Well that was…ummm…interesting.
Last night I attended the much anticipated MCCPTA Delegates Meeting, my first time at one of these. (For those of you craving that “you are there” feel you can check out my Twitter feed. Sorry for the iPhone typos. It is what it is.)
The meeting was held in the auditorium at MCPS headquarters. Boxes of portable hanging files holding manila envelopes with information for each of the 199 MCPS schools were on tables in the entry hall, along with sign-in sheets. Just inside the auditorium door there was yet another table with copies of the meeting agenda and resolutions. I got there before the business meeting and caught the end of the sparsely attended MCPS presentation on MCPS curriculum. Would be nice if they posted the slides somewhere someday.
Slowly more folks trickled in. As I noted in one of my tweets, Delegate duty somehow attracts the dads. When dads run the bake sales and moms do Delegate duty, I’ll know we’re making some progress. But anyway…
I took a seat in the back and by 7:30 the place was full to the point where the custodian was bringing in more folding chairs. I have no idea if this is typical, but my hunch is, it’s not. That said, there were still fewer than half of MCPS schools represented. In my earlier post, I jokingly wondered if there would be a “credentials fight.” Well wouldn’t you know it but there kind of was. Before the meeting started there was some painstaking explanation of procedure, including the proviso that you had to have your green Delegate card to vote. One gentleman rose to state that he did not have his card but his school’s dues were paid up. Would he really be prevented from representing his school? Um, yes. More quietly determined protest. Finally there was a vote to suspend the rules and allow voting without cards. That was defeated. On to the business. (He eventually got his card from somewhere.)
The MCCPTA Resolution on Accelerated and Enriched Instruction was introduced by the Gifted Child Committee Chairperson Susan Joyce Thomas and the floor was open.
Important Lesson Number One: Location, location, location.
MCCPTA permits only 10 minutes’ discussion, subject to successive extensions by majority vote, on each resolution. Last night’s discussion was wholly occupied with bumbling amendments proposed by a middle school delegate, who happened to be sitting right by the microphone. She proposed striking the language on evaluations of giftedness ostensibly because there is too much testing already. I just about died. I mean, were they seriously proposing eliminating 2nd grade screening?!? Oops, no. They really wanted to eliminate all subsequent testing after second grade (as if that is any better). Thankfully Ms. Thomas gently clarified the necessity of later testing for kids who come into the system, etc. Once it was voted on to strike that proposed amendment to the Resolution’s language, the same Delegate proposed language that would have gutted grouping kids of similar ability, citing “too much homogeneity already.” (This school’s stats: 4.6% FARMS, 35% Asian, 54% white). Crikey!! And the clock was running. One 10-minute time extension was approved; a second motion for time extension failed. What seemed like all of a sudden, the MCCPTA Resolution as a whole was voted on and it passed 67-21. And that was that. The Modified Resolution–approved by something like 16 school PTAs–never even was offered to come up for a vote.
Of course there’s been Wednesday morning quarterbacking. At least one Delegate commented that it was “unfortunate” MCCPTA’s rules on debate time limited/prohibited discussion of the so-called Modified Resolution on Accelerated and Enriched Instruction and that they “were not well served” in not being able to introduce the amendments contained in the modified language.
Were the bungled amendments deliberate delaying tactics or just cluelessness? Was the elaborate voting card/parliamentarian/procedural folderol meant to suppress the vote or safeguard it? Stifle debate or ensure it? Some say yes, others say no (sorry, nothing linkable). I am by no means knowledgeable about Roberts Rules of Order–much less a lawyer–so I will leave that discussion to others. As is happening.
The MCCPTA President, however did take the opportunity this morning to shake a virtual finger at “listservs/blog for other organizations/people who disagreed with what the MCCPTA Gifted Child Committee proposed” and “subjected [her] to a good amount of abuse.” Hey, who prior to the vote posted darkly about “outside forces” that “undermine with misinformation.” Uh, that would be the MCCPTA leadership. Ms. Thomas may show some grit yet on Gifted issues, especially now that MCPS is showing its true colors vis a vis the Eastern Magnet. But a heaping lionshare of credit for proactively raising the profile of GT issues and alerting parents to the revision of Policy IOA needs to go others, especially the tireless and dedicated Fred Stichnoth of GTA and PTA Delegate Carole Edelstein. They communicated with and informed people at every opportunity about why this vote was so important. And that alone was crucial, regardless of the outcome.
Guys, go take the night off.