The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 Board debates terms, equity policy need
By Seth Hancock
Board of Education member Traci Ellis called School District U-46 staff incompetent and the administration said there’s a problem with a system of so-called “whiteness” that needs to be addressed as an “equity” presentation was given on Monday, March 12.
The presentation was a continuation of a Jan. 22 update and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders admitted then that his staff has been doing this work solely on the behalf of one board member, Traci Ellis. Sanders also admitted that there was not a board discussion about it despite one being necessary to direct staff work.
The district has been providing so-called “implicit bias” training to staff using a “train the trainer” model which Ellis said: “My concern with the train the trainer model is we haven’t demonstrated that we have the competency in U-46, and so while we’re trying to become competent we’re training others in competency.”
Ellis suggested the model “may be the cheapest, but it’s likely not the best model.”
Ron Raglin, assistant superintendent, suggested the system has a problem with “whiteness” which the training attempts to address by asking “what is whiteness? It is a system that we all fall victim to.”
Both Ellis and Raglin suggested those who do not racially divide are not being honest, Ellis explicitly saying so.
“They say they don’t see color, but I have a whole set of questions for them,” Raglin said and Ellis responded: “Which is a lie because they only say that to people of color.”
While accusing the district of discriminatory tactics, which Sanders also agreed with, Ellis and the administration are proposing the implementation of discriminatory practices by treating students differently for discipline and program placement with “differentiated” approaches based on the sub-groups the district labels students.
“I don’t care if we stop out of school suspensions. I really don’t.” Ellis said because 26.3 percent of suspensions were black students.
“I’m not saying that kids aren’t doing what they are being accused of doing,” said Ellis, but “the research already shows that black male children do not act out more than white children, they act differently.” Ellis provided no source of such research.
Ellis said the district is under-identifying black students for the gifted program because 7 percent of black females and under 5 percent of black males were in the program and she asked what the problem was. Asian males (19 percent) and females (17 percent) had the largest numbers in gifted programs.
Terri Lozier, assistant superintendent, said “I’m not quite sure what you’re asking?” During the presentation she said “all students” are tested for gifted programs and all qualified students are invited into the program. Ellis claimed research said testing isn’t the only measure, again with no source cited to back up her claim.
Ellis also suggested using taxpayer resources through Title I funds, paid for by the nation’s taxpayers, to be spent solely on black students which Suzanne Johnson, deputy superintendent of instruction, said “we can certainly start that.”
“The data suggests that U-46, well the nation I guess, like white kids I guess are just the best behaved people in the world,” Ellis said and “if this were a different problem, if we saw this disproportionately among white students this would be fixed because the community wouldn’t stand for it and everybody’s job would be on the line, right? And I want that same sense of urgency for our black male students.”
Ward said: “So I disagree that white kids are the best behaved kids in U-46. The data shows that Asian kids are the best behaved…. So my question is what can we learn from the Asian students? Why are their discipline rates so low compared to all other ethnic groups? And by the way, I hate dividing people up by ethnic groups, but since we’re doing that what can we learn from the Asian students?”
Raglin said “at home, they are being taught those practices and those believes of their heritage.”
Ellis interrupted to say the data did not show that Asians were the best behaved, but that is what the data showed. Every discipline category showed Asian males and females having the lowest percentage, and every honors programs, including gifted and Advanced Placement, they made up the highest percentage.
While arguing with Ward, Ellis said “I’m not going to argue” because “I interpret the data differently,” and the problem is “white kids are not disproportionately harmed.”
“That wasn’t my question,” Ward said, but “I heard Mr. Raglin say that the home was very important, so I think that’s something to take note of.”
Regarding training, Ward asked: “Does critical race theory teach that white people are inherently racist and black people cannot be racist?”
Raglin never answered the question directly saying “the issue of inheritance [doesn’t] necessarily put on the front side of the conversation. It comes up in the conversation of the discourse,” and he said there’s an emphasis on sources: “Is it just coming from just one viewpoint, or is it allowing space for other viewpoints to come in.”
Ward noted, as she has voted against several resources based on leftist bias, that “I agree with you. I talk a lot about sources.”
Costello, who had to say at one point “excuse me, I’m still talking” due to frequent interruption by Ellis just to get a question answered, asked: “Are there any specific instances where the district has taken one race over another and said we’re going to treat it differently if this person is that background versus that background?”
While agreeing that the numbers are concerning, Costello said he’s seen professionalism from U-46 staff and he said: “Just my question is that have we done anything wrong, and I did not hear one answer?”
Sanders said “the data suggests that we have” and Ellis, who claimed she had a notebook full of anecdotal stories, laughed at Costello and said: “You asked a question but then you drew conclusion that there’s been no overt discrimination. I call BS there’s been no discrimination.”
The administration nor Ellis provided any evidence of wrongdoing as they relied solely on data, and Costello said they were the ones drawing conclusions and said: “I just need the evidence then. Then share that with the district because I think that’s very important that you share it with the district and the public.”
Costello preferred to fulfill the district’s mission of “all means all” as he said “as we raise the bar for everybody, everyone succeeds,” and added “I would prefer to not even know the background” of students when making discipline decisions so the board can make an objective decision.
Board member Veronica Noland expressed her opposition to the “all means all” mission as she accused Smith of “taking black lives matter and making it all lives matter” because Smith suggested further discussions be done “to look at a bigger picture.” Smith said “I truly am not” and eventually acquiesced to Ellis’ demand that the administration craft an “equity” policy.
Although a confusing back and forth between Smith and both Ellis and Noland, Sanders said he heard the board say to craft a policy with those three supportive as well as Melissa Owens. Board member Sue Kerr said “I don’t think we can” because “we need the parameters of the big picture.”