School Board Blues

School Board Blues

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In School Board Blues, the fight over control of a rural school board plays itself out before the cameras.

School Board Blues is a 75-minute film memoir that documents the Indian mascot controversy and school board upheaval that deeply divided New York State’s Onteora Central School District. This quiet Catskill Mountain community, 100 miles north of New York City, was an unlikely place to erupt in what the New York Times called, “... a culture war,” but in the year 2000, that’s exactly what happened.

The Onteora mascot struggle quickly became a national story with coverage in Newsweek Magazine as well as the New York Times. It was featured on CNN, in newspapers from coast to coast, and in articles on the internet - while the filmmakers found themselves right in the middle of it all. There are more than 14,000 school boards in the United States, and they are often called the heart of American democracy. Co-producer, Meg Carey, was elected to the Onteora Board of Education in 1998. She anticipated a three-year term working to improve student achievement. Her husband, Tobe Carey, was videotaping the board meetings for local libraries and showings on public access TV when the Indian mascot fight broke out. For three years, Carey continued to record district events including the chaotic school board meetings, the politics surrounding the mascot issue and the community turmoil that followed. During this time, anti-Semitic hate articles appeared on the internet, physical threats were made, an election-night shoving match occurred, tires were punctured, and an intense political struggle consumed the school board and the district. School Board Blues reveals all this and more in a local story with important national implications.

Filled with humor as well as passion, this docu-memoir is a first-hand account of how a single issue can throw a school board and a community into disarray. The lessons learned from Onteora's experience are important to keep in mind as public schools face issues that can erupt into raging controversies at any moment. School Board Blues was edited from nearly 400 hours of material and features music by satirists Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine as well as acclaimed musicians Robbie Dupree, Artie Traum, and Jimmy Weider.

School Board Blues is ideal for students and faculty in educational studies, sociology, history and politics, sports management, cultural anthropology, media studies, and more. In addition, it will appeal to those interested in the dynamics of school boards, school board training, public school management, local politics and the issues of racism, stereotyping, community leadership, divisiveness, and cohesion.

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