As we’ve observed a nationwide trend of ideology driving heightened activity in school boards, one group has come together in Coronado with the stated goal of academic excellence without social engineering. “We believe the focus of CUSD (Coronado Unified School District) ought to be academic excellence, not politics, not ideology, not reshaping culture,” said CUSD parent, Gerri Machin, on behalf of the parent group known as “We the Parents Coronado.”
The group’s private Facebook page has more than 150 members consisting of CUSD parents, grandparents, students, and graduates. Jim Fabiszak, executive director of WTPC, reported that he refrains from sharing individual members’ names, and maintains private settings on the WTPC Facebook page for “security purposes.”
Machin reported that her concern for ideology in the classroom began with overhearing her high school son over Zoom instructed to attend a “No Hate lesson” during the school day led by the Principal Schmeichel, where students were prompted to introduce themselves with their preferred personal pronoun. According to Machin, several parents shared similar instances that had made them “uncomfortable,” and began to meet regularly to discuss them. They eventually labeled themselves as a grassroots organization, calling themselves: We the Parents.
“It really happened by word of mouth,” said Machin, who’s never been involved with school board politics before now. “I talked with friends about what we were overhearing in our children’s virtual classrooms. Some of what we heard was basically a lot of opinion and we were concerned by the opinions we were hearing. To us, it sounded like the very thing they’re [CUSD] trying to fight is the very thing they are promoting.”
Machin reported the lesson to be an extension of the Anti-Defamation League’s anti-bias and bullying prevention program, No Place for Hate. She expanded that WTPC highly opposes the No Place for Hate Initiative’s call to “move beyond kindness to social justice,” as stated in the NPFH handbook.
“And so No Place for Hate was really the impetus for the first meeting,” said Fabiszak of the start of WTPCS in 2021. “When we started asking questions to the school board, all we got were more confusing answers. We’ve met regularly ever since.”
“And we know in the past, the American Defamation League has done amazing things for our Jewish community,” Fabiszak continued, “but recently, they’ve had some changes in leadership. They’ve seemed to transform into an organization that looks at things through a color of race now, which was kind of confusing to us at the time. But if you open up the No Place for Hate curriculum guide, the first half of it talks about good things. It talks about kindness and anti bullying. I know our organization is certainly for those things. But the insidious portion of the curriculum is in the second half. And the second half says that kids need to move from kindness to activism. At that point, you have to ask, ‘how did we get to this hard left turn here?’ And then when you peel that back further, it moves away into other areas that are pulling us out of academic excellence. It talks about racism, and it says that racism only exists by white people towards others. And so now we’re introducing color and separating our kids. And as we pulled that layer back even further, we were asking Superintendent Mueller, ‘Is this a club or is this part of the curriculum?’ And we could never get a straight answer.”
WTPC believes that the instances of discrimination or bullying in CUSD schools that NPFH targets, should rather be addressed on an individual basis, rather than system-wide, preferably outside of instructional classroom minutes.
Superintendent Mueller asserted in the CUSD June 9 newsletter, “CUSD is not aligning any efforts or adopting curriculum from any outside organization and has no intention to indoctrinate students in any way.” Still, as noted by The California Healthy Kids Survey, 30% of CUSD students feel bullied in school. The survey also reported that Hispanic, Latino, Asian, and Mixed Race CHS students experienced more harassment and bullying at CUSD schools than their white counterparts.
As a result of concern about the NPFH program from WTPC the Board asked for a report. At the Aug. 21, 2021 School Board meeting, district officials admitted that there were instances when the NPFH curriculum had intruded on class time during distance learning, and that going forward all school principals were instructed to remove the lessons from the classroom. They also said that NPFH was allowed to be on campus as a student-led club only and would adhere to the same club regulations as all other clubs.
Another [one of the] issues WTPC raised their voices in hopes to change was the wording of the CUSD Board letter following the “Tortilla-Gate” Apology Letter to Orange Glen. The Board removed “racism, classism, and colorism” from their statement, under the threat of a Brown Act lawsuit, represented by Attorney Mike Giorgino.
“They do have a voice and are a force for change, through persuasion.” said Giorgino.
Giorgino cited another change advocated by WTPC, specifically by Fabiszak, “He contacted the superintendent of schools this week, and said it’s come to his attention that for the last two years, they have not been saying the Pledge of Allegiance at Coronado High School,” he said. “And the superintendent has communicated back and told Jim that starting immediately, they’re going to start the day off at the high school and all classes during the second period with the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, that’s empowering.”
WTPC also claims on their website that they “have gotten four out of five school board members to condemn Critical Race Theory.”
Fabiszak asserts that WTPC is not a group of activists, but a “watchdog organization,” stating that “the connotation [of activists] to me seems to be ideological in nature. I don’t even know how to define activism for me, so it probably would be outside my lane what activism is. But I’m certainly not comfortable with that term. Fabiszak stated that, “We The Parents condemn all forms of racism, which exist across all classes of colors. Unfortunately, through this divisive Critical Race Theory, people are being forced to look at individuals through the lens of color. I think that’s the opposite message that Martin Luther King had. We as parents have a greater responsibility here with our children. Our children don’t see race. It’s parents that are forcing this lens of race through critical race theory on these children.”
“I think that CRT is an ideology. Obviously there’s many ideologies that exist in the world, the country, California. We would be opposed to any ideology entering the schools. I’m sure it [ideology] is subjective,” Fabizask expanded on the subject of ideology. “Some would consider patriotism an ideology. But if someone wants to say that if you’re opposed to ideologies, then you have to be opposed to Americanism, then I would disagree with them.”
“Obviously we have a pretty evenly divided community, some of which believe it’s [CRT] not an ideology, and some that strongly believe that it is indeed an ideology,” Fabiszak concluded.
WTPC plans to continue advocating for more instructional minutes and academic rigor at upcoming CUSD meetings, along with the eradication of ideology at CUSD schools. They are concerned not only about California education ranking 38th in the nation, according to a study by Wallet Hub, but poorer scores within CUSD schools. According to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress database, and as referenced by Robert Grobe in a letter to the editor in the Coronado Eagle & Journal, nearly 38% of Coronado High School students are not achieving grade level proficiency in math.
To contact WTPC, or for more information on WTPC, visit their website at www.wetheparentscoronado.com.