Questions for Steve Hope, Roger Nafziger
During the regular board meeting of the Goshen Community Schools Board, on May 8, 2023, I asked several questions of Steve Hope concerning a report by Accuracy in Media. This report included a video of one of our Administrative staff admitting to the School System hiding the existence of certain controversial activities from the public through obscure naming.
The report can be watched here:
Why is this a big deal? Whether or not people agree with the teaching going on, Goshen and the other schools involved with this are public schools. As public entities, they are to conduct their business openly and above board. They are also supposed to allow public input on the activities and practices utilized. Hiding them to avoid attention is the exact opposite of public and transparent. This is a major issue and a violation of our board policy and very likely Indiana law. As a board member, one of my roles is monitoring the implementation of our board policies and Indiana law. As such, I have questions about the issues referenced by our administrator in the above video. This benefits everyone, liberal, moderate, or conservative, as it lets everyone now how to make the best and most informed decisions for their children.
As mentioned above, I asked some of these questions publicly in the board meeting. The questions I asked did not require a lengthy investigation. The answers would have already been known by the Superintendent and potentially other board members. However, the Superintendent refused to answer the questions, only saying he would get back to me with the answers.
On May 11, I received a request from the Superintendent for the questions that I wanted answered. I sent the list of questions below and in response a meeting was scheduled for May 22 at 4:30pm between myself Mr. Nafziger, and Hope. In compliance with Indiana law and according to my rights, I wanted a record of the answers through a recording of the meeting to serve as accurate notes and an accurate record. In response to this, Mr. Hope and Mr. Nafziger abruptly ended the meeting, refusing to provide any answers to my questions even though these are not private matters. My list of questions is as follows:
Do you have/ have you watched the entire Noe interview?
Is there a currently meeting equity and inclusion committee by any name in Goshen Community Schools and do they keep records of their meetings in any way? Who sits on the committee now and since its creation?
Was the name of the equity and inclusion committee which was listed on the Goshen Schools website as of 2021 changed to work group or any other name - and if so why and who made the decision to do that?
Is it a committee and if so, who organized it?
It was stated in the press release that Mrs. Noe misrepresented Goshen schools. Please inform me as to how she misrepresented Goshen schools.
Why did you (Mr. Hope) say in the board meeting that she said emphatically that the school does not teach CRT?
Why did you (Mr. Hope) emphasize a denial of CRT when you have personally disseminated CRT material to at least all the principals and the Board?
Do you (both) believe in the theoretical principles of CRT?
In your opinion, did Mrs. Noe present an agenda other than academic education and excellence in the video recording?
Has Goshen Community Schools been above board, open, and transparent with the community of Goshen concerning the implementation of and faucets of instruction involved with an equity, diversity, and inclusion platform in a way that everyone, including those from other backgrounds and cultures can understand it?
What is the purpose or meaning of equity, diversity, and inclusion?
Can you describe to me the organization of the Redhawk Parent Advocate group that you meet with? Was it organized by you or by community members? What determines membership and who can attend the meetings each month?
Why was an email about executive sessions sent on February 22 to the entire board but not to myself? Are any other emails going to the entire board but excluding me?
Some commentary on the reasoning behind these questions:
Question 1. It is my understanding that Accuracy in Media would not release the whole video to Goshen Schools Administration until they apologized for essentially saying that Accuracy in Media was lying/deceiving the public through selective editing without even having seen the interview.
Questions 2-4 are in reference to particular board policies and Open Door Law. While some might seem odd, the answers are very important.
Question 5 is important for determining who all is involved and why. Presumably, the statement that she misrepresented the schools is only about the aired portion of the interview since they did not have the whole copy. Is there retaliation? Is it smoke and mirrors? Is the school system publicly saying one thing but doing another behind closed doors? Someone (or more) is misrepresenting the situation itself as well as the school.
