At last month’s State Board of Education, President Kathy Goldenberg announced she has requested that the Murphy Administration’s Department of Education resume in-person meetings and forgo Covid-driven remote meeting, most likely to provide more opportunities for the public engagement. Members, she said, have asked the DOE to “procure a secure and accessible platform for the benefit of all constituents….We are still asking the Department to do this for us.”
A month later that hasn’t happened.
Tomorrow, February 1st, the Board will convene once again through Microsoft Teams (here’s the link), despite a bill proposed in September requiring State Board meetings to be in public instead of hiding under the guise of “ongoing public health concerns.”
That’s a GOP proposal, one astonishingly seconded by NJEA leaders: “It’s time, past time actually, for the State Board of Education to resume in-person meetings,” New Jersey Education Association spokesperson Steve Baker told Politico. “Work that affects the public should be done in public and very few institutions affect more New Jersey residents than our public schools.”
Today the Star-Ledger notes that many other state and local functions have resumed in-person meetings. Anyway, it’s not like the State Board marathons draw standing-room crowds. What’s the hold-up? Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMIllan doesn’t say; heck, she didn’t even show up for the last State Board meeting. (There’s a proposal in the Legislature that would require her to attend all State Board public meetings, as well as another that would require all State Board members to be there in-person in order to be recorded as present.)
Paula White, Executive Director of JerseyCAN, had this to say:
We are all back in person, certainly teachers, schools, and all the places and spaces that were locked down. Obviously, COVID has not gone away, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason at this juncture for the state board not to convene in person. I think it’s important for folks to be able to sit in the room and make eye contact or have a two-minute conversation after the meeting is over.
Why the delaying tactics? If there are Board members who have Covid-health concerns, why not offer hybrid meetings?
This DOE has earned a reputation for truculence, ignoring public outcries about everything from lackadaisical oversight during the pandemic; failure to produce adequate guidance when schools reopened; its inability to confront the digital divide between richer districts and poorer districts; Allen-McMillan’s warped focus on gender identity and other hot cultural issues instead of math and reading proficiency; her inability to fully staff the Department (there are currently 147 vacancies) and retain leaders with institutional knowledge; and the extraordinary delay in releasing last spring’s student proficiency scores, even to the point of point of ignoring demands from state leaders for transparency
It’s not a good look yet worse than bad optics because these failures further damage students and families trying to recover from the academic ravages of pandemic-interrupted instruction.
You’re kidding me, right? The NJ Board of Ed refuses to meet in person?
Even after all the controversial changes they made to public school curriculums?
Local school boards are meeting in person, so should the State Board. Stop hiding behind e-meetings. https://t.co/ntzuHVMRz7
— Jack Ciattarelli (@Jack4NJ) January 31, 2023