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Editorial: Step right up folks, the school board is meeting

Original post made on Jul 6, 2015

Members of the school community might be wondering if it's circus season in Mountain View, even though there's no sign of Barnum & Bailey's Big Top. The spectacle played out at the June 24 Mountain View Whisman school board meeting had no red-nosed clowns or tightrope walkers in attendance, but they weren't needed — although a lion tamer might have been a welcome presence.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 3, 2015, 12:00 AM

Comments (17)

Posted by Embarassing
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 6, 2015 at 1:37 pm

It is embarrassing that the Board has come to this. People used to be proud to say that they worked for this district but they can't honestly say that anymore.

Posted by Minimize Their Damage
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 1:54 pm

This is why they have elections. We'll overcome this, purge the clowns and move forward.

Posted by Predictable
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

No mention in the article about how Skelly permitted the consultant to present a proposal which reflected spending allocations NOT agreed to by the school board. Oh sure, they could have skipped over that. But should they have? I'd say no. I place the blame with Skelly for not honoring his duty to present contracts which correspond to the expressed wishes of the school board.

In the end all they did was approve a contract with one change--to not include required or implied allocations among the various potential spending sites. Now, couldn't Skelly have presented it like this in the first place? Wouldn't you think he would be a little more respectful of the process considering how contentious this whole issue is? At this point there is a real possibility that in a year or so a new school will be added to serve the Slater/Whisman area. Isn't preserving funding flexibility to do this the smart thing to do? It doesn't force the opening and if it doesn't pan out, the district has tons of things to spend that # 30 million on. It can add those sky lights that were cut out of the plans for one site. It can add windows that were cut out. It can build a new library for a site which had to make do for an extra year with and older one. No reason at all to FORCE the inability to open a school at Whisman just due to lack of capital....

Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Needlessly exaggerated and sensationalistic headline. The Voice, like all good journalism, should report news without bias and save the opinions for the editorial pages.

Posted by @Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:32 pm

This actually is an editorial by the Voice. The fact that it was not labelled clearly on the online version is a pretty big error on the Voice's part.

As for your complaint: Exactly which part of this editorial is incorrect? You can't possibly say that the role of Steve Nelson in the current mess isn't incorrect...

Posted by What bothers me
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:35 pm

This idea that if 75% of the customers are happy campers, then the district is doing its job. That's what bothers me. The board needs to consider ALL constituencies. It should not provide all the resources to the currently established schools, change attendance boundaries for those who do not have a local school, and then expect the 25% underserve to just quietly go along. Worse still, they should not expect them to have no voice on the board. The board members which looks out for the unhappy families is doing his job. I don't care what he says or how he says it. That fact trumps all. The gadfly spurs proper attention to the whole community.

And this has NOTHING to do with PACT. No reason to dump on PACT. PACT isn't causing the lesser treatment to the Whisman Slater areas, or for that matter the lesser treatment to some of those assigned to Monta Loma from very far away. This is entirely caused by politics, and a lot of it is historical politics which now has justification for change.

Posted by Hotdogs and beans
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Yes! Why EVERYONE knows that you can please all of the people all of the time. THAT'S what the school board should do. Make everyone happy all the time!!!
If there is a smaller group that is unhappy, then make sure NOTHING gets done. Act like a spoiled child because you didn't get your way and continue to do so to make sure you disrupt any further business...because smaller group isn't happy. Remember, if you don't get your way, do stuff to mess it up for everyone else while you tantrum about it.

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 6, 2015 at 5:50 pm

My on-line version starts with "EDITORIAL" What is the question? This is the Voice's opinion, based I would assume on the fact that Kevin F and his predecessors have had a front row seat through all of this nonsense. How would a whole new board ignorant about schools help anything? We have to assume we've generally elected the best available. Anybody who is unhappy should consider applying for the appointment. After all, based on the Voice's story of the June 24th meeting, one more "aggressive & misguided" board member would then give the agents of change a majority! We could all watch the mythical "heads exploding" from the Voice's real estate advertisers as "aggressive & misguided" drives the district off the cliff in the name of "geographic fairness". I still don't understand how "geographic fairness" demonstrates "daily, a relentless commitment to the success of every child." (District Mission) They are working toward it, but the idea that this end justifies Nelson's means, just might mean not much gets built for Elementary kids attending other schools not located in Whisman/Slater. Constant change and argument always leads to schedule delay. Delay always leads to cost increase. Cost increase always leads to scope reduction. Scope reduction makes teachers unhappy. Apparently we can't pay teachers the going rate, so how shall we retain them if not with happiness?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 11:32 pm

I stand corrected, it does indeed say Editorial. Sorry.

Posted by Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2015 at 12:48 am

With the upcoming selection of a new Board member to fill Chris Chiang's seat, I hope the Board will select someone who has had experience serving on a publicly elected board and someone who knows the role of a school board member.

Posted by Reign in the Clowns!
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 7, 2015 at 10:09 am

Unfortunately, the most important qualification for the replacement board member will be to reign in the antics of Nelson and to remind Coladonato that grand-standing will not provide the path to future public office he obviously seeks.

"So Sad" phrased it well in the comment here: section Web Link

Unfortunately, the main qualification needed in a new trustee is being able to "handle" Steven Nelson. To date three President's of the board have been unable to do so. I don't blame them. They didn't run for the board to babysit an ill-behaving, obnoxious know-it-all (known for threatening to sue anyone who stands up to him).

Steven, how do you look at yourself in the mirror knowing that Chris Chiang, a dedicated and kind soul resigned because he couldn't stand being on the board with you any more?

So sad that we have to look for someone to control you rather than someone who would be best for the district.

Posted by Public Service
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2015 at 12:54 pm

This idea that a new board member has a tough job is not well founded. The best qualification is a fair mind and a desire to oversee the professional staff of the district in an appropriate manner. There has been a huge turnover among the employees that has not been the board's fault. This doesn't now mean that they should be completely hands off. The trustees have a duty to the entire district to see fair use of taxpayer funds and a good result for every student in the district, despite their varied situations. The number of disadvantaged kids is headed down. All this kvetching about one school or another having too many disadvantaged kids is soon going to be seen as ancient history. This won't be due to the actions of the board. But the board must make sure the district adapts to the new change, and balances out the effects across schools. The drop in low income won't all come evenly through the assigned schools. Huff is going to drop a large fraction very soon due to the change in attendance areas and its already low status of having SED students. Changes at Castro and Monta Loma will be more gradual, but they are coming too.

Posted by Cfrink
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 7, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Cfrink is a registered user.

A new Board member is definitely at a bit of a disadvantage because we have covered so much information of the past 6 months to a year. Someone new, not having been involved in all of that research has a lot of catch up work to be able to make good decisions, not to mention some of the other burning questions we have currently facing our district. Which means that the best new Board member is one who's been paying attention for the past year.

Also, I take a bit of issue with this editorial. There are many, many times you could cite the Board for being petty on various subjects. These subjects are often very important to the Board member in question but it's opposition and communication on those subjects that often gets the Board bogged down for various reasons. But Trustee Coladonato's concern about the wording and the pricing on the contract with Mr. Lee's company was a valid concern. There are were large dollar amounts attributed to particular schools, way over what was expected to be spent at those particular schools, while no dollar amount was attributed to other schools. The explanation was that this document was simply a place holder document and that more concrete numbers would later be figured out. This is a legal document. Which of you signs a contract to have construction work done on your home with only "place holder numbers"? I find Mr. Lee and his company to be completely trustworthy, and honestly, top shelf! But this is business. If we're going to bash our Trustees for doing their due diligence as stewards of the district's money we're all holding on a little too tight. Trustee Coladonato was not confrontational, and he offered a suitable compromise as an option to satisfy his concern. That is the way issues of that nature should be handled. It's not good enough to simply do things a certain way because "we've always done it that way." That allows for misadventure.

So, I appreciated Mr. Coladonato's attention to the details. I also appreciate the rest of the Board's interest in coming to a compromise. And I think if Mr. Lee could have the night over, he would likely change a few things about his behavior. Mr. Lee is a man of the highest character and integrity and he seemed very tired and probably hungry at that meeting. This incident did not seem like the kind of thing that would make him consider walking away form a job.

Posted by Me
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:34 pm

"This idea that if 75% of the customers are happy campers, then the district is doing its job."

What percentage of customers does need to be happy? 80%? There is always going to be a percentage of unhappy customers. We have limited resources, and frankly, some people are never going to be happy.

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 8, 2015 at 12:23 am

Since Greystone's contract is not a construction contract, placeholder values are actually fairly common in the industry. I'll have to disagree with you and the Trustee on this one, at least as to his "aggressive and misguided" efforts on the Greystone agreement. Experience and independence will be key to the appointment.

Posted by Cfrink
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 8, 2015 at 11:32 pm

Cfrink is a registered user.

@Old Steve, understood. Perhaps the time to explain this to the Board is before the meeting, not 5 minutes before they are forced to vote on it. But I get your point. Many thanks!

Posted by Educator
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 9, 2015 at 4:49 am

The board has ample opportunity to get explanations if they choose. They get agendas with information a week in advance. They only have to ask questions or indicate concern to the superintendent a few days before the meeting. Skelly even took extra care to reach out out early to make sure he could provide any more information they wanted. If Colodonato was truly interested in reasonable compromises, why wouldn't he tell staff his concerns? Some questions will come up during a meeting, but that should not have been the case here as the issue of concern was clearly in the back up material. To wait for the meeting to spring a surprise on something this big tells me Colodonato is more interested in grandstanding than working together to make progress.

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