The entire board for the Oakley school district has resigned following a shocking exchange in a virtual board meeting, where one board member claimed that parents were upset about schools still being closed because “they want their babysitters back.”
The board members were unaware that the video was going out live. One member threatened parents, saying, “Are we alone? If you’re going to call me out, I’m going to f– you up.”
“People forget there’s people behind those letters people are writing. They want to pick on us. They want their baby sitters back,” said Lisa Brizendine, board president.
Brizendine resigned later in the day. The rest of the board resigned the next day.
School Superintendent Greg Hetrick issued a statement saying, “Last night at the Oakley Union Elementary School District Regular Board Meeting there were unfortunate and truly inappropriate comments made that were heard by many. These comments are not typical and more importantly they are not what the community should expect from our school district.”
He added, “The comments made were not in alignment with our Vision and are definitely not what any of us stand for as leaders. I know that we lost trust with the community. I will not make excuses for what happened or why it happened. I am the superintendent. I am responsible and accountable and I am truly sorry for what took place … I know that our students deserve better from us.”
The parents had begun an online petition demanding the board resign. It got 7,000 signatures in a matter of hours.
“Why isn’t a public school going back? I think that video shows why. Not because we can’t, but, because we have a school board that doesn’t have the interest of kids at their heart and they don’t want the feedback from parents,” Will said.
Will went on to say, “And we’re not going back to school because we can’t we’re going back to school because no one really wants to make the effort because we’ve seen it elsewhere.”
Brizendine apologized for her statements. “We were having a private conversation because we were really struggling at that moment with all the Board comments coming in because we want what’s best for the kids so badly,” she said.
If you want what’s best for the kids so badly, why can’t you open the schools? Private schools have been open for weeks, observed Oakley resident Thomas Will.
“I think we all need to take this step back and realize how shocking it is that there’s been no real progress forward to get back to in-person learning because we see it around,” he said. “Private schools have been back. My daughter goes to a private preschool. She’s been in in-person learning.”
We like to think that our teachers and administrators want what’s best for our children because that’s what parents want. I believe the Oakley school board thinks they care, but they’re human. They care only as much as their own lives allow them to. Some administrators no doubt think like board president Brizendine — that it’s a job and people should get off her back. Many others see teaching and administering schools as a serious responsibility.
The pandemic has exhausted all of us. But I doubt no more than a handful of school officials would agree with the board president’s comments.