Allendale school board charts a new path
Published March 16, 2023
Written by Athens
Photography by Simply American
From the moment Corey Mango and Liz Ramey took their seats, the Allendale Board of Education has taken bold steps. And according to many parents, bold steps were welcomed.
During the first post-election board meeting on January 9, 2023, Mr. Mango was appointed president. Motions were made to change the school law firm, to dissolve the school district’s membership with the Michigan Association of School Boards, and to designate a second monthly meeting, a work session, in lieu of separate committee meetings. Consecutive, concise action.
President Mango and Trustee Ramey are following through on their promises to uphold parental rights, protect child innocence and promote educational excellence.
At the second board meeting on February 13, 2023, President Mango continued to move forward the actions taken in January, though some of the long-seated members resisted.
Trustee Kevin Holstege told those in attendance, “This is correctly your school. It’s your community and I encourage everybody to come out to voice their opinion. Whether somebody else agrees with it or not, it’s your right to come here.”
Next Generation of Leaders
Of the audience members at the February board meeting, some came to give public comment, some to see for themselves what was happening, and some to pray for the board, the students, and for those in the audience.
When asked why she attended, a homeschool mom said, “Well, to me the answer is simple, because we are raising up the next generation of leaders. I’m invested in my community. I care, not just for my own students (kiddos) but also for those that will be their teammates and friends, or one day their associates, business partners, coworkers, doctors, firefighters, police officers and leaders in their communities.
“We know and have learned from history,” she added, “that what is taught or not taught in a generation can drastically change the trajectory of the future. As Ronald Reagan said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.’ Board members need to know they are supported. We need to attend.”
One attendee told the board, “I appreciate you guys stepping in the middle of the fire and just want you to know we are supporting you in your decisions. We appreciate you guys are doing the best that you can and acting in wisdom.”
An Allendale high school student said, “Thank you to those of you on the board who have been willing to step up and fight for our community. These past years have exposed numerous issues within the school system. You saw those issues and decided to take action. I am so thankful and I feel very blessed to look up there and see friendly faces. Thank you all for being willing to fight for what you believe in and for what the community elected you on.”
It was powerful to see a student speak. Though it may be late in her APS education to effect change for her, she has been inspired to be a part of the solution.
The public also brought concerns to the board. One attendee said, “I strongly encourage this board to make sure that thorough, confidential employee surveys become routine. I have concerns that these surveys are not being done consistently in Allendale. Our teachers need to feel more valued and heard.”
Another attendee said, “Based on the last meeting you guys were speaking about the policy that didn’t allow the teachers to speak to any school board members. I was very shocked to hear that. That doesn’t seem right to me. It seems teachers should be trusted to talk to whomever they feel they should about issues that come up.”
Another attendee added, “I want to encourage this new board to look into the classroom books. There are classroom books that are obscene, sexually graphic, and disturbing. Obscene material cannot be justified in the classroom. There not only needs to be criteria for new books coming in, but every book, on every shelf, in every building needs to be gone through and held to the same standard of decency.”
At the start of the meeting, the board voted unanimously to not consider membership with the National School Boards Leadership Counsel (NSBLC) as the replacement to the Michigan Association of School Boards.
Trustee Ramey said that it was not the board’s intention to rush the association change, but rather an effort to have the consideration included in the initial organizational meeting. Once information came to light about NSBLC that the board hadn’t known previously, the recommendation to join was withdrawn. Trustee Ramey thanked the community for the comments and feedback that helped bring the board to the decision.
Several community members who had planned to speak their disapproval of NSBLC, upon hearing the vote, instead expressed support for the decision. One NSBLC opponent said, “I take great pride in the swift action taken by the board. You have responded to the community. You have proven you will do what is best for the students.”
President Mango and Vice President Anna Hendricks said they stand ready to listen to the needs of this community and take action to protect our children.
Many parents believe a lot of work remains to improve education standards, remove inappropriate content and restore parental rights. They predict the board will encounter opposition with every step, every action.
How can you lend support? Parents might suggest you come to the meetings, or send the board members an email. In order to keep the momentum, the community needs to show the board that those who voted them in are behind them.
As one mom said in her public comment, “We are raising the next leaders. How powerful is that? We are raising the next leaders of this country. Let’s get this school back to teaching reading, writing, math, science, history, and critical thinking like they were created to. Let’s allow parents to teach morality and decency as they were created to. Let’s unite in protecting kids as a community was created to.”
“We’re never going to agree on everything,” she said, “but we should all be able to agree that our kids deserve protection and schools should never overstep their authority again. We must stay vigilant. The fight for saving our next leaders will never end.”