It starts out,
School board candidates Patrick Leonard, Lawrence Murphy, Albert Howard and Ahmar Iqbal met the Ann Arbor Public Schools cabinet staff and asked questions Aug. 23.The "cabinet staff" refers to the top paid professionals in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. The idea was to help the school board candidates get oriented.
One of the candidate's questions were summarized:
[Albert] Howard had some religious questions to ask of the board, as well. Howard asked David Cosma if "the AAPS (would) be willing to add the Bible as a historical book to their teaching curriculum," to which Cosma stated that Michigan law allowed the Bible to be taught as a historical document, but the decision to teach the Bible was not his decision.I think the article is referring to David Comsa, who is the district's legal counsel. There actually are English classes in the district that teach small bits of the Bible as literature. I'm not sure if there are also history classes using it.
Here's the doozy, though--are you ready for it?
Howard also asked [Patricia] Green if she supported prayer in school, to which she replied she didn't have a position and would uphold what the board decided. (Emphasis added.)Really? Patricia Green--the new AAPS superintendent--has been an educator for many, many years. She's been a superintendent, an assistant superintendent, a principal, and a teacher. She has a PhD in Educational Philosophy, and she doesn't have a position on school prayer?
Here are the descriptive words* that I've come up with to describe the possible reasons for her response.
1. This is a load of malarkey. In other words, she's selling the school board candidates--and us--a load of b.s.
2. She's being disingenuous. In other words, she is not telling the truth.
3. She's obfuscating. In other words, she's hiding her true feelings behind a veil of impartiality.
4. She's being obsequious. In other words, she wants the new school board candidates to feel that they can do whatever they want.
If any of these are true, my confidence in her is diminished. In other words, I feel less confident.
On the other hand--what if it is true that she doesn't have a position on school prayer? That is even scarier to me. Anyone who has had leadership positions in multiple school districts should be expected to have a position on school prayer.
UPDATE: Liz Margolis, the AAPS Communications Director, sent me the following email after I had already published this post:
The report was inaccurate. When Mr. Howard asked Dr. Green how she felt about prayer in school it came right after he asked David Comsa the same questions. Dr. Green followed up David Comsa's response that she didn't have a position because she would follow the law. It was not meant as a way to ditch the subject at all but rather a way to address a question which she believes the law dictates.
The Ann Arbor Journal has not yet posted a correction, but if they do, I will share it.
If Liz Margolis' account is correct, I feel relief that our new superintendent said something more reasonable. I wasn't there, but if anyone else who was there would like to share their observations of what happened at the meeting, feel free to do that in the comments.
Not only that, but I am pretty sure that the Ann Arbor school board and school leadership has discussed this before. There may even be a position on record. I couldn't find out for sure, because the Ann Arbor schools web site is pretty much impossible to search nowadays.
More Update: Liz Margolis also promises to share past Ann Arbor school board policies and discussions about school prayer--if any exist--and if so, I will post them as well, in a separate post.____________________________________________________________________________
I was, however, able to dig up the religious calendar policy (because I already knew it existed), and it infers in this paragraph--which I very much like--that school prayer would not be welcomed:
We are a diverse community reflecting many traditions and perspectives. If each of us is sensitive to both the direct and subtle ways we demonstrate respect and appreciation for these differences, we will each be a positive force in providing a multi-cultural education for our students.Alternatively, Patricia Green could have turned to one of the other cabinet members, and said, "I don't know if there already is a policy in place--can anyone with a longer history with the district answer this question?"
Or she could have shared her (real) position.
Or she could have shared the process for the district to come up with a position, if there isn't one.
Or she could have said something like, "There is a very long history of litigation around school prayer issues and the case law on this is fairly well-settled." Perhaps she could have even referred Mr. Howard to some of the cases, such as Engel v. Vitale."
Update: Per Liz Margolis she did something like the last choice.
In any case, I can tell you that I am chagrined, crestfallen, dissatisfied, disappointed, disgruntled, and--yes--vexed and confounded by her response. Or not, if the update is correct.
*Hey, high school students and parents of high school students: these could be good ACT/SAT words! Look them up if you don't know them!
**All of this assumes that Dr. Green's response was accurately recorded--which is the assumption that I generally make with our local news reporters. Please see the updates in this post. They do confound this assumption, and, in fact, the whole post.