Question 6. This question is important because she didn't (I have the entire unedited interview). Who is not presenting the truth here in both press releases and in public board meetings? The statement came from someone. "In a statement provided by Goshen Community Schools, the district asserts that the interview was edited, with Noe’s comments taken out of context. “What was not included in the video was an emphatic statement that Goshen Community Schools does not teach CRT,” the statement reads. “Further, the administrator also stated that Goshen Schools only teaches the Indiana state standards.” https://www.goshennews.com/across_indiana/video-circulates-of-elkhart-county-educators-acknowledging-crt/article_6b24c444-da1b-11ed-bcf9-87a31a5987e3.html
Question 7 is in reference to the book Mr. Hope was/or is studying with the principals of the schools:
Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap: Liberating Mindsets to Effect Change (Reduce Inequality in Education and Examine the Schools Roles in Superiority and Victim Mindsets) (Classroom Strategies) by Anthony Muhammad. This book was introduced to the board in December 2022 and each board member was given a copy at the January 9, 2023 Board meeting. Specifically, the following comments were made to the board:
Two books we are reading now, of which you will all receive a copy.
Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap by Anthony Mohammad, we are reading with principals. I will send you notes and discussion if you would like to read along. In this book, Mohammad outlines strategies to provide ALL students an environment for high achievement. This plays into our work of adhering to systems of best practices, rather than allowing teachers to do what they like, which results in an educational lottery and pockets of excellence instead of consistent excellence in all classrooms.
Districts that Succeed: Breaking the Correlation Between, Race, Poverty, and Achievement by Karin Chenoweth, is being read by the Central Office leadership team. In this book, Chenoweth outlines the importance of the central office leadership team in making sure that there is district-wide excellence and not just classrooms, grade levels or schools of excellence. Much like Mohammad’s book, Chenoweth looks at a systems approach and adherence to best practices.
I never received a copy of the second book. However, the first has an entire section dedicated to CRT. Specifically, the author states:
Critical race theory can help us better understand this complex topic.
Critical Race Theory
Critical race theory (CRT ) emerged in the 1970s when a group of legal and academic scholars came together to study the subtle nuances of the problems associated with race and equality in the United States. Multiple themes provide a foundation for CRT, including the following (Delgado & Stefancic, 2012).
Racism as a "normal" part of societal function: Authors of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (2012) Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic describe this phenomenon
as normal science, and because our society accepts it as ordinary, it is difficult to cure except for the most blatant forms of discrimination.
Interest convergence: A large section of the American population has no vested interest in eradicating racism. Wealthy whites have a material interest in maintaining racism, and working-class whites have a psychological advantage to uphold.
Social construction thesis (as previously highlighted in this chapter): Race is a product of social thought and relations. Its function is not a product of objective information or scientific fact; it is a product of social thinking.
Gloria Ladson-Billings has been a leader in the study of critical race theory in education, and she theorizes chat the racial achievement gap is a by-product of a deeper battle for power, using race as its anchor. She and colleague William Tate identify this power as the power to construct, define, and control reality through the lens of white privilege (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). They point out that schools are a part of a larger structure of institutionalized racism and without acknowledgment and collective action, the system will do what it was designed to do: perpetuate inequality. Pgs. 19-20.
Now, this article is not about the merits or lack thereof of Critical Race Theory. It is not illegal to teach the tenets of Critical Race Theory at present in the State of Indiana. But it should be publicly acknowledged so people can decide if that is the type of education they want for their own kids. There is School Choice. Parent's have the right to make informed decisions about their own children's education. Further, for those without kids in the schools, they have a right to speak to this because their tax dollars are funding it. If they don't want to pay for this, they need the right to speak about it which cannot be done if it is covered up.
Question 8 is just about transparency and understanding where the emphatic denials of CRT are coming from.
Question 9 is about the statement to me by Mr. Nafziger to myself on February 7: "But I do find your statement regarding what curriculum creators want to impart to students offensive [in] that it implies some hidden agenda. What you heard last night over and over is that curriculum needs to be designed to teach kids the right material so more of them can pass the state standards. Like it or not, we must teach to the standards. There’s no hidden agenda by curriculum writers!" And another to me by Mr. Hope on February 10: "Arguments could be made about the agenda of any curriculum publisher. I am letting you know and emphasizing that the administration here has no agenda other than helping our students master state standards. There are no hidden agendas and with teacher training, any individual teacher agendas (I don’t believe there are many) are circumvented through our systems alignment with teaching and learning." It should be noted that the items at hand are not state standards and the administrator involved is Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.
Questions 10 and 11 are pretty self explanatory.
Question 12 is in reference to Open Door Law which has application to committees. This group was referenced by the administrator in the full interview.
Question 13 is about our Whistleblower policy which forbids retaliation for pointing out policy or state law violations. This will be a topic on another post along with evidence of retaliation.