June 14 2002

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

An Open Letter to San Diego City School’s Board of Education

On the eve of my departure from this district, I feel compelled to voice beliefs and feelings I have wanted to share with you for the past three years. I, like many others in this district, was troubled to say them publicly and aloud. No more.

Although I have worked for the district for over 18 years and have met all of you at one time or another, let me first re-introduce myself to you: I am a professional person with over 32 years of experience in education, including having been a classroom teacher, counselor, administrator, university professor, and program evaluator. I am of Hispanic descent and Jewish origin.

I hold no malice towards any of you, however, I despise all the lies you have given to the general public, a public that is often given only your side of the story by the local, biased newspaper. Among these lies and partial truths are the real status of academic growth, or rather, the terrible lack of it.

There are legitimate, serious problems with the Blueprint. Specifically, three hours of block literacy does not improve instruction or test scores.

The Applied Physics course for all 9th graders is a disaster. There exists no documented need for more students to take more physics. Worse yet, there is an enormous dropout rate- particularly among African-American and Hispanic students. This course makes the dropout problem even worse.

The lack of professional cooperation with teachers and their representatives is disrespectful and abusive. The whole basis for the Blueprint is that the “problem” in education is in teaching. That premise is wrong and unsupported in research.

The Blueprint does not address the issue of high school dropouts. Half of African-American and Hispanic students drop out of our urban high schools. The Blueprint totally ignores these students when there is strong research that supports career academies’ success in reducing dropout rates.

Shame to all of you for having destroyed the personal and professional lives of many of those who, after faithfully serving this district for many years, were fired by you “in order to save money.” Indeed, you did save money by terminating our respective positions, but most of that money went and continues to go to meet the ridiculous salaries you pay your “associates.” Ironically, most of these associates are unqualified for the positions you have given them. You have hired, for example, an ex-soldier who holds a master’s degree in physical education to be second in command of the seventh largest school district in the nation, and whose main charge is to be Bersin’s errand boy. You have also hired a character who, after being charged with 14 counts by the district attorney, was forced to resign as a top administrator in New York; yet, you placed him here as the head of the most important component of this district and sold his appointment as based upon his accomplishments in that city. If it is true that those educational miracles did occur, where is the data to support that claim?

I would ordinarily refrain to even mentioning one’s beliefs, but this time it is imperative that I do for Bersin, Braun, and Ottinger have violated the most basic of all tenets, “Do unto others ...” I am ashamed that you call yourselves and more so, that others think of you as being Jewish, for you know not what being Jewish is. It is rather ironic that some have likened Bersin, to that brown-shirted, infamous monster whose lover, incidentally, also bore the same surname as your female collaborator on this board, Braun. Bersin, like that monster, destroyed the fabric that held together one of the best school districts in the nation by methodically getting rid of the intelligentsia. He burned the books, Bersin destroyed the records. He had a “high command,” Bersin has the institute.

Bersin’s knowledge of the law has allowed him to dance very close to the line that divides the legal from the illicit, and more often than not he has crossed it. To be sure, he has erased that line. You have been and will continue to be sued- you have lost and will continue to lose case after case.

My last comment is addressed to López. I am ashamed that you call yourself and, more so, that others think of you as being Hispanic or Latino, for you are neither. You have stood by and sheepishly approved policy after policy brought before you even though many of these issues are and will continue to harm all students, particularly the Hispanic students who are struggling to learn English, as long as those policies are in place. You are a traitor to the cause of helping Hispanic students.

My only hope is that in the very near future, San Diego will realize how unscrupulous Braun, López, and Ottinger are. It is my personal hope that Jeff Lee and John DeBeck will be elected and Bersin and his ilk will be fired. Hopefully, the enormous damage they have caused to this district will be repairable.

Dr. Frank Ciriza
San Diego

(Dr. Ciriza has worked at San Diego City Schools for 16 years in the Research and Evaluation Department, as Manager of the Evaluation Department, and since 1999, after his position was eleminated, as a high school counselor. Friday, June 14, 2002, is Dr. Ciriza’s last day as an employee of the school district.)

