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Driving a Stake through Parent Input in Oceanside

Here's the Scoop...

August 23, 2023

By Todd Maddison

“All politics is local,” and there is nothing more central to local politics than a school board meeting. Citizens stepping up to talk directly to their board, the elected officials responsible for the education of the most important things in our lives – their kids.

We’d all like to think those trustees listen to our feedback when designing and approving district policies. Elections only happen every four years, board meetings happen once a month.

This has been more evident than ever recently. Parents are participating in their local district far more than in years past. Board meetings, once sleepy affairs concerned with the cost of remodeling playgrounds, became battlegrounds over fundamental aspects of education.

Will our kids be able to go to school in person? What will they be taught? How is the district spending the enormous influx of money they’ve been given?

And most importantly, how are they going to improve the education of our kids? Something which, by every objective measure, has been going nowhere but down.

Bylaw Amendment #9323

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Everyone of these Board Members Voted to Limit Public Speech

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The “three-minute comment” made by concerned community members on any meeting agenda important to them is the standard for parent involvement. We see particularly emphatic commentary on controversial subjects go viral on social media, but those are far outnumbered by more mundane remarks, usually just imploring our districts to “do something!” to improve the education of our kids.

 

Some school boards are good at listening, some not so much, but all typically interpret the Brown Act’s legal requirement that they provide a “reasonable” amount of time for such input into rules giving people a few minutes to speak on each item on the agenda, plus some room in the agenda for comment unrelated to agenda items.

If there’s a presentation with some detail in it, like a budget presentation or a new curriculum, public comment happens after the presentation, so the public can incorporate that into their talk, but before any votes – so trustees can consider that commentary in their vote.

Not in Oceanside. In its Aug.22 meeting, the Oceanside Unified school board took a machete to that process to demonstrate its disdain for the public. The board did two things at that meeting:

The first was to stop livestreaming meetings. Almost all districts in San Diego County – and perhaps the state – livestream their meetings. A tremendous benefit for parents who may be attending school or sporting events with their kids but still want to stay in tune with district developments. Exactly the kind of parent OUSD doesn’t care about.

In OUSD, despite the noises about the importance of parent involvement that frequently come out when their lips move, they apparently don’t care enough to set up an old cast-off Android smartphone on a tripod and stream the result to YouTube.

Even more significant, under the cover of darkness, they revised the rules for agenda comment. Since the beginning of history, OUSD has allowed three minutes of comment per agenda item. Not anymore. As of the next meeting, they are only going to allow three minutes for everything on the agenda in the entire meeting.

Want to engage in an in-depth examination of a new math curriculum, a presentation on the district finances, plus a proposal to close a school, all in one meeting? OUSD says, “You’re welcome to do that; just fit it all in one single three-minute comment.”

If you’d like to see the presentation on that issue first to make sure you understand all the details and can provide coherent feedback? Nope, can’t do that – this comment session will be at the beginning of the meeting before you get to see the presentations.

Every speaker that night spoke in opposition to this change. But as is usual in Oceanside, where the board double-majors in ignoring both parent input and the poor academic performance of its schools, they were ignored. Of course, union representatives are still allowed virtually unlimited time. A union presentation at that same meeting went well beyond 3 minutes.

We know what the OUSD board values and it’s not parents.

It’s easy to see why the district has suffered steep enrollment declines. Academic performance continues to decline, yet the district focuses its spending on things that benefit adults, not kids, and has now clearly said, “We don’t want to listen to you.”

Amazingly enough, parents seem to want to put their kids in schools that actually focus on education and pay attention to what they want for those kids. Imagine that?

Todd Maddison is a co-founder of the Parent Association and San Diego Schools parent advocacy groups, and the Director of Research for the Transparent California government watchdog website. He can be reached at info@sandiegoschools.net

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Reynolds School
Closed

Garrison School Closed

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Ocean Shores School Closed

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