Two Cortez school board members resign over decisions over racial theory, COVID-19 – The Durango Herald


A community member addresses the school board with concerns about the district’s school program in this August screenshot.

Live broadcast from Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 school district

Schuenemeyer cites the politics of race and mask. “They dig their own hole,” says Flaherty

Montezuma-Cortez school board members John Schuenemeyer and Chris Flaherty resigned Thursday, citing disagreement with the board’s decisions regarding student masks and critical race theory.

Flaherty was sworn in to represent District G in January 2020. Schuenemeyer was elected to the board of directors in 2009 and served as president for four years.

“Basically I was really unhappy with the way the council was going in terms of the decisions it was making regarding the students for whom we are responsible and felt that I just couldn’t serve effectively,” said Schuenemeyer.

Schuenemeyer and Flaherty both said on Thursday that they disagreed with the district’s position on several topics, including COVID-19 and critical breed theory, and that this had peaked after the meeting monthly board of directors on Tuesday.

“They’re digging their own hole,” Flaherty said. “I don’t want any of this.”

Montezuma-Cortez School District School Board RE-1 on Tuesday passed a motion to approve a document titled “Resolving the Clashing Principles of Critical Race Theory.”

The board formed a committee to comb through the school curriculum and remove traces of critical race theory that it deemed “ingrained.” These efforts will now begin with the motion passed.

Schuenemeyer was the only board member to vote against the motion. Flaherty was absent.

Schuenemeyer said he was concerned that the motion would eliminate diversity in schools and that the board’s efforts should instead focus on issues such as staff shortages and teacher compensation.

The board on Tuesday passed a motion to increase salaries for teachers who cover other classes in the event of district-wide staff shortages, as well as for SSE paraprofessionals.

An excerpt from Schuenemeyer’s resignation letter reads as follows:

“CRT is a very complex subject taught at the graduate level in a university. The resolution declaring opposition to Critical Race Theory approved by a Council majority on September 21, 2021 did not contain: 1) a definition of Critical Race Theory, 2) described who is qualified to make those judgments, 3) Indicate how teachers will participate or 4) Describe an appeal process. In approving this resolution, the Council ignored the fact that nearly 50% of our students are not white.

Other council members disagreed with Schuenemeyer’s point of view on critical race theory.

“We always learn from the wrong – you don’t blame people for it, you just say, ‘We’re going to learn from this so we don’t start over,’ Board member Sherri Wright said at the meeting.

Board member Sheri Noyes echoed Wright’s sentiments.

“We’re not trying to get rid of all culture, diversity, anything like that – it’s completely just the racist part,” said Sheri Noyes, board member. “No one should apologize for anything, no one should blame anyone for everything that happened eons ago, years ago – it shouldn’t be in our school yet. today.”

Schuenemeyer and Flaherty said they both spoke with teachers in the district about critical breed theory.

“They see it as an effort to remove any element of the educational material that presents indigenous peoples and other non-Caucasians in a favorable light,” said Schuenemeyer.

Chris Flaherty is sworn in as a school board member by Phyllis Lockhart, then Executive Administrative Assistant for Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1, in January 2020.

The Journal file

From what he gathered from teachers, Flaherty said the current Spirit and Wisdom program is “just a guideline – not ‘you have to read this.’ “

Forrest Kohere, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Montezuma-Cortez Middle School, addressed the board earlier at the Critical Race Theory meeting.

“The amount of work it takes to internalize and teach a new curriculum should not be underestimated,” he said. “Coming back to school in the fall and finding the board of trustees forming a committee to reopen and possibly end our program has been devastating. “

Flaherty said he believed the board “appeased” members of the community and had “a constant disregard for professional recommendations.”

Schuenemeyer said he was disappointed with the council’s decision not to require students to wear masks.

“I thought it was a big mistake,” he said. “Because health officials – Marc Meyer and others – have recommended that if we are to overcome this, we have to do it. “

On August 24, the council voted 5-2 – with Schuenemeyer and Flaherty opposing it – not to impose masks on students.

Schuenemeyer said he had received hate messages for his opinions.

“You should be able to take on these volunteer positions and disagree with your colleagues and community members without receiving hate mail,” he said.

That’s not what primarily bothers him, however, he said.

“As a scientist, I wish I could have people have rational and intelligent discussions and disagree,” he said. “But in the last two or three months, the whole situation has gotten pretty ugly. “

Flaherty said he feels the board doesn’t always make decisions that represent the broader interest of the community.

“Everyone has their own personal opinion on the issues,” said Flaherty. “Once you set the agenda for a meeting, you put it all aside. “

Flaherty said “morale is really low” in the district.

“I hope it can turn around quickly,” he said.

The resignations came the same year that former school board member Lance McDaniel was ousted from his post after close scrutiny of a series of controversial social media posts.

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