Archives for category: Courage

Joy Hofmeister, a lifelong Republican and Superintendent of Public Instruction in Oklahoma, has decided to join the Democratic Party and run for Governor against incumbent Kevin Stitt. Stitt is a devotee of Trump, and Oklahoma is a deep-red state. Hofmeister is a strong supporter of public schools and a very brave person. She was interviewed by Erin Burnett on CNN.

I met Joy a few years ago when I was invited to speak to the state’s superintendents. We had a chance to talk, and I was very impressed by her candor, her thoughtfulness, and her strength of character.

If you are reading this and you live in Oklahoma, get involved and help her. If, like me, you don’t live in Oklahoma, send money to her campaign. As soon as I have a link to her campaign, I will post it.

Thank you, Joy, for taking on this formidable challenge. We need more people like you in public life: principled, honest, intelligent, devoted to the common good.

Professor Ibram X. Kendi spoke about dismantling racism at a virtual summit hosted by the Boston Globe. His books are being censored in red states but he was free to speak out in Massachusetts.

While the civil unrest of 2020 may have ignited necessary conversations about racial injustice and inequalities, it hasn’t yet sparked the big, bold changes needed to dismantle racism, professor and best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi said in a virtual session presented Thursday by the Boston Globe Summit.

The sweeping discussion with Amber Payne, co-editor in chief of The Emancipator, touched on structural racism, critical race theory, and the abolition movement as a model for reimagining an antiracist society.

“It’s a pretty massive step from awareness to action,” said Kendi, founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research…

Kendi won the National Book Award for his 2016 release “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” His widely read “How to be an Antiracist” offers a blueprint for antiracist activism. He was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020…

To dismantle structural racism, you’ve got to understand its symptoms, including racial violence, racial inequities, racial injustices, and the ways in which people are demeaned, Kendi said.

“It’s harder to see the policies behind those inequities, and that’s where the research comes in,” Kendi said of the work done at the Center for Antiracist Research.

The center’s researchers are trying to assess the myriad factors leading to disparities and create evidence-based policies to replace the ones that are proven to be racist and unjust, he said.

It’s not enough for people to say or believe that they’re not racist, Kendi said; they must be loud and radical about it, and actively involved in building a more equitable society.

“To allow anything to persist is to be complicit in its persistence,” Kendi said.

Abolitionism is a perfect model for imagining an antiracist future, Payne said.

Kendi agreed. Abolitionists, he added, were loud, radical, and persistent.

“Enslavers were extremely upset about Boston abolitionists because they wanted them to just shut up and do nothing,” he said, adding that enslavers knew the slave trade would persist and grow if the abolitionists didn’t interfere.

But the abolitionists believed it was up to them to dismantle slavery, because if they didn’t, no one else would, Kendi said.

That’s a mindset that needs to take hold today, he said.

I am posting this notice after the press conference described here, but the details are important nevertheless. A group called Oakland Not For Sale formed to fight privatization and just won a major settlement. For many years, the Oakland public schools have been a plaything for billionaire privatizers and a succession of Broadie superintendents.

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: September 23, 2021, 3:30 PM PT

CONTACT: Melissa Korber, 510-541-9669 or Amanda Cooper, 917-930-7552

Parents, Teachers, Atty Dan Siegel Announce Settlement with OUSD Over Police Brutality at 2019 School Board Meeting,

Plans to Donate Funds to Fight Public School Closures & Privatization

Parent and Teacher Members of Oakland Not For Sale (ONFS) Will Hold Press Conference With OUSD School Board Member Mike Hutchinson To Address Settlement, Donation Plans and Update in Kaiser School Fight

Oakland, CA — On Thursday, Sept. 23, at 3:30 pm PT, Oakland Not for Sale (ONFS) will host a press conference for parent and teacher plaintiffs and their attorney Dan Siegel to announce a six-figure legal settlement with the Oakland Unified School District as well as plans to donate toward the fight against school closures and public school-supporting Board candidates in the 2022 election. OUSD School Board Member Mike Hutchinson will also be present.

“We have reached a settlement of our dispute regarding the school board’s October 2019 meeting. We reached an agreement for a total amount of $337,500 in damages,” said Saru Jayaraman, plaintiff in the litigation Jayaraman v. OUSD. “We’re thrilled to be announcing not only this settlement with the District, but our ability to now give a six-figure donation to our fight to stop public school closures and support candidates who will fight the privatization of the Oakland Unified School District. We’re also thrilled that in the same moment, we can declare victory in that Kaiser Elementary, which we fought to keep public, will indeed remain a public facility — and we will build on these victories with resources to continue to fight all future public school closures.”

The settlement resolves litigation filed by the parents and teachers, many of whom are members of ONFS, over police brutality at an October 2019 school board meeting protesting the proposed closure of Kaiser Elementary School. At the press conference on Thursday, parents and teachers will announce that they plan to make a six-figure donation to continue the fight against further public school closures and privatization. They will also discuss their victory in keeping Kaiser Elementary a public facility.

“While it isn’t exactly what we would have hoped, we’re happy Kaiser is being used as a public facility for students and that we were able to resolve the litigation,” said Amy Haruyama, OUSD teacher who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, taught at Kaiser Elementary, and now teaches at Sankofa United Elementary School.

These actions come in the context of a long history of OUSD School Board decisions to close 17 public schools, mostly majority Black and brown schools, almost all of which have been replaced with charter schools. OUSD’s history of closing schools and allowing them to be replaced by charters has been driven by both the state of California, which retains trusteeship over OUSD, and by outside billionaire charter school advocates like Michael Bloomberg and Eli Broad.

