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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 61 ~ July 9, 2003

Board Member Roger Graziani jolted me - and I think some other people - tonight by announcing that he will not be seeking reelection this November. I'm all mixed up inside. Plus, Superintendent Louise Taylor has just had a grandbaby and another board watcher shows up.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad@sacklunch.net)

GRAZIANI LEAVING ~ At the tail end of the board meeting, Member Roger Graziani announced that he will not seek reelection this November, after - I think he said - 18 years on the board. He said it is time to move on. Wow. I feel a bit ambivalent about this. On the one hand, it's no secret that I believe the board seriously needs some new blood, and obviously this ensures there'll be at least one new board member. On the other hand, I really liked Graziani, despite my carping at him. Despite the times he drove me crazy. I still liked him. When he spoke I could often sense real passion and concern. If the citizens of Monrovia had decided to keep one of the three incumbents this November, I would have preferred it be him. After all my griping, it may sound phony, but I wish him the very best.

KEMP ~ The second most interesting aspect of the tonight's meeting (I was going to say the "most interesting aspect" until the Graziani zinger came along) were the comments of Cyrus Kemp, a community member who spoke on - what was it? - four or five items on the agenda. He mostly urged the board not to pass items that he felt were needlessly costly, and while I didn't always agree with his comments - though I did with some - I appreciate his challenges. Challenging the board and staff to explain their reasoning strikes me as a good way to ensure they think things through. Thanks, Cyrus! Show up again.

CUTS ~ It appears that across the board, district employees have agreed to take pay and benefit cuts. The cuts represent $344,000 in savings, and involve the Monrovia Teachers Association, California School Employees Association, Monrovia Association of School Administrators, and Confidential/Classified Management. I also noticed that the teachers have agreed to a .5 student increase in the number of students per teacher at middle and high school levels. (I wonder if the .5 student increase will be spread evenly among the teachers. Sorry, bad joke.) Also, playground supervision will be reduced by 25 percent at elementary and middle schools.

TRANSFERS ~ In what may be an indication of the tough financial situation the district finds itself in, the board approved a measure giving Superintendent Louise Taylor the right to make loans from one district fund to another (up to $1.5 million) to solve cash flow problems. Cyrus Kemp said he'd like to see that each transfer is approved by the board and suggested that the language of the motion reflect that. Board Member Bruce Carter said the motion in the agenda "looks like it reflects it quite accurately." Speaking later, Kemp said, "Mr. Carter must be a product of the public school system because he apparently can't read." Well, I wouldn't put it quite so strongly, but I looked at the agenda and I think Kemp is right. I didn't see anything that reflected what Kemp suggested, "quite accurately" or otherwise.

FOUNDATION ~ The board has had a few study sessions lately to plan a public relations, fundraising, and parent involvement program. I'll be interested to hear the details of this as I have not attended any of those sessions. It sounds like they might be setting up a non-profit foundation to raise money for the schools. I believe quite a few other districts have created similar organizations over the years. High time Monrovia did it. I think this is an outgrowth of an idea Board Member Monina Diaz had, although it appears she has gotten Betty Sandford on board, since a couple of the study sessions were held at her house.

10 YEARS AGO ~ Cyrus Kemp, however, did attend the study sessions. During the public comment part of the meeting, he said he approves of the idea of raising $1 million over the next three years. But, he said, why wasn't this happening 10 years ago? A very good question. Kemp also was concerned that the ideas for spending the money were for after-school programs, prompted, he said, by the administrators of those programs. He said after-school programs are the responsibility of parents, and that he is "not going to foot the bill" for them.

VP CARTER? ~ Board Member Bruce Carter said he is running for Vice President of the California School Boards Association (which lobbies legislators and provides legal services for school districts). He said that if elected this November, he'll spend four years on the association.

DELAY ~ Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Joel Shawn said that today the State Board of Education has taken action to postpone the state-required exit exam for two years. Details shortly.

FILTERING ~ Kemp also spoke about a district plan to purchase Internet filtering software. "I wonder," he asked, "what instructors are doing that we have to spend this amount of money ($3,805) for filtering devices. I believe there are some software programs that give a lot of this protection." Taylor said filtering is required by state law and Graziani said students are supervised in the class, but often do research on projects in the library, away from teachers' eyes.

GIFT OF SOUND ~ The board got a new microphone system that works very well. So now it doesn't matter if they whisper, you can hear it all quite clearly. You can even hear papers shuffling on the podium. I noticed under the list of gifts that the district had recieved $1000 "to help defray the cost of upgrading the sound system in the Board Room at the District Administration Center" donated by Board Member Betty Sandford and her husband. My ears say thank you very much.

AKRON ~ While I'm on gifts, I noticed that the University of Akron (Ohio?) gave 500 bucks to "enhance the educational programs at Santa Fe Middle School." Cool! But I wonder why Akron is giving money to a California school.

REFUND? ~ The board voted to support a resolution asking the legislature to give it and other districts a utility rate cut. Apparently there are some refunds coming as a result of the legal settlement with the utilities that were jerking around electricity prices, and the schools want some of it. As one of the resolution items says, "Schools should be granted the same consideration as industry and agriculture when it comes to special utility rates."

SODAS ~ Graziani suggested that the board discuss (as an agenda item, not in a study session. Hooray!) whether to ban sodas on campus. It was a bit unclear, but I think Superintendent Taylor said something about adding the item to an upcoming agenda.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular Monrovia school board meeting is on August 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive. Be there or be square!