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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 70 ~ Dec. 17, 2003

It was the first board meeting with two new members, Clare Chesley and Bryan Wong. And I think the new board is off to a good start. I saw changes already. I can see that with his financial experience, Wong is going to be very useful in these hard economic times. He started right off asking questions of items that appear to have a financial impact of the district.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad@sacklunch.net)

SHUFFLEBOARD ~ The board reshuffled itself this evening. Betty Sandford rotated into the presidency, Monina Diaz became vice president, and Bruce Carter became clerk. I've always wondered what the board clerk is. One of the mysteries of life.

ALREADY ~ Changes already. Immediately following the announcement of the new positions, Superintendent Louise Taylor said that the board is considering changing its meeting time from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 or 7 p.m. to make it more convenient for the community to attend (I sense the influence of Chesley and Wong in this.) However - and I like this a lot - Taylor said the board wants comments from the community before it makes a decision. You can comment by phone (I think the number is 471-2000), by email at board@monrovia.k12.ca.us, or just by showing up at a meeting and having your say (next one is Jan. 14, 2004 at 7:30 p.m.). Taylor said the board will discuss the matter in February. Hey! There are three great ways to let the board know when would be most convenient for you. Saying when would be convenient doesn't commit you to going, so put in your two cents!

GATE ~ Mayflower parent Ann Hodgdon encouraged the board to make changes to the GATE gifted students program. She said positive things have been happening at Mayflower, but she finds the district's "lack of interest in GATE discouraging." She said that "to take differentiated learning and call it GATE violates the spirit of the law. We should develop a GATE program we can be proud of," she said.

CONSTRUCTIVE CHANGES ~ I was struck by a comment by Bryan Wong. He said he hopes the new board can make some "constructive changes." Noting Ann Hogdon's comments, he added that he would "like to encourage the community to continue attending these meetings." Amen!

TURNING POINT ~ Community member Cyrus Kemp told the board that "November was a turning point. When you look at the way the voting went, voters said it's time for a change. I believe there will be change and I'll do everything I can to support this board." Amen again!

COPS ~ The main business matter of the evening was a "certification of the first interim report for the 2003-04 fiscal year." Hey! No snoring! If I understand this, it means the board had to say that it has enough money to keep its nose above water for the next three years. Linda Dempsey, the chief business officer, said it will have enough money (Lord willing and the creek don't rise), but said the budget is going to be very tight. Bryan Wong was obviously right in his element. He started talking about COPs - which I thought were the folks you call when someone steals your hubcaps - but he said they're "Certificates of Participation," like bonds. He said it was important to pass this measure so the district can refinance its bonds and stuff, which, he said, the district is looking at doing. (This last remark is an apparent reference to something he mentioned earlier to me. He said that, as a bond guy, he has looked at the district's outstanding bonds and thinks there may be a way to save the schools a few bucks. It was all pretty opaque to me, but it gives me confidence to know there's a second set of qualified eyes looking hard at the district's finances. Go for it, Bryan!

FAST HONORS ~ The board trotted through the honors to various groups and individuals in record time. Frequently this process has lasted well over an hour. I'm not sure if this was the new members encouraging a bit swifter process, or whether, as President Betty Sandford said, she was hurrying because she wants to spend dinner with her family, which has come from hither, thither and yon for her becoming president. Well, whatever, it was nice, though I'm afraid that despite the speed, Sandford had quite a late dinner. The honorees, by the way, were Washington Mutual Bank, the Monrovia Arts Festival Association, and the Monrovia Schools Foundation, for their monetary contributions to the district. Also, the district honored the Pro-Active Tutoring Program and AVID Team for winning the California School Boards Association's Golden Bell Award.

GIFTS ~ Speaking of gifts, I noticed in the gifts section that new board member Clare Chesley donated a $500 Dell computer for use at Bradoaks School. Also, Superintendent Taylor donated 12 "Classics Library" books on tape, worth about $150.

STOP AND GO ~ Well, this is the last SchoolLink issue of the year, and though I said this would be the last issue period, it appears I lied. I've been talked in to keeping it alive. However, it will be changing. Eighteen school board meetings a year is a bit more than I can handle (maybe if they served popcorn it would be better), so from now on a group of us will take turns attending the meetings and writing up our observations. Then I'll give the write-up a quick look, mostly to try to avoid libeling anybody, then I'll send it out. This, of course, will make the newsletter fairly different each time, and you may get some opinions that are not mine. Also, in addition to the regular newsletter, I think I'll send out a very brief announcement *before* the meetings about items on the agenda that you may find interesting, just in case you'd like to attend and give your thoughts. Plus, I think I may contribute an occasional special edition of the newsletter on various Monrovia school topics.

WRITERS ~ As I mentioned, a group of us will be writing the SchoolLink newsletter, and if you can write "The fat cat sat on the mat," perhaps you would like you to join us. This involves attending the school board meeting, writing up what happens along with any observations you may have, and sending it to me. I guesstimate it won't involve more than one or two meetings a year. If you are interested, please send me your name and phone number by email to brad@sacklunch.net. I'll pass your name on to our coordinator, Ann Hodgdon.

GOSH, THANKS ~ I was disinclined to publish the following letter to the editor because, well... it's so flattering, and Lord knows don't need a bigger ego than I already have. But then my consience got into the act: "Brad!" it scolded, "What about Shanna's right to free speech? Have you forgotten all about that?" "Hmmmm..." (I debated with myself for a nanosecond.) "Oh, all right!" I told my consience, "I'll publish it, but purely in the interests of free speech." Here's her letter:

As I read Brad's latest review of the election and the future of the School Board, I am overwhelmingly inclined to thank him for his persistence, courage, and most of all, willingness to inform us all of his thoughts and observations. I find that although I have moved my child out of the Monrovia School District, I am still extremely concerned about the other children and families that are affected. In addition, I want to know what is going on in my community education.

What I find most profound is that it does not matter who you support, or what you believe, Brad's review is just that, a review. Brad's letter is a reminder that free speech does exist in our society and it is ok to be brave enough to express it. I think too often we can be intimidated and not move toward change through discussion. I, for one, have concerns but do not always agree with just one side. That is ok, as long as it is an informed choice.

I am excited about the future of the Monrovia School Board... not because I am more supportive of one person or another, but more because I feel a renewed sense of hope for some dormant areas. I respect the work that the past board has done but I think change is good also. Let's hope time will bring a cohesive group of adults that all have the good will of our students and their families in mind.

I can't help but think that Brad Haugaard is partially responsible for the election results. I truly believe that knowledge is power and the enlightenment that Brad has shared, is knowledge for many.

Respectfully, Shanna Burkholder

[Thank you very much for those kind words, Shanna]

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular Monrovia school board meeting is on January 14, 2004 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: http://www.sacklunch.net/MonroviaSchoolLink