The following workshop presentation was given by Jordan Adams, President of Vermilion Education consulting company, on July 1 at the 2023 Moms For Liberty National Conference held in Philadelphia, PA.
The title of the workshop was, “The First 100 Days: Getting Flipped School Boards to Take Action.”
We have provided a transcript below so you can read along as you listen.
Adams: After being in the classroom over the last 10 years, and I started this company because I was looking at the support and attention being paid to education in this country and it was long overdue. And, this is something that finally saying to me “enough” and mobilizing and (unintelligible), yours is just extraordinary. And then finding successes, actually.
Actually, getting some school board candidates elected onto boards (unintelligible) from a minority to a majority. Then it might also be one other thing. We have one chance at this. It took almost 100 years for us to start playing the game, and they have 100 year head start. They…If we don’t make most of this chance, we’re not going to be at another one. It is very much within education….It’s a do-or-die moment.
What I also knew is that you have board members getting onto the board, but then they’re running into a machine, a machine that, like I said, has been doing this for decades, controls all the levers of power, has a ton of money behind it, has, increasingly, goons that will come out and yell and scream until they get their way. They have all the consultants in the world to choose from to bring this stuff in.
They can use this consultant for an equity audit, use this one to bring in SEL, use this one to change up this curriculum. It’s all their own friends, and they’re just paying them off, and they’re all on the same team. What I realized especially as you started seeing some boards that flipped and then were having a very hard time making headway, even in the majority, or you had some board members who weren’t necessarily following through on the things that they were promising.
I was looking out there and thinking, they need somebody on our side that can do the things that the other side has been doing that a board can contract with or bring in to consult with. That’s how I got to the point of forming a K-12 consulting company to do this for reform-minded school board majorities.
There are an increasingly number of state-level groups. Webster is out there. Heritage is doing a great job and other groups that are getting the policies, giving the legal, giving the financial, giving Robert’s rules of order. There’s another level, and it’s the partner on the grassroots side, and it’s the district-specific in the details, the district response of what’s particular to this school, this type of schools in this district.
The goal and what I’m going to share this afternoon are ideas about how we can help the majority identify what’s happening and (unintelligible) hold schools accountable and cut through all the baloney excuses and stonewalling that most of these districts have to face, and most of these boards need to face. I’m going to write up here, what you should see boards doing right off the bat. What I realized and what I’ve seen boards do is if they get in there, the dog has caught the car, and they don’t know what the first thing is to do.
One point to lay out here is something for the first hundred days about these are the things that board should be pursuing, and these are the things that you should be expecting them to pursue. These are the things that your candidates should agree to take action on when they get in there. You need to know these things, hold them accountable to it, make them commit to it.
Then like I said, what I’m bringing to the table here is the inside information. I’ll tell you, in a couple of the boards that this has come up with, and they have a contract with me, the right people are freaking out because the fox is in the henhouse. They’ve never had somebody in there in the details that knows what they’re about and I’m sitting across from a superintendent, and we both know the game that’s being played right now. We may be the only two that do. One thing I’ll caution against, though. Whoops, I’m sorry, I’m (unintelligible). How long have I been doing that for?
One thing I’ll caution against, though, is don’t call me an expert, please. I’m so sick of the word expert, I could scream. [00:05:00]. Stanford added that whole—I mean if 2020 has proved anything else it is that expertise is dead in the country. There’s no such thing. That is a label to shut down any type of dialogue and pretend that you can’t use your own brain to figure things out. Stanford had their whole banned word list that they had on there. They added American to it most recently. You should be calling yourself a US citizen instead.
Take that one off the banned word list and add expert to it because I’m sick of it. Please don’t say that some school board expert guy got up here to talk with you about all this. Instead, evaluate it for yourselves and whether or not it’s actually going to work.
This also means two things. This presentation will focus on actions that will actually result in concrete, specific, meaningful changes in what students encounter and experience each day in school, especially from an educating perspective. I’m not getting into the finances, legal, budget, Robert’s Rules of Order, none of that stuff. I really want to talk about how schools are about teaching children. How can we make changes that affect what students learn and how they learn it.
The second thing is that, although I’m going to throw a lot at you, unfortunately, since I’m a teacher, I’m making you take notes. If you didn’t grab a handout on the way in, there’s a handout and some sections for you to fill in some things as we go so here we go. Buckle Up. You already got a little bit of a preview as we’re going through. The first thing I’ll just say, here’s the leading principle–pour it on. This requires having a plan first. For these boards, these majorities, they need to be hitting on multiple fronts, multiple issues, they need to keep moving.
The idea is that the other side, the powers that be, they cannot keep up with all of it. Oftentimes, they’ll be one small thing, one thing at a time and they can rally people around that. They can’t counter everything. Everything should be up for debate. We should be moving on multiple policy areas and it should be happening quickly and efficiently. This does require knowing exactly what to do and when going into it. I’m just going to lay that out as a general rule.
Now….January, and I understand some boards take over in December and then also do your math, you (unintelligible) on the board map here and figure out how to adjust this for your community. Here are the things…One, and this is important, enact some sort of document preservation policy, order, whatever it is. The reason I say this is because you can guarantee if somebody starts snooping around in there, things are going to start being deleted, and then they’re going to come up with a big nothing burger and you can going to have egg on your face.
The board should go in, in the very first meeting, say “We’re establishing this policy that for these types of documents, you need to keep them, you may not delete them. They stay where they are.” Number two and some of these will involve more discussion, that one’s somewhat straightforward.
Number two…start demanding info at the first board meeting and make it due at the second board meeting, the next month. This includes things such as the percentage of students who are not proficient in a given grade or subject based on available tests, and if they’re going to throw the 2022, 2023 scores at you, or at your board, ask for the 2019 as well because I guarantee you, things were better but not that much better before the lockdowns.
They should demand a standard operating procedure for selecting curriculum, including what the curriculum review process is, how it’s planned out and what the status is of each in each of those areas. They should demand the policy and procedure overseeing instructional materials that teachers use to supplement the official district recommendations. It’s not just enough to pay attention to the official curriculum, teachers generally have great autonomy in bringing additional things into their classrooms. These are all under number two.
This is all the info you need to demand. I know, I’m so sorry. I’ll try to …chicken scratch, shorthand, text like e-text and everything, but I’m happy to share some of this afterwards as well. [00:10:00] Should get a list of every contract with invoices or free services provided to the district from the last four years during the window of a lot of things when they got really crazy, but five years to make it a nice number for them.
And it should include information, we want information. Did the board approve this? Was it the superintendent who approved it? Whose name is on the signature line? All contracts and invoices for any services provided to the district. It should demand every policy and procedure related to controversial issues. Anything related to student tracking by identity, any past surveys given to students.
You should ask for material purchase orders for programs, texts, or subscriptions from the last five years. Yes, purchase orders for anything that’s bought that’s related to programs, texts, subscription services, you should get. This is publicly available, but they can provide it for you. Every admin and admin staff salary and what their responsibilities are. You should get from the superintendent the names of the positions with whom the buck stops for academic or discipline failures in the district. Whether this is by a school, whether this is by district-wide, also known as an enhanced org chart, where you get into the specifics of how this thing is organized and who’s responsible for what.
