Opinion: One step at a time

Opinion

Posted by on Thu, April 20, 2006

The traffic mess, numerous inconveniences and myriad of consequences due to the closure of Highway 1 have left all of us on the Coastside under a shadow of malaise. 

But we need to separate our issues.

In reading various comments posted recently, it is obvious that people are looking for someplace to direct their understandable frustrations.  Unfortunately, some people are misdirecting their frustrations at the Cabrillo Unified School District.

Busing has always been an important issue to the CUSD.  In fact, the $250 parcel tax that lost by a very slight margin in 2003 would have indeed restored full busing.  The closure of Highway 1 may highlight the need for student transportation; however, that is not what Measure S, the $175 school parcel tax on the June ballot, is about.

The top priority of our school district - first and foremost - is to provide a high quality education to the children and young people of our community.  Measure S funds are dedicated solely to the mission of improving student academic achievement and to help our kids meet and exceed academic standards.  (To learn more about Measure S, visit www.pro-school.org ) .

Had we all known in early March when the measure had to be filed with the county in order to make it onto the June ballot that Devil’s Slide would go out, I might guess that the school district could have felt comfortable asking the community to approve a significantly higher parcel tax - more in the area of $290 - to restore full busing in addition to providing the resources needed to improve academic achievement.  But without the benefit of precognition or a crystal ball,  the school board chose to deal with its most important mission first and ask voters to approve a more modest dollar figure.

When Devil’s Slide did wreak its havoc, the school district responded immediately to the road closure. That first Monday afternoon, Superintendent John Bayless and the principals met to develop solutions. 

The result?  Throughout the duration of the closure, the school district will operate buses for Cunha Middle School students and has changed school start times in the morning to reduce traffic during commute hours.  Additionally, supervised child care will be provided at all elementary schools beginning at 6:30 AM so that commuting parents can bring their children to school as early as necessary.

Regardless of the status of Highway 1, however, the overall transportation needs of our community extend much further than student transportation.  Recognizing this - and well before the road was closed - the school board took a proactive approach to improve local transportation by initiating an active partnership with San Mateo County, SAMTRANS, the City of Half Moon Bay and the Coastside Opportunity Center to assess overall transportation needs and develop the best solution.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to deal with road closures; our local schools would have the funding they need to provide the kind of education we all want for our community’s kids; and of course we would have school buses.

We all know that we don’t live in a perfect world.  But by pulling together to do the best we can to solve one problem at a time, the closer we’ll be to that world.


Busing has always been an important issue to the CUSD.  In fact, the $250 parcel tax that lost by a very slight margin in 2003 would have indeed restored full busing.

The language of both 2003 parcel tax measures proposed to “provide, maintain or restore ... [t]ransportation services;”

My recollection is that the board insisted on keeping the language vague enough that it would not mandate full busing. The justification was that the district could not predict how far funding might fall in the worst case, and that full busing could not be promised.

I believe that a busing provision would have helped to pass Measure S, and that, with Devil’s Slide no doubt closed on election day, it would have been a slam dunk.

Deferring transportation funding to November is problematical at best. If Measure S fails, will the district still put busing on the November ballot? If it passes, will the electorate have the appetite for another parcel tax on its heels? And regardless, it appears that a November measure would be competing with a statewide parcel tax proposal.

Unfortunately, it appears to be a lost opportunity. I hope I’m wrong.

Is it possible that temporary busing be implemented through the rest of the year (and maybe the beginning of the next school year) based upon the availability of funds made available via the various declarations of emergency (especially if Bush signs the federal proposal)?

If people get used to having busing and decide that they like it might it not strengthen the case to raise taxes to make busing permanent once state (and federal?) funds go away?

In any event there would be traffic relief during the next few months.

I know that Bayless was briefed on the options available due to the declaration(s) of emergency but I’m not clear on the status of busing. Anyone?

