March 12 City School Board Update
By Mike MacCarthy
At the February 26 school board meeting Superintendent Bersin and his staff had recommended that Chollas/Meade, Knox, Valencia Park, Keiller, Memorial Junior High, and Roosevelt schools lose their Magnet school funding and that those funds beginning with the school year 2002-2003 be redirected to help fund the "Blueprint For Success." That meant that this administration wanted to end many of the elective and arts programs in these schools.
When public testimony from parents, grandparents, teachers, and students voiced strong opposition to this plan, the school board majority sought out a compromise position. The three-vote majority voted that Chollas/Mead, Knox, Keiller, and Roosevelt "may" retain "elements of the current program at each site, provided they can be shown to directly contribute to the improvement of student achievement in literacy and/or mathematics." The board majority claimed they were enacting policies "to help the children," but public testimony from parents, grandparents, teachers, and students took strong issue with trustees Ron Ottinger, Ed Lopez, and sue Braun.
Board trustee Fran Zimmerman noted during the March 12 board meeting with obvious dismay and frustration: "The Blueprint has an insatiable appetite. First it needed the Title I funds that once paid for teachers aides, then it needed the Magnet School Title I funds that now pays for elective and arts programs, and next it will be . . . . I can't believe what's happening on this board."
In a related move, the board considered a recommendation from Board President Ron Ottinger that it hire local consultant Robert J. Watkins & Company, Ltd. "to provide services including researching and advising the Board of Education in preparation for the renewal of the Superintendent's employment agreement" at a cost not to exceed $10,000. According to Mr. Ottinger's proposal, this company is also supposed "to propose terms of [the] Superintendent's renewal agreement and facilitate the discussion between Board members and the Superintendent through approval and execution of the renewal agreement."
The term of the Superintendent's employment agreement continues through June 30, 2002 unless extended or modified by mutual agreement in writing prior to April 30, 2002. Trustee Zimmerman observed, "We don't need to spend $10,000 on a such consulting company where a local newspaper has already done the research, and we already know what the recommendations will be." Ms. Zimmerman further noted with disbelief that this is the very same consulting company that lists as references current members of the Chamber's Business Roundtable for Education including Mel Katz and Jessie Knight, current President of the Chamber, as well as Mr. Alan Bersin himself.
The next board meeting is April 9.
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Mike MacCarthy is Publisher of San Diego Writer's Monthly and President of Voters For Truth in Education (VO/TE), a California public benefit corporation dedicated "to better the education of students attending the public schools within the cities and towns of San Diego County." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.