ONFS was formed after the announcement that Kaiser Elementary School would become the latest in a long line of school closures that was intended for replacement by charter or private schools. After protracted peaceful public protest by parents, teachers, and students, and despite police brutality as a response to this protest, the School Board recently agreed to a public use for Kaiser Elementary. The school will house public early education .

I read this excerpt from a new book, published in the Washington Post, and was mesmerized by the account. The book’s author is Lizzie Johnson, a Post reporter. I hope the Post will forgive me for reprinting it. I promise to delete the post if they object. Read it while you can and buy the book to make amends for reading this preview. Subscribe to the Washington Post so you can see the pictures that the two teachers took from inside the bus. The story is moving not only because of the bravery of the bus driver and the teachers and children, but because of the generosity they encountered along the way.

This story is adapted from “Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire,” which was published this week by Penguin Random House.

The flames were just a mile from Ponderosa Elementary School when Kevin McKay opened the door of Bus 963 to about two dozen children, their eyes wide with fear.

It was 8:45 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2018, and the deadliest wildfire in California history was tearing toward Paradise, a working-class town in a region once again being devastated by conflagration.

The children being evacuated included the twin daughters of an immigrant couple who owned a local Thai restaurant. The 10-year-old daughter of a bartender. A 7-year-old whose father was in nearby Tehama, painting the small-town mayor’s front door.

Their parents commuted to distant communities or worked low-wage jobs that they couldn’t walk away from, even in an emergency. They weren’t able to collect their sons and daughters as the wind-fueled Camp Fire advanced on their Northern California community of 26,000 with astonishing speed.

School bus driver Kevin McKay was responsible for the safety of 22 children and two teachers as a wildfire tore through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018.

McKay, a part-time driver who made $11 an hour, had to find a way to get the children and two of their teachers to safety. He knew that the few roads out of Paradise would be clogged with other motorists trying to escape.

He turned the 35,000-pound bus onto Pentz Road, peering through the dark smoke. Cinders tumbled from the clouds, igniting thousands of small fires along the roadside. McKay planned to cut across town to reach Clark Road — the second-largest thoroughfare in Paradise, able to accommodate 900 cars per hour — then head to Oroville, 24 miles away. Traffic was piling up on Pentz Road, and he didn’t want to get stuck.

Behind him, the 22 schoolchildren on the bus were si­lent, an eerie contrast to the din of his regular route. When the wildfire was reported, he was the bus driver closest to Ponderosa Elementary and offered to help.

The chil­dren, too small to see over the tops of the seats, were nearly invisible in his rearview mirror. McKay, 41, spotted a golden yellow beanie and a blue tie-dyed baseball cap. He didn’t know their names; they didn’t know his.

“Who are you?” Mary Ludwig, a second-grade teacher, had asked when McKay pulled up at the school.

She had never seen him before, which she found odd. Ludwig, 50, had taught in the district since 1994, and she thought she knew every bus driver. She was friendly with a lot of people in Paradise; she and her nine siblings had grown up there.

McKay had spent much of his life there, too, moving to town when he was 12. He’d been captain of the Paradise High School football team before graduating in 1995. Now, he was a twice-divorced father of two who’d worked as a manager at a distant Walgreens until the long hours and commute wore him out. In 2018, he’d quit and gotten the job driving the school bus, which would give him time to start classes at the community college. He wanted to get an education degree and teach history at Paradise High.

McKay told Ludwig that he was new to the school district, but not new to Paradise.

Mary Ludwig hadn’t expected to get on Bus 963 when she walked her last three students out of the building that morning. The fire had swept down from the Feather River Canyon with almost no warning.

Chunks of burned bark were raining down on the playground. A firebrand landed in her hair, singeing it. She guided her second-graders to the bus, as the other teachers had.

“I need you to come with me,” McKay implored. Someone had to look after the children as he drove.
Ludwig was a devoted teacher, who liked crafting creative lesson plans. She’d recently read her kids “James and the Giant Peach” in a bad British accent. Then she’d taught them about the momentum of the peach by having the children toss balls down a knoll, studying how slope affected speed.

Now, with the fire gaining its own momentum, Ludwig wanted to drive home to check on her teenage son. But she knew that if her own child were boarding a bus with a new driver during a natural disaster, she would want a teacher to be with them.

She persuaded Abbie Davis, a first-year kindergarten instructor, to join her.
Davis was 29 and newly engaged. Now, as she boarded the bus, she worried whether she and her fiance would survive to see their wedding day. Ludwig clambered up behind her.

“You’d better be a good driver,” she told McKay.

In his rearview mirror, McKay watched the playground at Pon­derosa Elementary disappear in the distance. He turned off Pentz Road and onto Wag­staff Road, where flames were roaring along the edges.

The air was stifling, greased with carcinogens from burning household products. Embers lunged sideways on the downdraft.

McKay called Ludwig and Davis to the front, pointing out the fire extinguisher and the first aid kit. He gestured to the two emergency exits and emphasized that they were not going to leave the bus unless they absolutely had to. It was the safest place to be.

Ludwig thanked him. He told the teach­ers to take attendance and pair older children with younger ones.

“And handwrite three copies as you take roll,” he said, “so each one of us has a manifest of the kids in our care.”

“Why?” Ludwig asked.

“If something happens,” McKay answered, “authorities need to know who was on this bus.”

“Is it 10 p.m.?’


The teachers walked down the aisle of the bus, following McKay’s instructions.

Rowan Stovall, who had just turned 10, was seated beside a kindergartner. She tried to comfort her.
“You’ll see your mom and dad again,” she said, clutching the little girl’s hand. “The bus isn’t going to catch on fire. We are going to be okay, I promise.”

A boy in a flannel shirt tugged on Ludwig’s shirt sleeve as she passed him.

“Is it 10 p.m.?” he asked. He was confused; it was so dark outside.

