They did, however, approve the use of a grant from the Oregon Department of Education to pay students to take remedial courses and career training over the summer, prioritizing BIPOC students first. The grant will be used to pay students a stipend of up to $500 per week to attend summer school.
On Thursday, May 27, during a virtual work session, the Gresham-Barlow School District (GBSC) in Oregon voted not to display Black Lives Matter and Progressive Pride Flags in classrooms and at school facilities. They did, however, approve the use of a grant from the Oregon Department of Education to pay students to take remedial courses and career training over the summer, prioritizing BIPOC students first. The grant will be used to pay students a stipend of up to $500 per week to attend summer school.
The proposal, reported last week at Legal Insurrection, would have updated the district’s flag policy, requiring the district to:
… display a Black Lives Matter (BLM) flag and a Progressive Pride flag, on school grounds and in all classrooms, along with the statutorily required American flag, Oregon flag, and POW/MIA flag.
In addition to the flags, the GBSD board will vote on whether to expand its policies to give all students the time to recite a land declaration and sing the Black National Anthem, adding to state statute that requires schools to provide a weekly opportunity to recite the pledge of allegiance and learning the national anthem. It also voted to use an “equity lens” when naming or renaming facilities.
The motion failed on a 5-2 vote at the work session meeting Thursday evening. However, each board member expressed support for a statement made by the board in June 2020 embracing equity:
The school board and school district have been working to identify inequitable practices and eliminate barriers. Our work has included reviewing policies, engaging with our community partners such as the local police department, and advancing equity through ongoing training for both the school board and district staff. Even so, we know we must do even more. We will continue to review school board policies and make the modifications necessary to ensure that they do not perpetuate racial inequities and that they provide every student the opportunity to thrive in our ever-changing global community. We will review discipline procedures and school district goals using an equity lens. We will bring awareness to inequitable practices and challenge the status quo. We will monitor demographic changes and celebrate successes as they occur. We will reach out to our community and seek their input and support. In addition, each school board member is committed to looking inward and embracing their own equity journey.
Several members of the board expressed opinions that GBSD actively supports white supremacy and inequity, and rededicated themselves to rooting it out. They only voted no on the change to flag policy because they viewed it as symbolic.
Each director on the board was given an opportunity to speak to the motion, then the board chair moved to the vote. The No vote caused the maker of the motion, Director Robyn Stowers, to interrupt the agenda to demand that each director who voted against the motion to state which part of the motion they disagreed with—confronting them to say whether they disagreed with Black Lives Matter, Progressive Pride, the land acknowledgment statement, or the black national anthem. The outburst caused the board chair to take a ten minute recess to get the meeting back under control.
You can watch the vote and the resulting outburst from Director Stowers here, at the 47 minute mark:
Notably, Director Stowers was appointed ten months prior to fill a vacancy on the board, and did not win her election bid to finish out the term, which expires in 2023.
At the 1 hour and 18 minute mark, the board chair brings up another agenda item for the work session—approval of the SummerWorks Learning Contract. Work Systems, Inc. (WSI) is discussed as a contractor to administer a $650,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Education. GBSD has expanded its partnership with WSI to offer stipends to 350 high school students who will do a “combination of summer credit recovery and career-linked learning to earn up to $500 per week in a stipend.
Students over the age of 16 who are behind in credits in order to graduate are being prioritized for recruitment. WSI will manage the stipend and student support for career learning by hiring job coaches from community-based organizations, such as IRCO, POIC, and Latino Network.” The staff member (name unintelligible on the video) requested of the board authorization of the contract with WSI for $662,500 in support of stipends, job coaches, and administrative costs. All organizations working with WSI are culturally-specific organizations that “support students and families in their own language and their own culture,” it is explained in the presentation. IRCO is Immigrant and Refugee Coordinating Organization; POIC stands for Portland Opportunities and Industrialization Center, a non-profit that works with black students on career readiness. $550,000 of the grant will go into the pockets of students to “incentivize them to complete their credits.”
The motion passes unanimously. The presenting staff member proudly proclaims, “This is equity in action. We are prioritizing our most marginalized students with our resources.”
So, the work session for the Gresham-Barlow School District ended up not approving changes to the flag display policy. The actions they did choose to take, however, offer a clear signal that they aren’t done implementing their vision of anti-racism, dismantling white supremacy, and ultimately, redistribution of wealth.
Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff, on Parler at @RealJeffReynolds, and on Gab at @RealJeffReynolds.DONATE
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