Here’s an opportunity to voice your opinion on the misguided and ridiculously expensive recall effort of two Benicia School Board members.
This Tuesday, March 2, Mayor Steve Young and Vice Mayor Tom Campbell will ask the Benicia City Council to consider whether the City Council should take a position on the proposed Benicia City School Board recall effort.
The Council agenda will allow for public comment before Council members discuss the request and provide direction to staff on whether or not to schedule this topic for future Council discussion.
Please call or email Council members before Tuesday’s Council meeting, and if you can, attend the meeting and let the Council know that School Board members Sheri Zada and Mark Macelli need our support. (Email addresses and zoom instructions below.)
Mayor Young and Vice Mayor Campbell are submitting the request and will support the measure. Please email the three other Benicia City Council Members, Christina Strawbridge, Lionel Largaespada and Trevor Macenski, to let them know that the City and its residents will oppose this $300,000 effort to target and remove two excellent School Board members.
Zoom instructions and how to comment are available on the City Council’s March 2 AGENDA.
From the March 2 Agenda:
ITEM 14.D – TWO-STEP REQUEST TO CONSIDER WHETHER THE CITY COUNCIL SHOULD TAKE A POSITION ON PROPOSED BENICIA SCHOOL BOARD RECALL EFFORT (City Manager)
Vice Mayor Campbell and Mayor Young submitted a two-step process request for Council’s consideration of whether the City Council should take a position on the proposed Benicia School Board recall effort.
Discuss the request and provide direction to staff on whether or not to schedule this topic for future Council discussion.
As we head into the four-day weekend, Monday being President’s Day and an opportunity to pause and reflect on the long lineage of presidents in our great country, I wanted to provide a quick update on matters related to in-person learning.
In-person Learning Review: During the January 14 Board meeting, the Trustees voted to remain in distance learning through March 19, 2021, with the desire to return to in-person instruction, implementing the approved hybrid learning plan, on March 22, 2021, which is the first day of the 4th quarter, State rules permitting.
The good news is recent COVID-19 case rate data is showing positive signs of trending in the right direction in the three primary categories: New COVID-19 positivity rates per day per 100k, positivity rate (7 day average) and ICU availability.
As a follow-up to the February 4th Board meeting, the Trustees asked that we explore options related to small group, in-person instruction before the implementation date of the larger hybrid plan mentioned above. We will be discussing this item at the upcoming Board meeting on Thursday, February 18th.
Safety Plans: Since the January 14th Board meeting, the State established a new requirement called the COVID-19 Safety Plan, which consists of a COVID-19 Prevention Program and COVID-19 Guidance Checklist. Districts are required to submit this plan to the County Health Director for approval before heading back to K-6 grades in-person hybrid learning. Fortunately, we worked very closely with our two unions earlier in the year and passed two Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s), which outline, in considerable detail, the required safety elements for in-person instruction.
Most, if not all, of the safety requirements are included in the MOU’s and we were able to transfer them to the COVID-19 Prevention Program which is nearing completion for submission. Please find the COVID-19 Prevention Program linked here. If you have any feedback or comments, please email them to Dr. Gill, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vaccine: Although the COVID-19 vaccination is not required for in-person learning, the enhanced protection and sense of safety it provides, is obvious. The main challenge, as per Dr. Matyas, the Solano County Health Director, and who presented at the last Board meeting of February 4th (recording), centers on the demand for the vaccine being greater than the supply. We are continuing to work closely with Dr. Matyas regarding a specific date and plan for the availability and distribution of the vaccine in BUSD.
Governor’s Safe Schools for All Plan: In my last newsletter, I referenced the Governor’s plan and that it was still being negotiated in the legislature. As of today, we do not have any clear updates regarding this plan and whether or not it will be passed. I will provide more information as it is made available to us.
LCAP/Strategic Plan Survey: We are beginning the process of collecting information on key goals and initiatives for our LCAP/Strategic plan. This document plays a central role in providing clear direction for key initiatives and goals for our district. Your input is vital to this process. Please watch for an additional email with a link to the survey.
