Addressing Community Concerns
Dear GMSD Families and Friends,
Over the past weeks, our community has been sent messages containing false narratives and accusations against GMSD and its employees. Generally, the Germantown Board of Education would not respond publicly to such material in this format, but due to the wide distribution of those messages, the patently false information in them, and the adverse effects on our teachers and staff, we feel it necessary to respond and reassure our stakeholders.
At no time did GMSD or its teachers provide students access to pornographic materials on an app. A few parents did bring concerns to the Board about age-appropriate - not pornographic - content on a non-GMSD app (Epic!) that provided elementary students access to a virtual library. The District quickly responded by removing access to the app while reviewing the app’s functionality. Ultimately, the District decided - despite numerous benefits the app provided to students (particularly to students who have difficulty reading) - to remove student access to the app.
GMSD is not promoting gender ideologies or concepts prohibited by state law. Tenn. Code Ann. Section 49-6-1019 prohibits school districts and their employees from teaching or promoting a number of concepts often collectively described as “Critical Race Theory” or “CRT.” The law includes concepts related to sex and race. GMSD employees receive training and support on this law. GMSD teachers and staff are professionals, and we trust that they follow both their training and the law.
GMSD does teach to required state standards. All of our curriculum is approved by the state, and all of our instruction is aligned to the Tennessee State Standards. Additionally, our District has done a thorough job explaining the work of counselors, social workers, and school psychologists and how state-mandated social emotional learning curriculum (“SEL”) enhances the school environment.
GMSD does not exclude parents from decisions in their children’s education. Our District prides itself on providing multiple channels to engage in meaningful two-way dialogue with stakeholders. The District routinely invites community members to participate in town halls, attend open forums, speak at board meetings, take surveys, serve on committees, and review curriculum. Additionally, the District provides ways for parents to communicate concerns with administrators through Let’s Talk, email, and face-to-face meetings. School board members communicate regularly with parents and community members. We do believe in providing avenues for respectful and productive, solutions-oriented conversations, and we will continue to champion public engagement in our District. Moreover, our Parent Teacher Organizations are a beacon of successful family engagement and are envied by many neighboring districts and schools.
The groundless public attacks on our educators need to stop. The Board and District work extremely hard to recruit and retain talent. Our efforts are undermined when our educators are constantly criticized in public forums because it decimates staff morale and damages our schools’ reputations. When the District loses great teachers and staff, no one benefits. If you have a concern with a specific teacher, address it with him or her. If you are not satisfied with the response, contact school administration, district office administration, and then the Superintendent. You may also contact a Board member, and we will put you in touch with the appropriate person.
The public comment portion of our business meetings has always been of great importance. Nevertheless, because other important business is done during school board meetings, the Board has always placed guidelines on public comments. As is done in other public meetings, persons speaking before the Board are asked to sign a form noting their understanding of those guidelines. From approximately 2018 until February 2022, that form (and the words spoken by the Board chair before the public comment period) began as follows: “GMSD, by its policies, allows persons to address the Board during its Citizens to be Heard portion of its agenda, within certain guidelines. Tennessee law makes no specific provision for or participation by the public in school board meetings. Thus, there is no inherent right or legal right for citizens to make comments before the school board. Prior to making your remarks, ….” In other words, while Tennessee law does not provide for public comment during school board meetings, the District and Board have always allowed for public comment. Furthermore, in response to feedback from some parents and community members, since February 2022 the Board has twice changed the language used on the form and now no longer reads the form before public comments begin. To be clear, the “no inherent right” language has not been on the guideline form or read during a school board meeting since February 2022. No one who has attended/watched a school board meeting since that date would have read or heard that language. You may view the current form here.
GMSD is one of the finest school districts in the State of Tennessee. The District’s teachers and staff are dedicated to the success and well-being of our students. We are proud of the hard work and commitment of our district’s employees, and we deeply appreciate your continued support of GMSD, its teachers, staff, and students.
Amy Eoff, Germantown Board of Education Vice-Chair
Ryan Strain, Germantown Board of Education Position 1
Betsy Landers, Germantown Board of Education Position 2
Brian Curry, Germantown Board of Education Position 3
If you have any questions about the contents of this newsletter--or wish to make a submission for our next newsletter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at Let's Talk.