BUSD’s Parent Involvement Policy - The Year in Review

At the beginning of the year, our board made no recommendations to improve upon the district’s four year old parent involvement policy. A policy that hasn’t been updated since Dr. Kayrell joined the district. Determined the policy didn't need any improvement, the board authorized it as a valid current policy.

When I realized the administration was still reluctant to build a true collaborative approach with parents, I filed a complaint. I argued in my complaint that I wasn’t seeing the district make any effort to annually review and modify, with parents, a plan to increase parent involvement. The district provided me a stack of documentation which, they believed, proved they were doing everything they needed to be in compliance with the law and BUSD policy.

It’s a shame that our administration regularly chooses “doing enough to be in compliance” as their base standard. I hope we are all trying to teach our kids to reach for a higher standard than “Just enough to pass”.

There were a couple reasons for me to be optimistic this year. Last year, the board listened to requests from parents and teachers to add technology to every classroom for every student, not just one classroom per school. Then they directed the administration, over the objections of the cabinet and the board president, to put a smart board in each classroom. I know we are not supposed to call them smart boards but when people say to me “what’s a Promethian board?” I say a “smart board” and they all get it.

I was also hopeful when I saw the board provide a parent, Cheryl Burge, enough time to express her concerns at a board meeting. She was able to affect the discussion and the ultimate outcome of district policy at recent board meetings.

Both of these events were the result of parents and teachers coming forward in an unfamiliar, and often nerve-racking environment. It is already hard enough to present a coherent point in less than five minutes. At three minutes, less parents and teachers will even try.

Now, after all they have done to show us they want to increase parent involvement, they voted this week to limit the only way parents, and other community members have left to be heard about issues important to our families. After adding threatening statements about charges of libel to the public speaking instructions something they read to you right before you address the board, they are now allowing 40% less time to speak.

Not one board member in favor of limiting our access provided a good reason for this action. No one argued that the board meetings were running too long because of too many public speakers; because they aren't. No one complained that people were getting up and rambling for five minutes; because no one is.

Instead, we heard the California School Board Associations recommended the shorter time limit. And we heard Margaret De Longchamp argue it was justified because other public groups used a three minute rule. The board vice president, Wayne Hackney, believes that the shorter time limit is justified because the President, at her discretion can permit some speakers to go beyond the three minutes. And this week our board president, Susie Lara, polled the surrounding communities and determined 21 out of 26 public governing bodies allow three minutes.

In my opinion, these three board members are embarrassing themselves. They are going to reduce the community’s access to the process because "others school districts honor the three minute limit" or because we may be allowed  more time to speak at the blessing of the president. Board member Mark Orozco pointed out, Beaumont isn’t a large enough district that the public speakers need more limits on their time. And Janelle Poulter argued that providing more public input is what makes Beaumont special.

I wonder, if other school board’s we're to jump off a cliff would ours jump too? Oh wait, I thought I was talking about my five year old. I better watch myself; l might be accused of libel or slander... at least, before every public speaking session, that’s what my school board threatens me with.

In 2011 BUSD has taken a step forward and two steps back from increasing parent involvement.