Friday, May 27, 2022

York County School Board Responds to Board of Supervisors’ Proposed Resolution

A York County School Board member has responded to complaints from a member of the Board of Supervisors. (Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels)

YORK COUNTY — During the monthly York County School Board meeting on Monday, Oct. 25, all five members of the board took time to respond to a proposal from the York County Board of Supervisors (BOS) that would withhold funding from YCSD if passed as it is currently written.

The resolution entitled,A Resolution in Support of Parental Rights York County: Where America’s Freedom Was Won!,” was proposed by District 1 Supervisor Walter C. Zaremba. In it he states that the BOS “…cannot continue to offer taxpayer dollars to the York County School Division if it will not adhere to §1-240.1 of the Code of Virginia.”

In March of this year, VDOE announced that its statewide Board of Education revised teacher performance and evaluation criteria with standards regarding culturally responsive teaching and equitable practices; a standard that is in compliance with the Commonwealth’s House Bill 1904 and Senate Bill 1196.

Examples of teacher work and practices which align with the new standard outlined by the VDOE March announcement include (but are not limited to):

• Disaggregation of assessment, engagement, behavioral, and attendance data by student groups and identification and application of differentiated strategies to address growth and learning needs of all students with specific attention to students within gap groups;
• Fostering of classroom environments that create opportunities for access and achievement by acknowledging, valuing, advocating and affirming cultural and social diversity in all aspects of the learning process, including for gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities;
• Building of meaningful relationships with all students anchored in affirmation, mutual respect and validation by employing culturally responsive teaching practices and by the modeling of high expectations for all students;
• Use of inclusive curriculum and instructional resources that represent and validate diversity from all rings of culture including generational, gender, religion, class, nationality, race, ethnicity, native language, ability and sexuality by connecting classroom curriculum and instruction to the cultural examples, experiences, backgrounds, and traditions of all learners;
• Analysis, selection, and integration of texts, materials, and classroom resources that reflect cultural inclusivity and the needs of all students, including for gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities;
• Use of communication strategies that are inclusive of the language, dialects, cultural, social and literacy needs of all students (including gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities); and
• Teaching students the skills necessary to communicate and engage with diverse groups in ways that support the eradication of discrimination and bias while mitigating against classroom power imbalances (based on race, ethnicity, gender, identity, ability, and/or socio economic status) that perpetuate fear and anxiety of difference.

For information from this announcement can be found by clicking here.

The resolution put forth by Zaremba states that the BOS recognizes the “Rights of Parents” as it is stated in the state code. It also said that the VDOE requirement that all teachers receive training in cultural competency promotes the teaching of ideologies that might contradict the beliefs of the students’ parents.

The two page resolution states that cultural competency training handed down by VDOE is “…intellectual theory that is not supported by fact that seeks to teach ‘that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, collective and systematically embedded in America’s legal systems, institutions and policies.'”

The proposal has been approved by BOS Chair W. Chad Green and will be up for a vote at the Nov. 16 meeting. It asserts that the BOS would not provide tax dollars to York County School Division (YCSD) if it did not adhere to the Virginia Code as it is written.

When asked for comment, Green replied via text message to WYDaily from the cell phone number listed on the York County website, “Teaching a child that they are less or unequal to other children is something York County will not spend a penny on.”

The school board members all responded emphatically in opposition to the proposed resolution.

“The resolution was posted to social media and on Mr. Zaremba’s law firm before it was sent to this board for consideration,” said School Board Vice Chair Laurel M. Garrelts during the meeting. “They have called it a joint resolution and there was no conversation, no collaboration and absolutely no consideration of the consequences it would bring. This resolution is political and derisive and not based in fact.”

Board Chair Brett Higginbotham echoed Garrelts comment saying that Zaremba’s proposal was damaging to YCSD and the school board.

“This resolution not only misrepresents state code, but it misquotes the school division’s mission statement multiple times,” Higginbotham said of the proposed resolution. “It accuses YCSD of wrong doing with zero evidence. That is by definition defamation.”

Higginbotham went on to say that the fact that the BOS is attempting to control the actions of the YCSD by cutting off funding is inappropriate.

“One of the most irritating things with this whole process is that it is alienating the hardworking teachers and staff in York County to hear these accusations of this going on,” he said. “Then to know what is going on in the classrooms where the teachers have worked over the last 18-months. They were called heroes 18-months ago. Now we’re being told that we are indoctrinating and that we don’t have their best interests at heart.”

In an interview conducted on Oct. 26 by WYDaily, Zaremba reiterated that the resolution was just a draft.

“Our chairman has approached the school board to see if they would want to collaborate on this resolution,” Zaremba said. “The resolution is a draft. If some of it gets them so excited and twisted and so on, it is a draft subject to amending in the draft stage before it goes final.”

Zaremba says that he does not know what part of the resolution upsets the school board, citing that it is based on the “Rights of Parents” as defined by Virginia law.

“If they think that any of the stuff in there is inconsistent then let us know,” Zaremba said. “If we agree, we’ll amend the resolution. If they agree that they are not doing any of these implied egregious things like doing the part of educating our children that should be left to parents, they probably wouldn’t want to agree to even an amended resolution.”

If the resolution is passed, Zaremba is not sure what specific actions would cause the BOH to withhold funds what that would mean for YCSD in general.

This is not the first time that the two boards have been at odds over curriculum. During the school board meeting on Sept. 29, District 4 Representative James E. Richardson publicly took issue with Zaremba’s assessment of YCSD policy and training.

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