At the very end, you can see on the back of your handout, there’s a number of excuses that they will give. I’ll address those towards the end, but what this shows is, one, you mean business. They mean business. There’s a new sheriff in town. There’s new representation, things are going to start being responsive to the community. That’s the first thing. The second thing you’re showing is that you’re playing fair. You’re giving them a chance. Pony up, right? You’re saying by the next school board meeting. One of the main objections right here is we don’t have that. We can’t do it that quickly. To which the response is very simple.
Based on your positions and your salaries, this is how any small business in our community would have to be run. Have all the stuff at the ready, accounted for, already organized, and know where it’s at, so that all you have to do, really, all you should have to do is either hit print if you’re old school, or file share to share this with the board. That’s it. If you don’t have that in place, we have some problems and we’re going to start putting that stuff in place right away.
For the many small business mom and dads in your community, they’ll get this. They know that they have to operate this way and they’re going to start expecting the district to operate that way as well.
Ok…The third thing is to say, okay, you’re all new board members, we’d like access to the curricula. Whether that is a physical copy of it, whether what many school districts do they have an online portal or some online database that has all this information in it, please give us our account, set it up for us so we can see all the same things that district staff are seeing.
Authorize the board to explore bringing in somebody from the outside to look at what’s going on, to look at the curricula, for transparency, what is happening in our schools. For curricula, what are students encountering every day? For teacher training, how are teachers trained? Contracts, who are we letting into our schools? For our strategic plan, does this reflect the goals and values of our parents and the community? Then for each one of those, is that appropriate?
One of the things I’m very hopeful about all this is that we start with the crazy ideology that is being pushed in schools…but we start looking at all the other issues going on as well. By a show of hands, how many of you have listened to the Sold a Story podcast? This is essential listening. It’s Sold a Story, S-O-L-D. This podcast is about literacy in this country. You can take Episode 6, which is the final one and the first bonus one, and you can apply it to any subject in any grade level, in any topic of concern in the schools. That’s exactly what is happening. [00:15:00]
Looking at these things not only from an ideological perspective, but also from a…is this working? Let’s be honest, it’s not working. This allows parents and communities to see for themselves what’s going on. Five, announce your review of all admin positions. I’ve worked for groups and companies that somebody new comes in and they want to just look at everything. They want to make sure everything is aligned the way it should be and everybody’s doing– that we’re effectively using resources.
The key thing here, and I got this idea from a board that was doing this, is that it means that admin needs to be put on notice that they need to cooperate with all this. That they are truly working for the people because they’re working for the board and the representatives. Remember, the people hire the board to represent them and the board hires the district.
Number six, and this is something I think we’re overlooking and I think there’s a really huge opportunity here, begin advertising your district and the teaching positions that might be coming up for the next year. By January and February, a lot of schools are getting their intent to return forms from teachers about whether or not they’re coming back the next year. They’re starting to piece together in the sense of how many openings they’ll have and the like.
Start advertising. Start pointing out that your district isn’t going to be doing X, Y, and Z. Start going to different colleges that you know have a good reputation. Contact their career services office to get an ad in their school paper. Advertise the values of your district that you brought there and what the board is implementing. This is important because all these changes won’t mean anything if the personnel aren’t on board with it as well. People’s policy.
Advertise for teaching positions. I guarantee you, there are a lot of teachers out there that are just keeping their heads down. If they just know where to go to help them get back to doing what they love, which is great teaching, they’ll jump at it. Even if some of them will move across the country to do it. Other people will jump from one neighboring district to yours.
Those are six things right off the bat in January that I think all boards should be planning to do. For most of these, it’s an announcement at the first meeting. We will be doing this, doing this, doing this, we want this. That’s it. Then February comes, and this is when everybody is going to come and show up and scream at you. Now they’re saying ….oh, they’re actually trying to do something, and you all have been really active in this and all that stuff.
A couple of things to do in February. Get moving. Start enacting, introducing policies. I call these no-brainer policies. A lot of these are being laid out by groups like increasing state affiliates and other model policies. Start introducing policies on CRT, eliminating DEI offices, renewing contracts and initiatives, eliminating student surveys. Look, when I went to school, we didn’t do surveys ever. Ever. In fact, there is so much that’s going on in schools right now that is novel within the last 5 to 10 years, and we were doing fine before that. Maybe there were ways to improve, but we’re not going in the right direction here. Just get rid of surveys. There’s no reason for any of that at all. At all.
Put a moratorium on new technology. Technology is a huge moneymaker. It is insane. It’s pushed everywhere. People are making a lot of money and talking a lot and [unintelligible) children. Deb Dillman was talking before lunch in this room. She really zeroes in on this. Check out some of the correlations between school performance and the amount of technology in schools. Just Google that. Also look at how much technology is in the schools that Silicon Valley execs send their kids to. You’ll figure out what’s going on here. Just say no to new technology things, unless it’s something you’ve already bought in the past, like we bought projectors in the past. Keep buying those again, but nothing new coming up here.
Put a cell phone policy in place. You’ll win some teachers over. They’re so sick of it. We’ll give them a discipline policy and work on that. Teachers are also sick of what they’re having to deal with. You have to work with your collective bargaining agreements and everything but push for student performance to be a factor in teacher review, but student retention not being a factor. [00:20:00] Right now, it’s opposite. How children do doesn’t really matter for teachers in their review.
If a student is retained, it does matter. Some students shouldn’t be moving on. They need another year in that grade level. They just do. It’s more reversing that and making sure that overall student performance matters but not the fact that you would have a child in your class who’s retained. Usually, if it’s at that point, it’s beyond the teacher’s fault.
Pause the use of any outstanding contractors or programs. Just stop. We’re going to hold pat for a second here until we figure out all that’s going on. Institute a policy or introduce one that boards must approve all new courses in all official curricula that go with that. That should be commonplace. If state statute doesn’t say you can’t do it, that’s a board policy. The board can change that. The board should have oversight over which things are taught and what materials are used for that.
The teachers should be required to document in some way, and because we have all this lovely technology these days, to upload their lesson plans, activities, and assignments. Those should be stored somewhere within the district so that any supervisor can check in and see what type of activities and assignments are teachers bringing in, in addition to the official curricula.
Going along with that, the district should require that supervisors must approve supplemental resources that teachers commit. A school board isn’t going to be able to sit there all day and look over every supplemental thing that’s coming into the district. Most of them get a curriculum proposal from the district, and they barely have time to even look at that but supervisors, what’s the role of a supervisor? If you have a curriculum supervisor or another position like that, make sure that there’s a process for this.
Make sure it’s documented so that every supplemental thing, if somebody says, “Hey, my kid came home with this assignment.” And they bring it up to the principal, they can go “Hey, did you sign off on this? Can you show me the documentation for that?”
