Monday, January 16, 2012

Response from SCCBOE

Attached is a letter from Joe Di Salvo, President of the SCCBOE.  It is his response to the letters received from many LASD parents and community members over the previous weeks.

(link to letter)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Transparency in Govt

Most of the letters that went to the SCCBOE last week were fairly similar, but I did receive one that stood out to me as unique in it's content.  It didn't focus so much on the BCS issue, as transparency in government.  Many of you know that this is also a pet issue of mine, and one of the main reasons I write this blog.  I stood for election on the promise of greater transparency, and so when someone has meaningful comments in this arena, it tends to catch my eye.  You may also find the letter to be interesting.  It looks at federal, state, and local governments and their need to include the citizens we represent in the governing process.  Kudos to Verna Fimbres for a thoughtful commentary on our government and a good reminder that everyone is served well when we keep the process as open as possible.

Here is a link to the letter. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Letter writing campaign

There is a lot of noise on the Town Crier website about the letter writing campaign by some community members.

I believe that attacking these people for thoughtfully expressing their concerns to the county board is inappropriate. These letters (sample copy below) ask the county board to take some specific steps to help mitigate the impact of their decision to grant and renew a charter to BCS. Few people in our community would be unaware of the history of this issue, so churning up years of "you hit me first" is unproductive. Those who do so only diminish the conversation.

I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the response of one SCCBOE member who dismissed the concerns of the citizens he is elected to represent. As an elect official, I live with the consequences of each decision I make. If I vote to discontinue a popular program, I would never think to thumb my nose at a parent who then raise concerns about how it might impact their child or their family. I have already heard from members of the SCCBOE who do not share that view, and are disappointed and frustrated by their colleague's behavior. I would like to remind anyone who addresses SCCBOE on this topic to rise above any feelings of frustration his response may create. By sticking to the facts, by asking for specific steps from the county board, by being rational in the requests, you have the greatest possible chance of swaying those who might be "on the fence". I am pleased to say that I haven't seen a single bad response from our community, which speaks well of those who are putting their time and effort behind this.

To those who say that the letter writers are misguided, or wasting their time (or SCCBOE's time) I wonder- would you feel the same way if those letters were in support of BCS? All the letters do is ask SCCBOE to remember the impact on ALL public school children in our community, not just those at BCS. No one is asking to close BCS. No one is asking to change their program. The focus is on being fair to all students, and to providing good governance and oversight. I am pleased that members of our community, in finding their voice, have done so eloquently and thoughtfully.

Here is a link to one of the letters I've seen- they are largely similar. Some are more personalized, or focus on a subset of these points, but they are all positive, constructive requests to officials who represent all members of our community. I applaud them for getting involved and being a "part of the solution"

By the way, if you are interested in joining those who have decided to raise their voices on behalf of LASD students, here is the link.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Coming Soon...

I realized it's been a while since I posted.  The holidays are such a busy time, and I must admit that between various board events, attending the Egan Holiday Faire, and well, the holidays, I haven't had much time.

I did want to let folks know a few things that are coming over the course of the spring, though. Please plan your calendars and make time to provide your thoughts.  The School Board is elected by the community, and we serve the community- and we value the input of the community.

BCS Facilities Process
By February 1, 2012, LASD will provide a preliminary facilities offer to BCS for the 2012-13 school year.  BCS continues to grow, so this process is always challenging.  I have been speaking with community members on both sides of the fence to help shape my own thinking on how to solve this problem for 2012-13.

Long Term Location for BCS
I have also been asked about the "long term" location for BCS.  In particular, I've been asked why the 12-13 offer isn't just the "long term solution".  Put simply, the process makes it difficult to do anything quickly.  We need to make a preliminary offer to BCS by February 1, 2012.  The BCS Board has asked that we close one of our high-performing schools and give them that site, starting with the 2012-13 school year.  That isn't practical, given the steps we have to go through.  For example, if the district were to close a school and redraw attendance boundaries, we would need to have that in place right now so that the students who attend any such school could be accounted for.  We'd need Environmental Impact Reports and a host of other things, all before we make the facilities offer for 2012-13.  There just isn't enough time to get that done, particularly given the lean administration that we maintain.  A "long term" solution is under discussion, but it can't be done between now and February 1st.  We expect to have extensive  community discussions of any long term plan, so please stay tuned.  *Constructive* dialogue is always welcome.

BCS Litigation
We are also still waiting to hear from the CA State Supreme Court whether they'll hear the District's appeal of the current BCS litigation.  Last fall the District has requested a rehearing at the Appellate Court, which they Denied, as expected.  We then filed a brief with the Supreme Court requesting a review by the full Supreme Court.  BCS requested, and received, an extension to filing their objection to the Supreme Court hearing the case.  They filed their objection recently, and the district is preparing our response to that objection.  Because of the delay, I wouldn't be surprised if the Supreme Court grants themselves an extension to decide whether to hear the case.  The soonest we might hear would be early February, but it could be any time this Spring.  If they accept the case, we'll keep you posted on a date for oral arguments.

Employee Negotiations Process
We are beginning the process of negotiations with our employees for the next contract.  This year we will use the Interest Based Bargaining approach that we studied last fall.  This type of discussion is always challenging, but I am hopefully that the new approach will help us achieve an agreement that the District, the employees, and the community can all embrace.

The negotiations process is, by law, a closed process.  I have said previously, though, that I hope that both sides might be able to agree to regular communications to the community along the way.  As a district, we benefit greatly from community support.  Transparency will only help increase that support.

Also in the area of negotiations, we are scheduled to vote Monday night on a contract change for our classified staff.  This vote is to ratify concessions they've made to help address our budget challenges.

March Madness
The budget process will also begin to ramp up in the coming weeks and months.  Remember that the law lays out a number of requirements in this process, including crazy deadlines and an every changing target for funding.  We'll keep telling folks what we think is going to happen, but you'll have to watch carefully- last year the budget number moved at virtually every meeting, and I expect that this year will be much the same.  How we address that shift as a community will be one of our biggest challenges.

What Can I Do?
Sometimes I'm asked "What can I do?"  Often that's followed by "I'm just one person," or some other plea for a non-response.  The answer is simple- you can make your voice heard.  While the Board of Trustees represents all of the voters, and we advocate for all of the students, there is no substitute for community voices.  Come to Board meetings.  Write to us.  Let us know what you think.  That applies for other government bodies too.  I serve on a committee to advice our State Assemblyman, Rich Gordon.  He tells me that when he is considering legislation, one of the most important impacts is the voice of the public.  There is a lot going on in education, and frankly, there is a lot of mess that we need help cleaning up.,  Don't leave it to "someone else" do this- make your voice heard. 

Thank you all for your support.  I look forward to talking with you in the coming months.

Happy New Year!