Updated: May 14
Part 2: What We Have Learned
On Tuesday, May 4, the School Board held a Special Meeting considering whether to rescind the May 2020 Board Action to approve the 4x4 schedule. The district office staff presented a very thorough powerpoint, addressing many of the concerns raised by the community. After hours of q&a, public comments, and Board deliberation, the Board voted (3-2) to move forward with the 4x4. (For those who missed the meeting, this article did an incredible job distilling the conversation.)
Before the vote, I made a motion to "rescind" the May 2020 vote to implement the 4x4 in Fall 2021. I want to be clear: my goal was not to shut down conversation about the 4x4 altogether. After listening to teachers’ concerns, shared by many parents and students, and also the benefits cited by the district, fellow Board members, and others families, what I felt we needed most was time. Time to plan a successful rollout and implementation - time that we didn't have due to the COVID pandemic and related shutdowns.
Therefore, my goal was to delay the transition to allow for just that: more time to build consensus, or at least use a more transparent, collaborative process to ensure the legally necessary schedule change is truly tailored to CHS’s unique needs and not cookie cutter, something simply lifted from other, vastly different, schools. Time to follow the guidance issued by the San Diego County Office of Education and leaders from districts who have successfully implemented the 4x4. And most importantly, time for our students to have every possible support in place to ease their transition and make it a success.
Though the motion was defeated, 3-2, and the community remains divided over the schedule, the Board, and even Superintendent Mueller, agreed that the way the district landed on a 4x4 schedule was problematic. The fact that we can all agree that work MUST be done in this area is heartening (read on for more details about next steps).
As a trustee, my job is, on one hand, to listen to and represent my constituents, and on the other, to uphold Board decisions. I believe there is always much to be learned in the space between positions, especially in this case, when they hug opposing poles.
My hope, and reason for writing, is to use this post-vote time to reflect on what we have learned through both the schedule-change process and the recent increase in community activism surrounding our children’s education.
What has been revealed through community debate and deliberation?
The top community and educator concern seemed to be a perceived lack of transparency and clear communication. As mentioned above, and echoed throughout the meeting by Board Trustees, parents, teachers, students, and even the Superintendent, the decision-making process was flawed and not as inclusive or transparent as it should have been.
One factor that has led to this call for more transparency and communication is the way the CUSD Board has functioned. To the public, Board procedures are often unclear. What’s more, procedures have been inconsistent in their application, based in past practice versus the written protocols. The Board will hold a Special Meeting Friday, May 14, to address this issue, as well as others revealed by the 4x4 discussion.
Unfortunately, I am unable to hold Office Hours prior to the meeting, but I want to share the topics I intend to bring up at this discussion. Please email me (email@example.com) or submit a comment below with any questions, concerns, and recommendations that you would like me to highlight, as well.
-Increased Collaboration, Transparency, and Communication:
The 4x4 discussion highlighted a need for more time for community (CSEA/CTA/ Parents/Students) rebuttal and response to staff reports. District Office reports are important, yet we must remember they provide ONE perspective. As revealed through recent teacher, parent, and student editorials, emails, and Board Meeting comments, sometimes these reports might not present the full picture. It is crucial to good decision-making to hear from all potentially affected parties before making a critical decision, to evaluate the data relied upon, and to have time to reflect.
Disparities between reports and perspectives between those doing the planning, those executing the plans, and those receiving them are natural and SHOULD be viewed as vital tools for testing, stretching, and improving plans. By consistently engaging all of our stakeholders, we can not only reach our goal of greater transparency, communication, and collaboration, but also ensure our decisions are the best fit for all involved, as much as possible.
Being more open to hearing, understanding, and wrestling with various viewpoints also requires being aware of and fighting against confirmation bias.
Not following legal protocols, not being clear about said protocols, not including various stakeholders, and not checking confirmation bias can lead to flawed decision-making, which can hurt our district and, ultimately, students, the very people we are all fighting to support, challenge, and provide equitable paths to success.
To model collegial collaboration for the next generation and rebuild trust, all stakeholders must hold ourselves and each other accountable to speak and treat each other with civility and respect, especially when we disagree.
Suggestions for increased community awareness and involvement:
Create an email-opt-in for community members to receive meeting links and the agenda packet. Include these resources in newsletters, as well.
Should the district have a Public Information Officer?
How can we make the public comment system more accessible? (Again, the more we know about community questions, concerns, and suggestions, the stronger our plans and decisions can be for our kids.)
- Agenda and Protocols:
Agenda items should be clear and understandable, worded so that the community members can understand (not jargon-filled or abbreviated)
Why is there a distinction between “Discussion” and “Action Items” on the agenda? Is this distinction, and the limits it places on what we can and cannot discuss or do at certain times during meetings effective? Is this distinction worth continuing or can/should it be eliminated?
Are Roberts Rules (the rules that dictate what the Board can and cannot do) being followed? Do they even apply to this Board? How can the public hold the Board (and we hold ourselves) accountable to ensure our systems are just?
Would bi-weekly meetings allow for more community involvement, time to process information, and increase discussion?
Board member time commitment to the job: I am committed to put in as much time as it takes to provide just and moral leadership and governance to CUSD. If we need bi-weekly meetings, or longer meetings, all trustees should be committed to do so and not denigrate the process by curtailing it or complaining about it.
Are there rules for the way motions should be written or stated? I was caught off-guard during the Special Meeting when Trustee Pontes refused to allow me to make a motion because it was “too long.” Is there a length requirement? If so, should there be? What other motion-making parameters do members need to know in order to effectively communicate what we’d like to propose?
For me, the biggest takeaway is that despite the stress and strife caused by our community-wide 4x4 debate, bipartisanship is truly alive and well in Coronado!
Based on our stances during pre-election panels, who would have predicted that Trustee Keszei and I would ever agree on a hot-button issue? But agree we did: we stood together in a 3-2 vote to send a clear message to our community. Though her words that night absolutely reflect some of our shared sentiments, I can’t speak for her here. I will tell you that my vote represents a commitment to transparency and communication, along with a promise to you - our students, parents and community -- that I will always listen to you and be your voice.
Now that we have a decision, I am eager to see the promising aspects of the 4x4 fulfilled, along with our goal to renew trust via increased transparency, communication, and collaboration. As requested, staff is in the process of following through with their commitment to provide professional development for teachers & coaching for staff to support their preparations for the transition this coming fall so each and every student who steps onto the CHS campus in the fall is supported, empowered, and encouraged to succeed!
Help me with this mission: What do our students and families need to succeed during the 4x4 implementation? Please let me know! (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) or submit comment below - I want to hear from you!
Click here to submit a Public Comment for the upcoming Board Meeting.
My Office Hours sessions were an invaluable part of navigating the 4x4 discussion, and I plan to continue them to keep the pulse of the community. Keep an eye out for notifications.
Further Reading: I will always strive to include my sources and other relevant readings. If you ever have resources you’d like to share with our community, let me know!
Coronado Times Articles:
Thanks for reading - My Newsletter is in the works!