LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Thoughts on monitoring our Bemidji school board
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to email@example.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
Local school boards nationwide are becoming the entry grounds for far-right conservatives to impact how we educate our students.
Born out of fear of indoctrination, organizations like Moms for Liberty and Parents Alliance are helping to seat people on school boards with beliefs that, if put forth, have the potential to undermine diversity, equity and inclusion in our district.
These efforts are well-organized and very well-funded. We had our own slate of five run as a pack in the 2022 election, with three now seated on our Bemidji school board.
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As one of many concerned constituents, I recognize the importance of monitoring these meetings; therefore I attended the January meeting via the district’s YouTube channel.
In this letter I wish to point out one portion of the meeting when a couple of slate members tried to push a vote on a topic on which the rest of the board seemed unaware they’d be asked to weigh in, that being the inclusion of the vice-chair in setting the meeting’s agenda.
Other members spoke to needing more time before being asked to vote on a topic just added to that night’s agenda, taking seriously their role as board members to have sufficient time to research issues and be thoughtful in their response and thus their vote.
Those who wanted the vote taken that evening spoke passionately about this change bringing more transparency to the district.
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I want to thank Superintendent Jeremy Olson for making the point that without prior notice, an agenda item that gets added at the last minute actually reduces transparency by not giving the public a chance to weigh in, nor does it give other board members an opportunity to delve into the question thoroughly. In the end, this topic was tabled for the February meeting.
I found it interesting, also, to hear one of the district administrators speak on the topic of open meeting law which prohibits individual board members from engaging a quorum outside of a board meeting, either together or separately, on any school board-related topic.
As I’ve said publicly before, when people run as a slate they are sending the message that they have a common agenda and will vote as a block.
I, along with others, will be monitoring any tactics that undermine fairness to push ideologies that can impact what is good for all students in our district. I encourage you to do the same.