But it’s more complicated than that. The fight over schools slices through red and blue America.
In San Francisco, for instance, despite a waning but still serious outbreak, the city, led by Mayor London Breed, has sued the school district for not having a fully developed plan to get kids back in the classroom. The city attorney said San Francisco kids are being turned into “Zoom-bies.” Breed, who was among the first US mayors to impose strict Covid lockdowns in 2020, wants to know when the kids will be back in schools. She said the nearly full year out of school is hurting communities of color and driving inequality.
In Chicago, the mayor and school board are locked in a standoff with the teachers’ union. “We need our kids back in school. We need our parents to have that option,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday. “It cannot be so that a public school system denies parents that right.”
Unions representing teachers who have avoided physically returning to school buildings want vaccines and more safety measures. Parents are getting louder, organizing on social media and running grassroots campaigns to open school doors in the portions of the country where they remain shut. School districts, which are mostly controlled at the local level, keep delaying and punting.
Democrats, without Republican help so far, are pushing a massive Covid relief package that would give new money to schools and Biden has made opening the majority of schools a key benchmark of his aggressive 100-day plan.
About half of states are prioritizing teachers, according to The New York Times. But it’s notable that some of the states with the worst outbreaks, like Texas, have both ordered schools to open and not prioritized teachers to get vaccines.
The tension between present danger and future risk
For the teacher side of things, read this CNN report about the hundreds of American educators who have been among the hundreds of thousands of American Covid deaths. For the student side of things, look at the recent studies suggesting schools that comply with safety guidance are not the cause of Covid spread.
Schools aren’t just not opening, they’re still closing. In Montgomery, Alabama, the school district closed this week until school staff can all get vaccinated after a string of teacher deaths from Covid.
But new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday vaccines might not be necessary to safely reopen. “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” she told reporters. “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools.”
That’s not official guidance, cautioned White House press secretary Jen Psaki. When asked about the comments, Psaki said she’d like to see that officially put out by CDC. “Certainly ensuring teachers are vaccinated, prioritizing teachers, is important to the President,” she said.
Re-opening schools won’t immediately fix the problems caused by a year out of them. In Chicago, where the city’s liberal mayor is at war with the city’s teachers’ union, data released by district about who will actually come back when schools open suggests it’s the White kids who will return, while the Black and Brown kids stay home.
Read this from the Chicago Tribune:
> When CPS offered the choice to return to schools to families in the first two waves, 67% of white students opted in, followed by 55% of multiracial students, 34% of Black students, 33% of Asian students and 31% of Latino students. Students with special education plans opted in at a lower-than-average rate, 36%, as did economically disadvantaged students, 32%.
The New York Times points out more White kids have returned to school in New York than Black kids and tries to explain mistrust of the system in communities that have already been frustrated by institutional racism in school facilities, funding and curriculum.
Mistrust of schools and mistrust of vaccines
There’s a frustrating similarity that should be explored in that the same Black and Brown communities that have been slow to adopt the Covid vaccine have been slow to return to school when given the opportunity.
Everyone’s doing things differently. In Virginia, the state Department of Education tracks what each district is doing, and the state map is a color-coded patchwork of open, virtual and hybrid.
Biden’s nominee for education secretary, Miguel Cardona — who was recently in charge of Connecticut’s education system — was asked at his confirmation hearing Wednesday if kids should be tested in this weird year, and whether the federal government will still give districts who don’t test students the federal money that is normally tied to it.
Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, asked the question in a simple way, according to the Washington Post: “Do you feel like the states should incorporate standardized testing this year given the circumstances of the pandemic?”
Cardona gave a very complicated answer. “I feel they should have an opportunity to weigh in on how they plan on implementing it and [on] the accountability issues, and whether or not they should be tied into any accountability measures as well,” he said.
That’s a definite maybe on the testing question, which is better than the “I don’t know” a lot of parents hear from local districts who won’t set timelines to return.