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Beneath the Radar: "Consent Agendas" and Policy Changes

Conversations with parents concerned about the leftist capture of our schools reveal anger, and befuddlement, especially over the manner in which school districts are administered—particularly interactions between School Board Members and the public. Some press outlets have reported parent/Board Member encounters evidencing a common theme: non-responsive, even hostile, Board Member responses to parent questions. From the National School Boards Association encouraging the Federal Department of Justice to label as “Domestic Terrorists” those parents-who-question-Board-actions, to local Boards stifling public commentary with mask mandates and Zoom meetings with tightly controlled phone-in comments, it’s obvious many School Boards and school administrators appear not to want their actions questioned. A heretofore unacknowledged measure to control public oversight is the “Consent Agenda”.

Granted, “Consent Agendas” may be necessary managerial expediency devices by which business items, mostly non-controversial statute-mandated on-going budgetary allocations, are submitted for quick approval—usually without discussion. Few relish public line-by-line explications of budgetary details generating hours-long discussions of specific line items—District Boards hire budget analysts to prepare budgets and delegate this statutory fiduciary responsibility to those professionals. However, when controversial and potentially policy-changing issues are hidden from the public’s scrutiny through Board Agenda manipulation, using the “Consent Agenda”, “smoke and mirrors” should be the characterizing appellation.

During a twenty-six-year career with periodic quasi-administrative School District assignments, I participated in generating, perhaps, twenty-to-thirty governing Board Agendas, and heard more than one District CEO assert the need “to control the Board”! We committee members assembling Board Agendas sometimes advocated language modifications to obfuscate potentially controversial Agenda items. Not only was Agenda-item language “adjusted” to allay possible Board or public discussion, but issues potentially provocative of public questions or controversy were oftentimes placed in the “Consent Agenda”, hoping for their quick discussion-less passage. Examples of such intent to obfuscate can be found in Agendas from three CVUSD Board Meetings, one from June 2021 and two from the most recent meetings in March 2022.

The first example comes from the infamous June 2021 Teen Talk approval meeting. After months of “discussion”, “Teen Talk” was before the Board for its approval.[1] District Agenda assemblers had embedded the “Teen Talk” program in the “Consent Agenda”, slotting it among twenty-six (26) other items calling for the quick (i.e. “Consent”) approval—e.g. commonplace Agenda items like: “G – Instructional Services – Approval of Renewal of Licensing Agreement – Explore Learning Gizmos” and “Q – Student Services – Approval of Contract with Savvas Learning Company, LLC”. Placing a controversial program change in the middle of perfunctory approvals of numerous non-controversial items like “Summer Trips (I) or disposing “Obsolete. . . Texts (J, K) demonstrates administrative intent to expedite passage, hopefully minimizing discussion. Slotting “Teen Talk” fourteenth in a twenty-seven-item (27) list, hid it in plain sight, bracketing it between thirteen (13) items before and thirteen after it. Fortunately, someone noticed, and the item was “pulled” for public discussion. Embedding “Teen Talk” in the “Consent Agenda” signaled either the Administration’s or the Board’s intent to allay oversight.

And the practice continues. Consider the “Consent Agendas” from two recent CVUSD meetings: March 1, 2022, and March 15, 2022. Each seeks quick approval for potentially policy-impacting expenditures. One seeks $12,375 for 2022-23; the other allocates $135,000 over three years. Each item funds a program with the potential to change district policy and practice, without addressing policy and/or practice ramifications. Neither addresses its item’s underlying educational philosophy or how the district’s delivery of education would be affected.

For specifics, consider the March 1, 2022 CVUSD Board Agenda. “Consent Agenda: Item F. Instructional Services - Approval of New Contract - The Core Collaborative”. It authorizes a $12,375 payment to The Core Collaborative, a San Diego based educational consulting shop.

Page 10 of the district’s contract with The Core Collaborative summarizes services purchased: “2.5 days virtual” in-service activities for faculty. The dates and service hours total 15 hours of virtual sessions led by Starr Sackstein, author of Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School. There is no mention of any potential district policy or practice intention to go “gradeless” in “Consent Agenda” documents! Does the District quest for Equity include going gradeless?

