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.


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If the elected Board members can’t take the heat of public comment, they should get out of the kitchen. As Article I Section 3 of the California Constitution states: “The people have the right to instruct their representatives . . .” How may elected representatives be “instructed” if public comment is limited to the first 7 speakers @ 3 minutes each?

instruct them by voting them out of office?

Isn’t it ironic that those who govern the very educators who encourage our children daily to participate by speaking up in the classroom, would be the ones to squelch public comment…Oh, the hypocrisy.

Victor Hugo once said…”He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

Walter Millar’s disdain for the public’s input last night was pathetic and offensive; shutting off microphones seconds after the 3-minute limit, limiting public comment to 20 minutes without warning after letting everyone speak at the last meeting, and shutting down the meeting for an immediate recess instead of defending or discussing his decision to limit public comment. Not to mention his condescending remarks to Board member, Ms. Eisendrath-Rogers.

Millar and other board members, including Ms. Sheffer and Ms. Rodger, chastised commenting students that there were actual homeless children out there in the district (???) and wondered if the parents at the meeting would be so involved and passionate in defense of homeless children (???). We are parents of students at Teach discussing capacity issues and/or school closure; what are they talking about? Do they sit on the Boards of hunger, domestic violence, or AIDS awareness groups? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s definitely not relevant to this discussion.

If Mr. Millar, Ms. Sheffer, and Ms. Rodger dislike working with parents in the San Luis Coastal school district so much, maybe this is no longer the position they should be in.

He cut off speakers after TWO minutes…leaving only two 20 minute sessions, a grand total of 40 speakers, to address not only Teach but the horrific issue of letting go counselors and librarians. Teachers and school staff there to support programs that benefit the students of our district went unheard. A travesty at best.

Needless to say, at least some on the board had already made up their minds and had better things to do. Mr. Millar left the meeting shortly after the vote where they limited fourth grade enrollment and increased class size at Teach.

Thankfully there are some voices of reason on the board (Dr. Rodgers for one) who are open minded, empathetic and capable of listening to constituents. I realize that tough decisions must be made, but I am sick of these decisions happening at our students’ expense.

oops–that should be Dr. Eisendrath-Rogers–certainly not Marilyn Rodgers whose agenda whose sole purpose last night was to chastise Teach supporters.

Dear San Luis Coastal,

I know that it is important to keep your friends employed in the Superintendents office… but please explain to me why anyone of them is worth more to students than the faculty they replace. in times of budget problems creating ‘educational emergencies’ is not the answer… it is rolling back the size of staffs to earlier times.Yes, we all have to do more with less… but it always seems that educational administrations are doing less and less with more and more.

Even Cal Poly has lost touch with reality in hiring three Deans to replace one who is retiring… so you are not alone.

As for Teach school, I can only see one reason to maintain it… because the community wants it. However, I am sure they would gladly suffer reducing administrative bloat in order to keep their school.

Somehow we have forgotten that it should all be about the student.

Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. You’d think this board would have indeed taken the time to listen…it’s THEIR job.

and the board shows its hand

Slowdown “slodown” seems like your hitting the kool-aid a little early today. BTW, Saro is a he not a she. I don’t think the parents and supporters of Teach are “spewing” anything but concern about closing a successful program.

This is what happens when elected officials are in office for long periods of time. They become arrogant and start bullying the public. Sounds like Millar should be booted from office

Wow. Could the agenda of a few of the board members be any more transparent? “Both Rodger and Millar said it is unfair that underprivileged students receive less attention from the district than Teach students do.” “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.”

Then how about you, as a board and superintendent get on the task of improving the situation for those “impoverished students” you seem to be so concerned about. Those particular students probably do not get the parental support they would benefit from like those students at Teach get due to their impoverished parents having to work two, three or four jobs between the mother and father. If funding is question, how much are any of you willing to reduce your salary to help fund new or additional programs?

At least the students, parents and teachers of Teach School can breath easier for now.

Here’s how they chose to help the impoverished students of the district:

1. Cut librarians

2. Cut counselors

3. Increase class size

4. Make NO cuts at the district administrative level because they “believe in strong leadership”

5. Hire a full time locksmith & pay him/her more than some teachers

6. Pay some members of the food services division more than some teachers

7. Fork out 160K to a STEAM program at LOMS

8. Pay for TWO curriculum coordinators for the district

9. Cut the district funding to Pacheco from 150K a year to only 100K a year (this is discretionary funding given ONLY to Pacheco)

obviously strong strong administrators. i was out in my pasture today and stepped in something strong