Opinion: CUSD board loads, aims at foot, prepares to pull trigger

Opinion

Posted by on Wed, June 4, 2008

Dedicated opponents of a school district parcel tax must be rubbing their hands in anticipation of Thursday’s school board meeting. On the agenda:

ACTION ITEMS

a. Approve Honors Geometry Course at Half Moon Bay High School

b. Approve selection of textbook adoption for honors geometry.

c. Direct the Superintendent, on behalf of the District, to write and submit a letter in support of Assembly Bill 1991.

I needn’t go into the details of AB 1991, Half Moon Bay’s attempt to void the Coastal Act within its city limits. The bill has been well covered in these pages, and has aroused strong opposition on the Coastside and around the state.

As District Superintendent Gaskill writes on the district website,

We are also entering a period of significant economic uncertainty. The Governor’s proposed 2008-2009 budget calls for massive cuts to K-12 education and the potential for mid-year cuts remains a strong possibility. We will need to work harder and more creatively, continue to seek out new partnerships and alliances, and identify new sources of revenue and financial support in the months and years to come if we are to retain our status as a high performing district… and we could use your help along the way.

Indeed they could.

As the state budget goes into the tank, our cash-strapped district will have little alternative but to ask the voters for a parcel tax. This will require that the middle school siting fiasco has faded sufficiently into the distance that the fifth attempt at passage will be the charm. We know from painful experience that parcel taxes are difficult to pass in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. Such a measure would require all the help it can get.

So, why is the board preparing to take this divisive vote on Thursday? I’m frankly at a loss. Superintendent Gaskill can be forgiven for not yet understanding recent district history, especially if we assume that most of his instruction is coming from his board. But the board itself has no such excuse.

If the school board is acting in response to a request from their friends on the Half Moon Bay City Council, then the council will share the responsibility for the school service cuts that will follow the failure of the next parcel tax attempt.

Of course, the district’s endorsement of AB 1991 may simply be an acknowledgment that it has given up on passing a parcel tax in the foreseeable future. If it believes that aggressive development of the Coastside will turn around ten years of falling enrollment and save the district’s finances, it would be would be wrong on at least two counts. First, the changing demographics of the Coastside have produced population growth without enrollment growth. Second, there is no evidence larger enrollment has improved the finances of any school district.

By statute, the district will pass next year’s budget later this month. It won’t be pretty then, and it won’t be any prettier come November.


Jonathan,

A minor correction, any parcel tax would be the Sixth “attempt at passage” - CUSD has been so successful at ticking off the public, it is difficult to remember them all! It has been twelve years (June 1996) since 74.90% approved a $35,000,000 Bond measure. The CUSD School Board has not showed any respect for their fiduciary responsibility in managing that money!

Two CUSD Governing Board members have already announced their support for AB 1991 - Charles Gardner and Jolanda Schreurs:

Charles Gardner has been leading the PCF/CCF in the support of AB 1991
Jolanda Schreurs wrote:

“Come to the Board meeting and we would be happy to answer you in person, as we debate the merits of AB1991. At this point, I am not able to ascertain how the individual Board views this particular resolution as we must discuss this in public.

From my own perspective, which I will reiterate on Thurs, if AB1991 does not pass, there will be negative repercussions to the school district in a variety of contexts both short term and long term. There are no negative financial repercussions if AB1991 passes, contrary to the rumors put out by Ms Roberts.

jolanda”

Apparently she never read the Settlement Agreement - it sets the fees that CUSD would receive at 1990 levels. CUSD, in 1990, had the fees set below state levels. It was increased prior to the passage of the Bond Measure. That amount is still less than that required to build space for students.

CUSD has been very cavalier at allowing current residents to pay for Developer’s Schemes!

It appears that the PACIFICA SCHOOL DISTRICT PARCEL TAX MEASURE,
Measure N, for $96/ year for 5 years, was just passed - of course, it requires “independent citizen oversight”!

Ken Johnson

To his credit, District Superintendent Gaskill did concede, at the 14Feb08 Board Meeting at my questioning of his statement to “retain our status as a high performing district” by pointing out that East Palo Alto and CUSD are the only Failing Districts in the County - that only the ‘White’ enrolment, 46.6%, is among those in that “retain our status as a high performing district”.

After he affirmed his statement regarding “retain our status as a high performing district” was only for the Anglo students, I was curious about how CUSD Anglo students compared to the County Anglo students as a whole!

I must now ask: how is ‘white’ performance at less than the County average ‘white’ performance “high performing”?

This may explain the crashing enrolment in CUSD.

