Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 15, 2009

Black, pink, Rinso white, invisible

Filed under: Alameda, School — Tags: , — Lauren Do @ 6:38 am

Yesterday morning on KQED’s forum, Trish Herrera Spencer, Tracy Jensen, John Knox White, and Kerry Cook all went head to head (well John Knox White and Kerry Cook over the phone) to talk about AUSD’s anti-bullying curriculum.

All in all  it was an interesting listen, the funniest part was the email read by Michael Krasney by a “Dave” (soooo many Daves in Alameda) who sarcastically mentioned that if anti -Lesson 9ers (for lack of a better title) were successful in getting LGBT explicit curriculum out of the anti-bullying then he would sue to get kids to stop wearing Christmas sweaters (Christian indoctrination) and the lunchrooms from serving turkey sandwiches (meat eating indoctrination).   Funny stuff, problem was Michael Krasney’s non-funny reading of it.   But I redrafted it in my head with proper intonation and giggled.

The other funny part, not funny ha-ha however, were the softballs lobbed by Michael Krasney at Trish Herrera Spencer to “help” her out in a sense.   After an email pointed out that despite the rhetoric currently being used by Trish Spencer and others  and that their message has changed drastically from when Lesson 9 was first introduced to now,  all signs point to the messaging being changed in order to exclude LGBT references.   Michael Krasney immediately goes to Trish Spencer and asks:

“Trish Herrera Spencer, you’re not advocating — I just want the record clear on this — that LGBT discrimination be excluded from it, that you want just a more general approach to anti-bullying that would include and be inclusive with…correct?”

No, Michael Krasney, not correct, not precisely correct at all.

Well, it is correct if you are talking to the Trish Spencer that exists after the new curriculum was adopted that will be pulling together a book list that speaks about all protected classes individually and explicitly.   Then yes, this Trish Spencer would much rather have a  generic anti-bullying curriculum that speaks in general terms even though only less than 20 minutes ago she recounts the story about a Muslim girl who was bullied and the district not having any tools to directly address that type of bullying.

But, if you were speaking to the Trish Spencer that existed before Lesson 9 was adopted, then no, this Trish Spencer wanted to suspend all anti-bullying lessons  until such a time there was an explicit curriculum that addressed all the protected classes, in her words, a curriculum that “goes to reducing bullying against all of our students and enumerating the six protected classes: religion, gender, LGBT, disability, race, ethnicity, and…um…uh…I’m not sure if I left one out…disability, and also disability. ”   Of course that was before the community committee had taken the job for which they were tasked and recommended that an explicit curriculum be developed to cover all protected classes.

But of course, such a drastic swing from one side (explicit curriculum for all groups) to the other (generic curriculum) would be too hard to explain in an one hour show.   Or too hard to justify without facing the reality of the major flip flop from one side to the other.

And on the subject of Trish Herrera Spencer, I have to say that was very uncomfortable with her characterization of some of the books that are a part of Lesson 9, she goes on to lambaste these books saying that they don’t portray African America students in the “best light,” particularly the Kindergarten book and the third grade book.   She essentially says that the Kindergarten book is not the “best light” because when the two black kids in the book play with each other they have sad faces, but when they find white kids to play with they are happy.

The the other problematic book was the third grade book where the white father is wearing a suit, the Latino family is shown in casual clothes, and at the end there is a black family where the little boy says, “mother is dark skinned, but father is light skinned, and he’s in between” and because no other families talk about the shade of their skin, this is not portraying African American students in the best light.

Seriously?

Look, as a person of color who is pretty hyper sensitive to issues of race, I found the examples that Trish Spencer gave to be pretty lame.   I can see where’s she heading on those two examples, but it smacks of really reaching.   First of all, the notion that two black kids have to play with each other and be happy is pretty ridiculous.   As the only Asian kid in my class when I lived in Kansas, I was pretty fricken offended when the year after I moved away and was still pen paling with an old friend at that time mentioned that a new Asian boy had moved to the school and that it was too bad I wasn’t still at the school because we could have dated.   I guess the assumption was that because we were both Asian we would obviously want to hook up because our ancestors were from the same continent.    Kids that find that they can be accepted into the wider community and have friends of all different colors does not reflect African American in a negative light.   It just means that we are not all that different — personality wise —  and that we can all be friends despite our differences.

