MVLA changes contractors amid alleged antisemitism

Ethnic Studies teachers unable to continue using AEP training, turn to county workshops


Rowan Barcelona

Juan Vazquez Gonzalez, Staff Writer

This story was originally published on May 26, 2023 in Issue 6 of the Oracle. The headline has since been updated to better reflect the content of the story. 

The Mountain View-Los Altos school board has terminated its contract with Acosta Educational Partnership — which seeks to provide training for educators —  following recent allegations of ties with antisemetic concepts. 

According to an email from MVLA Board President Phil Faillace, MVLA had received services from AEP and is making a final payment to the organization. AEP did not respond to requests for comment.

 The termination of the tie follows accusations from the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies, which aims to “remove narrow ideological agendas from Ethnic Studies, enabling curricula that inspire mutual respect, fight racism, and celebrate ethnic accomplishment,” according to its website.

“ACES greatly appreciates the MVLA district’s quick response to community concern over antisemitic content and statements made by AEP,” ACES Director of Local Outreach Lia Rensin said. “Their acknowledgment that those who espouse antisemitic rhetoric have no place in training our Ethnic Studies teachers which highlights their commitment to fight racism and discrimination.”

Ethnic Studies teacher Kevin Heiken said the contract termination decisicion was made solely by the school board. 

“No teachers or students were given the chance to give direct input to the school board,” he said. “The school board claims they made the decision independent of the ACES controversy, but it is clearly difficult to separate the two.” 

Heiken, who is Jewish American and the adviser for the Jewish Student Union, said he worked with the class designers to avoid any form of antisemitic rhetoric.

 Heiken referenced a letter about Ethnic Studies from the Jewish Community Relations Council, which states “based on publicly available information, we [JCRC] have so far seen no evidence of antisemitic or anti-Israel content [in the Ethnic Studies Program].”

The JCRC also stated that AEP, as far as they knew, never had involvement in the actual curriculum material.

“The training we received from the Acosta Education Partnership exclusively focused on community building,” Heiken said. “Course content and learning objectives were never discussed.” Heiken stressed the idea that ACES harmed an extremely beneficial partner to the school district, which contradicts ACES’s claimed goals of creating well meaning Ethnic Studies classes. 

Julie Yick, Ethnic Studies task force head and Ethnic Studies teacher, said the partnership between the MVLA district and AEP followed a heavy research process. The process, according to Yick, included follow up conversations, emails, and documentation of those conversations and emails.

During a March 13 MVLA School Board meeting, Heiken described one of the activities within the pilot course which seeked to teach students more about the Jewish identity, such as around religion, food, and culture. 

“[The activity] taught me that there are many different regions of Judaism: ashkenazi, mizrahi, orthodox,” said Tobi Roper, one of Yick’s students. “It was really interesting to learn about all of these different regional identities and how being Jewish can be both a religious identity as well as an ethnicity, but are not interchangeable.”

In the short term, teachers are unable to continue using the AEP workshops. Instead, Yick said the Santa Clara county office of education will assist and host upcoming Ethnic Studies workshops. 

“So we’re really focused on … learning this year and moving forward with a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm about this experience and the opportunities that we have [in order] to continue to learn and contribute to the community.”