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New Alexandria school board member takes oath; tempers flare over CRT

Maureen Eigen will serve a remaining one-year term.

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Alexandria School Board member Dave Anderson reads the School Board Member Oath of Office to new board member, Maureen Eigen, at the Monday, Dec. 20, meeting. Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

New Alexandria School Board member Maureen Eigen took her oath of office at the Monday, Dec. 20, regular board meeting.

Eigen won a special election last month for a seat filled by Jeff Patience, who was appointed to the position by the Alexandria School Board when Bob Cunniff resigned because he moved out of the area.

She will serve the remaining one year of the position and then her seat will be up for re-election in November 2022.

Dave Anderson, vice chair of the board, told Eigen as part of the oath that she assumes a tremendous responsibility as a director of the school district with duties empowered to her by the Minnesota Legislature.

“This power puts you and the other members of our school board in the position of being both morally and legally responsible for equitable, quality education of every student in the district,” Anderson recited from the Oath of Office.

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He also told Eigen that as board members, they serve as education’s key advocates on behalf of the students and community schools.

“We must strive to work together, and with the superintendent and staff, to lead the district toward fulfilling the vision we have created, fostering excellence for every student in the areas of academic skills and knowledge, citizenship and personal development,” Anderson finished.

Eigen recited her part of the oath, “I swear/affirm that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of this state, and that I will discharge faithfully the duties of the office of school board member of the Alexandria Public Schools to the best of my judgement and ability.”

Parent tries to speak out

Lori Gibson, whose children attend school in Alexandria, tried to speak to school board members about critical race theory, or CRT, but was repeatedly interrupted by others in the audience.

She contacted the Echo Press Tuesday morning with her concerns, stating that “when a mother comes to a meeting with simple prepared remarks to express concerns about the erasure of history uncomfortable for white people to hear, but is heckled and harassed to the point of needing to excuse herself and request a police escort to her vehicle, it’s a problem.”

Gibson said she was further harassed and actually threatened on her way out.

“Are we no longer able to speak if we don’t agree and how do we feel about sharing those thoughts with people willing to threaten and intimidate. How long before someone gets hurt?” she said in her email.

She shared her prepared comments with school board members Tuesday morning, as well as with the Echo Press. Below is the full prepared statement she had planned on reading to the school board, but was unable to.

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“My thanks to the school board for keeping kids in school, even in the midst of rising COVID numbers. I have significant, genuine concerns about our new school board member. As Ms. Eigen ran for this seat, she referenced ‘CRT’ incessantly and consistently. When engaged in dialog about this topic, she was unable to provide examples of how this played out in our district, just claimed that ‘it’s taught, it’s just not called CRT,’ and was unable to provide an example of her definition of ‘CRT’ generally.

“She insists her greatest concern is children of color viewing themselves as ‘victims.’ This is condescending and insulting to families like mine, given her lack of experience or education on the topic. Her words are nearly verbatim the published words of the Heritage Foundation, Center of the American Experiment and other far-right political groups bent on making the banning of their manufactured definition of ‘CRT’ relevant to public school curriculum discussions. Ms. Eigen posted on social media about ‘training’ she received from the Center of the American Experiment.

“Perhaps she doesn’t understand even recent examples of racism in our country. A relationship between people who looked like my husband and I would not have been allowed in more than 20 states when I was a child. On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Loving versus Virginia against the state, making clear the 14th amendment was violated by the law. Seventeen states had to rescind their laws against interracial marriage. We celebrate it as Loving Day.

“Would it surprise her that in November of 2000, Alabama’s State Constitution still held a ban against interracial marriage, and its state Legislature clung to it as a symbolic statement of the state's views on interracial marriage? As recently as 1998, Alabama State House leaders successfully killed attempts to remove it. Voters finally had the opportunity to remove the language in November 2000, but the outcome was close, with 59% of voters supported removal of the language and 41% favored keeping it.

“I’m very proud to say Minnesota is one of only nine states that has never had a ban of any kind on interracial marriage. This is one of the reasons I am concerned with curriculum denying discussion of these issues. It’s important to discuss the ways systemic racism shapes the laws in our country, how far we’ve come, and to consider what would happen if we pretended it didn’t exist in any of our legal systems, and how important having federal law is with regard to the constitutional rights afforded everyone in our country.

“I request that appropriate representation for children and families of color are immediately placed on any curriculum-related committees if they aren’t already there, and that no board members committed to the cause of race-denying political groups be assigned to these committees. People of color deserve equitable consideration in the telling of their history, heritage, current experiences and hopes for the future.”

Parents frustrated with masks, COVID protocols and more

Two other parents, including Tom Tardif and Matt Adelman, also spoke to the school board about a variety of topics including masking, COVID protocols and parking lot issues at Discovery Middle School.

Tardif, who said he was going to throw school board member Dean Anderson “under the bus” for not speaking up about masks and their impact on children because he is a dentist, was told by Board Chairperson Angie Krebs that personal attacks were not allowed.

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“It’s not a personal attack,” said Tardif, who is a doctor of physical therapy at Resonance Performance Solutions in Alexandria. “It’s the truth.”

Tardif said Dean Anderson needs to stand up for the children and that he needs to bring his expertise to the table.

While talking to the board, Tardif said there are many side effects of kids wearing masks, including physical and mental health conditions, airway irritation, airway infection, poor quality of life, sleep disorders, breathing issues, exercise induced asthma, bad breath, poor dental health and a plethora of other issues.

He told the school board that masking children is “child abuse” and that they will all be judged and held accountable for their actions. He said masking “needs to be optional.”

Tardif also said that Eigen was the only one with courage and that the rest of the board members were “cowards.”

A group of people in the audience erupted with applause when he was done speaking.

Adelman, who was also not in favor of masks, asked the board to reevaluate COVID protocols. He said there are too many students who have missed between 20 and 30 days of school because of the protocols.

“You are hurting the students by having these protocols in place,” said Adelman. “Please consider changes to make even a little effort, to keep healthy kids in person, which is really what all of us parents want.”

Adelman added that if kids are healthy, they should be in school and that when kids are sick, parents should keep them home.

He also talked about the issues of picking up students at Discovery Middle School.

“I’ve never been held hostage, but I do pick my kids up at DMS on a daily basis, which is about the same thing,” Adelman told school board members.

Drop-offs in the morning, he said, work fine and the lines move fairly smooth. But he called the pickup process a disaster.

The previous two years, Adelman said he could show up at 2:55 p.m. and be out of the parking lot at 3:05 p.m. Now, however, he said it takes more like 30 to 40 minutes for pickup.

Adelman also said parents are using other parking lots to pick up their children or that they are just picking them up in the street.

Adelman said he is frustrated and that he wants to see some change.

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