Another boy was in a panic, ripping at his hair as he babbled about how his “94-year-old” cat was going to burn up. Even more worrisome were the ones who didn’t speak at all.

“How do I distract the children and reassure them at the same time?” Ludwig thought.


She knelt beside a tiny girl in a zipped fleece jacket, asking her name for the manifest. The girl was so terrified that she couldn’t remember her last name. Ludwig rubbed her back.


Across the row, she saw a backpack resting on an empty seat. A kindergartner had curled up beneath the bench, cocooning herself from the unfolding nightmare outside the bus.


McKay went over different scenarios in his head, trying to fig­ure out the best way to get down Clark Road.

An RV cut in front of him. “How dare you,” McKay thought, seething. “Can’t you see there are children on board?”


He was not going to panic. He knew that children were sensitive to the energy of those around them. He could see the kids’ hysteria escalate whenever the teachers took a break to stare out the windows, or take photos on their cellphones, or call their loved ones. The women’s voices warbled with fear.
Ludwig’s son hadn’t evacuated soon enough and was now trapped on Pearson Road, which dropped into a gully known as Dead Man’s Hole for its lack of cell service.


Davis worried that her fiance, Matt Gerspacher, who was refusing to leave their house until he saw the bus pass by, might die because of his stubbornness.


McKay flicked on the ceiling light so other drivers could see the children in the back of the bus. He asked that Davis be his scout, pacing in the aisle and calling out new spot fires along Clark Road so he would know when to change lanes and keep some distance from the flames.


He learned to read the arc of Davis’s eyebrow and the tilt of her head, the subtle ways she signaled the presence of flames, not wanting to speak aloud and scare the children. Meanwhile, Ludwig continued scribbling down their names.


Two of the school district’s assistant superintendents emerged from the smoke and knocked on the glass door. McKay was startled, then opened it for them.

Their truck had caught fire in the parking lot of Ponderosa Elementary, and they had decided to proceed on foot. It was faster than driving anyway. Boarding the bus for a few minutes, they warned McKay to avoid Paradise Elementary — an evacuation center and for years the town’s only elementary school — because it was already on fire. Then the two got off to continue their walk. They planned to help direct traffic.

Now the blaze was everywhere, scorching the mountains and hillsides with unprecedented fury. The red and blue spin of police lights ricocheted past as officers drove into ditches and around fallen trees, rushing in response to reports about a cluster of people trapped in the basement of Feather River Hospital. They were also trying to track down a woman who had gone into labor in the Fastrip gas station parking lot.

Ludwig pointed out the first responders to the children.
“Look at those brave men coming to help us!” she said.
The children screamed through the locked windows: “Thank you! We love you!” Their noses left smudges on the glass.

They passed beloved landmarks: Paradise Alliance Church, Moun­tain Mike’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Dollar General. The Black Bear Diner, with its carved wooden bear propped out front, holding a sign reading, “Welcome to Bearadise.”
The familiar sights offered a sense of hope. “Who likes pancakes?” Ludwig yelled, smiling broadly and raising her hand. A smattering of small palms followed.

McKay commented that he also kept a wooden bear statue in front of his house. The children laughed, because they knew that couldn’t be true — there was only one “Welcome to Bearadise” sign!
The sky broke, the velvet black fading to light gray. Then the darkness closed in again. They’d been on the bus for two hours now and had gone little more than a mile. Flames cat­apulted onto the roofs of the Black Bear Diner and the McDon­ald’s, then spread towards the KFC restaurant down the block.

Ludwig fell silent. So did the children.

As they turned onto Pearson Road and passed the intersection of Black Olive Drive, an officer directed the bus south, away from the Skyway, the main thoroughfare out of Paradise. They had been one block away. For a short distance, they moved easily, without stopping.

McKay was trying to escape along routes that only a native would know — but he was turned away repeatedly by law enforcement officers with out-of-town uniforms who claimed to know better.

The bus was pushed off Pearson Road to smaller streets: south on Foster, east on Buschmann, south on Scottwood. Miraculously, a text had made it through the cellphone gridlock from McKay’s girlfriend letting him know that his family was safe in Chico. She had gotten a hotel room for his son and mother. A small mercy.

Roe Road appeared before them. It was dangerously narrow, its sides flanked by dead brush and ponderosa pines. All morning, McKay had referred to the timber in Paradise as fuel — a phrase that Ludwig and Davis had never heard.
To them, trees were a source of beauty. Ludwig described the town’s ponderosa pine groves as the “rainforest” of Paradise. But looking ahead, McKay’s word choice made sense. Roe Road was claustrophobic. It was harrowing on an ordinary day because the line of sight was so limited. Now it looked as though the brush could ignite at any moment.

A Paradise police officer flagged McKay down.
“Do you have kids on this bus?” the officer said, peering up as McKay cranked open the driver’s window. “I’m about to shut this road down, but you go first. Get out of here.”

“Hey, man, Roe Road is highly overgrown,” McKay said. “I’m worried about getting through there.”
“Just go,” the officer replied. “There’s no other way out.”

McKay halted in the middle of the intersection of Scottwood and Roe, trying to leave a football field’s length between the bus and the car ahead. The pause also gave him an opportunity to attempt a getaway: He tried, very slowly, to pivot away from Roe Road and take a different route, against the officer’s recommendation. The drivers behind him laid on their horns, livid that he wasn’t moving forward. They wedged their vehicles into the clearance, and the patrolman directed a few more cars forward into the intersection, trapping McKay in place.

In the confusion, an elderly driver scraped the back of the bus, jostling the children from their seats. McKay was stuck. The decision had been made for him: The only way out was forward.

Ludwig, who had been helping calm a student, recognized the road. She walked to the front of the bus.

