The Watchdog contributors are several concerned citizens that want students to be the priority in the SDUHSD. This means the money and all activities are to benefit the students so that all have equal opportunity to succeed in this district.
Why did you start SDUHSD Watchdog?
Many culminating incidents over the past several years, but what pushed a group of concerned citizens to take it to a different level in July 2017, was the district's blatant disregard for our most vulnerable student populations.
The District’s behavior needed some sunshine for a couple of reasons:
So parents were better equipped with “fact based” data to help them navigate the system.
School Board Minutes were vague, unclear and did not represent public comment as it was always watered down with the district’s spin.
The District did not televise meetings or provide audios on their website, so no one really knew what was being discussed in the meetings unless you were there.
The public record lacked clarity, transparency and the public had no true record of the business that was being conducted. When correction requests were brought forward the District ignored them.
Do you see any potential harm in publishing this type of critical information?
For years this Board has operated with very limited public oversight. Accountability has been an after thought. Complacency has become the norm.
The district is a public entity funded by tax dollars and community member gifts and donations. We have every right to know where the money is going and that students are treated fairly, and as equitably as the adult staff and are the priority over special interest groups and private foundations/entities operating on our campuses.
Employees of the SDUHSD are public employees hired to educate and care for minors. They have to abide by state and federal laws. Parents should be assured that staff will treat their students, who are minors, morally and ethically and follow education laws that protect a minor's well being.
The information posted on the website has been brought to light in multiple public settings within the school system. The documents are public records that the law provides anyone the right to view. "The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business as "enshrined in Article 1 of the California Constitution due to California Proposition 59 (the Sunshine Amendment, 2004).
The Brown Act is also very important. Two key parts of the Brown Act have not changed since its adoption in 1953. One is the Brown Act’s initial section, declaring the Legislature’s intent: “In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. ”The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
The people reconfirmed that intent 50 years later in the November 2004 election by adopting Proposition 59, amending the California Constitution to include a public right of access to government information: “The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.”
What are your long term goals for the District?
The long term goal is for students to be aware of the laws which protect them. For example, the graduation ceremony is a school activity. For years, parents had to pay $45 to $70 for caps and gowns. The law states that a fee cannot be charged for a school activity so the school must provide free caps and gowns. Doesn't matter if you can afford to pay or not, it is still the duty of the school to provide them at no charge.
The short term goal is to have an open and transparent Board who’s #1 Priority is to represent the Students First. A Board who does this will not have any issues with conducting the people’s business in Public View.
The long term goal is a District that views the success of Students as their Success. That the Public School is given back to the STUDENTS FIRST and that with a Student centered focus District Staff and the community will benefit.
What impact do you believe you’ve had on the district?
The impact is too soon to tell as it takes sustained citizen involvement to make permanent changes within government entities. However, we are able to identify a few areas of change:
In July 2017, the District started posting the audio of the board meetings after the board Minutes were approved at the following Board Meeting. This was a huge change. In September 2018, the District began to video tape their Board Meetings and posting to the website within 72 hours. This was monumental and we like to thank the swing vote on the Board Amy Herman for making the correct, logical decision to move the school board into the 21st Century.
We have seen more reporting of donations from the Foundations on the Gift Logs. It is still not showing all funds being raised by the foundations, but it is a start
Open conversations in Public by the Board Trustees has began to take shape.
One of our advocates had an interesting interaction with a parent in Fall 2018. The parent (not TPHS is all we will say) said this year was the first year she attend a mandatory parent sports meeting and did not go home and cry. It was the first time in years (she has multiple students) she did not feel the burden that she had to pay for something she could not afford. She never wanted her student to ever feel left out.
(this is why alot of us are doing this – our students and parents should not ever feel this way at their public school) No student or their family should ever feel this way, ashamed, because they attend our public schools. This is not the behavior our community should be condoning. High School is the last bastion of purity before you go out into the world -- it needs to be for the benefit of ALL Students to enjoy.
Why do you maintain anonymity for your online articles and emails?
The simplest answer is: fear of retaliation against the students of those that speak up.
One example we hear over and over: parents in our District have a very real fear that if they ask too many questions or push an issue, it will hurt their student’s chances to get into college because the District controls college recommendation letters and parents and students are not allowed to see the recommendation before it goes out from District leadership.
Further, it allows people that want to talk to us, and we will have someone call them in confidence if they want to talk, feel that their identity is protected.
We have a few very out front parents and they have had threats made against them, they have been bullied and their students have been bullied -- all by adults. When we say bully we mean the use of intimidation tactics by people in authority. This type of behavior does not belong on our public school campuses. So we will continue to shine a light until we see that asking questions is not frowned upon but embraced and respected.
Any questions or comments can be sent to our email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our current website administrator, Wendy Gumb is also happy to answer any questions and direct issues to appropriate community groups.
How are you funded?
We are not funded. We are group who takes the time to just try to understand for the best interest of our students. We attend school board meetings, do public records requests, attend principal coffees, community talks and engagements, talking to the SDCOE, talking to the state and collaborating outside the status quo is all.
The positive is, we have some very wonderful people in our community that want students to flourish, learn independence and be taught and led by people who have that same interest.
Sadly, we have found an undercurrent in the District that needs some light so that our District can advance in a more collaborative, productive way. Honestly, this all started to get some elephants on the table to force conversations around issues where leaders put their heads in the sand. A 5-0 by a school board does not mean they worked collaboratively. At the end of the day, we want to know: Was the decision made in the interest of the Student today and in the Future?
We want to hear from the Board, the member's position and how conclusion was reached. This is particularly important in the more controversial discussions; we want to hear from every member in open session. Even if their answer is, we talked the the Superintendent and the staff, they told us what we needed to hear, we trust them so this is why "I" voted this way. If the later is the answer however, please do not be offended when the public chooses to "trust but verify" through public records requests. This is our right to ensure you are doing what you say and the leaders are doing what they tell our school board.