Amanda Silvestri: 2022 is the year of the parents, putting kids first
For Amanda Silvestri, Wellington, Florida resident, wife, and mother of two children, 2022 is the year to empower parents and put students and teachers first, focusing on quality education. Silvestri, a candidate for the nonpartisan Palm Beach School Board, District 6, believes the extreme restrictions imposed by the Palm Beach County School Board in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have awakened and united many parents.
In 2020, Silvestri’s younger child was forced to begin kindergarten online, “playing with his dinosaurs instead of learning.” In the third grade, her daughter also had to experience one of the most critical school years online. When Silvestri started investigating the school board’s plan to reopen the schools, she was disgusted. First, she had to watch the video online because the school board would not allow parents to attend the meetings in person. Next, Silvestri discovered that the Palm Beach County School Board had no desire to reopen the schools. “They were not considering it, even though it should have been an option,” she says.
When Palm Beach County schools finally opened, they forced students like Silvestri’s children to wear masks, creating additional hardships and barriers to education. “My son is very shy and quiet,” Silvestri explains. “He wasn’t participating in class because the mask covered up his face.
Silvestri’s daughter also dealt with the negative consequences of forced masking, arriving in the nurse’s office every day with anxiety, breathing difficulties, stomach aches, and other problems. The nurse informed Silvestri that her daughter was not getting enough oxygen with the mask, which was upsetting her and causing her to hyperventilate. “I thought, ‘I’m their mother, and I know this isn’t right for my kids. Why don’t I have an option?'”
Frustrated, she began attending school board meetings to express her displeasure with the masks and the apparent harm they inflicted on her children. “They would not listen to me; they did not care, “she reports. “To them, the parents in attendance were crazy domestic terrorists.”
Silvestri’s involvement led to the discovery of other detrimental school board agendas, including slipping in an “equity statement” into their school mission and changing the language from “providing a world-class education to all children in Palm Beach County to an equity-embedded education.” The school board informed Silvestri and other concerned parents that they would remove structures “rooted in White advantage.” To that end, she notes that teachers have sent her optional, extra trainings on how to teach and understand your “White advantage.”
To add insult to injury, Silvestri and other parents also discovered pornographic books in some of the school media centers—completely age-inappropriate for elementary school. When they expressed outrage at a legislative meeting, dismissive members of the Palm Beach County School Board accused them of “homophobia.” Says Silvestri, “We don’t need to talk about sexuality and gender identity to four- and five-year-olds. It is just not age-appropriate. They’re still learning and character-building. They need to learn math, reading, and spelling. And I’m not saying that I’m for it being in middle school or high school either, but that’s more age-appropriate than elementary school. In the public library? Fine. But not at school. We need to focus on education.”
With all these crucial factors in play, Silvestri, not one to just sit around and complain, decided to do something about it by running for Palm Beach County School Board, District 6, which encompasses Wellington, Royal Palm, Loxahatchee, Pahokee, Belle Glade, and the new Westlake area.
What’s at the top of Silvestri’s agenda? Bringing transparency back to schools, listening to constituents, and ensuring the curriculum is parent-approved. She explains, “When we hold school board meetings, I would like to be one of the people on the dais showing concerned citizens and parents respect, letting them know I am listening to them. Maybe even a little banter back and forth, a question here and there, a discussion, or a debate. Because I have a lot of ground to cover in my district, I plan to host several town halls. People’s concerns in Pahokee and Belle Glade are different from their concerns in Wellington. I’m willing to get out into the communities and hold these meetings because that is the only way to truly listen and serve.”
To get her name on the ballot, Silvestri needs a total of 1,800 petition signatures from voters. Thus far, she has collected a couple of hundred petition signatures ahead of the June deadline. Because of redistricting, any resident of Florida can sign the petition. The nonpartisan election takes place on August 23, which means anybody can vote for the candidate of their choice in private.
For more information, visit Silvestri for School Board
You may also want to read: Angelique Contreras: Returning power to the parents in Palm Beach County