Get into the library and look at all their purchase orders or donations. They have to catalog all this stuff. Review the catalog and all books added within the last five years here, and don’t forget about the donated ones. It’s not just the ones that are purchased but the ones that are donated as well. Come up with a book objection process, and I know some states are putting this in place. I’m going to go a little bit against the grain on some of this. I don’t think you need to form an additional committee on this if you’re a good school board. You’re already the representatives of the people in the community. You can make a judgment about whether or not this book, it should be there or not.
If you’re in a spot where you’re not controlling the school board, then it’s helpful to be able to have a parent voice in there, but once they’re on there, they should be able to take public feedback from the meeting and make a judgment on it. So often, what I’m seeing is school board members say, “Well, this committee that we put together said it was going to be okay, and even though I don’t think so, I’m going to comply by that.” How many levels of representation do we add to this? We already elected you to do this. This is your job. Stand by it, please.
The last thing I’ll just share on this no-brainer policy point is that when– Deb did a great job. There have been a lot of people talking about how people from the educational world will get up there, and they’ll have all these things on their way out, and one of the things they do is they’ll go through like 45 slides and just cruise, use all the nice euphemisms and everything. You get to the end of it, and you’re like, “I had so many questions during that, but I came and stayed on top of it.”
Just have a policy that says “Look, all materials that you’re going to present to district staff should be available one week beforehand for the board to review.” After every slide, could you just please pause so we can ask some questions about that slide, instead of waiting until the end. Everything that you deliver to the board for review should have the name of the person in the district responsible if something is omitted or inaccurate or if it doesn’t work. Just like a normal business, accountability. I recently had somebody say that the word accountability is now offensive. That’s telling you how far we’ve gone here. [00:25:00]
If you’re going to propose something you need to know who’s responsible. I had a school board presentation or a presentation from a curriculum committee to a school board that had a (unintelligible)…so who is responsible for this? The superintendent? and the assistant superintendent? They ran all the way down to going to the students, right? That just meant nobody’s responsible for that, which is one of the huge problems that we’re facing right now is how nobody is responsible.
You start looking under the hood at this, and you realize it’s a circus. Nobody is doing anything, and they’re raking in the cash from the state, from taxpayers. They’re funneling off to their friends. It is all over the place. It is an absolute disaster. What we’ve encountered so far is the tip of an iceberg. It truly is.
All right. Those are some of the no-brainer and concern, no-brainer common sense policies to push off the bat. One of the things here establish monthly report expectations, and that would include things such as, I want to know the rate and percentage of students not proficient in each grade level. Okay. I want to compare it to the last one. That should mean that you’re doing some progress monitoring, especially in elementary literacy and mathematics, right? Disciplinary trends. Okay. Depending on what the policy is, number of detentions, referrals, suspensions, expulsions, however you want to track it.
How has that changed from the last month? Deb made a really great point previously in the last presentation. She said not by changing how you’re measuring it, right? Using the same system that we have with measuring it, how does that change from month to month? Because that’s all they really do. Let’s just shift the entire measurement system for how we do this to make it look going everything’s fine, right?
The third things is, if you’re generally introduce exploring, working with somebody, bringing somebody into audit, the curriculum audit, the teacher training, whatever it might be moving at this point to actually approve it and authorize and begin it, and then an ongoing to begin the review of admin and staff positions.
In March, right? Enact those policies. Oh, Yes, sure. Oh, you sound like my students. That’s what I try to tell them. All right. March is a little fast. You’ll see here, there’s a lot of movement, and then it’s executing and following through on this going forward. Once you get into March, enact those policies, right? You introduce them in February, right? Now you’ve had discussion, public comment, everybody’s yelling, all that stuff, and push ahead.
It’s a great…. Look, when you’re going through vetting somebody, I’m going to talk later on about some of the image and messaging things. They have to want to fight back when they’re up there. When somebody yells at them, they have to be going to be like, I’m going to be able to best that, not by yelling back, but by actually being, I’ve seen as going to, we’re over the target. We’re doing the right thing. We’re onto this. We’re going to see it through. Not just be going, “Oh, that’s a lot to handle here.” Enact the policies. Okay?
If you’re working with a group that’s going to be auditing what’s in the curriculum that they should be giving progress reports monthly on how that’s going, right? It should be given to the public. This is what we’re finding, right? This is where we’re at.
Continue that review of staff positions. Now we’re pushing into April, and you’ve enacted the policies here. By the way, this is like your six-hour meeting, right? Or several six-hour meetings to get this one through because there’s a ton of public comment beforehand, particularly yelling at you. Then you vote on it, and there’s a lot of public comment afterwards to lambast you for voting on it. Just pack a snack or something. I don’t know if that’s allowed.
In April– Oh, I don’t know why two came up first. How about one? Oversee and enforce policy and implementation. This is something we’re going to be missing. Either this means the board has the bandwidth, or they’re hiring somebody to help them do this, going to a liaison between them and the district to follow through and know which things to look for. It’s good that you’re reviewing admin positions because that means that they’re on notice and they may actually go along with it. [00:30:00]
Generally, these are the same people who made the decisions to put all this stuff in here in the first place. Now they’re responsible. This is actually where they (unintelligible). You can pass any act that you want. If the people who are implementing it are not playing– Not going along with it, they’re not recognizing that they are stewards of what the community wants as a public school. It’s not happening. They will give you lip service all day long, and they’re just going to say, “We’re going do it this way and just make it look like we are. Then once the board changes or they’re out, then we’ll just– I’ll do it completely. We won’t even fake it.” This is a huge issue here. You need to stay on top of it.
Then publicize whatever progress reports come up here. Over the– Continuing to review your staff positions. Over the summer… generally, depending on what they’re looking at, you can publish a finalized audit report. You can write, see for yourselves.
Participant: Can we go back? You are quick. Thank you.
Adams: Oh, sure. Oh yes. I see what’s going on here. Okay. See, I wouldn’t have any of my students with their phones out in the classroom. They’d be in their lockers, that would solve that one. Okay. This is the last one.
Then, in the summer, publicize this final audit report. Say, “Hey, this is what we found. These are things that are of concern. Here are the things but from an ideological perspective or from academic quality.” Then this can be the opportunity that the board has to propose, “Hey, we need to make a change here. We’ve done our due diligence. We look to see what’s there in the first place. This is what we came up with, and now we’re going to look to make sure that certain elements are not being taught that are harmful to our students or inaccurate. Then here’s what we’re doing going forward. Here’s some alternative we’re going to search for and put in place.”
On that front, I try to make– If you already have a policy in place showing that the board has to sign off on the course or the curriculum, then you’re in a much better spot about actually making sure if you’re coming across the right thing.
Then what goes along with that is that some curriculum, not all, but some curricula or programs may require some training of teachers in the process that will be helpful. Explore, securing some teacher training goes with it. A lot of programs have it built in. It comes with it. Other ones, it might be another group. This is the last bullet point on this slide. That gets us a little bit beyond the first 100 days.
I’m going to speak about– I am going to leave time at the end here for questions, but I’m going to speak about some things to keep in mind while you’re doing all of this. First of all, build a paper trail. Document all of it. In other words, we asked, we kindly asked as representatives of our constituents who put us into office by this majority, by the way, by this margin of victory last fall.
