Based on information I got today at the BEX Oversight Committee meeting, I knew that it was likely that an attempt would be made to clear the Mann Building. I observed the building for a period of time late this afternoon. I saw several people stop and look at the still-locked gates including a construction truck and private electrician company truck. I saw no one come in or out of the building.
In the Open Thread it was reported at 6:43 that there was a Tweet that Banda had a Notice to Vacate the Property that said everyone had to be out by 6:00 pm today or they would be considered to have been "trespassed." The Tweet was a rally to come to the building.
Someone Said reported police and power trucks there. Then at 7:52 pm, Someone Said reported that KIRO-tv tweeted that the Seattle City Light workers were "turned away" by Horace Mann occupiers but no police were there.
Power had gone out at my home so my family and I left and did not see this information until 9:30 pm. I went and checked the building at about 10 pm. It is in exactly the same condition as I left it today. Lights were on so the power to the building is not cut. I do not believe whoever is occupying it is out.
I am quite surprised that this happened at night when it would be much more difficult to access the building and easier for Africatown to rally people. As well, it will be more difficult on the weekend when more people are around. So the district picked a heck of a time to try to get in there.
Finally, today at the BEX Oversight Committee meeting, Flip Herndon told the committee that the contractor was told they would have access to the property on Tuesday morning. Good luck with that.
Let's start with what happened at the School Board meeting on Wednesday.
The Superintendent included a "report" in his comments. I was quite surprised at what he had to say given the state of the issue. He said that he believes in the district creating more partnerships. There was a lot of blah, blah about "passion for equity and excellence" and closing the eternal achievement gap. He said that no, the building still had people in it and that they had discussion with SPD about this issue. He said that Africatown had much to offer and was not bound by conventional methods.
Then he had Professor Qaasim, a professor at Shoreline Community College, give a presentation that he said had been scheduled when the item had been placed on the agenda. The professor said virtually nothing new and nothing specific. She did talk about the Al-Noor Academy of Arts and Science (ANAAS) that was at the Mann building (all 10 girls) and that is was not religious but taught a math focus but "religious culture is part of the curriculum." (I will point out that this is precisely how charter schools bypass the religion argument when there are charters passed on ethnic backgrounds. It's a slippery slope.)
She claimed there was a waiting list of providers for Africatown. Africatown is miffed that the district is offering "rundown portables." She made some vague reference to Banda "calling on blogs." She said, "this does not stop, if we get the Mann building or not" which is an interesting statement given that, according to the district, they are not.
Her talk was supposed to be five minutes and it was nearly 20.
The Superintendent went on to say that Africatown is 70% "moved out." He mentioned incurring penalties from the contractor but was not specific. He said the delay was in trying to "build rapport and relationships." He also said what I had said was the issue - he said Legal told him this had to be voted on by the Board and that's why it had been brought before them. He said this process is "not something that we wanted" and "in a way, it's kind of messy." He claimed the building would be cleared by Monday.
Director Carr then spoke and expressed "deep disappointment in the handling of the situation." She said to get to the point of losing control of the building AND paying penalties was not good. She said in her role as Audit and Finance Chair she asked chief counsel to report this to the State Auditor. She was told that this issue was "not reportable."
Director Peaslee asked what the plan was going forward and how will the district continue to work with Africatown and where will they go?
Banda replied they are still talking about the Columbia Annex.
Martin-Morris said that he had "some concerns about what has transpired to this point." He said he had "no doubt about Africatown" but he wanted to make sure that from July on, "did we receive any compensation from anyone in the building?"
I was quite surprised to hear the Superintendent say he did not know. He asked Pegi McEvoy. She said the last rent was from Amistad School and that was in June.
DeBell said that he was worried about setting a precedent here about leasing issues. He said the district has a set of policies around those relationships and they need to determine if those possible partners meet those policies or criteria for a partnership. He said they need a "good faith" situation. He said it is taking too long to get possession of the building.
McLaren said, "I deeply regret that this has not worked out. It's a big disappointment to me but I admire the good faith effort of the Superintendent and Africatown."
Patu said that "at the beginning I was a little confused" but that she had met with Africatown leaders and was able to see "exactly what was happening." She said that with the African-American Academy "we set them up to fail." They went against Board policy but she said sometimes that might have to happen. "Kids are more important than money."
Banda said he didn't see this as the end but the beginning. He said that Africatown has stepped up to do things like seeking tax-exempt status and "developing structure and finding outside consultants."
Smith-Blum said thank you to Banda for taking the situation in hand and hoped for quick resolution.
So they all voted to remove the item from the agenda.
I'm not going to go through all the testimony about Mann. I will say that seconds before the woman started screaming about equity, she and a man across the aisle from her had some kind of altercation and he said, "But I'm Mexican" and that seemed to set her off.
During the break, I went out to the lobby to go to use the restroom. I saw a woman I now is supporting the Mann building with other Mann supporting talking to a tv reporter. She stopped me and said the reporter wanted to talk to me. I excused myself and came back in a few minutes. The man with her was friendly but told me what I was doing wasn't right. Finally she told me that the reporter wanted my card and I gave him one and left.
The next day, someone let me know that I was being quoted as saying something at the Board meeting that a Mann supporter had said. I called the station to speak to the reporter and get a correction. He called back and apologized for the error. Then he told me a strange story.
He said he and his cameraman had gone to the Mann building. He said they had been walking the perimeter to get shots of the building and were confronted by two men with masks on. The men asked the reporter and cameraman what they were doing. The reporter said, just doing his job, no big deal. One man half raised his mask and told the reporter they knew the police were "casing" the building and would be coming in at some point. He indicated that they were not just going to leave the building. He called himself a "Zapatista." The reporter said it was an uneasy encounter.
Banda - I am baffled by his actions and reactions. What looks like an initial effort to be sincere, open and accommodating now looks like capitulation. No other district would put up with these kinds of action that leave the district open to huge risk issues, loss of dollars and slowing of a major capital construction schedule.
There have been deadlines given and none met. Not even tonight.
I was surprised to learn that Africatown (and likely most of the partners) do not have tax-exempt status.
Board: I sense some pandering going on from some Board members when it would seem they would be united on two fronts.
One, this nonsense of a building takeover needs to stop and policies of the district upheld.
Two, that they need to stand firm that the Superintendent needs to report back to them what his plan is for closing the achievement gap of African-American students AND what the plan is for the uneven discipline of students of color.