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Board Meeting Summary - July 19, 2023: The DEI Plan & Flag Policy Votes

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan - Agenda Item 6.1

The Bad: The DEI Plan was approved in a 4-1 vote, with only Trustee Vurbeff voting no.

The Good: The Board majority unintentionally sabotaged the DEI plan, guaranteeing it will fail.

I will do my best to describe the bizarre discussions that led to the approval of the plan, but I recommend clicking the time-stamped link below to watch the 20 minutes of discussion yourself. https://youtu.be/69pUa3sHBk0?t=10076

Trustee Pearson initially stated that he would be voting “no” because there was no evidence that DEI Plans are effective. He shared that he and Superintendent Churchill met with the Poway Superintendent to discuss the Poway DEI Plan (which ours was copied from) and were told that there was no indication that it was working and no way to know if it was. Trustee Vurbeff had already summarized her opposition for many of the same reasons, including how divisive the plan has been for the community and how CUSD already has multiple programs in place to reduce discrimination, promote kindness and clubs for student groups, and fund developmental training for educators.

No one can make sense of what happened next, but Trustee Williamson claimed that if the Board would agree to eliminate the proposed “DEI Director” position and instead give all of those job duties to Michael Ecker, CUSD Coordinator of Student Services, the DEI Plan would work. She gave no reason for this other than her personal feeling that Ecker was the only person who could make DEI work. CUSD Staff recommended against this change, stating that Ecker has a full plate at his new job.

With no explanation, Trustee Pearson suddenly decided to ignore all of his previous objections to DEI and change his vote simply because Williamson was convinced that Ecker would make DEI work.

This didn’t end the debate, because Trustee Rallings objected to eliminating the DEI Director and said she wouldn’t vote for that change. Williamson then doubled-down and stated that she wouldn’t be voting for the DEI Plan unless this change was made, so Rallings then reluctantly agreed. Trustee Ward also objected for the same reasons, but after Rallings explained to her that it was the only way to get the DEI Plan approved, Ward also agreed.

The Board approved several other changes to the DEI Plan made by Williamson, such as dramatically increasing the goals for academic improvement for at-risk groups (without any explanation for how this could be done) and focusing all training and programs on the “No Place for Hate” program that we previously identified as including objectionable gender and Critical Race Theory content.

In the end, the DEI Plan was approved in a 4-1 vote, with only Trustee Vurbeff sticking to her position that the DEI Plan is divisive, ineffective and lacking any evidence to show that it will work. Watch the DEI Discussion Here: https://youtu.be/69pUa3sHBk0?t=10076


Revision of Board Policies - Commemorative Flags - Agenda Item 6.2

Although not stated anywhere in the materials, this proposal to amend Board Policy 6115 was brought forward to allow CUSD to fly the Pride Flag in June during Pride Month. Of course the problem is, it opens up the discussion about which other flags could or should be flown during other days or months to recognize other groups.


This is a political and legal land mine, but you wouldn't know that from the Superintendent's presentation, which ignored all of these issues and simply recommended approving it without even a hint of the risks. Despite this being a request made by Trustee Rallings at a prior board meeting in May, the Superintendent also made the unusual decision to recommend approving the policy instead of just presenting it for discussion and consideration, again exposing his personal bias on this issue.

Fortunately Trustees Vurbeff and Rallings were prepared with a few relevant questions pointing out the flaws in the District's current practice of flying flags and the problematic issues with implementing a new policy to fly different flags that didn't make the underlying determinations of who decides which flags to fly clear. The questions from Trustee Rallings made it clear that she wanted the district office and school site principals to be able to fly a pride flag whenever they wanted without needing a formal policy, while Trustee Vurbeff's questions pointed out the confusion and legal ambiguity of even the recommended policy change, which would still not provide a process for either the Board, Superintendent or Staff to request or approve the displaying of any flag other than the US and California flags. The Staff ended up trying to clarify some of these problems on the fly, but only added to the confusion.


Instead of creating a policy which allowed certain additional flags to be flown or restricting the types of flags to be flown, the Board simply voted against the proposal, leaving basically everyone confused about the existing and ongoing policies regarding which flags can be flown and at which campuses.


Watch the Flag Policy Discussion Here: https://youtu.be/69pUa3sHBk0?t=15559



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