Problems in PTA-land
As I report today, the Maryland PTA has made the Baltimore City Council of PTAs an inactive organization. That means, for as long as the council is not allowed to operate, there will be a little more extra office space at North Avenue. And school board meetings just won't be the same.
The PTA council is one of the organizations allotted a five-minute slot during the public comment portion of each board meeting. In recent months, the president of the council, Eric White, has voiced opposition to a number of system projects. As I said in my story, he called into a local radio show recently to give Dr. Alonso a poor midterm progress report. (On the air, he was identified by host Marc Steiner as "Amos;" White said later that Steiner made a mistake. But he also didn't do anything to correct it.)
What's unclear is whether White is presenting the views of anyone other than himself when he speaks in public. The PTA council's charter requires him to speak for the organization.
One unlikely fight involves BoardDocs, the Web site where school board agendas and exhibits are posted. White is upset that the site was developed without parental input and is demanding a public forum on the issue. But before BoardDocs, it was like pulling teeth for the public to get any school board documents at all (as I know all too well from firsthand experience). Now the system is doing what every other district in the area does, posting the documents online.
Last week, White rallied against the system's new parent engagement initiative. Charging that the board was abdicating its own responsibility by contracting with a third party to engage parents, White demanded that board members on a parent and community subcommittee raise their hands. He also insisted that the time it took to get the BoardDocs site projected on a screen in the board room not be deducted from his five minutes for public comment, and he asked that the meeting minutes note that a system employee was “blocking my access” when the screen was changed to say his time was almost up. (He wanted to highlight the procurement item on the agenda.)
As White asked Alonso to respond to his progress report on the radio, he asked the board members to respond to his presentation at the board meeting.
"The bait that you've thrown out there is not gonna be taken," said the board chairman, Brian Morris.
"This is not bait," White replied. "This is information for the public. We don’t put out bait. We put out information."