Y'all it's BOARD MEETING RECAP time! I just got home and have picked up on the live feed while starting my blog so hopefully I go to bed before 2 a.m. tonight.
A pregnant gal can only party so hard on a fold up chair.
So tonight was the night: THE VOTE ON AN ALTERNATIVE ASSIGNMENT POLICY:
The way this policy debate has been framed:
"Transparency versus Censorship."
It's pitted parents against teachers, and parents against students. This is where GOOD GOVERNANCE could have very seriously avoided the circus this discussion has become. This is where GOOD GOVERNANCE could have helped avoid the divisiveness that we have experienced at board meetings regarding this policy. This is where GOOD GOVERNANCE would have initially seen through its promises to the community that we would be presented with a collaborative policy (not a policy submitted by one board trustee) for discussion, as opposed to the bait and switch that took place during last week's board meeting discussion on this policy.
I don't think we are asking for a lot. I keep hearing the word "transparency." Those who scream transparency the loudest oddly seem to be the least transparent, if you want my honest opinion. How can you emphasize transparency, while not providing the community the process that was publicly promised and voted upon? Is it honestly that hard to understand why there has been backlash? What am I missing? We were told a specific process for this policy was being followed, and that is not what was presented to us last week. It should not be shocking that people raised a lot of questions and had a lot of concern. If it's easier for a board trustee to pretend disgusted that "community members" have turned this political instead of taking responsibility for what transpired, and its lack of transparency... so be it.
I've rarely seen this board hold itself accountable, so we can add this one to the long list of not taking responsibility for the mess you've created.
Now, I want to make something clear. I am not anti- parent choice/involvement. I am very supportive of those parents who showed up to speak. It shows that they cared enough to make time to come and speak on behalf of their child's education. Many students/teachers have spoken to the effectiveness of the current alternative assignment process that is already in place within the CVUSD. I don't believe in advertising and guaranteeing an an opt-out policy (neither does the law in the state of California, by the way), with special identifying marks on "problem books," but I do support the policy that the district has had in place to allow parents the option to pursue opting out as needed. There are some more extreme in opinion on this, on both sides, than myself, but I am willing to find reason where I can find reason, and the fact that the district has had a long-standing practice to work with parents when concerns have been presented is a positive attribute of this district. (The fact that the board's actions have forced me to have be extreme on this issue leaves a very poor taste in my mouth.)
Now, if that means the language needed to be a little bit clearer or a little bit more accessible so that parents were aware of how to be informed of this process and the steps to take... I don't necessarily take issue with that... it's just not what we were presented with (and you'd know that if you read the policy, not just a section — as you do "salacious" book passages).
I'm listening to Mr. Andersen speak right now as I'm typing and he keeps talking about misinformation. Misinformation is right, as I listened to so many parents last week, and tonight, who had clearly never read the proposed policy in full, and further, have no context because they were just looped in by a small extremist special interest group to have outrage over... something they already have. There was a very kind woman next to me who supported this policy. It's the first time I've ever seen her at a board meeting and I think her speech was polite. However, as we were seat neighbors, I had the opportunity to observe her reactions to comments, at which time it became painfully clear that she wasn't aware the district already has an opt-out policy (this is a failing on the district's part), and two, hadn't read the full language of the policy currently up for vote.
Further, and I have to add this because it's legitimately the most insane display of ignorance I've encountered in a good long while... (guys... I eavesdropped on her texting conversation):
She was relaying to the person she was texting how appalled she was that a student got up and spoke about how he was going to demonstrate something he wrote, and present it out of context. He followed with Trump's infamous hot mic Hollywood Access pussy grabbing quote. It garnered quite a few chuckles as most people in the room caught on. GUYS. This chick legitimately thought this was a quote the student wrote. She had no idea Trump ever said these words. And she was appalled by us policy opposers for laughing at it. I'M BEING SO SERIOUS. I nearly fell out of my chair and died. And guys, she was not a mean woman. She offered me a piece of chocolate even. But, FFS... HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? She is going home right now literally clutching her pearls at the idea of a student writing about pussy grabbing and apparently lives under a rock the size of Texas.
