Thursday, June 04, 2009

Chula Vista Elementary's DASH & STRETCH deal with YMCA, pulled off by Lowell Billings and Pam Smith, reveals the underbelly of CVESD

Get ready to make some noise again Chula Vista! Salt Creek & South Bay 'Y' are holding focus groups tomorrow, June 4, 2009 and June 17, 2009 re: DASH/STRETCH.

June 4
5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Here, you will get to speak.
Salt Creek Elementary School Auditorium
1055 Hunte Parkway
Chula Vista, CA 91914

June 17
11 - 12 and 12 - 1
South Bay YMCA
50 North 4th Ave., 91910

Earlier DASH & STRETCH posts are here.

The Dash & Stretch Story as told by a veteran DASH leader
San Diego Reader
Posted June 3, 2009
...Why wasn't Dr. Lowell Billings transparent with the parents and employees of the City of Chula Vista's DASH and STRETCH? That is a question that will remain unanswered as Dr. Lowell Billings will not comment on that...Double-Boarding a conflict of interest? Follow me:

Care2 make a difference
While legally Dr. Lowell Billings & Pamela B. Smith may serve on two boards, namely CVESD & the YMCA's Board of Management, they were supposed to have abstained their votes on the March 10th, 2009 district board meeting as it was a clear conflict of interests.

Maura Larkins' response:

Here's what Robert Fellmeth, University of San Diego law professor and director of the Center for Public Interest Law, says, "[P]ublic officials should know better than to steer so much money to groups with which they have close relationships."

Shame on Pamela Smith for voting to give control of a school district program to a private charity she's involved in. (On the other hand, it helps explain why the YMCA would give her a "woman of distinction" award. But the web of longtime cronies involved in the DASH & STRETCH power grab extends beyond Lowell Billings and Pam Smith to Cheryl Cox, mayor of Chula Vista. Cox served on the CVESD board until 2006.

The DASH & STRETCH backroom deal is a small part of a much bigger problem.

Lowell Billings (like many other school superintendents) is paid big bucks to do whatever it takes to keep things calm and quiet in the school district.

He's also supposed to educate as many kids as possible while keeping things quiet, but when a choice has to be made between educating kids and keeping the power structure in place, the kids come in second place.

Mr. Billings seems to be good at covering up problems. This is why CVESD pays Lowell Billings one of the highest salaries of any public employee in San Diego County, while at the same time laying off the people who actually educate kids. (How much is Billings paid to do this? In the 2007-2008 fiscal year he was the fourth-highest earning public employee in San Diego County, earning $238,205. I would guess his salary was about $20,000 higher this past year.)

Like other school officials, CVESD board members are so paranoid that they feel threatened by every little complaint. They don't want issues addressed in a public forum; they believe democracy is the road to ruin. Voters must be kept in the dark because voters can't be trusted with the truth. They are the only ones worthy of being on the board, and they must do whatever they have to do to stay there, including ignoring conflict of interest and other laws.

You might not guess that arrogance and fear would be so closely intertwined, but both the arrogance and the paranoia are real.

Chula Vista Elementary School District has a particularly bad case of paranoia. Board members and administrators fear that their system would fall apart if parents, teachers or kids were allowed to express dissatisfaction. It's CVESD's reflex response is to silence complaints and to deny its mistakes. CVESD flounders for years covering up its blunders rather than solving its problems.

The deterioration of DASH & STRETCH at CVESD is an unfortunate event, but it's just a tiny part of the big problem in education: teacher quality. Politics, not competence, determines who teaches children. People love to moan about the problem of not being able to get rid of incompetent teachers, but the truth is that education wouldn't really improve much if each school got rid of its worst teacher and replaced that teacher with a barely-competent teacher. The standards need to be much higher.

Unfortunately, our society doesn't want to pay much for schools. One of Lowell Billings' jobs is to find a cheap way to put a teacher in every classroom (after first taking out plenty for himself and his lawyers, of course).

Adding to the problem, or perhaps, the very core of the problem, is that there is no effective system to evaluate teaching performance. Principals do observations, but they don't really know what's going on in classrooms, as reported in recent research.

Links on ineffective teacher evaluations:
Gotham Schools
Education Week
Voice of San Diego

As long as everything is peaceful and quiet, most administrators believe that everything is fine. And if kids end up as failures years later, very few people in the schools feel guilty. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, but most school officials are apparently fine with that.

Schools teach that if we keep a low profile and don't make the people in power angry, we'll be among the "contributing" members of society. I disagree. I think that looking the other way when wrong is being done damages society. I hope that Elisa Betancourt will keep speaking out. There's plenty more to talk about, Elisa. Don't go away!

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