A little over two weeks ago, I shared with readers the information I had available on waitlists being created for in-person education. After allowing only a week to submit a form requesting third-quarter in-person access, with an e-mail coming from an unexpected e-mail address, and no reminders, families who missed this artificially-short deadline were placed on waitlists. In most cases, these waitlists were cleared after school resumed in January; in some cases, families received the go-ahead to begin attending on the 21st, that is, the very day of the January board meeting. But some families have reported (via a Facebook group) that they remain on a waitlist.
How many families are in this position?
This is a mystery. Despite FOIA requests, I have not been able to ascertain this number; instead, I have gotten answers such as the following:
All families that completed the 3rd quarter in person agreement at Prospect High School will be attending daily. The school’s administration has maintained a list of families that want to attend individual classes. These documents are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Section 7.5(r) of the Act as they constitute student record information. The school’s administration has not determined whether it can accommodate some of the requests.
To be clear, I have never asked for specific students to be identified; without engaging a lawyer, I am at a dead end, despite the clear requirements of FOIA to provide this information.
In addition, I requested through the FOIA process any records related to the underlying decision-making that led to providing a single week for parents to complete this form; this request was also denied.
Which brings us to the board meeting last Thursday.
In another strike for transparency, the meeting was livestreamed, but the board is not making the recording available because they are not legally required to do so. I am therefore obliged to base my comments solely on notes I took during the meeting.
During my public comment opportunity, I addressed, among other issues, the problem of waitlists. This led board member Alva Kreutzer to ask, during questions addressed to Dr. Schuler after his presentation: “Is there any student who requested in-person who was rejected?”
And Schuler’s reply was cagey: for students who requested in-person learning after the original Dec. 18th deadline, they created a list, because it was a manual process. And they are “still working through a few students at Prospect.” Kreutzer seemed satisfied with this answer and did not follow up or seem to have any interest in how many students were affected.
Then Millie Palmer, having apparently not been listening, asked, “A parent said there were wait lists. Can you speak to that?”
And, again, she did not press with follow-up, but did also pick up on a further complaint from the public comments and asked, “one of the parents said the communication came from the technology group and only Prospect had an additional communication; can you speak to that?” —
to which Schuler replied that “I’m not suggesting that it couldn’t have been better,” and that “it didn’t dawn on us to send a reminder.” (Is he being honest? There’s no way to know.)
Now, again, as I described in my prior article, on December 27, I sent an e-mail collectively to all board members advising them of exactly this issue of waitlists. And in a prior board meeting, Palmer earnestly expressed that she reads each and every e-mail that comes her way. If this were indeed true, she would have no basis for claiming to be surprised now by waitlists. Which means that, indeed, either Ms. Keutzer and Ms. Palmer do not read the e-mails sent to them by district families and residents, or they were well aware of this issue, but simply did not care and expected that Petro and Schuler were handling the matter so there was no need for them to pay any attention.
Finally, I will add the final paragraph of my December 27th e-mail:
Please let me know as soon as possible the steps you will be taking to remedy this situation by moving students off waitlists and providing reasonable means of enabling parents/students to opt into in-person instruction. Mr. Hineman, Ms. Kreutzer, Ms. Palmer, Mr. Walker, and Mr. Younger, please recognize that you swore an oath to “accept the responsibility for my role in the equitable and quality education of every student in the school district” and may delegate this responsibility neither to Board President Petro/Vice-President Dussling nor to Superintendent Schuler.
This inaction on the part of the board members is exactly the problem with their “slate.” There is no oversight. There is no transparency. These problems are more apparent now because of the school-closure issue, but they are longstanding and must not continue.