🏫 School Board Enthusiasts 🏫 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
The school board conducted a meeting over Zoom on July 16th. They acknowledged various things that concern the public, which aren’t necessarily true, such as the school board is afraid to meet in-person due...
to the Coronavirus. This causes parents to think that if school board meetings can’t be in person, then students shouldn’t be in school. Other issues were also addressed, such as parents believing the school board has control over everything, and that they are focused on money. Parents and teachers also think that the school reopening plan is reckless and uninformed. The full school board meeting can be found on Youtube. Due to the limited content in this board meeting, we have decided to alter the formatting of our blogs for this meeting. In this blog, we will be addressing different myths about the school board, and it’s recent issues. We will talk about the myth, the board’s comments on them, and decide if the myth is busted or confirmed.
Myth #1: The School Board is Afraid to Meet In-Person due to COVID-19. When it comes to the topics discussed by the school board in recent months, it can be argued that the reopening plan can be seen as one of the most controversial. That is why some parents, and students, saw a frustrating amount of irony because the school board had decided to meet over Zoom instead of in person. This decision comes at a time where they still are deciding to send children into school buildings. Even though, in my opinion, it is clear sending students back with our current caseload is foolish and will only result in more unnecessary deaths. It is another thing for the general public to see the people who supposedly want to protect the county’s children, only protecting themselves. The reason stated behind why they had chosen to meet over Zoom was a simple one; their technology team had made advancements in the ability for the “public to engage” in the school board meetings. They stated that now that the technology was available to them, they would be going with this option. One frustrated comment read, “If the Board can not meet in person, why are we sending our children back to school?” and continued with, “Our children should not be going back to school UNTIL this board has regular and continued meetings in person.” This myth appears to be busted, but many are still hesitant to accept that this is the actual reasoning for this decision.
Myth #2: The School Board has Control of Everything. One common misconception about the school board is that they hold all the power when making decisions about education in this county, and that is far from the truth. When the board wants to approve policies, they have a set of standards given by the state on the minimum requirements for their policies, along with restrictions made by the county. Although Superintendent Dr. Johnson is the leader of the school board, he does not always have a final say-so in the decision-making process. It is essential to keep these things in mind because a common misconception about the school board is that they are the only ones making the decisions in education for Hamilton County. It can become easy to question why specific processes, such as reviewing a new policy or approving new items on the agenda, may take some time. Recognizing that individual decisions are made above the school board’s authority is critical for many reasons. During these unprecedented times, there are many decisions they have to make with the County’s best interest in mind. Sometimes they may not make the most agreeable decision, but recognizing that other governmental bodies set specific procedures or standards, helps us better understand why they choose the decisions they do. Overall, this myth is totally busted.
Myth #3: The School Board is Focused Only on Money. In the past, parents and teachers have assumed that the school board does things for money. In this board meeting, they discussed this topic and explained where the money is going. The student budget is used for Chromebooks. They also made it acknowledged that even though the budget uses 2 million for student Chromebooks, the teacher laptops will be better this year. In the past, teacher laptops have been glitchy and very slow. Karitsa Jones also mentioned that the board isn’t acting on its reopening plans for the money, as the board cares about the children in Hamilton County. She even said, “It isn’t about the money. No one is trying to get a kid sick for a dollar.” After watching this board meeting, this myth is busted in our eyes.
Myth #4: The School Reopening Plan is Reckless and Uninformed. Many people have recently expressed their disdain for the reopening of schools in Hamilton County and across the country. If you are unfamiliar with the reopening plan for Hamilton County Schools, you can read more about it here. The main reason that most people have opposed the reopening of schools is the vast amount of unanswered questions that remain about reopening procedures, the coronavirus, and methods for quarantining in the event of a COVID-19 case within a school. These concerns were only fueled by the lack of available information about the school reopening in Hamilton County. However, during this school board meeting, it was made clear that the system is planning as thoroughly as possible for the reopening of schools.
Karitsa Jones raised some excellent points near the conclusion of the meeting about the decisions made by the school board. She said that no one has lived through the events of this year before. The board is attempting to meet the needs of every student and every family, and no one is taking these decisions lightly. Karitsa asked for the public to show the school system, teachers, and everyone grace in this time of uncertainty and fluidity. Karitsa reiterated the care that the district has for their students in creating these plans by commenting that, “We say that they’re our kids and they really are our kids.”
The School Board and the members of Central Office staff that spoke during the meeting made it clear that the board is working to prioritize specific issues at the moment to have plans and procedures in place before the start of school. From the outside, it seems that there is more unknown than known, but the School Board seems confident that all of the unknowns will fall into place by the start of school. The School Board has some very intricate plans outlined for the reopening of schools. However, it seems that many of these plans rely on things going as planned, which is how we got into this mess in the first place. In the end, this myth could either be busted or confirmed depending on how you look at it.
In closing, although the school board does hold a great deal of power in the decisions made for the students, staff, and parents of Hamilton County, they do not hold absolute power in the plans/new processes put into effect this year or the past. While it may be easy to cast judgment on them and see them as an easy target of frustration in this increasingly difficult year, it is essential to remember that these elected officials would not be in their current position if we as a county did not think they had our best interests in mind. With that being said, however, it is crucial to monitor and criticize the decisions made by the school board as they affect all of us to a certain degree. As a student of Hamilton County schools myself, there is a certain level of accountability that I feel all elected officials in our county should have.