I went to my first board meeting of The Accelerated Charter Schools last Thursday, and what a freaking horror show it turned out to be. Here’s the video, almost three damn hours of it, on YouTube and also on Archive.org for ease of downloading.1 The meeting started out with a series of moving public comments in support of Hilda Rodriguez-Guzman, unceremoniously and unjustly fired by TAS last month in retaliation for her activism. Here’s my Twitter thread on that with links to some comments, and it is well worth watching the whole thing, which starts here.
In particular, though, see this comment by community activist Beverly Roberts, who wants to know why the board members present are all white when they’re running a school in South Los Angeles. She waits for an answer until the point where Juli P. Quinn, president of the board, who has a guilty conscience and a bad case of demonic possession, just seething with anger, with privilege, with rage at Roberts’s insubordinance, tells her out freaking loud that “this is public comment, we don’t need to respond.” The protest essentially lasted for the first half hour of this interminable meeting, ending with this exceedingly dramatic exit.
But the meeting went on for more than two hours after that. And as tedious as it was it was nevertheless filled with revelations.2 And there are far, far too many for one post, as usual, so I’m going to have to lay it on you in increments. Today’s episode has to do with surprisingly life-like horrible white supremacist nightmare marionette3 Juli Quinn and her understanding of race in the context of her position as an affluent white president of an affluent white board of trustees in charge of a publicly funded private school located in a decidedly non-affluent, non-white community and whose student body is more than 98% Latinx and African American and pretty much 100% on free or reduced lunch.4
In particular, let’s look at Quinn’s presentation on TAS’s revised process for choosing parent board members. Basically parents will apply and then the various schools will have some kind of meeting to nominate candidates and also a board committee will vet the nominations and then the full board will approve the reps on consent. But it’s the revised timeline that’s the most interesting thing here. You see, they do presently have a parent representative on the board, although he was not present at Thursday’s meeting. I don’t know how the guy was chosen, but the problem, as Juli Quinn explains, is that the term starts
…in the middle of the school year in December where we had all of these things going on and they come on board and they really don’t have as much context as they need to be viable board members.
According to Juli Quinn this is a big problem, and it needs to be solved. And they’re going to solve it by choosing the parent representatives, Quinn explains, “at the end of the school year so that we can engage parents early, in the Summer”. And why, you might legitimately ask, does Quinn feel like the board has to have all Summer to work with these parent reps? Here’s her full explanation:
…so that we can engage parents early, in the Summer, with onboarding and helping to train them so that they become more verbal and able to assist us on the board.
This is astounding. This woman, in charge of a multi-million dollar publicly funded school that controls the education and significant parts of the lives of almost a thousand poverty-afflicted children of color. Who is deeply involved in some of the most powerfully formative experiences of their lives. Who comes from a background, who has a set of life experiences, vastly different from any of these students or their parents.
Who can’t possibly expect to understand even the basic elements of what their lives are like without a source of information outside her own mind, her own life. Who has a freaking Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and has thereby proved herself at least minimally capable of learning.5 This woman does not seem to have any idea whatsoever that maybe, just possibly, there are some situations, some parts of this vast complex world, in which she herself is the ignorant one rather than the universal beneficent dispenser of wisdom.
That maybe she’s the one who has something to learn from the parents of the children with whose care she has been entrusted rather than the other way around. Maybe Quinn and the rest of her colleagues are the ones who need to spend all Summer being trained to be more useful.
Maybe the point of having parents on the board is not for them to be trained to be useful to the board but for them to share their unmediated perspectives with a bunch of people who desperately need some new information if they’re to do the essential job of caring for the children that our heartless state government has for some crazy reason placed under their control. Maybe the parents need to train the damn board to be useful to them rather than the other way around. It’s their children who are at stake, after all.