“What the heck, Kevin?” she said, her voice cracking. “Why are you taking us down Roe Road?”

She begged him to go a different way. “You know it’s a death trap,” Ludwig said. “Please do not take us down this road.”

McKay gripped the steering wheel. They didn’t have a choice, he said.

Davis interrupted, saying she thought some of the children were in shock. She didn’t know what to do.

Ludwig switched places with her, sitting with a young girl who usually had a lively personality but was now morose.

The children grew drowsy, some on the verge of passing out, nauseated by the carbon monox­ide and exhaust fumes. Hours had passed since they’d last had food or water. The bus was unbearably hot.

McKay kept his eyes locked on the road ahead. The canopy ruffled, ready to catch flame. Ludwig squeezed the girl’s hand once more, then walked back to the front of the bus, sliding into a seat with Davis. She was depleted.

For a moment, the two women found solace in each other.

“Look out the window, Mary,” Davis whispered. “I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

They clutched hands, imprinting tiny half moons on each other’s skin with their nails, Davis’s fist as small as a songbird. She revealed that she had already lost one fiance in a riverboating accident — and now the man who had offered her a sec­ond chance at marriage was refusing to leave town for her sake. What if he died while waiting for her?
Together, she and Ludwig whispered prayers. Ludwig wondered whether the school district might later fire her for this public show of faith. Perhaps, she thought, administrators would understand that this was a special circumstance.
“Please,” the teachers pleaded, “let the smoke kill us first.”

‘Way too dangerous’

The brake lights ahead of McKay dimmed, and traffic moved forward. Roe Road, with its drooping oak and pine boughs and tangled brush, lay ahead. Glancing in the rearview mir­ror, he saw the two teachers huddled together in a single seat. He didn’t like seeing them so upset.

“All right, girls, we’ve got a job to do!” he hollered.
Davis, her prayer finished, darted forward and stood by his seat. Her eyes were bloodshot from the six hours she had spent in the smoke.

Earlier, she had told Ludwig that she was worried that they would lose a kinder­gartner to smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Hey, Kevin,” Davis said now, “the kids are starting to pass out. They can’t breathe. What should we do?”

McKay slithered out of his black polo and yanked his extra-large undershirt over his head, tossing it at Davis. She held it gingerly.

“Tear it into 25 squares, so we each have one,” McKay explained, pulling the polo back over his belly. He put his foot on the brake and showed her how to rip the cotton undershirt into rags. “We’ll douse it with some water, and the kids can use them as masks.

Ludwig helped shred the thin shirt into pieces, and Davis soaked them with water from a half-full plastic bottle in her purse — the only water on the bus. She dispensed the dampened masks to the children and instructed them to hold the fabric over their mouths.

“I want you guys to suck on the rag a little bit,” Ludwig told them. “It’ll make your throats feel better. But I have to warn you, I don’t know when bus driver Kevin last washed his undershirt!”
The students giggled.

Davis walked down the aisle with the last dregs of water, giving each child a sip. She would have loved some herself: Her chest ached, her head swam and each inhalation scratched her throat like gravel. But she had to save as much as she could. Some­one might need it more.

Ludwig took over to give Davis a second to rest. As she walked down the bus aisle with the bottle, she tripped, spilling the precious water.

“Kevin, I need to get off this bus to get more water,” she said as she returned to the driver’s seat.
“I’m not letting you off. It’s way too dangerous out there,” he said.

“I don’t care, Kevin,” Ludwig replied. “We need water.”

He knew she was right. He opened the door, and she descended into the darkness.


Feeling her way along Roe Road, Ludwig bumped into a tall, rangy figure. He was a young man in his 20s, inked with tattoos, who had aban­doned his car to see why traffic wasn’t moving.


“Do you have any water?” Ludwig asked, uncertain how he would react. “I have 22 kids on a bus, and we need it badly.”


“Let me check my car,” he said, cutting back through traffic.


“Thank you,” Ludwig said.

A few minutes later, he reappeared with two plastic bottles. They were crunched and nearly empty, as though they had been rolling around his floorboards for a year, but they contained some water. His generosity felt staggering.


She returned to the bus, which hadn’t gone far: Every 10 minutes or so, it would shudder forward an inch, if that. They had been trapped on Roe Road for more than an hour, although they were only half a mile from merging onto Neal Road, which promised a direct route to Oroville — and safety.


Ludwig and Davis were resoaking the rags when McKay noticed an older man hosing down his travel trailer. He asked Ludwig to hop off the bus to fill up their three water bottles. The teacher did, feet crunching across the desiccated grass. Reach­ing the man, she held out the three bottles and asked if he would fill them.


“Of course,” he replied. “How many kids do you have?”


She told him and he ducked inside his home, returning with half a case of water bottles. He handed the flat to Ludwig without a word, then picked up his hose again.

“If the bus catches fire, can we come huddle with you?” Ludwig asked.

“Sure,” the man said, splashing more water onto his trailer.

“Mary,” McKay yelled to her. “Get back on board!”
The bus was creeping forward, and although they weren’t going far, he didn’t want her out of sight.
Ludwig sprinted back. She and Davis drizzled more water into the children’s mouths. Their lips were chapped from the smoke and dehydration, and their faces were pink with exertion.


The students did whatever was asked of them with­out complaint, although they were exhausted. The fire outside had heated up the metal bus like a pizza oven. Ludwig estimated that it had to be at least 100 degrees. The children were sweating through their clothing.


One young boy had undone the buttons on his flannel shirt, exposing his pale, bare chest.


A few rows back, 10-year-old Rowan Stovall couldn’t tear her eyes away from the bus window and the wildfire consuming Paradise.


