, feeling great about the fact that the policy writer doesn't actually want to consider feedback? That, as she stares at the kids who have been waiting for hours to speak, she makes a request to deny them? But, it's like, totally about the students... amirite?
Let's talk about speakers! Speakers in support of teachers HEAVILY HEAVILY HEAVILY outweighed the petite group of extremists holding their "let parents parent" signs, while wearing their patriotic pins and donning their bibles. No, legit, a guy was there holding the bible. And after we said the pledge of allegiance the roars and cheers from this group asserting their patriotic dominance was... um, adorable? MERICA! HEAR ME ROAAAAAR! I mean, one guy was upset, stating that we were asking him to prove how Christian he was and how patriotic he was. Buddy, I'm here to talk about literature... not the fact that you might be wearing the American Flag as a thong, mmmmkay. And please, for the love of god, don't read me a bible verse.
For the most part, the speakers were excellent. I was absolutely appalled, STRAIGHT UP APPALLED that this minority extremist group was HECKLING STUDENT SPEAKERS. Like booing students, shouting at them when they disagreed with the statements, and muttering some COLORFUL comments in reaction to these brave students who spoke.
One of these gentleman, who was fortunate enough to get there early (well he and his group arrived over an hour early to secure the entire left side of the room) bemoaned loudly that UACT and school organizations had some reserved seating... while there was a group of at least 20 students standing at the side of the board room for 6.5 HOURS. You, sir, can not so kindly fuck off.
You all get up their with your fake-ass bullshit about protecting the children, while patronizing and booing smart, well-spoken educated students who came out to exercise their right as you did yours. You should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves in every way. The victim(s) of this board meeting, as much as you tried to paint it so, was NOT Sandee Everett. It was our students. And our teachers. BOTH of whom you demeaned and insulted at every opportunity under the guise of "parent choice."
YOU LITERALLY SHOUTED: "GET REAL" AT A STUDENT WHO SAID SHE SHOULD HAVE A SAY IN HER EDUCATION. And you laughed at her... a high school student you say you're here to protect. YOU ARE THE DEVIL. With love and respect.
Now, I'm not going to say that ONLY one side offered mutterings and sighs. There were certainly times where the teacher/student/parents that were there to speak out against the policy did some aggressive cheering, offered some loud gasps, etc. We were not immune from that. But legit straight up BOOING and yelling things at students? You have got to be kidding me. I am repulsed. But don't worry... Sandee didn't take any time to mention she found this problematic.
So, things got real around the 10:24 mark. Why might you ask? We were told there were 48 speaker cards left. You do the math at two minutes a piece. But we didn't get to listen to the remaining 48 speakers. The board, under Sandee's insistence once more, agreed this time to cut speakers short. They would give 20 more minutes to speakers and then allow 15 minutes for discussion and the meeting was to adjourn at 11:00.
So we heard a few rushed comments, with the highlight being some old woman who acted like she was going to have to scrub the sin off of herself tonight and repent for reading a steamy passage. I think she told us at least three times that she didn't like having to read it. I guess god forced her to? I don't even know what book it was from, but shit... her reading was so dry I guarantee you no one was getting worked up (if ya know what I mean), except maybe those who doth protest too much.
Sandee jumped in once more, at exactly 10:45 to read off a bunch of parent comments "from the committee" (remember the committee whose policy we aren't reviewing) that supported her reasoning. She talked so long she then voted to extend the extension of the meeting by another 15 minutes to 11:15.
Yes, you heard that right. Sandee Everett voted to deny students (and teachers who were grading papers during the board meeting nonetheless) the opportunity to give their feedback on a policy that would affect them. She then voted to give herself and board members EXTRA discussion time.
And if you thought all of that wasn't fucked up.... WAIT FOR THE FINALE.
Dr. Connolly and Mrs. Phelps requested additional time to review and for the item to reappear on the agenda next week as a discussion item. Dunn said that it was already on the agenda as an action item and that they could vote to delay the action (of the vote) at the next meeting should they so wish to do so.
The agenda is not published. While it has been discussed, it is NOT published. Therefore it did not have to be placed on the agenda as an action item. It could reappear once more for discussion. Both Dr. Connolly and Mrs. Phelps asked that the board recommit to the procedure they promised the public last month, and to review/include the committee policy for review.
Dunn continued to refuse (this is where he lied and said the committee policy was never submitted to him). Dr. Connolly called him on this and he told her that if she didn't agree with his conduct that she should contact the district attorney.
It should be FURTHER NOTED that Mrs. Phelps cannot vote to delay the vote at the next meeting BECAUSE SHE WON'T BE PRESENT AT THE NEXT MEETING AND DUNN IS AWARE OF THAT.
Then, Dunn, needing to have the last word as the ass-wipe he is, said the policy would officially appear as an action item to be voted upon next meeting (and basically said nah, nah, nah, I got the last word) and closed the meeting at 11:20 p.m.
What in the what in the what in the what? AND DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE COWARD THAT IS ANDERSEN... hiding in his little corner like a mouse and then squeaking up in the last five minutes to offer full support to Mrs. Everett.
The board literally said to us all tonight: FUCK GOOD GOVERNANCE.
Everyone, and I mean everyone — I don't even care what side of the coin you're on should be absolutely appalled by the way that shit went down.
OH AND P.S.
Want to hear something extra fun? The consent item to approve the expenditure (purchase of the 600+ PTI books) got bumped from the agenda to next agenda in order to save time tonight. You'll remember that the district placed the order for the books... BUT, they have to officially approve the cost otherwise the order will be canceled. We're getting awfully close to not approving that cost in order for the books to get here in time for next semester.....