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Tag: radical leadership

Politics of Respectability: Who Has the Ear of the Newark School Board?

We persist in our call for the resignation of Board President Josephine Garcia and tonight’s meeting provides further evidence as to why this demand should be met.

I applaud aspects of the Program & Instruction report–I’m looking forward to the “forthcoming” information on the teaching and learning presentation and, yes, tracking the strategic plan is a responsibility of the board, though that is not a new idea and should long have been a priority of every committee of this board. However, the Governance report underscores how this board falls short of authentic, critical civic participation.

NEED was an invited guest of the Governance committee, and several other board members made time to meet with this group as private citizens–though that’s a fine line to be walking when the purpose of the meeting is to discuss what is at least tangentially board business. Meanwhile, several other community organizations and individuals also took the time to express input to appointing a board member to a vacancy, not only after the board took action, but BEFORE the appointment was made. Not ONE of the individuals who submitted official letters of interest for the vacant seat was invited to speak to a committee or to the board.

Further, these same community organizations and individuals followed up their requests and comments at board meetings in written form to board members. One or two received a response; the vast majority were ignored. No one was invited to discuss their concerns or ideas further. No one was publicly thanked for illuminating how the public education system is rooted in oppression and inequity and for how our contributions are a reminder of how we must all actively fight oppression.

Even teachers are ignored. Nicole Sanderson has come before this board numerous times this school year with the simple request of turning on students’ access to Gmail so that teachers can communicate with students through Google Classroom, thus improving their learning conditions. Tonight, we finally heard something. But how many months later? No acknowledgement. No follow-up. No response. ALL teachers, residents, parents, and students deserve responses.

The praise from board members for NEED’s work around a proposed board vacancy policy plays into respectability politics in that you’ll respond to certain folx but not others as a function of the approach used and the relation of the people to the board members. NEED is constituted by folx who are not bringing a critical or abolitionist approach to education and who are intimately tied to the charter school sector and Teach for America through its political arm, Leadership for Educational Equity. Members also have personal relationships with board members.

I urge you to reflect on your actions and not intentionally or unintentionally pit members of the community against each other because some did it “the right way,” or position the participation of young people as a shield against justifiable critique of your silence regarding President Garcia calling public participation “bullshit.” It’s both/and–accountability and transformative policy.

The call for Josephine Garcia’s resignation is a call to open up a space for the transformative leadership needed for this school board.

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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.

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