LBUSD Main Office - 550 Blumont Street • Laguna Beach, CA 92651, P: 949-497-7700
Come meet the new School Board, attend swearing in and reception from 5:00 to 5:30 PM, followed by closed session and regular meeting at 6:00 PM. Community comments allowed at 6:00 PM open session on issues of interest to public beyond scope of business on meeting agenda. Come show support for new School Board and let them know issues and concerns you want to see your elected representatives address.
LBUSD Main Office - 550 Blumont Street • Laguna Beach, CA 92651, P: 949-497-7700
2014 was perhaps the first time ever that the school board race was more interesting than the City Council election. The debate on school issues focused on high stakes substantive policy, instead of the same old petty politics and anachronistic rivalries we saw in the council contest.
Of course, as expected, Ketta Brown, the only one of three incumbents to run for re-election, was retained by voters. No surprises there.
But for the first time in 20 years a candidate not recruited from inside the public school governing establishment won. Dee Perry, also the first retired teacher to win a seat, came in second, beating School Power candidate Carol Normandin.
Normandin entered the race at 4:59 p.m., one minute before the deadline on the last day for filing. Her unplanned late entrance was prompted by school district establishment alarm over the threat of insurgent conservative Annette Gibson.
Normandin was so confident of winning and appalled at the prospect of Gibson being elected that she urged her own supporters also to vote for Dee Perry. Normandin assumed she had as much support as Ketta Brown and could afford to share votes with Perry to stop Gibson.
That was the first of Normandin’s miscalculations. Not only did constructive but persistent school board critic Perry have more support than Normandin, Gibson came closer than the establishment expected to catching up with Normandin in votes for the third open seat.
Gibson overcame overt prejudicial bias against her Crystal Cove address and private religious school choice for her kids, and more than any other candidate defined the campaign by her opposition to federal and state Common Core curriculum mandates.
Gibson warned parents that Common Core as embraced by LBUSD will degrade our public schools over time, and by the time parents realize that it will be too late for their children. She predicted that children of wealthy families will move to private schools.
Gibson advocates preservation of standards higher than Common Core, innovating responsibly to ensure our public schools will be as good or better than private schools in the years ahead.
In contrast, the Normandin and Brown campaigns told voters questioning Common Core is “irresponsible,” “reckless” and “dangerous.” Normandin and Brown also defended spending well above comparable school districts getting better performance results.
Voters had a clear choice and made a split decision. Now the debate over curriculum and spending will move to the local school board, were it is on the record and there is official accountability to the public.
What’s not to like about Ketta? Unpretentious charisma, great soccer mom, school volunteer. Good character not in question, it’s her judgment that let us down.
Ketta Brown told the Indy, “There’s so much new…coming down from federal and state government…I realize having been on the board for eight years, there’s a very steep learning curve…I bring knowledge of stuff we’re trying to get implemented.”
Public school trustees don’t just implement “stuff” that is “coming down” from Sacramento and Washington. Yet, Ketta embraces federal “common core” curriculum without question or exception. She praises “national uniformity,” so our kids can be profiled in a federal database, move to Arkansas, and fit into national “norms.” She is quick with clichés about our kids becoming more “tech-savvy…like kids in Asia!”
The school board’s job includes compliance with federal and state mandates while retaining max local control of curriculum that our teachers, parents and community support. By her own words Ketta thinks the school board works for federal politicians who imposed “No Child Left Behind,” and now mandated Common Core.
After an eight year learning curve Ketta is still being spoon-fed by the educational bureaucrats she is supposed to oversee. Ketta sees it as normal that school staff and union representatives have a seat at the same table as school board but not parents or taxpayers. She thinks its fine that consultants and vendors give hour-long sales pitches while busy parents wait hours for three minutes to speak on budget and personnel issues in the wee hours late at night.
Ketta had seven years on the job when she voted to the start school year in August with no public hearing, voted to give big salary raises for senior administrators who promptly were reassigned, resigned or were fired (one to escape sexual misconduct charges), just weeks after parents exposed school board’s lack of due diligence.
