By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
The Palisades Charter High School Board of Trustees held back-to-back meetings on August 13 spanning more than five hours on Zoom.
“Tonight we are just going to talk about eLearning,” Principal Dr. Pam Magee shared at the start of the meeting, referring to hybrid or other possible models in the future. “For now, we are just working in our eLearning environment, and doing everything we can to make that as positive and exciting and informative as we can.”
Magee explained that to be considered for any other form of learning on campus, there has to be 14 days of declining cases of COVID-19, and “we’re a long way from that based on what we have been hearing.”
Magee shared that parents and students want more face-to-face interaction during distance learning, and that all levels, from the state down to Pali High, have identified that they’d like to see more interaction with teachers on a daily basis.
“We’re working with that to see about those policies,” Magee added.
At the outset of the meeting, teacher Dave Suarez, speaking as a representative for the teachers, interjected about when he should comment if any of the policies are violating the education code, continuing to add comments on behalf of the teachers throughout the meetings.
The board took several minutes per each motion before bringing it to a vote, while they assessed how the impact of the pandemic and eLearning conditions were relative to the motion and taking into account Suarez sharing any potential infractions within that decision, in consideration of a Memorandum of Understanding in effect for Pali High during the pandemic.
August 13 marked the first official meeting attended by some of the new board members, including Ellen Unt, Brenda Clark, Jewlz Fahn and Jim Wells.
A motion was passed to suspend the community service requirements for the graduating Class of 2021, with the reason primarily due to COVID-19 challenges.
Students can choose to continue to accumulate their community service hours, which will still be counted toward their college applications, and Russell Howard, assistant principal, offered advice for underclassmen.
“There will be community service requirements … at some point in the future,” Howard explained. “It’s not a bad idea if they have projects they are involved with to go ahead and do it—that when we have more information, we’ll give it out.
“Right now we don’t know if we are coming back next semester or coming back in a year. So yes, we encourage it for all underclassmen, but they are not going to be penalized if they don’t do anything this year.”
The board also passed a motion to suspend the attendance policy for the fall semester. The former policy penalized students who sustained more than seven unexcused absences.
“I am concerned about penalizing kids who already have a lot of issues in front of them,” Clark shared at the meeting.
The board then turned to discussing the grading policy. The policy had been revised for last term only in response to COVID-19 to a more forgiving grade scale. The motion ignited a debate on the teachers’ role in determining a policy for weighting grades and categories for grades before the board has an opportunity to approve or disapprove of a motion on it.
“I want to start this off by saying, I represent the teachers in this situation,” Suarez shared, noting his 26 years at Pali High. “I’m not authorized to change what they voted on.”
Suarez commented that he understands the administration needs to be able to lead, but “when we voted to become an independent charter and a teacher-driven school, it’s because teachers are leaders and we don’t need to be guided like sheep.”
“It’s not guiding like sheep, it’s guiding during a pandemic,” Board Member Adam Glazer replied. “That’s completely different.”
“Yes, there are exceptional circumstances but why is this now—five days before school—that we are getting this information in the materials?” Suarez said at one point.
Magee explained that “there’s absolutely no question that for a long-term policy, the board does need to be involved.”
After breaking, the board passed a resolution to approve the grading policy as described in the eLearning policies.
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