Failure of local leaders to manage meaningful civic response to race and violence related social issues on and off our high school campus left community narrative to media. School and city officials cited privacy rights, but anti-social behavior in our public streets and schools can’t be addressed only behind closed doors.
An obtuse approach by school officials renewed doubts about school district leadership ever since last year’s flawed superintendent search. Mysteriously, respected and popular former local elementary, middle and high school principal, Dr. Joanne Culverhouse, was preemptively eliminated after only a first round interview.
We now know an anti-democratic, anti-competitive protocol – never properly adopted – perversely gave every board member a de facto veto power to block any candidate. “Dr. C” was summarily excluded from further consideration. Now she’s superintendent for La Habra public schools, our loss.
Many naturally ask how Dr. C would handle these troubled times at Laguna High. Certainly not seven weeks of silence as rampant gossip and blame-shifting left impacted families twisting in the wind, and Dr. C would not have let LBHS faculty judgmentally berate students in the press.
Instead, a public schoolhouse meeting respecting the rights of all could have made a real difference, without hand-wringing fear of open dialogue. Dr. C’s mentoring skills empowered students to redeem integrity by taking responsibility, so forgiveness and healing had a chance. She wasn’t perfect, didn’t need to be, her authenticity usually made truth and reconciliation possible.
In contrast, our school officials are surrounded by consultants whose campus “kindness counselors” gimmick fizzled embarrassingly. Politically alloyed SchoolPower quickly produced a new 2017 video to induce parents already writing checks for school taxes, activity fees and tutoring to write another check to hire more “student support staff” facilitating “coping with anxiety” and “emotional resiliency.”
Given already adequate student support staffing, donors should just say no to throwing money at troublesome incidents SchoolPower/LBUSD contributed to by using school resources and staff for that 2016 “murder-for-hire” fundraising video spoof. Why spend education funds for political damage control when students emulate anti-social behavior of adults?
Dr. C was exiled but she taught us true resiliency can overcome warped social culture of elitist entitlement, so we once again uphold values of character, responsibility, sobriety and inclusion in our schools.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach