School board meeting Aug. 15 marks official return to livestreaming
ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Unified School District (AUSD) met for its regularly scheduled school board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m. This meeting signified the AUSDs official return to livestreaming their meetings. The district originally stopped livestreaming its meetings back on Aug. 2, 2022.
All meetings in the future will be livestreamed on the AUSD’s YouTube channel, though an interactive feature that would give at-home watchers a chance to comment on the meetings has not been added at this time. You can find the Aug. 15 meeting and all meetings going forward at youtube.com/@atascaderounified4053/streams.
Andrew Weatherly, the president of the Atascadero District Teachers Association (ADTA), addressed the school board at the start of the meeting. He stated that he’s been in direct communication with Assistant Superintendant of Human Resources Dan Neff regarding the fact that some special education teachers are wanting to leave the district. He also addressed the Atascadero Middle School teacher, Jen Pence, who was asked to remove a pride flag from her classroom.
“Teachers have the right to have things up on their walls,” Weatherly said. “ADTA, California Teacher Association, and National Education Association has a firm belief that pride and LGBTQ is permitted in the education system.”
At the top of Oral Communication from the Public, AUSD President Corinne Kuhnle addressed the large crowd in the room. She reminded people that usually, the limit for one topic is 30 minutes, with each speaker having three to voice their thoughts. She added that with the large stack of “request to address the board of trustee board” cards, everyone would be heard on the topic of the pride flag displayed in the AMS sixth-grade classroom.
Superintendent Tom Butler addressed the crowd that was so large that it did not all fit into the board room. He made a point of clearing up some misinformation regarding the situation with Pence.
“Thanks, everyone, for being here this evening. We’re looking forward to hearing from everyone. Did want to clarify a couple of pieces of information that appear to be completely inaccurate. First and foremost, there’s no discipline; there’s no evaluative process happening with the teacher along the topic that many of you are here to discuss,” stated Butler. “In addition, I can tell you because I talked to the principal directly, there was no directive to do anything with the material. I want both of those things to be cleared up. ADTA shared that they support all students. This district has a deep commitment to every student, every parent. We want to see your student succeed to the greatest level they can. We have goals behind us about respecting, valuing, working together, collaborating, giving our best effort at all times, so that includes involving everyone in our district. So I wanted to make sure those two things are cleared up.”
Moms for Liberty in San Luis Obispo County Chapter Chair Trisha Murray addressed the board first. She stated that she was originally there to talk about classroom decor. She added that calls to action were then placed by the Central Coast Coalition for Inclusive Schools and the Gala Pride and Diversity Center because Moms for Liberty would be in attendance.
“No one in Moms for Liberty is calling for a teacher to be fired,” stated Murray during her time at the podium.
Oral Communication from the Public lasted over two hours, with most of the comments made being about the incident with the pride flag. Students, parents, and faculty all spoke, and most were in favor of the flag being a part of Pence’s decor.
“It has come to my attention that there is a limited degree of parental concern regarding the posting of a rainbow flag in one or more classrooms. As a parent, educator, and concerned citizen, I believe it is important that all voices be heard, including those with whom I may disagree. By listening and exploring other opinions, we learn how to become better citizens. Censorship of those we may not honor or agree with does not belong in an inclusive and enriching learning environment,” stated one community member as she read a letter she had sent to the board earlier that day.
The few community members who were there to oppose the pride flag being hung on the wall in the classroom stated that teachers should show verbal support to their students but should not present it in classroom decor.
“My concern was, you have a teacher who was offering some support, some visual support for a very marginalized group and wanted to create a welcoming environment in the classroom,” said one parent.
“Not sure whatever situation led to that flag being taken down; my concern is that flag was taken down, and those students saw that flag being taken down. And that was a very clear communication to those students.”
Butler thanked all the members of the community who came out to speak to the board at the end of Oral Communications from the Public.
The next regularly scheduled AUSD school board meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m.