In 2020, parents in Mequon, Wisconsin, launched a recall campaign against four school board members in the Mequon Thiensville School District, alleging that the board members have engaged in wasteful spending and an “abdication of voting rights” after they gave the superintendent, Matthew Joynt, sole decision making power in August 2020 over many policy issues.
Since early 2020, the school district had spent $42,000 on consulting services by Blaquesmith Psychological Consultative Services LLC, a Milwaukee-based company founded by a local sports psychologist, Ramel Smith, according to documents obtained by the local parents’ group, Recall MTDS School Board, through a public records request.
Training by the psychologist, his sister, Alisa Moutry, another local consultant, and others in late June 2020 included discussion of a slide, “Racism Scale: Where do you fall?”
Payments to Blaquesmith Psychological Consultative Services LLC include:
- $10,000 on Feb. 17, 2020, for a “Presentation.”
- $16,000 for a June 26, 2020, “Consulting/Training Webinar” and “MTSD Parent Training Session #1.” The webinar was called, “The Talk: A Necessary Conversation about Race and Privilege with Our Children,” and is available online. In the video (49:40), Smith positively quotes Derrick Bell, the founder of critical race theory, the controversial ideology that is causing parents much concern across the country. On its website in Frequently Asked Questions, the school system says it “has not and does not plan to take a stance on CRT.”
- $16,000 on Nov. 4, 2020 for a “Consulting/Training Webinar” with “Professional Development for staff and parents,” including a “Diversity Equity Leadership Team” presentation on Jan. 14, 2021, and Jan. 15, 2021. The January 14 webinar was called “Realizing our [sic] Vision: Each Student Every time [sic] Empowered to Succeed,” and the video was uploaded online.
The Recall MTDS School Board has raised concerns about decisions by the school board to give decision making authority to the superintendent, alleging the board has “routinely abandoned their voting responsibilities.”
The group notes: “Not only is this legally questionable, but it sends a clear message that the School Board is no longer advocating for the students of our district. New leadership is necessary in order to restore true and transparent representation of our students and our community.”
The parent group says the suburban Milwaukee district has seen a sharp decline in academic achievement since the district began to implement an “equity” plan, and the group is “advocating for the return of academic excellence and stakeholder engagement in our district.” The recall petition targets school board members Wendy Francour, Chris Schultz, Akram Khan and Erik Hollandar.
The group says it also seeks “improvements in recruiting, hiring, paying and retaining top quality teachers and substitutes.” It notes: “We believe our tax dollars should be allocated towards hiring more quality teachers and less on administrator positions and unnecessary consultants that have no impact on education.”
The Mequon Thiensville School District’s response to the public records request from a local parent included a list of eight consultants that the school district had hired in 2020:
- Blaquesmith Psychological Consultative Services LLC, $42,000
- Darcy Luoma Coaching & Consulting LLC, $7,250
- Donovan Group, $29,700
- Illuminate Education Inc., $5,000
- Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity, $6,433.20
- Kane Communications, $5,000
- Mathematics Institute of Wisconsin, $7,620.75
- Mindsteps, $11,500
In July 2020, the school district’s previous superintendent, Demond Means, reached a separation agreement with his new employer, Clarke County, Georgia, amidst controversy, including the hiring of numerous contractors and consultants from Wisconsin.