Urban Education: Public Comment at the School Board

As previously mentioned via adorable baby animal, my school’s budget is getting absolutely shafted by funding cuts for next year, thanks in part to a process called Results-Based Budgeting.

For reasons that I’ll probably get into in a subsequent post, my particular school is being disproportionately shafted in the funding/budgeting process, and our somewhat unique nature–a “slope” school which is neither awash in Title 1 money nor lavishly funded through well-heeled parents–gives us a bit less to work with to fill in the holes.  We’re not taking this lying down, though, and a part of our response has been to advocate for our site during the public comment periods of the school board meetings.

So, I went to one last Wednesday evening.  Missed the first public comment window, but got in my speaker’s card for the second one, which is always slotted to take place about mid-way through the meeting.  Sat for three hours of deeply incomprehensible rambling, about “Lease Leaseback Construction Delivery”, whether or not to amend half of the sixth paragraph of an MOU with an NPA (which, according to the Agenda, would increase the “fuuding” of said NPA by several thousand dollars over the length of the MOU), and how to get the bell and speaker system in the “New Classroom” portables of a school with declining enrollment to be fixed for an amount less than $10,000.  Absolutely, Captain Smith, that deckchair looks smashing on that side of the rail .

At last!  9:30!  Public comment number two!  35 people, each scheduled for 3 minutes, and…two thirds of them had left by that time.  My name was at the bottom of the list, for which I am now exceptionally grateful.

Because every other speaker called up to the microphone had only one agenda, and it wasn’t RBB.  Person after person, man woman and child, taking their three minutes to say that the man killed three weeks ago by a District police officer was someone they loved and someone they grieved.  I’d heard about the shooting, knew the public reports.  He was in a stolen car; he might have reached for a weapon.  It hadn’t been on school property, but a dance was being held nearby.

This, though, was off the record.  A cousin wishing the officer had Tazed him.  An attorney, showing 3 unsettled lawsuits against the same officer for previous assaults against unarmed black men.  A little kid, reading a scrawled note into the bent microphone, in a monotone voice.  My brother helped me do my homework.  I’m angry because you killed him.  The mother brought 5 photos of the gunshots in her son’s body, held them up for public record and then apologized to her remaining kids when she suddenly realized that they were watching also.  Sorry, babies.  You weren’t supposed to see that.

My name was called.  I stayed in my seat.  When is one kind of outrage outranked by another?  All I knew, in that moment, was that this wasn’t the time.

The dead man’s youngest brother stood at the back, his braids neat and tight, watching the people in suits and the people holding signs and the people like me sitting between them in the middle of the room.  The board called for a recess.  As I left, I stopped to tell him I was sorry about his brother and what happened.

The little boy thanked me–this tiny little boy, growing up so far from my reality in one of the roughest parts of Oakland, surrounded by bad odds and worse decisions.  His brother was his hero.  His brother stole a car.  I wanted that child to come to my school.

Everything we do.  Everything we fight for.  Some days, you just worry that it’s never enough.

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One Response to Urban Education: Public Comment at the School Board

  1. Linda says:

    Oh, my. My heart is in my mouth.

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