RMF Says NO to Contract Extension for Columbia's Dr Stiepleman 2020.05.11

Race Matters, Friends President Traci Wilson-Kleekamp sent a video note to Helen Wade, President, Board of Education, Columbia Public Schools before the most recent board meeting, 2020.05.11. In this video, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp summarized Race Matters, Friends position of ongoing disappointment with Dr. Stiepleman's performance, administrative process, and lack of transparency and accountability. Ms. Wade responded to the email, noting that she would share the link with the board members. 

RMF does not support a contract extension for Dr. Stiepleman

  1. The contract for Dr. Stiepleman's position renewal was posted to the 2020.05.11 agenda items for the Board of Education to deliberate. The contract was not uploaded until Friday, 2020.05.08 which violates the requirement for 48-hour business day notification to the public.
  2. As presented, the contract did not include Dr. Stiepleman's current salary or proposed pay increase.
  3. RMF has a long-standing grievance over Dr. Stiepleman's performance and character. This appears to be yet one more of many examples of Stiepleman's obfuscation of transparency, and attempts to circumvent public engagement and accountability.

RMF does not support contract renewal with SESI/Catapult Learning

  1. No contract was uploaded or made available to the public before being scheduled for the March 11 meeting. When this was challenged, CPS administration moved discussion to a May 12 Work Session at 07:30 am rather than provide details of the contract. 
  2. RMF proposed moving the discussion to the June Board meeting.
  3. Catapult Learning has proven to be a liability to our community, and in the eyes of RMF and other prominent advocacy groups, unfit to oversee the safety and develop of our most vulnerable student population.
    1. This became a matter of concern at the state level in relation to proposed House Bill 1568 with accounts laying out some rather draconian measures implemented by the contracted organization.
    2. Concerns with this organization hinge predominantly on a heavy-handed approach to management of the students, extensive use of Seclusion Rooms - which at their best are problematic. The seclusion rooms had failed to be properly permitted or built to standards for anything approaching safe - let alone the the organizations use of seclusion rooms as practical holding cells for children to spend extended hours in isolation.

RMF requests that the CPS Board of Education consider the ongoing concerns

  1. That the CPS Board establish an official Equity Advisory Committee that includes representation of community and neighborhood organizations, parents and guardians.
    1. This committee should be afforded powers to influence school policy based on input to the Board, to be reported monthly at the scheduled board meetings and published reports made available to the public.
    2. This committee should be sheltered from any interference from the school administration, of whom they will be critiquing.
  2. That the CPS Board establish an official Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) with the same scope, function, and rights requested of the above Equity Advisory Committee.
  3. That the CPS board establish a COVID-19 Work Group to include a subcommittee on Compensatory Education for identifying and correcting trends of students with IEP/504 who have not received Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). 
    1. FAPE is a component of IDEA laws and regulations, Federal and State, that requires the provision of compensatory services for qualified children if they are regressing or failing to progress. Schools are required to provide compensatory services.

Thoughts from Traci Wilson-Kleekamp

Various members of our team have attempted to meet and collaborate with school officials since the complaint brought by Kandas Barnes was filed last year when her daughter was misidentified and arrested for being in a fight. We later learned that the School Resource Officer involved in the case did not act professionally. 

Two other young ladies expressed the bullying they experienced at Smithton and were essentially erased by the Board's apathy and deficit-orientation about Black students. We feel that CPS administration and Board are aware of these challenges and evidenced by the Black vs. All demographic reporting for each school on their public-facing site. Rice Tracy and Peggy Placier attempted to communicate their concerns with Dr. Stiepleman to no avail. 

In RMF's opinion, Carla London, Chief Equity Officer with CPS is not qualified to assess or implement changes to policy, or make an impactful difference to the blatant disparities in treatment of black and special needs children in the school system. When critiqued in a Facebook post, she brought allegations of me having stalked her children as one of her children had come across the public post. Ms London filed two restraining orders against me, utilizing school resources and legal teams - at the expense of the public. Both charges were dismissed.

We are in the midst of a pandemic. School is closed. School administration and Board members have had time to reflect on the many issues brought to their attention. Moving forward differently takes courage, but is what the public and public stewardship demands.

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