Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bridgeport Spaulding School Board Meeting August 22nd, 2016

On the agenda:
- There were no speakers for the citizen participation segment.
- MASB Governance Team Discussion begins at 1:00
- Middle School Student Handbook Presentation & Approval begins at 28:45
- Personnel Committee  Report & Special Education Supervisor Contract Approval begins at 43:13
- Building & Grounds/Finance Committee Report begins at 53:04
- Board & Superintendent Comments begin at 1:12:48
© 2016 Carla Citizen All Rights Reserved

The first speaker was Deb Macon from MASB.  The discussion was about the school board and what their role is and how to effectively govern.  I was impressed with the speaker Deb Macon.  She seems very competent and passionate about the work she does.  The school board has already had one day long session workshop and will have several more in the future. I agree with most everything said here especially like the plan to be more proactive rather than reactive.  Moving forward out of crisis mode and looking toward the future.  I agree that there are two districts here.  There is still division within our school board.  That is a complicated issue and has I believe multiple factors causing it.  I believe that lack of good communication, and a lack of understanding, contribute to the division.  Every school board member needs to work hard at making their thoughts and feelings understood to the other board members and secondly to the public as well.  Perception is everything here.  If you vote no or vote yes on something, then you need to say why you do so.  Be as clear as possible.  If others understand exactly why you take a stand on something, there can be no misperceptions about the reason.  If I understand why you vote yes or no on something, even if I don't agree with you, I will respect your decision. If someone just votes no or votes yes with no explanation, then their reason is now totally up to their fellow board members and the public's own interpretation or perception, and worse it will be up to their imaginations.
The one thing I hope is never the cause of any division among our school board members is influence from outside the board members.  If anyone else whose goal is not unity and understanding, cooperation between our board members, then their voice needs to be shut out. The answer to building a stronger school board and working for the future of this district is never to shut out your fellow board members and try to drive them away, to remove them from the board!!  That is never the answer.  If our board members have problems working together, it is not the fault of any one board member, I feel it is the fault of ALL the board members.  Here is where we go back to better communication and understanding, respect for each other and their voices.  Some may feel that I try to influence the board.  If I harp on them to work in unity, for better communication and understanding, for transparency, to remind them that they have only one goal and that is the future of the children and this school district - That is fine.  But anything other than that, then this school board needs to tell me to shut up and to go jump in the river!
Now onto the subject of racism and this school board. I think I have mentioned on this blog before that I have seen true racism in the deep south 40+ years ago.  It was real and it was scary.  Racism is not a term I take lightly and would never use lightly.  It was stated that some actions on this board are perceived to be race based and that the community believes that there is racism in this community and on our school board.  I disagree with this.  Back when I was a child and the first black students came to our school they were welcomed with open arms in our schools and our community.  I will admit that I have seen what I would call racism in our community nowadays but I do not believe it is from our community as a whole, only from some ignorant individuals.  There is ignorance and ignorant individuals all over the world, not just in Bridgeport.  As for our school board, I have gone over and over several incidents in my mind that I believe were interpreted by others as racism, but I am not willing to call it racism, not by any of our school board members.  Here again we need to go back to a need for better communication and understanding.  I believe that some of the perceptions of racism may come from the hiring of individuals from the Buena Vista and Saginaw School Districts.  I will admit that I heard some comments made in the past after school board meetings by members of the public, not by any school board members, that I personally perceived as race based.
Hiring individuals from these two school districts is kind of a double edged sword.  No matter what decision is made it will be perceived by one side or the other as a race based decision.  I have heard both sides of the argument.  I have heard from members of this community that our Superintendent and some members of the school board just want to hire from these two districts because they are black and they worked in those districts.  The public's perception is that both Buena Vista, which is no longer in existence because it had become so dysfunctional, and the Saginaw School District which is also failing according to the state, may not be the best place to be recruiting new hires from. If those school districts were failing, it must be because all the staff and administrators were failures.  It is way more complicated than that!!  Let me play devils advocate here and present the case of my uncle.  He was a teacher in the Saginaw and Buena Vista School Districts.  He loved teaching and he loved his students.  He was a teacher at Brunkow Elementary when he passed away much too young.  He was beloved by the students and his fellow staff.  He was a great teacher and co-worker.  If he was alive today and he applied for a position in Bridgeport, would some not want to hire him because he came from a failing school district?  That would be Bridgeport's mistake for only looking at him as coming from a failing district as a disqualification.  But at least no one could call that racism since he was caucasian. I believe that the actions of our administration or school board members concerning the hiring of staff from either of these school districts are not a race based decision, but is being based on their perceptions of these individuals qualifications or lack thereof.  It is not right to just throw out an accusation of racism, either way, towards any members of our school district without a complete understanding of their reasons for the decisions they made.

Next up was a presentation by Mr. Baker of the new Middle School Student Handbook, the board approved it.  There were also several new hires approved  by the board.

Next up was a report and recommendations from the finance committee meeting.  There had been discussion about outsourcing some janitorial services for just one of the school buildings but that will not happen right now because the financial numbers show it is not the best decision right now.  The best thing from the nights meeting was the presentation by board member Larry Long of new advertising signs that will be sold as a means of fundraising for the athletic programs.  It is a great idea!!  It is a good way to raise funds for the programs, good way to get the community involved and rally the support needed for our school athletic programs.  I see it as a win-win all the way around.  Kudos to Larry Long and others for the great idea and for the work he has put into making it happen!!

Also during the board member comments Marti Sageman discussed plans for this years homecoming parade.  She is doing a great job on that so Kudos to her also!!  Superintendent Selby talked about some new advertising  and marketing they have been doing for the school district. Board President also spoke about the meeting they had with the Michigan State School Reform Office.  His comments I think will be reassuring to residents of this school district that have been concerned about the future of our district and especially Atkins School.

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