Last week the board conducted the first reading of two sets of board policies and administrative regulations. The first, concerned absences and the second, was about administrative accountability.
Cheryl Burge addressed a concern she had with the district reducing the number of days of acceptable absences from 14 to 10 days. She also expressed concerns regarding the administration accountability policies. She asked the board to include language in the policy that would help parents get a complaint resolved in a reasonable amount of time.
The administration explained their positions on the policies/reg. The board members asked a number of questions showing they shared some of Burge’s concerns. If you want all the details, check the audio minutes on the district’s website.
Here are my observations:
I have spoken briefly to Cheryl at board meetings and she has commented on my website. I have not discussed in details the personal issues she is having with our district’s administration. The only information I have regarding her issues is what I have heard when she addresses the board.
We’ve learned she has a son with special needs and she has had problems working with the district to get all his needs met. She explained that she had asked the board to review the two policies. This request was a result of her personal history working with the administration. She told the board how the absence policy change may affect her son and how she needs the board’s help with her lengthy complaint resolution. She told us that the district now includes their legal representative in all their discussions with her. She told me before the meeting that she now has to bring her own attorney. It was easy to hear how frustrated she is and it was painful to watch.
The board members seemed concerned and appeared to sincerely want to find a solution to her troubles. They appeared to be asking all the right questions but I feel they were hesitant to demonstrate the leadership the administration needs.
I’d like to see one of the trustees say to Cheryl, and any other parent in a similar situation, “I am concerned and I will do what it takes to get this resolved.” Instead of waiting for all the deadlines to expire, one of them could personally take responsibility for finding a solution? How hard would it be to schedule a sit down with the superintendent and instruct him to find a solution? How hard would it be to rally the support of the other board members to lead the administration toward an expedient and fair resolution?
I’m sure there are legal issues involved and everyone is afraid of a law suit but Cheryl doesn’t seem to want to sue anyone. She just wants to make sure her son is getting the education he needs. If this was a state or federal issue, Cheryl could go to her senator or congressman. This is a school district issue and her elected officials are our school board members. If one of them would stand up for her, and other parents, and help navigate the bureaucratic red tape, we would all stand behind such a board member.
This seems ridiculous. Beaumont is a small town with a relatively small school district. This isn’t LA Unified, we don't have hundreds of schools and hundreds of thousands of students, let’s just get it done.