Let's be clear here. There was a unanimous vote by the board to craft policy language regarding a formalized process for requesting an alternative assignment for their child, as desired (In fact... Mr. Andersen made it very clear that he would only vote for the approval of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," if it led to a policy — more on this later!). Therefore, everyone in the community expected a policy to be crafted... based on a collaborative effort that was promised to the community: a superintendent's committee plus an ad hoc committee that were designated. That's all I wanted. The board to keep a promise.
Let's get to public comments! Oh, wait, first let's discuss an action board president, Mr. Dunn took at the very beginning of the meeting. Pushed from last week was a long list of consent agenda items for approval, including an expenditure for $5,000+. For those who didn't open the agenda item itself, you might have missed that within that expenditure lived the purchase order for "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." See, the books were ordered, but technically the order could not be fulfilled until the board approved the purchase order. Here's where it gets fun! Dunn pulled that specific item from the agenda to hold it as hostage. Depending on whether or not the vote on the policy went in his favor would determine whether or not he would allow the board to vote for the approval of the P.O. I mean... TALK ABOUT TRANSPARENCY, AMIRITE?
Ok let's get to a list of my thoughts on public comments:
Ok, I'm going to stop to address something real quick because it has to be said. Do you want to know how Andersen/Dunn/Everett responded to requests that they show GOOD GOVERNANCE in ensuring that our students and teachers feel safe in speaking at board meetings (if you'll recall, last week... and again this week, pro-policy advocates heckled and booed students, shouting things at them, and attempted to defile the reputations of our teachers by slandering them in public comments.)?
They didn't do a damn thing. They didn't make a comment about it. They didn't denounce the behavior. And they sure as shit let the same people run over our students and teachers AGAIN this week. And look, I'm not for heckling or booing. I politely clapped for those speeches I supported. Sometimes I laughed when they said funny things...and I will admit, I muttered some things quietly under my breath, such as "what in the actual fuck?" ... and BOTH sides were and are guilty of this. That's passion for you. But I really do make it an effort to keep silent and respect a speakers right to speak even if they're completely batshit insane.
BUT ONLY ONE "SIDE" CONDESCENDED AND JEERED AT THE STUDENTS IN THE ROOM AND IT SURE AS SHIT WASN'T THOSE THERE THAT OPPOSED THIS POLICY. And it is unacceptable, once again, that Mrs. Everett was painted as the victim and martyr throughout the process... the one she put in place and then used to create her own policy and shove it through the pipeline. The "poor Sandee" bit by her supporters while flipping off students (no, legitimately a woman who chastised students in her speech ALSO flipped them off) was a bit overdone.
Ok, back to comments.
Now, there was one comment that was just so damn ignorant it had to be saved for last. An old white woman said that since she had been on a reservation once and had seen how Indians act on a reservation, she could confirm that what Sherman Alexie wrote IN HIS DIARY ABOUT LIVING ON A RESERVATION AS AN INDIAN was not reflective Indians living on reservations.
THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. THAT WAS A REAL COMMENT. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE SUPPORTING THIS POLICY.
I'm posting here something I touched upon on my FB page the other day.
Let's discuss why the alternative assignment policy has roused up the censorship/ "soft ban" debate.
Many are getting tangled up in the language, viewing "censorship" as a black and white issue, only to be applied in one specific context, but this goes deeper than that, and I think it's important for others to understand why censorship is being brought up.
No, these books aren't being "banned" or "censored" in the traditional sense/meaning of the word, which I've never suggested or implied.
That being said, and this has been touched on by others in greater detail, when you make it difficult for a teacher to teach diverse books, those diverse books will disappear from syllabi.
By guaranteeing and advertising the right for students to opt out (a right not permitted by the state of California), in addition to providing multiple warning labels and asterisking certain books on the syllabi and curriculum, you are inviting mass opt-outs to happen. It's simple.
