Thursday, November 16, 2006

Last Night's Board meeting

Entering the Board meeting last night, I was startled to see kids doing backflips in front of the dias because the Board generally doesn't get that kind of reception. Oh. It was the Dearborn Scats team doing tumbling (which kind of freaks me out because they don't have a spotter at both ends) and juggling. It was fun to watch.

The public testimony was mostly well-behaved until the end. I spoke against the capital bond measure. There was the man who loves to shout out racist remarks but he seems to have some sort of mental problem (I mean that) so he gets off the hook for that behavior. Also, Omar Tahir let loose and said something vaguely racist to Cheryl Chow (mentioned Wei Meng - not sure of spelling - which I think is some Chinese gang) and pointing out that Raj was Indian but not even Native American Indian (his words, not mine) and where were the Native Americans? He also threatened the Board (not clear what he would do but it sounded more physical than legal) over the Africian-American Museum.

Louis Martinez, the new Secondary Education Director, gave a presentation on the direction high schools are going, complete with PowerPoint. I didn't see a lot new except a program he called Pathways which he said was in place in every comprehesive high school that will cover tutoring and other out-of-class help. I'll have to research it to see what it is. He also mentioned AP a lot which was a surprise to me but he and Carla had told me that they were interested in trying to include rigor of all kinds into the high school curriculum. Brita said his was the first in a series of presentations to be made at Board meetings about how the district delivers services at schools.

I only stayed until 8:30 so I missed all the agenda items. However, before I left Brita let Darlene Flynn explain the new Board meeting changes that the ad hoc committe of Butler-Wall, DeBell and Flynn have drawn up. I was quite surprised to hear there would be no public input on it (I guess you can e-mail them which I will do) or Board vote. They are just going to implement it.

Basically it says for testimony:
-one person speaks at a time
-comments to be addressed to Board
-adhere to time limit
-focus on issues and solutions
-no racial slurs, personal insults, ridicule, threats
-signs brought to meetings subject to these ground rules

Mostly okay except that I think one reason people DO come to the meetings to speak is to speak to a group. Otherwise, they could just e-mail, phone or write. I became an activist when I went down to speak and found out that I wasn't the only parent/community member with a concern. I found that there are many other concerns (and some much bigger and more pressing than my own) throughout the district. I feel the public testimony is a time to share concerns with not just the Board but the public who attends the meetings.

On the back of the sheet with the above information was a table outlining what the Board wants to do. It was a chart with three coluumns: Challenge, Proposed Change and Performance Measures. (I'll try to find a link at the SPS website and post it.) The first Challenge is the testimony sign-up and their Proposed Change is to order the speakers as follows:
a. action items (alternate pro and con)
b. introduction items (alternate pro and con)
c. other items (first come, first serve)

They believe, over time, more speakers have opportunity to address the Board.

This is totally wrong. Why? First, if they want to allow more people the opportunity to speak they should parcel out the spots, instead of first come, first serve. Second, action items are items they are voting on THAT night. Most of the Board come in ready to vote; it is ridiculous to have people speak, knowing their input will have little impact on Board voting. It gives the Board no time to consider what is said to them. Three, this should be an open forum. I have noticed that there are some of the same faces (Chris Jackins, Don Alexander) every Board meeting. However, the majority of the spots are different speakers, most of whom I have never seen before. I think there needs to be a big voice against this part of their plan.

The rest of the chart has some good stuff. Things like issues that don't make testimony will be referred to staff for response and follow-up back to the Board. (I had suggested to Brita that the School Board staff track how many people call to be on the list and what their issues are. I think that's the tracking system they are suggesting.) They also suggest have district leadership staff on hand to respond to people during break, FAQ will be posted to the website, a complaint table staffed by customer serviced from 5:30-7:30 and what will happen if speakers don't comply.

1 comment:

Beth Bakeman said...

Thanks, Melissa, for providing those of us who couldn't make the meeting last week a good account of what happened.