Guest Opinion | Not So Temporary Insanity and Not April Fools: Life as a PUSD School Board Member

Published : Tuesday, April 3, 2018 | 4:14 PM

phelpsI keep learning new things even after all these years. Recently I learned that if a child feels the need to bring a weapon to school to protect himself or herself on the way to and from school, it is the school staff who didn’t do enough in the years previous. Schools should somehow magically make up for no parents around, raised by a grandparent, gang activity, etc. by just saying the right things to those students so bad things won’t happen outside of school.

Amazing. Didn’t know that schools could overcome all of that during the six or seven hours the students are in school. In general, apparently talking about imaginary money and time that we don’t have can change the difference in outcomes between socioeconomically disadvantaged and advantaged students and magically overcome the dramatically different lives of the students outside of school hours. We just have to do more with less money available. Get that blood out of that turnip, just keep squeezing staff. And we have to fund community saviors. Check.

I also learned that the school district can somehow defy labor laws and not layoff certain teachers desired by parents. Here I had thought that the unions and the seniority rules that they established and put into law long ago determined that. Wow. Good to know. Always learning.

As a corollary, apparently the district can raise the compensation offered to certain hard to staff positions like special education teachers, psychologists, etc. in order to recruit them! We don’t have to adhere to the union’s cardinal rule of giving the same raises across the board to everyone which of course prevents targeted raises. If the board just wrings its hands enough and browbeats the administration, we can magically get more of these folks. Noted.

I also learned that apparently, at the same time there is too much administration, there isn’t enough. We just need more in some places and less in others. Apparently, when our superintendent does the chief academic officer job as well, and our chief of facilities who oversees Measure TT also does day to day management of maintenance staff that our recently resigned director did, and our chief of technology does something similar, that is bad. They shouldn’t take on more duties even though we are in a well known budget crisis.

But certain other staff should be cut. Because certain people don’t like them. Apparently, it is better for board members, parents, anyone really to manage the district and determine staffing. Not the actual people running things. Astonishing! And I didn’t know there was evidence that staff having such bosses, some with personal agendas, works so well!

I have also learned from advocates that spending $57 million, 25% of our budget, on special education is not enough, including a paltry $11 million on aides. Stupid me. We need to spend more or, they say, do more without spending more. So glad that was cleared up for me.

Another thing I learned is that any statement by a community advocate should be taken as true and used in a public meeting or online forum to express concern about district practices, but anything staff says can’t be trusted. Revelatory. And that community programs which require ongoing PUSD funds are really self-sustaining. Floored.

Finally, did you know, as one resident told me during an email-lashing of me over lack of raises for teachers, that all that is needed in schools is teachers and students? She said no school board was needed! I am so glad she clarified that as that means we can eliminate these fascinating forums of insanity called board meetings.

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