The board trustees each spoke briefly and all shared that they’d attended the protest rally and march on Saturday (June 13) to hear from students and the community, and listen and learn regarding the experiences with racism that students of color have had in the Coronado schools.
Superintendent Karl Mueller shared that he’d received the petition from three brave students addressing racism in Coronado schools, and an email from Ananda Dejarnette and 40 other teachers, regarding inclusivity, and he is prepared to listen, learn and act. This statement was a precursor to the racism issue to be addressed later in the meeting.
Regarding the upcoming school year, Superintendent Mueller stated that they’ve received guidance from the state on reopening and will wait for information from the county health department and Office of Education. They will remain flexible with planning and closely monitor how neighboring districts are planning.
Item 3.0 : Community member wants school to consider an online model for fearful teacher and parents. Otherwise, keep the school open.
Shortly after the meeting got started, viewers watching online or on cable could hear the chants of protesters outside of the CUSD offices. They were there for agenda item 7.1: Review of current Board Policy of Nondiscrimination. As the board members made their way through the other agenda items the chanting continued. One specific chant that could be heard was, “Say it loud, say it clear, children of color matter here. No hate, no fear, children of color matter here.” (Agenda 6.1, particularly loud and disruptive).
Assistant Superintendent Donnie Salamanca gave a presentation on the 2020-21 budget and explained that we are waiting on more information from the state and should have an updated budget at the July or August meeting.
Did Board call the police or get security? Board members obviously distracted. President Russell, “Some noise outside.”
The Consent Calendar items all were unanimously approved as per the agenda.
“Black Students Matter!”
All action items were approved or rejected as written on the agenda with the exception of amendments to employment contracts for the Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent as those were pulled from the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.
Around 5pm the board got to the agenda item that had brought the protesters to the building. Approximately 20 public comments that had been received via email were read out loud and one phone message was played. The comments were from students, parents and community members. Items of note in the messages:
Donna Manning: pushing systematic racism; Chloe Berk : started petition asking CUSD to address racism and want “new curriculum”; Brian Trotier: even a “seemingly innocent incident involving racism [sic] is bad behavior that demands [sic] immediate consequences”; Jackson Geary: address history of racism and increase diversity; Gina Woods and Leo Kromen: “racial slurs and hate speech common”; Marley Ramirez: “cultural diverse curriculum” and “zero tolerance” ; Jayne Barrie Richter; Emily Kab “white supremacy and flawed, black history taught every month, black lives matter.”; Cheryl Rode; Whitney Antrim: clearly a culture of racism is alive and well here”; impromptu graduation ceremony is example “white privilege” slap in face to all Americans. Publicly censure Administration, disavow graduation, and apologize; Susanna Tzaduk – BP 0415 advocate and ethnic studies; Chris Kelly: social justice and racism reforms; Lena Childs; Anne Edwardson “pervasive racism at CUSD” and “racial bullying”
- Anonymity must be maintained for any victim when reporting racist actions by others
- The schools need a diversity consultant to train staff and teachers to deal with racism; fund consultants for professional development of teachers and staff (Sydney Krousmen)
- Implement an actionable plan to fix the systemic racism in the schools (Abby Berk, “Horrific racism in CUSD” wants “Equity and Justice”)
- Zero tolerance for racism; violators should face discipline starting with counseling for student and parent/guardian, suspension, or even expulsion. Hold teachers accountable as well (Brian Trotier)
- Increase diversity in our schools through inter-district transfers
- Add better historical topics to the curriculum, teach about black history, teach about diversity and LGBT issues as well (student)
- Cancel Colonial Day, kids have been sold on playgrounds (“Colonial day is racist”, “no black history education” (student, Emily Kab, Lena Childs)
- Shift from an environment of apathy towards an actively anti-racist environment
- Educate our students about the reality of this country: race, class, gender, sexuality. Prepare students for the real world outside of Coronado and give them tools to succeed in the global market
- Teach history of minority groups from their perspective; require English classes to read books by African American and American minority authors (Emily Kab and Bill Berk)
About halfway through reading the comments, the crowd outside began banging on glass doors and chanting “Let us in” and three students were allowed inside the board room as long as they behaved and sit socially-distanced in the few empty chairs. When public comment was completed, Director of Student Services Niamh Foley shared that the current policy of nondiscrimination, BP 0410, was approved in September 2018. New board policies are regularly received, with input from the County Board of Education, and BP 0415 addressing equity issues is planned to be brought to the board next month for a first read.
Discussion followed beginning with Trustee Anderson-Cruz who suggested that history and English teachers could use more diverse literature in the curriculum. She stated that “you do better when you know better, and we need to do better.”
Trustee Pontes said he’d like to see better curriculum and professional development for teachers. He acknowledged that the problems are systemic and have been going on a long time and the process of change will be difficult; he stated: “we have a lot of work to do.” He also suggested that along with new policies and procedures, the Discipline Action Guide should be reviewed and updated.
Trustee Simon acknowledged that this is a complex issue. We need a clear picture of where we’re at, we need to dig deep and listen to parents, staff, alumni, students and make sure and fix the real problem, not what we might assume is the problem.
Trustee Valdes-Clayton said that the demographic data shows racial and economic disparity for the English-language learners, those identifying as minorities (Black, Asian, Hispanic). She had a list of action items including a standing committee, led by students or parents, to focus on justice and change; taking a critical look at the curriculum in every subject; zero tolerance for discrimination in the Discipline Policy; hiring and retaining diverse faculty; and more interdistrict transfers.
Trustee Russell said we have an opportunity here while we’re all talking openly. She shared that the African American Museum in DC has a website with many resources. We need to look at racism in all forms: individual, interpersonal, institutional, structural. The changes we make for the future need to be “the way we do business,” not just committees and talking about it.
Superintendent Mueller stated that hate and racism are not to be tolerated. We have a lot of work to do and he appreciates the student voices and the call to action petition. It’s time to act, time to initiate policy change. We have the right community, students, staff and governing board to embrace this challenge. Timeliness is essential for this urgent matter. Mueller called on staff to present a plan at the August board meeting that could be implemented for this upcoming school year, to include professional development, instruction, hiring, and interdistrict transfers.
From Coronado Eagle.