Divisive Ideology over Community
School boards across the nation were targeted in the last election cycle by right wing extremist candidates backed by groups often self-identified as “Christian” (a claim often belied by their actions, as detailed below) and promoting anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-mandate, anti-“CRT”, and anti-sex education agendas. School Board meetings transformed from dry discussions of budgets and levies into fora for belligerent, fact-challenged, maskless protestors to browbeat and sometimes threaten seated board members.
In District 81 (Spokane Public Schools) the two candidates promoting somewhat disguised versions of this agenda were defeated by substantial margins in the November general election.
In the Central Valley School District (CVSD—see map) candidates and supporters pushing the anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-mandate agenda managed to seat one of their own, Pam Orebaugh, on the five member CVSD Board of Directors. I chronicled in earlier posts the civics of school boards and school board elections, the school board meeting disruption leading up to the CVSD Board elections, and the multi-pronged effort these people mounted to intimidate and unseat the entire CVSD Board (click the links).
School Board Directorships are nominally non-partisan. In Washington State school board directorships are unpaid elected positions. As such these directorships are typically held by selfless community members with a particular interest in funding quality public education.
One might reasonably expect, then, that a meeting widely advertised on Facebook for “district parents and voters”to which all five school board members were invited would actually be open to all district parents. Such a meeting, advertised by the “CVSD Parent Coalition”, was held last Monday, January 31, at an event center in the Spokane valley. Pam Orebaugh was the only CVSD Director to appear. For a group that claims that “transparency is key to moving forward to a better tomorrow” and “the goal for this meeting is a civil discourse that is intended to build trust between parents, students, and district leadership” the treatment of some of those district parents, voters, and taxpayers by the meeting organizers was appalling, uncharitable, and un-Christian. What follows is an account of the event as seen by Petra Hoy, a mild-mannered parent who has been involved in CVSD for years who tried to attend the meeting. The account speaks for itself.
Keep to the high ground,
Many of you have asked for an update regarding the meeting on Monday 1/31. I was really rattled by the experience and it took me a while to process what happened. We were told to leave before the event started so we were not allowed to attend the meeting.
A few things for context and details:
1. This is how the meeting was advertised:
"This invitation is open to all CVSD board members and we encourage you to extend the invitation to them.
The agenda for the meeting is as follows:
6:00 - Open the meeting, welcome guests, Pledge of Allegiance
6:05 - Opening remarks from the Host and Guest Introduction
6:15 - Board remarks
6:30 - Questions from Audience
7:20 - Wrap-up and Closing Remarks from the Host
7:30 - Close the Meeting
To help you prepare, questions from the audience from the topics listed below can be expected.
- District Policy and Budget
- Test to Stay Policy to include Staff Utilization to perform testing, Staff Training to administer the test, Safety Protocols, Metrics (Test Frequency, Pass/Fail Ratios, Number of Missed School Days, etc.)
- Transgender Bathroom and Locker Room Policy
- District Safety and Security - As you know, there are currently and have been for several months, accusations directed at the parent group related to threats of violence including "stalking" and we would like to know if these threats have been reported to law enforcement, is there a formal investigation, are there any suspects?
- The U-High Student MLK Holiday Video - The student describes racist and demeaning behavior at U-High. Is there a formal investigation? What is the Principal and District Leadership doing about it?
We encourage you to invite subject matter experts from the District Staff that can address and discuss these topics. We will request a follow-up to either unanswered or partially answered questions.
The goal for this meeting is a civil discourse that is intended to build trust between parents, students, and district leadership. Security for the event will be provided and I assure you, any attendant that steps out of line will be asked to leave immediately.
We really do hope that as a group, we can all come together to support each other during this time. The parent coalition is here to help if the district should reach out for assistance in any area, especially the above subject matters whether locally or state-wide. Transparency is key to moving forward to a better tomorrow."
2. The meeting (sometimes referred to as a town hall) was widely advertised on Facebook including this post in Open Spokane Schools.
3. It was also advertised by WA Citizens for Liberty
4. Pam Orebough is a new CVSD school board member and many of us were interested in her plans.
5. Many of us (including members of the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force) were espeically interested in these agenda items "Transgender Bathroom and Locker Room Policy" and "The U-High Student MLK Holiday Video - The student describes racist and demeaning behavior at U-High. Is there a formal investigation? What is the Principal and District Leadership doing about it?"
6. We politely went to the meeting Monday. Prior to the meeting starting, a couple of people, apparently from among the organizers, began telling selected people they were not welcome and needed to leave— including parents, retired teachers, Pam's opponent in her school board race (Stan Chalich) who is also a retired teacher and coach, and Human Rights Task Force members Paul Schneider and JJ Johnson. I will let them explain their experience.
I was asked how I heard about the event and I told them about the invitations. A loud unmasked woman hovering over me told me I needed to leave. I politely asked her why and she would not give me an explanation beyond "you're the enemy".
I have been active in the CVSD district for years as a volunteer, tutor, voter, coach and parent. I have voted for every levy and bond. I've even canvassed for them.
I don't remember ever being screamed at and berated like this. There were also threats to call the police on us, including Rob Linebarger, who was also a CVSD School Board candidate. For attending a meeting that was advertised as open to all taxpayers? All of us in attendance are taxpayers.
Sadly, CVSD Director Pam Orebough placidly stood by. She could have defended the rights of her constituents at any time, but she did not. I would hope that as director she would represent all 15,000 students and their families, but on Monday she stood on the sidelines as 8-10 citizens were removed from her meeting.
So that is my summary of the night. Thank you for your concern, it's very appreciated. The level of vitriol under the guise of "unity and transparency" is shocking. We will continue to work to support our teachers, students, staff and school district. It's especially critical that we encourage the district to hire a good superintendent. Ben Small set a high bar and we need someone at his level who can stand up against this intimidation and harassment.