Christina School Board member Angela Mitchell abruptly resigned Tuesday night, becoming the second board member to do so in the past two months.
In a letter emailed to board members and the media, Mitchell alleged she has been “intentionally obstructed” from presenting policy ideas and accessing information.
“Given these circumstances, there is not a place here for me on this board, to govern, guide, or affect change,” Mitchell said. “I believe it is in my best interest and that of Christina’s constituents to resign and make these challenges known.”
She accused her board colleagues of serving as a “rubber stamp” and ignoring “glaring problems.“
“I am sorry that I have not been able to persuade this board to become less reactive and more proactive. I cannot pretend that change is on the horizon when there is no paradigm shift to help our students in any real way,” she said. “I ran for this position because I love our students and their best interest is why I endured the exclusionary behavior of the board and district for as long as I have. I believed that I could help this body move forward in a positive direction, but I now realize that the toxic culture is more deeply entrenched than even I realized when I took my oath.”
Mitchell, a former Christina teacher who is now a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities fellow at the University of Delaware, was elected in 2017 and would have served until June 2021.
She emailed her resignation letter as the rest of the board was holding a meeting via the online video platform Zoom, which the board is using during the coronavirus shutdown. She did not participate in the meeting and said that she was unable to access the video stream because it had reached its maximum capacity.
The district’s Zoom subscription caps participants – including audience members just observing the meeting – at 100, which blocked some members of the public from viewing the stream and caused issues for at least one other board member.
Twice during the meeting, board member Fred Polaski’s computer froze, booting him off the video stream. When he tried to return, another member of the public had entered, causing the stream to hit its capacity and locking Polaski out. Both times, board president Meredith Griffin had to ask a member of the public to leave the online meeting to allow Polaski to rejoin.
Mitchell was never mentioned during the meeting and it’s unclear why she, as a sitting board member, was not given priority to access the stream.
Mitchell’s resignation comes after board member Elizabeth Paige stepped down in March, also citing dissatisfaction with the rest of the board.
“My attempts to bring science, evidence and research into conversations about district initiatives have been met with defensiveness and closed minds,” Paige said. “I have come under fire for being requiring, asking questions and pressing when answers aren’t satisfactory. Until this board understands and decides that asking tough questions and requiring honest answers is the good governance our community elected most of us to perform, nothing will change, no matter who sits in these chairs.”
By law, the board will appoint interim replacements for Mitchell and Paige. Those replacements will serve for about a year until voters pick permanent replacements in the 2021 school board election.
The board has already accepted applications for Paige’s seat and will discuss how to proceed during next week’s meeting. A similar process will unfold for Mitchell’s seat.
The resignations come during a tumultuous time for the district, which is facing a $10 million budget deficit and desperately needs to pass a referendum June 9 – an already difficult task made even harder due to uncertainty caused by the coronavirus shutdown and the economic fallout from the pandemic. Failure to pass the referendum will result in drastic cuts and teacher layoffs.
The district is also going through an upheaval in leadership. Late last year, superintendent Richard Gregg announced plans to leave June 30, and the board declined to renew the contracts of the chief financial officer, the head of human resources and several other top administrators.
Later, the board asked the Delaware Department of Education to form a transition team to assist Christina while the district searches for a new superintendent and other administrators. Paige and Mitchell both opposed that arrangement.
On Tuesday, the board agreed to pay more than $14,000 to hire the University of Delaware’s Delaware Academy for School Leadership as a consultant to lead the search for a new superintendent.