My RedState colleague Bonchie first reported on this story Friday.
Members of the Oakley Union Elementary School Board of Trustees were engaged in a videoconference Board meeting on Wednesday last week, discussing various matters seemingly in preparation for a meeting of the Board open to the public that was to follow. The Board members were participating from their own homes, and after discussing various issues about how to work through the items on the agenda, there was a discussion about how the Board members reacted to criticism they were hearing from parents who want the schools to reopen to normal operations as has been done in many parts of the country.
Oakley, California is a community in Contra Costa County, a relatively upscale and prosperous county in Northern California that is east of the San Francisco Bay. The Oakley Union Elementary School District Board is overseen by the Contra Costa County Board of Education. Oakley has a population of approximately 45,000, and the School District consists of seven elementary schools and two middle schools, with a combined student population of over 5000.
During the course of the videoconference, the Board members mocked parental concerns with one of them stating that parents just “want their baby sitters back” — a reference seemingly to the district’s teachers.
Another Board member made reference to a medical marijuana delivery service operated by his brother, and the fact that many of the service’s customers are parents who are at home and still have their children in the house rather than in school. He mentioned it was hard for parents to take delivery and smoke marijuana during the daytime with kids in the house and not at school.
Just a few moments after these comments, one of the Board members advised the others that the District’s IT personnel let them know that their videoconference was actually open on WebEx to the public.
There are other videos on YouTube that show the entire 8 minutes of video captured by someone who was taking a video of the videoconference as it was taking place.
On Friday morning the Board President, Lisa Brizendine issued a written apology along with her letter of resignation. That was followed later on Friday by the resignations of the other four board members.
Superintendent Greg Hetrick, also a participant in the videoconference but who did not make any derogatory comments, remains in his position as he has a contract. He issued a letter to the public in which he wrote:
Under the current circumstances, I feel an increased sense of responsibility. With that responsibility, I am committed to returning the attention to student learning and getting our students back in school. This unfortunate situation with not discourage or distract me from working to build back the trust in our community and return out students safely back to school as soon as possible.
Hetrick also set forth part of the resignation letter sent by the Trustees:
We love our students, our teachers and our community, and we want to be part of the remedy to help the District move forward, returning its full focus to student needs. To help facilitate the healing process, we will be resigning our positions as Trustees of the Oakley Union Elementary School District, effective immediately…
This was a difficult decision, but we hear the community’s concerns, and we believe yielding to your request that we step down will allow the District to move forward.
Members of School Boards in California are elected by the voters who live within the geographical boundaries of the district. They are intended to be representatives of the parents, and working with the district’s employees — headed up by the Superintendent — they set policy and oversee operations of the schools. They are supposed to be responsive to the needs of the students and the parents, and not shills for the teachers.
I have begun a few stories over the past few months to offer my opinions on the role of teachers and their unions in keeping kids out of school and hiding behind “public health” policies offered up by friendly politicians as an excuse to do so.
I haven’t finished any of them because, as a father of five, currently in attendance in schools from 2nd Grade to college, I’m simply exasperated and irate over the attitudes of teachers and their demands with regard to their workspace.
For months hard-working Americans have returned to their workplaces — some never left. They have endured the risk to their own health in doing so — from fast-food workers and grocery store clerks to municipal maintenance workers and office support staff.
But across the country, many teachers’ unions refuse to agree to return to the classroom out of fear that they will be exposed to COVID by their students or co-workers. Welcome to Earth, 2021.
Yet in many places, teachers have returned to the classroom.
It is not a question of it being safe to return to the classroom in one geographic location and not being safe to return to the classroom in another. It is all a simple question of whether teachers or a teachers’ union in a particular area want to go back to the classroom.
What I suspect is true is that a good number of teachers are quite content to draw their full salary while their only obligation in terms of teaching is to conduct a few hours of Zoom instruction from their kitchen table, leaving it to parents — or whomever — to handle the hands-on learning aspects of the job which was part of the classroom experience. Why have the kids in class for 5 hours a day and give them 1.5 hours of homework when you can have them on a video session for 1.5 hours a day and give them 5 hours of homework to be supervised by some other adult — or not supervised at all as the case may be?
In California, school districts operate on revenues received primarily in the form of property taxes. Parents aren’t asked to write checks to the school districts in order for their children to attend. That makes it easy to lose focus on how little the districts are actually providing in the form of an educational benefit when compared to the tax burden still being imposed on the parents.
Tax dollars paid for the construction and maintenance of the school’s physical facilities that are being denied to students. Tax dollars paid for the operation of extra-curricular activities that are shut down where the schools are not open. Students are missing out on educational opportunities that are perishable — once they are missed they are often impossible to offer again in a “make-up” fashion.
If teachers demanded to go back to work in the classroom, the schools would open.
But they are doing the opposite, and that has been true for almost a year in some places.
Simple as that.