A group of exceptionally articulate LBHS students delivered extemporaneous remarks to our School Board on Nov. 12, movingly honoring a teacher who had “a special way of breaking through to students.”
Students came forward after a substitute teacher getting good results in college readiness calculus and statistics courses was summarily fired. Several classmates he taught insisted it was unfair and all a misunderstanding.
One student was a real profile in courage, taking responsibility for his own role in an end-of-class prank blamed on the teacher. The students believe a classmate’s video on social media doesn’t justify firing a teacher who wasn’t in on the joke when two students “pretended to hold their breath until they fainted.”
Students seeking to right a civic wrong were stonewalled by our School Board, even though state law allows clarifying questions, remarks and referral for follow up after public comments about matters not on the agenda. Only board member Dee Perry thanked students for helping the public and board understand their concerns.
The silence of other board members was consistent with frequent pronouncements that actions of the superintendent and staff deemed “operational” are “down in the weeds,” beneath “district wide rather than individual focus” of the board, which one current member asserts “governs from 30,000 feet.”
Yet, CA Ed. Code Sec. 35161 provides superintendents have no independent powers, and boards retain full legal responsibility for all actions taken by any school employee.
The current board majority’s bizarre and cultish “hands off” governance philosophy is selective and unduly influenced by personal, political and social privilege bias. Board governance consequently is unduly erratic, arbitrary and unreliable, with outcomes that too frequently are sub-optimal.
LBUSD staff act on behalf of the School Board. Thus, it’s an abdication of official duties for choices and priorities in individual or collective policy, program and personnel matters to be defined or determined by staff, without more rigorous, competent, open and public oversight by the elected governing body.
When students cogently seek civic justice for a trusted teacher, and unselfishly mention loss of instructional continuity impacting personal academic success only as a secondary concern, it’s time for our board to get down in the weeds. We should let these nobly motivated young adults know their School Board will intervene as deemed necessary to ensure a fair and optimal outcome, not hide behind tactics of denial without transparency or accountability.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach