Even before officially serving on the school committee next month, community activist Jamaica Miles is committed to being a sounding board for those concerned about the way schools are run.
The recently elected school board member, 46, hosted a forum to discuss priorities the district should set as it receives an infusion of $ 40 million in additional state aid over the next three years .
Seven people were present in person. Others participated via Zoom.
Going forward, Miles has indicated that she will meet with voters once or twice a month on Sunday afternoons, before school committee meetings, to give residents a level of access they haven’t had before. .
Cynthia Farmer, a member of the Schenectady branch of the NAACP education committee, said she also works for New York State higher education, dealing with student loans and grants and scholarships.
Farmer expressed concern that Schenectady would not take full advantage of all available federal grants to support programs she said the district needed.
Noting a specific federal program that offers tutoring, mentoring, college tours, college preparation, with summer camps, Farmer said: “I don’t know who made the choice to write for grants. Is it the grant writer, or the people the grant writer works for, making these choices? “
Farmer also called for high school pipeline programs at Schenectady Community College and Union College in the city.
“How many of our graduates attend Union College? ” she asked.
Another participant who did not want to be identified asked Schenectady to join Niskayuna in completing a control of equity.
Thearse McCalmon, whose high school daughter is the last of four children enrolled in the district, said she was using the group to help her and because she didn’t want the extra state money spent on what she called insane items. She called for a better way to control superintendents because the most recent process was not inclusive.
AParticipant Brianne Briaker asked Miles how the district would feel about her having public meetings outside of public board meetings.
Miles said individual board members have one-on-one conversations with teachers and attend different meetings they have like anti-racism workshops that they are not required to inform the public about.
“I’ll say this, ”Miles continued. ” It’s my job. Like my job as the co-founder of the All of Us community action group, it’s literally talking to people and hearing from them. What are their questions, comments, concerns and what solutions do we offer as a community to resolve these questions, comments and concerns? “
Miles said that if his activism was preventing him from doing his job as a member of the school board, someone should have pointed this out a long time ago.
Farmer said she felt Miles was on solid ground as his activities were no different from a member of the municipal council holding a town hall with voters and providing feedback to the board of directors.
“I think what you do should influence the other board members to do the same,” Farmer said.
Miles said she wanted to provide the public with access to meeting agendas that better prepare them for meetings.
She expressed her displeasure at the committee receiving agendas on the Friday before meetings, long before the general public could see them.
Miles and others have also said they want to change what they say is the district’s callousness to people speaking to the board at meetings.
Other districts in the county and elsewhere at the very least have one employee to track down the speaker and tell him that his comment has been recognized and would be searched.
Miles said it was “the rare occasion” that she ever spoke at a school board meeting and got a response.
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