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HUSD Ends Contract with Woke Kindergarten

On February 12, Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) terminated its contract with Woke Kindergarten, an educational program adopted at Glassbrook Elementary School. The program attracted opposition because of its overt political content and the creator’s social media posts. “The controversy over this program […] is all distracting the district from doing the important work of supporting our students,” said Superintendent Jason Reimann.

Woke Kindergarten’s website describes itself as an abolitionist educational program aimed at targeting racism and removing educational barriers.  The only person named as a contributor is Akiea Gross, the program’s founder. It is unclear what qualifications or educational background they hold. 

Their curriculum includes ‘woke wonderings,’ or questions posed to students about issues like whether to abolish police and landlords. Additionally, their program provides resources on teaching the Israel-Palestine conflict through a pro-Palestine lens. HUSD paid $250,000 with a federal grant for a three-year contract with Woke Kindergarten. It is unclear how the funds were specifically distributed to which educational services.  

Before the program’s removal, Woke Kindergarten was used for teacher training. “The founder of Woke Kindergarten worked extensively with staff members. They did professional development and individual-level coaching with teachers,” said Reimann in an interview. Despite the name of the program, Woke Kindergarten offered K-6 services to Glassbrook. 

Some have defended Woke Kindergarten for promoting inclusivity. “Abolitionist teaching is helpful in creating learning environments in which students gain agency over their education, are treated as whole humans, and are seen for who they are as individuals,” stated Reimann. According to Reimann, Woke Kindergarten has implemented restorative justice and literacy programs at Glassbrook Elementary. 

The program attracted opposition after its founder, made divisive remarks in a deleted Instagram video: “I believe Israel has no right to exist. I believe the United States has no right to exist. I believe every settler colony that has committed genocide against native peoples, against Indigenous people has no right to exist. Is this news to anybody? Y’all are the demons. Y’all are the villains. We’ve been trying to end y’all. Get free of y’all.” The Monarch Times did not receive a response from Gross after requesting an interview.

The controversy further attracted national news coverage after a Glassbrook teacher, Tiger Craven-Neeley, publicly disagreed about the program’s usefulness and political stances. Although he agreed that schools should teach race, he told the San Francisco Chronicle that he “shouldn’t have to get on the bandwagon of defunding police or insulting our country.” He stated that he found language surrounding “disrupting whiteness” in teacher training sessions confusing. 

A staff meeting occurred at Glassbrook Elementary that discussed the media backlash against Woke Kindergarten. A day later, HUSD officials placed him on paid leave for “allegations of unprofessional conduct.” Craven-Neeley claimed to the media that their removal was politically motivated, alleging that one teacher called him a “threat” to Glassbrook. The Monarch Times unsuccessfully attempted to contact Glassbrook’s principal for an interview. 

Reimann denied that Glassbrook placed Craven-Neeley on leave as a political punishment: “Being placed on paid administrative leave is a common practice and is not considered disciplinary action. It occurs in workplaces typically for the protection of those being investigated.” He declined to provide more detail as it would “be inappropriate and a violation of [personnel] rights.”

As a result of the news backlash, Director of Public Information and Governmental Relations Michael Bazeley said that Glassbrook has received several inflammatory and racist calls. Further fanning the flames of the controversy, during a school board meeting, HUSD trustee Joe Ramos told a district employee who he thought was a proponent of Woke Kindergarten that parents “should take a rope and string [them] up.”

Reimann believes that national media misrepresented HUSD’s partnership with Woke Kindergarten: “In my opinion, some people heard the name of the company, Woke Kindergarten, and connected that name with other ideas they may have with political views and conspiracy theories.”

Ultimately, two years into the contract with Woke Kindergarten, HUSD ended its partnership with it. “Although we respect freedom of speech and the right for individuals to hold a variety of political views, the social media and other public statements of the vendor do not align with the values of the district,” Reimann said in a public statement. 

When asked about the implications of Woke Kindergarten’s removal, Reimann said that the end of the contract would not significantly impact life at Glassbrook. “The professional development on restorative practices, abolitionist teaching, and building relationships is largely complete. The only thing that was ongoing was the extension work,” he said. 

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About the Contributor
Elisandra Hampton
Elisandra Hampton, Copy Editor, Formatting Editor
My name is Elisandra Hampton and I am the Copy Editor and Formatting Editor of The Monarch Times for the 2023-24 school year. I joined The Monarch Times last year and I am dedicated to writing quality articles. I was born in Hayward, raised in Hayward, and plan to die in Hayward. My hobbies include drawing, reading, and spending hours on Instagram Reels. I hope I can continue creating informative content this year.  
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