Attached is a letter that I sent to my Board colleagues asking they consider my request to reopen our schools. This will be discussed and up for a vote on Tuesday, Dec 1. If you believe our option 1 students should be back in school, please email and call the Board. The only way this will be possible is if the community speaks up. The group email is: firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone numbers can be found here. You may sign up to speak at this link or call the clerk on Monday: 757-263-1016. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdMBT94omFTrkIDZlOn1q_wp_I8f4fONlb_go6_UCRG0wvuIg/viewform
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Thank you to Kerry Dougherty for publishing my article: https://www.kerrydougherty.com/allposts/2020/11/19/reopen-public-schools-or-provide-school-vouchers
I will continue to stand up for our children suffering from mental health issues related to the COVID isolation.
I may not be able to respond to all of the emails and calls that I’m receiving, so I thought I would share my response here regarding the decision to return all students to virtual learning.
It is the prerogative of the Superintendent to make this decision. The Board voted on a reopening plan that included metrics. I did not agree with that plan nor the metrics to be used but it did pass on an 8-3 vote by your elected representatives.
My opinion based upon research, including talking with physicians and mental health providers, is that keeping students out of school has more negative impacts than returning them for in-person learning. According to the CDC, compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health–related emergency department visits during the pandemic for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.
I fear for the mental health well-being of all students. I am also concerned that students with special needs and students whose parents aren’t able to be home with their children will fall farther behind. Additionally, our students who have hands-on learning courses such as the Career and Technical Center, Advanced Technology Center, SECEP, Environmental Studies, courses with labs, etc are being further left behind.
I would like to note that even though we did enter the “Red” metric today for total cases, the VDH did report that their elevated case case count reported today, November 16 is due to a catch-up from the VDH data system being down for upgrades. While I believe any death is a tragedy, we did flatten the curve and hospitalizations and deaths remain low. The graphs shows hospitalizations and deaths for the Eastern Region.
I continue to believe that the cure should not be worse than the disease.
Fortunately, we will be sticking with the plan to return our older students 2 days per week beginning this Thursday. Thank you to Dr Spence and his staff for making the recommendation to stick with the plan.
I brought up the mental health issues that are negatively impacting our community and this must be factored into our decisions. My colleague Kim Melnyk attacked me and said that I should not be using mental health issues as a reason to return our students to school since mental health has always been a problem. I will continue to advocate for our students, especially those suffering from anxiety and depression!!!!
I will be communicating matters related to the school board here on my blog. If you wish to receive an email notification when a new post has been made, just sign up for the newsletter to the right of this post.
It is my goal to keep the public informed regarding issues being discussed by the School Board.
For weeks I have been asking for our teachers that are teaching both in-person and virtual to receive a higher stipend. My colleague, Carolyn Weems, is the chair of our budget planning committee. In her committee, she pushed for more pay for our employees and she was able to get the following allocated:
* 1 time bonus of $1,000 to all full-time equivalent employees (this includes FTE Bus Drivers)
* A stipend increase for all teachers providing dual instruction for in-person/virtual students. A lump sum of money was allocated for this purpose. The exact amount is not yet known but will be approximately double to triple the current stipend.
* A pay increase of .5% (point-five percent) will be given to all employees on steps 1-30. Step 0 will get .25% (point-25). Those above 30 will receive a .5% (point-five percent) COLA (cost of living adjustment).
Last night the Board approved these committees recommendations. Kudos to our CFO for his great fiscal management during this crisis.
City Council will need to approve the reversion money that is being allocated for these purposes.
If passed by council, we anticipate the bonus to be paid at the end of November
The Board voted last night to return our 7,8,9,10,11,12 grade students who chose Option 1 to in person school 2 days per week beginning Nov 12.
MIDDLE: Grade 7 Option 1 students will attend in-person on Tues & Wedn each week. Other days will remain the same as the current schedule.
Grade 8 Option 1 students will attend in-person on Thurs & Fri each week. Other days will remain the same.
HIGH: Option 1 students with last names that begin with A-K will return for in-person on Tues & Wedn. L-Z students on Thurs & Friday. Other days remain the same. (9th graders will also be on the hybrid model).
While I am glad that our students are getting back to some in person learning. I asked the Superintendent what his plan is to get all of our Opt 1 Middle and High students back to 4 days per week learning. He said that he doesn't have a plan nor is he working toward a plan at this time to make that happen. I fear that these students will not get back to at least 4 days per week for months and other students may not see the inside of the classroom all year.
Ultimately, the Superintendent said that it is a space issue for returning all option 1 students. however, 80% of our Middle Schools have between 26-56% of the students requesting option 1. 75% of our High Schools have between 39% and 56% of the students requesting option 1. Space should not be an issue with these numbers. The other few schools who have higher numbers could think outside the box and do something different. I was told it would be an equity issue.
I made a substitute motion for the Board to accept the administrations current recommendations while also directing the Superintendent to work toward getting all option 1 students back to school as soon as possible. The Board rejected my motion 3-8 (Weems, Hughes, Manning voted yes).
We were also told that there has not be 1 student case of transmission of COVID within our schools.
2 Important topics on the agenda for Tuesday's Board meeting:
1. Reopening plan for Middle and High School Students (Board will be discussing and voting). I am advocating to get all Opt 1 students back to school at least 4 days per week. Administration is advocating for a hybrid model where Middle/High students will only have part-time in person learning. Email AND call the school board with your input. Phone calls will be most impactful. Board member contact can be found here: https://www.vbschools.com/about_us/our_leadership/school_board/members#rye
2. Budget: $36 million in Reversion money that the Board will vote to allocate. (See further details in the agenda.)
I'm thankful that my suggestion to provide an additional stipend to our teachers is being considered and I am inclined to support the proposal.
Here is a summary of the compensation proposal:
• $13,000,000 to be re-appropriated to the School Operating fund 115 to:
- Provide a one-time bonus of $1,000 for all full-time equivalent (FTE) employees - $11,000,000
- Increase the stipend amount for teachers providing dual instruction for Option 1 (face-to-face) and Option 2 (virtual) students - $2,000,000
I was not able to attend last night's board meeting but I did listen to the workshop. The superintendent now states that he cannot allow all option 1 students to return to in-person learning 4 days per week. He is proposing a hybrid plan and not allowing 7,8,10,11,12 to return at least until Nov 12th. Here is an email that I sent to Dr Spence and the Board this morning sharing my concerns and questions since I was not able to be at the meeting. I am also advocating for a higher stipend for teachers.
A FOIA Request was made for my communications with various people. Legally I am bound to provide this information and I would like all of the public to see the requested information. The FOIA request wants my communications with a variety of people and seems like a fishing expedition for political purposes. I have nothing to hide so I'm sharing the messages publicly as they are produced. It is unfortunate that my political opposition is taking up valuable staff time to compile these items for political purposes. The person making the request is LUCAS ANDERTON who is a paid operative for several local campaigns (see attached).
The opposition seems to be on a fishing expedition but they aren't going to find any rotting fish that they hope for. I am one of the most transparent local elected officials and I'm happy to share my communications here.
FIRST FOIA DOCUMENT FROM MY EMAIL COMMUNICATIONS
Two of my colleagues are denying that Glenn Singleton's Courageous Conversations is being used in VBCPS. At the last School Board meeting, the superintendent and director of equity and inclusion both stated we are currently using it.
I will not stand for the public being told lies.
Here is the video of the last meeting (starting at 1:57): https://youtu.be/NptfQW36d9A?t=7017
The superintendent says: "we do have some training we use now Courageous Conversations Around Races and other training that happens in our schools" and then the Director of Equity and Inclusion also confirms our "framework courageous conversations about race".
These are two emails from two colleagues that were sent out in reply to citizen concerns.
New and Amended Policies being voted on by the VB School Board on Wedn 9/9/20. Including a new EQUITY POLICY and changes to STANDING RULES and PROCUREMENT
The image above was provided to me and I have verified that this is part of current training in VB Schools.
If you have any viewpoints that you would like to share regarding these new and amended policies, contact the school board at the group e-mail: email@example.com or call to sign up to speak at 757-263-1016. You may also sign up to speak by using this form.
