By Lynn Cogdill When reviewing Madera Unified School District over the last three years, it has become evident that we have lost our way and chief purpose in student education for many reasons:
1) board members expanding their personal or political advancement, 2) involvement in challenging and defending the high speed rail, 3) participation in supporting or opposing the Mono Indian Casino, 4) unsavory activity with our own labor force in negotiations, 5) letting untouchable evergreen contracts continue without examination, 6) allowing no proper bidding or competition to agencies to service MUSD , 7) submissiveness to requests for administrative contracts or district policies, 8) stimulating community job development and 9) housing projects.
The public needs to be asking: What happened to the “officials” who are supposed to be looking out for and guarding our educational system in our community? You often hear board members stating, “We are here for the financial supervision with policy oversight of the school district.” “We are here for the children and adolescents to give them the greatest opportunities for growth.” “We are here to make the educational decisions for our constituents without public consultation, because we are the elected officials.” How many of us have heard the rhetorical and unflattering use of the English language, “I don’t recall”.
It is the direct responsibility of the State of California, the Madera County Board of Supervisors and the Madera City Council members to involve themselves in creating needed jobs for our community. They are the ones who were elected to produce, find and solicit from cooperations and other companies, in conjunction with individuals, to start businesses and employ our population. Whether our community has growth or if it stagnates will rest upon the above governmental agencies. It is not the school district’s role to provide society with employment opportunities.
The fundamental question remains: Is it only fair to our taxpayers who are the ones financing MUSD with their hard-earned tax dollars to receive the best service at an economical price, instead of burning our tax revenues up in the fireplace without objection? How can we lead with a blind eye toward renewable contracts? It’s costly to our community, families and deprives our teachers and students of classroom dollars.
When trust is misused and abused by management in any type of organization towards their employees, what kind of response should management expect? Let’s step back to when MUSD unions and the district were in negotiations. Labor asked for “status quo.” Instead they were asked to give more, after five years of giving to the community in supporting our school district’s financially stability when it was the district’s turn to give back. The consensus was, “Why should we give anything back? Let’s take more.” Their demands were met and they prevailed at the end of this unnecessary three-year war. That only brought disruption and division our employees and families had to endure across the community was unwarranted.
Over the last two years, we witnessed the dismantlement of the MUSD board’s focus on education for our youth in favor of politically strategizing for board members and outside agencies. On Dec. 14, the outgoing president of MUSD showed the public how political this board has become. During the last day of his reign, he placed a new business item on the agenda that is decided by the board every September. No special interest groups should be allowed to influence the trustees to bring yearly items up for discussion quarterly, to change policy set by the board that benefits their industry at their request.
Where was the support for Prop. 30 at the most critical time when MUSD was at the door steps of financial disaster? Yet, board members will be taking the credit for MUSD’s 22 percent reserves by their strict handling of the MUSD budget. When in reality, it was Prop. 30 funding and the governor’s cash infusion to the schools that increased large amounts of currency into our district. Personal beliefs and polities need to be put to the side when one is the centurion of the people. Standing against one’s own opinion to benefit the masses is being responsible to the community.
As we roll into the new year, we will find out quickly if the new MUSD board leadership will stay as a political springboard for its members and captivated interest groups. Or will board members begin an exceptional outreach towards our community and follow their wishes? We all need to keep in mind as responsible citizens in addition to reminding our MUSD elected officials: MUSD is not the state, county or city and should not be thrown into controversy over their jurisdiction or anyone’s personal agendas. MUSD trustees need to focus on our educational obligations so students can thrive in achieving their own dreams. What do you think?
Lynn Cogdill is MUSD Trustee for Area 2