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HR Director Calls UPSD Title IX Vote "Disgraceful'
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            A decision by the Upper Perkiomen School Board to delay action on software intended to help the district meet its Title IX requirements generated an impassioned response from its human resources director. Georgiann M. Fisher decried the move during last week's regular meeting.

            Fisher, whose comments during meetings are almost always limited to responding to questions from members, claimed the action would inhibit the district's ability to protect students and teachers from discrimination.

            "As the parent of a queer brown child, I am here to tell you it's disgraceful," Fisher said, fighting back tears during the board comments portion of the meeting.

            By a 5-4 vote, the board voted on Feb. 8 to approve Trina Schaarschmidt's motion to table an action item to renew Title IX consulting software at a cost of $6,250. She suggested that the district shop for another vendor after utilizing Institutional Compliance Solution, LLC software for four consecutive years.

            "I made a motion to table the item in an effort to have time to talk about the contract," Schaarschmidt wrote in an email message received two days later. "This item was never brought to committee and therefore board members had no opportunity to ask questions or discuss."

            Schaarschmidt also claimed a portion of the ICS software includes a segment on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. During the meeting, she said utilization of its "DEI University" would be the third way the district is paying for that type of service.

            "As a school board director, I take fiscal responsibility for taxpayers seriously," Schaarschmidt wrote. "[A]nd it simply made sense to have sufficient time to understand the expenditure request."

            Prior to the vote, Schaarschmidt argued that she didn't see the need for the district to purchase the company's "Title IX University" package. She claimed that the expected delay of Title IX updates to regulations by the U.S. Department makes the purchase unnecessary.

            According to Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina, the package requested by administrators would provide the essential tools to maintain the necessary training to deal with issues of discrimination. Farina also said the portion of the software involving "DEI training" is not included in the request.

            In the message from Schaarschmidt, she wrote that she found Farina's responses to questions about the software to be misleading since she claims to have discovered a package offered from the same company called the "Platinum Package" for $2,000 cheaper. It states that the only difference between the Diamond and Platinum packages was the "add-ons" that include "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" training.

            District spokesperson Alexis Jenofsky confirmed Farina's statement in an email response received Monday afternoon. Jenofsky wrote that the district is not seeking any software related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion since it has previously made recommendations to support staff training and student experiences related to the issue. The message also states that the district discussed the item during the August 2020 Policy Committee and voted on at the August 2020 action meeting. 

            During her comments, Fisher told the members the training material has nothing to do with DEI. The district's Title IX coordinator described the software as vital to adequately train the staff, as required by federal law, charged with the responsibility of protecting students from discrimination.

            According to the human resources director, policy 103 prohibits the discrimination and harassment of staff and children based on race, color, creed, handicap, sex, sexual orientation and sexual identity. During her tenure as Title IX coordinator, Fisher told the members she has had to reach out to families following 72 incidents.

            "I would hope, in this small community that claims to be family, that we would look to take care of our teachers [and] our children," said Fisher, who cited her Christian faith in her willingness to continue advocating for every single child in the district and to stand with all marginalized people. "If one child has been discriminated against or harassed, I would hope $6,250 is worth it."

            Schaarschmidt also expressed a preference during the meeting to have the district allocate its money, energy and resources towards factual needs, such as its Targeted Support Improvement plan. Schaarschmidt described DEI as a panacea to help the district deal with bullying. She claimed "perceived bullying" is down significantly in the district from 2015 to 2021.

            Sarah Bieber seconded Schaarschmidt's motion to table until the board could receive a few other bids. Emily McCormick, Keith McCarrick and Elizabeth Fluckey joined them to defer the item.

            McCarrick said he voted to table the measure due to certain misconceptions. He suggested that the board conduct a "full dialogue" on the issue to make sure everyone understands it properly.

            "We do have problems in this damn district," McCarrick said. "With racism. With bullying. It's not just one thing. People hear DEI and they think, 'it's this'... It is many areas. This has been around for a long time, and we need to stop it."






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