What Is Your Child Breathing?

By Patric Hedlund

When El Tejon School was built in 1939 it was in a beautiful, healthy country setting. Since then, the Interstate 5 has been built less than 150 yards from the classrooms, right next to the children’s playing fields. An average of 350,000 cars and big rig diesel trucks pass by every week—70,000 a day—spewing diesel soot and other exhaust into the air. One survey showed the presence of asthma and respiratory problems for El Tejon students may be twice the national average.

The TriCounty Watchdogs (TCW) won a $25,000 grant last year to monitor what is in the air the children are breathing. But so far the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees and the superintendent have not allowed air monitoring.

On November 18, TCW president Linda MacKay wrote an OpEd in The Mountain Enterprise, “We Need to Monitor Air Quality at El Tejon School,” saying it is better to know—rather than not know—how our children are being affected. The newspaper invited all trustees to reply to the OpEd:

“You are invited to respond to this OpEd as an individual, speaking for yourself, sharing your thinking with the people who elected you. We are not seeking a spokesperson for a board position. We will make it clear in the introduction that you are expressing your personal point of view— which is what the public wants to hear.”

Trustee Ken Hurst replied:

“I stated my position and reasoning on monitoring air pollution at El Tejon School clearly at the board meeting of June 8, 2011. At that time the vote was 2 “for” and 1 “against.” Since our bylaws state that the vote must be a “majority vote of all of the membership constituting the board” and there are 5 members of the board, the motion did not carry.”

Trustee Cathy Wallace had just resigned from the board that night and Paula Regan did not attend that meeting, so a quorum of 3 was present for the vote. Anita Anderson voted with Hurst to allow the air monitoring. John Fleming voted against it. Despite the quorum majority, the measure failed. The loophole in board policy effectively says a quorum cannot pass an item unless it is unanimous. The question was not placed on a subsequent agenda for reconsideration by the full board.

Trustee Stephen Kiouses replied:

“It is inappropriate for me as a board member to comment on issues brought before the board outside of a board meeting. The appropriate place for my comments are at board meetings, not in the newspaper. Therefore I will not individually comment on this OpEd or any other OpEd.”

Trustee Kiouses has been invited to refer us to the state law or board bylaw used to guide that reply—considering that air monitoring is not an issue before the ETUSD board at this time and does not appear on any board agenda.

The remaining trustees, John Fleming, Paula Regan and Anita Anderson did not reply.

This is part of the December 09, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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