Mesa... We Have a Problem
Breaking down the latest Mesa Public School District Governing Board meeting
Mesa, we have a problem.
So a friend of mine reached out to me this week to ask for some help with the Mesa Public School District Governing Board meeting because they’ve been taken over by ultra-MAGA, QAnon, Christian nationalists. I wish I could say that she was exaggerating, but…
The first thing I’d like to say is that of all the board meetings in all the districts that I’ve attended in my life, Mesa takes the cake for putting together some great videos explaining the procedures and protocol for the governing board and the call to the public. They even inform attendees that board members are volunteers, hopefully to deter people from saying stupid stuff like, “My taxes pay your salary!”
This meeting had a very short agenda, but there were nine people signed up to speak. And I’m about to date myself here, but the public commenters resembled the cast of Cocoon.
Honestly, when most of these folks went to school, they probably had to walk uphill both ways through the snow to a one-room schoolhouse with Laura Ingalls to be taught by Ms. Beadle (now I’m REALLY dating myself).
Apparently, the district recently decided to partner with the National Civic League to improve the functionality of their public meetings. Because Mesa recently won an All-America City Award, the district is able to participate in their Democracy Innovations Pilot Project.
This is a program that is FREE to the district, but may require some “sweat equity” from the board and administrative leadership. Essentially, this program will help the district involve more stakeholders and address the needs of all constituents.
Sounds good, right?
Not if you’re a Christian nationalist. At the last meeting, “patriot” mom, and newly-elected board member, Rachel Walden proved that she doesn’t know how anything works, by saying that voters don’t get to vote on bond and override initiatives (they do), and saying that we don’t live in a democracy (we do).
At that meeting, she made her opposition clear, as did public speaker and failed MPS board candidate Ed Steele during his public comments at this week’s meeting. Steele said the district should reject outside help and that, essentially, he thought the National Civic League is sus (it’s totally not).
It’s cool though fam, because Ed’s totally going to create his OWN pilot program, because the National Civic League, co-founded by Teddy Roosevelt, with all 125+ years of experience doing this work, doesn’t know squat about doing this work like Ed does.
Next there were a bunch of angry retirees who CLEARLY have too much time on their hands who showed up to berate the board about all kinds of things. And y’all, I can’t even bring myself to write about them anymore. It takes a toll when most of what I monitor includes public commenters calling teachers and the LGBTQIA community “perverts,” “groomers,” and “indoctrinators.”
More folks talked about bathrooms and trans students, opposing bonds/overrides, “leftist” educators, academic outcomes, letter grades, and all kinds of other stuff that I won’t even give oxygen to. At one point, another failed MPS candidate, Chris Hamlet, came up to lash out at Board Member Kiana Sears for saying something to the effect that “this is the governing board’s meeting” and not the public’s meeting.
She’s not wrong. The public has ample opportunity to engage with their local governing board through committee work, public forums, cafecitos, and community council meetings. They also get to speak at board meetings, but they’re not on the board, and they don’t get a vote.
Whenever a board member is called out by name, they can respond. Board Member Sears did, and addressed Chris Hamlet (who was ENDORSED BY PAUL GOSAR) by name. (This is Chris, BTW, no meme necessary):
When Board Member Sears addressed the comments by Chris Hamlet, Board Member Walden called a point of order, once again showing that she’s not really paying attention or just wilfully doesn’t want to learn how board meetings work.
Board Member Sears quickly took her to school, and put her in her place, and I was HERE for it.
But you know what? The strength, experience, and knowledge of Board Member Sears isn’t enough, folks. The evangelical extremists have shown us that they apparently have all the time in the world to wear down governing board members.
This election cycle, most school boards in Arizona will have THREE seats up for grabs in 2024. Some of these districts only have Moms for Liberty types running, and oftentimes receive backing from organizations like Turning Point USA.
And it gets worse! A lot of these noob members are using their time on the school board as a springboard for higher office. In fact, Board Member Walden and self-proclaimed “patriot” is running for the Arizona Corporation Commission.
In my experience with Christian nationalists, they deny that climate change is a thing, and believe that all these fires, floods, and famines are biblical prophecies and that they’ve been elected to usher in the End Times. I wish I was joking, but I’m not.
These folks have dedicated an entire website to hating on MPS Board President, Marcie Hutchinson, who is AN ACTUAL EDUCATOR. We need your help. This was a special edition Substack for our Mesa members, but it takes time and money to do this work. If you’re able to support our work, please make a donation or become a member here.
It’s time to push back against those who subscribe to bigoted, irrational Christian nationalist beliefs. If you want to get involved, fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch!
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