Taniesha Lyons is demanding the resignation of Paul Wagemann, member of the Clover Park School Board since 2009.
A special meeting of the school board to address the matter has been scheduled for Monday, December 21. The meeting agenda provides the link and password to join the webinar.
Lyons ran against Wagemann in 2019 and lost 62 to 38 percent.
Now Lyons wants Wagemann gone.
In a letter to the school board this week, Lyons charges Wagemann with “blatant bigotry and racism,” calling Wagemann “an explicit racist” and “a considerable liability.”
Lyon’s charges stem from a comment Wagemann made at the December 14 meeting of the school board.
During the webinar discussion concerning graduation rates, Wagemann said “we need to crack the whip.” It was this statement by Wagemann that prompted Lyons to write her letter and start a petition calling for Wagemann’s ouster.
To date, 84 people have signed Lyon’s petition.
Questioned about his statement in a phone call, Wagemann said he was referencing the 10-to-11 percent of students in the district who do not graduate when he said “we need to crack the whip” his intent being, he said, that the school board do all it could to help these youth get their diploma.
“Earlier in the meeting,” Wagemann continued, “we had been discussing ‘Open Doors,’ previously called ‘No Dropouts,’ the program that enables youth to graduate even up to age 21.
“If you’ve ever been to an Open Doors graduation,” Wagemann said, “then you’ve seen the tears. Tears from parents who are so thrilled their children are getting their diploma. Tears from young men and women realizing their dream. It’s very emotional and rewarding. I’ve long been an advocate for this program,” Wagemann said.
Wagemann said his statement that Lyons deems racist was then, in context, “not intended to be anything other than a joint call to do an even better job helping kids succeed.”
According to Filma Fontanilla who is Vice-President of the Clover Park Education Association for Diversity and Inclusion, those students not graduating from high school are “historically mostly Black and Brown and the most marginalized and subjected to the abuses and atrocities of institutional racism.”
Fontanilla, who says she was at the meeting Monday night, concluded Wagemann’s statement was “offensive.”
In Fontanilla’s letter to the school board, she states she “was hurt, appalled and disgusted with the comment ‘crack the whip’ made by Paul Wagemann.”
[Publisher’s Update (January 6, 2021): The above referenced letter to the school board was from the entire Executive Board of the Clover Park Education Association, not just Fontanilla.]
Fontanilla wants Wagemann to apologize for “the racist and public act” and, in her letter, asks that the school board “take additional training on Microagressions;” “implement an ethic studies curricula;” and “increase the racial diversity of the staff at all levels.”
In May of this year, a similar charge of racism for the use of the exact phrase – “crack the whip” – was ruled nondiscriminatory. As reported by James Robinson in the Daily Mail, “Vivienne Okoh, who is black, insisted the expression was racist, was referring to slavery and meant she was being discriminated against.”
However, Okoh’s manager, Caroline Ward, said she “had used the expression ‘cracking the whip’ in relation to their performance targets.”
The tribunal upheld Ward’s intent.
Performance goals, helping youth graduate, doing better because we can, is what Wagemann said he believes his statement should be understood to mean.