BRAUN-SILVA: Supplemental Learning Is the Key to Combating Learning Loss During Times of UpheavalMarch 7, 2022
How Do New Jersey Schools Rate Through an ‘Equity Lens’? Not As Well As You’d Think.March 8, 2022
Central Regional School District is a small two-school district in Ocean County serving 2,800 students grades 7-12. Recently this district, in the Bayville section of Berkeley Township, has become an emblem of the current school culture wars as parents fight against mask and vaccination mandates, threaten to recall school board members, and demand the censure of classroom discussions about structural racism and LGBTQ issues.
These battles have infused school board elections and meetings across the country.
But rarely are board members blatantly racist, at least publicly.
Yet Central Regional School District is an exception. Last week parent Barry G. Kearney contacted NJ Education Report to call attention to social media posts of one of the district’s new school board members, Heather Koenig, who ran with fellow traveler Merissa Borawski on a platform of “stand[ing] firmly in favor of parental rights and conservative values for our children.” Two things worth noting: one, the school district is 70% white and and only 5.7% of students are Black. Two, Koenig and Borawski are white and Kearney is Black.
Here are three of Koenig’s recent Facebook posts:
I’m an active parent of two students who attend Central Regional School District. I have heard throughout the years how racist the district can be and I never wanted it to be true. But now I am starting to see what people have mentioned. It’s a shame that in times like these a school board member would post racially-driven posts on social media. I always believed when you take an oath of public service you should stand up and represent all the people in communities you serve. These posts disgust me. We need to do better with who we elect to serve ALL of our children. People who work with our children should not be politically-driven or motivated by divisiveness.
I don’t know what this lady was trying to relay but I want to make sure her judgement or lack thereof doesn’t have an impact on the children in our community.
Please stop the hate. Enough is enough. Why sit back a be a bystander and let people continue to divide us this is disgusting and appalling.
Community members agree with Kearney. Here are some comments on his Facebook post.
“How can an individual whom has taken an oath to make decisions for all students, post racist comments. As an elected official, you must conduct yourself with high ethical standards. This school board member needs to resign immediately.”
“It’s absolutely sickening! Well said! Daily it happens with Macaih at school and to say it was old or just happened, this has been going on for years! It’s just done out in the open because people don’t care.”
“I can’t believe in 2022 racism is still going on. As an African-American male, this bothered me very deeply.”
“This is really disappointing! The very idea that education should be about creating new generations who will lead our society into the future feels like it’s being lost.”
To his credit, Central Regional Superintendent Trian Parlapanides responded, “This is unacceptable and will be addressed. As an Alumni and Superintendent racism has no place at Central or society!”
But what can Parlapanides do? Koenig was duly elected and superintendents report to school boards, not the other way around. Meanwhile, students throughout the district suffer, regardless of race: according to state data, only 36% of student meet expectations in reading and only 32% meet expectations in math and the middle school has been identified as having a “low-performing student group” rendering it in need of “Targeted Support and Improvement.”
Meanwhile the two new school board members flaunt hate speech under the heading of “parental freedom” and shun collective responsibility in favor of “personal liberty.”
Tonight there is another school board meeting. Will the superintendent or other school board members address this mess? Stay tuned.