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Board discusses budget, hears from community about controversial slavery game

NPSD%3A+Members+of+the+NPHS+Chamber+Singers+are+recognized+by+the+Board
NPSD: Members of the NPHS Chamber Singers are recognized by the Board

NPSD: Members of the NPHS Chamber Singers are recognized by the Board

Sameera Rachakonda

Sameera Rachakonda

NPSD: Members of the NPHS Chamber Singers are recognized by the Board

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LANSDALE- The North Penn School District Board of School Directors held a work session meeting Tuesday evening. The Board recognized several groups of students involved in the high school music programs. During the meeting, the Board reviewed the high school baseball field cannoneers partnership with Mr. Scott Kennedy and heard about the 2018-2019 budget update from Mr. Stephen Skrocki. In addition, the Board heard from several audience members who expressed their thoughts on different issues including the recent controversial slavery simulation game taught at Knapp elementary school.

The Board recognized several groups of musicians from the high school for their accomplishments. The groups the Board recognized included the North Penn High School Men’s Choir, Chamber Singers, District Orchestra, District Band, District Chorus, the orchestra that traveled to the Heritage festival in Boston, and two district winners in choir and band. Before proceeding to the agenda, 5th grade Knapp Elementary School teacher Mr. Sean Devlin gifted 13 copies of the book Red for all of the elementary school libraries.

The first item on the agenda was the proposal for the Lansdale Cannoneers to practice on the NPHS baseball field. Mr. Scott Kennedy presented the proposal and the Board agreed on the terms. Next, Mr. Stephen Kennedy presented the budget update. After hearing from the Ice Hockey team, the Board decided not to cut funding for the Ice Hockey team as well as the music aides program. The two scenarios presented were as follows: the first scenario includes a 2.4% Act 1 increase making the revised deficit $2,965,722, and the second scenario includes a 3.4% Act 1 increase making the revised deficit $1,232,016. After discussion, the Board came to a consensus with some directors favoring the scenario with the 3.4% increase and some favoring the 2.4% increase. A vote will take place at the action meeting next Thursday and 5 out of the 7 members are required to vote the same in order to pass the budget.

The audience of citizens portion of the meeting was overwhelmingly comprised of teachers, parents, and community members speaking about the controversial slavery simulation game taught in 5th grade classrooms at Knapp elementary school. The game was intended to teach students about the difficulties slaves had to face as they tried to escape from the South, however many parents were angered about how the game’s use of language, portrayal of slaves, and oversimplification of slavery.

“Slavery was not a game. You didn’t get a choice to make a decision. I think this is something completely inappropriate to show my child at an elementary school level, and I’m glad that it has now been taken out of North Penn School District, but then what are you going to use in place of educating my children along with other race children about slavery in an age-appropriate manner?” one parent questioned at the meeting.

Kelli Albertson, the 5th grade teacher at Knapp elementary school who introduced the game, spoke to the Board as well.

“Over the last past two weeks I have been known as “the black teacher”. I haven’t had a name, I’m just known as “the black teacher”. My educational philosophy was personally attacked yet the people who had issues with it had not had any courageous conversations with me. Nobody has asked me why I teach what I teach, how I teach what I teach, and why I’m passionate about the way I teach…When you start having censorship in school, it leads to a snowball effect,” Albertson expressed.

Albertson also read out of the 5th grade social studies textbook pointing out inaccuracies such as “owners treated slaves well” and “slaves were immigrants”.

The mother who put the slavery game video on Facebook spoke about her issues with the District in how her 10 year old son has been suffering from racial discrimination and teachers have been turning a blind eye.

“Who’s going to fight for us? Nobody is fighting for us, and I’m tired of it. Something needs to be done about this,” remarked the mother.

The next North Penn School District Board of School Directors meeting will be an action meeting on Thursday, May 17th at 7:30 PM in the Educational Services Center.

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Board discusses budget, hears from community about controversial slavery game