Ken Johnson

Why can’t the school board just stick to the job they were elected to? They are supposed to be working to improve the quality of the local schools, not sticking their noses into controversial land-use politics.

No wonder our local schools have academic achievement problems. No wonder, as Ken Johnson points out, that enrollment is declining as people who have the means to do so are taking flight from the school district. And no wonder that five consecutive parcel tax votes have gone down in flames. 

A complete failure of leadership. But does that mean that these people won’t be re-elected? No. Recall that George Bush was re-elected in 2004.

As recently as Fall 2004, school board member Jolanda Schreurs and co-cheerleader (and CCWD director) James Larimer were still pushing hard to have the new middle school built at Wavecrest, This was an unbelievable waste of time and money that could have been used to improve our schools and provide busing, thus allieviating morning traffic congestion.

http://hmbreview.com/articles/2004/10/20/news/letter_to_the_editor/story08.txt

Kevin,

If you really want to see your elected School Board turn the definition of “Fact” upside down, watch   Charlie Gardner and Jolanda Schreurs!

Charlie Gardner wrote :
“The fact is that there were more letters in support than opposed by a margin of almost 3-1.”

Truth: Source: Committee BILL ANALYSIS - ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT - 04/29/2008
Support: Individual letters (77)
Opposition: Individual letters (89)

Maybe poor Charlie is just mathematically ‘challenged’!

Poor Charlie also wrote:
“Meanwhile the majority will see this Bill as the best deal for our community, and the Coastal Act will still be in place after this is passed.”

Apparently Poor Charlie didn’t read any of the three Committee BILL ANALYSIS:

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT
“it appears that exemptions of the scope set forth in this bill
        from so many different statutes are unprecedented.  They will
        no longer be unprecedented if AB 1991 passes. “

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
“Key policy question:
  passage of this bill will
        nevertheless create an unwanted precedent that may undermine
        the state’s legitimate role and responsibility to preserve
        land in its coastal zone.”

ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
“This bill cannot prohibit future bills creating exemptions from the
      state’s environmental laws from being passed and signed into
      law.  It cannot guarantee that the criteria established by this
      bill requiring that all three of the elements set forth be
      present in order for exemptions to be granted will be followed
      in the future.”



Check out the agenda for the CUSD meeting.


Pacifica School District - Agenda - Note Financial Accountability Items!


Ken Johnson

CUSD support for AB1991 is a breach of the board’s fiduciary responsibility to the district! 

It would be an action to actively support the acceptance of funds, for the development of 129 new houses, that was knowingly substantially less than the cost to provide classroom space for the expected number of children!

Opposition to AB 1991 is support for greater revenue to CUSD and to reduce the financial impacts to CUSD!

ALL FEES ARE SET AT 1990 LEVELS - this includes fees due to CUSD. A VTM, Vesting Tentative Map, effectively ‘freezes’ everything at its date. This means that the CUSD fees set on July 3, 1990 for Beachwood on 85 lots and February 6, 1990 for Glencree for 47 lots are the MAXIUMUM fees that CUSD would receive. Prior to January 1991, CUSD fees were set considerably below maximum State levels and substantially below current cost to build classroom space!

The Settlement Agreement,
Paragraph A(2)(i): “Yamagiwa shall pay all catagories of development impact fees in effect in 1990 at the time of approval of the VTMs ... No new catagories of impact fees not in effect in 1990 shall be applicable or imposed.”

AB 1991:
SEC. 2.  Section 66498.10 is added to the Government Code, to read: 
(5) “Prior city approvals” means the vesting tentative map, Sub 06-88, approved by the city on July 3, 1990, for the subdivision and development into 85 lots of the 25-acre parcel designated as San Mateo County assessor’s parcel number 048-280-020 (commonly known as Beachwood), and the vesting tentative map, sub 08-88, approved by the city on February 6, 1990, for the subdivision and development into 47 lots of the 12-acre parcel currently identified by San Mateo
County assessor’s parcel number 048-280-030 (commonly known as Glencree).


Ken Johnson

Back in 1995-96, the year of the immortal Facilities Master Plan, the district’s facilities were getting crowded. Now, after a dozen straight years of enrollment decline, overcrowding is the last thing the district needs to worry about.

Development fees, large or small, can’t be used for operating expenses, and operating expenses are the districts current—and perennial—problem.

Under what circumstances would it make sense for the school board to endorse 1991? I can think of only two. One is that they have already fully considered the possibility of a parcel tax in the next year or two and decided against it. I haven’t noticed any such discussion on their agendas, and it would be an inappropriate decision to make in secret (I’d be shocked if the board had violated the Brown Act). The other is that they’d like to pass a parcel tax, but have persuaded themselves that their endorsement for 1991 won’t affect support for such the tax. It’s hard to imagine that the board is that politically obtuse. (Just joking, folks!)