—Darin

I think Darin’s idea is an excellent one.  If emergency funding is available to supplement the bus program, why not keep it in place so that the benefits can be felt by the community.  All the posturing after the fact by the school board feels like protection of the new parcel tax.  I agree with Mr. Lundell that they missed an excellent opportunity to show commitment, AND insure passage of Measure S by including transportation.  Ms. Epps “hindsight” comment that if we had known “that Devil’s Slide would go out, I might guess that the school district could have felt comfortable asking the community to approve a significantly higher parcel tax” just doesn’t sit with me.  Even before the slide, the problems caused by the lack of buses was known, the question is, why wasn’t it addressed until it became critical?

The school district is running a single bus for the middle school, mornings only. The schedule is on the district site, but as I write, it says:

Cunha Bus Stops:
• El Granada School 7:35 a.m.
• Montara Post Office 8:00 a.m.
• Moss Beach Post Office 8:05 a.m.
• Moss Beach Chevron station 8:10 a.m.
• Pillar Ridge Mobile Home Park 8:20 a.m.
• Alhambra & Cabrillo 8:20 a.m.
• Alhambra & Columbus 8:25 a.m.
• Medio (West) 8:35 a.m.

Coastsider had the story (of course).

I don’t know what the capacity of a bus is (60? 72?), but with most of Cunha’s 750 students living north of Hwy 92, there must be plenty of them still getting to school some other way.

Does anyone know whether the bus is running at capacity?

Cindy,

Where did you get your numbers? And just what part of SLIDE in “Devil’s SLIDE” did Dwight Wilson and Jolanda Schreurs miss. This only serves to remind us that CUSD has been wrong on every major issue that affects our schools, our kids and our community!

“Bayless estimated that re-instating busing would likely cost between $200,000 to $300,000.” 8Mar2006 Review
Cunha now has 15% fewer students than when bussing stopped at a cost of $300,000 a year.
That works out to a parcel tax of $20 to $30 a year.

And wasn’t it the Parrs, Cheri Parr and Coastsider, that brought attention to the students plight to a callous school district that “didn’t know there was a problem“ for their students PRIOR to the slide emergency. If students can’t get to school safely, then how does the district expect them to learn!

The Social Justice problem was bought to the district and rejected by Dwight Wilson when he voted to cancel school bussing. The school board had no concern for the impact on all the coastside residents then and now.

Should we forget that just before last November’s election that Jolanda Schreurs voted to oppose moving the new school to the Cunha location? Or that for nearly a decade Dwight Wilson and Jolanda Schreurs opposed the Cunha location in favour of Wavecrest? Do you remember Jolanda Schreurs claming that she had a legal opinion that we couldn’t build at Cunha during the Build It Now campaign?

The school board has been wrong on each issue: busing, building at Cunha, and quality of education.

CUSD Board blew $15 million in opportunity costs delaying building a new intermediate school for a decade—now lets give them another $9 million slush fund from the parcel tax?

“Strong Academic Performance”? Half the students at less than a D- (58% on the multiple choice state test on required state material), 1 in 4 who will not graduate on time with their class. All regular schools failed to meet NCLB numerical targets.

Now there is a war against NCLB, No Child Left Behind, going on at the Review! NCLB is arguably the only impetus for student achievement improvements in CUSD! The teachers finally recognize that their choice is teaching the kids or being unemployed. The teachers have chosen to fight NCLB instead.

You had access to the teacher union contract; did you see anything about performance or accountability?

I looked at your web site in favour of the Parcel Tax. It has multiple areas for giving money BUT no reporting of WHO contributed and how much!

You use the word “WILL” quite liberally but the actual language in the measure governs. If it isn’t explicitly in the measure it doesn’t exist!

As we saw in the Bond Measure, even if it does exist in the measure it is difficult for the people to get it to happen.

Fool Me Once, Shame On Them; Fool Me twice, Shame On Me!

The state is already steadily increasing funding. Shouldn’t our money go strictly for reinstating canceled bussing; new programs and resources; and additional staff to improve student achievement?

As long as Dwight Wilson and Jolanda Schreurs are on the CUSD Board, it looks to me like the only way we can get a Parcel Tax that serves the needs of our kids and our community is to bring it forward from the community. Lets work together on one for the November ballot!

So, perhaps to summarize, the ground-breaking for the new middle school at Cunha will be this Saturday starting at 1pm.

