Submitted by John Arbeeny.
I attended the 10 January 2022 Clover Park School District (CPSD) Board meeting which was conducted both “virtually” and in person which was the right thing to do and a pleasant surprise. However we are still awaiting the minutes for the 13 December 2021 which will not be forthcoming before the Board until the next regular meeting on 14 February 2022; a full two months after the fact! This is unacceptable as it makes these delayed minutes somewhat irrelevant for the public to stay abreast of District issues that affect them. Therefore, I plan to present my observations of these meetings in a more timely fashion. What follows are not minutes of the meeting but rather my observations and commentary on issues I think are substantial that occurred during the meeting.
Please note that that audio of this meeting was somewhat difficult to understand and so my observations and commentary may not be 100% verbatum correct. Feel free to suggest changes, additions or deletions.
Public Comments: There were several issues raised during Public Comments as follows.
Several members of the public were supportive of the Board meeting being conducted in person and virtually.
I raised the issue of discipline within Clover Park School District and announced a 4 part series dealing with discipline in the Suburban Times. It will deal with discipline by year, by school, by race/ethnicity and by offense.
There were complaints by a minority owned bus driver business that thinks it has been locked out of a contract with the District despite the need for more bus drivers. The speaker threatened legal action.
Director Paul Wagemann was asked to answer specific questions regarding his past support of the District’s equity program and opposition to the current EDI program.
Director Anderson was asked to explain his support of private and charter schools with funding that would otherwise go to public schools.
The Superintendent Report: Sup. Banner stated that he expects a peak in COVID cases in 2 to 3 weeks which may result in staff shortages. However he does not foresee the need to go back to virtual learning.
Consent Agenda: Director David Anderson requested that item 22-062, Minutes: Regular Monthly Meeting of the Board, December 13, 2021 be removed from the consent agenda. The consent agenda was then passed unanimously.
Director Anderson’s reason for removing the minutes was that there were several claimed inaccuracies contained therein. Sup. Banner replied that he hadn’t the opportunity to review the draft minutes and make those changes but would do so and bring the item back to the agenda for 14 February 2022 regular meeting.
Individual Action Items
22-071 Dr. Claudia Thomas Middle School Maximum Allowable Construction Costs Increase. Discussion was about an “over run” of $234,726.22 in construction costs which paid for items not originally in the contract. This “over run” was about 10% of what was the contingency fund would have been able to cover. Point was made that such over runs, even if well intentioned should be brought before the Board before not after funds are spent. Motion passed 5/0.
MATTERS FOR DISCUSSION AND/OR INFORMATION
Redistricting: A briefing on redistricting the Clover Park School District districts 1 through 5 was presented by the outside council Porter, Foster, Rorick. There is a small section of JBLM that lies within the Bethel School District but is serviced by CPSD. Several options were presented to address this issue. Perhaps of even greater importance will be the re-drawing of the current CPSD districts to conform to the last census. Population numbers across all districts must be leveled to similar numbers and at the same time conform to the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minority groups retain representation. 15 November 2022 is the deadline for accomplishing this task. There will be a chance for the public to weigh in on the issue via public hearings. These are issues the Board must start to address as soon as possible.
CPSD Mascot Change and Forum: Staff discussed House Bill 1356 and objections by the Puyallup Tribe regarding the change of both name (Warrior) and graphic Native American mascot. Staff claimed they had followed their “process” which allegedly included input from students and residents. Director David Anderson made a motion, seconded by Director Wagemann, that the District conduct a public forum on the issue, not in order to contravene the law but rather bring the public into the process in a transparent way. Objections by other Board members questioned the purpose of the forum and their unwillingness to “go back to the beginning” of the process. Motion failed: 2/3 with Anderson, Wagemann for and Pearson, Jacobs, Veliz opposed.
School Discipline Report and Placing Relevant Reports to Regular Agenda as soon as Prepared: Director David Anderson made a motion, seconded by Director Wagemann that the Board investigate and periodically report on CPSD discipline. Director David Anderson cited District provided data that showed over 36000+ individual disciplinary events occurred between 2017 and 2021: an average of 59 a day. Sup. Banner suggested that discipline wasn’t a problem given the size of the student population. He stated that 59 events per day equated to about only 2 per day for each of the 27 schools in the District and if he were principal at any of those schools he would gladly accept that number. It was agreed that Sup. Banner will make a presentation to the Board working session on 24 January 2022. Motion passed: 5/0
My commentary: These 59 daily events are not averaged across all schools but highly concentrated in just 2 high schools and 3 middle schools which account for 85% of all disciplinary events. These events are not just “some boys pushing each other during recess” as opined by Director Jacobs. 20% of these 59 events are potentially criminal and may result in a crime rate per 1000 population 9 times higher than the surrounding communities. More on this in an essay I have written for the Suburban Times on CPSD discipline.
Future Board Meetings – In Person and/or Live Streamed: The issue of how future Board meetings would be conducted was discussed with general agreement that a hybrid in-person and live streamed venue should be used for future Board meetings. Many reasons in support were presented: transparency, contact with Board and community members, discussion, sense of community, etc. The primary proviso was that public attendance would occur as long as the public behaved itself, employed safety measures (COVID), and was not disruptive. Director David Anderson made motion that future Board meetings be conducted in person and virtually; seconded by Director Wagemann. Motion passed: 5/0.
My commentary: This is an important decision not only for the public’s participation but also procedurally when it comes to changes in venue and conduct of Board meetings. It creates the precedent that the Board as a whole has the authority to determine the venue and conduct of its meetings rather than just unilaterally by the Board President as had been done in the past. This change in procedure is supported by RCW 42.30.050 Interruptions
Posting Recordings from Board meeting on Web: There have been several incidents where citizens attempted to download Board meeting audio recordings without success. In the past, in-person meetings were not recorded, specifically during controversial issues because according to Sup. Banner “no one asked”. Several recording options were discussed to include Zoom virtual recording and downloading to the District’s YouTube page. Sup. Banner was tasked with coming up with feasible meeting recording solutions to include archiving and availability for FOIA requests. This meeting was recorded on Zoom.
Standard Operating Procedures and District Policies: Compliance with RCWs. Director David Anderson raised the issue of conflicts between District policy, SOP and RCWs. The case in point was actually addressed previously in discussion item Future Board Meetings – In Person and/or Live Streamed. The specific issue is how are changes made to Board meeting venues and conduct. It appears that the SOP and policy conflict with each other as well as the related RCW 42.30.050 Interruptions. Director David Anderson made a motion, seconded by Director Wagemann, that a survey of SOP and policy be conducted to bring them in line with the RCW. Motion failed 2/3. Anderson, Wagemann for and Pearson, Jacobs, Veliz opposed.
Director Wagemann made an amended motion, seconded by Director David Anderson, that until such reviews of the SOP and policy are conducted, that Roberts Rules of Order should take precedence and be the basis for conduct of all subsequent meetings. Motion failed 2/3. Anderson, Wagemann for and Pearson, Jacobs, Veliz opposed.
My commentary: I find it ironic that the Superintendent and some Board members are completely committed to supporting the RCWs, governmental educational edicts and health mandates but are less concerned about their own SOP and policy following said guidance. It may be that they are not ready to take on the herculean task of “cleaning out the stables” when it comes to SOP and policy. I think a more successful approach may be in addressing one by one, in small steps, individual SOP and policy items to inch into the greater issues within SOP and policy.
First Reading OSPI Policy 1825 Addressing School Director Violations: Director David Anderson commented that the OSPI referenced RCW’s appeared to be missing RCW 42.30.110, Executive Sessions, specifically sub paragraph (f) which deals with the right of a government official to demand “………… a public hearing or a meeting open to the public shall be conducted upon such complaint or charge.” Director David Anderson also recommended that this RCW provision become part of the District’s policy. Sup. Banner agreed to research the matter.
First Reading OSPI Policy 1822 Training and Development for Board Members: As part of this policy there is proposed “Cultural Competency” training proposed which is part of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) related training. Director Wagemann cited Board policy that requires “both sides of the issue” to be discussed especially when dealing with controversial issues and suggested that the District has the latitude to develop implementation of OSPI mandates which fit the District’s needs.
My commentary: When Director Wagemann called for the both sides of the issue in training President Pearson exclaimed “Diversity?” as though there wasn’t another side to the issue. That shows just how deeply some on the Board are invested into EDI: no other side exists. Yet EDI is as controversial issue as any before the Board and Nation. I’d suggest to President Pearson that the other side of diversity is “unity”; not what divides us but rather unites us as the United States of America. After all our Country’s motto is “E pluribus unum” (Out of many, one), not “E unum pluribus” (Out of one, many).
Eric Chandler says
I attended the meeting, which was packed with substantial issues. Mr. Arbeeny’s observations provide a valuable service by reporting a timely, accurate summary of a close-to-three-hour session–an expenditure of time not available to everyone. His report increases transparency which informs a concerned community and facilitates an understanding of how elected representatives on the School Board are involved.
If I could add two observations, they would be that the technical aspects of communication on ZOOM, although improving, need refining. Also, all voices of Board members are clear to in-person attendees except for President Pearson’s, which I have observed consistently at meetings. Others have made the same comment after meetings. All Board members wear masks, so that alone cannot be the reason for President Pearson’s lack of clarity. Perhaps no one has provided her with this feedback in the past.
Good job, Mr. Arbenny! Now the public can track how the board votes on key and important issues and comment if they wish. I do not understand why the board would not reconcile outdated sops and policies with RCWs. Those outdated sops and polices may not compile with the the law. Or maybe they are saying they all are in compliance?