March 12 Board Meeting–Board Member Resigns, Coronavirus update and No Discussion on Sex Ed.

This is just a recap of the March 12, 2019 TSD Board meeting.  A couple prefatory notes (1) Unlike most of the Board meeting recaps, I added in quite a bit of commentary, and (2) For some perspective, this meeting was held the night before the Governor shut down schools statewide. 

There were a couple take home points from the Meeting(recorded audio can be found here):

Here are some highlights(with quite a bit of commentary from me):

  1. Rita Luce has retired. Rita served on the Board for over 15 years and the District is planning some type of ceremony.  The TSD Board plans to conduct interviews in early May.  With Rita’s retirement, the Board now has only one member who has served more than 5 months.
  2. As it routinely does, the Board approved the Consent Agenda, which deals with quite a number of significant fiscal issues. As is almost always the case, there was no discussion.
  3. Gender Inclusion policy and school calendar for 2020-21 were each approved without discussion.  I could not find these policies on the TSD website yet, but will get them up when links area available.  The drafts of these items discussed at the last board meeting are pictured in the blog we published from that meeting and can be found here.
  4. There was a first reading of the proposed revised graduation credits.  Each of the Board members who were present seemed engaged, and had questions for Shawn Batstone, who was presenting on the topic.  The version that is being circulated requires 24 hours of credit, but does allow for a waiver of up to 2 hours of credit.  Here is the link to the current requirements.  
  5. Coronavirus—-Sean updated the Board on the Coronavirus. The day of the meeting, King and Pierce County schools shut down until April 24th.  Sean went through many precautions being undertaken by TSD, some significant changes being made with respect to scheduling and building maintenance.  The theme was that TSD, and the other Thurston County Schools, would follow the direction of the Thurston County Public Health Department.   Sean was very thorough, and spent a lot of time talking about various courses of action being undertaken by TSD.

*******As it turns out, the day after the Board meeting all of the Thurston County schools followed suit and announced that all schools would be closed until April 24th.  

Notably, during the public comment period, Tim Voie, (TEA representative) used his time to talk about communication he has been receiving about the coronavirus.  He even pointed out that several of the teachers and other community members have concerns.  Tim expressed the cooperative work going on between TEA and TSD administration regarding potential issues that might arise(like closures).   However, the Board asked no questions of Tim, and engaged in no dialogue about the Coronavirus. 

Sean also talked about the possibility of online learning in the event of a closure, which seems unlikely in the short term given some state and federal requirements.  In essence, it sounds like OSPI is saying that TSD cannot provide online education to some students without provided the same opportunity for all students.  In talking with Sean, it sounds like there are some barriers to implementing an online program districtwide.   At the time of writing this, it appears OSPI is optimistic that a plan may be in place to provide online learning around March 30th

  1. Sex Education Bill—The School Board declined to discuss or take any action, regarding SB 5395

SB 5395 is a controversial bill awaiting the Governor’s signature that significantly revamps Sexual Education for K-12 students.  Here is a link to a recent blog I drafted on SB 5395. 

At least a few schools districts have taken a public position, advocating for their community.  Prior to the meeting, Sean Dotson advised me that the item could be added to the agenda if the Board deemed that it warranted attention. 

I, and many other TSD parents, asked the TSD Board to do the same and address SB 5395.    I received no response from any of the Board Members, which was surprising.  However, once I watched the Board meeting video, I realized the Board is going to take a “wait and see” approach, and does not intend to undertake a proactive approach in the short term.   

This was disappointing to me as I know many TSD families have strong opinions(both in favor and against).  What I do not know is how any of the Board members feel or what any of them would like to see happen.  Many districts have taken an active role in communicating with legislators, the governor and OSPI.  However, we have no indication what advocacy, if any, the TSD Board has undertaken.

I do appreciate the law, if signed, does not go into effect until 2021. However, many TSD families have asked TSD to advocate now, and the Board has declined to do so.  This lack of action is disappointing, especially given the routine absence of substantive discussion by the Board on important topics. 

  1. Breath of Fresh air during Board member comments.

Darby Kaikkonen used her Board member comment time to discuss a review of the attendance policy.  This was a breath of fresh air.  Darby had been reviewing some of the attendance policies, and put forth some concerns.   Sean Dotson indicated that he would work to further this discussion with the Board. 

The Board members routinely use their member comment time to talk about sporting events they have attended, musicals events they have attended, quality time spent in the schools, or other uplifting good events in the TSD community.  While I appreciate there are a lot of great things going on in TSD, we receive such a small amount of information from the Board members that I really appreciate a Board member actually discussing core board member functions(like TSD policies) during member comment time.  I  am hoping Darby has started a trend. 

The next meeting is set for March 26th, but it sounds like it will be done via electronic means.