Whitewater School Board Meeting, 8.24.20: 5 Points

At last night’s meeting of the Whitewater Unified School District’s board, the board heard, among other items, a report on summer school, a report on the district’s use of seclusion and restraint, approved unanimously a new metric the district will use to determine its next instructional plan beginning September 28th, and held a budget hearing.

Embedded above is the video of the meeting. There is no better record than a recording.

A few remarks —

 1. Seclusion and Restraint.  As is required by law, and as should be reported apart from any legal requirement, the administration presented a seclusion and restraint report for the past school year. See Seclusion and Restraint Annual Report. (Video, 21:00).

The more serious the subject, the more careful the commentary. For now: What type of seclusion, by what means of restraint, and by whom? 

The question is, properly, more exacting than it might seem. There is no greater power the district, or a third party acting at the district’s request, possesses than the power of seclusion and restraint. As with the prevention and redress of harassment, these are questions of justice. Nothing else the district does is more important.

 2. A New Model. To manage during a pandemic, institutions public and private have adopted various metrics from epidemology (positivity rate, case incidence, etc.) to estimate the seriousness of the conditions they face in their communities. In this case, the district has shifted, with unanimous approval of the board, from a measure of positivity to one of case incidence to guide their decision making. (Video, 26:43.) As epidemiology moves from one model to another, it’s reasonable to move in the same direction.

For some, however, these metrics have become a fixation, and they pore over daily numbers.

And yet, and yet, these metrics are our attempt to make sense of a communicable disease among a mobile and interacting population. Daniel Fahrenheit’s temperature scale does not, for example, create conditions of hot or cold – it merely assigns a measurement to independent conditions of warmth or chill. In situations of mobility and interaction, one does the best one can with even greater levels of complexity than mere temperature.

So it is with these metrics about COVID-19: the various measures used are all (understandably) imperfect efforts to assess whether and when conditions may be unbearably dangerous to ordinary social conduct. Neither high nor low assures individual or group safety in particular cases.

Reason, faith, and tradition admit of no magic: neither tea leaves nor crystal balls allow one to see the future.

It is, and always will be, the danger to ordinary social conduct that is the risk of the pandemic. We’ve already lost many and much as a country, and we will lose yet more. One need not speculate about epidemiology to see – if one can see at all – that this our present condition.

 3. A Budget Hearing. The Whitewater school board held, and unanimously approved, a preliminary budget recommendation, with many uncertainties to be resolved before a final approval in October. (Video, 1:01:00.)

 4. No Comments. There was during this meeting not a single public comment, neither in the part of the meeting reserved for general comments nor during any part of the meeting reserved for comments on particular items. The recent, considerable controversy (with public comment) about school openings has not produced an enduring engagement. Anyone aware of the several, debilitating conditions this small Midwestern community has endured since the Great Recession would have expected this. Here, anger quickly fades into exhaustion. Neither anger nor exhaustion is a desirable condition. This is, however, the present to which the past has led this community.

 5. Asides. One can well grasp that these are difficult times to manage an institution, let alone to begin to manage one. Few would reasonably say that it would be opportune to arrive during a pandemic. Perhaps a person suited to dialog and mutual understanding would find this moment… somewhat jarring. These turbulent conditions, however, offer a fuller view of the community than would more placid times in which tours and promises were all one saw and heard. There is a revelatory honesty from these recent months. 

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2 months ago

I’m glad to read that someone else is uninterested in daily metrics. It seems like there’s a dashboard for every place in the country. Our campus has one, of course.No one is certain how this semester in-person will turn out.

2 months ago

On target assessment of Whitewater’s outlook today, very different from the mid 2000s.
Sustaining energy is way harder now.
That is why the “same people” topic won’t go away.