We ask that the admin, district staff, superintendent do XYZ, and we asked on this date. To be doing this date, and this is what they did or did not do. You can build a paper trail. You need a document saying, “Look, we’re being fair. We’re asking… We’re asking common sense, normal things that anybody who’s running any type of organization should be able to produce.” I don’t think ….went along with that with flying colors. They’re really great superintendent. We have really a lot of confidence in them, or there’s something else that’s amiss here that we haven’t that gotten around to.
The second thing to keep in mind is to not let anybody off the hook. I’m going to– That back page talks about all the ways in which folks try to get off the hook. Keep getting these reports, keep asking for information, keep having them shared, ask questions about all, everything that’s in there. Some people self-select out of certain things. Because sometimes they’re like, “Yes, I can’t work for this board. I don’t really want to do this anymore.” That’s fine.
Anyways, the third one is remember that your attorney, the district’s attorney is not usually an ally. The one thing that board members are scared to death of is having a lawsuit on their hands. Especially one that has big dollar amounts tied to it or threatening to be tied to it. [00:35:00]
Attorneys, by their nature, are risk averse generally. They’re not going to push the envelope on something that they are taking a risk on. Then a lot of them are also not on the side of the board. I know there are a number of state organizations that are trying to figure out ways to get counsel to school boards that are giving a second opinion, as it were.
Just keep this in mind and make sure your board members have this in mind as well. Be proactive with your PR and social media. This is one of the things I’m realizing quite a bit with boards is that there’s not a whole lot of. They’re not getting the message out.
They might be out there in the meeting talking about this, but they need to have some account or their own account to get it out there. That doesn’t mean play whack-a-mole and address everything in there because that’ll drive them nuts. That’s not good. To have an alternative viewpoint or an alternative point coming out that they can reflect on that other people know, oh, they have an answer for this. They have something that they pointed to and worked against.
The last thing, I’ll say this is (unintelligible), is to get– Before, during the campaigns, (unintelligible) county, all that stuff, it was all of you in the school board meetings. You worked really hard. You work really hard, put a lot of time, money, and effort into getting these people elected. You’re absolutely right that from that point forward, their job is to represent you. They are there to be the face of you, to hold the line, to stand in the breach, to face all that. But they are still human beings. It’s very easy to say, okay, we won. Now we’re going to throw it out there, and we’re going to throw it to the wolves.
Have some organizational presence in mind to say, hey, what’s the get 10 of us to sign up to come to this meeting that’s coming up to be able to speak. Because if it’s 20 speakers to zero, that does not look good. Even though this is a small minority of people who are hooting, hollering, and yelling, and screaming. If it’s 30 to 10, well, that’s still 10 people that are speaking. Then people aren’t– They can’t even count the amount at that point. Try to keep organizing there and giving them some backup and some support.
I want to talk about some key messaging through this and then some things on image as well. Some things that you should be saying, and you should be expecting your boards to be repeating often– One, your fulfilling promises. Go back to this over and over and over again. Cite your election results. I would suggest board members should print off the tally from their last election and just keep it as a little placard on their side of their name tag while they’re up there.
To remember that this is– One of the things about traditional public schools is that what makes them a traditional public is the fact that not because they get taxpayer money, it’s because they represent the people. It’s the way that people and parents control what is happening in schools. They should constantly be referring back to the fact that they are representing the majority of the people and the parents in their community. It’s truly self-government.
It’s truly what is meant by a public institution, a public school. Focus on the phrase “ideology-free”. We’re trying to get ideology out of the schools. Talk about quality, that quality matters. I think this is one of the things that we’re missing, and we could point to more. Like if somebody has like 60% of kids can’t read on grade level or whatever. What other institution of business besides federal government can get away with a 60% failure rate? Anything they do, you’d be fired overnight. There’s no way that would happen. Point to quality. Point out that the stakes are just too high in this.
It’s very easy to talk about the trajectory that the country is going in and education in general. Bring it back and think about the individual child because that child has one life to live. They have a one-shot education. They’re highly impressionable. One thing that they experience the wrong way when they’re in second grade could, well, can take them in a whole different path for the rest of their lives. The stakes are too high for this to just hand it over and say that he can’t or to fumble in the face of that. Same thing with rejecting the status quo. This was the mantra of the early 2000s, like, oh, all those conservatives in the status quo. You got to stop that.
Well, okay, when status quo is really poor. You can’t keep doing the same thing as it’s the definition of insanity. You keep going back to that. [00:40:00]. Frankly, you had your chance. These are the things in the right-hand column here are all tied together. You had your chance. You’ve been running the education system in the country for decades now. You’ve made all the shots. It’s not only is it just staying, it’s getting worse.
This is something, these are messages that I think 65-70% of people can get behind and recognize when they get that. That’s the last bullet point. I need to start doing the Joe Biden end-of-quote thing instead of reading it off.
Managing your image through all this. In working with some of the boards, you need to come across as being competent. You can speak slowly and deliberately about things. You just don’t want to give an image that, yes, you’re not confident. That’s the main thing. Maybe it’s not even necessarily positive. Just don’t give an image that you’re not confident in doing something. Portray confidence, and that matters. Also, be relentless about it and be calculated. Like I said, the stakes are way too high to not be very thoughtful and thinking through everything very carefully. Be empathetic.
One of the things with– It’s easy to talk about ideas and this principle and that principle, but make it empathetic and use these things as you always fall back to whenever you’re in the face of being hit over the head with something. Use terms like: “I worry that.” “My concern is…” “The most vulnerable students.” “We want to protect teachers from unfair accusations.” “We want to get the most out of every minute of class time.” “It’s unfair that..”
The idea there is it just brings it back to the individual. It brings it back to people. That’s really what we’re talking about. We want to talk about the vulnerable, the students, the children, bringing it back to individuals and showing. If you get stuck on something, just say, “My worry is that.”
By the way, you don’t have to think about the words for that. You got it. When you worry about something, you really think about what it is you’re worrying about. The words come to you.
When it comes to data things, you say 65% of students can’t read. Express that as a number. Say, hey, okay, what that actually means is I’m going to line up 10 third graders here, whatever they are, just said, and six of them can’t read on grade level. These four over here, they can, but these six, they can’t. That puts a face to it–
People can understand that…the percentage– This whole eighth grade thing–83% of students, whatever it is, don’t know the basic knowledge about the country in eighth grade. Eight don’t know the basic knowledge about the country. Those types of things carry home and hit home with people a little bit more.
One thing I’ll say here is just be careful of teachers. This has come up a couple of times over the last couple of days here. This is going to be hard to do because you see TikTok and everything and the people that show up and yell about this stuff. They’re the loudest. They’re doing some crazy stuff. I think that 60% of teachers are good teachers. By that, they’re not necessarily pushing things, or they are. It’s because that’s what they were given to do and told and they weren’t told to think otherwise about it.
