Community speaks out at Brandywine board meeting

Published 7:25 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — During Monday night’s Brandywine Community Schools Board of Education meeting, more than a dozen speakers from Brandywine and beyond expressed concerns ranging from not being able to trust the board to make good decisions in their role to disappointment in the lack of support for the new board members.

Like the Jan. 23 meeting before it, the public comment period was at the end of the meeting after the action and discussion items. The public comment portion, which lasted approximately two hours, featured many Brandywine community members speaking out in support of students, teachers and staff as well as the importance of diversity and inclusion.

“Brandywine is and has been since the district’s creation in the 1950s, a conservative community, and school district controlled by community members, parents, who live here and send their children here and are committed to the values of our small, tight-knit community,” said Brandywine Elementary School Principal Jim Boger. “We have an amazing administrative team and caring community staff, who want kids to be engaged in education to become the best humans they can be.”

“Brandywine is a place for all students,” said Brandywine alumna Jasmine LaBine. “This means creating a safe space for all Bobcats to learn and teaching others to engage others with diverse identities and backgrounds.”

In addition to parents and teachers, Brandywine students voiced their concerns regarding the new board members.

“First off, I’d like to thank you for creating such a stir in our community that we now have more, as you’d like to call us, ‘woke’ people of all political affiliations,” said Brandywine senior Kiersten Colby. “Instead of woke, I like to think we are ‘evolved’. We’re currently coming together as a community, regardless of political party, to work together to fight extremist agendas and exclusive ideologies that, for whatever reasons, you and your PACs want to battle it out here at Brandywine… If you are truly here to help all of the students at Brandywine, you aren’t doing your due diligence to find out how to truly help. It’s pretty obvious that you have no clue about what we need the most. Stop listening to PACs out of Virginia and ask the people that are actually here and part of this school. We’ll gladly tell you. Also, resign.”

While the majority of those in attendance were members of the BCS community, several visitors from neighboring communities spoke in favor of the four recently-appointed school board members and asked the community to give them a chance.

“I’m here tonight because I want to show myself to you guys. I know that it’s not easy to just sit there for hours listening to the negativity coming at you,” said Richard McCoy of Stevensville. “I want you to know that I don’t believe you deserve it. I don’t think the community is giving you the opportunity you deserve. I don’t think I’ve seen you do anything that should be considered crazy or extreme. It seems quite normal to create committees and to evaluate what the kids are exposed to.

“We’re all expressing our beliefs and what we think and good Americans are actually able to say what they think and listen to what you have to say and in a respectful way and it’s that exchange of ideas and an ability to find middle ground is what holds us together as a society,” McCoy continued. “So it seems like we’re being demonized out of the box for just wanting to use our voice. I’m sorry but we’re going to use our voice.”

Niles resident Brenda Beadenkopf believes the new school board members are tackling the library book issue the right way.

“I’m here to support the Board of Education and especially the new members,” she said. “You represent those parents and grandparents who elected you and I applaud that you’re dealing with pornographic and violent materials in an intelligent and common sense way. There’s a lot of talk about choice nowadays, but I believe that parents and grandparents need to also have choice and they chose you. We need to protect and empower our students and I believe that is what this board is going to be doing and I wish you all the best.”

Read more:

Brandywine suspends adding ‘sexually explicit, violent’ books to middle/high school library

Brandywine graduates create group to gather support for students, educators

Brandywine community raises concerns after school board approves new committees