According to recently released public disclosure documents, Deb Hansen, President of the Clover Park Education Association (CPEA), solicited from association’s members their signatures on a template she provided that would be sent to the Clover Park School Board in advance of their January 11, 2021 meeting.
The letter – to which CPEA members could sign – called the “crack the whip” comment made by School Board Director Paul Wagemann during a December 14, 2020 school board meeting, “racist and absolutely unacceptable.”
The disclosure also revealed that 86 individuals signed Hansen’s template without change to Hansen’s suggested wording.
In referencing Wagemann’s “crack the whip” comment, Hansen wrote, “To our students and staff of color, it refers to times when white owners would whip enslaved Black people.”
Because the school board has “not taken any of our recommended actions” as requested by the CPEA board in an earlier letter, Hansen said “it’s critical that we show our strength and call on the (school) board to do something about Wagemann’s comment.”
Some individuals in receipt of Hansen’s missive were not content with simply calling for the school board “to do something.”
As to the emails obtained through public disclosure, some excerpts are as follows:
One person wrote: “I want him (Paul Wagemann) to be fired.”
Another individual wrote: “After viewing Paul’s reprehensible behavior, I believe he should be terminated effective immediately of any leadership positions. This person is beyond redemption.”
An elementary school teacher added: “Paul Wagemann is racist. We must all demand that Paul doesn’t just apologize but also that he steps down. Paul’s resignation is not enough. He needs to make (financial) restitution.”
In total, 21 individuals penned their personal opposition to Wagemann’s alleged racist comment.
Conversely, 25 individuals wrote in support of Wagemann, and some were critical of what they viewed as Hansen’s heavy-handedness.
As one person wrote: “The union’s strategy here bothers me deeply. I do not want this ‘gotcha’ mentality to become the way we operate in the CPSD. This creates an environment of fear, intimidation and irrationality that is exactly what we should be working against. Furthermore, the strategy of drumming up furor and then using this energy as the motive force for large-scale change is manipulation at it’s finest. It does not lead to wise decisions.”
From another who wrote to the school board: “It is a gross and unconscionable injustice for anyone to sling such slanderous and fallacious statements at the esteemed board member, Mr. Paul Wagemann or any innocent public figure, for imaginary claims of racism. We, the citizens of Lakewood, will not stand for such divisive and unscrupulous tactics of intersectional politics based on totally false and misleading character assassinations.”
And then the public disclosure revealed this bit of irony.
Paul Wagemann is not referenced once in the minutes of the December 21, 2020 special meeting.
According to the minutes, “President Shafer opened the meeting by stating the purpose of today’s meeting is to follow through on a comment made by one of the directors at the last meeting.”
All board directors present stated their views on what Wagemann had said in the meeting one week previous.
But in the minutes, Wagemann’s voice was not heard.
In an audio tape recording of that meeting, Wagemann did speak.
“Let’s go back to that meeting,” Wagemann said to his fellow school board directors referring to the night of December 14.
“We had been discussing Open Doors, No Dropouts,” Wagemann said. “It’s a wonderful program. We were also talking about ClearTech Education.”
Wagemann also extolled the benefits of union apprenticeships as a “tremendous learning experience. I had those opportunities,” Wagemann continued.
“Then we talked about graduation pathways. We’ve improved a lot. But we can do more. If 100 percent graduation is our goal, how do we get there? When I then said, ‘crack the whip,’” Wagemann said, “it was to say let’s get on with the program.”
But Wagemann’s comments about his use of those three words, and his explanation of the context in which he uttered them is not mentioned in the official school board minutes for the night of December 21, 2020.
Not. One. Word.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.