More to the story
The League of Women Voters President Shelly Lewis is spot on with her criticism of Geauga Park District Executive Director John Oros and the park commissioners. There is more to this story. While Shelly Lewis stated, “Nowhere in their 2020 meeting minutes do we see complaints or discussion about county services,” I can tell you folks that I have religiously attended park commissioner meetings over the last 20 years or so and I don’t recall any discussion of dissatisfaction with the Geauga County auditor or consideration of self-managing fiscal operations.
In fact, I have contacted three past park directors on this issue and none of them have told me of any consideration of self-managing fiscal operations or dissatisfaction with the county auditor. Don’t take my word for it. Protect Geauga Parks (portectgeaugaparks.us) has been videotaping park commissioners’ meetings for many years and posting them on their website unedited. Check them out for yourself. So where did this present discussion regarding separation occur? Maybe in illegal meetings hidden from the public? Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, are you reading this? Time for an investigation?
Our auditor has been battling with the probate judge regarding payment of bills for some time now. Could it be this is the good judge’s way of poking the auditor in the eye by ordering Director Oros and the park commissioners to do this separation?
At the taxpayers’ expense? So far it is costing us about $70,000 for the additional accountant the park has just hired with additional costs to come. Funds that could and should be better spent protecting endangered and threated species and preserving fast disappearing natural areas in our county.
John G. Augustine
Join 100+ women
It was wonderful to see the column written by Barbara Christian regarding 100+ Women Who Care of the Western Reserve, and it has already generated numerous inquiries from potential new members who plan to come to our meeting on July 27.
I’d like to be sure that people know that this chapter was founded in 2011 by five local women after we heard about the original group in Midland, Michigan. Ginger Azzolina, Mari Hageman, Mary Hogan and Laura Mackey are all co-founders and are key to the success of the group.
All are welcome at our first in-person meeting since COVID at Holbrook Hollows on July 2, 7-8 p.m.
Welcome or not?
Within days of our official move to the Chagrin Valley, we saw on social media that an effort to dismantle one of the very selling points that had attracted us here was underway. I sat in shock reading a comic sketch about a parent “protecting” children against the evils of critical race theory, and then read in horror that a considerable number of residents and parents had already taken it upon themselves to mount an attack against the DEIJ program within the Chagrin Falls school district.
For context, this move was a special one for us, as we sought out a place to put down some roots for my husband’s final tour in the military. A place we can stay awhile, where our children can make lasting friendships, finish school and graduate. A place we might even dare to call a “forever home.”
My eldest son is going into fourth grade and has already attended five elementary schools. He has lived in two different countries and gone through five major moves. Our younger son has not even started school and has already lived in three different states. Both our sons have special needs, and one is gifted. We are a multiracial family. My older son has already experienced discrimination at school, both due to his race and ethnicity, and his disabilities. Choosing the right area, with an outstanding school district that could meet all their needs was at the top of our list. I did a lot of research.
One of the major factors in our decision was the very existence of the DEIJ program. When I called the school to discuss my kids, the programs in place for giftedness, special needs, and then, of course, I started the always oh-so-awkward, but I-can’t-tell-you-how-necessary conversation about race, ethnicity and discrimination, the wonderful lady on the phone brightly responded with information about the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program. I was elated and felt confident with the choice to buy a house here.
The thing is, this program is so well rounded, it captures so much of the unique needs my children face. As a military family, new to the area, coming into a small, likely tight knit community, it can be really difficult jumping in. These kinds of resources are so important, I cannot stress how much so for families like mine, and those different from mine, with their own struggles and completely different needs. Why ever such a group in the community would not want a welcoming school for all baffles me.
So here I sit, writing this letter, flabbergasted that the program’s existence is even in question. I firmly voice my support for the DEI program, and thank all of those who responded with their support in the face of hate and ignorance. You all renewed our confidence that we have in fact bought in a good area. We look forward to many happy years here as a part of this inclusive and welcoming community.
