25th 2010
Growing Pains…

Posted under That's Life Columns



Just when you get one mess cleaned up, you trip over another on your way to the trash can.  In a city the size of Dixon, you would think we might be immune to the vagaries of larger town bureaucracies.  Instead Dixon is a microcosm of the entrenched bureaucracy prevalent throughout our country, bureaucracies “gone wild” in today’s jargon reflective of our societal and cultural wasteland of mores.

The school board now meets in the city council chambers.  That is the only significant change that has occurred.  As the keen observer of body language and the human condition which I am, it seemed odd to me that the board president Jim Ernst didn’t even know where the flag was when the call for the pledge of allegiance went out.  His nascent befuddlement along with poor judgement seems more apparent with each and every action taken by this board.

First there was a report from a closed session on “findings of fact” on the expulsion of Philip Muckensturm.  Remember, there was no transcript of the recorded hearing as the tape player was missing a battery or two.  Evidently, as I was not in the hearing although I would have loved to have been an eyewitness to this incompetence as well as foul play, the findings were based on the recollections of the three board members who attended the hearing and previously voted to expel the student.  Two board members, Piñon and Okhremtchouk, were not allowed to vote because they missed the hearing.  As neither spoke out on the event while it was being reported out to the public, one can only assume that they either don’t know their right to comment after a decision is made in closed session or they agreed with the majority.

The reason I bring this case up is it is yet one more example of unequal enforcement of the law, bias, reverse discrimination, racism, and over reaction on the part of a board who believes everything that is spoon fed to them by their staff or experts.  LEARN TO THINK FOR YOURSELVES!!!

What I found to be amazing was that no copy of the “findings of fact” were given to the boy’s father.  I also have a problem in excluding him from a closed session that could as easily have been done in open session.  First, the father Gary had already turned this into an open session issue by asking for a public hearing before the county.  Second, the board does not have the right to have closed sessions if the other party, whose privacy they are supposedly trying to protect, wants the hearing held before the public.  Finally, if you allow the parent to be part of the original expulsion hearing, why wouldn’t you allow him to participate at all phases unless you feared litigation?

Just as in the case of Aric Geertson, which was botched at a higher level in the Solano County Superior court of David Edwin Power, the actual aggressor got off scot free.  The late board member Shana Levine who was so concerned about bullying and hazing at the high school that she got Lois Wolk to present legislation which passed, would be soooo proud of the results of her efforts.  The Dixon police also get kudos for not following up until well after the fact that the true assailant was guilty of brandishing an altered weapon while committing assault in saying, “I am going to put a bullet in your brain.”  Our wonderful DA David Pondscum then came to the conclusion he didn’t have enough evidence to pursue the case.  And they all wonder why not only your kids but I have so little respect for law when the system has gone topsy turvy…
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Following the report out from closed session, the board then heard public comment.  When your union presidents get up and complain about poor working relationships with the superintendent and give details, the board needs to pay a little more attention.  The public has just found another justification for withholding their approval of bond money for this little fiefdom gone bad.  Ernst was again in the middle of it.  It was verrrrry interesting watching Herb Cross and waiting for him to weigh in, which he never did.

Never being one to be satisfied with hearing only one side of the story, I went to pay a little visit to Roger Halberg, the embattled superintendent of our school district.  His explanation of events that have transpired lead me to the conclusion that it would be far better for all of this to come out in an open session of the school district board than getting bits and pieces from the players during an extended time period.

The contention that statements are taken out of context or misinterpreted by those hearing them and then repeating them later has validity which has been proven time and again.  However, taking the position that all communication is off the table until protocols which favor only one side are established is not an answer.
We have a public that distrusts the district so much that they won’t give them any more money.  We now have evidence of distrust between management, union leadership, and perhaps those at the working level who aren’t busy kissing up to higher management for whatever reason.  Then we have the transparency aspect.

It is difficult to be transparent when you are attempting to hide issues, items, protocol, and systems.  When criticism is not taken well, transparency also goes out the window.  It would seem to me that these may all be growing pains.  It is how they are handled as to whether the child survives and grows to be productive.

We have a school district like many other districts.  Poor quality education hampered by State bureaucratic regulation on teaching methods and curriculum seems to be the rule of the day.  Teaching simply to pass graduation tests.  It reminds me of the song by Paul Simon, Kodachrome, with the lines “I think back on all the crap I learned in high school… it’s a wonder I can think at all…”

Given my poor opinion of public education along with government, you might wonder why I even bother.  It is simple.  You can either accept a failed system or you can roll up your sleeves and attempt to change what you feel is wrong.  I believe that all of these systems are on the brink of failure due to the policies of those we have trusted.

I honestly believe that these same people aren’t inherently “bad” or trying to ruin a system which has worked.  I believe they don’t challenge themselves by questioning what the impact of their actions will have on others.  There are others to whom I do not give this benefit of the doubt.

The outright socialist agenda to destroy America from within by encumbering the populace with laws and regulations while eliminating our country as a productive nation by encouraging a welfare society as well as destroying our manufacturing base should be coming clearer to you every day.  It can only be hidden so long.  The good old days of which your fathers and grandfathers spoke is no longer nostalgia but an actuality.

When the ability to pay for the opiates of our day disappears with the destruction of the almighty dollar, you might have to be more concerned with from where your next meal is coming rather than “Life with the Kardashians” or your next I-pod or console video game.  Has America become a literal Sodom and Gomorrah in need of cleansing?

Many on the left feel in their hearts that this must happen.  We have it too good in America.  In fact, we have it so good, they feel guilty about it.  It is no wonder they give credence to my sobriquet of “liberal lemmings” by their actions.  We do not have to accept this nor do we have to accept poor performances by our boards, councils, or legislators at any and all levels.

What we have here is yet another opportunity to change.  You can not keep doing the same things with only minor changes and expect different results.  We have the basis for a board that can change how things are done.  Another election is coming in less than a year.  It will be as important as this last one for city council was.

Rather than to go into a personal analysis of the composition of the present board and what to look for in replacements for the incumbents, I want to diverge and return to problem solving within those groups running our district.

I want to see an agreement between the union leadership who also double as instructors and administration to openly assess whether or not instructional change can be made within the constraints mandated by the State.  In other words, it may not be a teaching problem as much as a bureaucratic problem.  If what we continue to do doesn’t work, do we simply modify it as we have been doing or look for a new model or paradigm?

If it takes major modification to the system, the rising up has to start somewhere.  What better level than at the grass roots where the actual job is being done?

Is it simply money that is the problem?  Are we not looking at emulating successful districts such as Davis?  I look askance at the argument that IQ levels are higher or that English as second language learners are a problem.  With the availability of “Rosetta Stone” software and the like, there is no excuse for the failure of actual educational institutions to educate.  Ever hear of “Mathnasium”, a gymnasium for mathematics instruction?

Let’s quit making excuses of why things can’t be done and start getting things done.  It is time to tell the people we have trusted and to whom we have given big bucks to produce or change the routine.

Do you like the taste of losing?  It is un-American.  We use to feel that way.  Why don’t we feel like that any more?

The school system is like an apple that is rotten to the core.  You could always core it if the rot hasn’t extended beyond that core.  While some are afraid to say what they think, what type of legacy are you leaving your profession or those you have tutored?  We often look fondly back on teachers who were instrumental in making us or our nation better through their insights.

Will our only thoughts now be on how they brought on the demolition of our once great Nation?…

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