Myopic? Entitled? Privileged? Or All of the Above
Culture Wars and Politics Trump Kids' Well-being at PUSD Board Meeting
Hidey-ho, Secular neighborinos, I hope y’all have had a great month of October. I sure have. I got to spend some time with my Pops in the Midwest, and while I was there, I visited one of my favorite teachers from high school and a friend I haven’t seen since leaving in 1991.
After that, I went to the Network for Public Education Action Conference in Washington DC, and got to visit some friends who have an ADORABLE seven month old baby (pretty sure I’m this kid’s favorite “aunt”). While I was there, I got to do some sightseeing and checked out the Holocaust Museum and the African American History Museum, and I really wish that all evangelical extremist elected officials were required to visit these museums because maybe then they wouldn’t be such hateful bigots.
And still with all that travel, I made time to tune in to the latest Peoria (PUSD) board meeting. Of course, it was crawling with the usual gaggle (emphasis on GAG) of folks who are only happy when they have something to complain about.
So buckle up, folks and grab your heart pressure medication because the level of hate and stupid at this meeting could give anyone a heart attack.
The meeting was called to order shortly after 6PM and we were off and running. I saw a student sitting in the audience donned in her FFA jacket, and I just want to give a shout out to all our club leaders and CTE teachers out there. Though I myself was never an FFA kid (I lasted about three months in 4H), my dad was, and he’s heavy on my mind, so hey Dad! Thanks for passing down your FFA jacket!
President Sandoval asked that attendees keep the victims of the Lewiston, MA mass shooting in mind during the moment of silence, and I really had high hopes that perhaps in light of all the terrible things happening in the world in Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Syria, etc. that maybe the usual bigots would stop with their culture war nonsense and give it a rest.
But since many in attendance are some of the most myopic, entitled, privileged, and xeno/homo/transphobic people I’ve ever come across, of course that’s not how it went down.
The Pledge was next, then board updates, and I’ve noticed Clerk Rooks has dropped the whole “Every student, every day, except the girls” nonsense, and I’m guessing maybe she’s getting advice from her attorneys? But she went from bastardizing the motto to not in just a few months so it has me wondering.
You may recall that she had a big problem celebrating the diverse history of the district at the back-to-school rally a few months ago, when a video highlighted the district’s commitment to serving ALL students, so it’s surprising to hear her give normal board reports.
Ms. Ewing and President Sandoval gave very normal reports, as they usually do and spoke about band, volunteers, school visits, and all that jazz.
Mr. Molino gave his report, and some audience members wanted an agenda item pulled about a district academic coach attending a conference. I knew immediately why people would oppose this. And sure enough, looking at the conference sessions, it included Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI).
So since these people seem to HATE including others, providing opportunities for a diverse population of students, or taking care of the emotional needs of children (SUCH a weird stance), they were all in a kerfuffle, chomping at the bit to share their ignorance on these topics. At this point, I just feel sorry for all their children.
I perused the conference training selections and they were AWESOME. It’s a veritable who’s who in best practices to meet kids where they’re at. So of course they hate it.
Next up was public comments, and President Sandoval decided there was no reason to read the code of conduct, even though the conduct of the public at these meetings is always terrible. But since they do it every meeting without consequence, I guess it no longer matters? Wouldn’t be my choice, but he’s the prez, not me.
First up for public comments was an elderly woman who was complaining about the vote to adjust the calendar - and for the record, this is how I know how deeply unserious these people are. If they were ACTUALLY concerned about the calendar, they would have joined the committee that put in countless hours surveying and studying this change.
But these people likely get their local “news” from various Facebook hate groups, their local legislative district meetings, or deity forbid, January 6 insurrectionist, fake elector, and Mama Fratelli lookalike, Senator Anthony Kern (R-LD27). 👀
She painted a picture of the hellscape that was Arizona in July, 2023, when us desert dwellers put up with record breaking temps of over 110° for the entire month, and she wondered why we would want to open our schools in July, citing the heat as a problem.
And here I’d like to give Karen, er, I mean, this elderly woman something to consider: for some kids, school is their safe place. For our homeless students (and the fact that that’s just a phrase in the US that we all accept is gross), this is even more true, and getting kids into classrooms may actually provide them with some stability and relief from the heat.
Another thing to consider: has Kar–, I mean, this kindly grandma ever thought about working class parents and what they go through to ensure someone is around to watch their kids? (I think I know the answer).
And look, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I see both sides of this issue, but first: why didn’t she speak when it was up for a vote? Why didn’t she join the committee that made the recommendation to go to a full-year calendar? It almost seems that these folks want something to complain about for the sake of complaining. Finding problems is easy; finding solutions requires work and collaboration.
She then transitioned to complain about bathroom policies because there seems to be a trend in evangelical extremist circles to obsess over children’s genitals (and they don’t just abuse children), so of course she did
Next up, Anthony Kern’s sister and former hopeful candidate to be appointed to the PUSD board (there was an appointment, and you can read about the appointee here: https://www.yourvalley.net/stories/maricopa-county-school-superintendent-names-proudfit-as-hills-replacement,457132), Janelle Bowles, threw out some word salad about the student data tool, Synergy. I really didn’t understand a word of it, so I’m going to pass on trying to understand her diarrhea of the mouth.
Next up was Envelope Lady and she said that she thinks that conspiracy theories are more important than mourning the dead or… something? She then said that the board has no authority and never has, but I think that the programs and policies that only the governing board can approve would probably disagree with her.
Next up was another regular, and she was talking about healthcare facilities for school, and from what I could decipher, she’s for it.
After her, a teacher in the district expressed her love for the district and that she really didn’t like the calendar vote at the last meeting, but that she understands the process. She said that even though she opposed the vote, she respects it and stated, “I can not like a decision and still abide by it,” and showed everyone that she would make a better school board member than any of these evangelical extremists.
Another person came up to speak about the calendar and exhibited that she also doesn’t know what good boardsmanship is. Then she came after our neurodivergent students, saying essentially that we can’t expect kids with ADHD to sit in a classroom (!!!!) in the summer and that it’s abusive. Does thinking kids w/ ADHD can’t learn and succeed qualify as abuse? Yikes.
Baby Wrangler Bro was up next to complain about the calendar and much like DVUSD board members, Kim Fisher and Jennie Paperman, he implied that the data team at PUSD doesn’t know how to do their jobs. He said that board members were “tricked” and insinuated that the PUSD board is like the French aristocracy before the French revolution. It was confusing, but most of these comments usually are since they’re not grounded in our shared reality.
The travel item for the district academic coach was up next, and another regular came up to speak. Essentially, she wanted everyone to know that she hates equity, that transforming society is bad, and that professional development should never include the social or emotional needs of our children.
Kare–I mean the nice older lady who spoke about calendars and bathrooms was back at the lectern. She wanted everyone to know that she did RESEARCH™. She didn’t like that the keynote speakers and presenters were college-educated for some reason, and didn’t like that this national conference included people from progressive states.
I actually like progress. I like moving forward towards a goal. And essentially, being progressive means that we change with the times. Many of the evangelical extremists in elected positions harken back to a “better time” 75 years ago, but who was it better for?
She then went on to give a completely wrong definition of the word “equity,” so I’m just going to leave this handy little graphic here:
Her preference is the first two illustrations in the graphic, it seems, and that’s just a really vile way to travel around this earth. She blathered on about indoctrination happening in schools (lady, have you ever been to a church??) and then said that the Oregon Board of Education voted to continue to suspend graduation requirements - and at this point, I agree, Oregon BOE. WHO CARES?
With the Christofascist takeover of our public institutions and the health and well being of corporations trumping actual human life, no one in this generation will have any opportunities if we continue on this path. If I was a kid (or Millennial, or Gen Z), I’d see it two ways at this point: I would just stop effing trying or better yet, run for office and shut these dinosaurs up already because if I have to do this much longer, I’ll take a hot poker in my eyes and ears rather than hear these monsters.
(OK, OK, that’s extreme, and I have no plans to do that, but really, if you’re reading this for free and STILL haven’t upgraded to a paid subscription, what are you even doing with your life - and mine?).
After the final speaker, it was time for board comments, and Clerk Rooks was up first. Here we go…
Clerk Rooks didn’t like the cost and wanted to micromanage this academic coach’s entire trip. She wanted everyone to know that she does research™, by golly! And she was BIG MAD that one of the conference sessions is being led by an NEA leader, you know, the National EDUCATION Association that’s been around for a hell of a lot longer than Heather and her ilk.
She wanted everyone to know that she will stand up for her convictions which, from what I could tell, include distrusting members of teachers of unions (how does that make all the Peoria Education Association (PEA) members feel I wonder?). She went on to say that since NEA supports Black Lives Matter (BLM) she’s opposed. So using context clues, Black lives do NOT matter to Clerk Rooks, I guess?
She said instead of focusing on SEL or DEI we need to focus on more Professional Development (PD) for science. And this is the point where I nearly threw my computer across the room because just a few months ago, she voted against a partnership with Microsoft and their computer SCIENCE program because it was intended to help marginalized student populations LIKE BLACK STUDENTS.
You know what I noticed? A SHIT-TON of audience members left after the circus of public comments was over. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: can PUSD take a stand and move public comments to the end already? There is no state statute that requires public comments AT ALL, but still, we’re all subjected to a circus every PUSD meeting.
During the discussion about the superintendent search in PUSD, she accused the committee of interrupting the evangelical extremist parents, but others who were actually there disputed that claim, and at this point today, I’m over wasting any more energy on these people.
The reason why? There are actual, pro-public education people running in this district, and I’d rather focus on them. Remember, these are races that are all the way on the bottom of the ballot and they’re non-partisan. It’s crazy to me when these extremists keep saying we need to keep politics out of public education, but they’re the ones who are making it political.
When a board member encourages folks to use vouchers and take their kids out of public schools, that’s political.
When a state superintendent uses taxpayer dollars to advertise for vouchers, that’s political.
When elected state senators attack pro-public school board members, that’s political.
So if y’all want a homework assignment this week, go out and research your local school board candidates. Heck, if you’re so moved, share your research with us so we can get it out to our members. Every county is different, but here is a list of every candidate in Maricopa County that has, thus far, filed a statement of interest.