So, last night, the school board candidates for the newly consolidated School district faced the voters and answered questions.
I had some impressions, but several of them were still big question marks.
ROBERT LONG: He sounded good, and he seemed to be committed to Special education BUT I have some concerns about how he seemed to already have the next candidate for Toddy Thomas’s principal. Why everyone is enamored with Ambrosini’s Amy Bettis I don’t know, but I was stunned to hear the candidates speaking about the position as if Mrs. Bettis was going to be hired without considering other applicants. That strikes me as being too biased. Leaning yes, but still wavering.
KENDRA GUIMARES: She was fascinating, mentioning she taught English in Brazil and other life experiences which seemed to give her depth. And her vision for the new district was something I can get behind. However, I also found her unwavering support of Amy Bettis annoying. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Mrs. Bettis is a great person, but she has only recently been credentialed and I’ve heard rumor that she wants the job at Toddy so that she can have lunch with her husband. Oo. Really? It’s just a rumor, but there’s a lot of rumor that ends up being true. It’s also been told to me that Mrs. Bettis is NOT supportive of the current Special Day class program and I am a fierce advocate for the one thing that has brought my kid, Demolition Boy, from a failing, frustrated student to the A honor roll. Whether Ms. Guimares shows that same commitment is definitely a wait and see. Leaning yes, but not sure.
DON BROWN: Mr. Brown’s first comment was to state that we must be in California since everyone was sitting on the left. Oo. (There was a middle aisle and most people were sitting in the left bunch of chairs. Mr. Brown should have noted it was nearest the exit.) He then pissed me off with several other ignorant comments including one that was also stated by Marilyn Strehl calling my child a “product”. I HATE that mentality. I do NOT want a school board member who will only look at the bottom line and never look up to see the kids. There has to be a balance of both and I do NOT believe Brown will give it to me. Voting No
JANICE OLKIN: Ms. Olkin didn’t mince words which appeals to me. She’s definitely a professional administrator, probably with loads of school admin experience. BUT there were several areas that I felt she gave me a line of bullshit. I don’t like professional speak where everything has an acronym and everyone is regulated into boxes. She ended up remaining a question mark for me. I think my vote may depend on her answer about special day class. I don’t think she has the fortitude or commitment to stand for the kids that need it. Leaning no
PETE FENNEL: This guy talked a good talk, but I have some doubts. First of all, he says his wife is an educator. I’m becoming leery of the way everyone is connected to someone else. I think I want more degrees of separation which is already challenging in this area. His responses were good and usually off the cuff. I admired his ability to do that. However, he was another one who seemed to have made up his mind about the candidate for Toddy Thomas’s principal. That was disappointing. All in all, I can’t think of anything that stood out to make me vote for him except that one of my son’s teachers said he was awesome and I should. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him before I vote for him. Leaning yes, but totally not convinced
PAUL GLENNIE: I went back and forth on Mr. Glennie. I liked some of his downright, forthright answers, but he seemed to have the “status quo” in mind. And I didn’t get a satisfactory answer about the Special Day class from him. I felt he gave me a lot of double speak on that question. These guys all focused on buzz words. Education has their hot buttons just like national politics. For our educators, it’s all about the “No Child Left Behind”. I have some research to do on that one, but I will say that it doesn’t matter since every one of the candidates didn’t like it.
MARILYN STREHL: Honestly, I am rubbing my hands together in anticipation of voting this candidate off the board, along with Don Brown. She also called my child a “product”. It’s clear that Ms. Strehl’s position on the board gives her the right, in her opinion, to override the parent’s voice in the school system. She seems to have little patience with those who don’t go along with the program and I was extremely disappointed in her actions at the school board meeting where Mrs. Drumm, the principal for Toddy Thomas, was forced to resign. Don’t get me wrong, there were several parents that would have called for Mrs. Drumm’s head too, so it wasn’t a black and white issue, but the way the whole meeting was handled seemed to give the impression of “Shut up and move on”. What if this issue was about funding for Special Day Class? Or teachers? Ms. Strehl will treat parents just the way she did at this meeting. She is officious and borderline rude. That said, I’m sure she’s a very nice lady and seemed to be when I talked to her, but I will not tolerate that kind of action from a school board member elected by me. Parents have to have a voice in the school district. If a school board member isn’t going to provide a safe place for that, they’re never going to get my vote.
Voting no with glee, I’m afraid.
RICHARD BARSANTIThere were several statements made that rang warning bells for me. Also, he was present on the school board when Ms. Strehl and interim Superintendent Alan Brainerd teamed up to shut down discussion about HIS decision not to renew Ms. Drumm’s contract. He did not defend or comment on his actions. Both these people stated that it was a personnel issue and we were not allowed to be privy to it. I’m sure that it’s some legal thing that they can’t reveal his reasoning, but their response to questions were far from placating. They were arrogant and unfortunate. I find the whole thing frustrating beyond measure. Therefore Voting no.
DANIEL COLEMANHe said some of the most interesting things, but I am not sure of what I think of him. His vision for the future of the district put me off aiming for higher test scores. His opinions on many issues were a little more quirky and out of the box than the others. That said, I don’t know if I trust him with the hard questions facing the new district. He’s the ONLY one who stated his goal would be to get the bond measure passed to support the schools. That actually got my attention. He impressed me, but I don’t know if I trust him with my children’s needs in education. Leaning no, but still up in the air
All and all, the candidates seemed well prepared for the questions thrown at them. Not one of them stated they were very committed to special education. Oh, they all talked about giving kids resources they need blah blah blah, but I get the impression that special needs kids are unpopular with administrators. They don’t have high test scores. They don’t make the school “look good”. (In their opinion). Frankly, I think a school committed to special education, a school that encourages the fair treatment of ALL students regardless of disability or level of advancement would shine to anyone who was looking at schools.
Several other issues came up, one, of course, being Redwood Prep. I don’t know what to think of Redwood Prep. It’s a Charter School that is actually part of the district–i.e. takes district funding. It has to go through rigorous hoops, but also can avoid the government scrutiny that the public schools must go through. I have friends who have their kids there. I have had a negative experience with Redwood Prep with someone that I trusted and really liked who basically told me my kid wasn’t “smart enough”. I’m not stupid. When there is a concerted effort to get my oldest kid, who tests well, is mainstream, and who is clearly damn smart to go to a school and the other child (who would have benefited from alternative teaching method IMHO) is discouraged because he’d be a burden on their program, I understand what the focus is at that school. Only the smart kids can go. That’s almost as bad, to me, as only the rich kids can go. That said, I have also seen how other kids have gone and benefited from the school. Yet, word is that it’s hurting for money. Again, I’m not sure what I think. I will say that money raised from a bond shouldn’t go to keep that school afloat.
I had to leave before they were finished but I did get some interesting information. I’ll be researching more. I had no idea how much stake I had in who serves on the board. I will be MUCH more proactive now.