I have always admired Pasadena Unified School Board member Scott Phelps. Not because I always agree with him, or even understand what it is he is going on about sometimes. He can be a little obscure once in a while. But that is hardly a problem for me. At least Phelps cares about something more than mere self-aggrandizement or personal wealth creation, and in these troubled times that is a good thing. The guy is a truth-teller in a place where that can be an exception, and certainly his longstanding dedication to the needs of PUSD's kids cannot be easily questioned.
Which is why Scott's denunciation of something called "Collaborate PASadena" has to be viewed with some interest, and concern. In an exhaustive Pasadena Star News op-ed piece called "Blame for Pasadena Unified’s woes is on those who’ve left" (link here), Phelps makes the following potentially damning observations:
|Board Member Scott Phelps|
Colloborate Pasadena now has expensive staff, something it was not intended to have. It is funded equally by the city of Pasadena and the PUSD. The criticism of the district by these nonprofits and the powerful circle of activists who express the desire to help the less fortunate, but who send their own children to private schools, is on full display.
The last two joint meetings between the City Council and the school board have shown that there really isn’t any collaboration going on or concern for the district involved, but rather the public airing of false allegations and statements about the PUSD without checking with PUSD staff.
Of course, PUSD supporters know full well that many nonprofits and most private school parents have a fundamental conflict of interest involved in their assessment of the district. If the situation is not made to seem worse than it is, and the nonprofits aren’t made to be the saviors, then they don’t receive as much funding. If the schools aren’t portrayed as sufficiently bad, there would be no reason to spend the large sums of money on private schools. No reasons they would admit to publicly.
So what is "Collaborate PASadena?" Here is how they are described on the City of Pasadena website (link).
Collaborate PASadena is a framework for the Pasadena Unified School District, the City of Pasadena, the unincorporated community of Altadena and the City of Sierra Madre to work together to build a commitment toward a shared vision to create better outcomes for children, youth, families and all residents. First jointly approved by the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education and Pasadena City Council in February 2013, Collaborate PASadena is also a planning process intentionally designed to build more trusting relationships and a way to align resources to more effectively deliver services to better serve children, youth and families.
Then there is this from the Collaborate PASadena website itself (link):
What is Collaborate PASadena? Collaborate PASadena is an initiative, based on Collective Impact research, that:
- Develops and nurtures new community partnerships
- Establishes better working relationships
- Improves communication between all partners and stakeholders
- Shares accountability for results
- Supports the alignment of resources
- Allows for meaningful participation of diverse stakeholders
So what is the truth here? Is Collaborate PASadena what it claims to be, a kind of selfless do-gooder organization completely dedicated to the success of the PUSD and its students? Or is it the expensive, over-staffed and self-serving impediment to public education Board of Ed member Scott Phelps describes above?
Apparently the taxpayers are paying a lot of money for this mishegoss. Perhaps it is time for Sierra Madre, and especially the Collaborate PASadena city council representative, John Capoccia, to take a long hard look.