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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 67 ~ Oct. 22, 2003

This Thursday (Oct. 23) is the school board's candidates forum at 7 p.m. at Clifton Auditorium. That's probably tonight, depending on when you're reading this. Come hear what the people who want to run this $30+ million enterprise have to say, unfiltered by me. This meeting was kind of strange. Lots of reports on good things, and criticisms of bad things. I think an election is approaching. Plus, the lower grades did well on the APIs, but the high school failed to make its goals. That and the West Nile virus.
~ Brad Haugaard (

WEST NILE VIRUS ~ Superintendent Louise Taylor said a dead crow was found at Plymouth school that tested positive for West Nile virus. However, she said she was assured that there was no medical danger at all. She said the crow was one of several infected birds found in San Gabriel Valley cities. She said the district will be sending out information to parents.

API PREVIEW ~ Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction gave a preview of the API scores. More later. He said he is "exceptionally pleased" with the elementary schools' performance, that the middle schools did okay, but that Monrovia High failed to make its API targets. Superintendent Louise Taylor said Mayflower school has now met the final score of 800.

ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL ~ Welcome to Ernesto Villareal, who was hired October 20 from Arcadia High School to be a Monrovia High assistant principal.

GOOD EMPLOYEES ~ The Monrovia Chamber of Commerce and Board of Education honored four district employees. Here they are: Amy Edwards, a Mayflower teacher who has put a lot of effort (and her own money) into the school's PE program. As a result the students' scores in the President's Physical Fitness program have soared. ~ Stephanie Hidalgo, a single mom with a busy schedule, still finds time to help out at Mayflower as a playground and instructional aide. And she finds time to be involved in every activity of the school. ~ Paul Pagano, assistant principal at Clifton Middle School has been 23 years at Clifton as a teacher, counselor and assistant principal. ~ Anna May Cisneros, office manager at Clifton Middle School, has been 21 years on the staff. She started as a special education assistant and 10 years ago was made office manager.

AWARDS ~ CSBA Representative Robert Cruz recognized the district for its two 2003 Golden Bell Awards, for its AVID AP Vertical Action and Planning Team, and its Pro-Active Tutoring program. Congratulations... even though I really hate the term "pro-active." Name aside, I'm sure it's a fine tutoring program. Frances Cash said the actual bells will be handed over to the district on December 13.

BOND BUCKS ~ Chief Business Officer Linda Dempsey reported on the use of the $34 million general obligation bond in 1997. It has been spent on modernization. The first $24 million went for new classroom buildings at Wildrose, Mayflower and Bradoaks, plus a new gym at Santa Fe. Also, the district brought in portable classrooms at Plymouth. The remaining $10 (approximately) has gone to upgrade the electrical systems at Monrovia High and Clifton, plus two new buildings at Cliftin, plus modernized science, homemaking and band rooms at Clifton.

GOOD REPORTS ~ Anything good that could possibly be said about the district was said tonight. From 7:30 to 9:04 p.m. solid, and at intervals thereafter. There were reports on Monrovia Reads, on the various awards the district has won, and about how the district spent $34 million in bond funds, all with nice video-friendly graphics for the cable camera. Also, the board honored four employees, though that's pretty standard. Then the president of the local California School Employees Association got up to thank the board for not driving the employees to striking, and said how wonderful the administration is. Then - actually later - a glowing report about the Parent Institute (more than 100 parents attending). Whew! I've never seen so many happy reports. In fact, it got a bit thick, and it occurred to me that this is the last board meeting before the election and I wondered if there might not be a connection. Aren't I suspicious?

DOG AND PONY ~ I had just finished typing the previous item (though I added a bit later), when Cyrus Kemp got up and called the display a "dog and pony show to showcase the current board. The performance of the board," he said, "has been lackluster" and "I don't think board needs to be thanked for anything. I think the scores speak for themselves." Kemp also wanted to know what criteria the board uses to evaluate the superintendent, who was evaluated in closed session tonight. He got no answer to that.

GATE ~ Ann Hodgdon, who said she has three children in the district, said she is concerned about the Monrovia Gate program. She said she's not convinced the district is living up to the law. She said she's "generally disappointed and discouraged by the performance of the Gate program. Parents," she said, "need to be involved, but leadership needs to come from the board and staff." Frances Cash said to Superintendent Louise Taylor, "Can we get a report on that?" Then, to my amusement, she rephrased that to "We need a report on that." I've long criticized the board for lacking leadership. Maybe that's a shot at leadership I just saw.

VIOLENCE ~ Someone who identified herself as a "concerned parent" said she is concerned about safety at the Monrovia High campus. She said she saw a response of school personel to a violent incident (she didn't say what) and wasn't entirely reassured, though she said when she called one person on she said was a lack of proper response, he acknowledged his mistake. She said she wished to say she could say I rest easy, "but I do not." She said she wants the board to take a close look at violence prevention.

SNACK BAR ~ Ed Gilliland reported that the planned rest room/snack bar at Monrovia High School is making progress. "The community," he said, "is stepping up." Therefore, he said, the board should probably put the topic on the agenda.

THICK ~ Then a former Monrovia teacher who lives in Long Beach spoke. She said she came to say goodbye to Roger Graziani, who is retiring from the board. But she congratulated the board, saying she lived through two riots and a strike in Monrovia. But, she said, finally board members elected people who care about relations with employees, people like Superintendent Louise Taylor who have vision to work with people. She said she tells her students about Monrovia all the time. Yeah. It was layed on pretty thick tonight.

PARENT INSTITUTE ~ Last time I commented about the poor sales job of the representative from Parent Institute for Quality Education, but I didn't have any problem with the program itself. Well, I've heard more. One parent wrote to say she was annoyed that the board adopted the program without checking into it enough. She said she attended a meeting about the Parent Institute and asked the group's representative about statistical evidence that the program works. The parent writes: "She said, and I quote, 'I don't know if we keep stats like that.' Huh? You start a program but don't track your success rate?" She adds, "We did this [type of program] at Clifton six years ago. so, why aren't they tracking and following up with their students/participants in that program?"

GOOFBALL ~ Let's end this report with a goofball example of state regulations. Chief Business Officer Linda Dempsey said the district can't wash its buses anymore because the water drains into storm drains, not into the sewer system. So it'll hire a company (for an extra $2,000 a year) to wash the buses and catch the water and haul it away, where, presumably, it'll be dumped into the sewer.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular Monrovia school board meeting is on December 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive.

Copyright (c) 2003, Brad Haugaard. Also on the Web, when I get around to putting it there, at: