Board meeting notes, October 8, 2020

August board meeting (own photo)

Yes, you can take a look at the minutes posted on the District 214 website, when available.  But let’s face it: those minutes provide an incomplete picture.  Here’s my account, based on my notes:

The meeting started with a school staff presentation on efforts regarding the well-being of students, describing home visits being undertaken, especially with those students who were wholly unengaged, failing 2, 3, 4 classes.  There was a particular outreach to the 275 homeless families in the district (note: the original “remote” plan had provision for these students to be in school from the start, but this appears not to be the case).   They also discussed a clothing closet, provision of deodorant, shampoo, etc., making the (dubious, to me) claim that students were more worried about their appearance and lack of personal care items when on zoom than in-person.  They were also very excited about a spring survey showing reduction in vaping (and seemed indifferent to the fact that this survey was conducted in the spring and provides no information on how remote school impacts students’ behaviors).  They talked about efforts to help students with anxiety or other mental health issues — that is, so long as the student is willing to ask for help.  Board member Younger asked whether there was an increase in students with mental health issues, and the staffer speaking admitted that they didn’t know.

The school board celebrated being given a special governance recognition award, one of 15 districts in the state.  (No information on how this was determined.)  Later, two members were given the designation of Master School Board Member.

The superintendent provided various updates:

  • 6% of teachers are planned to be teaching remotely.
  • There is no formal recommendation to wipe desks between classes but they will make wipes available for students.
  • They will provide extra masks for those who forget.
  • “Lunch” will be provided as grab-n-go snacks because they cannot provide free lunch distribution while also providing the free food to families.
  • Eating will only be allowed during lunchtime.

In the board members’ updates, Younger reported that

  • Macy’s donated 800 formal dresses (there was derisory laughter in the overflow room); he acknowledged they didn’t have a use for them without a prom and they might be auctioned off (who would buy them? school districts which are not as locked down, presumably).  He seemed afterward to react as if he realized that had spoken out of turn, because prom hadn’t been officially cancelled.
  • Northwest Community Hospital donated handmade face masks (pet peeve:  this was not a grand gesture on the hospital’s part; these were face masks made by donors in the community, which were no longer needed by the hospital; credit should go to the crafters rather than to NCH).

The superintendent and all board members then celebrated the completion of a booklet of career pathways.  “We are delivering more early college credit than any other district in Illinois, maybe in the country.”  The reality is that with two elective slots each year, students cannot take all three of a language, fine arts, and a career-oriented class, yet they don’t acknowledge this.  What’s more, they celebrated this booklet without acknowledging that “career” classes (machining, woodworking, etc.) are a farce if students are forced to learn remotely, either full-time, now, or, later, two out of every three days.

Finally, after these relaxed discussions, they moved on to public comment.  Here are my notes (with apologies to misspelled or missed names):

Jane Stefaniak:  A senior at Hersey, captain of two sports teams.  “We have been waiting for this year our whole lives.”  Very stessful, and being deprived is taking a toll, with missing homecoming and football games, which would ordinarily bring people together.

Jackie Ryan:  Her daughter is a sophomore at Buffalo Grove, who is always asking when she will be going back to school.  Why isn’t this the number one priority?   The district hasn’t acknowledged the losses of children, their academic regression, depression etc.  The American Academy of Pediatricians has urged reopening.  A Brown study found very low cases, 0.15% of teachers.  Her child’s chemistry teacher has said he/she will not be present at school; how will they teach experiments?  Finally, the metrics are flawed as they aren’t risk-adjusted.

Jacklyn Darangowski:  she was a Forest View alum, and being here reminds me of her time there, all the teachers that she remembered.  We need to take care of the kids, so they likewise have memories of their teachers.  The board members need to earn their seats.

Deb McCall:  In corporate America, there’s a concept of a “net promoter score”; if the school board assessed that, their score would be as bad as the cable companies.  “No one trusts you.”  Her daughter was told, “don’t bother coming back; you will just sit at your desks and be on zoom all day anyway.”  At each step, we become less trusting of the school.  This is not OK.  She asks for a formal written explanation of what the student experience will be.

[missed name]:  we need to follow science, and make fact-based decisions.  Requested a written answer for the basis of the 7 cases metric.  A 7 cases metric means kids will never go back to school normally.  School closures have a massive impact; social isolation has a far larger impact than coronavirus.  She encourages all parents to vote and to run.

At this point they cut the speeches down to two minutes.

Laura Schillmoeller: She has a masters in statistics so she knows what she’s talking about.  The district needs to be transparent about metrics.  The cases per 100,000 metric provides a disincentive for testing.  Schools could open tomorrow but the district lacks courage.  The administration/board is not talking to families; they should experience a full schedule on zoom for themselves!

Tony Roselli:  the school district had 8 months to prepare so no excuse for being unprepared now.  He demands written responses.  1) We will never attain phase 4 metrics, so people will leave the district; what is the plan for teacher layoffs and building closures?  2) The board must move to meetings every 15 days.  3) What’s the Microsoft Project Plan for the move to the next phase?  4) the board rejected a parent-staff-board member subcommittee; now a demand: what’s the date of the first meeting?  5) contact information for the union local.

Kathy ??:  The district union is the 2nd largest in the state.  Local 211 decided on all-remote after CPS did.  Now CPS says that 8 hours of teaching is too much.  It’s not credible that teachers caught covid from schools rather than being out and about in the community.  The district appears unconcerned with the exodus from the schools.

Julie King:  Cited the district mission, then said that they’re teaching students to surrender, to follow instead of lead, and to avoid risk.

Monica Zablanca:  None of the board members have children in school.  Why are they more qualified than parents to make decisions about children.  We see our children and the impact on them.  Teachers are essential workers.  For those board members who are up for re-election: your decisions will determine our votes.  “Let teachers teach and let parents parent.”

Emily Paine:  You have no clue what is happening in our homes.  I reached out and got no support.  She reads a letter from a friend:  “The effect of remote learning on my freshman:  her vitality and happiness is disintegrating.  Laughter has been replaced with painful sobbing.”

Me:  I spoke about the board’s lack of communication and transparency, and their loss of trust.  Note:  being in the overflow room, I needed to walk to the main meeting room.  As I was walking, they declared there were no more speakers and adjourned, and I had to insist on my turn to speak.  Note to self:  as my topic was not the re-opening, I should have also insisted on the full three minutes rather than hastily trying to fit the comments into half the time, by the time I had objected to their haste in closing comments.

Unknown speaker:  a pediatrician, she knows there are many instances of schools reopening without harm.  There are no instances of transmission from student to teacher.  The 6 foot rule comes from sneezing without wearing a mask, so when students are masked, that full distance shouldn’t be necessary.

Tim Bauer:  begins by thanking the board for approving a partial return, then pleading, “don’t look at this as a final step.  Please work to get us back fully 5 days.”

 

 

 

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