The election this year has taught me a few things about myself and about Beaumont.
Here’s what I learned about Beaumont:
In Beaumont there is a powerful group of individuals representing business who count on the school district for much of their bottom line; they want to keep business as usual at Beaumont Unified. Some of them have exercised their constitutional right to free speech by forming a political action committee and then supporting candidates who have not articulated any plan or vision for the education of our kids but who have only promised to keep things the same. This provides businesses who are receiving multimillion dollar contracts from the school district the cover to support school board members without directly linking their donations to their businesses. It also provides some school board members the cover not to feel obligated to disclose how their political donations are related to their decisions to award the lucrative contracts to members of the political action committee.
I also learned there are other businesses, such as the district’s primary architect design firm, who, without the cover of a political action committee, contribute political donations directly to an incumbent school board member. Then, weeks later, in the middle of an election campaign, this board member votes to approve the design firm’s latest project without any disclosure to the public of his receipt of the $1,000 campaign donation. While this is all going on, the school board approves another code of ethics policy which requires full disclosure on all sources of income from contractors and vendors doing business with the school district, specifically leaving out disclosure of campaign contributions.
This has taught me how difficult it will be for a parent, who asks tough questions and demands oversight of our kids’ resources, to ever win an election to serve on our school board. This doesn’t mean I will give up my mission for building something special in Beaumont, it means I have to consider my options and look for new ways to work within the political system to effect positive change.
I have been in contact with Superintendent Dr. Maureen Latham and her Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Dr. Christina Goennier. I’ve accepted an invitation from Dr. Latham to serve on the district’s Technology Planning committee. I’ve also had discussions with Dr. Goennier about how parents can work with and support the district in developing a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program in Beaumont. Dr. Goennier has agreed to attend a gathering of parents of 4th and 5th grade students who, like me, are looking to Yucaipa-Calimesa’s new 6th grade STEM program as an option for our kids. She has agreed to share the district’s STEM plan and to “encourage parent involvement as we move forward in this initiative.” I am working with Dr. Goennier to organize a time and place for this gathering. If you are interested in being included in this discussion, please email me at OurFocusOurKids@gmail.com.
I want to thank Dr. Latham and Dr. Goennier for their willingness to work with me. I will continue to ask tough questions and, when necessary, be critical of actions and decisions by the board and the administration. I am hoping this won’t prevent them from continuing to work with me in areas where we have common goals such as STEM. I need the district to continue to work with me in these areas if I hope, as a parent, to get anything done for our kids but I still feel an obligation to speak out on issues where I don’t believe they are acting in the best interest of our kids.
During budget talks and union negotiations earlier this year, the school board, the administration and the employee unions made it clear the implementation of furlough days and the reduction of five days of our kids’ instructional time was conditional on the passage of Proposition 30, Governor Brown’s tax increase initiative. Governor Brown promised voters that if we supported Prop 30, our schools would receive, this year, revenue that had been deferred. We were led to believe by our school board and prior administration that the passage of the proposition would result in the reinstatement of the instructional days lost.
Teachers, administrators and state legislators all over California are celebrating the passage of Prop 30 and boasting about all the wonderful things it will accomplish. But in Beaumont we are learning that the passage of Prop 30 means something different from what our kids were promised. Last summer the governor told us his latest budget was constructed with the assumption that Prop 30 would pass. He threatened that if it didn’t pass, schools would receive significant budget cuts.
Last week, I read in an article in the Record Gazette that Brown will be releasing his new budget for education in January. Dr. Latham told the Record Gazette that until that budget has been released, the district won’t know where they have to cut and therefore won’t be able to make any decisions about reinstating the furlough days. She also told the Record Gazette she doesn’t think there will be time to reinstate the lost days regardless of Brown’s new budget. I thought Brown told us the budget he passed this summer already assumed passage of Prop 30. Why does our district have to wait until a new budget in January comes out to honor their word about this year’s furlough days? The district’s position now is that the passage of Prop 30 won’t reinstate the five days the district took from our kids this year but they are relieved they won’t need to eliminate another 15 days of instruction from them next year.
I did not support the passage of proposition 30 but I want to hear from teachers and classified employees of Beaumont Unified who did. Is this what you expected? Did you believe the governor would honor his summer budget if Prop 30 passed as he promised? I didn’t. Did you believe our school district would reinstate the furlough days? I was hoping they would but I had my doubts.
Finally, I have to ask the members of the Pass Area Families for Good Government PAC - did you ask the candidates you supported if they would reinstate my son and daughter’s instructional days if Prop 30 passed? If not, shame on you. If you did, what did they tell you? As long as we, as a society, continue to elect officials who have agendas that don’t put our kids first, how can we ever expect to have “Good Government”.
I will be watching the budget process again closely this year. I have my doubts the superintendent will be able to honor her new claim there will be no further reduction in our kids’ instructional days in 2013/2014. I will be there to help the board remember their claim, Our Focus Our Kids.