Mayor’s Task Farce

We elected the mayor because he promised us he’d work to improve the Charger seat guarantee deal. Now he’s appointing 15 citizens to do this work for him. He’ll expect them to work for free even though the Mayor and City Council just gave themselves a huge salary increase.

The Mayor has said that this task force will make keeping the Chargers here their top priority. That’s letting the tail wag the dog. The Mayor’s job isn’t to bow to every special interest group that comes along, but rather to manage the city’s resources as efficiently as possible. If that means keeping the Chargers, fine. If, on the other hand, the city can get a better cost/benefit ratio by letting them go, so be it.

If, as Sol Price has suggested, the city could get income by selling the stadium land and then realize an additional $50 million per year in tax income from the resulting commercial development, then that return should be weighed against the benefits, less the costs, of keeping the Chargers in town.

Alternatively, if we have to make the best of the rotten deal dreamed up by the last mayor, then the current mayor, a former judge, should dust off his contract law books and get to work. If the Chargers can enforce the ticket guarantee, then the city can enforce their tenancy of the stadium. Otherwise, where’s the quid pro quo required to make the contract binding? No legal stone should be left unturned. If, for example, there was any impropriety between Golding and Spanos in making the contract, them it is automatically void.

We shouldn’t need a task force to the mayor’s job. If Mayor Murphy can’t do the job he was hired to do then we need a new mayor.

Edward M. Teyssier
San Diego

Tobacco Fine Should Pay for Anti-Smoking Programs

If R.J. Reynolds is going to be fined $20 million dollars for advertising its product to kids, shouldn’t that money pay for anti-smoking programs?

Superior Court Judge Robert Prager acted courageously, finding R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company guilty of violating their 1998 settlement agreement by advertising tobacco to kids. But instead of paying for the damage they’ve done, Reynolds’ fine will go into the State’s General Fund.

Tobacco control efforts are in deep trouble in California. Governor Davis is taking away the entire $35 million allocation from the State’s Tobacco Control Section. That reduces this year’s Master Settlement Agreement funding to zero: zero for anti-smoking ads, zero for youth anti-smoking programs, and zero for law enforcement against those who sell tobacco to kids.

The Master Settlement Agreement was an effort to get Big Tobacco to pay for their negative impact on Americans, especially our kids. If Governor Davis is raiding those funds for other purposes, then Reynolds’ fine for breaking the agreement should be used to keep those anti-tobacco efforts going.

Either we believe the tobacco companies should pay for the damage they do to young people with their lethal, addictive product, or we don’t. Every dollar spent on tobacco control saves the state three in health care costs. That’s a much smarter investment than throwing $35 million into the huge black hole of a $12 billion budget deficit.

Debra Kelley
VP, Government Relations
American Lung Association
San Diego

Preliminary Report on Recall Effort

This is not our final report, but I thought that I should give all of you a preliminary report. As of this writing we have more than 11,000 signatures and we’re still counting those that are coming in from around town, and through the mail. This wasn’t enough (we needed at least 78,000 in hand in order to get any extension of time) therefore we haven’t turned any of them in so that we may preserve the anonymity of all of you who worked so hard to make the recall work.

In the end, the fear factor experienced by SDCS employees and parents was a significant element that prevented people who wanted to see a change, but who couldn’t take the chance of reprisals against their families or livelihoods. The other significant factor was the lack of an awareness on the part of the public in general on how bad things are in the SDCS and how badly the children are being victimized by this administration. Everyone seemed to be aware of the dysfunctionality of the school board, but didn’t understand that it was about the children—not personalities. This simply means that we now know what we have to do in order to get out the word and explain better why it is that we need to unite around the candidacy of Jeff Lee and the re-election of John de Beck come this November.

Once again, I would like to thank all of you who worked so tirelessly to try and make this recall come to fruition. In the end, you really understood what democracy is all about. Now we have to figure out a way to help the rest of the city to “get it.” I’ll provide a final tally within the next week, meanwhile let’s all take a deep breath, hug our kids and loved ones, and cinch up our belts for what promises to be a really tough fall campaign against these entrenched tyrants and oppressors against our children and families.

Mike McCarthy
San Diego

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