This week's board meeting had a few interesting moments.
City councilman Dave Castaldo chastised, over and over, School Board Member and State Assembly Candidate Mark Orozco for using a police ride-along for personal gain. He accused Mr. Orozco of turning the ride-along, on the first day of school, into a photo opp. This was done during the public comment segment of the meeting. Right after speakers are warned,
"Testimony is not protected from damage claims for libel, Public charges or allegations may result in legal action being brought by those individuals."
Hmmm, does someone need a lawyer?
I'm not sure why Mr. Castaldo had to repeatedly tell Mr. Orozco how disappointed he was, he seemed to go on for a while. I find it interesting that Mr. Castaldo was permitted to speak longer than 3 minutes and he wasn't given the "one minute" warning all other speakers get. I wonder why Mr. Castaldo felt a need to make his complaint so public and during the part of the meeting where the rules prevent Mr. Orozco from responding. Can anyone say "Grandstanding"?
The district introduced three new Instructional Coaches. The administration has been telling us they planned to turn over all the instructional training to BUSD teachers. I have been critical about the district spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to outside consultants for work our teachers could do. Earlier this year the administration, responding to a direct request from the board, told the board they would provide a report of all the money the district has spent on outside training. No report has been provided. I wonder if/when the board will perform the oversight we elected them to do. I guess a direct request from a couple board members doesn't desrve any accountability.
The subject of busing and traffic worked its way back into the discussion. Once more, President Lara told her fellow board members they were getting of track, ending the discussion. The assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Wael Elatar, provided a budget report to the board. During this report, he informed the board the district had spent more than $900,000 on the district busing last year. He told the board the cost per special education student was about $6,100 and for other home-to-school students the cost was about $1,200 per student. I believe this is more evidence the administration is setting the stage to eliminate elementary school busing in the next round of budget cuts. Mr. Orozco's questions to Mr. Wael about the district's transportation costs were ended when Mrs. Lara told him we "are getting off track".
There are a few questions I was hoping our board members might ask before discussion was cut off. I've submitted the following questions, questions no one wanted to ask, in an email to Mr. Elatar, I will keep you posted.
- Are your cost per rider figures based on the number of actual riders?
- How many riders (special ed and home-to-school) were riding last year?
- How many buses were in use?
- What was the occupancy rate?
- Would the district's cost increase if the buses were full?
- What would the cost be per rider if the buses were full?
I wonder when our Board President will feel the time is appropriate to discuss two very important issues to our community, busing and traffic. Probably not until the administration is ready to present another dramatic show concerning the difficult budget decisions they will have to make. Two years ago, when busing for high school and middle school students was eliminated, we watched, in a public forum, the board agonize over deciding whether to lay off teachers, eliminate classified staff positions, close a school, eliminate the popular dual emersion program or cut transportation. In this context, transportation was the least painful cut they had to make. Prepare yourself for the sequel coming to a theater near you.