Letter: Shiny Objects Our School District Helps You Focus On

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Wednesday was a shining moment for our district. Our secondary students returned to campus with a hybrid learning model – two days synchronous and three days asynchronous marking the first time our secondary students had the option for in person learning in 369 days. Let that sink in. Last Fall, this board and outgoing members insisted that the district’s trimester, online and virtual, and cohorting plan (the shining star in the academic world they made it seem) was superior to surrounding districts and would lead us to opening sooner than those that actually did find a way to open last fall.

Our school Board and leadership shouted “Safety first” and “Learning continuity” from the rooftops, as a shiny distraction from the “innovative” trimester debacle that has been criticized by industry experts and hijacking families freedom to depart the district if they weren’t satisfied with the learning options. In a time where surrounding districts leadership found a way to yes, this Board and leadership stated, if “parents didn’t like the plans, they could leave the district” which we established, you couldn’t.

The last nine months has seen some district effort towards racial equity resolutions, an effort celebrated amongst the Board regularly. A shiny object. Yet two recent appointments of assistant superintendents, while maybe well deserved, in my opinion, begs to question if the leadership is practicing the same commitment to racial and gender equity and what is the intention of such an administrative-heavy district. A district 89% funded by community dollars with a four-school, 2600+ student population and falling, now has an administration consisting of a superintendent, three assistant superintendents, two directors, four principals and three assistant principals, and a public information officer to be hired. Fourteen leadership positions, 11 men and 3 women. Under this board and administration leadership, nine hires and moves, within the last five years and four, soon to be five, within the last year with four women leaving within the last four years. One with a monthly stipend for a year following their departure. 

Rather than be accountable for inabilities to open in the fall, to admit detrimental impact the trimester model had on families and students, failing to anticipate students learning loss and mental health concerns that were voiced by parents in the fall, the Board deflected parent advocacy demands for accountability as “parent disgruntlement”. The Board calling parent education advocates “bullies” or “a small group of people never satisfied” is the ongoing shiny object that has become a constant with the majority of this board. PTA groups, nationwide to local, are education advocates. Are they considered bullies? Not satisfied? The Board seems content to vilify the moderate majority of parental voices that want to do the right thing and put politics aside to ask for what is right, not what is easy, on behalf of our children? Or is vilifying the parent majority the shiny object that will enable our board and administration to continue to do as they please, behind the scenes? Is the community aware and do they listen to those really in the know—the majority of parent advocates?

Sheri Morgan, Laguna Beach

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