Book donations from The Conscious Kid and masks were two highly-discussed topics at the Northampton Area School District board meeting on August 9.
The Conscious Kid book donations were first brought up at the March 8 meeting, and were tabled to ensure compliance with Policy 109 and readdressed at the July 19 meeting, where it was met with opposition; the matter was tabled again and brought up again on August 9.
School board president David Gogel stated that the book donations comply with Policy 109. To summarize, Policy 109 states that “resource materials shall be chosen based upon the interest and learning value for students in the community,” and “shall not be discriminatory in nature.” Further, “resource materials shall be provided which present all points of views.”
Gogel went on to explain that the books comply with the policy for many reasons, including that they address diversity, which is both timely and important. He also stressed that the books will be placed in the library and will not be required as part of the curriculum. Finally, per Policy 702, any gift or donation accepted by the school board is not an endorsement of “a commercial product, business enterprise or institution of learning, or philosophical ideology.”
Upon hearing this, district residents were given time to express their opinions on The Conscious Kid and their potential book donations.
Two residents, and parents of children in the district, supported the acceptance of the donations.
One cited the NASD’s mission statement in his comments. He also stated that “just as silence condones bullying, ignoring differences in our community makes people feel overlooked and pushed away.” In short, he believes that children should be exposed to a wider range of cultures and people to build acceptance, community, and other important character traits.
Many others, however, expressed their continued opposition to the organization and donations.
Kim Bretzik addressed the misconception about the issue at hand. Many seem to believe it lies with the books, rather than The Conscious Kid organization itself and the district creating an affiliation with them. Another resident brought up the connection between the organization and critical race theory, while another wondered why parents were not involved in the procedure.
After a lengthy discussion, the board approved the administration to pursue books and other resources to diversify student’s perspectives. The board did not say whether they are approving or denying the donations from The Conscious Kid.
Masks will be optional inside NASD buildings and required on school buses, per the Health and Safety Plan presented at the July 19 meeting. However, this could change with the rapidly evolving Coronavirus pandemic.
Residents came forward to speak on this issue as well. Many were grateful that masks would be optional.
In other business, the board accepted the resignation of Jennifer Johnson effective July 30, and will begin the search for her replacement within the next 30 days. There will be an election in December for two school board seats as well.
Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik reminded everyone that Lehigh Elementary is ready for the students’ first day on August 30 and will be holding two open houses before then. The first is on Saturday, August 14 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the second will be Wednesday, August 18 from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
The Northampton Area School Board will meet again on August 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria.