It’s everywhere. It’s this attitude that the public does not deserve their respect, their attention, or even notice. It goes from the top, from a congressman altering text messages to get another congressman and former President in legal trouble to a local State Senator calling her constituents “uneducated” and “misinformed” while pretending to represent them. (See this blog from December 14 and 15th).
And it is happening at the local level as well. Even though citizens of this county demand a larger venue for school board meetings to allow more face to face interactions, the Talbot County School Board, via an employee, keeps insisting that the way they are currently doing things is “for safety reasons.”
While I am not surprised that the Talbot County Board of Education lies, I am surprised that they are not even aware that their lies are poorly constructed. In other words, I thought they would be more proficient in their lying. After all, they have been doing it for a long time.
Because they KNOW they can get away with it. They know they have the County Council, the local Teachers’ Union, and yes, the media, running interference for them. And, they think they know that we are just a small number of malcontents who are stupid.
They are wrong. But, we will let them operate under that assumption.
You would think that with all the important issues being addressed in our world, Board members would want to meet with the public in person rather than through written comments or some obscure virtual meeting. One of the best ways to create relationships with others is to see them face to face, in the same room, in person.
You would think they would want to hear from ALL parents and community members, not just their echo chamber of “go along to get alongs” and those who are willing to coerce their institutional will on children with bribes. But no, they would prefer to keep that number to ten, ten carefully chosen, screened speakers and meeting attendees. ( Side note, this last statement was deemed “offensive” by a highly placed educational official.)
We used to have meetings at Easton High School in the cafeteria. The Board would go to their private meeting, eat a catered lunch from the Culinary Arts students, and then meet with the public. On slow days, there would be ten to fifteen attendees. During more controversial days, there would be a packed room. ( Like when the Student Services folks had a lacrosse player charged and expelled for having a lighter and a pen knife in his game bag on the bus to the game. The lighter and pen knife were to repair his lacrosse stick. Didn’t matter. I believe in the end, the family won a lawsuit.)
One time, a parent was removed from the meeting. Her name was Abby and as I recall, she was advocating for her children. This was WAY back. But to his credit, that Superintendent did not close meetings from that point on.
But that was prior to the current administration. Using Covid as an excuse, the Board found that they liked these little, quiet, masked up meetings. Easier to select and control participants. Just a wonderful country club atmosphere of self congratulation and feel good.
Unfortunately virtual meetings just don’t cut it, especially if you really want to make the schools better. Like anything else on projected on a screen, when you meet with someone on a computer, you can allow your attention to drift. Or you can just ignore them. As we have seen in many cases since 2020, you can find other things to occupy your mind. ( Remember that CNN reporter?)It’s just like watching a television show. All you need is the remote to turn the volume up or down, or to even turn the person off.
Reading written statements don’t make it either. With all due respect to the administrative assistants of the Board of Education, etc. they can’t possibly read a parent’s statement with the same conviction and emphasis. Imagine a parent’s statement about her child coming home off the bus in a bloody face mask. Now, read it in an unemotional, totally objective voice. In many cases, public comments read by someone else sound like Joe Biden reading a teleprompter, disconnected, incorrect, and meaningless.
So why are the Boards so reluctant?
Recently, many of us wrote to the Board of Education asking that the venue of meetings be changed so that more people could be there and speak in person. Here’s one of their responses. Their words are in bold italics, my comments are in regular following each paragraph.
The Talbot County Board of Education holds all meetings in Conference Room #2 at the Talbot County Education Center. Granicus, a technology platform, is used to ensure all meetings are streamed live and recorded. Granicus provides greater access and increases engagement with TCPS families and the community.
My thoughts: Wow. How nice of you to allow “engagement with TCPS families.” Yeah, sure, they can’t really interact, but at least they can sit there, shut up and listen to what you want to tell them. And you can’t possibly allow live comments from more than ten people AND stream the meeting. What, are we nuts? That would be like walking and chewing gum at the same time. But hey, they care.
The Talbot County Board of Education welcomes citizens to attend the Board meeting and to participate in the Public Comment portion of the meeting. In response to COVID 19, it is the decision of the Board to limit public access.
Wait a second. Reread this statement, “In response to Covid 19 it is the decision of the Board to limit public access.” Doesn’t this sentence on its own show that the Board knows that virtual meetings limit public access? But they just said technology increases public access. Which is it? Pick a side Board of Ed. Pick a side.
This decision also limits access to TCPS staff who participate. Meetings are open to the first 10 attendees and everyone in attendance is required to wear a mask to maintain public safety for all. The Board also accepts written public comments emailed in advance.
Okay, again, I thought you said that technology increases, not limits, access. Please find someone who can write your spin so it sticks to one rationale and stays there. You are all over the place. You know why? Because you can’t have it both ways. And I have NO idea why masks are included in this email. First of all, I’ve seen how Board members lower their masks, play with their masks, and take off their masks while speaking. Either they don’t care about safety or this is just bullshit. Or both. And, the written comments part, seriously, you KNOW this isn’t the same as someone speaking in front of you.
By the way, why are teachers/staff included in this rationale? Are you claiming, “hey, we won’t even give full access to our employees, stop yer bitchin’.”?
Since the implementation of the limited access to the public, there has only been one meeting with more than 10 people requesting to speak during public comment. Everyone was given the opportunity to provide a written public comment that would be shared with the Board.
Again, this is the THIRD time you have written about “limited access to the public” while you initially told us technology gave the public more access. I think you have proven my point. You and I both know that virtual meetings do not increase public access, they stifle it. And that’s the way you want it. ( The Superintendent is retiring in June. If she just holds out, she won’t have to do these meetings with the great unwashed anymore. Whew.)
I find it kind of sickening that it’s okay that “only one” meeting had to turn away people who wanted to speak. Seriously. Is the fact that you suppressed some public comment a rationale for suppressing public comment? Wouldn’t that be like faking a robbery to prove that robbery is a problem? As I use to tell my students, you can’t define a word by using that word as the definition. You need to take a critical thinking course or something.
Thank you for your support and understanding.
Don’t thank me for something you don’t have. I don’t support this bull and I sure as hell don’t understand this.
Here’s what I understand. You don’t WANT to meet with the public in person. You don’t want to hear their points, you don’t want to be held accountable, you don’t want any of that. You want to have the option of stifling them with virtual meetings and written comments. You want to serve out your terms, get all the glad handing and praise, and then go home and feel good about yourselves while having your chardonnay.
You’re not alone. Apparently, in the big school board national network action plan, there must be a call to suppress public comment in board meetings. Oh wait. There was! Remember that letter from the National School Boards Association telling the DOJ and the White House to punish public dissent at school board meetings using the FBI? ( Side note: I know that Maryland is one of the states who have not discontinued their membership in this group. Seventeen other states have to the tune of 1.1 million dollars lost to that group. Maybe they know something our Board should figure out. )
Don’t count on it.
Shame on you, members of the Talbot County Board of Education. You work for US. We support you with our tax dollars. And we send our most precious people, our children to to you, expecting them to be educated. Not innoculated, indoctrinated, or intimidated. And we expect to have a say in it. We will be reasonable and polite.
If you can’t do that, it’s time for you to quit.
At the very least, try to make sense when you deny us. And stop lying.
The following link shows how the national suppression is happening:
Author’s note: There are many people who don’t like my writing. It’s fine because I don’t write to please anyone. I write to make a point.
It doesn’t come without a price to me. I get deplatformed, censored, and called all kinds of names. But, unlike our Current Resident of the White House, I value my freedoms, every one of them.
Listen to Christine Anderson, German MEP of the European Parliament, she feels the same: