One method that bureaucracies use to deflect attention away from sensitive issues is to schedule them to be heard in separate but public sessions, or to bury them deep in an agenda when few people are likely to be around to hear the sound of the rubber stamping.

This is the case at tomorrow night’s school board club meeting.

There are many hot issues pending right now, but they pale in comparison to the move toward area representation and voting instead of the current discriminatory method of district-wide voting. A change to area voting will put local faces on the school board- people who have been voted into office only by those who live in that area.

This is a game changer, to which the school board club and the Bear St. bureaucrats had to be dragged by the threat of a lawsuit.

Tomorrow night, there is a status report on this matter. It is item 16.j – the last business item on the agenda. This issue affects everyone in the district and over time could have a profound impact on the course of district business. Here are a couple of preview comments from the report:

“The data derived thus far confirms that the existing Trustee Areas are out of balance and in need of significant revision.”


“From the initial data it is apparent that the trustee areas will need to be adjusted.”

Let’s hope that the last quote is not a set-up for adjusting the areas to preserve the status quo while making it look like some substantive action has been taken.

This should be the first item for discussion, but it’s not. Placing it in the last position ensures the smallest audience and the least amount of discussion. No surprise here – this is the typical behavior of weak leadership.

The comical part is the morphing of this development from one that started with the threat of a lawsuit to language that makes it looks like it was the district’s idea: The lawsuit is not mentioned in the agenda description.

Oh, then there is this:

“Given the community importance of such a combined change, the staff recommends that the Board consider the process by which the information and scenarios from DecisionInsite are to be evaluated and provide further staff direction.”

Yeah, well, if it’s so important, why didn’t you do it years ago? And why don’t you put it first on the agenda?

And which school board club member will make a motion early tomorrow night to move this item from last to first? No one will. Not one person up there has the courage.

Don’t let the door hit you?

It occurred to me over the weekend that Senior Associate Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer Susan Astarita is retiring and unlike her colleague Deputy Whatever Paul Reed, the district is not paying her to postpone her retirement. Perhaps she did the noble thing and refused the money because she knows it is not a judicious use of taxpayer dollars.

Shoving a square peg in a round hole

Here’s the thing, again: Leadership that continues to insist that the rank and file use anything they hate is not listening well enough to be leaders.

Despite what seems to me to be an overwhelming rejection of Swun Math, the school board club will rubber stamp a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars for… wait for it… “support services,” less $14,000 for materials.

Musical chairs

So, Sacks is out at Mariners, Broesamle (California El) is in, and there has been no news on who will replace Broesamle at California. Perhaps that person will be discussed at one of those useless community input meetings. My guess is that there will not be such a meeting. After all, if they didn’t do it to pick the new Mariners principal, they probably won’t do it for California.

And that’s OK, because the input meetings are a farce and always come up with the same traits anyway. Here’s my short list, one that qualifies for each school: Someone with prior experience who is honest, transparent, accessible, and who puts the welfare of the school, the students and the surrounding area far ahead of his/her allegiance to the person or people who appointed him/her.

See? No meeting necessary.

A friendly reminder

The Gold Ribbon investigation will be resumed at the end of summer. This reminder will appear in every post until the investigation resumes. The questions to which we need answers are:

  • Who, if anyone, assisted the Mariners’ principal in completing the application?
  • Who reviewed the application for accuracy before it was submitted?
  • What was the application process at the 11 other schools that achieved Gold Ribbon status?
  • Who completed the applications at the 11 other schools?
  • Who reviewed the applications at the 11 other schools?

More to come.

Steve Smith