I have a lot of interests. So many things to do.
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Last Update: 16 APR 2022
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A collection of unpublished pieces.
by Vincent Van Gogh
Photos by Vanessa Ott
08 July 2021
In 2012, after a four-and-a-half year stint as a handicapped public school teacher in rural Hawaii who was constantly being discriminated against, I quit and soon began to attend Board of Education meetings regularly. It amazed me how unapproachable the BOE was at the time. One seven-member Board of Education for the entire state meeting in Honolulu in the middle of a work day is a system design that prevents most of the public across our island chain from attending. The Board excuse for meeting in the middle of a school day was so that members living on outer-islands could catch a flight home that evening. Video conferencing was possible, but not utilized. In fact, at that time, none of the reports and attachments related to BOE agenda items were available online until after the next meeting of a committee or the board when the minutes were approved. That was often 15 to 30 days after the Board had already made a decision on the contents of those reports. It was impossible for the public to submit testimony on agenda items prior to a meeting without the attachments.
At a 04-Sep-2012 Audit Committee meeting I suggested the BOE post the meeting attachments online with the agenda at least 6 days prior to the meeting. Hawaii's Uniform Information Practices statutes (Sunshine Laws) requires six days advance notice of a meeting. The BOE was posting agendas, and probably still does post agendas, only five-and-a-half 24-hour periods prior to meeting dates which is technically 6 calendar days. However, a full work day is lost because they don't post until the end of the work day six days prior. I voiced my idea about Agenda attachments again at a Board Meeting on 18-Sep-2012.
Nothing came of it, so I testified before the entire Board on this issue again on December 4, 2012. I had to wait months to do this because the Board Chair at the time, Don Horner, refused to allow anyone to speak on an issue unless it was related to an agenda item. This was how he was shutting down public input. Getting an issue on the agenda was pretty much impossible when dealing with Mr. Horner, and since public involvement wasn't high on the DOE or BOE priority list, it took a while to be able to bring it up again.
Finally, I was able to tie the request into the Superintendent's 2012 year-end report which was summarized in the agenda with three sentences, one of which was: "The Department has enacted a Twitter and Facebook page in its efforts to get more information out to the public on a timely basis." I reasoned with the Board that they, too, should make an effort to do get the complete agenda (i.e., all the reports included) out to the public in a timely manner by posting the meeting attachments with the agendas BEFORE the meetings.
Although it's not documented in the minutes because it never did make it on any agenda or minutes, I remember Mr. Horner saying it was a good idea, asking the other members what they thought, there was nodding of heads and no objections. So, he asked the BOE Director at the time if that was possible. She said yes. After that, the reports sent to BOE members were available online with the agendas six calendar days (3 full business days or only 2 if Monday was a holiday) prior to meetings.
It's been that way ever since.
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After about a year of attending Hawaii Board of Education meetings, I was frustrated with how I was paraphrased in BOE minutes when I'd given oral testimony. It was never right. I hate it when others misquote me, leave out the good parts, and twist my points all around until the result has no resemblance to what I was trying to say. I also grew weary and wary of the minutes lacking important (at least to me) events that occurred at meetings. I appealed to the Board on May 6, 2014 to make recordings of the meetings online. They claimed they didn't have the money for it. So, I set up the BOE Watch Facebook Group on December 5, 2014 and began to advocate for video archives of BOE meetings. On January 23, 2015, Civil Beat published my editorial opinion, "21st Century Schools Require a 21st Century Board of Education." Nothing changed.
Next, I set out to prove this could be done for free with volunteers. The technology was there. On May 5, 2015 I uploaded the first set of BOE meeting videos to my YouTube channel. For over a year, I'd go down to the Queen Liliuokalani Building (State of Hawaii Department of Education headquarters at 1390 Miller Street, Room 404 Honolulu, Hawaii 96813) twice a month. I'd be dragging my tripod and a little digital camera with its attendant AC adapter and multi-outlet power chord, my laptop, and other items to sustain me throughout the day, all stuffed into and out of a piece of rolling luggage. Once the videos were recorded, there was the tedious process of uploading them to YouTube. It was very time-consuming, and I was beginning to wonder whether or not it was worth the effort.
After awhile, an angel appeared in the form of retired teacher, Peter Bowman. Peter, unfortunately passed away in 2019. The Star Advertiser wrote a wonderful article about Peter who had helped many people throughout his life. Peter volunteered to help me right around the time I was ready to give up. Then, things started rolling. The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) started a Speakers Bureau which offered to help. The last of the 96 videos uploaded to my video channel was on September 6, 2016. In December 2016, the HSTA Speakers Bureau announce a partnership with BOE Watch (i.e., me) with the details to be ironed out in early 2017. (See the Hawaii Tribune Herald Article below).
Since I wasn't a member of the HSTA Speakers Bureau, I was phased out pretty quicky, and I don't know what happened to the video idea after that. Suffering BOE burnout, I turned my attention to tutoring a disadvantaged child with a learning disability, and I've been doing that with much of my volunteer time ever since 2017. Deciding that advocating for change with the BOE was an exercise in futility, I sang my swan song in an editorial Civil Beat published on June 15, 2017:
An Open Letter To The BOE About Community Engagement
Nonetheless, today, the BOE uses video conferencing to livestream its meetings. Anyone with an iPhone who wants to record it themselves can do that. I still don't understand why the BOE can't set up a free YouTube channel and post archived videos -- at least for the past year. But, at least public accessibility is far greater than when I showed up at the Queen Liliuokalani Building for the first time in 2012.
In retrospect I tell myself, yes, the effort was probably worth it.
"A passage in Munch’s diary dated January 22, 1892, and written in Nice, contains the probable inspiration for this scene as the artist remembered it: 'I was walking along the road with two friends—the sun went down—I felt a gust of melancholy—suddenly the sky turned a bloody red. I stopped, leaned against the railing, tired to death—as the flaming skies hung like blood and sword over the blue-black fjord and the city—My friends went on—I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I felt a vast infinite scream [tear] through nature.'" **
** Dr. Noelle Paulson. Edvard Munch, The Scream – Smarthistory
* An English translation of the Norwegian text to the right from The Munch Museaum website:
"Before The Scream became a picture, Munch tried to reproduce the subject as a text. In Nice on the French Riviera in the winter of 1892, he wrote a long poem in his diary describing his walk with his friends. The text tells how Munch is saved by the flaming clouds and the blue-black city and fjord. He had to stop, trembling with anxiety, and felt 'a great infinite scream through nature.'"
Før Skrik ble et bilde, forsøkte Munch å gjengi motivet som en tekst. I Nice på den franske rivieraen vinteren 1892, skrev han et langt dikt i dagboken sin som beskriver spaserturen med vennene. Teksten forteller hvordan Munch blir bergtatt av de flammende skyene og den blåsvarte byen og fjorden. Han måtte stoppe opp, skjelvende av angst, og kjente «et stort uendelig skrik gjennom naturen.»*
See English translation of text in the left frame. Click the button below to visit: 5 ting du bør vite om Skrik - Munchmuseet
Joyful screams perceived more strongly than screams of fear or anger
[April 13, 2021. Source: University of Zurich] sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/04/210413144922.htm
Andy Warhol, The Scream (1984)
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
Copyright © 2022 Vanessa Ott - All Rights Reserved.