Laguna Beach

Collaboration, Transparency, Deliberative Analysis Keys to Public Service

The South Coast Water District Board of Directors held a meeting recently at which a comprehensive update was provided by our General Manager and the consultant team tasked with analyzing the technological and economic viability of the proposed Doheny Desalination Project. This facility, if it becomes reality, would be located on property owned by SCWD and built in phases, with the first phase yielding five million gallons per day of potable water, which would meet demand for roughly 35,000 residents and 1,000 businesses in our service territory, as well as the two million-plus annual visitors to the area.

Much was made in media reports and social media posts of the revised cost estimates presented at this meeting. Our consultants shared with the Board that the timing of construction and other factors combined to increase the estimated cost to ratepayers by several dollars per month.

The SCWD Board has, from Day 1, approached the Doheny Desal Project in a completely open, transparent, and iterative manner. The proposed slant well technology has been roundly applauded by the environmental community, but we are mindful that this technology has not yet been widely deployed here in the U.S. and as such we continue to ask questions regarding its efficacy here in Dana Point.

Further, we have always been stalwart stewards of our obligation to our ratepayers and the byproduct and impacts of any financial commitment made by SCWD. Our most recent meeting, and upcoming workshops and other meetings where this project is discussed, are absolutely the most appropriate forums for Board members to ask questions and raise any concerns they may have about the project and if it is the best solution for our constituents. As President of the Board, I applaud each of my fellow Directors for the thoughtful and diligent approach they have brought to this extremely important subject.

It is important to remember that South Coast Water District, like our fellow agencies in south Orange County, does not sit on the Orange County groundwater basin and as such is almost entirely reliant on water imported from northern California and the Colorado River. The cost of this imported water has and will continue to increase. As a District, we absolutely must examine any and all potential projects that can enhance our reliability and self-sufficiency to prepare ourselves for earthquakes, wildfires, or other natural disasters that could greatly reduce or eliminate imported water for weeks or months. Loss of water supply of this magnitude would cause extreme stress to our residential community, along with significant and lasting economic impacts to our businesses and resorts.

We invite and encourage SCWD ratepayers and members of the public to participate in the dialogue and closely monitor our progress as we continue to examine not only the Doheny Desalination Project but other regional water projects that, individually or cumulatively, can benefit our residents.

William Green is President of the South Coast Water District

Degree in Civil Engineering, Past California Regional Water Quality Control Board Member (San Diego), Senior Vice-President of RBF/ Michael Baker International (Engineering Firm) and Past President of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)

William Green, President

South Coast Water District Board of Directors

LBHS students petition School Board to rehire gifted teacher

At the School Board meeting of November 12, a group of exceptionally articulate LBHS students delivered extemporaneous remarks movingly honoring a teacher who had “a special way of breaking through to students” struggling with difficult coursework.

The students described a seemingly gifted teacher in an extended assignment as a substitute teacher, getting good results in college admission-critical calculus and statistics courses. Substitute teacher status also may explain why he seemingly was fired summarily without adequate due process, for what his students insist was an easily explained misunderstanding.

Students came forward concerned in part he was fired because a classmate’s phone video on social media created a “negative” public relations issue, rather than the truth as they saw it. Seeking reinstatement of their teacher, students praised his mentorship and cogently explained the need to sustain continuity and progress students were making going into final exam period.

What made the public comment period even more remarkable was the profile in courage presented by the last student to speak. He stood up and took responsibility for his own role in what he saw as an end-of-class prank unfairly blamed on the teacher. The students collectively expressed a belief the teacher was not in on the joke, so to speak, when two students “pretended to hold their breath until they fainted.”

To me this seemed not an adult teaching moment for students, but a student teaching moment for adults. It was a call for civic justice by eye witnesses who seemed to have a clear sense of social and personal responsibility to right a wrong.

There were no moments of adult clarity or integrity, starring Kevin Klein in a reprise of his Emperor’s Club movie role, at the November 12 meeting. Board member Dee Perry alone exercised her prerogative under state law to respond after comments about matters not on the agenda, thanking students for making their understanding of what occurred a matter of public record.

The silence of other Board members was consistent with their frequent public pronouncements that I understand to mean actions of the Superintendent defined as “operational” are “down in the weeds” beneath the “district wide rather than individual focus” of a Board that has been said to govern “from 30,000 feet.”

Yet, CA Ed. Code Sec. 35161 states the Superintendent and all other school employees have no independent powers, and the Board retains full authority and responsibility for all actions of Superintendent and all employees.

There is one major problem with a “hands off” governance philosophy. If the Superintendent holds teachers, students, parents, and school employees to his own seemingly selective standard of accountability, who holds the Superintendent accountable, and how is the public ever to know?

For example, LBUSD recently touted awards and rankings that recognized the efficacy of curriculum developed during the tenure of a recently departed Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum. But instead of being recognized for her contributions to our success, she seemingly left quite suddenly amid what many are saying were adverse circumstances.

The highly successful principal at Top of the World school has been appointed head of curriculum. In that new capacity, the former TOW principal was directed to fire the substitute teacher at LBHS, whose right to a fair investigation and due process the students came to advocate for at the November 12 meeting.

The fired substitute teacher got the highest award an educator can earn, the trust and admiration of students. Whether his firing was justified probably will never be known due to what many feel is a lack of transparency.

Instead all we know is a principal who was a success story at one campus has been transferred to the central office due to the seemingly unplanned departure of a senior staff member. Meanwhile, there seemingly is no public record of why the head of curriculum disappeared, including whether any payment was made to settle a possible formal complaint.

Why seemingly is there a different standard of accountability and transparency for a classroom teacher, fired for cause that is now disputed by the students and parents? Yet, seemingly there is no record of termination for an Assistant Superintendent, seemingly at both the discretion as well as in the personal and professional self-interest of the Superintendent?

Howard Hills
Laguna Beach

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