Letter: Joint Council, LBUSD Meeting Refreshing

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The format and accessibility of City Council and Laguna’s School Board Joint meeting was refreshing. Public comment following presentations of agenda items and Council comments allowed speakers to provide their opinion, further insight and even clarify misinformation. Council asked direct questions of a speaker and allowed response! No threat of Brown Act violation was issued or warranted. I hope it initiates long-overdue changes for the school board. 

Public comments consistently mentioned district administration’s failure to include neighbors during the project’s development. President Vickers stated, “It wasn’t intentional.” Plans are merely a “starting point.” So, how did we get here?  

Beginning as a feasibility study, including an outline of district needs and wants, the Sept. 22 study session discarded St. Catherines and redirected focus to district property, tying into the master facilities plan and schedule. Reiterating and emphasizing district issues, project scope and timeline developed. Superintendent Viloria insisted on adhering to “his normal timeline” requesting a “shortened up timetable” mentioning “cash flow and exploring payment options,” being important. February was mentioned to bring forward an “info item, complete or not” to begin discussions, then deliver an “Actionable item.” Clerk Osborne requested facilities usage data to facilitate analysis, and board president Normandin suggested including neighbors and examining traffic flow. So what happened? Viloria suggested, “There are no actual structures yet. It’s just timetables and an actual project. I think it would be premature to have that kind of voice in the room at that point…as we are still trying to figure out how to pay for it.” Why did this make sense to the board? Who is protecting the community? Its culture? Our taxes? 

The ad hoc committee, including Vickers and Osborne, met at least twice and developed the initial plan. President Vickers makes the agenda. The neighborhood voice was excluded. Ignored. Intentionally. Again? They forwarded a project with total disregard for neighbors, community and disrespect for taxpayers that fund it.  

Since 2016, current administration leadership has navigated the board into adopting policies that shifted power to the administration, creating a “weak board.” They presented issues with solutions out of line with community needs, tone deaf to what “community” really means. Parents have protested twice, long-time Laguna families departed the district, and sadly many families just left.  

Administration has led the board to believe their role isn’t “governing” but “procedural.” Does that equate to “rubber stamping” what administration pushes through? Some board majority decisions from 2016 to 2022 indicate a possibility.  

Yet, I’m hopeful. With recent board changes, community awareness and their voice, this project will land. The city will build a second needed pool, and needed change at district and board level, not just procedurally, is on the horizon. 

Sheri Morgan, Laguna Beach

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