Public Comment: April

SoWashCo School Board Meeting Video

On April 21st, 2022 the School Board voted 6 to 1 to approve the $462 million Facility Plan, which will close Newport Elementary School.

I think Public Comment is the most revealing part of a School Board Meeting. Policy might appear perfect written on a page and graphed out in fancy charts, but it’s imperfections are revealed in the voice of a community gathering together to oppose it. Getting up in front of a large room of people can be VERY difficult. Speaking about an issue that is near to your heart, welcomed by some and unwelcomed by others, takes courage!

I wish all voices could be heard on the official livestream, but since the district does not make Public Comment available to the actual “Public”, please take a moment to listen to them here…

Link to Meeting Livestream Video

Link to School Board Overview:

Newport Student, Addison McDonogh
Steven Rosenthal
Erin Leuschke
Allan Kean
Mark McKenzie
Tori Kulik-Carlson

This is the speech Tori was told by the district she could not give (per district rules). Tori has worked at Newport Elementary for ten years …

Good evening school board members, Ms. Nielsen, and community members. I am speaking tonight in hopes that you, the school board, will make a decision that supports District 833’s mission statement of “igniting a passion for lifelong learning” through collaboration, continuous improvement, equity, integrity and relationships.

The definition of ‘Collaboration’ means to work jointly with others; to cooperate together. ‘Integrity’…….. a firm adherence to a code… of especially moral values. ‘Equity’……… dealing fairly and equally with ALL concerned.

After hearing the pleas of the staff, families and students from Newport, can you honestly say that voting yes to this plan is collaborative when you are aware that the city officials in Newport were NEVER invited to sit in on the creation of this plan? Can you say that this plan has integrity? That it adheres to a code of moral values…. when it is closing down the one and only school and community center in an entire city? Can you vote yes on this plan and state that it is equitable? Does it deal fairly and equally with ALL concerned?

Can you know, without a doubt, that these students will receive the same chance at schools much larger than Newport? And to clarify, I am not saying that other teachers in this district don’t care because I know that they do!! What we have been trying to help you understand is that the needs of many Newport students are best met in a SMALL FAMILY School environment where they can look around and see LOTS of other children just like them. Newport students are known by every staff member in the building. They know that they will be noticed and know that they belong. They know that if they need clothes, we will cloth them, if they need food we will feed them, and if they need someone to talk to…we are able to listen and can help them work through it.

My fear is that some…not all.. But some of the most at-risk students in our district may get lost in the crowd of a larger…mega school…that this proposal plans to put them at. And that is NOT equitable to ALL concerned…nor is it a decision based on collaboration, equity and integrity. Somewhere in the mix of trying to fix the overcrowding in the high schools and middle schools…..Which we agree need fixing…., the decision was made to close a phenomenally successful school.

I feel awful that the school board wasn’t given the full information. You see all that you were told is that Newport Elementary is not efficient. What does efficient mean? It means; productive of desired effects. My understanding is that the desired effects of a school by a school district are successful students. How is success determined? First, community support and love of a school. That is clearly Newport Elementary.

Second, MCA scores. Newport has continually shown success on MCA scores by continually beating the odds and remaining one of the top proficiency schools in the district. Our school has been recognized multiple times for beating the odds.

Please make a decision based on integrity, collaboration, equity and the efficiency that Newport continues to demonstrate!

Thank You.

(Speech prepared by Tori Kulik-Carlson)

Paraprofessional, Holly Yannarelly
Paraprofessional, Janette McCalvy

And this is what Public Comment used to look like

Notice there was discussion. There was respect for the speaker. There was a well positioned podium at a good height to allow the speaker to be seen. There was a camera angle showing the speaker squarely in the frame. There was an accurate representation of the speakers fellow supporters behind them. There was clear sound.

2018 Public Comment video

Compare 2017 and 2018 SoWashCo School Board Meetings to TODAY.

On Thursday, April 21st, 2022 …

  • Public Comment was not recorded for those at home to see (due to an August 2021 policy change conducted in secret). Very little of the meeting could actually be heard online since sound was turned off during audience push-back and because the screen went black for Public Comment.
  • Many in attendance were required to leave the room due to overcapacity. They were sent to the lobby with no provided TV. They were told to livestream the meeting from their phones in the hall. They had NO way to see or hear the people speaking whom they had come to support.
  • For those of us in the room, we were still barely able to see through the monitor set-up blocking each speaker.
  • We could not hear the 1st Speaker, Addison McDonogh, until a working microphone was given to her.
  • The 5th Speaker, Mark McKenzie, almost missed his turn because he could not hear his name being called from the hall.
  • The 6th Speaker, Tori Kulik-Carlson, was told (per district rules) she was not allowed to talk on her subject.

Tori Kulik-Carlson, Staff Member at Newport Elementary for Ten Years

“I feel like public comment should not have the restrictions that District 833 has put into place, mainly because the public has every right to talk and every right to hear what other community members have to say. It feels very one sided when restrictions and guidelines are placed on the voting community and not on the administration or the school board.” (Kulik-Carlson)

by JAiME for SCHOOLS April 27th, 2022

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