Letter: Approved School Calendar Ignores Community Input

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The essence of our school district and their success in “moving the needle” was captured eloquently by my friend Chris Tebbut. I too, have been part of the vetting process for our superintendent, the high school principal, and privileged to sit on LCAP for TOW, now the district, Social/Emotional Parent committee and recent calendar committee. However, with utmost respect, I have a different perspective.

Our board voted unanimously to approve the calendar yet their philosophy states: “Responsibility for district programs and operations is shared by the entire educational community, with ultimate accountability resting with the Board as the basic embodiment of representative government.” Did the selected committee miss the priorities? Did power of suggestion generate district-desired results? Is our board prioritizing philosophy and goals while voting?

Upon initial presentation, the calendar was very divisive, and the committee did not identify and prioritize the same issues as the stakeholders. Despite stakeholder education, the subsequent survey was embedded with the pre-established outcomes and calendar options to consider (most did not make the final approval) the results were still divisive. Social/Emotional Stakeholder surveys in 2017-18 identified teacher connectedness, bullying, optimism, zest as areas needing improvement, many with proven solutions. Calendar and exam dates were not identified and not seen as a stress indicator. I strongly urged the Board to send the calendar back to committee with a no-vote so new priorities could drive new options.

Highlights of the 18 listed philosophies of the Board include: Address students whole needs, have opportunity to learn free from harassment, discrimination, intimidation, bullying, safe and nurturing environments. School improvement is a dynamic process requiring flexibility and innovation in a changing world. Dedicated and skilled teachers have a powerful influence on student experiences. Parents/guardians have a right to be involved in overall development and education of student. Communication (two-way), trust, respect, collaboration between Board, Superintendent, community, parents, stakeholders, is essential for establishing continuity, supported and shared goals, within district and surrounding community. Community and district are inextricably connected partners.

The Board-approved calendar excludes models accepted by stakeholders, overlooked stakeholder concerns, ignores expert and stakeholder alternate suggestions, many proven to minimize student stress and school and community impact. School climate still needs addressing, homework policies honoring diversity, respecting holidays, breaks and supporting students’ mental health need addressing. Board philosophy includes community. The calendar was an opportunity to create an innovative solution, unfortunately, based on feedback and reaction, it seems it planted seeds of distrust within the community.

Sheri Morgan, Laguna Beach

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