Dan French Rides Again

Hey kids, if you’ve never seen Tim Conway’s infamous dentist sketch, take a minute and watch it now.

Got it?

Now you know why, when they film The Dan French Story, they need to fire up the time machine and bring back Tim Conway to play the lead. Because man oh man, if that isn’t Dan French on a platter, I don’t know what is.

We’ve covered the misadventures of our Education Secretary in these spaces before, oh so many times before. And now he’s back for another round.

French’s latest is yet another twist in the Gotthard Pass that is the Scott administration’s Covid policy for schools. For months, his agency had strongly discouraged schools from imposing mask mandates — even to protect students at high risk for Covid complications.

Well, now he’s kinda-sorta walking it back, but also not. Take it away, VTDigger:

After state officials received “several questions” about safety rules, Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French told superintendents on Sept. 1 that “schools may need to implement masking or other mitigation measures as a reasonable accommodation for students who are medically vulnerable.”

Hold my hand while we slog through this depressing paragraph. French got “several questions” after what Digger characterized as “a fraught period for school administrators and parents of immunocompromised children.” He issued guidance “on Sept. 1” — a full week after schools were opening for the new year.

And the guidance is not really guidance at all: “schools may need to implement masking or other mitigation measures… for students who are medically vulnerable.”

May need. Vague, check. Indecisive, check. Unhelpful, check. Yup, it’s a Dan French Special.

The belated timing looks even worse when you hear from agency comms guy Ted Fisher, the Dan French of Scott administration comms staffers. This is not a new policy, he said, merely a restatement of current law.

Really? It took you until September 1 to not come up with a new policy?

Also, like hell it’s nothing new. The agency had been actively discouraging mask mandates for months. Now it realizes, after the school year has begun, that educators have a legal responsibility to ensure free access to public education for all students, and that might be in conflict with a blanket policy against mask mandates.

Gee, I hope none of those immunocompromised kids contracted Covid before French got around to issuing his “not a new policy.”

Which, as one educational equity advocate pointed out, comes “without a lot of clear support.” And now, more than two weeks into the semester, schools are seeking “clarification” of this “not a new policy.”

Thanks, Dan.

Finally, this. French’s inadequate guidance was issued on September 1. The Digger piece was posted ten days later, on September 11. Which means the education agency didn’t publicize this administrative misadventure; Digger found out, presumably from a fed-up school official. Otherwise we never would have heard about this, which would’ve been great for Dan French if no one else.

If there were consequences for bureaucratic failure in the Scott administration, French should have gotten the ziggy before now. But there aren’t. Just ask Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington, who got promoted in the middle of his department’s repeated cockups with unemployment insurance.

Nope. Incompetence is not a hindrance in this administration.

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