The the thing about the clothing is just absurd.   For all we know the white man wearing a suit could be a host at a mid-level restaurant making little more than minimum wage.   And the Latino father (or mother) could be an executive at Google.   Talk about reading way to much into appearance.

And then the thing about dark, light and in the middle.   This is a much more complicated and complex issue that goes beyond just the African American community.   I can’t think of one community of color that doesn’t have an ingrained and systemic issues about darker skin folks in their own communities being less attractive than lighter skin folks.   (skin bleaching anyone?) That the book only touches on the issue within the African American community is not casting blacks in a negative light, but showing that even within one individual race there is diversity and that all shades are indeed something to be celebrated and that recognition is not a negative portrayal.   Chris Rock touches on this issue, but around the subject of hair.

Anyway…in more AUSD new, staff is recommending approval of the Academy of Alameda charter application.

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42 Comments

  1. 15 paragraphs and, if I counted correctly, 13 of them lambasting Trish Spencer. That is quite a ratio since there were three other opinions on the show in addition to Krasney’s and the multiple callers. That seems a little excessive to me, especially after having watched those many school board meetings.

    Lauren, I think it is you who are “over sensitive” rather than Ms. Spencer, who has consistently advocated curriculum with equal treatment for all classes rather than singling out any group for exclusive attention. Many callers made the same point. I think you are reading into her comments what you want rather than hearing what she is actually saying. Krasney heard what she said, why can’t you?

    This is a blog, not news; you are entitled to your own perceptions and opinions most certainly. But, I think your credibility suffers on all topics when you repeatedly carry such an exhaustive and personal vendetta to print.

    Comment by Gary — December 15, 2009 @ 7:49 am

  2. Gary,

    As somebody who easily latches on to going negative individual characters (i.e. I am hyper sensitive about the down side of getting personal)I hear you loud and clear.

    Comment by M.I. — December 15, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  3. Above, towards Do’s end: “And then the thing about dark, light and in the middle.”

    You certainly got that right! I was constantly bullied in my younger years because my face (and the rest of my body too) was absolutely covered with freckles. My mom told me that when I popped out, even the attending nurse laughed and said I looked like a cork. Well, it was bad enough to be bullied at birth and if it had stopped there, I’d have probably been okay with it…but it didn’t. No, they had to nickname me “corky”. and I had to live with that absurd slur all through my school days. That and all the fights instigated by persons of color who liked to try to beat up “that freckled kid”. Even later when I was in the military, foreign persons of color mocked me by saying ha, ha…you have speckles. You can’t imagine the humiliation..no you can’t.

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 15, 2009 @ 8:57 am

  4. Hi Gary:

    Trish Herrera Spencer has changed her opinion on the anti-bullying curriculum from when the subject first came up with the introduction of Lesson 9 and until today when the community group has offered up a comprehensive curriculum that does specifically what Ms. Spencer was very concerned about months and months ago — which is to create explicit curriculum address all the protected classes.

    As much as Ms. Spencer and others would like to change her record on what she said in the past, it’s all there.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 15, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  5. that post #2 was posted prematurely. Now I must follow through on an expansion. I almost posted to Gary’s previous comments along the same line last week.

    Ms. Spencer is a volunteer who spends a lot of time in her BOE capacity and I respect that. There are also a lot of other people who have invested much time and emotional energy on this subject as well as others and we all have thresholds for our frustration.

    I don’t say this simply to justify piling on Trish, but it is what I started to comment last week. Those of us who basically support the Lesson 9. have had to deal with the frustration of the recall, the law suit and some folks, also the new committee to fine tune the bullying curriculum. Spenser’s inconsistency gets pretty irritating.

    In an early master plan meeting where charters where a main topic Ms. Vital lead off with a thorough presentation on the subject including the negative fiscal impacts, which I think most of us heard as pretty much closing the door on chartering the whole district. Nobody questioned it at that point. Very late in the meeting Ms. Spencer asked if we were not going to discuss charters, specifically taking the whole district charter. One had to wonder if her question was for show or if she simply didn’t hear what the rest of us heard.

