George Boardman: Nevada City School District gets an ‘F’ for failing to communicate
Observations from the center stripe: Dead meat edition
A BILL in the state Legislature would let people eat road kill. Will that encourage motorists to try to hit more of the animals they encounter on the roads? … CALTRANS ISN’T perfect (after all, it’s a bureaucracy), but you have to admire its determination to keep I-80 and Hwy. 50 open in the winter … HUMM: Trump tried to convince Forbes magazine he was worth $9 billion, but told the government he had $4.5 billion. I think it’s time to look at his tax returns … THE UNINSPIRING group of Democrats currently running for president could very easily create a stalemate at the national convention. That would be the cue for unity candidate Gavin Newsom to seize the initiative …
There’s no easy way to deliver bad news, but people who are supposed to be professional communicators — the leaders of the Nevada City School District — got an “F” when it came to announcing the closure of Nevada City Charter School.
Parents of students at the school were delivered the fait accompli less than a week before district trustees were planning to drop the ax, and all of those interviewed by The Union expressed surprise at the decision.
“Where was the accountability,” asked parent Dawn Simmons. “There has been no communication of concern to the charter school that (the charter) would not be renewed.”
Teachers claimed discussion of renewing the school’s charter was continually delayed over the last two years.
“At our last charter meeting (in November),” said teacher Michael Pettengill, “we sat down and said, ‘We need to take a close look at this charter.’ And (the response) was, ‘Well, we need to put (that) on hold because there are other things going on.’”
Superintendent Trisha Dellis said she had no memory of Pettengill’s remarks, then came up with an excuse that only a bureaucrat can love: “My recollection was that the renewal was not agendized and he is the president of the charter council, and it was not on the agenda.”
Dellis is also serving as principal of the school, but decided to skip the mandatory parent meeting where the closure was announced. “The feeling was that if I were there, it would be more of a negative feeling for people,” she said. No kidding.
The reason given for closing the school was low-test scores, especially in math, but district officials gave conflicting stories of why they were low. Parents said they didn’t know that if students skipped the tests (apparently an option) their absence would impact the aggregate test scores of the school and lower their standing in the district.
Dellis told The Union she wasn’t sure why parents did not know the significance of kids skipping the tests. But board president Sandy Hakala said the school’s closing was not related to students who didn’t take the test.
“I want to correct what appears to be a common misconception,” she said at the board meeting to close the school. “Those students who opt out of testing and receive a zero do not bring down the average.”
Dellis and Hakala said separately Nevada City Charter was discussed in open session at the board’s Jan. 22 meeting. Minutes of the meeting show Dellis discussed the school under the agenda item: “Reports 5.A. Superintendent and Nevada City Charter School.”
An overflow crowd showed up at the board’s February meeting and apparently just 12 chairs were made available for those attending. Maybe district officials didn’t expect a big turnout, or maybe just wanted to discourage one.
The district may be justified in closing Nevada City Charter, but the teachers, parents and students deserved better than the shabby treatment they received in this instance. What we have here is a failure — or unwillingness — to communicate.
The new GOP
It’s no secret the California Republican Party has been in a slump in recent years.
The party holds no statewide office, is a distinct minority in both houses of the state Legislature, and holds just seven of California’s 53 congressional seats. The GOP has 24 percent of the state’s registered voters, putting it in third place behind the Democrats and those who decline to state.
Much of the decline in the party’s fortunes can be attributed to the fact that while California’s population has become younger and more racially and ethnically diverse, the Grand Old Party is just getting older and whiter.
What’s left of the party seemed determined to fix that during the recent state convention in Sacramento, rejecting two white guys and electing Jessica Millan Patterson state chair. Not only is she a millennial, she’s a Latina — the first to head the state party in its 140-year-history. The new vice chair is Peter Kuo, a native of Taiwan, and the treasurer is an openly gay man, Greg Gandrud.
This sounds like a winning slate for the Democratic Party!
Latinos and Asian Americans in particular have been fleeing the party for decades as the GOP adopted harsh rhetoric and restrictive policies on immigration. Patterson said that needs to change.
“We need to get back into communities,” she told the Republican conventioneers. “We need to start engaging people. People are not going to reregister as Republicans as long as they think that we are one thing.
“We need them to feel comfortable and welcomed into our party. It’s going to be a solution for a lot of our issues.”
She didn’t address how that transformation will occur as long as the national party’s leader, Donald Trump, continues to describe people from south of the border as rapists, murders and drug dealers. Many Republicans believe open borders are just a plot by Democrats to turn illegal intruders into registered Democrats by giving them free stuff.
The putative leaders of the state party — its few elected officials — seem at a loss when it comes to reviving the party’s fortunes. That apparently includes Assemblyman Brian Dahle, head of the Assembly Republican caucus, and three other candidates for the open first district state Senate seat.
All four appeared at a luncheon sponsored by the Nevada County Republican Women, and provided sketchy, rambling answers when asked what they would do to revive the party, according to local conservative blogger George Rebane.
Some party leaders think they can gain traction by emphasizing economic issues like expensive housing and high taxes, but there is no evidence these issues fire up most voters. Then there’s the hot-button social issues that are losers for California Republicans: abortion, same-sex marriage, prayer in public forums, to name a few.
It also appears that not everybody is on board with Patterson’s vision. As she was hailing the new, inclusive Republican Party, the Tea Party Caucus was holding a “Build the Wall Dinner” just a few blocks away in Sacramento. She has her work cut out for her.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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