My 2016 campaign for school board called for school governance reform making our good schools better. That meant school board members and senior school district staff with the skills and experience to strengthen oversight of budget, staffing, facilities, curriculum and community relations.
However, campaigning door to door I kept hearing a mantra repeated by parents worried about quality of schools, while also playing it safe to avoid retaliation for speaking out. Almost verbatim parents recited the theme that our reputation for excellent schools keeps real estate values high. School governance driven by inflated home appraisals doesn’t sound like the Laguna Beach I grew up in.
Like the “Big Little Lies” television drama depicting decadent elitism corrupting the spirit of public education in so many affluent communities, Laguna Beach schools are becoming more about polished images of excellence without true excellence in content and results. We tout education industry awards from Sacramento special interest lobbying networks subsidized with our tax dollars, while actual merit based rankings slide.
Truly exceptional that teachers and students achieve is diminished by the lack of broad based consistent excellence we only pretend to achieve. We test well in lower grades, but county high schools spending half per student still pull away from LBHS in math and science. Without transparency rainy day reserves were reprogrammed for new facilities, even though demographics of wealth are shrinking grade school enrollment, and many gifted students transfer out.
Questionable building projects rushed for 2016 election included new alternative learning classrooms, but after election it’s revealed incompetent school board oversight masked substandard teaching at the expense of alternative learning students. Something once valued now lost to shoddy, inept stewardship by burnt out school board members and cocktail circuit political clones.
Our campaign also advocated grade 5-12 civics through real student government, empowering students and harnessing peer pressure for good choices. Instead, school board and LBHS principal deem undemocratic adult-selected student focus group “House of Representatives,” dumbing down citizenship training.
This civic illiteracy impeded response to LBHS racial harassment scandal, disempowering students in rallies chanting “We are one,” instead of teaching tools of self-government and peer discipline.
Harassment continues, unreported by local press, yet SchoolPower uses its truly Orwellian narrative on “Resiliency” to suppress real dialogue. Angry white privilege deniers demand we “move on,” upholding empty images of eroding excellence, and big little lies catch up with us.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach