Paradise Valley School Board Meeting: All About Evolution (of Public Comments)
Spoiler Alert: We're All Becoming Reptiles
I hadn’t really planned on going to the Paradise Valley (PVUSD) school board meeting this week, but I was super curious to find out if their recent decision to move public comments towards the end of the meeting agenda would change the tone of the meeting, so here you go, folks!
A little bonus update on a district that has been inundated with some of the most hateful, ridiculous, and unfounded comments I’ve ever heard. Their meetings would sometimes go to midnight, and speakers would hurl insults at members of the board. As a reminder, there is nothing in Arizona law or statute that requires public comments at these meetings, because as both Board Member Kiana Sears in Mesa and Board President Nancy Case in PVUSD have reminded us, these meetings are for the board, and the public is allowed to observe.
So of course, I was anxious to see how the public would respond.
So let’s start at the beginning! I was a skosh late for the meeting, but I was listening to it in my car (yes, I AM that person).
It started in standard fashion, with some student celebrations, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a moment of silence (still want to know… WHY is this standard in so many meetings?). During board member statements, Board Member Christensen disagreed with President Case’s accurate assertion from the last BOARD meeting that the BOARD meeting is for BOARD members, and not members of the public.
But of course, she’s wrong, because far too many of these evangelical extremists are deeply unserious about their duties as board members, and actively avoid learning how to be more knowledgeable and professional in their roles.
There were a few more recognitions of educators who completely rock at their jobs, and it was about this point that I rolled up into the meeting, and folks! It was PACKED! Since I don’t attend a lot of PVUSD meetings in person, I didn’t recognize folks the same way I do when I go to Peoria USD, but there were a couple of notable attendees.
First, my buddy and 🧻USA operative, Tiffany Benson was in the crowd. I sat in the same row as her and she immediately moved away. I looked over to wave, but it looked like she was suffering from an aneurysm and I had to remind myself that she thinks that I’m a literal demon.
Another interesting attendee was former state Senator (R-LD2), Steve Kaiser. You may remember that Kaiser
took his ball and went home resigned earlier this year citing he wanted to focus on family and wants to create a PAC to help conservatives get elected to the state legislature and school boards.
I’ve met Steve before, and I genuinely think he cares about people. Unlike many of his colleagues, he seems to have a moral compass deep, deep (somewhere) inside. I can’t imagine him supporting radical extremists like Sandra Christensen or Kim Fisher, but he also allowed himself to be on the GOP “Golden Ticket” in 2022, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Next up would normally be where the public comments would happen, but this board was fed up with conspiracy theorists and purple parents hijacking their meetings, and moved public comments AFTER agenda items that are up for a vote.
The items for approval were pretty standard: employee compensation and benefits; a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Homeless Youth Connection; contractor agreements; staff travel requests; a credit card issued to the Assistant Supt of HR (of course, Board Member Christensen had to comment about this staff member’s ability to use it for school business🙄).
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There was another item to approve a purchase w/ 1GPA that Board Member Christensen abstained from voting on, and another to renew an existing parking lot grounds lease for CORE construction that Board Member Christensen had a problem with. She didn’t like the length of the contract (20 years) and made a motion to amend the length of the lease to ten years.
And what happened next needs to happen everywhere where these board members try to micromanage:
This is how it’s done, folks. Last week, when Peoria USD Board Member Heather Rooks insisted that lOvE oF cOuNtRy be added to the superintendent search requirements, the rest of the board could have just kept quiet. Without a second, there is no vote.
Next up was public comments, and REMEMBER, just a few weeks ago, these comments would take up most of the meeting and would be filled with mis/disinformation and hate speech. Tonight, there were only six speakers.
The first speaker was a self-described “international wellness expert, artist, architect” and she ministers to people on how to live more healthy. She then started talking about how humans are made in god’s image (which god she’s referring to, I’m not sure), but that we’ve forgotten our “divine nature.” She started talking about electromagnetic forces (EMF) and how the use of phones isn’t good for kids (I agree with her on this), and that they “need to walk barefoot in grass and play in mud” (and again, I’m still with her).
Then she kind of took a weird turn, quoted from a book called Evolution Revolution, and said that Darwin’s theory was wrong and that the only way to evolve was through Jesus’ teachings (I’m no longer with her). She then assured us that we’re all going to evolve into reptilian beings at some point (I’m definitely no longer with her).
Another woman came up to let everyone know that she was against “racial and sexual orientation” whatever that means, and then wanted to make sure everyone knew she’s a fan of banning books. She brought up the book “Gender Queer” and said “we’re all made in god’s (again, still not sure which one) image” and shouldn’t be questioning gender. She then said something about how her kids had a wonderful teacher that made her children feel valued, and all I could think was, “I bet that teacher made even her trans and gender-fluid kids feel welcomed.”
And then, guess what? The rest of the speakers were normal!
They were all there to praise the district and talk about normal stuff. There was no bigotry, there were no more conspiracy theories, and they all talked about super boring, routine, and completely regular things.
Next, there was an update about online safety and technology use, and the meeting ended with a playground assessment from the ADA.
And that was it, folks. A two-hour board meeting where the focus was on actual issues happening in the district. I firmly believe that this shift has everything to do with your activism! This board moved their public comments to later in the evening because YOU sent the emails to members of the board.
I really hope that other districts are taking notes. More districts need to limit and/or move their public comments for as long as the tin foil brigade keeps showing up spewing hate and falsehoods. Presidents need to have a strong gavel hand and get rid of any disruptors.
And I heard through the grapevine that extremist board members are not finished beating the dead horse of bathroom policies. Apparently, at the
Klanned Karenhood Moms for Liberty event earlier this month, Tom Horne encouraged christofascists to lean into their obsession with children’s genitalia and bully trans kids by bringing forward bathroom policies (AGAIN)
So you know what that means! We still have work to do. Continue to monitor your local school boards, and we’ll continue to provide updates and action alerts. And of course, consider volunteering or becoming a member of Secular AZ today.