    If she felt the subject was not thoroughly discussed it was an obtuse way to try to revisit it. It’s my opinion that when a subject does not get the response from the rest of the board which Ms.Spencer wants she is prone to belabor it. Once she went as far as to try to make a motion beyond the agenda, which had it been acted on would have violated the Brown Act.

    Again, I want to give Trish her due, but it’s hard to hold back the frustration with the way she goes about executing her charge.

    Comment by M.I. — December 15, 2009 @ 9:07 am

  6. Comment by Jack Richard — December 15, 2009 @ 9:17 am

  7. Gary,

    As someone who obviously listened to yesterday’s show and feels strongly about the issue, what did you see as the point of Spencer’s hijab bullying story, especially in relation to the topic of anti-bullying curriculum and LGBT?

    I’ve been wrestling with it ever since. Because it doesn’t seem to jibe well with the issue of not dealing with specific bullying, the case Ms. Spencer had just made. And it didn’t seem germane to the issue of LGBT issues, except to possibly marginalize them.

    Comment by John Knox White — December 15, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  8. Speaking of marginalizing, JKW, you are the only one I heard trying to do it. You had to lump everyone who disapproved of this ineffective method of teaching tolerance with the people who voted for prop 8. That would include the very thoughful commenter from Oakland, Amy I think, who said you need to teach children how to recognize and deal with their emotions, rather than inform them on topics they are not ready for.

    Comment by AD — December 15, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  9. Look, anyone who has watched even one board meeting since Trish came on board will no doubt understand where Lauren’s frustrations are coming from. Watching the vote on Lesson 9 last week would have been comical if it was not so sad. Trish was practically jumping out of her seat with glee thinking this lesson was going to disappear because of a technicality. What kind of big picture leadership is that? Bottom line is she’s 1. either very busy pandering to her constituents or 2. easily confused by straight forward information. AUSD desperately needs real leadership not divisiveness.

    Comment by a board watcher — December 15, 2009 @ 10:17 am

  10. #1: “Ms. Spencer…has consistently advocated curriculum with equal treatment for all classes rather than singling out any group for exclusive attention.”

    That’s right. So why, after the board voted on exactly that kind of inclusive curriculum last Tuesday, did she say on the air yesterday, “we have no lesson that is (about) ally, empathy African American, ally empathy Muslim…” (like we do, under Lesson 9, for LGBT). Did she perhaps not understand the vote on Tuesday?

    BTW, she cast the sole NO vote on that curriculum.

    Comment by verybusyspider — December 15, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  11. Jack Richard is probably the most intelligent poster on this site (outside of me of course ^_^). People take this stuff WAY TOO SERIOUSLY

    Comment by E — December 15, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  12. this whole thing reminds me of the sex ed episode of South Park, where the school board decides to teach sex ed to kindergartners so they are knowledgeable about sex.

    link, nsfw of course http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/103934/

    Comment by E — December 15, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  13. # 7 JKW. First let me say that I appreciate your articulate and plain spoken comments both here and on the airwaves. Even if I may not agree with your content in full, I appreciate the tone.

    I think that what we have is a forest for the trees problem. I understand and am fully sympathetic to those who are intimately involved with bullying, prejudice or public ridicule of any type, for a single or multiple issues. I, like most everyone, has been on the receiving end of such language/fear/abuse.

    However, I believe we all lose when each battle, small or large, is turned us vs. them, you are either with me or against us argument. This is what I see has happened to everyone’s detriment in Alameda.

    The worthy argument against all bullying has turned into a set of parallel and competing arguments, one group vs. another, to demonstrate who is the most aggrieved. If you are not with me, you are against me. Attacks are personal and question the honesty and integrity of the individual not logic, or lack of same, of their position.

    Ms. Spencer is questioned for “changing” her position as if each vote was on the same set of issues from beginning to end and completely overlooking the possibility that she might have a valid procedural question about the process, especially last week. Perhaps her understanding is different from others, as a trained lawyer she may be more cognizant of process than others who are more issue oriented. Perhaps we need to listen more carefully to fully appreciate what is actually being said rather than filtering to reinforce our preconceived notion.

    The bigger picture, here on our little island, is that we are about to fall off a financial cliff. From the master plan information shared so far it is absolutely clear that if a major parcel tax increase is not passed to support what the AUSD’s surveys have identified as desired, the schools as we know them historically in Alameda will be gone.

