Monday, April 30, 2012

The Pasadena Unified School District Tells Sierra Madre's Kids and Parents to "Get Lost"

I am now the proud recipient of a very interesting e-mail from some folks calling themselves Organize Sierra Madre's Schools. For the record I am in complete support of what these folks are trying to do. It is so important now that people stand up in defense of their rights. And there obviously will not be very many willing do that for them. Including a majority of the officials we elect to represent the needs of our community, but in many instances have other agendas. Mostly dealing with money, not people.

The people behind Organize Sierra Madre's Schools are parents of children who attend public schools here in Sierra Madre, and they are outraged at the cuts that are suddenly being made to the funding for school facilities renovation and construction. Apparently money that was supposed to help Sierra Madre's Middle School kids get out of those trailers and back into real classrooms is no longer there. That is, if it ever was. Here is how they explain it in their e-mail:

It is time to get organized and advocate for our schools! I hope you will join the fight for fair treatment of our Sierra Madre schools! As many of you know, there are major cuts proposed to the PUSD Measure TT projects budget and these cuts could have a major impact on the future of our schools. We need you to get involved to change the way the PUSD Board of Education and the Facilities Sub-Committee of the Board, and to think about our schools.

In this weekend's edition of the only occasionally lucid Mountain Views News, the loss of funding is explained in this manner:

At a planned meeting of the SMS School Site Council on Wednesday, parents were surprised to learn that the Pasadena Unified School District would not receive $60 million dollars in matching funds from the State. Those dollars were to match the money generated by the bond measure passed in 2010, Measure TT, for school construction. As a result, according to PUSD Communications Director Adam Wolfson, this has forced the District to decrease it's construction budget by 20% for all District projects.

Just to put this all into its naturally absurd perspective, Measure TT raised $350,000,000 for school construction. The previous school bond money raising venture, Measure Y, brought in $220,000,000. We are talking well over half a billion dollars for school renovations. So where did all of that money go? Is there going be some sort of accounting made available to us soon?

Ask yourself these questions. Can it really be that the loss of a mere $60 million in state money will cause Sierra Madre's kids to spend an eternity in "temporary" trailers, and not in the fully equipped and modern schoolrooms voters were promised when they cast ballots in favor of both Measure TT and Measure Y? Despite the costs to property owners over the next several decades? Was this a bait and switch on the part of the PUSD? Were we dealt with in a less than honorable way, and then only to get our money?

This also brings up the matter of Measure A, which will be on the ballot this June, and the whole question of "sub-geographic districting." The representative for Sierra Madre on the Districting Task Force, which concocted Measure A, is Bart Doyle. This appointment was made at the strong insistence of the previous City Council, sans MaryAnn MacGillivray. Both John Buchanan and Josh Moran insisted that Bart be chosen to replace Joe Mosca there. It is important to note that Bart was (or perhaps still is) a member of both the PUSD Facilities Sub-Committee and the Construction Committee. Both of which are deeply involved in the school construction debacle here.

Here is how Pasadena Star News writer Brian Charles described the end product of the Districting Task Force in an April 7 piece entitled "Pick Your Poison."

Voters in the Pasadena Unified School District will again vote to decide how they will elect their school board. The current system, a quasi at-large voting mechanism, has been under attack for more than a year. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights said PUSD was "vulnerable to a lawsuit" if they don't switch to a ward system similar to the composition of the (Pasadena) City Council.

The push is for diversity. Creating voting districts around "communities of interest," jargon for black people, Latinos, rich people and poor people, would assume that everyone in the community is represented on the board. But beware of Balkanization. It's currently possible to influence all seven members on the board since they run citywide, and each voter in the district can in effect flip the board every two years.

When you can only vote for one board member, it might be hard to get the other six to return your calls. Stay tuned.

Should Measure A be approved by the voters it will allow for the election of 7 representatives to the Board of Education from sub-districts. This would replace the at-large system we have now. Each sub-district thereby having its own exclusive representative, which is fine I suppose.

But here's the catch. Most of these sub-districts would elect their representatives in 2013. Sierra Madre and the portion of Pasadena we will share our sub-district with will not elect its representative until 2015. Apparently this was done with the full approval of Sierra Madre's powers that be since all Bart Doyle did when this arrangement was shoved through at the very last minute was sit quietly and stare off into the distance.

