CA school board resigns following hot mic comments on live video conference

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The entire Oakley, California, school board of trustees was forced to resign following their February 24th virtual meeting. Unbeknownst to them, their meeting was public. Members of the San Francisco bay area school board of trustees were taped by parents on their cell phones during a video conference call while it was being aired live.

First to resign was the Oakley Union Elementary School Board President Lisa Brizendine. Resignations of the other three board members, Kim Beede, Erica Ippolita, and Richie Masadas followed on Friday.

The meeting, thought to be private, was supposed to address parental concerns about schools reopening during the COVID pandemic. However, it descended into a name calling session.

PROFANITY AND MOCKERY

The video conference call among board members included profanity and jokes about parents. At one point, Kim Beede asked, “Are we alone?” Then she said of a parent, “B—h, if you’re going to call me out, I’m going to f—- you up.” Other board members laughed.

School Board President Brizendine said of parents, “They just want their babysitters back, right?”

Richie Masadas offered other explanations for parental concerns. “My brother had a delivery service for medical marijuana. The high clientele were the parents with their kids at school.” Other board members could be heard laughing. “When you have your kids at home, no more (inaudible),” he said.

The 8-minute video ended abruptly after one of the school board members realized their conference was being viewed by the public. The board member said, “Uh oh!” She read a message that was apparently sent from someone in the school district office. “FYI, we have the meeting open to the public right now.” Another board member questioned that. “That’s what Lori just said,” she responded. “Great!” And the screen immediately went blank.

SWIFT RESPONSE

Response from the community was swift, garnering widespread condemnation nationally as well as locally. Calls for the board to reign were almost immediate. Parents had already started an online petition demanding the resignation of board members.

Resignation of the school board was confirmed by Oakley Union school superintendent Greg Hetrick. He issued an apology on Thursday for “truly inappropriate comments,” one day before the rest of the board resigned.

Superintendent Hetrick said in part, “I will not make excuses for what happened or why it happened. I am truly sorry for what took place.” Interim board members will be appointed until new ones can be elected.

Reopening of schools is a hotly debated topic. Parents, school boards, and teachers unions across the country are grappling with the issue of when to open schools to full in-person instruction, and when it can be done safely.

MIXED MESSAGES FROM WHITE HOUSE

The issue in compounded by mixed messages sent by President Biden and his press secretary Jen Psaki. One week before the hot mic meeting, Psaki described Biden’s goal of having schools open within his first 100 days office. She said it meant more than 50 percent of schools would hold at least one day of in-person learning each week by the end of that time frame.

The following day, however, Biden distanced himself from the comments of his own press secretary. He called her comments, “A mistake in communication.”

Biden went one step further. He told a CNN town hall on Tuesday that Psaki was not correct. “But what I – what I’m talking about is I said opening the majority of schools in K-through-eighth grade because they’re the easiest to open, the most needed to be opened, in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home,” the president clarified.

It’s difficult for parents, school districts, and school boards to determine how and when schools should open when they receive such mixed messages from the White House. This “mistake in communication” only clouds a very complicated issue.


Image from: dailymail.co.uk


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