Quinn’s assumption, the assumption of all white supremacists, is that she has nothing to learn from her inferiors. Instead she must grant them the bounty of her instruction to make them useful to her, acceptable to her people. And don’t even get me started on her bizarre claim that the parents of her pupils need the benefit of her training to “become more verbal.”
Aside from the deeply rooted unexamined habitual racism that must underlie a statement like this, not ten minutes before she said it she was being treated to parent after very verbal parent telling Quinn in moving and powerful terms exactly what was wrong with her actions. That she could listen to all these parents and then go on to claim that she and her white zillionaire buddies need all Summer to teach any of them to “become more verbal” is lunacy of an exceedingly refined sort. It’s a quantum lunacy leap.
If everyone on the board wasn’t as delusionally stupid as Quinn one of them would have jumped up, shined a flashlight in her eye, and asked her if she knew what year it was and who’s the president of the United States.6 It is astounding that she could make a statement like this and not be challenged or even questioned by anyone present.
And speaking of delusionally stupid, I’m going to close out this installment with a comment of Quinn’s about Beverly Roberts’s complaints about the board’s lack of diversity. Right there in the middle of Quinn’s speech about these parent board reps, she mentioned “the board nomination committee.” Who’s on it, Juli? “Leonard, myself, and Binti.” What does that mean to you, Juli? “We do have some diversity on the board, unfortunately they’re just not here.”
Well, you can guess what’s running through Juli Quinn’s mind. She’s still angry at being called out by Beverly Roberts as a white supremacist. She’s still seething over it when Binti’s name comes up. The Binti she’s talking about here is Binti Yost, whose LinkedIn profile tells us quite a bit about her. It tells us that she’s a high mucky-muck at KPMG, which is some kind of zillionaire service provider on such a rarefied level that unless you too are a zillionaire it’s not actually possible to tell from their website what they do. I don’t even know the meaning of the words.7
And when Juli Quinn looks at Binti Yost, zillionaire and zillionaire minion, servant and beneficiary of the vast power of white supremacy, all she can see is that Yost’s skin is darker than Quinn’s. This is the idiotic level of understanding attained by this person who’s in charge of all these precious children. It’s astounding, appalling, that anyone anywhere thinks this is OK.
And here, friends, is one of the things that Quinn might learn from these parents that she arrogantly presumes to know anything worth it to them to learn from her, that she wants to spend all Summer training to be useful. And that is that white supremacists come in all colors, spanning the whole spectrum from Quinn to Yost. I doubt one Summer is enough time to teach Quinn this lesson, though. A lifetime isn’t long enough.
Transcription of Juli Quinn’s comments about the parent board representative selection process:
Juli Quinn: Now we’re going to move into the President’s report. And how many of you have had the opportunity to listen to the audio? I did not, of our last meeting. OK, well, I guess it’s pretty [unintelligible]. It captures everything we say. OK, what we did at the last board meeting was have the board identify two priorities for board folks to help direct the focus for this particular year in the actual operations. So, Grace, I’d like to turn this over to you.
Grace Lee-Chang: Actually, it’s under eleven o’clock, under board goal discussion.
