Friday, February 5, 2016

These Doors Are Shut

A lot of Howard County parents turned out for an open meeting of the Board of Education yesterday, only to discover that the event was by invitation only. And they weren't on the guest list.Here's the invitation.

Subject: Board meeting
Sorry for the late notice but we need to attend today's meeting. Board is voting on Superintendent's contract renewal and important we show support. Requesting all AM's and any staff available attend and arrive at 3:30.

So how did that work, exactly? The following are comments from people who were there:
  • I got there at 3:00. Plenty of parking. Thought the room would be empty. Filled with Central Office staff.
  • I'm a parent, I brought my kids and was there before 3:30. I was escorted to a side room where a noisy ice machine fought for dominance with a tiny TV.
  • Very few people in chairs have coats so they're clearly staff from within the building here to fill the room so public can't fit in.
  • A central office employee told friend that he wished he could give her his seat but he wasn't allowed to and he was forced to be there
  • Standing ovation from administrators and central office staff after vote renewal. Half didn't have coats and clearly worked in the building. There was a central office employee standing against the wall who led the applause. She should have had one of those electronic applause signs they use in TV studios! Public was essentially forced to stand in the cafe hall and in the front hall. Completely orchestrated.
  • Just came to School Board meeting to watch the discussion about the contract vote. HCPSS filled the room with administration and CO staff (work for Foose) so public couldn't fit in. System staff trying to stop people at the front desk. The lengths to which these people will go to keep the public out of this process is beyond belief.
  • once inside I realized that EVERYONE was wearing hcpss credentials around their necks! I approached a staff member I recognized and asked to switch....and he/she said they couldn't because their boss told them they had to attend....
  • Our education tax dollars paid for Board of Education employees to sit in a room for an hour, clap on cue and keep seats filled so parents like me couldn't attend.
  • The whole thing was staged to keep the public out and control the message.
  • There were African American community members who wanted to enter and ask for a delay in the vote until racial issues were dealt with more specifically. Vaillancourt expressed her dismay that they were thwarted.

From Voices of Parents and Stakeholder in HCPSS:

In her remarks, Cindy Vaillancourt said she had been approached by a community member to ask for time for people to request that the vote be postponed. No such action was permitted.

Board Chair Christine O'Connor issued an edict that Board members would have a chance for discussion about the contract after the vote was taken. Cindy made a motion that they have discussion before the vote, but that was voted down 5-2.

The room full of central office employees issued a well orchestrated round of applause for Dr. Foose when her contract was approved by a roll call vote of 5-2, with Cindy and Bess Altwerger voting against.

They allowed for Board discussion after the vote. Well, that's new and different. I thought you were required to have discussion before the vote.

The best description I read of what it feels like to be a parent in the Howard County School System comes in this quote:

I had two different gentlemen with board of Education badges tell me in NO uncertain terms that the room was full. I tried to open the doors that separated the back room from the main hall. Another man with a badge yanked them shut, looked at me and said, "these doors are STAYING shut."

And that's today's news, ladies and gentlemen: the doors are shut.

Are they staying shut? Well, that's up to you.


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