Race? Sexuality? ‘Equity’?
No More Accelerated Math?
Nothing To See Here In Milton, Move Along

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2021/07/27/race-sexuality-equityno-more-accelerated-mathnothing-to-see-here-in-milton-move-along/

This past April, NewBostonPost’s Tom Joyce reported on a highly controversial 91-question survey of students at Milton’s public high school and middle school that probed their feelings about race and human sexuality.  Mr. Joyce’s reporting included information about how high school students were essentially being bribed to complete the survey by offering credit toward community service that the district requires in order for students to graduate.

Many parents and concerned taxpayers were outraged about the line of questioning for students as young as 11 without consent or even notification of their parents, and they let their feelings be known in print, at school committee and selectmen’s meetings, and personally to the superintendent of schools. It seems, however, that these opinions and questions fell on deaf ears. Or perhaps it’s more a case of selective listening?

After months of delay, the results of a so-called “Equity Audit” by a consultant hired by the school district were released during a meeting of the Milton School Committee last week. But neither the elected school committee members nor the representative of the consultant faced any opponents or skeptics — because the meeting was held online, via Zoom.

That begs the question:  Why?

This body has held many in-person meetings over the past several months since the coronavirus emergency lessened, including “Citizens Speak” sessions that were attended by parents, taxpayers, and members of the press. (Here’s a link to the June 16 in-person meeting, for instance. Also in-person were the school committee meetings on March 31, April 14, April 28, May 19, and June 2, as the town’s local cable access channel’s video archives show.)

After waiting so long to hear the results of the Milton Public Schools’ “Equity Audit,” many parents and concerned taxpayers would have welcomed the opportunity to ask questions of Chris Finn, a representative of the consulting firm Cambridge Education, who presented the results.

For instance:  How many students who took the survey got the community service bribe for doing so?

Don’t know. Finn didn’t say, and nobody was there to ask.

In addition to questions about the “Equity Audit” and the survey, there are still many, many separate-but-related unanswered questions that have been lodged with the Milton Public Schools administration recently. These include questions about dropping the accelerated math curriculum, and questions about the controversial “Calculus Project” – which purportedly seeks to improve calculus learning for students of color and low-income students by separating them from other students on the basis of their skin color and family income.

To be clear, what the school committee did in Milton last week may be technically legal. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s executive order of March 2020 suspending the state’s Open Meeting Law is still in effect, so it’s theoretically legal to hold local government public meetings online without allowing the public to attend. Yet the governor’s order justifies this otherwise-not-allowed action as “necessary to protect the health and safety of persons.” Apparently Milton School Committee members didn’t feel the need to hold other recent meetings online to protect anybody’s health or safety.

What were they protecting last week?

The right to not have to answer questions from parents?

In 1774, Patriots met in this same town – Milton – to discuss and vote on the Suffolk Resolves, an attempt to maintain their liberty against an unresponsive government. They declared that they wanted “harmony” between themselves and that government, “that there may not be the least infraction of our mutual rights so long as Sun & Moon endures.”

That harmony can be restored in Milton today, if elected officials act as they ought.

It starts with answering questions.

The most recent school committee meeting, which took place Wednesday, July 21, did not include a presentation from the school district’s Senior Director for Educational Equity, who is supposed to work with the superintendent “to address inequities and systemic racism” in the school system.

Throughout the past year, there has been much talk from the diversity czar about “eliminating achievement and opportunity gaps.” Yet the only visible curriculum change put forward by local school officials to achieve that has been eliminating certain accelerated classes in the district. Are we pulling struggling kids up? Or are we swatting achievers down?

Interesting question, right? If only someone could ask it, in person.

In spite of the apparent desire of school officials to avoid and evade the taxpayers of Milton, many concerned citizens did attend (online) the Zoom meeting last week, and sent questions to the administration and to the Cambridge Education representative. None of the questions were read out loud by the players on stage, and very few were answered.

Town residents who spoke during the “Citizens Speak” portion of the meeting were almost all supporters of the Equity Audit. They read statements saying that the survey was needed to counter bias in the school district.

From the discussion that school committee members had amongst themselves, it seems clear that Milton school officials had a narrative they wanted to substantiate through the Equity Audit survey, and that they are using whatever data they say they got to justify the conclusions they already had in mind.

Yet the taxpayers of Milton deserve much more detail about the actual results, and the planned response to create “Equity” in the district.

Most of all, Milton taxpayers deserve to be heard – to be treated as if we’re citizens living in a democracy and not as if we’re vassals being led by our feudal lords.

 

Kerry White is a Financial Services Executive who has spent her career in Asset Management and Asset Servicing in firms in the United States and Europe.  She is a recognized thought leader and frequent speaker on the topics of sustainability of pensions, corporate governance, transparency, risk management, and cross-border investments. She has served on a variety of boards in the town of Milton, Massachusetts, and is currently the chairman of the Milton Republican Town Committee.

 

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