The Santa Barbara Unified School Board on Tuesday night decided to move forward with a racial climate assessment in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. From there, the district will issue a request for proposals on how to develop a plan to create diversity, inclusion and equity in schools.
“We can be better if we commit to doing better,” board member Wendy Sims-Moten said. “Things are gonna change regarding racism.”
Assistant Superintendent Frann Wageneck gave a report in response to recent racial incidents in schools. In February, more than a dozen people, including the parent of the victim, told the board about a racist incident directed at a Black student at Santa Barbara Junior High School. Some members spoke Tuesday night about a separate TikTok video in which Black students were targets of racist attacks.
“We’re gonna change this,” Sims-Moten said.
Sims-Moten called for a regular, standing item on the agenda that addresses racism and anti-Blackness in schools.
“Not in this loud moment when everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon and be part of something,” Sims-Moten said. “It might be politically expedient for folks. I am just going to speak very frankly here because that’s what it feels like. When it’s loud and it’s out there and everybody wants to address it, everbody is there. But when it goes away, the families, and the folks, and the students that are dealing with it, they are still dealing with it. So we can’t let our public voice go silent.”
Members of the public criticized the report, saying that it was not specific enough to address anti-Blackness in schools.
Krystle Sieghart, one of the co-founders of Healing Justice Santa Barbara, said the report was “tone deaf” and that the district did not reach out to Black people and families before making the presentation.
“Again, who are you doing this work for, and who is it serving, because it is not serving Black people,” Sieghart said. “At this point, it is very laughable because we continue to come into spaces to educate you, but you continue to not want to work with people who will hold you accountable and really do the work.”
She encouraged Black families to reach out to Healing Justice SB directly.
“We are here to support you,” she said, “and we love you even though the district continues to fail your children.”
The report outlined a series of steps for how to respond to “incidents of bias.”
Board member Kate Ford urged everyone to acknowledge that racism is a choice.
“This town is full of racists, including in our schools,” Ford said. “Racism is a choice, and until we commit that and admit to addressing it, no amount of training for adults or consequences for adults or students is going to work.”
School Board Tackles Law Enforcement on Campus
Although the board took no action, the district staff presented a report designed to “reimagine school safety.”
Among the ideas on the table are to reassign the current school resources deputy at Dos Pueblos High School and hire a full-time officer to oversee Dos Pueblos and San Marcos high schools and Goleta Valley Junior High by patrolling the outside of the campus and responding on campus if there’s an incident.
Last year, the district removed the school resources officer from San Marcos High School in response to the San Marcos campus group Cops Off Campus! SB Student Coalition. Many students believe that officers on campus unfairly target students of color and other underrepresented groups and contribute to feeling unsafe.
In addition, the district plans to conduct annual anti-bias training for all staff and create school cultures that are affirming and inclusive of all students; hire staff to work with students, families and social support service agencies, i.e. licensed clinical social workers to ensure wrap around services are coordinated; increase and enhance the role of the campus safety assistants through training such as mental health first aid, alcohol and drug abuse etc.; and conduct regular safety assessment for physical plant (strategic camera placement, lighting improvements, enclosing some areas, vape sensors and traffic flow.
“We’re absolutely willing to work with Santa Barbara Unified and the City of Goleta in reimagining school safety, but as proposed there are some significant challenges,” Chief Deputy Sheriff Craig Bonner told Noozhawk. “We are willing to sit down and discuss this and think of other ideas, but at the same time we have this overarching concern that we are not going to create something that is more harm than good.”
Sims-Moten said whatever is decided, “we want this to be a student-centered conversation.”
Maldonado’s Contract Extended
The board approved a one-year contract extension for Superintendent Hilda Maldonado.
Her contract was set to expire on June 30, 2023, but now it will expire on June 30, 2024.
She earns $250,000 annually.
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.