Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Measure TT and the PUSD: How They'll Get Away With It

"Why did the writer not mention Mr. Honowitz's rude and disdainful behavior during school meetings? Mr. Honowitz regularly rolls his eyes, makes noises, etc., when Mr. Miramontes and I are giving our views on some subject before the board." - Pasadena Board of Education Member Scott Phelps in a March 2011 letter to the Pasadena Weekly

In response to the recent announcement regarding school construction funding cuts, the folks from Organize Sierra Madre's Schools are encouraging anyone who can get away to attend the PUSD Facilities Sub-Committee Meeting today at the Education Center's Lower Level Conference Room, located at 351 S. Hudson Avenue in Pasadena. The time is 3 p.m., which pretty much means most parents won't be able to attend. Which is probably the point.

Bill Coburn, bless his wandering soul, has written what is probably the most revealing passage of news reporting on this situation so far. It pretty much nails the PUSD's strategy for dealing with these well-meaning but obviously over-matched parents. That being to basically manipulate, and then ignore them.

At the meeting, counter-proposals to the District's 20% across the board cuts will be considered. OSMA has been attempting to prepare a counter-proposal for presentation, however, they have been unable to get numbers from PUSD that are necessary to produce a proposal that properly responds to what is currently proposed. Since it appears this may be the only opportunity for such a counter-proposal to be presented, OSMS is asking that parents and supporters to attend not only the Facilities Sub-Committee Meeting, but also, tomorrow night's PUSD Board of Education meeting, at 5:30pm, Board Room 236, also at the Education Center.

A fascinating, yet so typical, move by the PUSD. Let's lay it all out here in three part harmony.

1) Schedule a meeting where counter-proposals can be presented, but hold it during working hours. Most PUSD parents will not be able to attend because they can't leave work.
2) Limit the possibility of an appeal to just that one badly timed meeting.
3) Deny parents any of the information they need to write their counter-proposal.

Lovely, lovely people. And then, just in case you don't already have your suspicions about where all that Measure TT money has actually been going, Bill shares this nugget with us:

Also on the agenda for Tuesday's Facilities Committee is the approval of a $300,000+ salary for the consultant who is overseeing this bond-reduction project and $239,000 for the architects.

A cool $539,000 in Measure TT money that could have gone to the schools, that is if we are talking one architect. All of which will now go to the individuals who will help to administer the 20% in "across the board cuts." I wonder, what would that percentage of cuts figure be without all the consultant fees? Both these, and all the ones that have gone before?

If it was only a nightmare, then at least you could wake up.

Who would have thought that when the Pasadena Unified School District was pushing for the passage of $350 million dollar Measure TT, it would have come to this someday? This certainly wasn't what they were saying back in 2008 when they were asking for your vote.

Here is what PUSD activist and spokesperson Peter Dreier had to say in an opinion piece published on October 30 of 2008 in the Pasadena Weekly (click here):

Our young people deserve schools that enhance their learning. Forcing children (and teachers) to work in rundown schools sends the message that we don't care about them.

Measure TT is needed to meet basic safety codes, expand computers in classrooms, make energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable repairs and upgrade classrooms, science labs and athletic facilities.

Measure TT, which will beautify our neighborhoods, increase property values and invest in our children, will also have immediate and long-term payoffs in terms of improving the business climate, expanding opportunities and reducing crime and social tensions.

Our PW scribbler all but promised Measure TT would also cure male pattern baldness and hives.

Peter Dreier, in case you are not aware, has an interesting political history. If you go to his Key Wiki page (click here) you can read about his efforts to lead the Democratic Socialists of America organization to the forefront of our national political discourse back in the 1990s. Like Measure TT, it failed to achieve its stated goals. Though for very different reasons.

Peter also wrote the PUSD's "Argument In Favor Of Measure T," which can still be found on the Pasadena Unified School District's website. It is basically a lightly rewritten regurgitation of his Pasadena Weekly article.

Finally, we have obtained an e-mail sent to various concerned Sierra Madre public school parents, and written by Bart Doyle. Bart, who is described on one admiring Facebook page as an "all around SM School advocate" (which is a pretty good indication that the fox truly is in the henhouse), describes his conversation about the Measure TT cuts with none other than Pasadena Board of Education President (Emeritus) Ed Honowitz himself. Here is one of the more opaque passages from Bart's e-mail.

