At last night’s meeting of the Whitewater Unified School District’s board, the board heard a presentation from the district about fall instruction for the first two weeks of school, and the metrics the district is considering when deciding schools’ status after those initial weeks. The meeting was informational only, so the board took no action. During a discussion period, the board took just under twenty community comments or questions. A decision on the school schedule after the first two weeks of September is likely to come in mid-August.
A few remarks —
1. The Real Decision Maker. It’s right – as a matter of open government – to have a community discussion period, but no particular point or speaker (from among parents or teachers) will be decisive. The same, quite candidly, is true of the board: the waxing or waning of the pandemic in Whitewater will sweep aside any angle, position, or view. If the pandemic abates, that easing will dictate the district’s response. If the pandemic grows deeper into the community, that natural and social condition will dictate a different response. Note well: some natural conditions are so powerful that they dictate – literally, command – a certain human response. Theories about the novel coronavirus will be put to a practical test. That practical test will drain the blood from political and emotional arguments.
This is no mere matter of aesthetic or political preference: for all the emotion in the debate about school policy this fall, and what the district should do, there will come an answer apart from those preferences.
2. Convergence. While schools in the same area are now taking different approaches, that won’t last. Conditions within the same area are likely to drive everyone, after a month to two, to a common convergence. Differences between districts in scheduling for two weeks or a month will disappear as like-situated districts individually gather information that will lead to a similar result. When that happens, what the districts did for two weeks or a month will look small compared to the commonly-adopted result.
Not one of these area districts is yet in session, so there are no results by which to claim reasonably that one of them is now managing daily student life better than the others. Having confidence in some districts without seeing how they actually manage with students in class is presumptuous. If anything, there’s reason from across the country to think that many in-person experiences – in schools, universities, companies – will continue to be difficult and disappointing. Public and private organizations across America with far larger budgets find themselves struggling to stay open.
3. Presentation. Overall, this presentation was more informative, and the discussion less fraught, than at the last board meeting on 7.27.20.
4. Confusion Over Dates. Some parents last night worried that the board would not make a decision about how classes would be conducted after mid-September, leaving them too little time to prepare adequately. (Video, 1:25:30) In this, one sees an erroneous conflation of two decisions: how to begin the school year and when to decide what to do next. A board member correctly noted that these were different matters. (Video, 2:13:34) While the board decided previously how classes would be held through mid-September, a decision on what to do next was planned before mid-September. It’s right to note that these where different board decisions at the 7.27.20 meeting. (Video of 7.27.20, 2:40:38.)
It’s not hard to see, however, that in the emotion of the late July meeting, some parents would have missed this distinction.
A decision on what to do next month is likely this month. (Video, 2:18:10.)
5. Criteria for a Fuller Opening. The district listed criteria for a fuller opening, but toward the end of the meeting at least one board member was unsure of those criteria. (Video, 13:00 for criteria.) There’s no substitute for reading and taking notes on the agenda packet in advance.
6. Asides —
There was a odd moment when a parent suggested that if the district were truly concerned about university students as a complicating source of additional community spread, then someone from the district should talk to university officials and tell them to close the campus. Well, good luck with that. Tails don’t wag dogs. Decisions about this local UW System campus, like all System campuses, will require approval from the regents and interim president Tommy Thompson.
There’s now a Zoom timer that commenters can see while speaking.
The Zoom chat box from a past meeting is gone – there’s no legal obligation to provide one, and it was nothing so much as a display of questionable literacy and unquestionable vulgarity. It doesn’t matter where (of if) a person went to school, but it does matter that someone trying to advocate in writing – about education, of all things – cares enough about his or her advocacy to pick up a few simple rules of spelling and grammar. Past generations, of people with hard lives, didn’t have to go to college to know how to write properly. Personal responsibility and self-respect begin, so to speak, at home. See generally Facebook Discussions as Displays of Ignorance, Fallacies, and Marginal Literacy.
One should watch or listen on one’s own; the best record is a recording.
This was a smoother night than July 27th. Poise on a recording matters greatly; both emotion and indecision play (and play back) poorly.
Previously: Whitewater Schools’ Community Focus Group, 7.8.20, The Whitewater Unified School District’s Proposed Fall Instructional Plans, and The Whitewater School Board’s Decision on Early Fall Instruction: 4 Points.