MaryAnn MacGillivray asked that Bart Doyle come before the City Council and explain this lamentable development, and how is it that he did not include anything about the matter in his recent PowerPoint presentation. So far we've heard nary a peep on the topic from our Districting Task Force representative.

What this means is that between the years 2013 and 2015 Sierra Madre will, unlike others areas, have no local representation on the Board of Education. Rather we would be left in the pale soft hands of Ed Honowitz and Tom Selinske. Two gentleman who I do not believe would have any problem shafting Sierra Madre on the matter of school bond construction money. After all, why should they care any more about Sierra Madre now than they have in the past?

It is during this 2013 to 2015 time period that Measure TT money will be fully diced, sliced and given out to whomever these people, along with the representatives of other sub-geographical districts, deem fit. Should Measure A pass we apparently will not have real representation until after all of that money is already spent.

You really have to ask why this is. Remember, with these folks it is always about the money. Half a billion dollars is a rich pile that will always attract some very colorful flies. And the buzzing honey bunch that we have now are the same players we have always had. They never seem to go away, and are only here for that one reason. Money. School kids and their concerned parents are merely hostages to be manipulated when need be.

Another intriguing factor. One law firm whose members are causing school districts to adopt a sub-districting style of Board of Ed representation is Latham and Watkins. The same law firm that employs our new City Councilman, John Harabedian. The reason for this interest is that, in their opinion, the rights of minority students are not properly respected under regional representation. Something alluded to in the Star News article cited above. And school districts not changing to a sub-districting way of doing things (which most already have), just might get sued by attorneys from Latham & Watkins. That is the threat.

The organization pushing for this is called the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (click here). It's Board Chairman is John F. Walker, who is an emeritus partner at Latham and Watkins. Amos Hartston, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Lawyer's Committee, is a Latham and Watkins attorney who handles a lot of immigration work for the firm, much of it pro bono. He has also done work in securing the release of political prisoners in countries run by some pretty dreadful and cruel people.

Before any immediate conclusions are drawn though, I think we need to take a good look at this relationship. The involvement of Latham and Watkins attorneys here (and elsewhere) could mean better representation for communities long held hostage by the kinds of oligarchies running PUSD type organizations. Which certainly describes Sierra Madre. Having someone from our community on the PUSD Board of Education is not necessarily a bad thing, at least in my opinion.

No, the problem here is that we are being called upon by certain parties to vote in favor of this Measure A which, as currently written, would deny real representation to Sierra Madre on the PUSD Board of Education at an extremely critical time.

I would hope that our new Latham & Watkins employed City Councilman will recognize the injustice in this and do something about it before it is too late. As the matter stands, I know I could never vote for Measure A. And I would encourage everyone I know to cast a "No" vote as well.

There really is no other available option right now.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

64 comments:

  1. Harabedian will have to recuse himself.

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    1. The recusals just keep adding up for the councilman: police, waste management, education. And he hasn't shown himself to be all that swift on abiding by the spirit of the law, so he'll need some reminding.

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  2. O.K., let's hope that all the money that was spent to get Harabedian election was for the good of Sierra Madre and our city schools. How about it Harabedian, a great chance to prove your campaign promises were not false.

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    1. I don't recall if Harabedian spent most of his school years in Sierra Madre at the public schools. It would bode well for us if he did. His mother is principal at St Rita's so I thought maybe he spent time at the Catholic schools. No matter your personal choices for your kids, public vs private, a strongly supported public school system is key to a vibrante community. Too bad Sierra Madre is not large enough for its own high school (thank Lucky Baldwin and the water wars against Carter). We must fight to keep the middle school here.

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  3. The PSUD has been ruining our children's lives since the early 1970s when FORCED busing was started. Sierra Madre Parents for a Better Education tried to move Sierra Madre out of the Pasadena Unified School district but was told a the State hearing, a poor education was not a reason to move out of the district. The district fought the parents on this move. The district can not account for Measure Y money. A FULL accounting must be demanded of all bond money. If it is not accounted for people must go to jail.

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    1. Forced busing was a force throughout all of Southern California, not just Pasadena. Don't forget that when the folks who wanted to switch our kids from Pasadena to Arcadia went with hat in hand to Arcadia, that district told us to get lost.

