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Marietta BOE asked about levy

With a vote approaching on the $55 million being asked of Marietta property owners to build new schools, the Marietta board of education was asked a number of questions by community member Kathy Shively at the monthly board meeting Monday night.

“Early voting starts Oct. 8, so when will there be a public forum on the levy?” she asked. “I feel there should be several, to allow everyone to participate.”

Shively said there are many unanswered questions about the project, such as whether the sale of redundant properties will be applied toward the cost of building the new schools, what the land at Washington State Community College being proposed as a location cost, if a sports complex is included in the proposal, and whether the new complex will have an auditorium.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” she said. “Warren schools got the state to pay for 61 percent, we’re only getting 39 percent – why is that? And the district will need more buses, there will be more miles, more manpower needed to transport students. I do hope you’re going to hold question-and-answer sessions.”

The board ordinarily does not provide answers during its citizen forum period at monthly meetings, and board president Doug Mallett said the board would get back to Shively.

The board is prevented by law from advocating for a bond issue, although not from answering questions about it. Promotion for the levy is being conducted by a private citizen’s group. Mallett noted that answers to some questions are available on the group’s website, MCSlevy.org.

Another speaker took the board to task for allowing “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, as an optional part of the English Language Arts curriculum at Marietta High School. The district announced a new, teacher-driven curriculum last month, with a selection of reading studies replacing the traditional textbooks.

“I have serious concerns about the content,” said Judy Perrin, a retired teacher. “The language is vile,, racist, strong and repulsive … the goals of the district are to move students ahead successfully and positively, and there is no more grim book I have read. It can be called dystopian, but in other circles it could be called soft porn.”

Atwood’s novel, published in 1985 and a recipient of several awards, describes a future society in which women are almost exclusively used for reproduction, have no rights and virtually no identity, are proscribed from being educated and are kept in bondage.

Interest in the novel has experienced a recent resurgence with persistent news coverage of human trafficking and enslavement, and allegations of sexual assault against prominent men, and a popular TV series.

Perrin handed the board members a sheet of excerpts from the book, which is set in an atmosphere of oppression against women and includes some sexual violence. “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been challenged in numerous school districts, although not often successfully.

Perrin’s position on including the book as an option for study was echoed by Melanie Lockhart, who also is a former staff member.

Mallett thanked both for their concerns and said the board would get back to them.

In other matters, the board:

¯ Was notified by board member Mark Duckworth that the project to renovate the gym at The Armory is now complete, and it will be ceremonially declared open at 5 p.m. Aug.30.

“I paid the last bill today,” he said.

The project, funded by contributions and $100,000 from the city, will provide gymnasium space for the schools and the community. Duckworth said the value of the entire project, including volunteer labor, came to about $200,000, none of which came from school district funds.

¯ Passed a resolution supporting quality construction for the proposed building project, a two-page set of guidelines to be used for contracts and bidding to help ensure the best quality results.

“This will help us vet the bids, ask the right questions,” board member Bill Hutchinson said.

The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at the board office.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@newsandsentinel.com

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Marietta City Schools board of education,

Monday night

The board:

¯ Heard questions about the proposed building project from a community member.

¯ Heard objections from two members of the community to one of the books being proposed. for the new English Language Arts curriculum.

¯ Heard an update on The Armory project.

¯ Passed a resolution supporting quality construction for the proposed building project.

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