Just wishing Culverhouse well is not enough.
Our School Board’s statements on the departure of the LBHS Principal fail to give expression to the significance of this unexpected change, and the loss it portends for what little continuity and stability there has been in stewardship of our public schools. A more honest acknowledgment that this is a sudden and difficult loss for the children and families of this town actually would have reassured us the Board understands what this means.
Two weeks before the new school year begins parents, students, teachers and the community have lost the greatest single educational resource and success story in the history of our public schools. No one is perfect and no one is indispensable, but Dr. Culverhouse came damn close.
No single person from the public or private sector in our town has known so many of our kids and families as intimately and lovingly, made themselves more present in our lives, or provided greater public service to our community. Her unique combination of personal character and integrity, unsurpassed professionalism and moral courage, made her not just a gifted and charismatic educator, but also an exceptionally effective leader of civic culture.
The human fallibility she shares with all of us did not prevent Joanne Culverhouse from being as memorable and positive a role model as our children could have known. She truly was a moral center of gravity and a rock that anchored us through many a storm.
The Palos Verdes School District’s gain is our loss. That School Board knew value when it saw it, and acted smartly to harness it for students in that community. In contrast, our School Board just wishes Culverhouse well in advancing her career to a new level as an Assistant Superintendent somewhere else.
Of course, she could have been promoted to be not just an Assistant Superintendent but the Superintendent of Schools right here. Indeed, given her success at every campus and every level of responsibility in on our school system, the community had an investment in promoting her right here if the opportunity arose.
Instead, even though she already had her PhD and unmatched experience in our schools, our School Board hired a less experienced Superintendent who did not even have her PhD. Then Culverhouse watched with the rest of us as a bizarre parade of unqualified and overpaid Assistant Superintendents and senior administrators passed her by on their way in and out of the revolving doors of the central office, during our current Superintendent’s hiring abuse fiasco.
Our current School Board voted unanimously to hire personal and professional pals of the now discredited Superintendent, who then resigned or were fired for incompetence and or misconduct. Smith should have been fired for cause and Culverhouse should have been the lead candidate for point person to restore morale and sanity in the central administration. Yet, School Board President Jan Vickers blithely pretends all is well as Dr. Culverhouse leaves to pursue career opportunity denied to her here.
Ironically, she is loved and admired here because she did not compromise her ethics to please anyone, and maybe that is the real reason she is leaving. She would never say that, and doesn’t have to, because Vickers unintentionally admitted as much, by extolling the “added value” Culverhouse brought to the job, only to go unrewarded for it by the School Board.
So without blaming anyone at this point, Culverhouse is probably glad to be getting out of Dodge. She was up to the job and on track to be a superintendent, so she went where she was wanted. Thus, it is our School Board that once again has failed to “add value,” and once again our children will lose out because the Board is not up to the job.
LBHS Class of 1970
Former President LBHS Alumni Association