School board keeps Teach but kills public comment

February 20, 2013

TeachThe San Luis Coastal Unified School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to temporarily continue the operation of Teach Elementary School during an emotional meeting Tuesday evening in which the board squelched public comment.

Despite a recommendation from Superintendent Eric Prater to place a one-year moratorium on 4th grade enrollment at the popular accelerated learning elementary school, the board chose to accept another 4th grade class while establishing a superintendent’s task force to propose a plan for the future of the school.

Although many parents, students and community members desired to speak about Teach during public comment, the board terminated public comment after about 20 minutes. At that point, San Luis Obispo attorney Saro Rizzo approached the lectern and said the board had violated the Brown Act by not allowing members of the public to speak.

“I think there is a serious Brown Act Violation right here,” Rizzo said. “The California Government Code says in a public meeting you may make reasonable accommodations so everybody can be heard.”

While Rizzo continued to speak, the microphone shut off. Board President Walt Millar walked away and called for recess after Rizzo told him, “You’re not the only attorney in the room.”

After the meeting, Millar told CalCoastNews that it is board protocol to limit public comment to 20 minutes per item. Millar said the board chose to wave the time limit at the two previous hearings on a possible Teach closure to allow for multiple hours of public testimony.

Trustees Chris Ungar and Jim Quesenberry defended Millar’s decision.

“I think the board clearly heard from the public,” Ungar said.

Quesenberry said the board had other important matters to deal wth, like program cuts and continuations.

“All we’re really required to do is give time and allow time for public comment.”

Upon returning from recess, Trustee Kathryn Eisendrath-Rogers, who has clashed with other members of the board over transparency issues involving action on Teach, apologized to the pubic for the squelching of public comment.

“I have not known the board to limit public comment to 20 minutes,” Eisendrath-Rogers said. “I apologize to the people who are not being able to express their thoughts tonight.”

Prior to public comment and the chaos that ensued, Prater also apologized to the public for using namecalling tactics against Teach parents.

“I want to apologize to you if I offended you,” Prater said.

Prater now has the responsibility for creating a one-year measure to address overcrowding at Teach as well as to form a task force that will generate the “great conversation” he desires on the style of learning at the school and the future of accelerated learning in the district. Prater expects the task force to present its findings to the board in September.

Of all the trustees, only Eisendrath-Rogers expressed support for finding a long-term solution to keep Teach in operation. Others expressed philosophical disagreements with the Teach model, especially Trustee Marilyn Rodger.

“I am still not entirely convinced that the segregated program for 4th through 6th grade students has a demonstrable, beneficial effect,” Rodger said.

Both Rodger and Millar said it is unfair that underprivileged students receive less attention from the district than Teach students do.

Rodger said there are 480 homeless students in the district and that they deserve as impassioned of a discussion. Millar said Teach’s blue ribbon status is misleading because very few impoverished students attend the school.

“The advantage Teach has is they don’t have many subgroup students,” Millar said.

 


20 Comments

  1. slojustice says:

    How dare these parents expect to have their concerns heard. What the heck do they know about what is good for their children. The parents need to stop wasting these valuable bureaucrats time. We need to trust them because they know what is good for us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. At some point the school district is going to wake up and stop spending tons of money preparing kids to go to college who are NEVER GOING TO GO TO COLLEGE. The money saved should be used to teach them a trade and to advance more programs like TEACH. There should be numerous requirements to enter TEACH — of which WEALTH should NOT be one of them!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  3. WhyIsMyNameAlwaysTaken says:

    If Mr. Millar thinks that “it is unfair that underprivileged students receive less attention from the district than Teach students do,” then he should read the school accountability report cards. Less is spent per pupil for both basic and supplemental education for Teach students than *every other school in the district.* Less financial resources are spent on Teach students than any other students in the district. Teach teachers are paid less than the district average too. Teach Elementary school is 100% in portable buildings, parked on another school campus since 2001 (kicked to the back of the bus, as it were). In fact, Teach students receive LESS attention than any other students in the district. If the parents of these students didn’t stand up for them, Teach would be closed and those students would simply be lost in the shuffle. I agree that homeless students deserve as impassioned of a discussion. And if there are accelerated students among them, then I sincerely hope that they are encouraged to enroll at Teach.

    Accountability report cards for all our schools can be read here: http://www.slcusd.org/accountability/.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  4. fogdog says:

    Hey sloed make your lists and go on your rants, but leave slcusd locksmith out of it. The district has always had a locksmith and the new one makes less than the former one due to longevity. Also it wont be long and the newteachers will pass up all maint. Workers in salary. You might count the doors in the district and the amount of people with keys and with a little thought even you could realize the need for this position. And by the way the maint. Dept lost two positions this last year. That is 20% of the workforce.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  5. Sulla says:

    Okay—- Section 35145.5. of the California Education code states: “It is the intent of the Legislature that members of the public be able to place matters directly related to school district business on the agenda of school district governing board meetings. Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the governing board on any item of interest to the public, before or during the governing board’s consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the governing board. Governing boards shall adopt reasonable regulations to insure that this intent is carried out. The regulations may specify reasonable procedures to insure the proper functioning of governing board meetings.” The 20 minutes per item rule does not follow this statute—- non controversial items need less time, but issues important to more people requires more time for public comment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

    • Cicero says:

      Ah, quite so brother Sulla. Me thinks the school board members may have thought their meeting was a sequel to a Pirates of the Caribbean movie; and that the Education Code is “more of a guideline than a rule.”

      I doubt that any of the school board members have actually ever read Article One of the California Constitution that they swore to support when they took office. Instead of abdicating their responsibilities to the District’s Administrators to tell them what the Education Code says. The Board should put those paper pushers back into teaching positions for the students … and read the Ed Code themselves. And maybe they should add an adult civics class for office holders and candidates.

      Saro Rizzo has given them fair warning.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

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