Ed was very specific in saying that the initial 20% across-the-board approach is probably not workable for several reasons. First, reducing the number of classrooms at the SIMS contradicts adopted BOE policy on the restructuring of MS programs and the geographic reallocation of students around the District (i.e., increased enrollment at SMMS). Second, there are a number of technical funding issues with the initial architects' proposal, such as the proposal to move forward with classroom renovations at Washington when the funds for replacing all the windows were budgeted to come from rehabilitation/renovation funding that is no longer available. Third, the BOE is committed to expanding career/tech programs at the high school level and has not had an opportunity to determine what specific facilities needs, if any, that the expansion of these programs will require to be met.

Any of that make sense? Of course not, it isn't supposed to. The real intention of this boilerplate of baloney is to baffle the innocent. Something reinforced in the next passage. Note also Bart's ineffective role in the non-retrieval of the information Organize Sierra Madre's Schools had requested for today's meeting in Pasadena.

In terms of process, this item MAY appear on the May BOE Agenda, but only as an information item. Ed thinks this analysis is going to take months and months to complete to complete and asked for suggestions on how they could establish a process to obtain effective feedback from the campuses. The communication problem is not unique to SM. I told him that you had requested basic information to permit a fully-informed discussion at the SM Site Council, forwarded him the earlier e-mails where you requested the cost information, and asked if he could make appropriate inquiries to ensure a response.

The process will take months and months, eh? Of course it will. That is what "the process" is all about. Drag things out until everyone has given up, and then do exactly what it is you intended to do all along. And just how deeply concerned is Ed Honowitz about hearing what it is Sierra Madre's parents have to say regarding the heartbreaking news that promises made to them about their children's education will not be honored?

Ed is going to South America for two weeks unfortunately and will miss the next Board meeting.

You can't make this stuff up. The broken promises of Measure TT, $350,000,000 that we'll be paying for out of our property taxes for at least the next several decades. No wonder Big Ed is heading south.

Late Update 10:20 am

An email went out from Organize Sierra Madre Schools this morning. Important new information is now available.

We need your help even more urgently today.

After nearly four weeks of requesting budget information that Robin Brown presented at the last School Site Council meeting, we received the information from him last night. After spending a little time with the numbers, which showed cuts to the Sierra Madre Middle School project totalling about $2.6 million, it became evident that there was a major flaw.

The budget that the District has been working off of for our middle school site was the original budget for the school when there was going to be a renovation project, not the new budget that should have been drafted once it was decided that the project would actually be a complete tear down and rebuild. I have sat in a lot of meetings ever since Measure TT passed in 2008, and I only ever received verbal information about the difference in costs between the renovation project and the new school project. But the difference is significant. The renovation cost was to be $38 million and the estimated costs for the new school varied between $21 - $25 million.

Organize Sierra Madre Schools desperately needs your attendance at tonight's meeting.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

60 comments:

  1. What happens when good people don't vote. The PUSD.

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    Replies
    1. People are just too trusting for too long.

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    2. They're still far too trusting.

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  2. You think Sierra Madre's voice with the PUSD is small now, just wait to see what happens if Measure A passes!

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    Replies
    1. You mean two years with no representation isn't going to help us? How can that be?

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    2. I figure the Redistricting Task Force understood that Mosca was an empty suit probably from the first meeting.
      Bart would be a harder read, but it's possible they knew he was under investigation.
      Why would they take either of those guys seriously?

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    3. Here is my question. Why did Buchanan and Moran put Bart in as our representative over the vastly qualified person they passed over? What made Bart's participation so vital?

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    4. It was Buchanan helping a pal.

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    5. Bart was in the hottest part of a career-ending scandal. Imagine how desperate he would be for any kind of involvement that makes him look like he's not a crook. And who knows what kind of alliance he and the flown Mosca had or have.

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  3. According to Peter Dreier, " Forcing children (and teachers) to work in rundown schools sends the message that we don't care about them." whereas keeping them in trailers for years lets them know they are at the top of the PUSD's priorities list.

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  4. From an article on the Tattler in April 2010 I found this:
    Fred Westley architecture firm PBWS is the architect for the new middle school on Cannon.
    So that's who's getting the $239,000?

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    Replies
    1. Some folks get paid if there is money, or there isn't. Whoever would have known there was so much profit in squandering a big chunk of a $350,000,000 school construction bond measure?

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    2. Yep. He is going to pocket a lot of money. The school is designed to hold 550 students. No way in hell does Sierra Madre have that many middle school students. A couple hundred at most. The rest were to be bussed into town causing traffic, congestion, and after school problems. My solution is design the school to have 20% fewer class rooms. Keep the library but make it smaller. Just down size the plans.
      This could be a blessing in disguise. The city, neighbors, and students do not need a school that holds 550 students plus faculty and staff. The parking lot could be smaller with more room for fields.

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    3. You are on to something. Bigger doesn't mean better.
      Some of the local private schools are tiny and turn out a quality product.

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    4. Great idea 8:43!

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  5. Does Los Angeles County have a District Attorney?

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  6. The only thing the district understands is money.
    The district gets about $5800 per year per child.
    They loose money for every day the child has an unexcused absence.

    I would like to call for a Sierra Madre boycott of the schools. That will get their attention. The kids will not suffer if they miss a couple days from school. Parents can make kids do reading and math at home.
    Talking to these bone heads will not work.

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    Replies
    1. This is a really good idea. A student boycott would hit the PUSD in the one place they care about, their pocketbooks. A picket line on front of the school would draw a lot of media as well. Time has come today!

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    2. A variation on the "Blue Flu" theme should prove effective... every day a student is out costs the PUSD. A day a week until school is over should cause some impact!!!

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  7. Big Ed has been "Heading South" for a while now.

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  8. They are also proposing to put off (or not do altogether) the field improvements to save money. Our kids are being cheated up one side and down the other.

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  9. It seems to me that PUSD wants to close down the Sierra Madre Middle School. Their tactic seems to be to let the site languish, take away the funds to rebuild, and hope that SM families will forget about educating their students in their hometown. Another year and they'll announce the school district has decided to sell the property to raise funds due to low enrollment in Sierra Madre.

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  10. Can't make the PUSD meetings?

    Public Comment at tonight's City Council meeting would be a good time to encourage citizens to vote "No" on Measure A.

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    Replies
    1. Oh certainly. The "no representative for Sierra Madre measure." Why would anyone in their right mind vote for that?

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  11. Does anybody know how much Measure TT money has been spent on consultants, lawyers and other professional services?

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  12. Why can't SM have it's own school district and dump the PUSD for good. I say screw the middle school campus and just make the main campus a K-8. Make the current middle school campus the new High School in town. When I walked by that camps the other night it is just in shambles and is a complete tear down so if you're going to start over why not start over with a new HS. SM has enough kids to fill the schools with room to spare and just be done with busing kids in from all over Pasadena. I also think if they did stop busing kids in more parents in town would take their kids out of private school and put them back in the public school in town.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, this is a good idea

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    2. For a lot of parents private school is a huge expense. One that they make great sacrifices to pay for. A real public school system would bring them back.

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    3. Dream on. Wouldn't take a second for Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to sue.

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    4. I have a question for the Organize Sierra Madre School group:

      Who is stealing our/your money? Obviously someone in the PSUD is making big money off of your kids.

      This is just an outrage!

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    5. The PUSD would fight that to the death. Sierra Madre test scores bring up the PUSD average.

      How ironic is it that a real local representation would be for us to have our own school district for our own town, and that's the last thing PUSD wants.

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    6. You know what this is all about, right? Social Equity. Sierra Madre's kids have to be brought down so the other schools can rise in rank. No money, no new school facilities, no representative until 2015. Welcome to Politically Correct America.

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    7. The outrage for me comes from the fact that Joe Mosca and Bart Doyle failed miserably at their job to represent Sierra Madre on this task force and if past predicts future, there will be no consequences for their dereliction of duty.

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    8. How do you know they failed? Maybe this is the outcome that was wanted. The only failure for them being people figured it out.

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  13. GOT A GREAT IDEA...

    Maybe if we ask our city manger, she can arrange to borrow more money, secured by the water department, which she will tell us will be used to improve those old rusty school buildings!

    The real issue remains...
    We need a better partner (the city of Arcadia), better city management to help make better decisions for our community.

    Our young adults are the life blood to Sierra Madre, and we as the residents & city staff have failed to insure that we have the education available for those young adults to suceed!

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  14. TT was a bait and switch all along. We were promised the world, and now we are getting this. At least I didn't vote for it.

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  15. Coburn supplied some useful information? Somebody go feel his forehead. He might have a fever.

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  16. Parents at Sierra Madre Elementary school were well organized and did a masterful job of planting and beautifying with native plants to reduce the school's water bill.

    These same parents, and others, will have students going on from elementary to the middle school. It seems to me that they will organize and be the needed voice.

