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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 38 ~ March 13, 2002

One of the worst parts about being a boss (though how would I know?) is probably having to let people go, especially when other people like them. That's what the board did tonight. I don't envy that authority. Also, are drugs more of a problem in Monrovia schools than in - say - Pasadena? And - surprise! - accountability works.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad_h@iname.com)

HARD PART ~ I have no idea of the merits of the board's decision to let go some Monrovia High School employees, but the action brought out an impressive array of Monrovia High students and instructors. (The community should be so involved in education.) Anyway, the board heard everybody, then went into closed session and returned to accept the "resignations" of Vice Principal Janet Wichman and Dean of Students Randy Hare, and to accept the "non-reelection" of English teacher Kelly Charlton. Board member Frances Cash abstained from voting on Charlton, and board member Roger Graziani was out (smart guy), but everybody else voted to let them go.

PRINCIPAL ~ The district is also losing a principal. Unlike the case of the Monrovia High employees, nobody said anything about the "resignation" of Manuel Gonzales, principal of Canyon Oaks High School. Gonzales, along with the Monrovia High employees, will leave at the end of June.

CRIME ~ Let me step back from tonight's board meeting for a minute. I don't know if you noticed the article about crime on campus in the Star-News on March 1. It showed the following changes for these types of crimes in Monrovia schools between the 1999-2000 and the 2000-2001 years: drugs and alcohol, up from 23 to 28; battery, down from 12 to 10; assault with a weapon, up from 2 to 3; robbery, up from 0 to 1; sex offenses, flat at 1 and 1; weapons possession, up from 6 to 9; property crimes, down from 19 to 15. Mostly up, which is concerning, but with such small numbers hopefully it's a fluke.

DRUGS ~ Here's another oddity. I compared the Monrovia crime numbers with some of other local districts on a crime-per-student basis, so we're comparing apples to apples. What jumps out is that Monrovia has far more drug and alcohol crimes per student than *any* nearby district, .0042 per student. Pasadena had just .0026 drug and alcohol crimes per student. Hmmm. The charitable way of looking at this is that maybe Monrovia does a better job of reporting these crimes. I sure hope that's it.

ACCOUNTABILITY ~ Assistent Superintendent of Instruction Joel Shawn had an impressive report on the district's Accountability Program, which began during the 2000-2001 school year. Shawn said the program incorporates state tests, attendance, grades, drop-out rates, the percentage of students taking and passing advanced placement tests, and the percentage of students below a 2.0 grade point average. Sounds pretty thorough. From the program's brief history, Shawn said that it appears that "focusing on accountability appears to produce growth in student achievement." Not, perhaps, a revolutionary observation, but welcome nevertheless.

TOO MUCH ~ However, Shawn said, some teachers have said that too much testing takes away from their instruction time. I'm sure it does. My boss wants me to start using some task-tracking software, which I don't want to do. It'll take away from my work time. But, on the other hand, bosses need to measure their employees work, so sometimes you just gotta live with it. As long as it isn't too big a burden, I think it'll be useful.

PARENTS ~ Regarding the Accountability Program, board member Frances Cash asked where parents fit into the equation. She said they need to be involved and suggested a curriculum ("I'll even write it," she said) that would help parents know how to help in their kids education. Good idea! Write it, Francie! Even a one-page photocopied list of tips to send home to parents would be a super thing. Teachers could pass it out at the beginning of each year.

DO IT ~ Board Member Monina Diaz asked Shawn (I'm still plugging away at the Accountability thing, here) in rather a round-about, hesitant way, how the board might fit into the program. Then Board Member Betty Sandford surprised me by summarizing Monina's point succinctly, though with a cliché: "The board," she said, "needs to be proactive, not reactive." Though I despise the word "proactive" with a fiery passion, that's exactly what the board needs to be. Involved. What I don't get, though, is why board members are - essentially - asking staff for permission to be involved. For Pete's sake! You guys are the bosses. If you want to be involved, just do it!

SIX ~ The district has reached a tentative agreement with the Monrovia Teachers Association to reduce the number of periods in the middle schools from 7 to 6, though the amount of teaching time would remain the same. Nobody explained the reason for this, but an anonymous correspondent writes that it has something to do with the math and history teachers seeing more students per day than the arts and literature teachers. Apparently the arts/lit teachers teach two-period-long classes, so while they teach the same amount of time, it is with fewer students. What I didn't see in the contract was any increase in salaries. Interesting.

BETEL ~ You can now get expelled from school for making terrorist threats, the board decided tonight. The world has indeed changed since Sept. 11. I glanced at the policy and - in addition to terrorist threats - it says students may be expelled for assault, firearms, theft, alcohol, drugs, and so forth, but also for the possession of betel. Of what? "Betel," as, I guess, in betel nuts. Gee. I didn't know there was any of that stuff around here. I must live a sheltered life.

MANNIQUIN ~ The district is the happy recipient of $250 of miscellaneous rubber stamps (my wife would have liked those) and a $3,000 lab manniquin. Oh. And a 1989 Saab 900 Turbo, too. All sorts of good stuff.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next board meeting is on Wednesday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive. Don't miss the fun!

Copyright (c) 2002, Brad Haugaard. Also on the Web at: monroviaschools.tripod.com