Ketta thinks asking a few timid questions is enough, but she has never voted against the majority. She has been intellectually submissive as a board member, and she has not earned more years.
Wasting tax dollars, treating parents who dare to dissent as a nuisance, and entrusting students to adults unfit for duty is not “for the kids.” We fell for that and voted for Ketta twice, but no more.
Tom Walsh (“May the Best Qualified Win,” Letters, Oct. 10) pronounces school board candidate Annette Gibson unqualified for sending her children to private religious school and living in Crystal Cove. Yet, Gibson lives and pays taxes in our school district, and her home is closer to a public school than 80 percent of the homes in Laguna Beach.
Actively following curriculum and budget issues at the Orange County Board of Education inspired Gibson to serve families and kids in her own school district. Ambushed by the notion her kids should be in public school for her to serve, and without a second thought, the good-natured Gibson replied, “I care about all the kids, not just my kids.” All any unbiased person needs to know.
Walsh’s disdain for Gibson’s candidacy on mostly personal grounds is safe for him. His child is out of elementary school, not dependent for lifelong math and learning skills on a federal social engineering experiment. So what if our youngest children become guinea pigs profiled and tracked for life in government databanks, based on unproven common core content and testing methods?
No wonder Walsh supports candidate Carol Normandin, who insists questioning common core is reckless. In contrast, Gibson knows common core is federal and state policy, but like many of us she is not afraid to question its merits, and opposes premature abandonment of traditional curriculum for unproven government dictated standards.
Uncritically embracing the latest trendy government education mandate is the reckless policy Ketta Brown and Normandin advocate. That puts profit and politics for the education industry first, not our most precious resource, our children.
Walsh deems Normandin qualified for being a fundraiser with business experience. Oddly, he does not give equal respect to Gibson, the first high-achieving Hispanic business and professional woman to run for our school board.
At the candidate forum, Normandin promised business as usual. Normandin is eager to be another surrogate educational bureaucrat, trying to mimic educational consultants paid to market core curriculum, instead of providing oversight based on our town’s core values.
Normandin droned on reading technical verbiage from prepared notes, while Ketta Brown proudly dropped a few technical terms gleaned from eight years on the board, praising programs making our kids more like kids in China!
Perhaps Gibson’s common sense and honesty can help make school fun and safe for our kids again. Please think about it, before you vote.
Peter J. French
By Rita Robinson | LB Indy
Annette Gibson gets fiery when she talks about changes in education policy, a subject she thinks is slipping into classrooms without close scrutiny.
Gibson, 47, a first-time candidate for the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education, passionately opposes any dictums from the state or federal government about how and what to teach in public schools, especially when it comes to the new state-mandated teaching standards called the Common Core.
“I don’t have a problem with standards at all. I think everybody should have standards,” she said. “What I don’t like is they’re not being honest about the standards. None of these standards have been vetted, they’ve never been tested, so all of our children are going to be little guinea pigs.”
Gibson lives in Crystal Cove in Newport Beach, which is within the Laguna school district boundary. Her three children with husband Tim, an orthopedic surgeon, attend private schools, two at Carden Hall nondenominational Christian school in Newport Beach, where tuition is $12,000 a year, and one at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, at $16,000 a year in tuition.
With those expenses, Gibson, a nurse who is now a full-time mom, said she doesn’t have the money for a splashy campaign. “I don’t have people funding me. I’m running because I want to,” she said. “I’m going to do the best I can.” By walking the district and meeting people, Gibson hopes to make an impression. “I’m going to get to know people and if they get to know me they’ll like me,” she said. “I want the best for the community. I want the best for Laguna Beach schools.”
Gibson has followed the development of Common Core for the last four years, reading several books that examine its premise. Friends who teach tell her they fear job loss if they challenge the new standards. “I don’t want to live in a country like that. I don’t think anybody does,” she said. Even parents risk having their children alienated by teachers if they oppose the new standards, she said,
Gibson’s stance about Common Core standards is in tune with two former members of the Common Core national validation committee, who have been speaking out against the new standards.