The days of fishing for bluegill at the Aquatic Park, baiting them with dandelions, seemed like a thing of the past. She feared there would be no more collecting crystals or skipping rocks at Paradise Lake with her mom, no more karate or horseback riding lessons.


Rowan, who was nicknamed Rowboat by her mother, was tough. She never cried when she skinned her knee or bit her lip — she had been raised with male cousins — but she couldn’t hide her emotions if someone hurt her feelings. She loved animals with a tenderness that her mother found endearing: She doted on their three cats and tracked the speckled fawns that munched on their lawn in the evening.

Now, as Rowan stared out at the burning forest, she saw a deer trapped by a burning log. Its spotted body stumbled forward, then slumped to the ground, overtaken by flames.


‘We’re moving!’


McKay cranked open the bus door.
“Do you need a ride?” he asked a young woman who looked lost on the side of Roe Road.


The 20-year-old preschool teacher gratefully boarded Bus 963. Her car had run out of gas a few blocks back, she said, and she no longer had a way out of town. She slid into a seat in the back, passing rows of quiet children, uninter­ested in the presence of a stranger. They were too worn out to care.


The intersection with Neal Road neared. As the car in front of him turned, McKay finally got a glimpse of the crossroads. Vehicles were crammed into every lane. Panicked drivers wouldn’t let the bus merge.


Everything ahead of them was ablaze: houses, trees, shrubs. If McKay didn’t kick the bus into gear, they were going to get caught, too — but there was nothing he could do, nowhere he could go.


In the back of the bus, Ludwig gripped her inhaler, her asthma aggravated by the dense smoke. Davis closed her eyes and thought of her fiance. McKay pictured the 22 children running for their lives, scattering into the forest in every direction.


Just then, a truck cut around the bus and blocked a lane of traf­fic on Neal Road. McKay accelerated into the space and made a wide turn onto the evacuation route. The truck belonged to the Ponderosa Elementary School principal, who had been tailing the bus for miles to make sure the children got to safety.

McKay swung the bus onto the road and hit the gas. “We’re moving!” he exclaimed, incredu­lous.
Davis turned to look out the window. They were passing a fa­miliar property — the home of her future in-laws, where she had enjoyed many holiday meals and Sunday dinners.


She spotted her fiance’s truck parked in the driveway, and his father standing alongside it in a reflective yellow vest. Neither of the men was budging until they knew she was safe. She had argued with Gerspacher about it on the phone earlier, begging him to leave.


“Nope, not doing it,” he had replied. To see him now felt like the greatest gift. Davis waved at him, awash in emotion.


Bus 963’s final stop


An officer by a barricade blocked the school bus from entering Chico, and traffic toward Oroville was gridlocked. So McKay drove 25 miles south to the tiny town of Biggs, arriving around 2 p.m. More than six hours had passed since they’d boarded the bus.


After a food and bathroom break, the children were taken to Biggs Elementary, where Ludwig’s father had once taught. She nearly cried at the sight of the familiar brick building.


Her own school, Ponderosa Elementary, had been badly damaged in the wildfire, which, they would learn later, had claimed 85 lives and 11,000 homes. McKay’s house was gone. So was Davis’s. Ludwig’s had survived, but she knew that Paradise would never be the same.

Kevin McKay’s house was destroyed by the fire. He doesn’t plan to rebuild it and has since moved to Chico, although he still owns the property.
They’d reckon with those losses in the days and weeks to come.

Now McKay locked Bus 963, its ceiling encrusted with layers of black soot and dust, and followed the coughing children into Biggs Elementary.

Some of their parents, including Rowan Stovall’s mother, Nicole Alderman, had spent the past few hours at a Mormon temple in Chico waiting to learn the fate of their kids.

Alderman tried not to give in to fear, but wondered if Rowan “was scared, if she was alone. I was just trying to stay calm and focused, because being panicked wasn’t going to help me find her.”
Then a text arrived. It contained a snapshot of a Bus 963 manifest, the names of the students aboard scribbled in pen on a piece of paper. A school administrator read the list out loud and asked the parents to make the half-an-hour drive to Biggs.
Their children were alive.

Lizzie Johnson is an enterprise reporter at The Washington Post and the author of “Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire.”

Bob Moses died on July 25 at the age of 86. He was noted for his intellect and courage. He was a leader of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), leading a voter registration drive in Mississippi at a time when violence against Black civil rights activists were at risk of being murdered, and no jury would convict their killers. In 1964, he led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which tried unsuccessfully to replace the all-white Democratic delegation to the Democratic National Convention. In 1982, he founded the Algebra Project, to teach algebra to underprepared Black youth. He received multiple honors for his work. He graduated from the elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Hamilton College (where he majored in philosophy and French), and earned a master’s degree at Harvard in philosophy.

One of his friends and admirers forwarded the following story:

It might be of interest that Bob’s first stop on his way South from the Bronx was the SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] office on east 19th street He said it was his first stop and affirmation of friendship and sncc sds solidarity


He was always a friend


He spoke at a University of Michigan commencement ceremony
He said “people don’t like long speeches and that are hard to remember. Mine will be short.

I want everyone here to accept as a common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution” then he paused and then said “So you remember I will repeat: I want everyone here to accept as a common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution.” Then he sat down.

It was stunning. The University president expecting a long something didn’t know what to say… having previously mis-introduced him as. author of “Racial Equations”

I found the address memorable and it might be well in memory of our friend to rededicate ourselves to the common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution. Bob Moses, Presente!

Ed McBroom is a dairy farmer in Michigan. He is also a Republican state senator who chairs the Oversight Committee of the legislature. It was his job to determine whether the election of 2020 was marked by fraud, as Trump said on many occasions. McBroom led hearings and investigated the claims. After eight months of searching, McBroom said he was unable to find evidence of fraud. His committee’s conclusion: “This Committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election.”

