March 28, 2003

Commentary

SDCS Payment to “Facilitator”—$10,000

By: Mike MacCarthy

Remember December 9, 2002, when more than 200 San Diego parents, grandparents, students, and community members staged a protest walkout from Johnson Elementary in Emerald Hills? Remember how San Diego City Schools bragged how there were going to be “talks”? The Johnson Elementary “Task Force” was supposed to be a group of concerned citizens who would meet and attempt to agree on solutions to the parents’ complaints. We now know the so-called “Facilitator” of this Task Force was paid $10,000 for her role. Once again San Diego City Schools unearths someone willing to do their dirty work for money—this time is was Dr. Shirley Weber. Small wonder those “talks” have been going so slowly. Small wonder concerned Johnson Elementary parents recently published an article about how “the task force has been used by the district to prevent action instead of producing action.”

One of the main issues raised by the Johnson parents was that of textbooks—textbooks that have been sitting in boxes at Johnson since the beginning of the school year. These are textbooks that should have been in classes and being used by teachers to instruct Johnson students, and here’s the untold secret. There is a law called AB 466 that spells out how California will pay extra money to school districts ($2,500 per teacher) that want to make sure their teachers understand how best to use new textbooks aligned with the state academic content standards. SDCS has already paid $23.6 million for these new books. Johnson’s allotment of those books from the district is what’s been sitting in boxes and not distributed to the teachers and students under direct orders from this administration. And why has the district insisted upon that course of events?

The reason given by the district is that the “training” for the teachers was not completed, but consider this: Part of federal and state education law says school districts that receive Title I or Compensatory Education (schools with more than 60% disadvantaged students) funds MUST use books aligned with state standards. But this administration doesn’t want to abandon its “whole language” agenda. So one of the reasons Johnson Elementary students have been without textbooks and full-time teachers since September has been because this administration doesn’t want Direct Instruction—a scientifically proven phonics-based teaching method—to come back into that school. Furthermore, according to teachers who have been at the training sessions for the new textbooks, the district and its training consultants have been telling teachers to ignore the new state approved textbooks and merely use them as “resource” books, but NOT the core text for student instruction. In other words, ignore the state standards, ignore federal and state laws, and ignore the needs of the Johnson Elementary children.

No wonder the district had to pay someone $10,000 to lead these trusting parents astray.

Mike MacCarthy is President of Voters for Truth in Education and can be reached at mcarthy@sandiegomag.com

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