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Administration honors board member request

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 was given an update regarding “equity” at the request of one board member, Traci Ellis, at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 22 leaving the appearance to other board members that the administration could be playing favorites.
  The presentation was designed to address what the administration and Ellis claimed to be disparities in how students of different racial backgrounds are treated and how the district is implementing “implicit racial bias training” for staff.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders opened by saying: “I would like to note that on Nov. 8, board member Ellis did request a report on equity including academic behavioral data as well as data on our improvement of employees.”
  Sanders also said he “would like to publicly apologize to Mrs. Ellis that her requested data is not included” entirely, saying it was an “oversight” for not being included.
  Board member Jeanette Ward said: “I thought the entire board had to direct the work of administration, not just individual board members.”
  “That is true…. There has not been a board discussion but it has been on the board book,” Sanders said who added the administration did the work as the result of an email from Ellis.
  Ellis said because her email was posted for all board members to see and “there was no response or objection to those requests” making it all right for her alone to direct staff without board discussion. Donna Smith, the board’s president, did not weigh in on whether it was appropriate for one individual board member to direct staff work.
  “The request is specifically about a board policy. It is our work,” said Ellis, who did not provide which board policy she was referring to.
  While the administration and board members in the majority said at the meeting that district teachers and staff hold “implicit racial bias,” Ward told The Examiner after the meeting that there is “implicit bias against conservatives” in the district.
  During the board’s discussion with administration during the “equity” update, those in the board’s majority suggested certain questions are off limits which the administration agreed with. The questions were from Ward, who had a different point of view from the majority and administration.
  One slide during the presentation specifically stated that teachers need to know how to affirm different cultures, and Ward questioned if there were “any cultural norms and conditions that are wrong” and should not be affirmed? She noted cultures such as China, which has a one-child policy, or cultures that perform “female genital mutilation.”
  Ron Raglin, assistant superintendent of support programs and alignment, didn’t have an answer as he said he didn’t understand the question and Ellis said “this is so not fair to staff.”
  Sanders said he didn’t “read this slide to say that we would embrace cultures that have beliefs like the ones you just mentioned,” and “this is really about racial, racial diversity, the cultures of other races.”
  The slide states teachers should “recognize and value” other cultures and “advocating in ways that honor differences among cultures.”
  Board member Veronica Noland said, dismissing Ward’s concerns, that “these hard charging questions to staff are really unfair” and called them “politically motivated questions.” She added that these “debates should be among the seven of us” board members.
  Part of the reason for the update was that the district held two Brother 2 Brother Black Male Symposiums in the fall.
  While the administration responded to Ellis’ email by creating a presentation for board and public consumption, they have yet to respond to concerns from board member Phil Costello from around the same time as Ellis’ email and concerning the same subject.
  Costello raised concerns publicly on Nov. 10 about the administration making “personal conclusions” regarding disciplinary data that were “misleading the public by projecting that these topics have been studied by staff and deliberated by the board,” that highly touted programs by the district to support students are “ineffective after years of development and implementation” if the district’s “personal conclusions” are true and it is inappropriate to claim “the District’s officials are inherently or overtly condone racially-biased practice” when no deliberation has been had.
  “As a board member, I have not been given any testimony regarding this subject and there has been no deliberation of racially-motivated bias since the last class-action lawsuit that I am aware of. To the contrary, I have found that the District’s discipline code is a stellar model for all school districts and that our legal, security and administrative teams have demonstrated both professional execution and compassionate discretion to all students,” Costello added.




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