🏫 School Board Enthusiasts 🏫 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
Delegations: (Sophia) From last month’s meeting, the number of delegates jumped from thirteen down to only two. (You can read more about the delegations from August’s meeting here). This month, both presenters...
spoke about new, pressing topics and how they could affect the community.
The first speaker, Rebecca Howard Day, brought attention to comments made during last month’s meeting when the Board Members discussed ways to shorten the length of the delegations and make speaking more accessible. Joe Smith, the District 3 representative, pointed out that delegates only have three minutes to speak at City Council Meetings and County Commission Meetings. Jenny Hill agreed that three minutes was adequate for getting a concise point across and would allow more people to speak in the same amount of time. However, Rebecca vehemently disagrees with this logic. She references the Board Policy (specifically the policy title Board Duties and the entire Community Relations section) to argue that the Board Members’ essential and crucial job is working with the public. She says that the Board Members are “instruments of the state”, “servants of residents”, and act as the “bridge between the public and the school system”, so by wanting to shorten the time that speakers, like herself, are allotted, they are restricting the community’s feedback.
While I understand the reasoning behind Mr. Smith’s and Mrs. Hill’s statements about shortening speaking times, I think they both neglected that it is uncommon for such a high number of delegates to speak. By cutting allotted time, they would be unnecessarily accommodating for more speakers than they usually have, therefore restricting the communication between themselves and the public. Like School Board Attorney Scott Bennett pointed out last month, a better solution would be to split the delegations between the Agenda and Board Meetings based on topic so that everyone’s concerns can be met in the correct forum and in a split amount of time.It is absolutely necessary to preserve and improve the communication between the public and the School Board. Rebecca was right when she said that the members should not run for reelection if they don’t enjoy working with the community.
Next up was Heather Modrow, a teacher at East Ridge Elementary School. Ms. Modrow makes frequent appearances at School Board Meetings, speaking her truth as a teacher directly to the board members, who are meant to represent her fairly. In this meeting, Ms. Modrow spoke about the new Code of Conduct for teachers, which many believe is strict and unfair to educators. You can read more about the specific details of the Code of Conduct in the link above, but I wanted to touch on the most restricting (and most ridiculous) parts. The new Code starts with the statement that “all educators...carry a public trust,” which is true, but what are we trusting our educators to do? That’s right, educate, teach. It says so in their job title. That is why I don’t understand that officials feel the need to intervene in their personal lives to prevent “missteps” that would “impact the public’s confidence in an educator’s sound judgment”, as the Code says.
As a student, I feel like the only thing that can honestly assess a teacher’s “sound judgement” is their behavior in the classroom. If a teacher is sitting at their desk most of the class, barely lecturing, teaching through YouTube videos, constantly giving mindless worksheets, or not answering questions, then they have poor judgement. On the other hand, if a teacher asks imaginative questions, assigns creative projects, encourages innovation, and is attentive to the needs of the students, then they have sound judgement.
I guess that this definition of “poor judgement” is different for everyone, which is another issue that I have with the new Code. A good portion of the diction is subjective, and the meaning changes depending on people's individual perspectives. For example, the Code states that teachers can’t behave in a way that “a reasonable person would think is inappropriate” toward students. In this sense, what exactly is a “reasonable person”? What is their reasonability based on? How can this “reasonable person[‘s]” judgement be trusted? I guess the Board Members who voted yes on this new Code may feel that teachers should not be allowed to live their personal lives or make any mistakes. However, I think that my teachers’ choices in their personal lives do not reflect their ability to teach. None of this is to discredit the rest of the Code, though. Some of the included rules are important to establish for legal purposes (but somewhat common sense). For example, the Code says that teachers cannot have inappropriate sexual relationships with students and that they need to establish emotional trust with kids to protect their “health and safety”. However, I think that the Board should’ve more heavily considered Ms. Modrow’s words before they voted because this Code will seriously impact the lives of teachers.
ESSER Funds: (Sam) ESSER funds are very, very complicated. At least to me, they are. But as a student, or member of Hamilton County, we must understand how funds are spread within Hamilton County alongside how said funds are put aside. In essence, ESSER funds are allotments from the U.S. Department of Education given during COVID-19 to provide funds where school systems may not have money otherwise. This is meant to provide a cushion for school systems. 90% of ESSER funds granted must be used. However, school systems may keep 10% for administrative funding and the like.
Currently, ESSER funds are being considered for an allotment with the construction of a new Tyner building after the partial collapse of the building in August of this year, which you can read more on here. So far, the main plans have been to hire an architect for the building. This has moved as far as it has due to the continued efforts of Tyner students who staged a walkout and demanded better school conditions. As a student, I can’t help but feel proud of those students who called attention to the situation at Tyner and demanded better conditions to learn in. Change starts with us, and when we collectively put our feet down, then change will happen. That is what is happening here, and it is essential that we not forget the works of student advocacy to call attention to the work needed at Tyner.
These seem to be an excellent way to grant school systems money to do things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to with the strain of COVID-19. Still, I can’t help but wonder if Hamilton County Schools didn’t maintain the buildings in Hamilton County with more efficiency, then we could put the money allocated to different projects.
This month’s School Board Meeting seemed to mainly center around the concept of community involvement. With the community in Hamilton County being so driven to involvement, especially in matters concerning education, it is vital that open communication remains between the School Board and community members. With the Superintendent search still underway, it seems particularly important that the Board takes the advice and words from the public to heart. As a student, I wonder how the relationship between the School Board and the people they represent will continue to form. A relationship is a constantly changing thing, after all. The strain of the past year seems to have genuinely changed the way community members interact with local representation, with more active advocacy in many ways. Hopefully we will see more on these things in the following School Board Meeting next month.