    To the outside world, and probably a very large number of folks here on the island, the extended and divisive fight over Lesson 9 looks like we are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The boat is about to go down and we are distracted and divided by this issue rather than pulling together to find a way for all AUSD students to excel in a positive environment.

    Finally, since everyone seems want to demonize those who are not with them, here is an on topic quote form David Brooks’ column in today’s New York Times, Brooks is summarizing what he believes is President Obama’s view: “So as you act to combat evil, you wouldn’t want to get carried away by your own righteousness or be seduced by the belief that you are innocent. Even fighting evil can be corrupting”.

    If we can develop a healthy forest, we’ll have great trees too. If we remained fixated on a tree, the whole forest may be lost.

    Comment by Gary — December 15, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

  14. Gary,

    Regarding the dire financial condition of the school district, do you support the petitioners who are trying to force the district to pay for an expensive election to recall school Board members who voted to support anti-LGBT bullying curriculum in a city where the overwhelming majority have already shown their support for the LGBT community by voting “no” on Prop 8? The petitioners have made this issue a fiscal issue.

    Comment by Jill Staten — December 15, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

  15. Jill,
    I don’t support the recall for many reasons, the expense issue being at the end of the list.

    That said, I think it is a conflation to assume that just because someone voted against Prop 8 they are automatically for Lesson 9. I do think that the majority of folks in Alameda are against bullying of any type and support teachers to that end. But again, I do not think that makes them necessarily for or against Lesson 9. This issue is just not that simple; it is not either/or.

    Thanks for your question.

    Comment by Gary — December 15, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  16. A lot of postings here have forgotten that bullying was not the core reason behind Lesson 9 and the new curriculum. Reflection of LGBTQ Children and their families in the curriculum is the primary focus. Until Lesson was approved there was absolutely no recognition for these children and their families in any aspect of the school environment. This was not lost on Trish Spencer and others who oppose acknowledgement LGBT people. Acknowledgement of all of the other protected classes are woven through out the curriculum and school life. Trish has done her best to derail this process with out ever actually saying she is opposed. I don’t anticipate the she will be asked by the voters to return for a second term.

    Comment by Gary Paul — December 15, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

  17. I’m all for taking the energy that has gone into this battle and investing it in supporting a renewed parcel tax. At the Dec. 8 School Board meeting Sean Cahill expressed the willingness of CARE members to get behind the parcel tax campaign.

    I do believe that the most shrill voices against the curriculum (who have been the most willing to put the District through unnecessary expense and who now threaten opposition to the parcel tax) amount to just a handful of individuals. Their influence won’t be that great, if their failed lawsuit and donor-less, signature-less recall petition is any indication.

    When I was on the Community Advisory Committee for the curriculum, there were some individuals (the less publicly visible ones) who had their discomforts with Lesson 9, but with whom I had respectful, trying-to-understand conversations. I’m hopeful that folks like these (the true silent majority of the minority who opposed the curriculum–if you’ll excuse the clunky phrasing) won’t jeopardize their own children’s education by opposing the parcel tax. And I’ll be glad to work side-by-side with them again.

    Comment by Michael Williams — December 15, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  18. Gary Paul,

    I believe you are putting words in Ms. Spencer’s mouth. See my previous comments above. I have spoken with Ms. Spencer directly and in detail about these issues and I do not believe she has any desire to not recognize LGBT students or adults. In fact, I think that her intent is exactly as she has repeated ad nauseum; she wants everyone to be covered in all respects. Just that simple if she is taken at her word and actions rather assuming she is acting in code.

    Gary

    Comment by Gary — December 15, 2009 @ 8:19 pm

  19. I thought the Forum show was much like the entire discussion we have been having on the anti-bullying/ pro-inclusion issue(s) for years. And I share others’ confusion and dismay at what seem to be Trish Spencer’s cluelessness, misunderstandings of the proceedings, her changing stances and positions, and/or whatever it is that I have witnessed. (I’m still not sure what that is…)

    John Knox White and Tracy Jensen spoke directly to the issues, IMHO, and I found Kerry Cook and Trish Spencer’s contributions to be less on-topic, less accurate, and tending towards the obfuscatory.

