June 14th, 2023 DASD Board Meeting: Peanut Gallery Analysis

This week at the DASD school board meeting there was a ton of information shared by the district. We are not going to go through it in detail here because you can watch it for yourself here if you’d like.

Instead we are going to focus on the peanut gallery.

Most of the people there were well intentioned and polite…and also uninformed. One brave pre-teen was downright adorable. Some were ruder than others. And one was just plain ignorant.

Sigh…still with the homophobia?

The worst comment we heard was not made at the podium, but out in the audience during a presentation made by three very brave high school students. They were helping Director Brown summarize the DEI program activities for the year, and doing a wonderful job of it, we thought. Each of them listed various awareness and celebration months that were observed: Indian Heritage, Autism Awareness, Jewish History, Women’s History, Black History, American Asian, Pacific and Indigenous People’s month, etc… For the most part, they were met with applause.

Until one presenter got to LGBTQIA/Pride month. At that point one man from the back was heard muttering loudly “You have GOT to be kidding me with this?” And “Really?! THIS again?”

Of course this is the perfect example of: 1. How rude people can be; and 2. Why we will continue to need DEI for the foreseeable future.

Being LGBTQ is no different than being dark skinned. A person is born that way. Celebrate it, don’t celebrate it, that’s up to you. But it is for sure not a choice or a “lifestyle” and rainbow unicorns aren’t part of a “grooming” conspiracy and your kid won’t suddenly “decide” to be gay just because they saw someone flying a rainbow flag.

It. Just. Doesn’t. Happen. Partly because of biology and partly because no one in their right mind would choose to be gay with bullies like that in the world.

End rant.

Curriculum is soooo expensive!

The night draaaagged on with no less than TWENTY ONE curriculum renewals to be voted on. For more insight into how the curriculum process works, see our Wit and Wisdom blog here.

Yikes, that’s a lot of money! Or is it…

The peanut gallery had a lot of under the breath comments about the price tags. There have been comments on social media “I guess it’s easy to spend money that’s not yours!”

Let’s have some fun with math.

Click through the images below.

Considering the size of the district, the expenditures on the programs voted on works out to be about $30 per student per month, using a worst case scenario (assuming these are all 1 year contracts, even though a few of them stated that they are 2 or 5 year contracts, so that would make it less than $30/month). It’s a rough estimate since we aren’t 100% sure which programs serve which grades, but you get the idea.

This is less than many of us spend on coffee or gas every month.

Our point is this:

Numbers are meaningless when taken out of context. Please take some time to gain a little perspective before complaining.

Pick your channel wisely. 

Public comment period is not for getting questions answered.

As veterans of more school board meetings than we care to admit to, let us share with you what took us a long time to understand: Pick your channel wisely.

In our professional lives, there is nothing more annoying than those “could have been an email” meetings. Sure, some people prefer the informality and intimacy of talking face to face. But would you pop over to your CEO’s office while they are in a board meeting with investors to ask them to approve an expense report?

We have countless ways of communicating in this high tech world, and you have to pick the right channel to send your message effectively.

If you want a question answered by your school board director, email them. If they don’t respond, email the whole board. They may not send you the answer that you want to hear, but 9 times out of ten they do respond. It might be a copied response that someone else got also, but that might just be because you asked the same questions.

If you want to know more about their thought process, request a phone call or a meeting with a small group of respectful people. They are all people and most of them like beer. #justsaying 

Standing at a podium during a live stream recording complaining about a time honored policy because you didn’t know about it and just don’t like it makes you look childish and entitled. 

Public comment period is what you do when you and your friends have emailed the whole school board and been ignored repeatedly. Or when you want to let WHOLE DISTRICT know that you have an issue. Or a sincere, no strings attached thank you (yes, it happens sometimes, although not nearly often enough). Public comment period is a nice way of taking the temperature of the community and finding people with common challenges and circumstances.

Expecting a back and forth dialogue during a public comment period is like sending your 90 year old grandmother a Tweet or a DM on Instagram to ask her what she wants for her birthday. It’s just not practical.

Pick your channel wisely.

Let’s tackle this together!

Last, we would like to directly address the Lionville Station Farm sale, some history, and potential ways forward.  

One elephant in the room is the lack of public comment on the Lionville Station Farm land sale prior to now.  Someone asked “When you were sitting down with Audubon to decide to go forward with the sale of this, did you think of every one of the concerns that the community brought up before you agreed to sell it?”

First, remember that the school board never spoke directly with Audubon as the bids were accepted.  This was a blind bidding process where all the board received was a list of bidders, their bid, and the anticipated timeline of sale – this is the state legislated process and not one created by the board themselves.  For more details on the process and history of the sale itself, please see the presentation and FAQs available on the district site HERE.

Coming back to the commenter’s question…. what community concerns were brought up before the sale agreement? What concerns were voiced about warehouses to the township when the Happy Days Farm sale went through? How about all the times this land has almost been sold before? 

We’ve been watching all of the school board meetings and we do not recall hearing anyone mention what they wanted or didn’t want there. Is it possible that no one in Uwchlan township was even aware that this land was for sale before this year because no one pays attention to school board or municipal meetings? 

We are taking this as an important lesson, and we hope others do too.

Get involved with local civics.  

Because we agree that warehouses of the magnitude that have been proposed will not be good for the community. And we agree that there may have been mistakes made. And we certainly do not always agree with the way our district does things.  

Getting involved is how we ensure our voices are heard and that the district is considering our needs when making their decisions.  

We do not feel that the school board has intentionally dismissed the concerns of the community. Sadly, this school board certainly drew some short straws when they were elected: 

  • An unprecedented pandemic
  • 8+ years with no tax increases while the cash reserves were relied upon
  • A fast growing district with heavy building of new homes…and not nearly enough businesses for balance
  • 10+ years of talking about full day kindergarten with very little action
  • An extremely ill-advised purchase 17 years ago of land not zoned for a school
  • A rapidly increasing diversity factor making us a lightning rod for culture wars and anti-government extremists

Sometimes stuff just sucks. Mr. Rogers tells us that in hard times we should look to the helpers. These women ARE the helpers. Let’s join them.

Let’s come together with feasible solutions should this sale not go through.  How can we meet the needs of this growing school district and the community at large?  The school district can’t hold on to the land forever so working through options and bringing them to the board meetings is hugely helpful.  

And please, let’s stop throwing uninformed accusations at them, because not everything is a conspiracy.

We look forward to seeing more people at the school board meetings and in volunteer positions where you can make a much bigger impact than during the public comment period.

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