There could not be a more beautiful little school setting in America in which to build an excellent learning community than the El Tejon Unified School District. This is a gem, blessed with inspiring natural surroundings and bright children who are receptive to mentors who have a plan and show the excitement of knowing something worth learning.
The success of the Pine Mountain Learning Center is a local beacon to provide confidence to those who wonder whether there is a future for public education here.
It is mystifying, therefore, in the midst of a crisis that has persisted for over two years, that no bold leadership has emerged from the ETUSD Board of Trustees.
This school district has a marketing problem. It is not inspiring confidence in its parents, students and community. What is the vision for where we are going and how we are going to get there?
As inept as the leadership in Sacramento has been, more than 50 percent of the monetary loss that the El Tejon Unified School District is suffering is a result of losing students. This cannot all be attributed to economic dislocation of families.
During this same time, Gorman Elementary School has doubled in size and homeschooling charters are becoming more popular on the mountain.
Brad Oliver’s two children, for example, are being homeschooled now. They still live in Cuddy Creek. The two children of Peter and Michelle Kjenaas, from Lake of the Woods, are also homeschooled now. Another prominent couple of Piñon Pines also homeschool two children. Between just these three families, over $76,000 has been lost to the ETUSD public school system over the past two years—not to mention the inspiring talents of these parents and their children. They could bring much to the school peer environment.
Sacramento legislators may be despicable, but this is a moment when it is what we are doing—or not doing—right here at home that has the most significant impact on the future wellbeing of our schools.
It appears the board voted to dismiss 11 teachers without asking for a plan for how students are going to be taught. That is reckless. It defies logic that an oversight board would do that.
The administration and board have failed to provide confidence to the community that there is a plan for getting through the tough challenges of this moment. In that vacuum, it is not surprising that destructive theories are being raised throughout the community, about the possible closing of the high school.
Four positions are opening up this year on the school board.
In the meantime, this board and this superintendent owe this community a plan—now—to reignite enthusiasm, commitment and most of all, trust.
This is part of the February 24, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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