    Of course I have my biases–I was called a fag and worse in grade school, never mind that the slurs were inaccurate, they still hurt today. And I heard kindergartners using the same insults at Franklin Elementary when I volunteered as a noon supervisor 2003-2006.

    I also trust that the God in whom I trust wants us to treat all children and other people well, and would not condone bullying or harassment, especially in Her name…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — December 15, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

  20. Whoops, left out a key word in the last sentence I see after I pressed the magic send button. The last sentence should read:

    Just that simple if she is taken at her word and actions rather than assuming she is acting in code.

    Sorry for the error.

    Gary

    Comment by Gary — December 15, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

  21. If Trish really meant what she said in August she would have voted to implement the superintendent’s recommendations on 12/8. There is no other reason she wouldn’t have voted for the curriculum she asked for.

    Comment by Gary Paul — December 15, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

  22. Gary,

    I appreciate your willingness to engage in a conversation on this difficult subject as well. Two quick thoughts.

    I read your comment about Prop 8 (in response to Jill) as an extension of the erroneous comment from AD. While I have not gone back and listened to the show, I believe I said that I wanted to reflect the values I believe a large majority of Alamedans hold with regards to LGBT issues and used the Prop 8 vote as an indicator of such, I didn’t say that”if they voted against Prop 8, they’re pro-Lesson 9″ as if there’s a one-to-one connection. If that was unclear, I apologize.

    To my earlier question/comment. I fell that when people are discussing the need for overcoming decades of accepted anti-lgbt behavior and two people step into the conversation to say that there’s no need to address this specific issue. And to make their point, they use a story of racial or religious bullying in the schools, suggesting each instance is an argument against specifically addressing LGBT bullying (something both Kevin Wood and Trish did on Forum). It comes across (to me at least, and I dare say others as well) as pitting groups against each other. When instead of saying “more needs to be done” with regards to bullying and race or religion or whatever, They say that because this happened to X we shouldn’t address what happens to Y, the result has a hierarchical feeling. X’s concern must be more important than Y’s.

    The irony in Trish’s instance, is that Ms. Balde (who’s story she was telling) started her own “lesson 9″ to introduce the Islamic religion and culture to Alameda Kids. She worked with the schools to have parents come in and talk about their beliefs and customs so that it was less foreign, more personal, and in the end more difficult to bully (not impossible, but more difficult).

    The specific instance that supposedly proves that Lesson 9 is indoctrination, used more or less the exact same strategies that Ms. Balde used to get to the heart of what her daughter faced. Personally, I say good for her and good for the schools. I’d also say that this is a road map for dealing with issues that the LGBT community have identified as existing in Alameda’s schools, issues I have seen personally on many occasions.

    Lesson 9 teaches existence, that’s it. It reflects the reality of the world we live in. In fourth grade (Long after Teacher Amy suggested it was inappropriate) it begins to give kids some minor context to discuss issues the are living within, using words that they are already using and interacting with. Just as Ms. Balde and her partners in tolerance did, when they set about visiting classrooms and introducing themselves to kids.

    Comment by John Knox White — December 15, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

  23. Gary Paul,

    Go back and listen to what Ms. Spencer said at the meeting on 12/8, go back and listen to what she said on KQED Monday morning and what Mr. Krasny heard and accurately restated.

    Ms. Spencer stated her reasoning, whether any of us would agree with it or not, quite clearly.

    Your conclusion is your own rationale applied to another person and it is inaccurate.

    In is fine to disagree, it is not fine to attribute the conclusion of your own thought process to another in contradiction of their own clearly spoken words.

    Gary

    Comment by Gary — December 15, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

  24. JKW

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    I think that we basically agree, but have a different perception regarding what I would call specific to general or general to specific.

    It was my perception from early on that the majority of folks who also opposed Lesson 9 (and are not religious conservatives) did so precisely because they wanted to include everyone; they wanted more and did not want to exclude or diminish the LGBT component. Unfortunately, at the same time this position was construed (by both the “for us or against us” folks, on both sides apparently) to be a coded way of being against LGBT in any form.

    I can only speak for myself, but have had many others agree in detailed conversations, that I was against the proposed Lesson 9 because it was so exclusively addressed to LGBT rather than to all types of bullying against all groups.

