Sometimes when you throw a stone into a pond, you get surprised at the size of the ripples it creates. And I’m certainly surprised (and pleased) at the ripples that our coverage of the Union-Tribune’s editorial misrepresentations about the San Diego Unified School Board have created.
To re-cap, the U-T ran an editorial in their print edition last Tuesday warning San Diegans that the Board’s majority was ready to replace the School District’s Superintendent with a Teacher’s Union-inspired plan for a new management structure that would include as many as four administrators, each with limited and specific authority. The thinking, so the daily fishwrap would have us to believe, was that this new system would allow the Board (and its union subservient majority) to micromanage school affairs in a way that would make the local schools into a “national laughing stock”.
The only problem with this scenario was that there was no such plan ready to be implemented. The Board did agree to have a discussion about various leadership concepts. John de Beck, not generally considered one of the “union-subservient” Board members, authored a proposal for a hydra-headed management model. Board Chair Richard Bererra also suggested that the discussion even include (even though he personally doesn’t favor the idea) placing the Schools under the authority of the Mayor—a proposal favored by many business leaders. A KPBS news story included comments from Board member John Evans, saying that they were considering different models of leadership, including a team of leaders with equal power that report to the school board. He said the board wants to engage the public about these ideas before it moves forward. (My emphasis)
Somehow all this proposed discussion became, according to the local paper’s editorial, a sinister plan ready to be implemented. When we pointed out that a) there was no plan and, b) the concept up for discussion was placed on the agenda by Trustee de Beck, the story was picked up on local media Twitter feeds and mentioned on-line at the Voice of San Diego. The social media specialist at the paper contacted us, suggesting that we submit an op-ed or a letter. (I did, in fact, submit a letter, which, as of this writing probably sits in Mr. Reed’s recycle bin.)
Now here is where things get really twisted. U-T editorial writer Chris Reed, writing in his online blog and in Saturday’s print edition, now claims that our coverage is part and parcel of a plan, to wit:
Abetted by some alternative media sources, the San Diego Unified school board majority and its supporters are putting out the word that it never seriously considering scrapping the position of superintendent, contrary to a Union-Tribune editorial that ran Tuesday. This is dishonest revisionist history.
The facts speak for themselves here folks. The School Board agreed to have a discussion about various management concepts. (They ultimately agreed that, given the gravity of the budget crisis facing district schools, now was not the time to utilize staff resources to study the advantages and disadvantages of various management schemes.)
If the Board had intended to implement a new management system at this meeting, they would have been required by law to give public notice of their intention. They gave no such notice.
The U-T’s Reed and his cronies had their facts wrong. Or they don’t grasp the difference between having a brain-storming session and voting on a done deal. Or they believe that some good can come from the ongoing vilification of individuals and organizations whose views on education are not of the conservative persuasion. And they couch their attacks in rhetoric designed to imply that their opponents are somehow disreputable: when is the word “abet” ever used in the English language except in situations where there is criminal conduct?
As you may have gathered by now, though, facts have very little to do with the situation. Instead they have chosen to take the low road of repeating various falsehoods or misrepresentations in a way designed to foster a perception that public education is a failure unworthy of further taxpayer support.
PostScript: Now it’s time for a little transparency around here.
I started out covering the School Board and education issues for the OB Rag because I have a daughter that attends a magnet school, one that is endangered by the current budget crisis. (I‘ve said this in this blog several times.) Now I must amend that admission by telling you that I am (soon-to-be) becoming active with a grass-roots organization (Educate4Future.org) in involved in this fight. Sometimes you just have to draw a line a line in the sand, and I believe that the fight for quality public education is a worthwhile cause.