OUSD’s first board meeting of the year was a bad joke. And the punchline was delivered to those parents who showed up live to hear from, and speak to the board. The meeting was disrupted, adjourned, delayed 2 hours, and then started again, virtually, denying those families their voice. But the key moment was during the adjournment, when Director Williams tried to keep the ship on course, counseling Director Hutchinson, “man, you’re showboating,” he can be heard saying on a hot mic, to which Director Hutchinson responds, “I am going to showboat my behind off…I am going to showboat my behind off.”
You can see it here from Ashley Mcbride’s Twitter feed.
If this was a comedy it would be laughable, but it’s a tragedy. There was real work to be done, there were real parents who were there live and wanted to participate, and there are real issues we should be discussing. Discussing, not showboating. But that is the problem with Oakland. Too much performance politics, without any actual results. Its more about being on the stage and making a name for oneself than making a difference for families.
In a district where less that a quarter of Black and Brown kids read on grade level, you would think that would be a priority discussion. And I wanted to hear a discussion on Director Hutchinson’s proposals on school safety, they made some sense, but there are always tradeoffs, cost, and staff time and energy used for one purpose rather than another. But I didn’t get to hear that.
And let me be clear, from what I heard (before the meeting was adjourned), there are huge issues with the rollout of distance learning. Sojourner Truth, which previously was an alternative school, that was making real progress with young people, was converted into an online only school. So, the young people that were benefitting from that program lost what they had. And that matters, if you listen to the parents.
Further, for families not comfortable sending their kids back to in person learning—they had to disenroll from their neighborhood school and enroll in Sojourner Truth (part of this is the legal mandate from the state, that you can only enroll in one school). But it’s a real burden for families. And for schools that are overenrolled—the family may never get their spot back. Again there were some proposed amendments, that might have helped, but I couldn’t stay up to watch. Assume that most other normal humans could not either.
Which is the problem of showboating, and the general way that Board meetings are run. Under the pretense of participation, we allow a small number of mostly non parents, to suck the air out of the room for everyone else. When meetings run 6 hours, and we don’t hear a word about academics, there is no room for the regular public, its just the professionals, and in some cases their fans, cheering and encouraging the chaos that continues to doom Black and Brown children to serfdom.