Pulaski County School Board urged to change policies

Pulaski County School Board urged to change policies

The Pulaski County School Board met Tuesday evening and along with hearing a great deal of input regarding school board policy, managed to pass several agenda items.

Jill Williams spoke at the first of two public comment periods to express her concerns about the reading proficiency levels of students in the Pulaski County school system.

According to Ms. Williams, data from Pulaski County Schools states that two out of five Pulaski County students were not reading proficiently for their grade level. In addition, in one particular school, 80 percent of the black students and 50 percent of the white students failed their standardized reading tests.

Williams suggested that smaller class sizes would help to remedy the problem and urged the board to take on the West Virginia standard of not allowing more than 10 kids in a kindergarten class.

Lynn Clark, retired Pulaski County teacher, spoke after Ms. Williams and also advocated for the hiring of more para-professionals.

The board approved a personnel agenda which included the hiring of 36 “Learning Loss Tutors.”

The board then approved changes in the Pulaski County High School course catalogue for 2022/2023. Notable changes include removing AP English Literature and Composition, adding a course in African American History, renaming the Ladies Ensemble to the Treble Chorus, adding Emergency Medical Technician courses, doing away with the Virginia Placement Test to qualify for dual enrolment courses and eliminating the International Baccalaureate Course.

Perhaps the most significant action the school board took was to transfer the Dublin Middle School property to the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors. The board voted unanimously to give the county ownership of the main school building, adjacent athletic fields and most of the parking lot.

The school system will maintain ownership of the Agriculture Department building and the adjacent gas pumps until further arrangements are made to fuel the school bus fleet.

The board then voted unanimously to add a second School Resource Officer at Pulaski County High School, which will add approximately $70,000 to the school system operating budget.

The school board also voted to approve a policy which entitles members of the state or federal military reserves or their spouses to take leave of absences without penalty. Members of the military who are employed by the school system will now also receive paid leave of up to 15 days while on a tour of duty.

Spouses of employees will be allowed up to 3 days of paid leave, which shall be deducted from the employee’s sick leave, for the following:

  • Deployment/departure/re-enlistment ceremonies.
  • Graduation/promotion ceremonies.
  • Obtaining military benefits and/or participating in benefit sessions or support groups

Under the category of future agenda items, school board member Bill Benson urged that school bus drivers be given full time employee status within the school system, including health care benefits.

The Pulaski County school system has operated with a shortage of bus drivers for several months, causing significant delays in drop-off and pick-up times for students who depend on PCPS provided transportation.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Operations Director Chris Stafford will calculate the costs of this policy and present it to the board at a future meeting.

Gina Paine, a self-described “concerned citizen,” came to speak at the second public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting.

Paine brought up the fact that Pulaski County High School had reached out to to their “resources” at The Equity Collaborative for recommendations concerning the deficiencies in the school’s “equity audit.”

The Equity Collaborative referred the school to their advanced training model, described on its web site as follows:

“This institute is our series for advanced conversations about equity, all driven through an approach that turns Critical Race Theory into practices for building equitable learning environments. The sessions focus on applying practice strategies for interrupting systemic racism and creating more equitable learning environments.”

“For months we’ve heard this board deny that the tenets of Critical Race Theory are influencing the Equity Agenda adopted by this board,” said Paine. “Whether through outright dishonesty or disingenuousness, you have refused to acknowledge that the company you’ve entered into a $40,000 contract to train school system staff and teachers, is indeed promoting CRT. The very people who oversee the instruction of our children are undergoing this training, and yet you say it is not part of the curriculum when the curriculum messengers are being trained in critical race theory.”

“On behalf of this community and parents, we demand that you immediately terminate your contract with The Equity Collaborative,” Paine insisted. “Forty thousand dollars is an obscene amount to have already spent training teachers and staff in Critical Race Theory ideology, especially when you’ve so consistently denied it’s occurring.”

Before leaving the podium, Paine asked to know how many teachers have already participated in the Equity Collaborative’s CRT based trainings.

Brittany Lambert came to the podium next and presented the school board with a resolution that seeks to counter the implementation of Critical Race Theory in the Pulaski County School System.

The Resolution to Clarify Equity Training and Teaching in Pulaski County Public Schools will prohibit teaching or promoting the following ideas:

  • That any race is inherently superior or inferior to any other race.
  • That any individual by virtue of his or her skin color is inherently racist, privileged, oppressive or oppressed, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  • That any individual, by virtue of his or her race or skin color bears responsibility for the actions committed by other members of his or her race, skin color or religion, whether historically or currently.
  • An individual’s moral character or worth is determined by his or her race or skin color.
  • That the United States is a fundamentally and inherently racist country.
  • That capitalism is racist.

Lambert had emailed this resolution to board members before Tuesday’s meeting and requested it be put on the agenda.

Jessica Fisher followed Lambert at the podium and wondered aloud if school board members would have any objection to any aspect of The Resolution to Clarify Equity Training and Teaching in Pulaski County Public Schools.

Fisher then asked school board member Becki Cox if she would support the resolution, but before Cox could or would respond, Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers declared that members of the school board would not be answering any questions.

True to the superintendent’s statement, school board members sat in silence when Fisher again posed the question, as to who would support the Resolution to Clarify Equity Training and Teaching in Pulaski County Schools.

By WILLIAM PAINE, For The Patriot

 

PROPOSED PULASKI COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

RESOLUTION TO CLARIFY EQUITY TRAINING AND TEACHING

WHEREAS the School Board of the County of Pulaski, Virginia values diversity, promotes inclusiveness and is committed to providing a learning environment whereby ALL students have access and opportunities to benefit from the high standards, support and resources required for a high-quality education, and

WHEREAS the School Board values the uniqueness of each member of its staff, student population and community and encourages individual and multiple perspectives, and

WHEREAS the School Board must provide a clear and transparent understanding of the School Division’s positions and expectations regarding equity training, teaching, and learning; and

WHEREAS the School Board recognizes that individual and group perspectives on equity may differ and are subject to constitutional and other protections.  Accordingly, the School Board acknowledges that it cannot limit or discourage employees from researching, discussing, or exploring books, media, publications, or materials related to racial or social issues that divide rather than seek unity, but ask that they do it on their own time and not on school property; and

WHEREAS the School Board acknowledges that racism or division along social lines is not an acceptable practice within the PCPS system.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that:

  • Any school, school-based program, activity, or entity that is operated, controlled, paid for or under the jurisdiction of the Pulaski County School Board shall refrain from training, teaching, or promoting the following to students and employees:
  • That any race is inherently superior or inferior to any other race.
  • That any individual by virtue of his or her race or skin color is inherently racist, privileged, oppressive or oppressed, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  • That any individual, by virtue of his or her race or skin color bears responsibility for the actions committed by other members of his or her race, skin color or religion, whether historically or presently.
  • An individual’s moral character or worth is determined by his or her race or skin color.
  • That the United States is a fundamentally and inherently racist country.
  • That capitalism is racist.
  • That any violation of the above mentioned be reported to the School Board or designee through applicable polices, regulations, and procedures for resolving complaints by parents, students, or staff. Individuals reporting any alleged violation will not be retaliated against.

Adopted by the School Board of Pulaski County, Virginia this ______ day of November 2021.

 

_____________________________

Timothy Hurst, Chair

SEAL

______________________________

Dr. Kevin Siers, Superintendent

Attest:  ___________________________

Clerk of the Board