JQ: Oh, I see! OK! We’re going to review those at eleven! OK! Parent representative nomination process! In your board packet under the president’s report, the first item is the parent board representative nomination and election process. One of the things that we realized was that we needed to have a consistent and coherent election process, nomination and election process, for parents to serve on the board across all three schools. In the past the schools have been doing things a little bit differently and we wanted to codify this. And because the parents would be joining the board we wanted to have the board nomination committee responsible for part of this process. So you’ll see, if you have the opportunity to read this, you’ll see that our purpose was to really make sure that our parents were represented on the board. That the parents will be able to contribute to the overall vision and mission of The Accelerated Schools. And that they are nominated, elected, and approved by their schools’ population and the full board consistent with TAS governing board bylaws. We formed a group and we asked the principals to develop a nomination form for these particular qualifications, which you’ll find on the next page. And encourage and recruit parents from across their school to be on the board as a parent representative. Those applications are coming in now. They will be collected fairly soon. We’re hoping that the board nomination committee, which is Leonard, myself, and Binti. We do have some diversity on the board, unfortunately they’re just not here. And we will take a look at what the nomination applications look like, which will include a resume, a statement of intent, how they feel they can really help The Accelerated Schools by being on the board. And then we will, the nomination committee will review those and get back to the principals about people we feel, parents we feel are eligible to serve. And that is part of this, so the nomination committee will step forward, review those, and then at a subsequent governing board meeting, our next will be in September. That is going to be a call-in. So one of the assumptions we’re making is that if the board nomination committee approves these parents to stand for nomination at their individual schools and they are elected by their school population at a formally held meeting, which is part of the bylaws, that then we would assume that the rest of the board would feel comfortable doing it on a consent basis. The dates will change. One of the things we’re interested in doing is having these elections be at the end of the school year so that we can engage parents early, in the Summer, with onboarding and helping to train them so that they become more verbal and able to assist us on the board. So eventually we’re hoping to change that timeline. Again, the timeline then would have our parent representatives starting in the beginning of the school year rather than at the middle of the school year in December where we had all of these things going on and they come on board and they really don’t have as much context as they need to be viable board members. And so one of the things we’re looking at is just changing that whole timeline. So the whole board votes. That would be by consent, we’re hoping, in September. And the new parent board representatives will be welcomed onto the board and they will have an onboarding. And that is this particular action item. And I would open this up for discussion.
Image of Juli Quinn is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.
- Not to mention the full resolution version if you have any use for that, pulling stills or whatever. Twenty two freaking gigabytes of unabashed ignorance and strident white privilege, yours at absolutely no charge to do with what you will. Is this a great country or what?!
- By which of course I mean revelations to me rather than to the world, or at least people who’ve been paying attention to charter schools far longer, far more carefully, than I have. I’m new to this world, and it is more appalling than I could have guessed. Far, far worse than business improvement districts, which are also far, far worse than I could have guessed.
- Thinking here of Oscar Wilde and his charming little bagatelle, The Harlot’s House, which turns out to be a far-better metaphor for 21st Century school privatization than it is for 19th Century sex work, its analysis of which, despite the lovely language, seems pretty shallow at this late date:
We caught the tread of dancing feet,
We loitered down the moonlit street,
And stopped beneath the harlot’s house.
Inside, above the din and fray,
We heard the loud musicians play
The ‘Treues Liebes Herz’ of Strauss.
Like strange mechanical grotesques,
Making fantastic arabesques,
The shadows raced across the blind.
We watched the ghostly dancers spin
To sound of horn and violin,
Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.
Like wire-pulled automatons,
Slim silhouetted skeletons
Went sidling through the slow quadrille,
Then took each other by the hand,
And danced a stately saraband;
Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.
Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
A phantom lover to her breast,
Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.
Sometimes a horrible marionette
Came out, and smoked its cigarette
Upon the steps like a live thing.
Then, turning to my love, I said,
‘The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust.’
But she–she heard the violin,
And left my side, and entered in:
Love passed into the house of lust.
Then suddenly the tune went false,
The dancers wearied of the waltz,
The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.
And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.
- The link is to the data for the Accelerated Charter Elementary School. This Klown Kar Krew also runs Wallis Annenberg High School and The Accelerated School, but there’s no difference in the free and reduced lunch proportion. It’s 100% across the board.
- It’s a Ph.D. in education, so I might be overstating the case. If you have any doubts, you can download her damn dissertation right here and, probably, conclude that I am definitely overstating the case. At least no evidence has yet come to light that Quinn’s mom bribed Quinn’s way into USC. But there’s still time, friends, still plenty of time.
- Given the disgusting racism she so comfortably displays here it’s pretty clear that she’s very well aware who the president of the United States is.
- This firm, whatever it is, is so freaking zillionaire they have their own top level domain.