The stakes could hardly have been higher. Against a backdrop of confusion and suspicion and frightening civic friction—with Trump claiming he’d been cheated out of victory, and anecdotes about fraud coursing through every corner of the state—McBroom had led an exhaustive probe of Michigan’s electoral integrity. His committee interviewed scores of witnesses, subpoenaed and reviewed thousands of pages of documents, dissected the procedural mechanics of Michigan’s highly decentralized elections system, and scrutinized the most trafficked claims about corruption at the state’s ballot box in November. McBroom’s conclusion hit Lansing like a meteor: It was all a bunch of nonsense…

“Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan,” McBroom wrote in the report. “There is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters.”

For good measure, McBroom added: “The Committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain…”

Soon after the report was released, Trump issued a thundering statement calling McBroom’s investigation “a cover up, and a method of getting out of a Forensic Audit for the examination of the Presidential contest.” The former president then published the office phone numbers for McBroom and Michigan’s GOP Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, urging his followers to “call those two Senators now and get them to do the right thing, or vote them the hell out of office!”

McBroom had grown up a “history nerd.” He idolized the revolutionary Founders. He inhaled biographies of George Washington and McBroom had grown up a “history nerd.” He idolized the revolutionary Founders. He inhaled biographies of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. He revered the institution of the American presidency. And here was the 45th president, calling him out by name, accusing him of unthinkable treachery.

The Atlantic has the story. I hope it is not behind a paywall.

The Boston Globe wrote about other Republican officials who investigated the election results in their state and told the truth. The Globe titled its story: They kept the wheels on democracy as Trump tried to steal an election. Now they’re paying the price.

There was Republican Bill Gates, a member of the board of supervisors in Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix). He and his colleagues certified Biden’s victory and were reviled by angry Trump supporters.

There was Liz Cheney, who sacrificed her leadership position in the House of Representatives rather than follow the party line. She put her oath to the Constitution above the wishes of Trump and paid the price.

There was Aaron Van Langevelde, who lost his position on the Michigan Board of State Canvassers because he voted to certify Biden’s victory (Biden led Trump by 150,000 votes in Michigan). The Republican leadership punished him for his courage.

Van Langevelde revealed he faced pressure from political leaders to withhold certification in a March 26 speech at Cardozo Law School, which he provided to the Globe and which has not previously been reported.

“We were asked to take power we didn’t have. What would have been the cost if we had done so?,” Van Langevelde asked. “Constitutional chaos and the loss of our integrity.”

“There were a lot of people who would have preferred I said nothing, voted no, or abstained. I am sure a lot of people didn’t want me to make it to that meeting,” he continued. “I did everything I could to make it to that meeting, even though I knew it would cost me my position on the Board….”

That backlash could very well cost some Republicans their political careers. In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stood by the election results that gave Biden a narrow, 11,779-vote lead and resisted Trump’s entreaties to “find” more votes for him. Now, Raffensperger faces a challenge from a Trump-endorsed congressman, Jody Hice, who embraced Trump’s “stop the steal” movement. Few in the state are betting on Raffensperger’s survival.

“He’s done, he’s over,” said Jay Williams, a Republican strategist in the state. “There’s just no way he’s going to recover.”

Vice President Mike Pence let Trump’s fictions about the election fester through much of the fall, but he ultimately presided over the certification of Biden’s victory at the Capitol after rioters called for him to be punished — even hanged, some said. The move was widely seen as a betrayal by the Republican base and could imperil his political ambitions…

In Philadelphia, Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner, pushed back on the conspiracy theories that revolved around his city through television appearances and press conferences, particularly after Trump claimed repeatedly that, “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”

“They were lying about what was going on in front of us,” said Schmidt, who was still working in the city’s tabulation facility when, on Nov. 11, Trump tweeted about him by name. Soon, he and his family received threats that named his children and called him a traitor.

“What they were really saying is, ‘If you lie, this will go away,’” Schmidt said. He wouldn’t….

As some key officials who resisted election chaos lose their jobs, face uncertain political futures, or retire, experts are also worried about another development. Since January, at least 14 states have passed bills in state houses that give partisan lawmakers more power over elections and election officials….

Gates, the member of the board of supervisors in Phoenix, can see the latest iteration of that from his office. He has a view of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where his county’s ballots were “audited” by a private company in an exercise that is widely seen as a sham.

Gates opposes the audit. He and his colleagues refused to hand over ballots and voting machines until they were forced to do so under a court ruling following a subpoena from the Senate president. He has continued to speak out against the audit, even as it draws a parade of Republicans around the country who have come to admire it.

“This is about an attempt to delegitimize our democratic system,” Gates said.

For now, he is trying not to let the threatening messages — including a voice mail reviewed by the Globe that called for him to be given an “Alabama necktie” — get to him. And though he wrestled with the decision, he’s resolved to run again to keep his job, in an attempt to keep the guardrails on the electoral system for next time.

“If following the law … leads me to losing my next political race, that’s fine,” he said. “We have to stand up to these people.”

The New York Times reports:

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott and the Republican-controlled legislature are eager to pass legislation making it harder to vote, especially for people of color. Most Republican-led states are doing the same thing, even in states that Trump won (like Texas).

Governor Abbott’s despicable attempt to disenfranchise voters is the centerpiece of the proposed law, but it includes other delicacies for the conservative base:

While the second attempt to pass voting measures will be perhaps the most closely watched legislative battle when the session convenes on Thursday, Mr. Abbott also called for the Legislature to take up measures combating perceived “censorship” on social media platforms; banning the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools; further limiting abortions; putting in place new border security policies; and restricting transgender athletes from competing in school sports.

