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Author: Leah Z Owens

Oppression Will Not Be Tolerated by the Newark Board

TRANSCRIPT

My remarks tonight are all about what occurred at the Jan 28th meeting.

I’m not into #cancelculture. It contributes to the project of dehumanization and doesn’t allow for learning or what I refer to as re-constitution.

But I do believe in accountability and transformative leadership–and for those practices, I echo calls for you, President Garcia, to step down, preferably off the board but minimally removed from the chair position allowing Dawn Haynes to lead the board.

All that occurred on Jan 28th was not just a mistake or your legal right. It was a clear demonstration of how you’ve allowed yourself to be a tool of oppression. And it’s a pattern of behavior, some of which I experienced during my time as a board member.

From day one, you’ve led with a sense of entitlement. At the April 2018 meeting, you were nominated for president; I was nominated for president. At the call of general counsel, I spoke to my ability and character; you said nothing. And were elected.

Six months in, at the Oct 2018 meeting at Science Park, Student Rep Andre Ferreira spoke passionately about critical issues, including suicide as a problem in our schools and racism at Science Park. He called on us to “listen” and “acknowledge.” Your response was to tell him: “inform yourself more with the district’s website” along with a list of other things he needed to do; you said: “… and we are listening…you just got here…communicate…email us.” You were both defensive and dismissive.

Two plus years later at last December’s meeting: the same kind of response–feeling personally attacked and chastising board members for not “communicating” with you. Following your logic, I should have received a direct communication from you; I was a speaker on that list you had in front of you. I’m not requesting an apology, just pointing out how you fail to even follow your own logic.

The board, under your leadership, has resulted in short, shallow meetings. The January Retreat is a prime example with the (lack of) discussion on equity. I was left wondering, have you read the strategic plan? How did that conversation not lead with the equity statement?

Other board members: I, and many others, were in the WebEx. We saw your responses; your nonresponse is a response. Silence is consent. You don’t have to condemn anyone. You can say what you stand for to provide a distinction.

In conclusion, local control is not doing the minimum, not doing what you, personally, think is best. That is demonstrating strains of privatization–where your personal ideas rank while others’ don’t, discounting voices that you believe don’t matter.

We fought for a collective process, NOT to be oppressed by our own reflection, NOT to have to fight our own school board.

Public participation is indispensable and requisite to local control. We–actual parents and community parents, students, education workers, education advocates and activists–we bring perspectives you don’t have, we ask questions you don’t ask. We are, in effect, the 10th board member.

Good evening.

1 Comment

What Democracy? NBOE President Calls Public Participation “Bullshit”

Bullshit. Begin and end quote.

That’s what Newark Board of Education President Josephine Garcia called public participation at tonight’s meeting.

Newark Board of Education Meeting, 1/28/21

Yup, that’s my FB profile pic in the bottom right corner. So why did I record it? It’s just a petty comment right? Heat of the moment. We’ve all done it.

No. That sentiment expresses how the board, under her leadership, views the democratic process. For them, deliberation has no place in our public education system. This is further demonstrated by another act from tonight’s meeting–the swearing in of a political appointee to the vacancy left by the untimely passing of Board Member Tave Padilla.

The law states that a school board gets to fill a vacancy of this kind by majority vote of the remaining members. In no other place is a specific, required process outlined. This board, under Garcia’s leadership, allowed nearly the full 65 days allotted to make an appointment go by before having a discussion (in Executive Session no less) as a board about what to do. Then, with the business and regular meetings occurring two days apart from each other, made NO mention at Tuesday’s business meeting of their decision to appoint someone. They approved Thursday’s (tonight’s) agenda at the Tuesday meeting and then amended it as soon as tonight’s meeting opened. They amended the agenda to add the appointment vote.

So, if the law allows them to do this (but does it?), they’re not in the wrong, right? Wrong. This board had a choice. They always had a choice as to how to go about filling the vacancy. One such choice would have been to take applications from all those interested, deliberate over the applications, and then appoint someone. Another choice would have been to appoint a candidate from the last school board election, first asking the highest vote getter.

I guess this isn’t what they mean by school choice. I guess it’s all just bullshit.

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Amanda Gorman, #talkback, & Anti-racist Pedagogy

January 2021 will be one of the most memorable months in my lifetime and I wonder ten years from now, what will the textbooks say about this moment in U.S. history? Who will determine the curriculum and who will write the narrative? Questions like these keep me thinking about yesterday, today, and tomorrow all at once for there is not much distinction among these time markers beyond the arrangement of numbers. Today is tomorrow’s yesterday and yesterday’s tomorrow.

Why will it be memorable? Amanda Gorman. Gorman’s poetry performance at the inauguration was inspiring and profound, crafted to #talkback to the insurrection orchestrated to stop the certification of November’s presidential election as well as the ideology of White supremacy on the whole . A line that struck me:

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”

Democracy is an ideal, a social project hundreds of years in the making. It’s alive, and like any being it must be nurtured, care has to be taken. White supremacy is a constant threat to democracy and we must protect against it at all costs. One way this country purports to do this is through public education. The dominant narrative recited today about the purpose of public education is to prepare students for college and career. A historical perspective shows us preparing students for citizenship, and thus leadership, was just, if not more, important (albeit for a select class of people).

As teachers prepare lessons both today and tomorrow, they need to be prepared through the critical lenses of democracy and anti-racism–they the lessons AND they the teachers. An article shared on Facebook, “Wilmington 1898: When white supremacists overthrew a US government,” taught me about another coup led by White supremacists which was much more successful at enacting terror and thwarting democracy. This history is important to know as a singular event as well as part of a pattern of occurrences that brought us to our present. The day that teacher education centers study of history from a critical lens is the day that we’ll be in the position to prepare students to lead this world toward a just society.

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