School Board about community not politics

We owe our very good schools to creativity and dedication of students, teachers, parents, school staff, and academic administrators. Our community is built around our schools.

The School Board’s mission is to govern well so educators can educate well. The best schools are even better when school governance is competent and trusted. 

For too many years our School Board’s governing culture has not been reliably citizen-friendly. What many see as a current breakdown of good civic order in School Board stewardship is not a partisan issue, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative.

The pronounced challenge to community cohesion we see is not unique. Still, we can do better than school districts portrayed in news and television dramas, portraying how civic illiteracy and social elitism erode integrity of school governance practices that can be life-impacting for students, teachers, parents, and school employees.

Even in our highly-educated and high-achieving community, equal civic and democratic rights suffer from what many believe are both indifference and patterns of abuse. That’s true in the case of what seems to be proven discrimination against School Board member Dee Perry.

Perry was re-elected to her nonpartisan office in 2018. But the majority on the School Board seemingly has been misled to believe it is justified to openly deny her equal rights of participation in the Board’s proceedings.

This pattern of abuse, as many see it, by Board majority includes but is not limited to:

--Board acted contrary to binding Board Bylaw 9100 by denying Perry rotation as presiding officer, claiming she is unqualified to fulfill the duties of that position, then trying to legitimize violation by repealing rotation bylaw;

--Board president elected to third consecutive term despite rotation provision of Bylaw 9100 announced at Board February 12 meeting that she surrendered decision-making on Board agenda to Superintendent;

--Bylaw 9322 expressly vests agenda management with President in coordination with Superintendent acting in expressly limited role of Board Secretary;

--What seems an express abdication of assigned duties by President makes it possible for Superintendent unilaterally to deny public and Board member agenda requests, without delegation and authorization apparently required by CA Ed. Sec. 35161;

--Courts have interpreted CA Ed. Code 35145.5 to mean Board cannot unreasonably deny agenda request from public or Board member if item is “directly related to School District business;”

--LBUSD Board Bylaw 9322 further limits power to deny agenda requests only if not “within jurisdiction of School Board;”

--Member Peggy Wolff accused Perry on public record of violating a Board Bylaw 9200 without proof, rebutted by Perry based on facts, thereby committing the very violation of which Perry was falsely accused;

--Contrary to binding Board Policy 1009, current majority members continue what many believe is harassment demanding obedience under non-binding “protocols.”

The School Board is displaying a juvenile lack of civic maturity, setting a bad example for children and dividing the community by being uncivil and unjust.

In yet another bad civics lesson the Board is seeking to substitute decision-making by an unelected appointed school employee for the judgment of our elected representatives, on both school site and district wide governance matters clearly within Board jurisdiction.

Bad enough majority abdicate representative rights, far worse deny elected member equal right to represent the voters in Board policy-making. 

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach