Essex-Westford school board exceeds agreement, but will discuss September 7
by Guy Page
The Essex-Westford School Board agreed last year the Black Lives Matter flag would fly only during the 2020-21 school year. Yet the Board Chair says it will still be raised on school flagpoles when students return for the 2021-22 year, BLM flag critic and school board member Liz Cady said this morning.
“I just received word from the Board Chair that the flag will stay up and will be an agenda item on the September 7 board meeting,” Cady emailed to the Vermont Daily Chronicle. “So the flag was supposed to fly for the 20-21 school year and now will still be on the flagpole at the start of the 21-22 school year, because the EWSD Board Chair has determined that the children should have time in school to get their thoughts together with regard to the flag.”
“The Board must start listening to community members, which consists of taxpayers and parents, and showcase the professionalism required to make decisions that sometimes may be in contrast with one’s personal viewpoint on a subject.”
– Liz Cady
In an open letter to her fellow board members, Cady said the school board should also listen to parents – something it hasn’t really done since the BLM flag controversy began.
Cady also says the BLM organization’s website currently advocates for defunding the police and abolishing the State of Israel, along with other controversial and/or politically partisan demands. And as for racism: “the BLM Organization certainly does not hold the trademark in teaching children to not be racist and should not be treated as such.”
The entire letter is printed below.
Fellow Members of the Board,
As many of you are aware, I began speaking at Board Meetings when I, by chance, learned of the decision to raise the Black Lives Matter Organization’s flag at every school in our district in 2020. I questioned numerous times how such a decision could be made for every school in the district without any community input.
The Black Lives Matter Organization is an organization that has currently on its website to defund the police, to abolish the state of Israel, and demands 1-4 are overtly partisan. The flag that flies at all of our schools is the Organization’s flag, so every school is EWSD stands for everything that this organization represents. The BLM Organization certainly does not hold the trademark in teaching children to not be racist and should not be treated as such.
What could have been an opportunity for our children to come together and discuss what unifies them and to collaborate together to come up with a unique symbol was cast aside. A petition of 100+ children to fly the BLM Organization’s flag apparently was enough to make this decision for schools totaling near 4,000 students, and a community of over 20,000- less than 0.5% of our community was all it took to make a community-impacting decision; this is not a good model of a representative entity.
Furthermore, this decision was to be for the 2020-2021 school year. When members of the community emailed and spoke to take the flag down now that the school year has concluded at the August 2, 2021 board meeting, they were told that the children needed an opportunity to come together and discuss their desires for the flag. No such opportunity was afforded to the community in 2020. No such opportunity was afforded to the parents and the taxpayers in 2020. While it is worthwhile to hear the perspective of children in our schools and to encourage involvement in what is happening, they do not make the decisions for the district. The direction of the schools is determined by our community, which includes thousands of parents and taxpayers.
My frustration with the School Board, the reason that I decided to run for a position on the Board in 2021, is that I was frustrated with being treated, and watching others be treated, as second-class citizens while the “elites” of the Board decided what was best for my children and me. The EWSD Board continues to act in this fashion, having lengthy meetings discussing how important it is to engage the community, but acting instead as if they do not have the time or the willingness to listen to anyone in the “lower class” who does not applaud the viewpoints of the Board. Actions speak louder than words.
Emails disagreeing with the position of the Board are answered with form emails, or if more thought is given, the overall response is “Because the Board says so, and the Board knows better.” Responses made to those who have written in disagreement about the BLM Organization’s flag disregard any of the information that is currently on the BLM Organization’s website, their social media posts, or quotes to the press. Instead, the EWSD Board apparently thinks that they have the power to change the message of this organization’s exact flag to be one of peace and inclusion.
Admitting to a wrong decision is difficult to do; to accept that perhaps a decision was made in haste, without support, or worse, to have to take the advice of someone that you don’t like, involves eating a bit of crow, which nobody likes to do. More importantly however, it shows growth; it shows accepting that the Board does not know more than the very community it represents; it shows an actual willingness to have the community give input and determine the direction of the community’s schools. We represent the community; we do not decide for them.
Moving forward, the Black Lives Matter Organization’s flag should be taken off of our flagpoles as the 2020-2021 school year has concluded. If children determine to sign a petition to raise it again, it needs to be put forth to our community this time, in a fashion where community members are not shamed for disagreeing, as well as their inputs allowed to directly drive Board decisions. There is a difference between hearing and listening, and the Board has yet to demonstrate any listening towards community members with differing opinions. Continuing board policy discussions about increased community engagement is an embarrassment when it is just a talking point with no action in good faith to back it up. The Board must start listening to community members, which consists of taxpayers and parents, and showcase the professionalism required to make decisions that sometimes may be in contrast with one’s personal viewpoint on a subject; it’s not about the Board, it’s about the people. Let’s start acting like it.