When multiple students begin to opt out, (and they will because parents will use this policy to make a point), and then use language in the policy that states teachers must "provide adequate instruction" (who determines what "adequate" means?)... you're essentially creating a situation where, in order for teachers to avoid doing an additional workload, and in order for them to avoid contrived controversy, they simply won't choose the asterisked books to teach. Discussions regarding literature work best with an engaged class, and by creating an opportunity to opt out from diverse literature, this lessens the intended impact the teacher has strived for in creating a lesson plan for that particular text.
And when a policy creates an environment where teachers find it more productive and reasonable to not teach certain books because of it, you've essentially contributed to an indirect way of censoring literature from being taught in the classroom.
Comments conclude. Fortunately this time, everyone got the opportunity to speak.
Mrs. Everett shares that she felt her last-minute meeting with the committee that took place yesterday was very productive, she listened to what they said, and made some changes, like making sure the language was clear that this only referred to 9-12th grade core lit. Honestly, I'm going to be real with you. It's so hard to listen to Mrs. Everett speak. It takes 27 minutes to get through a sentence and I couldn't for the life of me take notes to make sense of all of it.
I do know that Dr. Connolly asked for more time to discuss the policy, having only seen it one hour prior to board meeting. They decided to hash it out at board meeting because Dunn wanted to jack off after the vote tonight so by God, it was going to happen!
What I still find problematic — and I don't care if this is in any version of any policy out there at this point, is why this policy discusses the review and selection process for curriculum. I was led to believe that the policy being developed was one to formalize language about the alternative assignment options, NOT the process for selecting and reviewing literature. Am I the only one? Am I mistaken? Or did they just get three-for-one?
Anyway, Dr. Connolly addressed many of her concerns about the policy with Mrs. Everett over the course of an hour or so, but even that was futile. The response to all of Dr. Connolly's comments was: NOTED. Noted. Noted. Noted. What does "noted" mean? Noted as in it's going to be addressed? Noted as in "fuck off"? I have no idea. Mrs. Everett did clarify that she did not mean for the language she repeatedly inserted in the policy to indicate that our teachers weren't respectful of their students' rights and said she would strike that language.
Really, there's no clean version of this policy. If you were at the board meeting you had no idea what was going on because you didn't have the policy in front of you. So, you could, from memory, slightly catch changes, BUT, with a 12-page policy I'm sure none of us memorized (let alone the fact that this was an amended version of the policy we didn't see beforehand) doesn't really bode well for following along.
Regardless of Dr. Connolly asking for more time and to review a cleaner, amended copy based on the notes tonight, that wasn't provided. Instead, Mrs. Everett basically said she would give her word verbally about things she would change. Mr Andersen said there was room for more and that this was good first step -- and yet somehow was still ready to vote on it. Mr. Dunn called for vote. Vote happened. 3-1 (Dr. Connolly dissenting) in favor of whatever-the-fuck policy they apparently have (I mean who really knows at this point.. it could include language about chickens hatching eggs).
GUESS WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT VOTE. DUNN STOOD UP AND STARTED JACKING OFF.
Ok, he didn't really, but he might as well have, right? Well here's what he really did: Since he got his way, he put back the Part-Time Indian P.O. order item for approval. It passed, 3-1, with Dunn dissenting because he's just that much of a prick.
Mr. Andersen gave some PC speech in which he blamed everyone but his own role for the shit show that has transpired over these past five months. I'm not fooled. Mr. Andersen doesn't care about good governance. He cares about putting on the appearance that he cares about it. He wants to pretend to be appalled by policy opposers for their politics while he sat and watched, silently, throughout two six hour meetings, non-resident political activists show up and mock and condescend students and teachers. Mr. Andersen was delivered a petition of nearly 4,000 votes opposing this policy, and one with a bit more than a thousand votes in favor. The pro-policy speakers, many from out of the district, and a few who homeschool their children and just go to Mrs. Everett's church, were apparently more of his voter base than everyone else though.