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    2. I don't know why SM can't have a K through 8 at the SM School then 9 through 12 at the current Jr. High site. Happens all the time in small towns across this country. I took my daughter out of the PUSD when she was a freshman and am glad I did. Ed Honowitz's daughter went to SM school and then went on to PHS so he did have a vested interest in SM but not sure now that his kids are out of school. I have been saying dump the PUSD for years. If that were to happen I guarantee more SM families would put their kids back into public school.

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  4. Let's see if I have this straight. PUSD promised facilities improvements at both Sierra Madre public schools, and told people they would happen if they voted for a $350,000,000 bond issue called Measure TT. And even though work began, because of a financial shortfall it will now not be completed. A Measure is now on the ballot that will give individual PUSD districts their own representatives. This instead of the regional representation they have now. Most of these districts will have their own representative by 2013. But Sierra Madre won't have a representative until 2015. Is there a reason for this? If so, can someone responsible please tell us what that reason is?

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  5. Sierra Madre continues to be shafted for once having it's own school district!

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  6. The PUSD badly needs a forensic audit.

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  7. How can we remove the ineffective unseemly miscreant Bart Doyle and replace him with a real person?

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    1. The Doyles did not send their kids to public schools, they went to Webb in La Verne. HIs interest in PUSD has always been for political gain/exposure as far as I can tell.

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    2. As time goes by and more information becomes available the question becomes: What has Bart Doyle's contribution been to the residents of Sierra Madre?

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    3. Bart and many other parents tried very hard to get Sierra Madre out of the awful PUSD .system

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    4. I think Doyle was just hustling his game - it's the council members who allowed him to do it that have me angry. They threw away a chance for real advocacy for Sierra Madre.

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  8. No on Measure A.

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  9. Time to be part of Arcadia Unified School District, one of the best in So Cal...

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    1. Sorry, 6:56, it won't happen. My first foray into local politics was as part of Parents for a Better Education. PUSD called us racists because we wanted out of their school district. Our very own Bart Doyle wrote a letter stating that we couldn't be racists, because we were lobbying to go to another school district where our predominantly white students would be a minority, since AUSD was over 50% Asian at the time. The earlier poster was right, Arcadia did not want us, and they fought us as well.

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    2. Arcadia is economically successful in the housing market consistently because of the high quality of its school district.

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    3. Funny.. I did a similar schools ranking average comparison between PUSD and neighboring districts' elementary schools a year or two ago and PUSD beat out Arcadia, South Pas and San Marino (and Rosemead and San Gabriel). Go figure. It lost to Glendale, La Canada and Alhambra.

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  10. MaryAnn is correct again.

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  11. Doyle was the "pointman" setup to have our city endorse the Measures for the bond money, and now our "representative" to protect Sierra Madre's interests.
    Big Woop!

    He needs to be unappointed.

    Corruption is staring us in it's face, and has become so blatant, it has become the "new normal".

    With Doyle it's always about the money.
    Sierra Madre be damned.

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  12. I'm waiting to hear from Harabedian, he'll save us !

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  13. Oops! Doyle left the room...

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  14. Doyle really does need to explain all of this. Either that or we get a real representative on the Districting Task Force. Who was that highly qualified candidate Buchanan and Moran passed over for Bart? We need that guy. Someone who would represent Sierra Madre.

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    1. Yes 7:02, that other man had sterling qualifications, and if Buchanan hadn't been in such a hurry to help restore Bart's reputation, maybe the better man for the job would have been chosen. Bart has failed miserably.

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  15. bart and several other parents have tried to get us into a)arcadia school district or b)our own school district.....look back to 1988-ish and about 5 or 7 years later again we tried. actually in the 70's there was a group of parents that tried also.

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    1. Arcadia said no thanks.

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    2. It sure wouldn't hurt anything to try again!

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  16. The only thing that can be done to get their attention would be a class action law suit.

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    1. The City of Sierra Madre withholding all payments to the PUSD might have an effect on them.

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    2. You'll get into trouble if you don't pay your property taxes, which is where the funding comes from.

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  17. I pass by the Sierra Madre Middle School building site (I am being kind), weed patch (really) and know that the students and staff there are being abused daily as they pass by what should be on their way to what is real--portable classrooms now into the end of the second year.