Sandra Stotksy, professor emerita of education at the University of Arkansas, is credited with developing one of the country’s strongest K-12 academic standards and is well-known for her critical scrutiny of Common Core.
The Common Core base tests, “will not be made available for anyone to vet,” said Stotsky, in testimony before Georgia’s House of Representatives’ Study Committee this past Wednesday, Sept. 24, heard over her telephone. “You’ve got to think about why there is such secrecy that you cannot even have your own higher ed experts in a secure room examine what is called college-readiness and tell you whether those are, indeed, the kinds of test items that assess college-readiness.”
Stotsky expressed surprised no attention is being paid “to what is happening under the name of either security or privacy.”
Another Common Core critic, James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, also testified Wednesday. He and Stotsky will be speaking in Orange County on Nov. 13; the location has yet to be announced.
The new state standards are attempting to make every child the same with a nationally standardized approach, Gibson claims. “I believe individuality is being taken and stripped away,” she said. “That is my biggest beef.”
Gibson’s gripe is that the state-mandated standards, expected to be fully implemented by fall of 2015, will direct kids into a work-force mentality instead of encouraging individualized talents and skills. “That’s exactly what’s happening,” she claimed. She said students excel in different areas, some sooner, some later. “We should embrace that. We’re not.”
Gibson acknowledges that schooling involves some rote learning as well as creative individual expression. “Certain things are rote. Certain things you have to learn that way,” she said, mentioning multiplication and the alphabet.
Complaints about Common Core often refer to reduced emphasis on arts and music while stressing high-tech tools and online text-reading and writing rather than paper books. “They’re going to change all the literature so students are not really reading literature,” said Gibson, “they’re reading government manuals and texts. They’re going to pull out the literature. Kids are going to be bored. Despite what you hear, there’s no creativity in Common Core.”
Money, she maintains, is what’s driving the change to Common Core standards.
Eventually, all education materials will be geared for Common Core testing requirements and the publishers of that material will profit from national sales, she said. “If it was a good change, people would be for change. If it was about education, I’d be all over it. It’s all about money and it’s always that.”
Gibson’s answer is to keep education close to home. “I’m for small, local control. That’s what it was meant to be. Our little town was supposed to control our education, not the state, not the federal government. Local control by the people, not by big government that doesn’t even know what’s going on in our town.”
In 1967 students at LBHS walked out of class to protest new dress rules. It was less about what kids wanted to wear than fairness. Male teachers were humiliating girls by using rulers to measure skirt lengths. Coaches were making boys choose between playing sports and short haircuts.
Fast forward to 2014 and it is déjà vu all over again at LBHS. Pursuant to new campus rules adopted under school board guidelines, the interim principal is ordering teachers to police student grooming and crack down on banned attire. Girls are monitored for exposing bra straps, showing “any amount of cleavage,” and skirt length must be at least “two-thirds distance between hip and knee”. Pants can’t be too baggy or too tight, haircuts and t-shirts can’t “offend” or “distract.”
Talk about mixed messages. The school board voted for on-campus production of the MTV show, and even after it moved off campus due to public outcry the show modeled a sexualized and boozed up LBHS student lifestyle to a whole generation. The current school board made it worse, wasting public resources lobbying for a social host ordinance that fails to reduce teen drinking but instead lowers relative consequences for drug use.
School board member Ketta Brown, currently a candidate for re-election, was PTA president but failed to publicly oppose MTV’s presence on campus. She also went along with the fatally flawed social host ordinance, and now we have poorly drawn new dress rules to curb the very behaviors the board once promoted by inviting MTV to LBHS.
The school board insists the newly imposed dress rules prepare students for “responsible adult life.” Yet, the new rules raise student and family rights issues and diminish student responsibility for social decision making.
Rewind to 1967, when the school board met with student leaders and agreed students should initiate and enforce dress standards through enhanced student government. It was a great civics lesson.
Students should debate options ranging from school uniforms to well-crafted dress codes at other demographically comparable schools and come up with solutions. Unfortunately our school board has ignored repeated calls to restore meaningful student government empowering students to make better choices for themselves.
This newest fiasco is yet another reason to elect a new majority that models good government for students as well as the community.