Once again, racism and racial equality came to the fore at the Stowton County School Board meeting, where parents and board members offered suggestions on how to reduce incidents in schools.
During the public discussion at the meeting on Monday, February 21, the common theme was the need for the district to hire more diverse teaching staff, including a new head with different experiences.
Teresa Burgess-Galan, who heads a parent group to keep young people “safe and supportive,” said the district is at a “critical crossroads” in terms of racism and racial equality. She said that when her family moved to Stowton eight years ago, they were concerned about “the lack of different families and teachers and the impact it will have on our multiracial children”.
“Our friends, most of them white with white children, have expressed the same concern,” she said. “I’m here tonight as a voice for all the young people in our community who were afraid to speak out, those who are being beaten or watched as their teachers and classmates turn away. I do not want to allow another group to end this experience, which is so deeply rooted. “
Burgesson-Galan offered several suggestions from the group: documenting the daily experience of students, recruiting and hiring more black and multiracial staff, hiring a multi-district leader with extensive experience in eliminating racism and discrimination, and collaborating with more professionals who have successfully created introduced anti-racist educational resources and training programs. “
Board member Yolibet Fitzgibbon-Rangel asked what it takes for staff working with students to do something when an incident occurs at the school.
“We, as a council, are committed to doing this work (fair capital), but … you can’t manage it,” she said. “But what do we need to do to get employees to take action?”
Temporary superintendent Kate Algren said that while there is often a “gap between good intentions and good impact,” we also have many opportunities to create such good impact.
“I absolutely know that in our professional development there is that will and really concrete support from teachers so that they can respond to harm at the moment because it is happening,” she said. “When there are cases when damage occurs, we (prepare) our teachers so that they can respond to it. There is an obvious professional development that has been aimed at just that. ”
Board member Mia Crawley said it would be helpful to have more data on how many cases of bullying and harassment are due to race or gender.
“As advice, I would like to have oversight of this,” she said. “Don’t jump and micromanagement, but if we have the data, if we know a little bit better what’s going on, then the next step will be that we ask management to make more targeted interventions. I think there are broader trends, but we can’t see them if we don’t see any data. “
Cruel said schools need to do more to talk about equality and racism, both in the classroom and on a larger scale, such as school meetings, to help people understand the impact of negative actions.
“There is harm to families when a child is harmed at school,” she said. “We, as parents, send to this door our most precious thing in the world, and the door behind it closes every day, and we must express a certain share of confidence that these precious beings will not be harmed, and if you are your precious being, returning home, has repeatedly caused harm, it is also a serious injury to parents.
Chairman of the Board Frank Sullivan said he would work with board members to establish an agenda item for further discussion at topics at the next board meeting.
Between March 2020 and 2021, Congress passed three incentive bills that provided $ 2.4 billion to local educational institutions in Wisconsin under the Primary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). These funds provide emergency financial assistance to address the effects of COVID-19.
There were three rounds of federal ESSER funding for schools. The county received $ 257,741 for the first round for items such as disinfectants, masks and Internet access points.
SASD expects about $ 1.3 million to fund ESSER II and about $ 3.3 million to fund ESSER III to maintain the level of programming and staffing. The main difference between the latter two is that at least 20% of ESSER III funds must go to eliminate learning losses that have caused and continue to have COVID-19 in primary and secondary schools.
At a school board meeting Monday night, district head of business Eric Pickett said the state did not support increasing school funding in its two-year budget and instructed school districts to fill budget gaps with ESSER funds. The county has a deficit of about $ 2 million for the next 2022-23 school year and the same amount next year.
Picket said the search for ways to balance the budget for the next two years would be a topic at the next council meeting.
“It will be a combination of some staff cuts as well as the use of these one-time ESSER funds,” she said. “(This) is not a long-term solution because these federal funds are only available for use once. But our staffing and budget costs will exist.
“Once these funds run out, we will face a deficit that will be very difficult to balance without another operational referendum or a potential reduction in services.”
ESSER II funds should be spent by the end of September 2023, and ESSER II funds by the end of September 2024. Districts should review the plan every six months and provide an opportunity to communicate with the public.