🏫 School Board Enthusiasts 🏫 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
Introduction: Jerald June's School Board Meeting was full of surprises. Despite this meeting taking place during the first month of HCS summer break, there was still lots of input and feedback from many board members...
and parents. I did have my doubts on how productive this meeting would be, considering the many contrasting perspectives expanded upon during the duration of this meeting. Still, honestly, I didn't think the meeting went as bad as I was expecting. From a student’s perspective, while watching the meeting in action, I indeed recognized the efforts of not only the parents who courageously sped through well-thought-out speeches in under 5 minutes but the extensive work of the school board members. As said by Dr. Sonja Rich, the director of Hamilton County Collegiate High School, who led the meditation and shared some words of encouragement from the novel The Count of Monte Cristo, “Life is a storm. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. But what matters is what we learn from the storm.” These words helped me realize how much we, as a county, had to deal with this past school year. Despite the global pandemic still somewhat thriving in our world today, it was nothing compared to the confusion, anxiety, and fear we had once felt at the start of this school year. However, we still managed to pull through. I’m excited to see what we as a community will do with this amount of experience and knowledge gained from this past school year. Now, where can we possibly direct it?
Delegations (Critical Race Theory and Other Concepts Taught in Schools): Jerald As repeated throughout this school board meeting, there is a severe need for reframing our school’s curriculum. With words from several HCS parents, it was relieving to hear the similar message of, “We need to be extremely cautious about the information being taught to our children in schools'' echoed from one parent to another. When listening to each of the contrasting sides exchanging their views on the teaching of Critical Race Theory and other sensitive topics in schools, it is hugely important to note that the outcome of these discussions in schools will play a role in shaping our future world.
As stated by Lanay Taylor, an HCS parent, “I believe it is my teacher’s responsibility to challenge my student’s point of view. We cannot come together until our children see history in all of its complexity. Future policymakers are sitting in your classrooms.” A fatal flaw of the teachings in history classes is that children are commonly taught of our nation’s past from the opinion or perspective of another; not only does this action ensure long-lasting influence on a student's beliefs but eventually leads to an imbalance of power and opinion in our nation. An example of biased information taught to students in the past, from the website FiveThirtyEight in a quote by Karen Cox, “The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture. Their goal, in all the work that they did, was to prepare future generations of white Southerners to respect and defend the principles of the Confederacy. They also rejected any school textbook that said slavery was the central cause of the Civil War; they praised the Ku Klux Klan and gave speeches that distorted the cruelty of American slavery and defended slave owners.” Now as dreadful as that sounds, something similar to this action was enforced in the years of former President Trump’s administration. According to the website Politico, “President Donald Trump said he will create a commission to promote ‘patriotic education’ and decried the ‘twisted web of lies’ being taught in schools and the narratives in universities that ‘America is a wicked and racist nation.” It’s extremely alarming to hear that a former president — only a year ago, was working towards watering down our country’s education system in hopes of leaving out important events and discussions such as Critical Race Theory. Continued from the Politico article, “Critical race theory, the 1619 project, and the crusade against American history is toxic propaganda, ideological poison that if not removed will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together,’ [former President Trump] said. ‘It will destroy our country. That is why I recently banned trainings in this prejudiced ideology from the federal government and banned it in the strongest manner possible." Not only do I see this as a clear example of wrongful educational control in America, but now in realization, I’ve started to notice how much influence an elected official can directly have on the younger people of this generation.
From this month’s delegation presentations, I’ve realized how many parents are in constant concern about the content that students are taught in schools, and it’s been a real eye-opener to see how much of a role classroom discussion can have on the beliefs of a student. As a student, when talking about the digestion of lessons and teachings in schools, it’s concerning how children tend to accept any ideas or beliefs taught to them at such a young and vulnerable age. However, by teaching our students the whole truths of American history, it is up to them to comfortably challenge certain ideas, ask questions, or disagree with concepts; it leads to the all-natural formation of personalized opinions.
Administrative Business Matters: Kaitlyn Following the consent agenda, the board moved into administrative business matters concerning COVID reimbursement funds for schools and the budget for instrument sanitation and repairs. There was no discussion on the first topic, and the motion was almost immediately approved unanimously. The majority of deliberation occurred on the latter matter involving musical instruments. As a five-year member of my school band, I believed I would be able to provide a bit more insight on this issue; however, seeing as I do not play a wind instrument, the relevancy of my opinion may vary because of my differing experiences.
Mainly focusing on sanitizing instruments, the excess of this budget would be put to repair ones in poor shape. As the board members began their discussion on the topic, something that Dr. Johnson said stood out to me in particular, “We all know our arts and athletics have suffered this year”. Tennessee has long neglected the importance of the arts, and I believe our education system has too, especially as shown through recent events. In Tennessee, students have the opportunity to apply to 11 different Governor’s Schools, allowing the lucky attendees to partake in college courses in their junior or senior year free of charge. Unfortunately, the art program does not include such benefits, costing thousands of dollars to attend. Although I am glad that this opportunity exists, it leads me to realize Tennessee’s neglectful attitude towards the “lesser” field of arts.
Furthermore, the treatment of sports versus the arts this past year was vastly different and unfortunate to witness. While sports teams were allowed to practice without a hitch, play their scheduled games, and continue to be able to travel, the disappointment of not being able to partake in our similar activities was overwhelming. Although I am incredibly grateful that we were even able to have a season, the clear lines of favoritism were shown through the vastly different restrictions placed on the football team and marching band. I understand that we may not be the big money-makers for the school; what we do is time-consuming and requires a lot of hard work, something that we would like to enjoy to the same extent as a sports team. However, back to the board meeting, I was glad to know that the board members focused on providing support to the arts, specifically the bands. As more board members joined the round of questioning, concerns on the purpose of the funding were brought up, especially those who worried about the precedence of sanitization over repairs. As I reflected upon the matter, I realized that I, too, was split on the location for the diversion of funds. Although I am mindful of the dangers that invisible mold and bacteria in instruments present, I cannot ignore the fact that many cannot use theirs because of unusable pieces and parts. Due to the warm, moist environment created by breathing through the instrument, many of these brass and woodwinds develop pockets of mold, bacteria, and germs detrimental to the respiratory system when breathed in. However, this can be prevented for years to come through simple cleaning procedures. Running a cloth through the neck of your saxophone, regularly changing your reeds, and emptying your spit valves on your brass instrument can significantly decrease the chances of this happening. Unfortunately, some brass types are challenging to clean and have a higher possibility of developing said bacteria. As a percussionist, I do not have to worry about these procedures and am mainly concerned with instruments falling into disrepair, leaving me slightly biased towards the matter. I believe that more funds could be set aside specifically to fix instruments, rather than setting 200K just for sanitization. Although I do not think that it will take the full amount to clean them, I feel as if there could be a better person to consult, maybe an employee of Giant Steps, to educate the board better and promote higher understanding in the future.
Conclusion: Samuel With the controversial nature of the topics discussed in this school board meeting, it is crucial to take a step back and look at these issues from an open-minded perspective. It is imperative to not spiral into the emotional side of these debates, as it is clear most people are only looking out for the safety, security, and educational benefits of the students within Hamilton county. Input from the public is essential on matters like these, especially when it comes to the future of education. What we teach in our classrooms determines students' futures as well-rounded, independent, and functional members of society. We cannot neglect any part of this process, not a student’s art education, nor can we cut from a student’s understanding of the past. Looking at education from a nonpartisan perspective allows us to be able to process that education, as a whole, is the pathway forward for all. Not just for those who would seek it out. Education is a human right, and keeping up the quality of our education within Hamilton County ensures the maintenance of said human right.