The last two School Board meetings have focused on the video of the Executive Director of DEI. Yet, there are many who spent their Public Participation time attacking residents and other organizations. As one of the individuals who was targeted by members of Equal UA, I spoke at the March meeting. Here is my speech in its entirety. Following it is my speech from February.
It has been almost two months since the original video of the Director of DEI surfaced. How can the Board condone an employee who is dishonest with parents? At a time when we all should be focused on excellence in education it feels like that mission has taken a back seat to a culture war and a political movement. At a time when we should all be wearing black and gold, a part of our community chose to wear red in protest.
At the February Board meeting, the Board President reminded speakers to be respectful and to remember that our common UA interests are love for our students, our schools, and our community. I would add to remember our deep respect and appreciation for our UA school teachers.
At the February Board meeting one would have expected two viewpoints. However, if you go back and listen, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, there was one set of speakers who questioned the transparency and accountability of the schools. The other set, the red shirts, didn’t discuss substance, they attacked individuals. Typical political move – if you can’t win on ideas, get emotional, bully, call names, and most importantly, lie. Fabricate the positions of others. I am sure the Board will hear their lies repeated this evening.
It is my belief and opinion that Equal UA pretends to support diversity, yet some members attacked a respected Christian organization at the February Board meeting. There was a litany of anti-religious remarks. It was stunning. Since their inception, Equal UA has been spouting a lie that Upper Arlington residents are racists. It is their reason to exist. I have never encountered a neighbor who fits their description. UA is a kind and caring community. It seems some members of Equal UA believe it is their job to “teach” all of us how bad we are, and that we need to be “re-educated” to their world view. Arrogantly, some think it is their job to tell us what our children should think. It is anything but Equal. It’s ironic that an organization that talks about inclusivity is the most divisive group in UA.
It is also my belief and opinion that one of the leaders of Equal UA spouted lies about how schools are funded and the oversight of charter schools. She described a well-respected Columbus organization as trying to harm children by helping local churches open schools for low-income students, some of them minorities, stuck in failing schools. Local church schools will give children a way to escape their failing schools and attend a school close to home. The Backpack Bill does NOT defund public schools. Why would any UA resident be against better schools for underprivileged children?
Attacks and lies continued unabated. They brought up a word imagery “warehousing children”, to stir emotions of their supporters, and pit neighbor against neighbor just as they did against an outstanding UA mom and community member during the last School Board campaign. No one in UA has ever suggested warehousing children. EVER. But truth is not what these hate baiters are after. They will use anything to keep division alive, even if it takes exploiting innocent, vulnerable children to do so.
One of the biggest jokes of the last meeting was when the Red Shirts claimed I was run by a national organization. I graduated from UA at a time when we WERE one of the top-ranked high schools in the state. I received an excellent education. I was taught to think critically. I was taught to look at all sides of an argument. I was taught different points of view – not just one. I was taught to tell the truth. So, I’ve lived here most of my life, and I have 3 kids who are UA graduates. I have a Masters in Education. I did NOT need an outside organization to tell me that the things going on in the School district are failing our children. I’m smart enough to do that on my own.
The red shirts showed you last month that anyone who does not bow down to their altar, will be publicly crucified. I bother them because they have not shut me down or shut me up.
The speakers labeled me an extremist.
Is it extreme to expect that Parents are in charge of their children’s education?
Is it extreme to demand the District put their entire curriculum online for parents to view?
Is it extreme to ask teachers to tell parents what they are reading in their classes?
Is it extreme to demand that ALL children feel safe at school?
Is it extreme to expect consequences if a staff member violates Board Policy?
Is it extreme to demand that the School Board follow the Ohio Sunshine laws?
Is it extreme to expect the Superintendent and School Board to tell the truth to the Ohio Board of Building Appeals?
Is it extreme to demand the schools focus on academics?
Is it extreme to expect the schools to teach HOW to think instead of WHAT to think?
No, these expectations and demands are not extreme, they are just common sense.
Going forward, I hope the Board will put a stop to this cowardice and bullying tactic that hijack the Public Participation time of board meetings. Public Participation time should be focused on how to partner with you to improve the quality and excellence of UA schools and how to better serve the families, teachers, and staff of the district.
President, Upper Arlington Education Coalition
February 2023 School Board Meeting – Public Participation statement by Cathy Pultz
I want to thank the Board for the time and effort you have devoted to the DEI issue. I appreciate how hard you are working, and I congratulate you on finding a new Superintendent.
First, I want to say I am sorry that you had to deal with the group at your Special Board meeting who felt that rules did not apply to them. In order to try to get what they wanted, they disrupted the January 19th Special Board meeting.
There are rules and regulations for Board meetings to keep you safe and the meeting orderly and equitable. I was shocked to see camera footage of audience members yelling their opinions at the Board. To see Board members treated so disrespectfully was disturbing.
The DEI Director was recorded saying the same thing. If you don’t like a law or rule, just ignore it. That is what happened at the Special Meeting. Rules for everyone else, not for them.
The School Board members have been gracious enough to listen tonight and to amend the time limit to let everyone speak. It is appreciated.
Next, I would like to focus on the disappointment and shock I felt when I saw the video. I met the Director of DEI as soon as he was hired. I appreciated learning about what he was implementing in our schools. I loved the idea of using The Longest Table in Upper Arlington. I volunteered to be a Table leader and attended a training session. The event itself was amazing. It re-emphasized what a special community we share in UA. People met individuals they might never come across in their daily lives. My table had excellent discussions. I heard nothing but praise after the event, and I emailed the DEI Director to thank him.
Should we ask for a show of hands to see how many in this room ACTUALLY attended The Longest Table, the DEI Director’s signature event? The results might be interesting.
It truly was sad to learn that there was more of an agenda behind the DEI department than what parents were led to believe. You cannot have someone in our schools who does not trust the parents. And parents must be able to trust the Administrators.
In reality, this episode is not totally unexpected. For years now there has been a pattern of deception. There were incidents in every UA school building where parents were not informed of the curriculum. They found out after something had been shared or after it had happened. Their children were upset. Yet, there were never consequences for the teachers or staff. Honesty was not expected or required.
As the Board stated in their email, the District has a long way to go to instill trust again with parents. With a new Superintendent arriving soon, it is time to step back and review where our District stands in terms of DEI. The District does NOT need to spend more money or time bringing in an outside consulting group. After all the time, effort and money already spent on DEI, it is astounding that the District cannot define clear and measurable goals. As you see this evening, each person here seems to have a different definition of DEI. Allow Dr. Hunt to evaluate the needs of the District in all areas, including DEI, as you go forward.
A few hours ago, I received a copy of a post by one of the leaders of Equal UA. It described me as well as a well-respected community member as being anti-public schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. So, I added a new paragraph to my speech. I graduated from UA. I have 3 children who graduated from UA. My husband graduated from UA. I spent over 15 years in the PTO helping all of our schools. Why have I spent so much time invested with the schools if I thought public schools should be boycotted? The anti-Christian and racist tone of the post is alarming. There are more falsehoods in the post, but this is not the place to address them all. Restoring civility in our community is important. Voices from all sides should be heard and not shouted down. Lies need to stop. The School Board cannot allow groups that throw out hate and division to control what happens in our schools.
Transparency, Accountability and Trust must be the focus utilized by the Board and the Administrators as you try to repair the damage that has been done. I believe you have the power and will to do this. You must remember that you are here to do what is best for our children. Parents are vital partners, and they must be told the truth. Thank you.