During the regular session, Republicans tried to enact restrictions on voting that would reduce voting in communities of color, but the Democratic minority walked out, denying the legislature a quorum. And time ran out. Governor Abbott called a special session to get the voting bill passed. This time, the Democrats again walked out, chartered a plane and flew to Washington, D.C. to plead for national legislation to protect the right to vote.

WASHINGTON — Texas lawmakers traveled down starkly divergent political paths on Tuesday, as Republicans in Austin signaled their intention to push forward with an overhaul of the state’s election system while Democrats who had fled the state a day earlier began lobbying lawmakers in Congress to pass comprehensive federal voting rights legislation.

While Democrats celebrated their immediate victory and a torrent of media attention, they confronted a much bigger long-term challenge: There is little the party can do to stop Republicans from ultimately passing a wide array of voting restrictions, with Gov. Greg Abbott vowing to call “special session after special session after special session” until an election bill is passed.

But Democrats, as long as they remain away from Texas, appear likely to succeed in delaying the G.O.P. voting bill. Chris Turner, the Democratic leader in the Texas State House, said that 57 members of the party’s delegation were now absent from Austin, more than the 51 necessary to stop business from proceeding. They have pledged to remain in Washington for the duration of the Texas session, and Republicans do not appear to have a legal way to bring them back from Washington.

“Best I know, Texas law enforcement doesn’t have jurisdiction outside the state of Texas,” Mr. Turner said Tuesday outside the Capitol.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes on a rising Democratic star: James Talarico, a former middle school teacher in the public schools of Round Rock, a proud progressive, and the youngest member of the legislature (32). See this Tweet.

Robert Skeels was a public education advocate in Los Angeles who decided to become a lawyer to fight the powerful corporate charter industry. After receiving his BA in classical civilizations at UCLA, Skeels spent years as an activist, inspired by Paulo Freire, then earned his law degree in 2018. This is the only instance to my knowledge where a charter critic decided that he had to get a law degree to fight the charter industry.

As a part-time associate at a law firm in Los Angeles, he has won two cases against the powerful and well-funded charter industry.

He wrote in Medium:

My first win against a corporate charter school was a year ago as third chair in a suit to overturn a wrongful expulsion of a student of color. The Partnerships to Uplift Communities (“PUC”) charter chain (of convicted felon Ref Rodriguez fame) violated that student’s due process rights. Violated isn’t a strong enough word for what they did. PUC unilaterally changed the charges at the appeals hearing and branded the child as a terrorist in his permanent record. Under the tutelage of the brilliant partners at the law firm I was a part-timer at the time (I am currently transitioning to full time there), plus sage advice from @DrPrestonGreen, we built a strong case.

Skeels’ second victory came just days ago, when he defended the blogger known as Michael Kohlhaas in his pursuit of the records of a charter chain. Kohlhaas exposes the dirty secrets of government, businesses, and other powerful forces in Los Angeles. In one of his important exposes, he revealed that Nick Melvoin, who represents the charter industry on the Los Angeles school board, had shared the board’s legal strategies with the California Charter Schools Association while in litigation with them.

Skeels writes:

This latest case was a charter trying to hide all its dirty secrets by not complying with the CPRA [the open records law]. The scandal-ridden The Accelerated Schools (“TAS”) charter chain’s leaders absconded when the community started pushing back and started asking questions about union busting.

Michael Kohlhaas dot org sent sent TAS several CPRA requests in 2018, which they ignored (unlawfully). A year later, I filed the petition for writ of mandate for them. Some ten months later TAS sent some records, but claimed “blanket exemptions” on a bunch of other ones.

An infamous law firm that only represents lucrative, privately managed charter school corporations staked out the position that any communications with the charter school industry’s trade association — the CCSA — was subject to a range of exemptions under the CPRA.

I suppose I can’t blame them. The charter industry — long used to unaccountably spending tax dollars in total secrecy — fought tooth and nail the imposition of the CPRA and Brown Act added by Ed. Code § 47604.1(b)(2)(A). When the law took effect January 2020, charter school corporations were already looking for ways to skirt the law. At the firm I’m a junior associate at, we use the CPRA for pre-discovery work against charter corporations. Michael Kohlhaas dot org, on the other hand, has used it to expose some of the ugliest, scandalous conduct by an industry already infamous for scandal. Uncovering the vile Nick Melvoin’s sharing Los Angeles Unified School District’s (“LAUSD”) confidential legal strategies with their party-opponent in a lawsuit (the CCSA) was a blockbuster revelation enabled by the CPRA.

The judge in the case ruled that the charter chain was not entitled to the blanket exemption from disclosure for its records.

Skeels wrote: “Let the corporate charter school industry know that they aren’t going to be able to hide their dark secrets anymore.”

Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times reported good news. A proposal to expand the state’s small voucher plan was rejected by the House. Republicans joined Democrats to provide the votes to defeat vouchers. Many rural Republicans don’t want to hurt their public schools.

He writes:

After more than an hour and a half of impassioned debate, the Arkansas House today defeated a bill to double from about 500 the number of students in Arkansas who could receive state money for vouchers to attend private schools. The vote was 44-52, with two voting present and two not voting.

A motion to clinch the outcome failed, so the bill may come up again. UPDATE: Here’s the roll call.

The debate covered familiar talking points, with some legislators repeating speeches they’d given when the bill cleared a House committee 11-9 yesterday.

Proponents hammered on choice and emphasized that the bill would favor lower-income families (though the income cutoff is higher than the average family income in Arkansas.)

Opponents emphasized the loss of funding for public schools and the measure’s  open-ended growth from an initial outlay of $4 million. They talked of uncertainty about what students would be chosen and about the lack of standards for private schools. (They’d need only be approved by a private association of private schools.)

