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Follow Procedure

June 4, 2009

Dear Editor,

The SMMUSD has blundered. The Superintendent moved to close the “A” House at Samohi before the Board even had the vote to eliminate a House. The “A” House principal has been told to start at Malibu July 1st.

How did this happen? Who knows, nobody has fully disclosed the timeline of events, but several Board members have stated that they were aware that this was afoot. Speculation is flowing about dealings that involve the usual things -- relationships, cronyism, turf protection.

Board Members are trying to distance themselves by saying this is a personnel matter that falls under the Superintendent’s responsibility. Sorry, that won’t fly. We’re talking about a major, structural change to Samohi which needs much discussion and a well thought out plan before deciding which House and people should go.

This is not a run-of-the-mill personnel matter, but rather a decision with such gravity that it falls entirely within the Board’s purview. All students, not just those in the closing House, will be severely impacted as the deck is dramatically reshuffled and they lose counselors and other resources they have come to depend on over the years. There should be a Board approved plan that is appropriately vetted prior to proceeding.

Alternative suggestions have been made by Dr. Pedroza - who is well aware of the situation at Samohi since he is there every day - for how expenses can be cut while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the House system. At least one Board member has summarily dismissed “The Pedroza Plan” without even considering it as a foundation for discussion. An ad hoc group of parents have also presented creative ideas for how to keep the House system intact. Will the Board listen? Stay tuned.

If the Board decides to eliminate a House this Thursday, then there needs to be careful consideration for how this will be done, and which House will go. The Superintendent should be instructed to seek a wide variety of perspectives, to do an analysis of the effectiveness of the programs that have been developed in each house, and to report to the Board on his rationale for which House to cut before any final plan is implemented. This will give clarity to how the decision was made and garner confidence from the community that thoughtful consideration went into the decision instead of some possible hidden agenda.

It should not be too much to ask the School Board and Superintendent to follow a logical and proper procedure where public input counts – after all it is us taxpayers footing the bill. Let’s first have a discussion about whether there are creative alternatives to the draconian step of shutting down a House. If it is determined there is no alternative, then let’s have a well thought out, transparent process for determining which House it will be.

Allen Nelson
Santa Monica

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