Consulting The Core Collaborative’s website reveals its objectives, articulated through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) terms of art, just as accessing Sackstein’s personal web page discloses this consultant’s SEL-based perspectives. Sackstein touts her service value to clients by including a prominently-placed web-link to her “TedX” presentation: it demonstrates a public speaking affect somewhat different than seen in most other TED talks—four solipsistic minutes into her talk, she loses her place, stumbles, and fumbles through her notes before continuing.

How many CVUSD parents, having consulted the websites of Sackstein and The Core Collaborative, would approve spending $825 per hour for Sackstein-led Zoom sessions showing teachers how to avoid grading? Had CVUSD constituents read the “Consent Agenda” before the Board Meeting and spent but ten minutes in a web search to learn what is described above, perhaps some public questions about what the CVUSD Board and management intended to implement in future student grading practices might have been raised at the March 1 session. Perhaps this equity-driven item would have been tabled for “further study.”

A gambit similar to the ones described above is concealed in the March 15, 2022 CVUSD Board Agenda. Consent Agenda Item H: “Instructional – Approval of new contract – Hatching Results” references a three-year, $135,000 contract with the hatching Clicking on this site’s areas of professional learning link furnishes evidence that Hatching Results will provide “Response to Intervention (RtI)”, “Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS)”, and other Equity generating Social Emotional Learning strategies for CVUSD counselors.

And how will this content be delivered? Check p. 13 in "Exhibit B" attached to the CVUSD contract with Hatching Results; it outlines a three-year course of study for CVUSD counselors. $135,000 will provide the district with “two Professional Learning Specialists” (sic) offering “five days “of In-Service Professional Learning for school counselors and administrators” and seven “Virtual Half-day Session[s] of Professional Learning (4 hrs.) for administrators and school counselors.” Also included in the third year is “Six hours of virtual executive coaching.” All total, that’s thirty-four (34) hours of virtual services plus five days (40 hours?) of face-to-face time, plus a survey and some books—that’s paying Hatching $1824 per hour for services to indoctrinate 35 CVUSD counselors and administrators in the latest SEL, RtI, and PBIS methods.

Evaluating three representative Board Agendas and each one’s “Consent Agenda” reveals how controversial educational practices are brought into the district, “under the radar”! District administrative staff, supervised by the Superintendent, prepare Agenda items advancing leftist educational philosophies. The agenda makers know what they are doing, and how they want to change the district’s programs, so by linguistic obfuscation and Agenda legerdemain, they insert change in plain sight, hoping that the public will not notice, intimidated as it is by Board practices that limit questions and stifle dissent.[2]

Parents and taxpayers need to pay more attention.[3] And attention is not all that time consuming! Data for each of the three examples discussed above was uncovered in a ten-minute web search; each uncovered what will be foisted upon CVUSD students by the Board and its managers.

Specifics gleaned from dips into the websites of consultants paid with District dollars will help concerned parents generate detailed questions to staunch the leftist trend.

Specific parental queries addressed to Board Members and their employees, the Superintendent and his minions, supported by reference to the objectives and philosophies of education-program-providers to learn why one provider was chosen over another, if there was competitive bidding, or comparison shopping, should result in better service providers and fewer radical changes to our children’s educations.

Data-driven questioning eliciting Board and administrators’ responses will clue the public into which leftist educational philosophies are being inflicted upon the district’s children by the district’s staff and its Board Members, hopefully before it’s too late.

[1]To get to this Agenda, take the following steps. First click on then click on the “View the Agenda Here” button; that should bring up the Board Docs page. Click on the “meetings” butto

n in the ribbon, upper right. This provides a chronological list of meetings. Click on 2021 to get the agenda discussed in this paragraph. Then click on the June 1, 2021 link to get to the Regular Board Meeting announcement. Then click on “View the Agenda”, bottom middle of the page Then go to the Consent Agenda section in the left margin. Cursor down and Click on item “N – Instructional Services”. Notice, further how the controversial “Teen Talk” title is placed in this entry. [2] For insight into what individuals sharing educational philosophies and objectives with some of the producers of the CVUSD Board Agendas have to say, consult Cullen McCue’s “VIDEO: Idaho Teachers Brag About How They Work Around State’s CRT Ban.” [3] See Olivia Murray’sAbsentminded conservatives allowed an army of perverts to take over the schools

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