The best thing that they’ll do they maybe maintain how things are going. There are 20%, I think, increasingly younger who are very unhinged, frankly. Then there are 20%, I think, who are great teachers, who are keeping their heads down, who know– Look, if there’s a strong union, you don’t stick your neck out at all within those communities. You’re not going to get them necessarily showing up at board meetings to support you. They’re there. Don’t forget about them because what’s going to happen? This is like the whole Congress thing. Everybody hates Congress, but their congressman, he’s different.
We’re going to reelect him every year. He’s great. Same thing with schools and with our teachers. Education in America is awful, but my school is good. They’re different. We know our teachers, and you do. It’s more personal. You know these people. Again, all you can identify teachers in your schools who are good teachers that you trust and that have demonstrated this. [00:45:00] Just be careful with it and point out– What I like to do is I like to say, “Great teachers do that.” I’m all for supporting great teachers and great teaching. I want to focus on that, I want to try to inspire. Everybody wants to be in a great teaching column here. You paint a picture of what that means.
Something I wouldn’t necessarily let off the hook though, is the admin. The reason for that is because they’re either the ones who make the policy or solicit or approve consultants and curricula. They’re the ones who aren’t holding people accountable. There tend to be a lot of them based off of historical trends. They make a lot of money.
It’s where most of the money goes in education. When people say we need more money, that’s where it’s going. It’s not going to teacher salaries. It’s not going to student outcomes. It’s going to technology and it’s going to the admin. They’re very good at having their excuses for it, and they say the right things. I’ll say those are the people that really want to– Right here, you set a target for something, pick something. You’re not going to talk to the person, the rank and file employees at all, even if they are maybe sympathetic to it. It’s the higher-ups.
I think it’s the same thing in here. Even now, I can say this. A lot of these out there, they don’t know any different. This is what they’ve been told their entire careers. This is all they’ve been in. It’s all they’ve known. You can throw something, an alternative out there and mentally, they can’t even fathom it.
I’ve actually found in working with some that just having another opinion and ideas to throw out there to them, they’re actually some of the good ones are receptive to it. They said, “Yes, that’s not a bad idea.” Let’s even say, even if people too focus on– Be aware that you want to find the good ones in there. I think there are some, they just don’t know any different. End of quote.
The last thing I’d like to talk about is this backside of your sheet of paper.
When they say, what they mean, and how to respond.
“We don’t have that. That would take a lot of time, we don’t know.” I addressed those a little bit earlier. You should. You need to. We are stewards of the public trust. People have put us here to make sure that this is a quality education, that these schools are the best in our state. You need to give us this information. If you haven’t up to this point, now we’re giving you a chance to do that. Now you know. If that means that we’re working crazy overtime numbers on district staff to get it ready the next time, so be it. This is how the real-world works, everybody. I guarantee you, the vast majority of your constituents understand that. They know that about their own lives, they know that about their own budgeting, they know all that.
“That’s not how it’s done.” Okay, that’s good. They will say this, ad nauseum. That’s great– this is a traditional public school, it’s responsive to the people, we’re their representatives, they wanted us to do it this way now, so we’re going to do that. Just leaning into the fact that boards are representatives.
“It has to align with state standards.” The usual way to use this is you want to bring in a different curriculum. The board says, hey (unintelligible) it’s not aligned to state standards. Here’s the thing with state standards, they’re not hard to meet. Usually, they’re fairly baseline. They’re pretty laughable in most states. It is not hard to teach a state standard, it’s not hard to align something to a state standard. This is not an excuse to not consider a work.
“We need remediation” Maybe, but what they’re doing now is they’re creating full remediation systems without saying, hey, why do we have so many students needing remediation in the first place? What they’re actually doing is they have an incompetent, an ineffective system in place, whether it’s curriculum, instruction program, whatever it is, and instead of adjusting that or saying, hey, this isn’t working, they are going out and spending a ton of money on some group to come in and create a remediation program. I’ve seen it to the point where they say, “Anybody below the 30th percentile is going to be in this remediation thing.” There’s always going to be kids below the 30th percentile. It’s a percentile, right? [00:50:00] That means it’s never going away. If you have that there, the whole point is to get as many students out of there as possible and back on grade level. So don’t buy the whole yes, we have to do some things to remediate here, but there should be an offering for this. There should be a sunset clause. There should be something to go on back, pointing at you and asking what is going on in the first place that why we need this.
“We do phonics.” Increasingly schools are peppering the (unintelligible) from going into checkboxes. They didn’t do it, but they’re keeping whole language, blended language, three guesses or whatever the thing’s called. This is more of a, no, I want to see what the program that you’re actually using is. It should be exclusively phonics, right? The research is clear on this at this point.
“We need more technology.” We talked about this before. Technology has an inverse relationship with student achievement.
“We have x many years of experience.” That’s great. I understand that. That’s one thing I’m going to consider in looking at this, but actually, I’m really interested in the particulars of the situation, the particular product, what is actually happening on the ground. I’m confident on myself and all the people who are here in this room can make, form their own judgments about this. Same thing with “we are the experts or we have these credentials.”
“We’re creating districtwide lesson plans for consistency.” This is not necessarily a bad idea, but what if you’re making district-wide lesson plans to reflect something that doesn’t work? What’s the point, right? Maybe you should just pause and assess what’s happening in the first place.
“A curriculum doesn’t include x,” this is similar to the standards question, okay. Then find something to bring in to address X as well. The main thing here, is there was a great curriculum coming out that are, I would argue, doing a pretty good job teaching American history and civics and say, well, it doesn’t teach Florida state history. Well, yes, it’s a national curriculum. Okay, then find a piece that goes with it you can supplement with to be the official piece for Florida state standards for their state history.
Often times there’ll be a one size fits all, right? It’s either all or nothing and guess what? Who get their, just a couple companies that have something that’s supposed to meet everything that the state has already set up.
“We have seen improvement.” This is a favorite one, they’ll point to test scores, and what they’ll really highlight is, “Oh, we had this many students who were behind and we were hoping that this small percentage of them would improve. Some 50% of those include 50% of where we want them to be at so good job us, right? That’s improvement. Yes, no joke. That’s what I’ve seen before, and that’s how they’ll present it, so that’s not good enough. I want details on everything, and I want to see how it’s changing month to month and where it needs to go from there.
This is great, “we collaborate.” Just point out, like, that’s great. It’s also not a virtue necessarily. That’s not the one way to do it. I can think of a couple of civilizations who have really championed collaboration and how that turned out. Just say like, that’s great. I’m all for getting along and bouncing ideas off of each other, but I want to know who’s responsible on this, right? The fact that everybody worked together doesn’t make it so. It just doesn’t.
“We’re proud of the teachers and how hard they work.” So yes, I am also proud of great teachers and how hard they’ve worked but I’m worried that they’ve been misguided a little bit from the district. Give the teachers like a way out too, right? Sometimes where I– somebody please throw me a lifeline so it’s not my responsibility for how this is turning out here. I was told to do this thing.