I was particularly moved by a couple of opponents.Rep. Jim Wooten (R-Beebe) said the bill would be “the final nail driven in public education in this state.” It’s a progressive nibbling away, he said. “If you think these private schools are going to take every comer that comes to their door, you are fooling yourself.”

Rep. David Tollett (R-Lexa), a school superintendent, told of the private schools in the Delta, creatures of segregation. He challenged legislators to name a minority private school in the state. “This privatizes of public education. It is a nationwide movement. It has struck many different states and not one of them has been successful.” He did the compounding of the cost: at a 25 percent growth rate, it will reach $1 billion in time.

He read from studies showing harm to students from voucher programs, particularly Louisiana where voucher students ended up in many poor quality private schools.

He said the state could have simply lifted a cap on the existing voucher program, which targets students with disabilities. Why, Tollett asked, does it take a 29-page bill to change things. “It’s a Trojan horse,” he said. “It’s not about the children.” He and Wooten both noted the money spent on scholarships ($30 million, Wooten said) by private schools to recruit athletes for prize-winning teams.ADVERTISEMENT

Tollett also said a promise of money for public schools in the fund that will finance vouchers is an empty promise because the categorical programs are already covered by federal money directed to needy districts. Tollett also commented that heard some say a vote by a Republican was a vote contrary to the party platform. He said nobody had tried to tell him that. Republicans accounted for a majority of the no votes. There are only 22 Democrats in the House.

I am breaking my recent promise not to post articles that were previously published, but this is one of those rare exceptions to the rule, because it would not get the national audience it deserves without reposting it here. This article by Sandra Vohs, president of the Fort Wayne Education Association, appeared originally in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, one of the few newspapers in Indiana and the nation that appreciates our public schools and their teachers.

Vohs writes:


These days, it’s impossible not to hear cries of “get kids back in school” and “we need to reopen schools.” These declarations certainly suggest that schools are closed.

In this era of alternative facts, there is some bizarre belief out there that, all over the nation, school leaders have decided just to skip this year, allowing teachers to take a long, paid vacation. Of course, that would mean students have a year of free time with no lessons to complete, no grades to earn and no chance of moving on to the next level next year.

I suppose that means that virtual school or remote learning will no longer be officially considered “school.” What does this mean for all the virtual schools that have been enrolling, teaching and graduating students for years?

Will all the students who have earned credits from virtual schools see their credits reversed and their diplomas voided?

Of course not.

Though arguably inferior to in-person classes, virtual school has been an educational option available to students for quite a while.

Educators from traditional, in-person, brick-and-mortar schools have long been cheerleaders for theirs as the best option for students – sensibly pointing to supporting research to back their claims.

For the vast majority of students, there is no equivalent alternative to the academic and social advantages offered by in-person classroom settings.

So, while virtual education is not the best option for most children, it is still a viable secondary option in circumstances where in-person learning is impractical or potentially unsafe.

It is worth pointing out that, until the COVID-19 pandemic, there weren’t a lot of supportive voices joining the proponents of in-person school over virtual education; tax dollars in multiple states were siphoned from traditional schools and diverted to online schools under the guise of supporting “school choice” initiatives.

Some of the very same voices shouting about the need to reopen schools that are currently virtual – as if virtual school isn’t really school – are the same voices that supported pre-pandemic virtual schools over traditional public schools in the first place.

So, to all the school districts that have had to instantly offer virtual instruction to students, compliments of the pandemic: thank you. Thank you for rushing to get resources and training to students, parents and teachers.

Thank you for finding creative ways to allow some students to return in person, from creating blended schedules of in-person and remote classes to finding unorthodox spaces for classrooms to allow for smaller class sizes and social distancing.

Thank you for implementing ever-changing public health recommendations from local, state and national health departments.

And thank you for offering virtual classes when in-person school posed too much of a risk to the adults and children of your communities.

Since public school funding isn’t consistent, even within individual states, some school districts have been able to be more proactive against the spread of the virus.

To those districts, thank you for upgrading ventilation systems (if you could afford it), adding buses and drivers (if you could afford it), bringing in trailers for additional classroom space (if you could afford it), hiring extra teachers to lower class sizes (if you could afford it), providing free masks and hand sanitizer (if you could afford it), providing free breakfasts and lunches for remote students (if you could afford it), supplying computers and internet connectivity to students (if you could afford it), and being able to provide the safest possible environment for the children you serve.

By far, the biggest thank you of all should be reserved for teachers, the boots-on-the-ground first responders to the educational consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers are working both in person and virtually, often at the same time.

They have been charged with mastering virtual technology that is only as good as the virtual framework supplied by their districts. They have had to become software experts and tech support for students and parents, all while implementing standards of best practices for remote learning in the lessons they design.

They are working nearly twice as many hours, typically for no additional pay, yet these are the teachers whom politicians and pundits often publicly disparage as “not wanting to work.”

Teachers who have returned to in-person classrooms have to implement and sustain pandemic protocols with children – cleanliness, social distancing, mask-wearing.

They have to modify their curriculum to adapt to those protocols (no group work, no shared supplies, etc.).

They risk exposure to COVID-19 every day; the safest and cleanest school buildings have no impact on what students are exposed to outside of school.

Teachers are being asked to risk their health, or the health of their loved ones, all while TV news and social media are full of ignorant vitriol claiming teachers just don’t want to work.

While some states have prioritized vaccinating teachers, others (such as Indiana) have not made vaccinating teachers a priority.

Teachers have been ensuring the continuation of school all year, both virtually and in person, yet they and their professional associations are routinely and publicly disrespected for their efforts.

The next time you hear anyone say students need to get back in school, or that schools need to reopen, please remember that schools are open and performing miraculous feats to keep public education available to all.

Sandra Vohs is president of the Fort Wayne Education Association.