I. 5:00 pm - Opening
Discussion: A Special Meeting of the Board of Education came to order at 5:06 pm at the call of Board Chair Lowery. This meeting was held virtually due to Covid-19 and streamed live at: https://www.youtube.com/user/ppscomms/videos
The virtual meeting opened for attendees to arrive at 4:45pm. No deliberation or decisions were made prior to the start of the meeting.
II. 5:05 pm - Resolution 6152: Appeal to the Board - Formal Complaint #2020-08 (40 min)
RESOLUTION No. 6152
Resolution to Uphold the Superintendent’s Decision on a Step 3 Appeal - Complaint No. 2020-08
The Board of Education has received and reviewed Complaint # 2020-08 submitted and the Superintendent’s response to it.
The Board of Education uphold the Superintendent’s decision of the Step 3 appeal as the final decision.
Discussion: Ms. Macon shared a summary of her complaint, explaining that her daughter attended a racist Black History Month assembly where the white kids were playing instruments and that the black kids were playing buckets. She noted that Portland Public Schools (PPS) has already stated that playing buckets is not part of black history and will not be included as part of black history celebrations. She stated that the Vernon black history assembly is not aligned with board policy and that she is asking that the board ensure that the district have a high quality and culturally relevant black history assembly, and to write clear and simply policy that PPS K-5 schools can model for clear and appropriate programing. She added that they are additionally demanding that the board remove the racist name of the district office and rename it for Fredrick Douglas.
No staff response.
Director Brim-Edwards noted that the district’s response was based on an outside counsel’s advice and asked who the outside counsel was and for a summary of the response. Mary Kane shared that the outside counsel was Randy Gellar at Harrang Long. John Stellwagon shared that the two primary issues addressed by the complaint are not addressed through the constitution, but through Title 6 and Title 34, which make it unlawful to discriminate in the context of providing education programs when federal funding has been received. He explained that they reviewed the statute and found that simply watching a performance of that nature is not necessarily rise to a violation of either statute or the constitution. Director Brim-Edwards stated that the complaint originally stated legal violations, but that based on Ms. Macon’s complaint summary it sounds like they are now asking the board to consider whether it’s a violation of the policy. Ms. Macon shared that they started the complaint as a civil rights and that through the complaint process have identified it as a violation of the equity policy. Dani Ledezma, Senior Advisor on Racial Equity and Social Justice (RESJ) stated that she believes that the programming is in affirmation of the equity policy. Director Brim-Edwards asked a question regarding the assembly being during the day or during the evening. Principal Keefer shared that there was a more participation during the day time assembly, which is the assembly that Ms. Macon’s daughter attended, than the evening assembly and that it was more representative of the student body than the evening event, which is where the picture was taken. Director Brim-Edwards stated that the district is addressing many of the issues that were raised and asked who is responsible for tracking the progress. Dr. Bird shared that they are working with the principal and regional superintendent to work on the issues addressed. Principal Keefer shared that they have been working to reach out directly to reach out to underserved families and students of color to try and help increase participation, as well as working with students to create programming that is interesting and engaging.
Ms. Macon shared that in response to Ms.Ledezma that she was confused how the policy could be in affirmation, because she has a letter from Stephanie Soden-Back saying that the bucket drumming won’t take place at a black history month assembly, so it must be in violation (of the policy). She added that in response to principal Keefer that the participation has decreased in year two by ten percent and that this is just one issue as part of a systemic problem.
Director Lowery asked what Ms. Macon would like to see the resolution to look like. Ms. Macon shared that black students would be represented and felt welcome in all programs and that test scores would be equal or better than what other students are doing.
John Stellwagon added that the nature of the racial educational policy, which was an attempt to set a framework addressing disparity, that while there may be concern regarding the issues that Ms. Macon raised that it doesn’t violate the policy.
There was discussion on how to state the motion. There was a motion to uphold the superintendent’s decision, which was put to a voice vote and passed.
Director Scott shared that there is broad agreement that they all want to see increased diversity in participation and test scores.
III. 5:45 pm - Adjourn