Our school district has handled busing as best it can with the funds available. It’s cooperation, with other concerned coastside entities, is now focused on a November ballot initiative to adequately fund busing, which is not co-mingled with the cost of education.

Measure S on the June ballot represents the necessary, and unbundled, cost of education from the community to adequately fund our public schools starting the next school year.
It will:
* Help recruit and retain qualified, experienced teachers;
* Strengthen students’ academic foundation by adding additional classes in science, math, technology and literacy;
* Guarantee small class sizes from kindergarten until third grade so young students get individualized instruction;
* Reduce class sizes in middle and high schools to improve student achievement;
* Help teachers continue to improve by funding staff training programs;
* Provide funding for books.

Caltrans is doing it’s level best to expeditiously and safely re-open the Slide. In the interim, coastsiders are rallying to make the best out of a bad situation in numerous ways.

Let’s work to make things better, one step at a time, and move forward.

Dean Skelton
Miramar

Ken,

If you encountered Cindy in person, would you still use this same language to her face?

I find that forums such as this on the Internet often make people more abrasive and confrontational than they would be in a normal human interaction. Coastsider.com represents a great alternative news source for those of us living here. We must recognize that value, and we must not let it go the way of other Internet forums. Many a valuable website falls victim to unproductive flame wars.

I’m unclear how we can all work together as one big happy community if some community members flame others on this site. Cindy Epps does a tremendous amount of work for our local schools. Productive debate only happens in an atmosphere of mutual respect. She more than deserves that respect.

Your message would be more persuasive if you used fewer ad hominem arguments.

Steve Katz
Montara

John Bayless tells me that the district is running four buses (morning and Cunha only), and averaging 160 riders.

I make that about half of the possible riders (roughly half of CUSD’s student body lives north of HMB).

Steve,

Good question. Yes; but I didn’t ‘drink the Kool-Aid’, so I would have questioned Mother Teresa had she made the same dubious claims as Cindy.

I do feel you misunderstand my ‘tone’, thou. I give a source for any numbers and claims I may use which are not within the generally accepted realm and back them up at CUSD.Info.  I would expect to be questioned on unsupported claims and I believe that any writer should expect the same. It is called intellectual honesty; not personal attack.

Are you suggesting that the reader should accept an argument simply because of the person giving it? That type of reasoning has led to the decade delay in building the new intermediate school! It also squandered $15 million of our bond money. Now the question is: do we give the School Board a $9 million slush fund?

The matter of taking something on faith alone should apply only to Theology and String Theory. The rest should be subjected to examination.

I find it interesting that Dean Skelton failed to mention in his above comment that he is the registered owner for the web site for Measure S included in Cindy Epps’ post. Also the same use of “will.” No one can honestly claim that the Parcel Tax ‘will’ do something unless it is explicitly stated in the measure. (Even then it is questionable given the history of the CUSD board!).

I believe the readers of Coastsider.Com are more than intelligent enough to know to pull a copy of the measure side by side with any claims and know if the author is being deceptive.

Lets face it; a majority of the CUSD board simply doesn’t want to provide school bussing!

We are in agreement that Cindy Epps has done a terrific job in raising money for CUSD and is a good marketing professional. That is why I wrote: “it looks to me like the only way we can get a Parcel Tax that serves the needs of our kids and our community, is to bring it forward from the community. Lets work together on a Parcel Tax Measure for the November ballot!”


A …is for Accountability!

Ken Johnson

I disagree with a lot of Mr. Johnsons ranting but one thing i agree on is busing for our children. My family has been in HMB since 6/69 & busing was a blessing for my two daughters as both my wife & i worked & i worked crazy airline shifts. All one needs to do is drive by the HMB library at 4 to 5 pm & even later & see the kids waiting for parents to get home from work for a ride. Wish this parcel tax would have had busing.

I have to say I agree with three of Mr. Johnson’s points.  1 - the current board members have not been good fiscal agents of the money they had 2 - Bussing is clearly not a priority for the current board, and 3 - before I back “S” or any other parcel tax designating funds to the school, I want to be assured of direct accountability and measurable outcomes, not just vague promises.