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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 60 ~ June 11, 2003

The board honored a bazillion (give or take) students and employees tonight. Also, another impressive report from High School Counselor Oscar Ibarra. Oscar is clearly a keeper. Also, we'll be getting another new principal, there were more cuts, and, I'm sorry, but I'm going to be out of town for the next meeting, so no report on the 25th. I'll be suffering at the beach.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad@sacklunch.net)

MORE CUTS ~ Well, the counseling positions that made it through last meeting's budget cuts didn't survive this one. The board cut one intervention counselor at Monrovia High and reduced a middle school counselor to half time. Plus there was an additional retiree, and the board put off maintenance on the buildings for a year. That comes to $174,000 savings. Plus there should be $344,000 more savings, but this in negotiation with employee groups. And to add to the bad news, the county, which apparently makes the estimates the districts have to live by, is saying schools may not get a cost of living increase for 2004-05 and 2005-06, which would be another $600,000 loss. But that's a bit tentative.

SHARING ~ Board member Roger Graziani had his thinking cap on again. He suggested the district figure out if there are ways it can share some of its costs with surrounding districts. Chief Business Officer Linda Dempsey said she'd look into it.

AWARDS ~ Tonight was awards night. I counted around 90 people who were honored, including Skills USA VICA winners. I have no idea what a "VICA" is, but Monrovia students were gold medal winners in its photography and TV/Video categories. The TV/Video team swept gold, silver and bronze awards statewide. Plus a team won Best Feature Film in the Xanadau Film Festival, and there were spelling bee winners, honored teachers, custodians, retirees, and a lot of others. More people than I can name.

PRINCIPAL ~ Byron Greer was honored as the retiring principal of Clifton Middle School. Greer has been with the district for 34 years. That's interesting. I guess that means Clifton will be getting a new principal. Last time we learned the principal of Bradoaks was moving on. Lots of changes.

I'LL BE BRIEF ~ With all the awards and stuff, it was about two-and-a-half-hours into the meeting before the board actually got around to the regular business part of the meeting, the first part of which is to give board member reports. They all started with some variation on, "Because of the late hour I'll be brief," and then - with a couple exceptions - they just went right ahead and chattered on at their usual length. Oh well, I don't begrudge the chatter, just the unfulfilled promise to be brief.

AFTER HIGH SCHOOL ~ What happens to Monrovia High School grads? Well, there was an interesting report tonight that breaks down students intentions. Fifty-two percent say they're planning to go to a two-year or trade school; 27 percent indicate they'll be going to a four-year school (32 percent were accepted, but some declined); and 3 percent plan to go into the military. Which means, I guess, that 18 percent do not go on for further education. The report indicated that the percentage going on to post secondary education is increasing, from 41 percent in 2001, to 77 percent (Wow!) in 2002, and 79 percent in 2003. Much of this jump appears to be the doing of counselor Oscar Ibarra (I think I got the name correctly), who appears to be a fireball in pushing students to consider college. I wrote about his full-court-press methods in an earlier issue. (I must have missed something or there was some rounding going on, because the first numbers suggest 18 percent don't go on to higher education while the later number (79 percent) suggests 21 percent don't.)

DISCUSSION ~ Everybody - understandably - was impressed with Ibarra's work. Board member Roger Graziani said he has "never seen anything like this in my years on the board. We need to dip you in bronze and chrome you." Sounds painful, but I approve of the sentiment. Board president Frances Cash suggested encouraging students in lower grades to consider college. Graziani suggested a survey after the first year of college to see how Monrovia students are doing. Monina Diaz wanted some emphasis on helping students get past the idea that they can't afford college. (Ibarra said it is the middle income students who find finances a problem because their parents aren't poor enough to get assistance and are not wealthy enough to pay for the education themselves. Nevertheless, he said, there are many scholarships available.) Bruce Carter said he looks forward to the time when every teacher has the expectation that their students will go on to college. "I know," he said, "that some teachers do not have that expectation." Sounds like a subtle criticism.

THREE ~ By the way, I heard second-hand that there may be yet another person running for the school board this year. That would make three challengers. Great!

PROJECT ~ I'm sure I'll misspell his name, but Ed Gilliland, of the Big M Boosters, said he's organizing a drive to build a new snack bar, with restrooms, at Monrovia High. Since the district isn't in the slightest bit likely to pay for it, he's trying to round up help from the community. He's looking for an architect, materials suppliers, trades people and donations. If you'd like to chip in, you can send a check, made out to "Big M Boosters," to P.O. Box 1983, Monrovia, CA, 91107.

NOT THINKING ~ How curious. I was poking around on the Web and found a letter from Board Member Betty Sandford in response to a letter I wrote to the Star-News. I never saw her response in the Star-News, and oddly, it appears on-line in The Whittier Daily News (http://www.whittierdailynews.com/Stories/0,1413,207%257E24945%257E1314082,0 0.html). Anyway, most of what she said I wouldn't dispute, but I did notice this: She took issue with my comment that, "While the city council may bicker, at least that suggests its members are thinking. The school board, by contrast, does not bicker, but then it does not appear to do much thinking either." She disagrees, writing, "The MUSD Board does not 'bicker,' we discuss and evaluate." So, to summarize: I say the board does not bicker. She denies it, saying the board does not bicker. I'm glad that's all cleared up.

BOOKMOBILE ~ Now that I've criticized, I ought to mention the new Monrovia Reads bookmobile was out front of the district offices during the meeting. It's big and beautiful. A library on wheels. Sandford is very involved in the Monrovia Reads organization, so I'm sure she is due a lot of credit for it.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular Monrovia school board meeting, which I'm going to miss (I'll be out of town) is on June 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive. Sorry I won't be able to join you, but I'm sure you'll enjoy the meeting even without me. Next meeting I can be at, July 9 at 7:30 p.m.

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