Diversity of opinion lost
Has the Chagrin Falls school district failed so miserably at implementing its core mission of respect, acceptance and inclusion that it had to hire and pay the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio $22,500 to help us “root out bias bigotry and racism?” Paying diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) consultants is naive and an irresponsible waste of taxpayer money. It promotes racism and division. Nothing more. The initiative was undertaken during the height of COVID-19 when residents were most disengaged.
Few disagree with the concept of equality and opportunity. However, forced equity of outcomes demeans achievement, lowers standards and endangers true education. Is Chagrin Falls in favor of tearing down standards to achieve this?
This moment in history has ushered in an insidious drop of ambiguous language that is being used to create uniformity of opinions and values. Inclusivity and equity are euphemisms that are being used as convenient vessels of propaganda. The preaching of tolerance is used to cover intolerance. We have been hijacked by mob rule and character assassinations. “Diversity” of opinion has been lost. How is any of this unifying or productive? The woke movement has driven a moral, political and social revolution that violates my traditional values and calls for some pushback.
Disagreement with the DEIJ initiative does not represent right wing extremism. Those who disagree with it are not against teaching America’s flaws but blaming absolutely everything that’s wrong with this country on them is misguided. History should be taught, good, bad and ugly. We should view our history fairly and honestly through the “lens” of our nation’s highest ideals and the progress we have made towards realizing them. No other nation is as free, prosperous, diverse or generous. Recent factual distortions of our historical narrative are mind boggling, especially coming from educational organizations.
Perhaps Chagrin Falls’ tax dollars would be better spent on a vigorous anti-bullying and social respect campaign promoting equality, development and progress instead of revisionist history. Our kids can’t deconstruct social systems, but they can drive change locally by directly engaging with local struggling minorities and trying to know them better.
Let’s give this generation of students, (the most collaborative, inclusive, tolerant and just this country has ever seen), a bit more credit for being able to arrive at their own conclusions, fostered in no small part by the excellent quality of education they receive at Chagrin. Their individual passions and talents will ultimately drive their decisions about how to improve the world. They don’t need “specialized” and controversial DEIJ training. Stop pushing the grim and pessimistic narrative pressed by organizations and best selling authors who are laughing all the way to the bank.
Thanks to our Chagrin Falls school board for recognizing that some aspects of our Chagrin schools can be improved and looking into equity and justice as part our student’s education.
After being away for several weeks, we are surprised at the degree of resistance to these efforts.
We have lived here for 40 years and had three children in Chagrin schools from kindergarten through high school graduation.
Their experience was very good and prepared them well for life. But they all are a bit disappointed that they learned a sanitized version of our country’s history and did not experience a lot of diversity.
All of us support the efforts to understand diversity and equality challenges, including teaching the uncomfortable parts of our past.
We also have the opportunity to discuss these issues with current students that we know in the community.
Our Chagrin children are curious and can handle change and learning about all of our past, including opportunities for improvement – sometimes parents “cannot handle the hard truths.” That should not prevent their children from getting the fullest possible education. We are happy to support the efforts of Lauren Miller to support the schools in their efforts to continue improving.
Gary and Kris Welch
So few COVID-19 protocols
On June 24, Pepper Pike City Council approved ordinance 2021-13, allowing for Zoom meetings at least through September stating, “While many people have been vaccinated for COVID-19, large crowds of people still may spread the disease particularly inside buildings…so as to avoid large crowds attending public meetings in the confined City Hall council chambers…”
Although Pepper Pike City Council authorized the continuation of Zoom meetings at least through September, Mayor Richard Bain has decided that city council and planning commission meetings should be in-person at City Hall. I attended one of those meetings on July 15. Pepper Pike council chambers are extremely small. Twenty-six people attended, including nine city officials. Most of the 17 attendees were spaced shoulder-to-shoulder in the small, poorly ventilated room. At least the mayor required those in the audience to wear masks; however, none of the nine city officials were masked.
The air conditioner either was not working or was shut-off because it was noisy. Two ceiling fans slowly turned in the too-warm, full room.
If you were looking for hand sanitizer, you had to go down the hall to the ladies restroom. There you would find an empty hand sanitizer dispenser.
The mayor has sent out countless emails about the obvious dangers of COVID-19 so his lack of protocols while the Delta variant runs rampant is unconscionable. As of July 6, the CDC website states that the “CDC received reports from 48 U.S. states and territories of 5,186 patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infection who were hospitalized or died.” (Breakthrough cases are COVID infections in people who are already vaccinated.)
The bottom line is that if you want to attend a public meeting, you have to gamble with your health and safety.
The mayor has the authority and ability to simultaneously hold public city meetings both in-person and on Zoom. Not only would that keep people safe, it would benefit those who have limited mobility, are too ill to attend in-person meetings or those who travel but still wish to exercise their legal right to attend city meetings in Pepper Pike. I call upon Mayor Bain to do the right thing and re-establish Zoom meetings.
Vaccines save lives
With so many Americans refusing COVID-19 vaccinations, it makes me wonder if they realize that getting vaccinated helps all of us. Polio is a good example. The polio virus can destroy nerve cells in the spinal cord that paralyzes and sometimes kills. Polio has been eliminated from the U.S. since 1979 but is still present in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today every state requires children attending day care or kindergarten to receive at least three polio vaccination doses. So, 50 states working together have helped to eliminate polio in the U.S. through polio vaccination mandates.
Today, however, we have too many victims of misinformation that remain unvaccinated from COVID-19. Imagine if this coronavirus behaved like polio. Would individuals still refuse a shot by using the popular excuse, the vaccine is only FDA emergency approved and not fully approved? If the coronavirus was the new polio, would the unvaccinated still say they don’t trust our government? Would they refuse a shot if they knew 160 million U.S. citizens and 990 million people worldwide have been fully vaccinated?
Our government does not produce vaccinations, the FDA simply reviews data and makes decisions on their approval. Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccines are already in the market, they are free, and we have three choices. Sadly, about 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. in May were unvaccinated people, compared to 150 vaccinated. So roughly 99 percent of our COVID-19 deaths in May were from unvaccinated citizens while roughly 1 percent of the deaths were vaccinated citizens.
I think it is time for all of us to remember how we defeated polio and for the unvaccinated to text, email or call your doctor and ask, which vaccine do you recommend? Again, getting vaccinated helps save lives. The elimination of smallpox, measles, rubella, mumps and other diseases from the U.S. population using them should serve as a reminder of that fact.
Open classroom discussions
A recent public study offers a perspective on “equity” as a public initiative.
The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has measured commute times to major regional employment hubs. The times range from 52 to 101 minutes for inner city residents to 35 to 42 minutes for residents outside the inner-city. To promote equitable employment opportunities, NOACA plans to locate transportation improvements to reduce these disparities. Tax revenues fund transportation improvements.
A recent article in the Times reports one opponent of teaching DEIJ in the Chagrin schools wrote, “Equity is the opposite of equality and forces people to give up part of what they have worked hard for and give it to others who have not.”
This is a long-standing anti-tax argument against social welfare programs. It dates at least back to the post-Civil War fight over what to do for the former slaves and the conquered Southern states.
This anti-tax argument begs the question: How much does individual success result solely from personal initiative without a stable government (and stable communities) to provide fair entrepreneurial and employent opportunities for all?
When NOACA spends tax dollars, should public resources benefit prosperous tax-paying citizens in preference to the less prosperous?
There is nothing wrong with keeping what we have earned, and nothing wrong with reciprocity for society’s role in incubating personal achievement. Balancing these dynamics promotes the Constitution’s goal of forming a more perfect union for the greater good.
Or is the concern that equitable solutions threaten an unspoken goal of keeping certain citizens in their place?
Pity the home environment in which these questions are never discussed. And if they are discussed, what is the harm from exposing our children to contrary opinions through age-appropriate classroom dialogue?
Stephen G. Thomas
Gaslighting or facts?
This is in response to the Solon PTA parents defending their DEI work that was printed on July 15/16 edition of the Times. They claimed the DEI lessons were a way of attempting to bring students together and making all students feel safe and welcomed. Hear the speakers for yourself to understand the concern by Solon residents by watching the June 30 board meeting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlW71eQvwPA&t=368s.
The second speaker states, “These statements were said by my child this year: ‘Why do I feel guilty for being white? It is not something that I can control. They are only showing white people being violent when discussing racism. I feel like the school is teaching that only one race is to be blamed for racist ideologies. Isn’t targeting white people discriminatory by their very definitions?’ ”
The third speaker talked about how, “My daughters, the great-grandchildren of people who barely escaped pogroms but who happen to have blue eyes and very fair skin, will be looked at as privileged offspring of oppressors.”
The fifth speaker advocating for these lessons stated, “My goal is not to have them say that they don’t see color, but to have them understand what a person’s color represents.”
Does this not go against the teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said that people should be judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin?
Slide No. 5 of the school’s racism presentation reads: “What is racism? The marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.” From the definitions handed out to students in September of 2020:
1. White Fragility: “A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable (for white people), triggering a range of defensive move ... which in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”
2. Denial: “Those who are in a stage of denial tend to believe, ‘people are people. We are all alike regardless of the color of our skin.’”
3. White Privilege: “The unearned power and advantages that benefit people just by virtue of being white or perceived as white.”
If we argue racism is about those who are in power, and teach as fact that white children have unearned power by virtue of being white, what message are we sending? And are we teaching them to categorize themselves?
Why should our tax dollars fund a public school that teaches this gaslighting as fact, when even university intellectuals like Professor John McWhorter of Columbia University, Professor Glenn Loury of Brown University and Professor Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto have spoken out against these exact definitions? How is this inclusive for all students? One of my biggest concerns is that they aren’t really teaching diversity and inclusion. I think we should ask ourselves: Is this something we should really be defending? What type of “understanding” does this really promote?
Keep Kotora in council
Antonino Machi and Michael Kan are running against incumbent Councilman Marc R. Kotora for the Solon City Council seat in Ward 4. Mr. Machi is being promoted as “the voice of a younger generation.” At 19 years old, he is certainly young. And as a young man, he wants to “give back to the community and become more involved in the town.” A worthy goal, certainly. But Marc Kotora has already been involved in Solon for more years than Mr. Machi has lived on this planet and has been an outstanding councilman, giving back to the community in many ways. Why dump an experienced, dedicated, and extremely competent councilman in favor of an inexperienced college sophomore?
Michael Kan, on the other hand, has a steady job and the ability to serve as a council member. However, he has lived in Solon for only three years, while Marc Kotora has lived here for his entire life. A greater concern is that a number of people have claimed that attorney Kan wants to be a judge eventually and has been advised that serving on the City Council will be the perfect stepping stone for such a future. Marc Kotora, on the other hand, has no ambitions beyond serving Solon well.
Mr. Kan says he hopes to deal with infrastructure. He cites internet connectivity, cell phone service and “persistent” power outages. Good luck fixing those, Mr. Kan. Obviously, he doesn’t know that municipalities and city councils have no control over the electric grid, cell tower ranges or internet connectivity and speed. As for his favoring “downtown walkability,” downtown Solon will likely never be walkable, mainly because there is no downtown Solon. And “improving the physical space” will never occur unless the city demolishes several major buildings and re-routes a number of major streets, which no merchants would ever agree to do.
I encourage Mr. Kan’s desire to walk more and explore a future “downtown” Solon. But I can’t see Mr. Kan walking from his home in north Solon to shop at Giant Eagle or Walgreens or to dine at the Rusty Bucket. He and his wife would have to take a car to those shopping areas before they could walk around, which diminishes Kan’s entire intent. Furthermore, Michael Kan lives in a neighborhood that includes a street circling a small lake whose distance is exactly one mile around. Numerous residents – and even many people from outside our neighborhood – walk their dogs, stroll with baby carriages, jog and bicycle on that street every day. I see them all from our front picture window and chat with some when I’m working in our yard. I have never seen Michael Kan walking around this neighborhood except when he was soliciting signatures on his petition to run for City Council.
