Long after the Hayward Unified School District entered into a $250,000 contract with a for-profit, anti-racist teacher training program called Woke Kindergarten, a school board member and a teacher at the school raised objections to it, and the story launched into the national conservative media morass.

It’s been two years since Hayward’s Glassbrook Elementary School began a contract for teacher training sessions with Woke Kindergarten — a Brooklyn-based for-profit company specializing in anti-racist and “abolitionist” trainings and classes for students, educators, and organizations. Teachers at the school lauded the move, saying that the student body — which is largely non-white, and about two-thirds English learners — did not respond well to traditional academics, and teachers needed new tools.

The name Woke Kindergarten implies that it’s about teaching “woke”-ness to small children, which is a bit misleading. While the organization does offer videos and classroom materials for kids, it’s not clear how many actual classes it has taught directly to kids since its founding — and the Hayward contract was for teacher trainings only.

This all blew up about two weeks ago after a teacher became a whistleblower of sorts about the program, raising the question to the Chronicle of whether the $250,000 had been a waste of federal funds, given that students’ math and reading test scores actually went down since the contract began.

A school board member also expressed his disdain for the program and made an offensive comment to an administrator in a meeting during a discussion of the district budget. The board member, Joe Ramos, said the district had “blown” that money, and when the administrator pushed back, he said, “Some of what you said today is alarming to me. Some of these parents here, they should take a rope and string you up.”

Ramos is now facing a formal investigation, and the teacher, Tiger Craven-Neeley, has been placed on administrative leave for “allegations of unprofessional conduct.”

The subsequent tidal wave of negative coverage in the conservative media, and the threatening and racist that administrators and teachers received as a result, appears to have spooked the district enough that they terminated the contract with Woke Kindergarten — even though messages they say the work with the company is “largely complete” anyway.

As the Chronicle reports, the contract was formally terminated Monday, and district officials put out a statement saying “the controversy was becoming a distraction.”

Still, they say, they are “not repudiating any of the training related to” Woke Kindergarten.

A last straw also came in the form of statement on Instagram by Woke Kindergarten founder Akiea Gross.

“While we respect freedom of speech and the right for individuals to hold a variety of political views, the social media and other public statements of the vendor do not align with the values ​​of the district and those of many of our community members,” said district spokesperson Michael Bazeley in a statement to the Chronicle.

Those statements included one social media post in which Gross reportedly said, “100%, ten toes down anti-Israel.”

It’s not clear if Gross was responding to media coverage or negative social media attention about the Hayward contract and her organization — which has a number of pro-Palestine messages among its training materials online.

Gross also said in an Instagram video (the account has been taken private), “I believe Israel has no right to exist. I believe the United States has no right to exist. I believe every settler colony that has committed genocide against native peoples, against Indigenous people has no right to exist. Is this news to anybody? Y’all are the demons. Y’all are the villains. We’ve been trying to end y’all. Get free of y’all.”

Gross, who identifies as Black and non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, founded Woke Kindergarten in 2020. As they told Reckon last year, “This is meant to be a launchpad for you…I teach people what it means to take an anti-carceral approach to their teaching and learning and anti-capitalist approach to different things.”

The organization’s website includes “Woke Read-Alouds” which are videos in which Gross reads children’s books about pronouns and “respectability politics,” and classroom materials referring to “Lil’ Comrades.” Under a section called “Wonderings,” is the question, apparently meant for students, “If the United States defunded the Israeli military, how could this money be used to rebuild Palestine?”

Craven-Neeley, who is white and a self-described “moderately gay,” said he was asked to leave a training session after he questioned a trainer’s use of the phrase “so-called United States,” and questioned what was meant by ” disrupt whiteness,” which the trainer said was a primary objective of the program.

“What does that mean?” Craven-Neeley asked in his first interview with the Chronicle, “I just want to know, what does that mean for a third-grade classroom?”

Craven-Neeley remains on leave, which he referred to as “a bitter paid vacation on taxpayer dollars.”

While the Woke Kindergarten trainings may be done, the official words from the district spokesperson are, “Anti-bias/anti-racist teaching, restorative practices, multilanguage learning, literacy and mathematics will remain a focus for Glassbrook [Elementary]building on the work that school has undertaken over the past several years.”

Previously: School Board Member Being Investigated and Teacher Put on Leave Amid Ongoing ‘Woke Kindergarten’ Dustup In East Bay