1: EQUITY POLICY:
* Will mandate training for employees and School Board members regarding the topic of Culturally Responsive Practices. School Board has not been informed of what the required training will be. We must vote on the policy to know what is in the policy. Superintendent verified that part of current training is "Courageous Conversations About Race" (see above). Glenn Singleton's "Pacific Education Group based in San Francisco makes millions of dollars from this type of training throughout the country. He is political and seems to be extreme and seems to hold his own biases. I do not know if this is what will be mandated but it is being used now.
* I had a meeting with administration last week and I verified that not all stakeholder groups were represented in creating this policy. The Equity Council and the Policy Review Committee (made up of 3 School Board members) drafted the policy. The equity council is made of 20 members, 16 of which are VBCPS employees. There was little to no representation from the Latin, Filipino, or Native American community. A member of the United Jewish Federation was invited to participate (which is great) but no other Christian or Muslim organization was specifically invited. No one was invited who represented the Special Education Community.
* Budget: the policy gives the Superintendent full authority to spend money with no cap to hire consultants and to implement the policy.
2. SCHOOL BOARD STANDING RULES:
* Reduces the amount of the time the public can address the school board from 4 minutes to 3 minutes
3. BY-LAW 1-47:
* Reduces the amount of time for the public to speak and also reduces the window of when speakers can sign up to address the Board
4. POLICY 3-32-CONTRACT EXECUTION POLICY:
* Exempts certain items up to $100,000 from being competitively procured. This includes Instructional Software and Digital Resources. There are thousands of companies that provide these products.
ACTUAL POLICY DRAFT DOCUMENTS
Next Wedn the School Board will vote on lowering the amount of time citizens can speak at a public meeting.
Why would the Board want do this? Do they not want to hear from the people who they serve?
E-mail the Board or sign up to speak: firstname.lastname@example.org or 263-1016
My Viewpoints on the Proposed Equity Policy and attached draft policy that will be voted on by the School Board on Sept 9.
Last winter, the School Board Ad-Hoc Discipline Committee conducted surveys of teachers and staff at a variety of schools throughout the district. Attached are the qualitative results from those surveys. School Board Legal council has reviewed and redacted appropriate portions of the document for personnel/privacy reasons.
Prior to COVID, I made the decision to run for re-election. The primary reason is because I wanted to continue to be a voice for employees and students related to student discipline problems that I believe strongly relate to safety.
Elementary Level Discipline Survey Results
Middle School Survey Results
High School Survey Results
The new policies being discussed on 8/25 and then most likely up for a vote at the following school board meeting are detailed below. If you would like to provide feedback, you may sign up to speak at 263-1016 or e-mail the full board at email@example.com
The policies include:
Policy Review Committee Recommendations:
1. Equity Policy (brand new 5 1/2 page policy)
2. Bylaw Appendix B / School Board Standing Rules (changes public comment time from 4 minutes to 3 minutes)
3. Bylaw 1-18/ Officers: Elections and Terms of Office (no significant changes to current practice)
4. Bylaw 1-39/ Agenda Preparations (no significant changes)
5. Bylaw 1-47/ Public Comments at School Board Meetings (changes public comment time from 4 minutes to 3 minutes, also reduces amount of time to be able to sign up to speak)
6. Policy 3-32/ Emergency/Small/Sole Source Purchases (exempts certain items such as instructional software and digital resources from competitive bidding)
7. Policy 3-89/ General Contract Execution (increases purchasing authority without approval of business services office)
When I was advocating for in-person learning (at a reduced capacity and with proper social distancing and mitigation measures), many of my colleagues and the VBEA union were adamantly opposed because they said that it wouldn't be safe. Union members were saying that we wanted teachers and students to be "canaries in a coal mine". My opponent and board colleague said those of us advocating for in person learning were "playing russian roulette with a gun". I was advocating for parents and teachers to have a choice regarding whether or not students/staff went back to school for in-person learning. The Board voted 8-3 to have only virtual school until the metrics show that it is safe.
Now, VBCPS is going to provide childcare in our elementary schools BEFORE their metrics show that it is safe. Are these same Board members and VBEA Union going to speak out against having these children in school because of the dangers? I don't believe so. One of the Board members, who is also a Union member and was calling for "First 9 online" has already praised the childcare plan. How is it all of a sudden safe when the metrics they voted to approve have not yet been met?
I guess the COVID virus only infects people if schools are being used for school and not childcare.
See attached document for details.