Kutztown’s Policy and Curriculum meeting on Monday got a little heated during public comment when a board member accused a resident of telling lies.
Jeri Sievert of Kutztown said the proposed Educational Equity Policy section regarding “culturally responsive teaching” was critical race theory.
Board member Alan Darion laughed and said, “Everything can be called that.”
Sievert replied, “Shut up, Al; don’t take my time up.”
“Are you going to tell the truth this time or are you going to lie again? You know what you did last meeting,” Darion responded, making reference to a complaint by Sievert and other parents regarding school library books.
“OK, let’s talk about the pornography books,” Sievert said. “The librarian told the student one was taken out and the other one was in process.”
Superintendent Christian Temchatin said the book was unavailable because it was not in circulation.
“So you bought the books not to circulate them?” Sievert asked.
Sievert also wanted to know who would be on the committee to review the book.
Temchatin said the committee has not been formed yet because they just received the forms.
Sievert suggested the police chief serve on the book review committee since there are allegations of pornography.
She also argued that the emailed survey seeking interest in a district vaccine clinic falsely states that the COVID-19 vaccine is FDA approved.
“It’s emergency use authorization only,” she said.
Temchatin replied that the survey was intended to gauge interest in holding a vaccine clinic. At this time, there are no plans to hold one.
“There is much more information for them to receive before anyone would receive a vaccine,” he said.
Sievert said there are plenty of sites that can provide a vaccine. She questioned why a clinic would need to be held in a school and if holding a vaccine clinic is tied to federal funds in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, program.
Temchatin said the Health and Safety Plan was required to receive ESSER funds, but a vaccine clinic is not required.
“They asked for layered strategies,” he said. “There is no connection between us holding a vaccine clinic or not holding a vaccine clinic in the ESSER funding.”
“Well, that’s not my understanding of it,” Sievert said.
After much debate over policy language, the board approved moving the Educational Equity Policy to second reading status to be reviewed by the full school board on Monday, Nov. 15.
Discussion continued on revising the policy in an effort to ensure the language is clear that the equity committee serves in an advisory capacity and its action plan needs board approval.
Caecilia Holt confirmed additions to the policy specify that the committee will propose an equity action plan subject to board approval. Also, the committee reports to the board on its work and presents copies of its minutes to the board.
“I know one of the issues that’s out there is there is concern how the group proceeded and the board was not a part of its approval process,” said board member Dennis S. Ritter. “I’m open to some additional wording in there. I think it’s clear that Educational Equity Committee operates under the board and not on its own.
“I think it’s clear here. The committee does not have power beyond the board; everything comes back to the board,” Ritter added, though he agreed that they need to be as specific with wording as possible.
“We need to be more vigilant than less,” he said, noting the wording that the committee serves in an advisory capacity is insufficient.
Ritter suggested this wording: “The Educational Equity Committee will work to develop an educational equity action plan subject to board approval. In addition, all public presentations will be approved as well.”
Darion pointed out that what they’re trying to do is not the way they usually do policy, which paints things in much broader strokes.
“I realize the controversial nature of this means we need to drill down a bit deeper, but it’s still the administrative regulation that would come into play at some point that would flesh out what exactly this means,” said Darion. “In other words, a communication would come to the superintendent and would be passed on to the board.
“That lets things to be done as they arise as opposed to trying to anticipate all of the complications.”
While Ritter agrees, he wants policy wording that provides further guidance through administrative regulation.
Darion had no objections to putting in more detailed policy wording; he just wanted to point out that all the possibilities don’t always have to be anticipated and put into policy.
“I just want to give future boards the opportunity to screen what gets put out because we are a representative of the community; I think that’s a responsibility we have,” Ritter said.
“I’m actually a little uneasy with micromanaging what should be an administrative responsibility,” said Holt. “I certainly agree with there being an advisory capacity to the board and that they’re being charged to develop this plan. Part of that plan may or may not be communication, community forum, speaker, who knows because it’s going to be up to representatives of the community that form this committee.”
Holt agrees the action plan should be approved by the board but questioned if it is the board’s responsibility to be involved in every single thing that happens.
“We are in charge of policy and governance,” said Holt.
“Sometimes drilling down by the governance makes sense,” said Ritter, questioning if it is clear enough in the policy that the committee is advising the board.
“This is much more connected to the board and our approval than the previous group that became controversial,” said Ritter.
Darion suggested those sorts of requirements coming for board approval perhaps would be something to be built into the action plan as it comes to the board for approval.
“That seems reasonable,” Holt said.
Ritter acknowledged the equity committee is different than other committees but one he thinks is appropriate and warranted given the subject and impact on the educational programs.
“I think the community certainly has to have a stake and a voice in this,” Ritter said. “That’s why I like this committee.”
The board agreed to add language to the policy that states administrative regulations or operating procedures are to be developed by the committee, approved by the board and reviewed annually with the action plan.
While discussing being more specific about the goals listed in the policy, Darion pointed out that the goals will first come out of the action plan, which is then subject to board approval.
“It’s all part of that process; it’s not necessarily something that needs to be specified at the board level,” said Darion.
Board member Michael Hess believes a yearly evaluation is too frequent, preferring the action plan and superintendent report back to the board once every two years.
“Yearly feedback to me seems overly frequent when we have to report data to the state every three years, I believe,” said Hess, concerned that the action plan would change too drastically from year to year and make it more difficult to have longer-range goals.
Board member Eric Johnson said considering how long it’s taking to get if off the ground, yearly reports might be good to fine-tune it.
“If this is going to be done right, I think it should be monitored more closely at first,” Johnson said.
Temchatin said an annual report makes sense.
Board members agreed the annual report would be the committee updating the board on its progress.
Ritter advocated the benefits of having a community-based equity committee, saying the more broad-based community participation the better.
“I think it makes us stronger as a district and more reflective of who we are as a district,” Ritter said.
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