Mystery Education Theater 3000

Month: July 2008

Setback for Structural Reform in WCCUSD

The County Committee as I thought (at the last minute) going into this, indeed thwarted our initiative for structural reform of the West Contra Costa Unified School District…for now. Here are the news links:

Basically, we were dealing with situation where the County Committee on Reorganization thinks that a proposal should be judged, not on its own merits, but by its possible impact on a separate measure on the November ballot, the parcel tax. Since I support the parcel tax, this is more of a philosophical problem for me, but still a troublesome one.

Dr. Harter, the superintendent, surprised us by going off the message, “bad for parcel tax,” into a full-bore attack on the concept itself. He had not filed a report for “WCCUSD” beforehand as requested. (The District has actually never taken a formal position on trustee areas as such.) Instead he only submitted his stroboscopic powerpoints at the meeting, so that there would be no meaningful opportunity to rebut the attacks. I’m still waiting for a copy of these presentations. Both Torlakson and Hancock sent messages professing agnosticism on the issue, but stressing a desire to keep trustee areas off the November ballot to help the parcel tax.

In terms of the comment part, there was of course our supporters. The opponents were divided into “trustee areas bad” and “keep it off the ballot for the parcel tax” people. Andres Soto supported the idea for the City of Richmond and WCCUSD, but didn’t like the map — he said it was gerrymandered without specifying what he meant by that. (The adoption of a map is actually a separate stage. We have to propose a map to start off.)

Here are my notes of what the County Committee members said on a motion to deny our petition:

Pam Mirabella
Must consider many different possibilities for improving things in WCCUSD including trustee areas
Held out possibility of future meetings to discuss these
*Yes

Daniel Gomez
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it
Impressed that WCCUSD is fine based on Harter presentation
*Yes — would actually deny on its merits

Daniel Borsuk
Accepted petitioners claims
Rejected ballot confusion argument
*No — would accept November ballot or as direct implementation of trustee areas by County Committee

David Kraft
Remembered Hercules secessionist alienation
Agreed that would be detrimental to parcel tax on ballot
Concerned about balkanization
*Yes

Glen Ruley
Why take a chance on parcel tax failing?
Postpone discussion till next year
*Yes

What Now

Instead of being on the ballot as a measure in November, candidates who support trustee areas, such as myself, will make it an issue in the Board election campaign. We will also continue to work with the County Committee to give trustee areas a fairer hearing.

Trustee Elections Hearing Tonight!

Only an hour or so to go till the hearing for WCCUSD trustee areas (West County schools may shift elections) and I have to say the odds are certainly stacked against us. The County Board has a pattern of saying no to citizen petitions. And for this type of decision there seem to be absolutely no guidelines for how the Board decides. This makes it easier to just rely on arbitrary tallies for emails “for,” “against,” (when “against” could be just to not have it on the same ballot as the parcel tax), “community persons”, “community leaders,” and on ad nauseam. Or who knows what?

One other side issue that I think might be working here is a concern by the County Board to support the Superintendent, Harter, at any cost. I think they accept that our district is messed up, but in their model having a new superintendent ride in on his horse will always save the day if only he’s given a little time. He wants our proposal off the November ballot that has his parcel tax on it, so it’ll have to be removed. The problem with this model is that the superintendent is not independent but takes orders from a very assertive board majority faction in a dysfunctional political culture. Leaving the superintendent to fix things is not going to fix things.

Well, on the other hand, I could be wrong. The people may be permitted to decide for themselves in November.

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Candidate-Statement-in-Progress

I noticed in my previous announcement of running for WCCUSD School Board I left out my candidate-statement-in-progress. Well here it is:

http://www.cowens.net/campaign/

WCCUSD Trustee Area Election Impact on Board

The County Board of Education will meet to consider the proposal to put trustee area elections on the ballot, so I guess it’s time to start blogging again.

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For considering the trustee area issue for WCCUSD, I have revised my Google map mashup showing the locations of WCCUSD Board members’ listed residences in the District:

http://maps.yourgmap.com/v/2_kf_WCCUSD_Board_Members_o_June_2008.html

(I’m working on integrating the proposed trustee area boundaries directly into the map, but for now here’s the trustee area map for reference: http://districtguide.org/image/ProposedTrusteePopulation.jpg .)

The legend in the Google-based map shows what proposed trustee areas the current trustees are in and their term ends. Karen Pfeifer (area 4) and Dave Brown (area 2) are up for re-election this year. There would be many permutations possible if trustee areas were to be implemented, but here’s the basic situation. If anyone from area 2 is elected this year, Audrey Miles would not be able to run in 2010. If anyone from area 4 is elected, neither Madeline Kronenberg nor Charles Ramsey would be able to run in 2010. If no one from area 4 is elected, Madeline Kronenberg and Charles Ramsey could both run in 2010, but only one could be elected in 2010.

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