Jonathan,

The School Board has run through all of our $35,000,000!

They are meeting ‘off the radar’ to sell off CUSD property. They want to avoid admitting that the front of the New Cunha Looks Like This.

It does seem to distract from the more important question of what does the Academic Performance really looks like compared to their claim of being a “high performing district”! I was curious about the usually discussed nine student characteristics groups charting CUSD and the County mean scores. They are linked on a quickie on CUSD.Info - ‘punch line’ - all groups end up finishing below the County average.

Ken Johnson

Is CUSD running out of school related topics to spend their time on?  Could they spend some time looking at why we have school busses that go up and down the coast EMPTY after dropping off students that are being bused from Moonridge to Farallone View?  If that empty bus passes me one more time while I’m hauling my kids and others—because there are no buses from Montara to the middle and high schools—I’m going to scream.

I find it amazing that Sam Trans was willing and responsive to the community and changed their bus schedule to better accommodate the needs of the school population, but CUSD continues to pay salary, gas, insurance and maintenance on buses that make (at a minimum) two trips a day between Montara and HMB empty.

Cheri,

CUSD Board had time to vote 4-1 for AB 1991; 5-0 for merging all water districts into CCWD Thursday night; and no time to consider merging F V into a successful School District. They had time to deny Federal Funds to Farallone View and no time to correct the false information disseminated that Farallone View was not failing - corrected quietly on their web site only recently in the School Accountability Report only six months late. They have time to do the things they want to do!

Ask them and their response will be that there is no school bussing problem!

Ken Johnson

AB 1991 - SENATE: LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE. HEARING DATE: 18 June 2008. Room 112.

Ken Johnson

Congratulations to John Moseley for having the integrity to vote against the Gardner-Schreurs led cabal that is once again corrupting the school board’s mission. The quality of local schools takes a back seat while our esteemed school board meddles in land-use politics.

Look who’s posted here (in order):
Lundell
Johnson
Johnson
Lansing
Johnson
Johnson
Lundell
Johnson
Parr (publisher’s wife)
Johnson
Johnson
Lansing

A verifiable cabal of CUSD haters. Pitiful. (And their math is lousy, too: 65% support for CUSD would be a landslide if not for needing 67%.) 

If you’re an occasional Coastsider.com visitor please realize these people’s efforts help force CUSD to provide all the recreational facilities for the entire coast. They blame CUSD for Coastside traffic problems and virtually everything else. (That is, whatever they’re not blaming CCWD for.) And now they want to stifle CUSD’s right to comment on something that affects them? Ridiculous! Their continued harping is detrimental to the health of this community.

I’m glad the people who are charged with educating my children see fit to support AB 1991.
-Joel Farbstein, Montara

Joel,

We all support the parents, teachers, and students of the school district. However, many of us do not support the school board members (Schreurs, Gardner, Riemer, and Wilson) who do not understand the job they were elected to perform.

My letter in last week’s Review:
http://www.hmbreview.com/articles/2008/06/11/opinion/letters/doc4850380de9bc3879267804.txt

Dear Editor:

Last Thursday, by a vote of 4-1, the elected board of the Cabrillo Unified School District voted to support AB 1991, a bill that seeks to exempt the 129-house Beachwood subdivision from all state and local environmental laws.

Why is the school board once again meddling in controversial land-use politics? Didn’t members learn anything from the last time they ventured into the development speculation game, i.e., Wavecrest? That fiasco delayed construction of the new middle school by at least five years and escalated construction costs by at least $10 million. Why can’t the school board just stick to the job it was elected to, which is to improve the quality of the local schools?

Our schools have serious academic achievement problems. Student enrollment is declining because people who have the means to do so are taking flight from the district to obtain a better education for their children. It’s no wonder that five consecutive parcel tax votes have failed. A sixth failure is now assured.

All of this demonstrates a failure of leadership. The parents, teachers and students of the school district are being ill-served by the current board.

The lone dissenting vote in the board’s latest misstep came from [CUSD Board President] John Moseley, who should be congratulated for having the integrity to stand up to the cabal that is corrupting the school board’s mission.

Kevin J. Lansing
Half Moon Bay

Joel Farbstein,

Thank you for making my point! At the Board meeting, I requested that they ‘table’ the item, rather than voting for or against support of AB 1991. It is obviously a ‘divisive’ item and that taking a position, as a School District, was not in the best interest of CUSD.

