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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 59 ~ May 28, 2003

Sometimes it is under painful circumstances when you really see people for who they can be, and that's what I saw tonight. While it was a grim task the board faced - cutting people from the payroll - I was impressed with how several of the board members faced the task. That and more, below.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad@sacklunch.net)

CUTS ~ As I've mentioned and you've no doubt heard from the media, state budget cuts mean local school budget cuts. Tonight the Monrovia School Board took a first wack at it. The board cut mostly non-teaching positions, but also nine elementary school teaching positions, 2.5 middle school teaching positions and five Monrovia High School positions. The instructor of an alternative ed program at MHS pled with the board not to cut the program, but on an unusual 3-2 vote (with Roger Graziani and Betty Sandford voting "no") it was still cut. However, the board refused to chop some counseling positions and instructed the staff to come back with other recommendations for cuts. However, the counseling positions are hardly safe as the board still needs to do a lot more cutting.

HE LED ~ What impressed me in this process is that I believe I saw several of the board members at their best. They were thinking and commenting and trying to come up with alternatives. For example, Roger Graziani suggested looking at redrawing the lines for who attends what school to make the areas more compact and save transportation costs. Graziani, Monina Diaz and Bruce Carter particularly shined tonight, but Carter was by far the most impressive. He essentially took charge of the discussion and made it go. After agreeing to a set of cuts, he said he wouldn't (in this round, at least) cut counselors. With the apparent agreement of the rest of the board he *told* the staff that he wanted them to come back with alternatives to some of their other suggestions. He was polite about it, but it was not one of the standard, mushy "if it wouldn't trouble you too much" suggestions. He led. My congratulations to the board on being thoughtful and yet firm in tackling a very tough issue.

GOODBYE-HELLO ~ Well, well, well. Board President Frances Cash mentioned in passing that Esther MacDonald (if I have the spelling correct) has been appointed as the new director of adult education. MacDonald is the former principal at Bradoaks School. Superintendent Louise Taylor said she visited Bradoaks with new City Council member Kirby and said they had a "wonderful talk with Esther MacDonald." She added that Kirby wanted to take some of the ideas he learned there back to his private school. Uh-huh. She said MacDonald is "feeling the heartbreak of leaving her friends at Bradoaks," but is excited about taking up her new assignment. Frankly, I've always had a problem with Bradoaks School. I've complained about its poor test scores (though they've gotten better lately) and been bothered to hear of excellent teachers who have left. I hope good things are in store for that school.

MUMBLING ~ As Superintendent Taylor was speaking, a couple people in the back of the room complained about being unable to hear what people were saying up front. (I can barely hear her and I'm in the second row.) Anyway, Taylor said that was "good feedback." Gee, I've been writing about this mumbling tendency for years. Oh well, whatever works.

TABLES ~ Tonight Mt. Sierra College donated "Thirty-eight (38)" drafting tables to the district. (I wonder why they do they do that "Thirty-eight (38)" business. Is it for those people who don't understand that "thirty-eight" is the same as "38"? Who knows.) Anyway, the tables, having a declared value of $80 each, are for the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Monrovia High School.

STATS ~ There were some interesting stats in a report on the Local Education Agency Plan, a requirement for getting money from the federal government under the No Child Left Behind Act. - The percentage of low-income students in Monrovia schools ranges from 34 percent at Monrovia High to 69 percent at Wild Rose Elementary. - 14.9 percent of parents of Monrovia students have less than a high school education; 23.6 percent have a high school diploma; 24.5 percent have some college; 14.9 percent are college grads; and 7.4 percent have done post graduate work. - Of the students, 50.4 percent are Hispanic, 29.9 percent are White, 13.1 percent are African American, 2 percent are Filipino, and 1.9 percent are Asian. (Plus a few other very small percentages.) - Students language capabilities: English learners, 18.2 percent; Fluent English proficient, 9.9; redesignated Fluent English Proficient, 7 percent. (Something's wrong here. This doesn't even come close to adding up to 100 percent. And the idea that only 9.9 - or is it 16.9 percent - of the students are fluent in English is pretty shocking if it's true.)

SPELLING ~ During the public comment portion of the meeting, Rosemary Harrahill said she was bothered by the language arts program at her daughter's middle school. She said the work in the spelling book is never corrected. She said she found errors in her daughter's work that were weeks old. Also, she said tests are not given back until eight weeks later. She said homework is sometimes corrected and sometimes not. She said she asked for one example of a paper that had been corrected by the instructor, and never got one. She suggested the board have a study session to look into the teaching methods of teachers. "The little nuts and bolts (of teaching) could be tightened a bit," she said. The board said nothing in response, though Superintendent Taylor later said she heard what Harrahill said and "will take to heart the information you shared today." Well, good for Taylor for that response. I wish the board had also responded.

FUNDRAISER ~ Board member Monina Diaz reported she is continuing to work with the Chamber of Commerce on ideas to help raise funds for the district. She said at the latest Chamber meeting some people came up with the idea of having businesses on a certain night give a certain amount of proceeds to the schools. Not wildly original, as she said, but a good idea nevertheless. I'm impressed. Monina originally suggested this idea to a lukewarm reception by the rest of the board, but she's carried it forward regardless.

ENERGY ~ The district has hired a company called Energy Education, Inc., to help it save money on its energy costs. Chief Business Officer Linda Dempsey said if it costs the district more in expenses to implement Energy Education's plan than the energy savings, then the company will cover the difference out of its own pocket. Dempsey said the firm has been around for 18 years and has worked with school districts throughout the U.S. She estimated the district would save 20-30 percent of its energy costs. Roger Graziani objected that it could put an additional burden of school employees, although it would be essentially an extra job that people could apply for and wouldn't be part of their regular job. Say! Wouldn't it be great if stockbrokers offered the same sort of deal: "We make you money or we make up the difference." Sigh. Not in this world.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular Monrovia school board meeting is on June 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive.

Copyright (c) 2003, Brad Haugaard. Also on the Web at http://www.sacklunch.net/MonroviaSchoolLink