“Curriculum needs to be relevant to students and they need to relate to it.” This one’s very popular. There is zero data or research to suggest this at all. Also, how do you understand kids identifying with or being able to relate to talking animals and other portrayals of fictional creatures and so forth? They do not look like them at all. They are not six-year-old boys. Why is this true of anything else? No, the main thing is that they’re human beings, right? That’s the main thing that is relevant to them, and if it’s true and captivating, then they will be able to relate to that. It’s only we adults are pointing out that they’re different somehow. Okay, by the way, that’s the other thing. They’re not picking up on that themselves.
“Students can’t do that.” This happens all the time. It’s not that hard to point out that, or that there are places where students can do that. What’s different about our students or what’s different about our teachers that we can’t? [00:55:00]
“Teachers don’t have enough time to make new plans on such short notice.” A lot of them will say, “Hey, we’re going to– ” This is for me too. As I was going into this summer, I said, “I’m going to spend all summer working on my lesson plans for the fall.” I really meant it, I didn’t. As some teachers very well may, the vast majority are not doing that and I can almost guarantee you that they’re under a union contract, there’s no way that they’re going to be doing that. Right?
“We are doing a lot of work on this process.” Okay? They will hire out all the work you’re doing to an operation or a process, and that will be the standard that we’re, as a district or group, doing well. We’re succeeding. I care about student outcomes and what’s actually happening in the classroom, not the process. I mean, you give those updates, that’s fine, but that doesn’t constitute a job well done.
“Every unit needs to have a theme.” A theme that determines contents. The curriculum thing again. When you do this you get really weird stuff. Instead, figure out what content needs to be learned in the first place. Like books, what are really good books for students to read? Maybe the test of time is one indication of what those books might be. Things that have been read by millions of people for hundreds of years across all different demographics and all of a sudden in the last 20 years we just stopped. Maybe we should install some of those. Saying we’re coming up with this theme about coming of age things, we’re going to find all these edgy conventional books that fit that that have a bunch of other garbage in them and are not well written. That’s not going to produce a quality education.
“We need to start with the standards in lesson planning or finding curriculum.” Actually, good curricula should keep up the standards naturally. If you have a couple left over that you need to supplement with, do that. We don’t need to start with the standards and plan everything out from there.
“We need to ahve some sort of ethnic book.” Okay, that’s great. I can get that. That doesn’t mean it has to be racist. It doesn’t mean it has to be pushing something else. Usually it means that the author has to be a minority. I can rattle off a couple of minorities in history who have phenomenal works of literature, or a political encounter, whatever it might be. We don’t need to go out there and find a way to spin what’s happening.
“Compared to national averages of standards,” just throw this out. Comparing one pile of you know what to another pile of you know what? That’s not a great–they all say, “Well compared to national average–” I don’t care. I want 90% of our students doing great in our district. Why is, “We have 45% of third graders are on that (unintelligible) sheet and nationwide it’s 35%” That’s still six kids who can’t do math. Don’t take it.
“It needs to be engaging, or project-based or group work, or research-based.” These can define supplemental things, in my opinion, but they take a lot of time to plan, they take a lot of structural time, they take a lot of time for the teachers to do and most of the research (unintelligible) to be a teacher, that’s leading this orchestra. We need a basic outline.
“Learning styles” is very popular, the audio, visual, tactile kind of (unintelligible) These with the more accurate say, “Well we have to pass them in all these different categories for all of this to line up this way.” I would say you actually have some people are stronger than others, but to totally drill down on one thing and make them really strong in math and say, “Wow, I have stronger arms or stronger legs and I’m just going to exercise the arm all day and neglect the rest of my body.” It’s the same thing with this. No. They all need to be focused on reading, writing, listening, and speaking are the keys above all.
“Need to differentiate instruction” like asking great questions to students, like who, what, when, where for some of students? First level and why. How do you know? Why do you think that? Are great ways to differentiate instruction. You don’t have to bring in a whole separate program for this.
“We need to teach mastery to students.” I’m surprised that word is even allowed anymore. I’m sorry. A third grader is not going to be a master of anything. Right? We’re moving in a direction and it’s insane to think that somehow we have to wrap everything up in any given grade level and if you have anything that you need to revisit later on, that somehow that’s invalidated.
“We can’t share because of copyright” is a big one. This one has a little more to it, but you certainly can go into, people can go into, constituents can go in and see these things at the district. Board members should be able to see any of it. [01:00:00] Board members absolutely should, and if you’re citing something, it’s just like citing anything else. You’re not breaking copyright on it.
“We don’t want teachers exposed to scrutiny.” I’m sorry, we’re talking about quality education here for students.
“Teachers can’t be expected to upload everything.” This is nonsense. They have to do this stuff all the time for different state reporting things. They can do it in this case as well, and it’s easier than ever.
I’m running out of time, let’s see if there’s anything I really want.
“Supervisors.” What else are supervisors for if they don’t supervise?
“We don’t know what’s being taught.” This is actually really true. There’s a lot of them and they have no idea of what their schools are using, and that’s also inexcusable.
This one, “the state approved the textbook.” This is about the implementation thing. A lot of states are starting to look at the official textbooks. They’re not looking at the online programs, they’re not looking at the teacher resources. They’re not looking at all the supplemental things that come with it. The culture might change the textbook that is public, but it’s not changing any of that stuff behind the scenes. The states aren’t asking for that. They’re not reviewing that, and I think it’s incomplete. I’m almost 100% certain that the textbook companies are pulling a fast one over everybody.
“We teach them how to think, not what to think.” What are you going to do is show up and just think? You need to think about something, right? No, and you have to make a call. Ideally, we would include everything in our content in schools, but we can’t. No human being can know everything. You have to make judgment calls on what’s in and what’s out. Just because it’s out doesn’t necessarily mean that a person shouldn’t learn that. Maybe not on this grade level, maybe not on K-12, but you have to make some judgment calls on this. It’s ridiculous to think that we’re just going to be– The other parts of the literacy side of things, it’s not only does it have to be phonics, but it needs content. Reading is a tool. You need it to read about something. You need it to actually have something that you want to understand and learn about. So content is very important and it’s rightful and it’s good that we’re emphasizing and getting it back into the classrooms.
“Teachers have a lot of autonomy.” They do have a lot of autonomy and you want your great teachers to have some autonomy and things, but there has to also be accountability. There has to be parameters. They have to be enforced and there has to be somebody checking in to make sure that they’re not going off the rails.
“Acronyms and Eduspeak,” some people have talked about a little bit. Every time someone gives you an acronym, say, “Please, can you pause and say what that means?” Then with each part of the acronym, can you give me a definition of that and can you give an example? Keep pushing him on it otherwise it’s just alphabet soup pile up and they’re hoping to overwhelm you with that.
Those are some of the things that when they say it, there’s something to respond to. There’s more to say about all that obviously. I know we went very long here, but if you have questions, I’m happy to take them now and people are free to step out as we did with other sessions. I really appreciate your time and consideration in all this and happy to be sharing information that’s helpful. Thank you so much.
[01:03:42] QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Participant: The biggest argument from the left side is that these people who run for school boards are not educators, so therefore they don’t know… they’re not qualified. Of course, if they get elected, I guess, your answer is they’re qualified by their election.
Adams: Yes. Well, two things. One, we are representatives of this. We’ve been elected. We have a responsibility to take this through. I will grant that you are an educator. You have these qualifications. I’m going to consider that as one data point. The other data point I want to point to is the data in the district and how we’re doing. I really do think that we have to start recognizing that serious quality is (unintelligible) and it’s nothing that should be changed. You really did have a chance at this. You own this. We’re going to make some independent thoughts of this. [01:05:00] If you’re pointing to that and saying this is justification for our authority, that’s fine but we’re also going to point to the actual evidence of how that’s going.
I really think we have to get really comfortable with that and just recognize what they try to do is they really try to say “Well, we’ve made a 5% improvement among this small subset of people, therefore, we’re doing a great job.” We as board members can just start saying “No, that’s unacceptable.” There’s no reason why we can’t have 80-90% of students at any given grade level excelling in every subject. There’s no reason for that.
The only reason why we don’t expect that is because we’ve grown so numb, we’re so used to being beaten down about just how bad everything is in education. There’s no other way about it. You can’t come back and say “Well, I do actually have this type of credential for it.” You really have to say “I know you have that and this is what the result is. We can’t do that anymore. I’m happy to work with you on it. I’m happy to weigh in on the things that you bring to the table but you put forward an idea, that’s great. That idea is now no longer yours or anybody else’s. It’s all up there to be batted around and we’re all smart, we all use our reason, independent thinking.” You guys do critical thinking all day long in schools. It’s not critical thinking to say “Oh, this person has this background, ergo I’m just going to say whatever they’re doing.” That’s not critical thinking. Let’s model it for our students too. Let’s think independently and critically about everything that’s put up. I don’t think you necessarily have a very short, sweet answer for it, necessarily but you have to just push back and hold their feet to the fire, I suppose.
Participant: One of the big things that we’re running into– and I know a lot of other people would, we get new board members in there, they get a lot of pushback from other board members that have been in there for a really long time. What would your advice be on them being able to communicate better effectively with the ones that are already in there, especially the ones that are very vitriol and aggressive and would say “Why would the superintendent necessarily need to be doing that? Do you think that there’s something nefarious going on here?” and therefore, you know.
Adams: I actually don’t think it’s something to engage with, personally. I don’t think they’re operating in good faith. I think your agenda is very clear about what you’re trying to do. You just need to go back to information should be out there for everybody. We should have clarity on it and we’re representative. I got elected to get to the bottom of things and to bring these things to light and I’m doing that. I’m expecting the superintendent to be able to raise these things. I’m not making any judgment about what they are or not doing. I don’t know. Let’s see. If a board member is– If that’s their first response to a new board member getting elected, you’re never going to win them over. I think the clarity is just to go back, cite your majority, what you won by and whatnot and just say we want the information. This needs to be open to everybody. We want to see improvements. I’m not forming any judgments on any person or position. I’m judging it on the evidence that’s out there but I need the evidence first. It’s largely a waste of time to really try to– you have to answer something along these lines but I don’t think you have to be like “Oh, no. But actually, so-and-so, I really do trust them,” I don’t think you have to do that. Just point it back and say, we just need information.
Participant : And like your speaker, get the support there, right? People are asking it and he doesn’t really know we are all asking it, too.
Adams: Yes and if they’re not there, just fighting back to say “This is why I’m here. This is why I’m trying to put this out there.” Also, it’s a little cliche but if you don’t have anything to hide, it’s no big deal. Come on, let’s see what’s there. Go ahead.
Participant: I loved how you said “audit curriculum” and then do something different in the fall. So our (unintelligible) recommended curricula for our schools and so we looked at what the (unintelligible) so that we– full of SEL..we don’t want it.. the response is (unintelligible) … it takes alot of nerve and their response is we don’t particularly want to (unintelligible) so I reached out (unintelligible) and also Liberty which is a (unintelligible) looking to Florida and the things they do and (unintelligible) doesn’t have (unintelligible) attached to it, we need a product doesn’t have Hillsdale College attached to it, something that is very generic but good, that we can use, not just for schools but public schools but also charter schools online as well. [01:10:00]
Adams: Yes, unfortunately it’s a little bit of the– same thing with the board member, you have the board member that’s not (unintelligible) They really don’t want an alternative out there and if you are pushing against the–
Participant: These are people on my side. They think they work with me and they really want to make something different but they don’t know an alternative.
Adams: Yes. Depending on what subjects and things like that, there’s some good alternatives out there. Trying to get away from Florida or Hillsdale College or other people like that it’s harder to do because they’re at the forefront of coming up with all this stuff early on. I don’t know if there’s a whole lot–(unintelligible) necessarily with something ideological, but at least if you can point to it and say, “Give me an example of something that’s in this that you’re objecting to.” I know at least Florida (unintelligible) the same time, but what else is there?
Participant: Or that we have to have something (unintelligible) and the only reason I say not Florida or Hillsdale (unintelligible) is we’re very blue state and we… (unintelligible)
Adams: Well, the other question there is how are those curricula utilized or implemented, and used? Right? When I was teaching, there were certain things on a state test that I’m like, “God, I don’t know.” That’s not something that I’m going to spend a lot of time on, maybe I teach this or I do it but I’ll straight up tell the students. I’ll be like, “Hey, for a test we need to know this, this, this, and this.” This answer, there we go. Okay– going on and they had it. So a lot of times with these curricula, too, it doesn’t mean you have to– This is one of the things they like to try to say you have to do. You have to march through every single page of every single thing that’s there. Like, no. Like make some judgment calls of how best to utilize those things. I think when you’re operating within curricula that you wrote that, that you just have to use, I think that’s one of the ways in which you go about it is you say, “Okay, I’m going to keep the harder her and then figure out– Make some essential calls on how to best implement it.” Which is what all great teachers should be doing in the first place. I can give some specific recommendations on some curriculum things.
Participant: I’ll email you.
Adams: Okay, that’d be great. Go ahead.
Participant: I just want to question. I saw the (unintelligible) into like when the last time the board policies (unintelligible) it was 1999. They have not changed in that time, so they have changed their curriculum obviously (unintelligible) everything you do is within the limits of what the school said they could do. So how we go about updating a school policy– that way the curriculum doesn’t fit?
Adams: This stuff comes back to state statue or district policy. State statute you can do a whole lot about. District policy, that’s the school board making those calls. The school board should be looking at any of that policy and update it accordingly. They’re not wrong to come out and say like, “Well, based on policy–” One of the things, and to your point about what the other board members are like, they’ll say– they’ll be like, “Right. (unintelligible) That’s just how the district is.” Like, “Yeah, but-no. Actually, you are elected to be in charge of that.” Right? “That’s your call.” Making sure they’re aware of them and they have to do that. So I’m not surprised that all other stuff isn’t. Even very well-intended board members (unintelligible) All of us, we procrastinate, we don’t look at things till the last minute or maybe like looking through it in the meeting. I think (unintelligible) should be running candidates who are going to do their homework or get outside help to do that as well. Yes?