Both candidates need more viable plans. Why then would anyone want to elect either of them when we already have Marc Kotora, an outstanding councilman?
Diversity, equity conflicting goals
EDI sounds like a fun acronym, but its results should concern you.
Many Chagrin residents look at the words justice, equity, diversity and inclusion and think yes, of course I am in favor of that. There, however, is more to this initiative than meets the eye. Diversity and equity are conflicting goals. Diversity means including people from a range of different social, ethnic, religious and other backgrounds. Equity doesn’t encourage diversity. It demands uniformity. It ignores the uniqueness of the individual and their particular needs by requiring the same end result for all.
The JEDI (also known as DEIJ) agenda is being pushed across the country and in our community. If you look at the school systems that have instituted the DEIJ initiative, the result is division and racism. People are being divided into groups and labeled as racist, oppressed or oppressors based on the color of their skin. Children are taught that America is a fundamentally racist country and instructs them to view every interaction through the lens of race. But we all know that the U.S. offers the most opportunity for every ethnic, racial and cultural group in the world, which is why more than one million people try to immigrate to our great nation every year.
In many districts around the country, implementation of these programs has resulted in eliminating important programs such as Advanced Placement and honors courses, competitive sports, music and the arts. In Burbank, California, teachers have been told they can’t teach classic novels like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” Fairfax County, Virginia spent $49,600 on surveying the community related to DEIJ and signed a four-year contract that could cost their district more than $700,000. Upper Adams School District in Biglerville, Pennsylvania spent more than $68,000 on anti-racist audits just to begin discussions on the “work” of DEIJ, when the school was already $428,000 over budget. If you think this only happens in other states, in other schools, ask yourself what other extracurricular or academic resources could have been funded with the $22,500 our own Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District spent on retainer fees for the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio. Now ask yourself how much more money is our BOE willing to divert to outside sources such as DCNEO from already limited taxpayer dollars for DEIJ? Will we as taxpayers have the opportunity to discuss or vote on these expenditures? Or will the costs be hidden from us as the additional $15,000 spent this last year was hidden?
Chagrin Falls is a great public school with excellent academics and a strong college prep curriculum. Most people moved to this district because of the extraordinary schools. We need to keep it that way by focusing on strong academics, competitive sports and wonderful extracurricular music and art programs rather than divisive content.
Jane and Greg Stricker
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice, now referred to as JEDI, sounds like an initiative we all have the moral obligation to support. However, if you take the time to investigate the actual goals of this agenda, you will find its oppressive roots. Have you wondered about the change in our language lately from an emphasis on “equality” to now hearing “equity”?
The goal of “equity” has no place in our society. It teaches that regardless of personal talents, actions and lived experiences, the outcome for all should be the same. Why would we want that for our children? Enforcing that type of uniformity takes away a person’s ability to succeed in their own areas of interest. Some children will excel in math but face difficulty in writing. Others will find their talents lay not in academics, but in sports, or the arts, and that should be supported.
Human beings are complex individuals, we cannot ensure equal outcomes for all without the oppression of some for the benefit of others. The socialist slogan made popular by Karl Marx, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” explains the underlying philosophy of equity; to take from those who prosper and redistribute to those who have not. We should instead focus our efforts on striving for equality for all. We should lift up our brothers and sisters of all races, religions, sexual orientations and backgrounds to excel in the areas where their talents and interests lay.
As our community members are asked to sign petitions encouraging the future work of DEIJ and partnerships between CFEVS and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio (DCNEO), I encourage you to research the impact this work has had on our neighbors in Rocky River. Visit the site rockyrivercitizensfortransparency.org to learn more about how DCNEO, who CFEVSD contracted with this past year, has impacted their community and school curriculum.