SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for April 2009

Houseman’s Tax Harangue Goes Viral

Out of the mouths of (seemingly unnoticed) elected officials…

Jerry Houseman’s tax tirade apparently has gone viral with the anti-tax-tea-party crowd. The video has been posted by Blogger Joshua Trevino who describes Houseman this way:

Per Dr. Houseman: “They don’t want to pay for kids — your kids!” Well, no: the low-tax movement, and small-government ideology in general, is not actually about “not pay[ing] for kids” so much as it’s about being able to pay for one’s kids. We shouldn’t be much surprised at his outburst: in addition to being a lifelong education bureaucrat, and thus prone to the hammer/nail problem on these topics, he represents SCUSD’s Area 2. This affluent area includes Sacramento’s Fabulous Forties, the sort of urban bastion of well-to-do conventional white liberalism, with all its thoughtless reflexes, that plagues California politics — and hence California education.

The video has also been posted at these blogs: SacRag, Three Sources and Club for Growth

Written by scusdobserver

April 28, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Jerry Houseman

Multiple Pathways to Where?

Yesterday, the District announced it’s second phase of high school redesign in the “e21” reform effort which began in 2000.

Multiple Pathways is an interesting concept (in theory) but major questions remain about the success of the ongoing effort. Outlined in today’s Sacramento Bee article, the current small high schools are struggling with declining enrollment and dropouts.

Is the current failure a “steep learning curve” as President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg described it at yesterday’s announcement at the Serna Center or is “e-21” simply a failure? Period.

Written by scusdobserver

April 25, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Jerry Houseman’s Tirade

Over at the SacRag, author Cool DMZ, makes an excellent catch about Jerry Houseman’s tirade at the last school board meeting. In case you missed it, (Item 10.4 part 2 near the end of the video segment) the outburst was nothing short of surreal, complete with browbeating and finger-wagging, about how Californians are tax-averse and unwilling to pay for public education.

In other words, Houseman berated audience members, with all the sanctimony he could muster, that we’ve brought this school-closing problem on ourselves.

Cool DMZ nails it when he writes:

The prospect of an elected official — charged with spending millions of taxpayer money — browbeating his constituents to cease their resistance to higher taxes while they have the gall to take advantage of a public service like education, is pretty frightening.

Why wasn’t Roy Grimes’ gavel hitting the table repeatedly on Houseman’s conniption? Grimes has no problem silencing the public when a timed, public comment minute is up. Houseman was completely out of line last Thursday and he needs calling on the carpet. Consider it done now, twice. Thanks SacRag.

Written by scusdobserver

April 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Special Board Meeting Today for Superintendent Search

Announced yesterday, a special board meeting takes place at 3 p.m. today to specifically address the search for a new SCUSD Superintendent. The workshop will be held in the Washington Conference Room of the Serna Center and public participation is welcome.

Written by scusdobserver

April 23, 2009 at 3:14 pm

One Year…

Launched on Earth Day, 2008, this blog marks one year of existence today.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
~Native American Proverb

Written by scusdobserver

April 22, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Posted in SCUSD Observer

Standing With The Smallest!

By Leo Bennett-Cauchon

There are alternatives…

…to bringing children to tears and parents to anger,
to ripping the social fabric of our neighborhoods,
to making the lives of our lower income families even harder
to increasing the carbon footprint of education.

One is called the sustainable (walkable and community-centered) neighborhood schools that already grace our unique and diverse urban neighborhoods. Over the years these schools have managed to protect themselves from the “short list” closure efforts by the central office except for the two we have lost in the past few years. Now, four more are targeted with ten more at risk. At this rate the extinction of a valuable community resource is fast approaching. This is wrong both in terms of equity and cost effectiveness.

Another is called weighted student budgeting. Good stewardship means paying attention to the quality of smaller as well as the efficiencies of quantity. Learning happens at the local school level and this is where the funding decisions should start. With a per-student budgeting model, individual schools would receive about $9,420 for each student (average per student funding in 07-08). This would cover every existing site budget with plenty of funds available for a creative competition by the central office through quality support services.

School sites need to be focused on addressing the diverse challenges of our students. They are our future. Small neighborhood schools have a research-established ability to provide important individual attention and to nurture crucial resiliency factors. These quality aspects save the community millions in future social costs and also provide us millions in future contributions to the economy.

Small schools produce good citizens.

SCUSD management is desperately pushing their larger school-size model to take advantage of the global fiscal crisis. Unfortunately they are also now using misinformation to advance this agenda. They state that closures are necessary to address budget shortfalls. SCUSD’s income has increased every year except for one slight dip a few years back and, with the federal stimulus, will continue to grow in the future. Spending has grown consistently and is projected by management to be higher than last year by $25 million at year’s end. This is not accurate but is an example of the errors resulting from haste and the lack of focus on responsible savings, taking away from our neighborhood schools.

They also maintain that closures are needed due to a 10-year decline in enrollment. SCUSD’s own medium-range projections state that we will see the beginning of a 10-year increase in elementary enrollment starting in 2008-09. The projection was for 26,327 and at the October CBEDs count, SCUSD elementary enrollment was at 26,357. The future projection is for a return to 1999-00 levels by 2014-15.

The community must stand together with our most vulnerable and smallest members.

Management is both literally out-of-town and out-of-touch.

Management needs to return to their roots as teachers first. Thus another alternative is to expand the proposal from renting out portions of their central office to completely re-purposing Serna Center. It could be fairly easily converted to a great revenue asset and is the nicest facility farthest from the actual core mission of the our district.

The mission? Success for every student by name. This is a current reality at our neighborhood schools. Re-purposing the central offices would be a great commitment towards safeguarding this core mission in challenging times.

The benefits of management relocating to the local schools and having the opportunity to easily contribute each day to directly supporting student achievement could also be a significant boost to the efforts to bridge the achievement gap. Unlike the current lose and gain approach, per student budgeting and decentralized district management could be a win-win alternative. Our Board should ask for management to cost-out these alternatives so that a truly informed decision is evident to the stakeholders of SCUSD.

Written by scusdobserver

April 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Commentary

Time to Really Think Outside the Box

By Mike Simpson

It is time for each of us in leadership roles to look in the mirror.

While the current state of the education crisis is directly related to the recession, there are structural reasons why this crisis is so desperate. The leadership of our education establishment suffers from inbreeding and groupthink. When Einstein described insanity, he had the educational establishment in mind. BIG districts and BIG unions have not served the best interests of our children. While we continue to do amazing things for many, the fact is that there are too many of our children being left behind.

The leadership change that we need is in place now. It does not reside in the district office or the union office. It is time to listen and work with the community and parents. School site councils and neighborhood associations contain the ideas that are impossible for the “Bigs” of the educational establishment. The community leaders found closest to our children can move education forward but they are shut out of the process, structurally. The “Bigs” continue to work with the legislature to find the solutions that fit the nice little box of the educational establishment. Unfortunately the results are more of the same.

I believe that only bottom-up and grassroots solutions will change the mess that we have in education. We must empower our school site councils through site-level budgets where the education dollars follow the child.

Current leaders need to get their heads around the idea that leadership is not exclusively their realm. It is time that we listen to teachers, parents and communities at the site level and see if we do not find answers that serve all our children.

Written by scusdobserver

April 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Commentary