Participant: This might seem like a stupid question–
Adams: No, there is no such thing as a stupid question.
Participant: It is incredible how many of these things I’ve heard.
Adams: I think it’s just a like a fraction, I think there are other things.
Participant: Where do they—Do the unions teach them how to subvert – It’s unbelievable.
Adams: It’s like in the water, at schools and in the bureaucracy. This is just how it is when you go into other education programs at your district school, just how all that stuff is written.
Participant: So it’s out there.
Adams: It’s all there, it’s what the union– So the union has (unintelligible) people as well. I think the main thing with it though, I feel… the education world is not good at those things. The one thing they are just stellar at, and props to them, is defending their power and what they’re doing. Anything that they can– I think they are all signs of a lack of accountability, a lack of quality. [01:15:00] I think that those are all the things you say. Those are all like the spontaneous things one would say to avoid having to change something or to open yourself up to that.
Participant: I think you can just acknowledge it. I wouldn’t have thought to document it. You’ve talked about (unintelligible) a list like this to show this to your school board member say, “Look, this is not just us. This is not just this superintendent. This is not just this..
Adams: Well, thank you. It’s not a plant. [laughs] I was just going to say one of the things that I do with boards is send me a presentation that some district staff are given and they’ll have whatever the response is for a recording of it or whatnot. It’s like, what do you think? Is that true? Is that accurate? I’m like, “You should ask for this.” That’s not true for this case, right? Go ask for this thing or I’ll ask for it. One district we were working in, they’re like review these new curriculum proposals. I get in there, I review the initial things and I’m like, “Well, it looks like there’s access to this thing that one should have.” There’s a whole actual teacher side that they didn’t share access to. Board members don’t necessarily even know which things to look for. When something’s given to them. Is that everything there? What should I be missing? What’s missing? Eventually, it took a while, but we got them to grant access to all the things that they should have probably done off out of the gate.
Participant: You had a bullet up there about the board solicitor not being your ally. I think it’s true when we talk about risk averse (unintelligible) something that won’t create any controversy. Then how do you as a parent or a board member, if they’re staying, let’s say in Pennsylvania boys in the girls’ bathroom, and the answer is, well, by law, we have to allow that. The solicitor is like, “Yes, by law, you have to allow that. How do you challenge that knowledge legally?
Adams: Well, I think one thing is that you’ll notice– Specificity is the thing that we’re missing and it’s the thing that movements can also miss in general. A lot of the things that we’re pushing against are things that are so common sense, so no-brainer that you run on it and talk about it and like, “Yes, we just got to stop this thing.” Yes, obviously, but then we forget. We need to get specific in order to make it stick and then move it. With that, when they come back and say, “Well, we’ve been through the specifics. I want to see like, show me the statute and I want you in writing to explain how each part of it tells us that this is the case. Then you actually have something concrete to go on. For a lot of board members, I think you can look at it and say, “Well, okay, that doesn’t check out to me. That doesn’t actually seem to make sense.”
I know that this is an issue in general with all this. I know that there are a lot of folks that nationwide and at the state level, we’re trying to figure out how to support school boards on the legal front because it’s really hard to trust (unintelligible) School boards can also hire their own attorney in addition to one that is already there in the district by also having some state-level second opinion as it were in law to be able to weigh in on these things and tell them that. Now, if you’re in a state like New Jersey that we talked about today or yesterday, whenever it was, where the attorney general is suing over these things, the interpretation of the law could be correct.
This is one of the things that’s important here. You could even have the right interpretation of the law and you still get sued for it. Money’s not actually an issue in education. It’s just not. It’s all going to admin positions and salaries, and all these outside programs. They get really afraid (unintelligible) the lawsuit thing is on their side. They’re going to have to recognize that even if they’re right, but in the wrong political climate, that they could get sued for that. I think one has to ask that the question, the bathroom thing, is it worth taking the risk on to having a lawsuit and paying money to fight that? What are we talking about? How much do we care about this here? I think some of this is these things go back to the board members asking, “So we shouldn’t? We shouldn’t take this step because of this?” [01:20:00]
What they’re really afraid of is not actually the lawsuit thing. I know on face value that’s what it is, but in reality it’s the next election because it’s– What they’re really afraid of is that they’re not going to get re-elected if it’s like, “You involved them in this huge lawsuit that cost the district all this money.” The district can, most districts, they’re fine on the money front with this. The real question I think is just, you got to put yourself out there in the State of Florida, but I know a lot of people are trying to work on figuring out ways to get it on a legal front (unintelligible) on school boards with this, it’s a huge problem.
Participant: Can you give some advice on a superintendent who gives some school board members, that they have permission from the principal when they are allowed to go into their schools in their district and they try to contact the principals, they’re ignoring their calls. It’s like the superintendent (unintelligible)
Adams: This is a tricky thing and it’s interesting, a couple points. Normally a board doesn’t get involved in– They hire a superintendent. The superintendent hires everybody else, but they– Normally they’re not involved in stuff like that. Normally they shouldn’t be on campus very often. I think when you’ve burned all the bridges of trust, then it’s a dereliction of duty at this point, you have a responsibility to be able to do that. Unless the state statute says that you cannot do it, the board can change the policy to say that they’re allowed, when they’re elected to come up on the board.
The superintendent may very well be right that the board policy currently says that they cannot, the board can change that. The superintendent may say it’s their own policy, fine. The board can come up with a policy saying, “No, actually this is the board’s policy now,” right? No joke, when board members get on there, and they are sent to or if their state board-affiliated (unintelligible) they come and they tell me two things. They say, “Your job is to pass the budget, hire a superintendent.” That’s it, check out. Everything else, whatever the district wants, you give it to them.
Remember, the superintendent is the employee of the board. That is how it works. I would not have the– The superintendent does not have to be on that email. The superintendent doesn’t get copies of all the correspondence that the board has with everybody. The board has one responsibility, and that’s to answer to the people, not the superintendent. The superintendent has a responsibility to answer to the board, who answers to the people. And the admin staff have a responsibility to answer to the superintendent, to the board, to the people, and teachers, and so forth. That’s how it’s meant to work, and I think we need to get back to that, and be able to see that.
One interesting thing though, is I’d be interested in if– Board members are also citizens, they may be able to just visit their schools because they’re a citizen. In that case, then you have policies like– I can’t believe this, I know Sarasota School Board wrote a while ago to finally allow parents to walk their kids to their classrooms. I don’t think I’ve ever– I feel like my mom was always going into my classroom growing up and talking to the teachers. I don’t even know when this shift happened, but it’s a–
Okay, COVID. All right, so it’s another thing that they’re using there, but I would even say that these board members as citizens themselves can go into, as constituents are able to go in. They’re not separate from– The board is representation we choose from our neighbors. Somebody to give voice to all of us, and they act on our behalf. Don’t forget about that. That goes both ways, that they’re both a citizen of a community and that they represent that community.
Okay, well thank you for sticking around, and being here. At the end of it, I have a part of a (unintelligible) while we’re here, but keep up the great work. It was a real honor for Tiffany to ask me to come and talk and best of luck.