Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Richland 2 Board Meeting - the Fangs Came Out

Trustee Monica Scott

Tonight's meeting was one not to be missed! Thank goodness for Livestream.

I had registered to speak; then yesterday I canceled my registration because the Release Time for Religious Instruction item was a No Action Requested item on the agenda.

I watched from home. The first, usually brief, public session before going into Executive Session was not brief. Be sure to watch it.

The first item was to approve the agenda. Trustee Agostini made a comment and then made a Motion to remove Item 8.1 from the Agenda.

The fangs came out. Be sure to watch it. Discussion was lively and, at times, accusatory and unfriendly. Trustee Scott was dressed to the nines; not sure whether she had just come from a cocktail party or was headed to one after the meeting. 

Chair Trapp stated that a motion to remove the Item was actually a decision to kill the Release Time program. I disagree. The Motion was merely to remove it from tonight's agenda. Where did he get the idea that removing it was killing it? "Tabling" might be the equivalent of killing it, but merely removing it was not.

Item 8.1 was a No Action Required item on the Agenda. The trustees did not kill it. They voted 4-3 to remove it from the agenda. That's all they did.

Chair Trapp did a good job at riding herd on the mob tonight. He displayed his strongest stance as Chair since November. 

When he was challenged over having been one of three trustees to request the Release Time item to be on the agenda, he explained the Policy. My opinion is that, just because, as Chair, he and the superintendent create the agenda for the next meeting, why shouldn't he be able to be one of the three needed to request an item to be on the agenda? He is a trustee equal to the other six. 

Then came the absolutely best Public Participation segment I have witnessed in five years! Speakers were pro and con and because 21 speakers had signed up, each was limited to two minutes (not the usual three), by the decision of the Chair and the Superintendent. Several students spoke - and spoke very well!!! Rabbi Jonathan Case spoke again tonight and made complete sense.

The tide has changed. Whereas on previous nights, most speakers were in favor of Release Time, that was not the case tonight. Be sure to watch the Public Participation portion of the meeting. That portion starts at 1:29:13 on   https://livestream.com/richland2/events/10954556/videos/237555050 

Released Time Questions for the Board

At tonight's school board meeting Release Time (R/T) will once again be on the menu (err, Agenda) for discussion. Under Old Business - No Action Requested is Item 8.1 Release Time for Religious Instruction.

This means another night of discussion or, as some might call it, argument and division. No vote tonight. How much time will be used to repeat what has been said at previous meetings? Will the Board Chair ask speakers during Public Participation to speak about "new" issues or concerns, rather than wasting everybody's time with points that have already been raised?

And will the Board  Chair do the same with the Trustees? When they drag out words and thoughts that have already been pointed out, which they ought to remember as they move toward a future night when they will actually vote on it, will the Board Chair say, "We've already heard that. Do you have something new?"

Q. How many Richland 2 students are expected to take advantage of Release Time for Religious Instruction?

Q. How many students at which schools are expected to be involved?

Q. What is the District's estimate of the cost to implement and administer the Release Time Program?

Q. What has been the cost so far?

Q. What is the real liability? The District's lawyer should provide a written opinion. The statute does not eliminate the district's liability. It says only that the (religious) sponsoring entity will be liable during the time the student is with it. A plaintiff's attorney will quickly see the District's deep pocket, when anything goes awry.

Q. What impact on teachers and staff is expected?

Q. What will be the cost for teachers to help R/T students make up their homework and missed instructional time in the classroom?

Q. How many teachers are expected to quit over the extra workload?

The school board is expected to be executives who make decisions. Why are so many trustees down in the weeds, poking around, and doing the job that staff is supposed to be doing?

Cut out the campaign speeches. Ask short, direct questions of the staff and listen to their answers.

Is all this time and expense worth letting a student out of school for one hour of religious instruction per week???