(An open letter written by an FHSD mom and FHForward leader, Jamie Martin)
I was disappointed to see the last minute change to the agenda so soon before the holiday break. Please VOTE NO on the action to rescind approval of the SPLC standards OR move the agenda item to the January meeting AND amend the action to more explicitly state its intent. I ALSO ask that you make your concerns and justifications for the actions known in public discussion. Please note the concerns outlined below:
1) Timing and Transparency in Curriculum and Meeting Agenda Processes: Director Cook's comments on social media suggest that your elections were a mandate to eliminate these classes, and no public input is needed. But elected officials do not have a license to act with impunity. I urge you to consider this concerning position, as it shows neither a good faith effort to engage the community nor an attempt to consult with the district's appropriate education experts. Furthermore, a rush to remove the courses from the 2024-2025 elective options does not demonstrate preparation or wisdom in decision making. Such lack of planning and preparation should not be cause to forgo collaborative processes.
2) Student Dignity, Learning, and Workforce Preparedness: Overwhelming research now points to the power of belonging being positively associated with an increase in academic performance and a decrease in negative behaviors. The concerning effects of toxic stress related to a racially charged culture/climate. With this understanding, many surrounding districts now offer similar course options. Please address the concern that eliminating these courses could have a negative impact on student learning in the following ways:
A likely decrease in a sense of belonging and affirmation among students of color, which in turn is likely to result in further negative outcomes.
Students in Francis Howell will receive less exposure than peers to multiple historical narratives and to issues concerning diversity in general, making them less prepared to enter the workforce.
3) Clear Justification and Intent: As the action does not explicitly state that the Black Literature and Black History courses would essentially be removed from elective options, the intent is not clear. It is also unclear why the board feels the need to remove classes that are not compulsory, since parents already have the option to forgo the material. I urge you to make a motion to amend the action by explicitly stating the intent to remove the elective classes. I urge Directors Cook and Bertrand to publicly detail their concern with the long-standing Southern Poverty Law Center and its standards specifically. The organization has an impressive history in the Civil Rights movement, and if the Directors feel that legacy or the standards themselves to be questionable, they are obligated to make their concerns known publicly.
Concerned Parent of four FHSD students and President of Francis Howell Forward,