    I would also certainly agree that the population, in general, has been late in providing the same support to LGBT folks that has been afforded to the other groups. But, two wrongs don’t make a right as the saying goes.

    Again, the LGBT has suffered long and it is easy for me to say let’s be more inclusive and tolerant of everyone. But, I truly believe that we will collectively, as a society, get ahead of these issues when we do it uniformly across all groups without limit or restriction rather than one at a time. I certainly can understand and appreciate how it would feel different from the point of view of a member of the LGBT community. It is my belief that we need to save the forest.

    What is most tragic is that the ideological disagreement that is currently being played out, with both sides so unyielding, results in each side playing to the other’s stereo type of it and hearing that language rather than what people are actually saying in so many instances.

    Comment by Gary — December 15, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  25. Gary,

    I agree with your direction, and I believe what the school board approved last week does what you suggest. Increase the overall broad bullying curriculum and at the same time, make sure that our schools are reflecting the diversity in our schools, including LGBT, at the behest of many of the voices involved in the discussion (including Trish Spencer).

    I completely agree that Silo-ing off each “group” is not something we want, but I also think that when one is overcoming decades (centuries? millenia?) of bigotry/insensitivity/discrimination, there are times where you need to take an extra step to address an issue.

    Many of the other “protected classes” have gone through this process, and there are many ways in which the schools already do this, whether it’s by participating in Black History Month, or whatever. Much of this work, for other specific groups, is woven into the everyday curriculum. LGBT is currently controversial in a small segment of our society (not including Houston, TX apparently), and I believe that Lesson 9, and it’s next generation (Lesson 9 2.0?) are attempting to introduce some semblance of baseline (45 minutes a year) into our curriculum. Is this silo-ing? it is to some extent, but I think it’s a mid-term necessity given the current situation.

    Just explaining my own position, not arguing against yours. I’ll leave with this quote, from the KQED website, which I thought summed up the need for special attention well.

    I have gone to schools in alameda county and have seen bullying based on sexual orientation perseived or real is far more common then racism. If a student is known for racial slurs turns them into an instant pariah. These students are in the minority but others freely insult L.G.B.T w/o fear.

    Comment by John Knox White — December 16, 2009 @ 5:59 am

  26. Gary,

    I’ve heard this a few times in this conversation, but I haven’t heard you address it directly: Trish Spencer was truly clear that she wanted all groups represented fully in the curriculum. On Dc. 8, was the sole vote against curriculum work aimed at just that.

    And it was the folks who initiated SERVE (particularly Dion Evans) who most loudly testified that all groups should be addressed in the curriculum, but after the District proposed its plan on Nov. 24, they began pushing for a “generic” curriculum. And, I don’t want beat a dead horse or for this to characterize everyone who had discomforts about the curriculum, but just after the Community Advisory Committee completed its work, the SERVE web site declared that its members were there to “fight fiercely to deter… the homosexuals and homosexuality sympathizers.

    One more comment, not to say this is morally at the same level as our local demagogues, but to emphasize our responsibility around language: As I’m writing this, on my radio a Ugandan official just said, “Anyone who doesn’t believe homosexuality is a crime is a sympathizer.”

    Comment by Michael Williams — December 16, 2009 @ 6:36 am

  27. Michael,

    Although Ms. Spencer voted against the curriculum on the second vote, she stated her reasons and should be taken at her word. She has and continues to support the global approach and the need for what she believes is proper procedure in the process. That simply means she has a disagreement on which path, not the destination.

    As to SERVE, it is my opinion that they have become disingenuous, if they have not been all along, and have hijacked the global approach and used it as a shield for their very narrow and unaccepting point of view. The contradiction you pointed out ably illustrates their manipulation. But, as I have previously stated, SERVE’s using this approach does not mean that others who favor a broad inclusion of all groups share the view of SERVE.

    Comment by Gary — December 16, 2009 @ 7:59 am

  28. Gary

    Both JKW and MW may have more eloquently stated what Ms Spencer’s true intentions are than I can but I stand by what I said. Trish Spencer is an obstructionist. She pushed for an all inclusive curriculum in August and when she got it on Nov 24th she voted against it. She is picking apart books that haven’t even been selected yet. Pushed for a watered down program opposite to what she asked for in August. She asks the same questions over and over again only resulting in frustration of the Superintendent, the other board members and the public. What this board needs is strong leadership not someone who is trying to kill a program in part because it contains a book about 2 penguins raising a baby.