I thought it was really rich of him to feign outrage over the concept of what parent choice means to everyone. Parent choice to me, means that you respect the processes put in place in the public school system. If you aren't happy with the the public school system and the alternative opt-out policy ALREADY IN PLACE, perhaps you need to pursue alternative means of education. That's not me telling you I don't support parent choice. That's not me telling you it's my way or the highway. Again, THERE'S ALREADY AN OPT-OUT POLICY IN PLACE. That's me telling you that the district already DOES work to cater to your specific needs. I just don't need an extremist version of it, decided by a fringe group of far-right activists, that affects the curriculum my child will be receiving... IN PUBLIC SCHOOL. It's literally mind boggling to me that this was even an issue.
UPDATED MORNING THOUGHTS: ******************************
This is what bothers me the most from last night. Not that we "lost" the vote. I'm not going to look at it as a loss. I'm going to wait and see what is really in this amended version of the amended version of Mrs. Everett's policy.
I'm going to wait and hear from teachers and professionals regarding revised policy language to better understand if the "collaborative effort" that happened in the 13th hour due to community backlash (which Mr. Andersen lauded as though it wan't their job in the first place to collaborate... I mean, I've never seen so much self-congratulating about following through on a process that was promised to us) is what is best for the students. Because it's about the students. It's their education. As much as some individuals wanted to remind them that they own them (weirdly, the parents kept insisting this concept of ownership which kind of creeped me out), I want to know if our experienced educators feel comfortable with this revised policy and if it benefits the students on their mission toward higher education.
So, this is not a loss if, whenever we see a cleaned up version of the policy, we can agree it is a middle ground, and it is best for students.
That being said, what really, really, really bothered me more than anything (aside from the fact that board members have created and contrived controversy from the beginning) was the stunning lack of good governance by many of the board members at last night's meeting and the previous meeting (we won't even get into their previous behavior right now).
You see, I'm not quite sure it's appropriate for board members to claim that they have our students' and teachers' best interests in mind when they silently allow political activists that aren't even affiliated with our community in any way — except by political motivation — to attend our meetings, disparage our teachers, AGAIN, and to treat students the way that was allowed last night.
For anyone who watched, you heard students in our district give eloquent, funny and heartfelt speeches regarding their desire and right to read. They were pleading with the board to keep the quality of the education in tact. And yes, quite a few of them had signs, much to the chagrin of a few board members... but they were there, participating in this process of Democracy Mr. Andersen just beamed about.
Some of them, much like many adult speakers, were nervous. It's not easy for everyone to get up in front of a packed room and speak, especially under these circumstances.
And this is where the board failed them.
Those with opposing views from the student speakers made condescending remarks to them and about them in their speeches, demanded on multiple occasions that they put down signs and show their elders respect (no, you earn that), FLIPPED them off, called them brats and beyond.
As I stated in my blog last night, I'm not for heckling or booing. From either side. That doesn't mean I was a complete Pollyanna. I politely clapped for those speeches I supported. Sometimes I laughed when they said funny things...and I will admit, I muttered some things quietly under my breath, such as "what in the actual fuck?" (I mean, can we stop for a minute to recall the white woman attempting to de-validate Sherman Alexie's experience as an Indian living on a reservation because she visited a reservation once??? I caaaaaaaan't because there was so much insanely wrong with that) ... and BOTH sides were and are guilty of the exaggerated clapping, the muttering, the looks, etc. That's passion for you.
But I really do make it an effort to keep silent and respect a speaker's right to speak even if they're completely batshit insane. Verbally assaulting students crosses the line. It is unacceptable, once again, that Mrs. Everett was painted as the victim and martyr throughout the process by her supporters... the one she put in place and then used to create her own policy and shove it through the pipeline... while she, and other board members allowed for this behavior to take place.
Good governance. Apparently the courses a few of our board members (minus board president Dunn, because he doesn't make time to attend those sorts of things) attended a few weeks back haven't quite sunk in. You'll find that when you practice good governance, and respect your constituents, compromise (when reasonable and appropriate) is something we're all willing to strive for.
The board failed our parents, our teachers, and most importantly, our students last night. That's the real loss. It's not about "sides." It's not about the divisiveness that was crafted by the board to make this a highly contentious issue, forcing those in the community to react and speak up for students and teachers. It's not about any of that.
It's about what is best for the students. Can you look me in the eye and tell me that was it?