    At first it was some story about the state archetects making revisions, but that can't have even been the truth.

    What a shame!

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    1. a better description is a dust bowl. just ask the families that live on laurel.

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  18. I join you in "NO" on Measure A!

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    1. We in Sierra Madre know all too well what dirty campaign tactics can do, and how successful rumors and lies can be. I have a feeling that Measure A will be presented as championing the underdog, striking a blow for social justice, etc. etc., and will pass easily.

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  19. The Districting Task Force concluded their work about a month ago. Their task was to revise the charter language and develop sub-geographic boundaries, which we now have in the form of maps. The PUSD board has approved and voted on same, and now the voters within PUSD will be able to vote on Measure A.

    I am voting NO on Measure A. I do not wish to have my vote limited to just one PUSD Board member. And I do not like outside special interest groups and lawyers telling me how we should run our elections. Frankly, this is a huge step backwards for PUSD and smacks of going back to the days of segregation.

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    1. Actually, you dont have a choice on whether it gets implemented. Wouldnt have even if the measure would have failed. At large elections are illegal. Not sure how something intended to give minorities more access to elected representatives is akin to segregation.. ?

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    2. Yes, there is little or no democracy in the PUSD system. Sierra Madre voted 'no' on Measure A because it refuses us representation until 2015. Unlike the majority population districts who get theirs in 2013. This is a classic case where the racial animosity of a majority was practiced on a minority. And somewhere here you comment on the PUSD's scores comparing favorably to other districts. I personally think you are full of ----, but just for laughs take Sierra Madre's scores out of your mix. Not so good, eh?

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  20. It seems odd that the Mtn Views would point the blame at Sacramento when obviously at least some of it belongs locally.

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  21. Susie's a biggy with the Foothill Dems... always a connection.

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    1. A biggy what? Big liar?

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    2. From the Foothill Democrats site - "Susan Henderson: Former Executive Director of the California Democratic Party under, then Chairman, Bill Press. Susan also publishes the Mountain Views Times (sic), a weekly publication serving Sierra Madre and Pasadena. Susan is a Berkeley grad who beings an extraordinary background in politics..."

      As was established in the court case she lost to her former business partner Katina Dunn, Susan has never received a degree from Berkeley.

      http://www.pasadenademocrats.org/page.php?11

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  22. I remember the time a PUSD administrator - a short tempered one at that - came to our council to advocate for Measure TT. He was put through his paces by Don Watts, but not enough people were listening, and Measure TT passed. So what was one bad scandal that the PUSD had that should have made Measure TT a failure? I found the recap on the Tattler:

    Tuesday March 29, 2011
    Will Tom Selinske Ever Solve the Mystery of the Stolen Measure Y Money?

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  23. At a public meeting I asked the architect if there would be any cost over runs or plan changes. He said the project would have no cost over runs. That is unheard of unless you are really overcharging you client. But wait. Fred Wesley's firm made a big donation to Measure TT. Then when the measure passed his firm got the contract for the middle school. Was there a bidding process???? Usually schools are designed by firms that specialize in schools....Westley's firms does not specialize in schools. His company is also the one that did the designs for the Buchanan Library. How much money was paid to his firm???

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  24. Wesley was also the architect for Wisteria Village, the Downtown Specific Plan 55 condos, across from the police/fire departments,.

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  25. It's not the architect. It's Sacramento's massively corrupt K-12 public school funding system that's run from there through Construction Managers and management consulting contracts. Measure Y architects were all selected by Vanir CM/Sacramento and the funding and management were trashed by these folks. Their head honcho is the former State Architect (who is also associated with a Sacramento school funding consulting company) and who orchestrated all the construction contracts as well. Wesley's company was among the 14 architects assigned to the school work. Vanir was let go for mismanagement of funds and projects.

    Again, on Measure TT, the architecture and construction firms are coordinated by the foxes watching the henhouse (people who wrote the measure). This time a "consultant" - SCMC Incorporated - was used for coordination, and he's let go for the same reasons. Same old. The whole system is utterly corrupt, as is common in the construction industry. Supply chains are used to cover huge transfers of funds to favored companies. School districts don't stand a chance, and legally are not allowed by the State to fund their own construction management departments, only facility maintenance.

