Friday, April 12, 2024

WJCC School Board Member Responds to Allegations of Racism

Michael Hosang (WJCC Schools)

WILLIAMSBURG — Comments made by board member Michael Hosang during discussions over the 2025 fiscal budget at the March 19 WJCC School Board meeting elicited a response from the vice chair, who said the notions were racist, and later resulted in a letter to staff from Superintendent Owlen Herron.

WYDaily reached out to Hosang for further comment as part of its coverage of the story, but he had not responded by the time of the original publication. WYDaily received his response Monday, March 25, and they appear unedited below:

“…that is a racist trope…” Board member Andrea Donner; from a Facebook Post by Board member Randy Riffle, “…spreading misinformation, fear, and targeting ELL students”; Superintendent Olwen Herron in a missive the next day to all Williamsburg-James City County School employees implying that my comments were of a racist nature and were unwelcoming in reference to the incoming non-English speaking students.  These remarks are a prime example of the age-old clarion call of playing the “race card” to dodge, distract, divide, and muzzle discussion on a topic that surely impacts our parents, taxpayers, teachers, and students.  Don’t look at the impactful topic that I brought up at the meeting, look over here at the supposed “racist trope”!  Take your eyes off the topic and look over here at the supposed shiny “racist comments”.   

I made ZERO racist comments directly or by implication.  With the budget for the Williamsburg-James City County School under discussion, I and the taxpayers of this district have the right to know the fiscal impact of the issues I raised, including the influx of students whom, I am told, have poor to no English-speaking skills.  It makes no difference if these incoming students spoke Chinese, Russian, or pig-Latin; if they had little to no English skills to communicate with their teachers, commonsense dictates this would present problems for the incoming non-English speaking students, for the teachers to deliver a solid educational experience for them, and for the current students who are being neglected due to the teachers attempting to instruct the new students.  Commonsense also dictates that to aid the incoming students, monies are going to be needed to bridge the language or multiple language gaps.  Do we hire translators, do we hire more bilingual speaking teachers in all academic disciplines to meet the needs of students that, at least for a while, are going to struggle because of the language gap?  At present, will the language needs of the incoming students detract from the time our teachers have to spend with our present student body?  These are the questions that I wanted answered and need to be answered. Instead, derision and name-calling erupted from Ms. Donner.  Wave that “race card” so discussion comes to a screeching halt.

Why can’t a civil discussion on this topic take place?  I was told that it should have been brought up in a close session board meeting and not aired at the public meeting.  Why?  The parents and taxpayers of this district are not to be trusted to have rational discussions and support rational decisions?  One of the reasons I was elected to the WJCC School Board was my belief that we should have more transparency and that the “light of day” needed to be brought into Board decision-making.  My constituents voted me into office in large measure just for that reason.  I realize some personnel items for legal reasons need to be discussed in private Board meetings, but this topic is not one of them.  I was democratically elected.  Democracy sometimes gets messy with contrasting opinions and ideas.  But democracy does NOT work well behind closed doors.  These are budgetary issues the taxpayers and parents should be made aware of and allowed to offer input.  Items of a budgetary nature should NOT be kept shrouded in secrecy behind closed doors.

Board member Donner’s rants about “racist trope”, Board member Riffle’s false accusations on Facebook, and Superintendent Herron’s disingenuous missive to employees of the district that implied I made “racist” unwelcoming comments, apparently were made because they take the elitist view that the Board is better able to “rationally” deal with these topics than the public.  Their verbal firestorm of trying to divert attention away from open public discussion of extremely important budgetary and educational issues, in my opinion, reflects their fear of public input!  The items I have discussed are important for ALL the students, both the present student body and the incoming non-English speaking students, the teachers who must instruct ALL students, and the budget to fund the needs of ALL students both now and in the future. 

I stand by my comments made during the School Board meeting and my vote to not approve a budget where we did not have all of the necessary, requested information.  This school system needs more open discussions on issues, and less divisive responses, if we are to properly educate our children and move our school system back to the prominence that it once enjoyed.

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