Only George Muteff and I spoke to the item from the public. Since you chose not to attend, maybe you could elaborate why you think it was in the School District’s best interest to vote to support AB 1991. It does appear counter intuitive to another point you would like the reader to believe.

Also, could you please specifically identify what you described so eloquently as “And their math is lousy, too” and show what you believe is a correct mathematical solution.

Ken Johnson

Thus Mr Farbstein:
> If you’re an occasional Coastsider.com
> visitor please realize these people’s
> efforts help force CUSD to provide all
> the recreational facilities for the
> entire coast. They blame CUSD for
> Coastside traffic problems and
> virtually everything else. (That is,
> whatever they’re not blaming CCWD
> for.) And now they want to stifle
> CUSD’s right to comment on something
> that affects them? Ridiculous! Their
> continued harping is detrimental to
> the health of this community.
>
> I’m glad the people who are charged
> with educating my children see fit to
> support AB 1991.

What I’ve suggested is that a full program of school buses would help significantly with morning traffic. Do you disagree? I’d hold the state legislature more to blame than the district, though the district clearly wanted to be rid of the busing program.

Let me try to explain my comments on CUSD & 1991 in a way that you can understand.

The district’s endorsement of 1991 will make no substantive contribution to its passage. It *will* alienate potential parcel tax voters, and if the district floats another tax measure, it’ll need all the votes it can get.

So why endorse 1991? The only reason I can see is that the board is so eager to oblige their friends on the council and in the real estate development community that they’re willing to significantly hurt the prospects of passing a parcel tax in order to do so. And those pals care so little about passing a parcel tax that they’re prepared to pressure the district for an endorsement even when they must be aware that the endorsement is of no practical value.

Anybody who would oppose a parcel tax under any circumstances will, of course, quietly celebrate.

I generally agree with you, Mr Farbstein, that there were many unintended negative consequences of Proposition 13. I confess that I’m a little surprised that you think so too, but at least we have that in common.

I don’t agree with you on the specific question of parcel tax thresholds, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that parcel taxes are particularly regressive. Another is that they fly in the face of Serrano, in that they strongly favor wealthy districts over poor ones. So while I’d like it to be easier to fund K12 education in California, I don’t think that overriding the Prop 13 threshold for parcel taxes is the best way to accomplish it.

Joel—CUSD Hater?  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

I have three kids, one in each school (High School, Cunha and Farallone View)  I have enormous respect for the teachers and administration, and have found them to be excellent educators and diligent workers. If it were up to me our teachers would get ten times their current salaries, because believe me, they deserve it. 

I’ve also volunteered in each school and supported them financially.  I’ve taken pictures, contributed to the yearbooks, designed and printed programs for the talent show, and the High School musical.  I’ve helped with PR, fundraising, gone on so many fieldtrips I’ve lost count.  I’ve loved every minute of it. 

That being said, I do take issue with a school board that seems more concerned with land use politics than major issues affecting our kids every day.  Yes, I’ve been a vocal advocate for school bussing.  I also worked collaboratively with the CUSD to get a $300,000 CCAG grant that resulted in increased public transportation on the Coastside. Frankly, I like to think I’ve been part of the solution. 

The only part you got right is that I am indeed the publisher’s wife.  But I’m not sure what that has to do with anything

You just can’t make this up—last night the four CUSD Board members who voted to Support AB 1991 at the previous meeting, now see a Parcel Tax as needed. Charlie Gardner, in campaign mode, and Jolanda Schreurs joined her protégé in proclaiming the need for a Parcel Tax in the conclusion of passing next years School District budget.  The dynamic duo, who wrote in support of AB 1991 - Charlie on Coastsider and Jolanda on the Review - were seemingly oblivious to the divisiveness of their rhetoric. I guess they ‘needed their ticket punched’ for support in the fall election.

Maybe they should re-read the last survey of trust in CUSD Board members: question 15. The District’s financial management: Excellent = 3% Good = 16% .

I wonder if any parents at Farallone View Elementary will ask Charlie Gardner why he allowed ‘miss-information’ to be sent out to the parents that Farallone View Elementary wasn’t in PI [failing status] last fall!

Ken Johnson

Comment 18
Fri, September 5, 2008 11:24pm
Ken Johnson
All my comments

Heard Charlie Gardner received the endorsement of Half Moon Bay Mayor Bonnie McClung and former CUSD Board President (for life) Ken Jones. And he is looking for President Bush and VP Cheney endorsement - I understand they will have plenty of time during the campaign season,

Now we know why he drug CUSD into the AB1991 fight.

Ken Johnson