    See link above.

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    1. Why would anyone ever vote yes on a PUSD bond issue?

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  26. Parents are fed up, the residents on Laurel, Canon, and the other surrounding streets are fed up. I have seen lots of complaining, but we need some action. What are some tangible things that we the community can do to get the ball rolling? Show up en masse to every PUSD school board meeting demanding action? Relentlessly pursue requests for action at our City Council meetings? Write local, state, and federal representatives? Bring in the media? Storm the school site and just start building it ourselves? Feel free to throw out ideals for how to take action.

    The Sierra Madre Upper Weed Patch is an embarrassment to our community. Anyone with a green thumb? Maybe we can transform that weed patch into a wildflower patch instead. Get students involved. Make it a learning opportunity. Plant a garden. Teach the children how to grow a garden. At least the students and the community would get use out of the site until the school can be rebuilt.

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    1. A dust ordinance that would require effective controls of the site would help the residents live with this mess. They should get together and petition the council.

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    2. You can email to: OrganizeSierraMadre@gmail.com and get involved.

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    3. A dust ordinance - isn't that the kind of thing for the Green Committee to work on?

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    4. I think the email to get involved and help the parents of Sierra Madre is: OrganizeSierraMadreSchools@gmail.com

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    5. Whatever is required for 1 Carter to control weeds and dust as well as soil erosion should be required of the middle school site. The good Mayor should communicate to Representative Doyle that the residents and taxpayers of Sierra Madre are being vexed by PUSD's poorly maintained site. If PUSD doesn't respond we declared it a blight and take it by eminent domain. It'll make a nice dog park.

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  27. PUSD, you got some 'splainin' to do.

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  28. After the wind storm there was one split and folded over flowering peach tree that bloomed this spring at the south corner of the dirt field next to the fence. Now even that has died. With all this rain it is too bad that someone didn't sow widflower seeds, at least that would have had a native garden feel to it for a while.

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  29. There was one very interesting reason given for not letting Sierra Madre students leave Pasadena for Arcadia: it was stated at the two meetings I attended (at Arcadia and Pasadena High Schools) that if a population of students leaves that are enrolled in certain programs/courses (advanced placement, fourth year language, higher mathematics, for example) and those programs wouldn't have adequate enrollment it would lessen opportunities for those left behind. There were parents from areas of Pasadena that did not want Sierra Madre to move because of this.

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    1. To carry on that thinking, Sierra Madre parents should sacrifice their kids for the common good.

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  30. What other ways could kids be fairly represented by the adults that are supposted to care about their education?

    Instead of a small School Board that is so politically motivated, each school should have a representative, one per school..elected to the post from within population boundaries around EACH school.

    Sierra Madre should have representation right away. Overlapping terms is the concern. Easy fix: all start to serve at the same time, 4 year terms, but draw straws, so that half is out in two and then the cycle continues so that there is overlap for continuity.

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  31. tony brandenburgMay 9, 2012 at 9:07 PM

    pave over the weed patch. build a skateboard park. the kids will be better served.

    and f*** ed honowitz.

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  32. And Vote NO! on Measure A. It is a big lie.

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  33. For Pete's sake.....I guess because I am a "transplant" from the East Coast, I can go ahead and say what is really on everyone's mind....yes, we from Sierra Madre want out of the PUSD for the hushed and silent reasons everyone talks about around the dinner table, but wont say in public....abso-f-lutely...PUSD is a g-h-e-t-t-o school district!!!! Do people call Arcadia racists because it is majority Asian and a great school system??? Nope, they sure dont.....so why cant we have back our own majority Sierra Madre school system without being accused of bringing back segregation, racism, back to pre 1960s, what terrible people....nope, we just want out of a pathetic ghetto PUSD.... hmmmmm, I wonder why all those folks who live in the Madison Heights and Caltech sections of Pasadena dont send their kids to PUSD????.....hmmmmmm, I wonder why?!@#@$....

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  34. I am an Arcadia resident and I think what would be a good idea is in order for Sierra Madre to have it's own district. They should put Foothills Middle School in Sierra Madre Schools and create a High School for Sierra Madre and maintain all the elementary schools in Sierra Madre as part of this potential new district.

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