Our Turn: Concord students deserve better from school board

Published: 8/6/2020 6:00:33 AM

Picture this: We are in a global pandemic and racial reckoning, and are on a scheduled meeting with local elected officials using an online platform.

Picture this: We have lived for months in a world of social distancing and meeting via online forums to communicate, only to have a meeting canceled because not enough facilitators were able to figure out how to correctly log on to their Microsoft Teams meeting, despite the fact that over 150 constituents managed that feat.

Picture this: When a student of color questioned and called out the facilitators’ lack of preparedness and disorganization, she was disparaged publicly on social media.

Now apply this image to the Concord School Board meeting on the night of Aug. 3, where constituents and concerned students and alumni waited over 50 minutes for the Concord School Board members to get their act together.

This was an unacceptable display of incompetence on the part of the board, and Concord students and alumni alike expressed frustration. Following the meeting, one school board member took to social media to belittle the aforementioned 17-year-old student of color, Mattison Howard, calling her a “snarky woman.” When Mattison defended her comments in the meeting and further criticized the incompetence of the school board, the member claimed that “this is a volunteer gig” and bleated “don’t you want me to do my best?” School board members receive a $1,000 remuneration each year of their elected three-year terms.

A CHS employee responded to the board member’s original comment, saying, “This is out of line. Take your comments regarding this to the board.” A member of the public replied saying, “That (CHS employee) . . . chick tho . . . yikes . . . need a tampon much??” Rather than use her publicly elected position to denounce the misogynistic language, the school board member stated, “I love you so . . ., I deleted her (the CHS employee’s) comments!”

These initial comments and continued dialogue seem to lack the respect laid out in the “School Board Member Ethics” in CSD Policy No. 110: “Work respectfully with other Board members to achieve the educational goals of the school district by encouraging the free expression of opinions by all Board members and others who address the Board.” Respect should uplift rather than silence the voices of your constituents and young community members.

If “doing your best” means disparaging the students you are serving; if doing your best means suggesting that this “gig” is like any other volunteer opportunity; if doing your best means uplifting sexist and derogatory jokes on Facebook; if doing your best means deleting the dissenting opinions of your constituents; if doing your best means that students are still uncertain of whether they will be safe returning to school this fall, then no, we don’t want your best. We want better. Elected officials are leaders and leadership is about taking responsibility, not deflecting blame.

The irony is that the planned discussion of the online meeting was regarding school reopening. The disorganization displayed by the Concord School Board last night directly involves the lives of children, students, and staff in the Concord School District as well as the community at large. As members of the public, the Concord School Board’s meeting was a reminder of the distrust that many students, alumni, and constituents have as we prepare for reopening and the months ahead. This level of incompetence is astounding. Our students deserve better. Concord deserves better.

To the young folks of our community: Understand that this is your moment, and we need you to run for office so you can stand up for the students in your district. It is abhorrently clear that few others will.

MATTISON HOWARD, JONATHAN WEINBERG, SENETH WATERMAN, NICK MUCCIO,
ANNA SPENCER, MARTIN TOE,
RIGBY BUCKNER, CLAIRE CELESTIN, STEPHANIE YEE, BEN STINSON, LIDIA YEN, MICHAEL KRETOVIC, JULIA MOREIRA,
LUCY MACINTOSH, and JANE SYMMES

Concord

(The writers are Concord High School alumni.)


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