School Board Meeting – February 16, 2021

This school boarding meeting was meant to be scheduled for the 15th, but as it was a holiday, the meeting was held on the 16th. 

When asked whether anyone wishes to amend the agenda, Dr. Harris-Muhammed speaks up, asking to remove year-round schooling from the budget and discussion until substantial change has been made to the idea. Mariah White seconds the statement. Jonnell Lilly asks for clarification, with Dr. Harris-Muhammed stating that she is referring to agenda item 4.02.

Jason Kamras asks to keep the discussions, as no action will be taken tonight, but more information will be shared. He finds this important, so that families and teachers can hear any updates and provide feedback at different steps of the process. Time is of the essence, so the School Board needs to keep the process going.

Dr. Shona Harris-Mohammed responds again to his claims, stating that year round schools is a deflection. “We need to prioritize kids over content.” After all, she says, they have yet to create a survey and there are numerous concerns with it. Now is not the time to discuss a year-round calendar when we haven’t planned how to reopen schools.

Jonathan Young comments after, asking everyone to retain the discussion.

Mariah White responds to the discussion, saying that they have all been doing budget, ventilations, programs, and are “everywhere.” Given that, discussing year-round schooling seems too much. She asked if a survey to teachers and parents were sent yet or if any other updates occurred. Otherwise, why would they talk about this, when talking about vaccinations is more valuable. 

Stephanie Rizzi concurs with Councilpeople Dr. Harris-Muhammed and White, stating that they don’t have a focus. The priority should instead be safely reopening schools. IN addition, there appears to be only one model of year-round school at the moment. Many teachers have emailed her, wanting more options.

Elizabeth Doerr has also added on to their comments, finding the discussion unnecessary at the moment.

Nicole Jones also asks if there have been any real updates for their stockholders. Otherwise, they are just “bouncing around.” She states that instead, they “ got to do one thing, and one thing well.”

Superintendent Kamras responded to everyone, stating that “substantial differences” have been made to the plan/proposal. He wishes to go through the discussion so that they can get feedback based on these changes. The survey launched today for parents and teachers, which is also an update. In addition, the budget, re opening, and year-round schooling are all connected.

Councilpeople Harris-Mohammed and Dawn Page deeply respected Kamra’s statement, but still stood by their earlier concerns. 

Stephanie Rizzi understood the comments, but was confused with the surveys. What are the purposes of the surveys if the proposal has already essentially been set in place?

Kamras responded, reassuring everyone that he took the survey very seriously.

Finally, Chair Cheryl Burke spoke, arguing that all the factors, including year-round schools are all interrelated. As such, she would like to keep the discussion open.

Finally, the time to vote occurred, on whether to remove year-round schooling from the meeting’s discussion. Councilpeople Harris-Mohammed, White, and Rizzi voted yes to this, while Councilpeople Doerr, Young, Burke, Page, and Jones voted no. 

After this, Kamras introduced a student to speak. Amya Coleman is a junior at Huguenot High School and is part of the JV Cheer Squad.

Coleman stated that year-round school would be too expensive, especially with other construction needs. In addition, it would not allow students to pick summer jobs, camps, and there would be less time to be with family.

Then, citizen comments began. Any comments referring to the superintendent’s contract was not described in detail, as they would be discussed some other time.

Certain comments stated that they like year-round schooling. There would be no long break during the summer when students lose much of their knowledge. 

However, others are not fond of it. There is only a two week break , which is intense. There are also cultural events in the summer and vacations. How will the schools cover the absences?

There are also issues with reopening, as there is the possibility of schools reopening in-person on March 15. However, people wonder, what are the plans for getting teachers vaccinated? In addition, students need routine, so having the reopening would be sudden, spring break comes in afterward, and state testing is also difficult for students and teachers alike.

Another parent spoke of their daughter struggling with the lack of social interaction. Also, recently,5x more students are failing, so RPS is certainly struggling.

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