It was quite the meeting (but I left after the speakers).
First up was the great Denny International Middle School Jazz Band. I have to love any group that first plays that old jazz chestnut, "Take the A Train," and follows up with "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone." Priceless. (Their director had wanted to talk to the Board about the enrollment pathways from Denny to Sealth because many kids are still upset that they don't get to go to Sealth. His name was so far down the speaker list that he ended up not staying.)
Student rep on the Board, Dexter Tang, read the Student Senate's remarks (that were reprinted here yesterday) about the federal investigation of student discipline in SPS and about the Center School issue.
There were a couple of speakers who did NOT talk about The Center School. Residents of Wedgwood still don't want a new elementary at Thornton Creek and would like to be part of any planning. (Pegi McEvoy did get up and say that the Lake City property just can't be used in this case.)
Kellie LaRue did get a laugh out of saying she was probably the most ineffective speaker ever at Board meetings as she had been coming for 10 years to the Board meetings to speak on a single subject (capital planning) and still had not gotten much traction. She tried to explain how long it has taken to get the Board to see that seats are NOT capacity and that there are several criteria to consider and yet the Board is only just now getting that.
There was also a parent who expressed concern over the "segregation" at Ingraham over APP students. He teaches at Garfield and said that APP students are totally mixed in with other students but at Ingraham, you can have two classes teaching the same thing and yet one is all APP and the other mixed. He said it was wrong.
But then we came to the issue about the social justice class at The Center School. I was early on the speakers list and my points were following:
-the Board had visited this issue with the Brave New World brouhaha two years ago.
-Did the PD for teachers on using challenging materials and topics ever happen as the Board had directed the district to do back then? (Apparently not, as I asked Greenberg later on.)
-Why were no students in the class interviewed besides the one in question? It would seem important to know what OTHER students heard, observed and what the general class reaction was. I also pointed that we are trying to guide teens towards young adulthood and treating them like children wasn't going to help that effort.
-Also, what authority did the Superintendent have to suspend the curriculum for that part of the unit (and I note, after talking to students in the class, that he didn't just suspend the race part but also the gender part)? There is nothing that unilaterally gives him the power to do that and yet he did.
But my words were the least important. Student, current and former, after student came forward as did parents of Mr. Greenberg and other teachers.
"His class taught me to speak out. This curriculum allowed us to talk about race safely and he has mastered that ability in this class."
" I am a teacher and he is a superb teacher who should be celebrated. Teachers went through the Courageous Conversations training years back, Greenberg took it seriously and developed it for his class. We were told to speak our truth and that it would be uncomfortable. That's the point."
" Greenberg's curriculum is a vital part of my son's education. We have observed profound growth in my son and the safe environment of a trusted teacher. Mr. Greenberg keeps the class upbeat despite the tough subject. He brought in guest teachers, took the students to City Hall and inspires them."
"Why are we defending a valued curriculum of a favorite teacher? Until I got to his class, I didn't realize that white was a race."
"The class had heated and passionate discussions but there was no inappropriate behavior. No one had to speak and Mr. Greenberg set a tone for safe and respectful discussion with no hurtful words or bullying."
Mr. Greenberg "The process was fraught with mistakes. We continue to lose students of color at Center because of the lack of a comfort level. "
Another teacher "The curriculum was suspended BEFORE the review. This has a chilling effect for ALL teachers for our academic freedom which is part of the CBA. Whose curriculum is next?"
"I experienced a beautiful moment from my classmates feeling safe and baring their feelings to each other. Greenberg made personal accommodations. My only complaint is his silly dancing." (Students verified that Mr. Greenberg always said if a conversation was too difficult, a student did not have to remain in class.)
A former student teacher and now a teacher at RBHS, Mikayla Crawford-Harris, got up to speak. She spoke about the poor building condition (and told me later that tours for prospective parents were "embarrassing") at RBHS. She said it was a "hostile learning environment" and yet it only took one student at The Center School to upend a class and her students have no voice.
"I look at the world differently every day because of this class. Mr. Greenberg gave me confidence. I learned from him AND my peers."
Isn't this what we want in a teacher? Don't we want students who feel empowered and confident after they leave a class? Isn't race a continuing issue in our district?
It would also seem that they might want to expand Mr. Greenberg's class to other high schools and not try to muzzle him.
As I mentioned, I didn't stay for the entire meeting. I listened to two Board directors comments (Director comments came directly after the speakers), got disgusted and went to find Mr. Greenberg (who was in the lobby chasing after his toddler). DeBell went first and frankly, blah, blahed it. "We live in a diverse world and have to be respectful." And...?
Then Martin-Morris spoke and said absolutely nothing about what he just heard.
Imagine, you are a Board director listening to some of the most impassioned speaking you might ever hear from the public. And then you tell people that your webpage has an account of your latest conference in D.C. and you have another one coming up and that the Superintendent is coming with you to it.
No mention of any of what came before. Not a thank you to the many young people who came to speak to you. He didn't even have to address the issue but to completely ignore what went before is dumbfounding.
Mr. Greenberg and I spoke briefly. He has been inundated with e-mails of support. He said that he can't answer direct questions about the class but yes, he did sent home a syllabus at the beginning of the year that parents had to sign. He and I both heard some clapping so I assume a couple of Board members addressed the passion that was felt in the room.
(I reviewed the tape.
Peaslee thanked the students for coming. Said she had a daughter at Center School and hoped the class would be reinstated soon. She noted the irony of the federal investigation and this class happening at the same time. She said we needed to address "institutional racism." She said we cannot back away from "risks" of this discussion. She asked for patience for their "processes."
Director Patu also thanked the students and alumni. She quoted MLK, Jr. "I have a dream" statement.
Director McClaren (probably the most polite person I have ever met) also had the good grace to thank the students. She referenced attending the Roosevelt diversity assembly and how she saw echoes of what was stated by Center students. She thanked the district social workers and the classified staff.
President Smith-Blum also thanked the students and said it was "pivotal." She also thanked the Alliance for their "help" on the retreats and the Strategic Plan. I think she is feeling the pressure to support them.)
Here is the webpage for the links to the Board meeting.
The appeal decision is March 14th from T&L head, Shauna Heath.