    My view is that she did it for political reasons. Pandering to her conservative constituents. Maybe you came into the process late but I attended all of the public hearings on lesson 9 and most who spoke against where not asking for a curriculum that covered all protected classes. They did not want LGBTQ taught to their children. That message was loud and clear. Dion Evans stood there and told the board that they needed to end racial discrimination before they adopted an LGBT curriculum. Then he went on the organize SERVE Alameda. How is that inclusive?

    Trish Spencer is not being honest. She can’t be taken at her word and does not deserve a place on our school board.

    Comment by Gary Paul — December 16, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  29. Trish Spencer does everything she can to play both sides of every issue. She has done it on LGBT and Charter schools. First she talks about parents having choice then at the last meeting she went on and on about how the Chipman Charter will take funds from the district.

    Moreover I am really sick of how she treats Ms. Vital and the other staff members. I think she visualizes herself as a member of congress doing a big inquiry. She thinks snide remarks and belittling make her superior.

    What is going to happen when the district needs to deal with teacher contracts?

    Comment by member of a real family — December 16, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  30. Two asides on this matter.

    I like Tracy Jensen’s observation at 30:25. If you tax supporting parents don’t like our method of subject selection and teaching, opt out of the schoold district! Go teach your kids to bully elseswhere! Way to go Tracy.

    And, I wonder, after listening to JKW describing his own children’s experiences in Alameda middle and elementary schools at about 38:43 of the narrative, what his response to his kids was after their experience’s were relayed to him.

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 16, 2009 @ 9:15 am

  31. Gary,

    I was at the Board meeting, and I didn’t hear anything from Trish Spencer that made a case for overriding her past insistence on a broad curriculum and voting against the good-faith effort toward her stated goal. I don’t hear much from you beyond giving her the benefit of the doubt. (“Perhaps her understanding is different from others…”)

    I spoke with Boardmember Spencer too, at length, and (this isn’t anything I didn’t say to her directly) although I appreciated her personal story and sincere worries about division in the community, she really seems unreflective about how she might be contributing to those divisions.

    But in the end, her vote was her vote, and the why of it can be speculated ad nauseum. Moving forward, it’s enough to say, without inferring intention, that Trish Spencer’s apparently contradictory stances and picayune objections have undermined her credibility–not only on this issue, but also on ones where she could play a more positive role, such as equity for West End students.

    Most, though not all, of the people who have worked for “a broad inclusion of all groups” also supported Lesson 9. As I’ve mentioned above, I won’t paint all who had problems with Lesson 9 with such a broad brush as to say they all buy into the rhetoric of SERVE or “Concerned Parents”. It would be nice though if more curriculum critics, like you, would publicly express their opposition to such talk.

    But I’ll settle for people engaging in the District’s budget concerns and working to pass the parcel tax.

    Comment by Michael Williams — December 16, 2009 @ 9:17 am

  32. After watching how the queer community is handling the lesson 9 indoctrination program, do any of you really still wonder why normal people treat them differently?

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — December 16, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  33. Given the general agreement and civil discussion on this post in favor of an inclusive curriculum, I’m not sure who Jeff R. Thomason thinks he’s convincing. The whole indoctrination thing is so unworthy of a serious response, that it’s best referred to the Alameda Daily Noose: http://alamedadailynoose.blogspot.com/2009/12/cindy-sherman-exposes-yet-another-case.html

    After watching the LGBT community reach out and work for the best possible curriculum for everyone, I’m proud to call myself a “sympathizer.”

    Comment by Michael Williams — December 16, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  34. From The Island interview with Ms Balde, Sept 18, 2009:

    “Still, when asked if she (Ms. Balde) would be comfortable with gay parents going into the classroom to talk about themselves, as she has encouraged parents she works with to do, she says she would not.”

    From # 22 JKW (above)

    “The irony in Trish’s instance, is that Ms. Balde (who’s story she was telling) started her own “lesson 9″ to introduce the Islamic religion and culture to Alameda Kids. She worked with the schools to have parents come in and talk about their beliefs and customs so that it was less foreign, more personal, and in the end more difficult to bully (not impossible, but more difficult).

