Troubling Take-Aways from School Board Meeting
By Gen Heywood
On Feb. 14, the Central Valley School District Board of Directors began their meeting in the usual way.
When it came time for public comments, Board President Cindy McMullen told the group that no one could make a comment about Pam Orebaugh’s participation in the Jan. 31 meeting with that had been advertised as public but went private. McMullen told us that Orebaugh told the board that she was there purely as a private citizen. After this direction to not question, the group with whom Orebaugh met came forward to serve papers to the board. It was confusing as to what these papers were and what was expected from the board. It looked like intimidation and harassment. One of the people who spoke said that she knew that what they were doing wasn’t exactly legal. Other’s spoke and it was very difficult to know what their purpose was accept to bully the board into submission.
Even before the “being served” by the anti-mask group and the “silencing” of the questioning Pam Orebaugh group, the board appeared to have been beaten into submissiveness. Anti-maskers came through the door with masks, sat down, and took them off. There was no consequence. The person at the door allowed people in without a mask if they said they had a medical exemption requiring no proof. Students must have written notes for the classroom. Adults at a school board meeting must be held to the same standards. In truth, it is not about masks, it is about politics.
This group, through Orebaugh, pushed the board for a letter to the governor demanding the lifting of the mask mandate. The mandate will be removed soon without this letter. Sending it would create a precedent for school board to refuse to follow state direction. What mandate will be next? Imagine these parents requiring the overturning the mandated reporting rules concerning suspected abuse or endangerment of children. This is a dangerous precedent and unnecessary.
The board discussed the push of this group to give more time for public comments. Giving more time to spread false information and bad science does not help our schools. At this meeting, partial truths were connected to lies and sold as full truths. One example: An anti-masker said that people at the Super Bowl didn’t wear masks therefore student should not. The lie of omission is that everyone at the Super Bowl was vaccinated and had a negative Covid-19 test. The lie was not corrected and was let stand as a truth. More public comment time for people to speak untruths does not help our schools.
At this meeting, concerns were raised by three parents not of the anti-mask group. These talked about racism in the schools especially about white students using the “N” word when talking to Black students and white students who wrap themselves in alt-right flags. At past board meetings, the anti-mask group has frequently spoken about their concerns for the fragility of white students.
They dismiss concerns about racism because (white)kids will be kids. Further, they believe that if the facts of history are taught, the white students could not handle the truth. However, the stress and damage done to our Black, LGBTQ, and female students are, by default, sanctioned. There are things that are simply true: the earth is a sphere, the holocaust did happen, slavery was brutally practiced in our country and white students can learn to handle the truth.
There are many families not represented at these meetings because they must work, care for their children, or are genuinely afraid at these meetings.
Their children are also the responsibility of this board. Our public schools must continue to be safe for our all children of differing faiths, gender identities, places of birth, colors of skin, and differing incomes. This is at risk. All citizens need to pay attention. Ask Questions. Get involved.
Rev. Gen Heywood has been active in parish ministry for more than 30 years. From small towns to big cities, she always lets the needs of the community and the congregation be her guide. Gen credits the supportive leadership of Veradale United Church of Christ for including her work to overcome racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation as part of her ministry. “Veradale UCC is a small church with a powerful faith. They are the reason I can be a witness for a world where we do justice, live with compassion and walk humbly with the Divine.” Gen grow up in rural Maine. She received a B.A. in Music Therapy and German from Emmanuel College in Boston, Massachusetts, and her M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts. She is a lifelong learner who lives in Spokane Valley, Washington, with her three dogs, as well as, sometimes, with her amazing young adult children.
Gen grow up in rural Maine. She received a BA in Music Therapy and German from Emmanuel College in Boston, MA and her M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, MA. She is a life long learner who lives in Spokane Valley, WA with her three dogs as well as, sometimes, with her amazing young adult children.