The school board, which was made up solely of white people, voted 5-2 to end the teaching of Black history and literature.
The Francis Howell School Board voted 5-2 on Thursday night to abolish Black history and Black literature electives from the district’s high schools in a tense meeting. There are currently 60 students enrolled in the Black History course and 40 students enrolled in the Black Literature course.
In response to complaints from Francis Howell students about prejudice against people of color among both students and staff, the high schools began providing the courses in 2021.
According to board records, as of July 1, 2024, all curricula designed using Teaching Tolerance’s “Social Justice Standards: The Teaching Tolerance Anti-Bias Framework” will be revoked. However, the board did not go into depth about its concerns about the curriculum.
During the public comment period, parents, students, and community members voiced their thoughts on the subject. The voting breakdown revealed that Board members Randy Cook, Adam Bertrand, Jane Puszkar, Mark Ponder, and Ron Harmon supported the removal of the electives, while Janet Stiglich and Chad Lange opposed it.
A motion to postpone the elimination of electives until new courses could be presented was defeated 5-2. Board member Stiglich expressed concern about the district’s curriculum committee’s lack of debate, highlighting the importance of collaborative decision-making.
Stiglich wondered if the curriculum committee had discussed the removal of electives. Cook, a board member, explained that the committee usually focuses on new curricular issues. Treasurer Jane Puszkar stressed that, while committees have a role, the board retains the right to make decisions on its own.
“If we’re not even addressing it to the curriculum (committee), then why don’t we as a board, why don’t we just start writing all of the curriculum?” Stiglich voiced frustration.
Cook defended his judgment, claiming that even if the problem had been brought before the curriculum committee, it would not have swayed his vote. Stiglich advocated for increased transparency and collaboration, querying why the issue had not been raised earlier for broader feedback.
Board President Adam Bertrand stated that he discussed the matter with Superintendent Kenneth Roumpos and promised to bring it up at the December meeting before open enrollment begins on January 15. Stiglich acknowledged the timing but stressed the need to include additional stakeholders in decision-making.
In response to questions, Bertrand emphasized the board’s role in making curriculum decisions. Stiglich questioned the use of paying large salaries to the superintendent and chief academic officer if the board makes decisions without drawing on their experience.