    I only wish they had made themselves aware of the nonsense that went into the selection of Bart Doyle over the other man who had an impressive educational background.

    I continue to be horrified that the middle school campus was destroyed so long in advance of the plans being approved by the state for the new middle school. It should never have happened that way.

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  17. A Poem by Bart DoyleMay 22, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    Little Fly
    Thy summers play,
    My thoughtless hand
    Has brush’d away.

    Joe, am not I
    A fly like thee?
    Or art not thou
    A man like me?

    For I scheme
    And drink & sing;
    Till some blind hand
    Shall brush my wing.

    If cash is life
    And strength & breath;
    And the want
    Of such is death;

    Then am I
    A happy fly,
    If I live,
    Or if I die.

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    Replies
    1. God in his wisdom made The Fly,
      Then forgot to tell us why.

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    2. Mosca is Italian for fly.

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  18. Perspective. Our grandkids were well situated in the best private school in a major City and on track to start High School in the Private System. Both (one boy, one girl)were offered athletic scholorships and it seemed a fait accompli that is where they would go Then they "floored" their parents opting instead to go to the largest public high school in their City, highly rated, very diverse and offering a rich environment. They wanted a much larger and broader ethnicity base from which to make friends and test their skills. Now as a freshman and sophamore they have accomplished a great deal, with a far wider school experience than would have been available in the Private School System.

    The boy is 15th in a class of 640 and the girl is 9th in a class of 670. The boy lettered as a freshman in Tennis and as a Sophamore in Baseball. The girl a freshman plays varsity LaCrosse and aspires to win a scholorship to an Ivy League School, Duke, or Stanford. As a freshman 2 months in schoool she entered a statewide 31 district debate contest and took 1st place.

    The Private School they attended prepared them well, but they chose the Public School System and it has rewarded them with opportunities beyond their wildest dreams. Their parents, very professionally successfully had no serious role in the course they would take. They made the decision.

    This is not a self agrandizing comment but encouragement to those families grapling with a Private vs Public Sschool Education. Both work but for different reasons.

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    Replies
    1. The quality of a public school education varies from city to city. Where did your grandchildren go to school? And what years?

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  19. When was the last time you really visited a school and had to do all the homework?May 22, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    Please do not strike. It will serve NO advantage. Your school attendance counts and your children do not need the message that school can just be cut for a day or two. And the faculty and staff need to do their job.

    Of course it is a SOCIAL issue. Being a part of a school system is a social event and children learn social responsibility and behavior in school. Few people understand the curriculum taken on in classrooms. do not use the people inside the school to get even with the PUSD ADULTS who made greedy choices because they were slick and thought they could get away with all of this while people slept.

    Now everyone is awake. Not all public schools are run like PUSD. 4:49Thank you. And by the way, please take a look at the list of the top 1000 schools in the USA, many are in Calif. Go visit them and realize that Sierra Madre got stuck really badly and we have a lot to learn from great schools who are wonderful safe "homes" of learning, who do bus and are run by and taught by exciting and creative people.

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  20. The 3:00 meeting must be over by now. Hope somebody will post about it.

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  21. Can City Hall become a bed and breakfast?

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  22. It is almost 8 and we are still in the Consent Calendar.

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  23. It's almost 9 and they are still on item 2.

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    Replies
    1. They are being incredibly thorough.

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    2. Yes 9:05, and t's a good idea for them to do the money this way.

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  24. They are going slowly on purpose.

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  25. An observation. Before the break Nancy was about a sleep. After the break she is the energizer bunny that won't shout up.


    Did she take something at the 5 minute break that kicked in???

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    Replies
    1. I hope she doesn't land hard.

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  26. Koerber kicked Bart's butt. Bart tried to justify it by saying it was necessary to save the old boys. Not sure anybody is going to feel better about that.

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  27. The middle school is one thing, but the lower campus? Really? How much money was spent on the native garden? And if it's that important, can't everyone throw in for an air conditioner for the teacher's lounge? Or for the lighting in Pinocchio's auditorium? But how does any of this directly support the students?

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  28. Yawn, is anyone else awake? By my calculation, they spent 20 minutes trying to decide to charge $1.00 for a DVD at the library. Geeze.

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    Replies
    1. According to Councilguy Harabedian that dollar is an important behavior modification tool. Instead of watching movies, the youth of our town would instead read books. That is what it takes to do that, you know. A dollar.

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