This is a column by Opinion Editor Adam Van Brimmer.
They call themselves the “School Board Action Team.”
Yet their reputation for inaction rivals that of the U.S. Congress.
For almost a year now, this small band of culture warriors have frequented monthly Savannah-Chatham School Board meetings to offer public comment. These serial grandstanders rail about the “new woke ideology,” student “indoctrination” and the potential damage done by social-emotional wellness surveys and “obscene” books.
Their goal is to fan outrage in the community. not to affect meaningful change.
So from now on, let’s replace “action” in the group’s name with another word that starts with the letter A: asinine.
Consider the following:
* Members have spent the last four months calling for the removal of nine books they consider too “obscene” for students. Based on the passages read at School Board meetings, their arguments carry a hint of validity — many of the excerpts describe sex acts in explicit detail.
Enter their inaction: They’ve yet to file a single review request. Their leader blames an onerous process that requires separate appeals for every book in every library, something they’d hoped the governor and the Georgia General Assembly would address. A recently signed law does refine the process, but not in the way members wanted.
* Another School Board Action Team topic du jour is a social-emotional learning survey commissioned by the district last year. The survey’s administrator, Panorama, is a lightning rod in the nationwide debate over critical race theory because among its many products are surveys that explore attitudes toward race.
The school district chose a much different kind of student wellness questionnaire from Panorama and posted the complete document on the system’s website. The questions don’t touch on race or any other indoctrination flashpoints.
As I’ve written previously, contracting for anything with Panorama was an unforced error for the district. There are plenty of other wellness survey providers, and given the simplicity of the questions, they could have been crafted in-house and the results collected, collated and reviewed by a third-party.
Yet to hear the action team members tell it, the social-emotional learning survey was a “pathway to CRT.” It’s an absurd — another good A word — notion.
Politically motivated activism
Observing the asinine team over the last nine months — their first protest centered on the district’s mask policy — you have to question their motivations.
School activism has exploded across the country the last two years, dating to the COVID-19 outbreak. What started as parents demanding better from districts in terms of remote learning, reopening school buildings and health safety policies related to the pandemic has been co-opted by citizen culture warriors.
In many places, School Board meetings have become the new political battlegrounds for social crusaders.
In Florida, a Brevard County School Board member who was voted out of office formed an organization dubbed Moms for Liberty that is now active across America. So is No Left Turn in Education, founded by a Pennsylvania social worker who withdrew her children from public school over the formation of a “Cultural Proficiency Committee” following the killing of George Floyd.
The School Board Action Team fits a similar mold with one major difference: The overwhelming majority of their 20 or so members don’t have kids or grandkids in the Savannah-Chatham public schools.
They are still stakeholders. They contribute to school funding through property and income taxes. Their leader, Beth Majeroni, is a retired reading specialist who worked with elementary age children throughout her career and “you never stop caring for students.”
But their outrage rings hollow once you realize most members are relaying political talking points, not the experiences of children from within their own families.
Many legit educational issues to address
The most asinine thing about School Board Action Team is the squandered potential.
Savannah-Chatham schools have long needed a community watchdog beyond the local media. The district has teetered between dysfunctional and broken for decades. That’s not unusual for such a large system serving a socioeconomically diverse student population, but leaders too often use those challenges as an excuse.
We’d welcome a vocal group holding the School Board accountable on our educational challenges, from reading on grade level to workforce skills development. Those are community-impacting issues.
The action team’s leader stuck a toe in the water on one of those at a recent meeting, criticizing the district for spending money on high-salary administration positions rather than on teachers. But we’ve become so accustomed to her obsession with “woke” propaganda, few noticed she’d made a credible point.
Maybe if the members spent less time grandstanding and more on actionable works, their efforts would be considered something other than asinine.
Contact Van Brimmer at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SavannahOpinion.