    “The specific instance that supposedly proves that Lesson 9 is indoctrination, used more or less the exact same strategies that Ms. Balde used to get to the heart of what her daughter faced.”

    Are we to understand then, that AUSD has a policy that encourages any religious group or other group that feels misunderstood to gain entrance to the schoolroom and proselytize?

    Fact is, Ms Balde sued AUSD. Is that part of her lesson plan?

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 16, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  35. Trish Spencer has been very consistent with regard to Lesson 9 with her actions, if not necessarily her words.

    She opposes Lesson 9. She opposes any mention or acknowledgement of gay students or families in the curriculum. Each time she has taken a position (for a generic anti-bullying curriculum, for a curriculum that specifically details the various group, etc), the particular program at issue wasn’t important. Her goal has been to delay or dump Lesson 9 in favor of an interminable search for a replacement.

    It is the particular legislative tactic that she is has decided to pursue. While it would be far more straight forward for her to state clearly that she will never support any curriculum that explicitly acknowleges gay students or families, her actions state that position clearly.

    With regard to charters, I can’t honestly say that I have figured out the pattern yet, but on Lesson 9 there is no mystery.

    Comment by John — December 16, 2009 @ 5:37 pm

  36. I am alarmed that so many think teachers can’t correct young students exhibiting bulling behavior or any other kind of misbehavior. If a 3rd grader uses the word “fuck” do all the 3rd graders in the district need to be informed about what intercourse is, what it means to some on the basis of procreation or to others as a natural pleasure? Why can’t can’t teachers control classroom or yard behavior without a special curriculum? This is all BS and the next attempt at another parcel tax is dead before it is written.

    While the superintendant didn’t initiate this issue, she sure proved to me she does not know this community. perhaps I am not alone in my hopes for her draining away as I heard the director or maintenance, operations and facilities just resigned. Seems Ms Vital is losing support both in her halls and on the street. Time for a clean sweep and get our schools back to the core shcool values.

    Comment by Disappointed taxpayer — December 17, 2009 @ 12:58 am

  37. @ 33 “… it’s best referred to the Alameda Daily Noose.”

    You know your position is desperate when you start quoting the Alameda Daily Noose a the voice of reason. Thank you for underscoring my point :-)

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — December 17, 2009 @ 3:59 am

  38. Dear Disappointed Taxpayer,

    Did bullying go on when you were in school? How are a few teachers on the yard supposed to listen to every conversation and stop inappropriate behavior? How come it is so bad to once a year remind kids that there are all different kinds of families and you can’t tease someone when theirs is different than yours?

    As far as Ms. Vital she is the best thing that has happened to this district in a long time. I have attended most of the Master Plan meetings and some school board meetings and am finally hearing someone talk about real issues and ideas. Do you know the director of MOF? How do you know his leaving isn’t a good thing?

    Comment by member of a real family — December 17, 2009 @ 6:11 am

  39. # 38
    So, all this discord amounts to is one little message to kids once a year telling them there all kinds of different families? And by some magical means all bullying disappears? And you claim to be a “member of a real family”? I got news for you buddy.

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 17, 2009 @ 8:50 am

  40. “How are a few teachers on the yard supposed to listen to every conversation and stop inappropriate behavior? ”

    Another interesting question from the Thought Police …

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — December 17, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  41. #37. You know your position is desperate when it’s already a joke on the Daily Noose.

    #36. You’re willing to put your children’s schools at risk through non-support of the parcel tax because you don’t like the anti-bullying curriculum?

    Comment by Michael Williams — December 17, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

  42. 36. boy, that extreme rap sure sounds familiar. Does your first name start with a D perhaps, and last name with a…. oh never mind. If MOF head is leaving are you implying it’s due to the new superintendent or perhaps the LGBT curriculum? I think your rating of Ms. Vital is at least premature if not a complete fantasy, just like David Kirwin claiming on today’s thread that most people think favorably of Ms. Spencer. How could we honestly verify either at this point? If this master planning process is not getting down to the core, how would you go about it?

    38. my impression of MOF director was very positive when a group of people met to talk about retrofitting solar to schools.

    Comment by M.I. — December 17, 2009 @ 7:34 pm


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