We Have Another Contender for Worst School Board Member in Vermont

Ladies and germs, allow me to introduce you to Stephanie Stoodley, very angry member of the Rutland City School Board. The image quality is horrible thanks to the worst streaming of a public meeting I’ve ever seen. But it fits her to a tee: Lacking focus, out of control, and kinda scary.

Thanks to her performance at a January 11 school board meeting, Stoodley has become a top contender for Worst School Board Member in Vermont. Essex-Westford’s Liz Cady remains the front-runner followed by Mill River’s Todd Fillmore, but Stoodley has the potential to out-yammer them all.

Stoodley was one of six trustees to vote in favor of restoring the high school’s old nickname “Raiders,” but she was the most obnoxious of them all. She repeatedly interrupted trustees on the other side, she had trouble getting out coherent sentences, she said the same buzzwords over and over, and she made it clear that she didn’t give a tinker’s damn for anyone’s opinion but her own.

Background: The previous board adopted “Ravens” after a lengthy process, on the grounds that “Raiders” and the arrowhead were offensive to Native Americans. In last March’s school board election, enough pro-Raider trustees were elected to create a one-vote majority in favor of racism. Stoodley is one of those new trustees.

The board’s action also clearly violated Robert’s Rules of Order, which the board had voted to follow in their meetings. The Rules only allow reconsideration of a past measure under certain circumstances (which didn’t apply here) and they don’t allow a measure that contradicts a previously adopted one. But pro-Raiders board chair Hurley Cavacas refused to consult Robert’s, and trustee Charlene Steward asserted that “semantics about Robert’s Rules have been suppressing our vote.” Yeah, they were not about to let “semantics” get in the way of bringing back the Raider name and arrowhead logo.

But let’s get back to Stoodley’s performance, which was miles beyond anyone else’s.

First, I present to you an unexpurgated paragraph of incoherence that Stoodley uttered in a public meeting. Feel free to skip if you want to stay out of the weeds, but I wanted to give you a sample of her ability to express herself.

Everybody wants to talk about this side and, this side and that side. Where are we talking about let’s educate our students? Let’s have conversations. Let’s look at curriculum of what is actually being talked about in regard to indigenous people. Let’s talk about the other issues that are happening in our district in the last two years. Black Lives Matter was a major issue in our district. What did that do? It made us spread further apart. And now this issue. Let’s talk about the education of these two things, not just have it be a bunch of adults arguing. Let’s make it to be the education of the students.

Yeah, let’s “make it to be the education.” Seems clear that Stoodley could use a refresher course.

Her reference to “Black Lives Matter” dividing the community tells you all you need to know. BLM and the new nickname are “divisive.” Not the use of a racist nickname. What she wants is a return to the Good Old Days when “white” was the norm and everyone else could go hang.

Otherwise, Stoodley had a handful of points that she repeated until she was red in the face. Well, she pretty much started that way, but it got worse.

“The students have been neglected,” she said. “The Ravens side said it’s racist, it’s affecting our students, it’s harmful. What about the studenrs who don’t think it’s harmful? What about the students who think Ravens is harmful?”

Well, there’s a difference between offending people of color at every turn and making students adapt to a new nickname. I’d love to know what kind of harm she thinks “Ravens” could possibly do.

And then she revealed where she gets her data. “Go to a Rutland football game on a Friday night,” she said. “Those students are not saying ‘Ravens,’ they are saying ‘Raiders.’ They want to be Raiders.”

I hate to break it to Ms. Stoodley, but the football crowd is a small portion of the student body. She’s taken a biased sample as representative of the whole. When I was in high school I wouldn’t have given two shits about our nickname, not would any of my friends.

Also, since when does a school board defer policy decisions to the students? Does Stoodley want to let the students decide on a grading system or attendance policy?

See, here’s the thing. Even if the student body favored “Raiders,” which is not at all proven, the adults are in charge because they make wiser decisions than the students.

Stoodley also talked of “compromise” over and over again. But since she was dead-set on restoring “Raiders,” it’s obvious what she meant by compromise: Her side wins, and the other side gets a lovely parting gift. I don’t know what a fair “compromise” would be, but she has no interest in fairness.

Finally, she was a staunch advocate of “education.” What that means, in this context, is presumably some sort of token “Native American Heritage” unit or maybe bring in some Real Injuns to do a rain dance or something ignorant like that. What she wants is a fig leaf of educational purpose behind the retention of an offensive nickname.

I like Rutland, I really do. It’s got grit and character and a lot of good people. But there’s a thick seam of racism running through the place, and it surfaces at embarrassing moments. Like whenever Stephanie Stoodley opens her mouth.

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