Camas, WA — Amid a backdrop of outside protests Monday evening, including one man who screamed outside the board meeting window for more than 30 seconds (https://youtu.be/V1Ey7SwsejI), the Camas School Board heard from several parents who lashed out about equity programs, critical race theory proposals and mandatory mask wearing in classes while voting to approve $79,000 in robotic and cordless vacuum cleaners for Dorothy Fox, Grass Valley and Prune Hill Elementary schools.
The robotic vacuum expenditure was approved near the close of the meeting, which started by a motion from School Board Director, Doug Quinn, who felt the expense will pay for itself over time and reduce district labor expenses. Quinn was named Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, and will be recognized next week at a formal dinner.
The board voted on the proposal, which came from Custodial Supervisor, Ben Starbuck, who said the robotic fleet of vacuums is working nicely throughout the school district (including an expansion to Jack Will & Rob Center, The Heights Learning Center, Woodburn, Lacamas Lake Elementary, and Woodburn Elementary.
The board voted to approve $59,000 for 125 S4 Max vacuums and $20,00 for nine cordless Proteam backpack vacuums to support the new cleaning teams being created at Camas School (CSD). The custodial team has been piloting the robotic fleet of vacuums at Liberty Middle School, Helen Baller and the ZAC Administration building.
The results, said Starbuck, free upwards of two hours of labor time each night allowing custodians to focus on other tasks. The battery powered vacuum cleaners allow custodians to clean areas the robots cannot reach.
Early in the meeting, during the public comments time, school board members heard from concerned parents who are for and against equity programs, as well as Critical Race Theory.
VIDEO OF SEVERAL PARENT COMMENTS: https://youtu.be/jabhjJ60odw
Camas Education President, Shelley Houle, spoke about supporting teachers.
“To say that the last 14 months have been tough is an understatement,” Houle said. “We learned to adapt amidst this growing pandemic … We learned to plan quickly for changes, we navigated four to five different schedules just this year … Too often, we are defined by association and not seen for the individuals we are and it’s disheartening to hear public attacks on the Camas teacher union especially in our small town.”
“Our fabric is made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds so who are we? We are White, we are Black, we are Asian, we are Indian, we are deaf, we are parents …” she continued. “Some of us wanted school to open more quickly and some of us wanted to wait until rates dropped significantly.”
Kenric Thompson lambasted the school board.
Citing district documents, he said: “Implmentation of the following core practices. Current forms of oppression: I will identify and disrupt my biases and own my privilege. I will dismantle practices and policies that perpetuate oppression. It goes on to say: ‘Draft curriculum for adoption, selection, creation for emphasis on correcting historical myths and disinformation and including multiple cultural perspectives.’ This sounds like a hidden agenda.”
He said that CSD would continue hiring for affinity groups when hiring for the district and will “discriminate against those who not within these groups.”
“What does this teach our children when CSD is going to openly discriminate or oppress those who may be more qualified but don’t fit the CSD’s equity and liberal agendas, and this is exactly one of the tenets of the Critical Race Theory.”
He said “you as a school board answer to the people who put you there. You answer to us the citizens of Camas.” And, he encouraged parents to pull their kids from the district.
“You have placed politics and woke agendas ahead of children’s education and knowledge. We the citizens of Camas and Washougal are going to take back our communities and our schools. We are strong, united, we are growing and boy do we mean business.”
One parent said “it’s apparent to me we’re living in a very narrow-minded community, a community that is not thinking about those who are not highly represented.”
He added: “I can get on board with this anti-racism curriculum not working because it won’t and the reason why it won’t is because the individuals who are steering these young children aren’t going to be steered by the teachers delivering the curriculum it’s the parents who they go home to every single day, and if those parents do not have a view of the world around them that is not narrow-minded the curriculum won’t work, so the challenge to me is to the community to think outside of the box, think outside yourselves, and think about those around you. I’m scared for my three beautiful brown children …”
The School Board meets every two weeks.