In a recent comment in the IJ about the campaign for school board, Jeff Knowles quoted Patrick Moynihan, who said that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Well, I wonder.
What would Moynihan have said to the proverbial blind men with the elephant? Each had a valid set of facts, yet none of them formed a correct opinion. If only they had consulted each other first and shared what they knew from where they stood, they might have been able to identify the elephant.
It seems that I see a different part of the elephant than many of my fellow Willow Creek Academy (WCA) parents. In the spirit of collaborating to get at the truth, here is why I am “breaking ranks” and voting for Ida Green, Bonnie Hough, and Nathan Scripps for school board.
From 2009 to 2012, I was delighted that my two children were attending school on a campus with beautiful diversity. Then in 2012-13 I learned of plans to segregate our schools by removing the Bayside Elementary kids – nearly all of them African American, and many of them my younger son’s kindergarten classmates – from Sausalito to portables in Marin City.
I attended public meetings. I spoke up and warned that it would be a shame to lose this opportunity for our children to learn from each other, but the board’s mind was made up. Trustee Josh Barrow said as much when he remarked, “I would represent to you that the decision has already been made.” I remember thinking that it was brave to disclose this to a room full of people in distress. If only he had had the courage to say his fellow trustees, “Hang on, this isn’t right. People are in pain over this.”
The next school year, Willow Creek’s first graders, including my younger son, moved into the space vacated by our schoolmates from the year before, and for the first time I was ashamed of our school.
That same year, the District board hired a new superintendent, “charter king” Steve Van Zant, who later pleaded guilty to felony conflict of interest for his actions in another school district. The next school board will have to hire a new superintendent. If we elect another charter school majority to the board, will it make their hiring decision with the same impunity?
In 2014, a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was
negotiated between the district board (which still constituted a Willow Creek
majority) and the leadership at Willow Creek.
In other words, the charter school leadership practically negotiated the new MOU with itself at both sides of the table! And so, the new MOU was such that the independent Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) remarked that: “the financial arrangement between WCA and the district may go so far as to constitute a gift of public funds.”[FCMAT report, p. 5, paragraph 3.]
As for the 2016 FCMAT report, I read the whole thing before attending the public meeting where Kurt Weinsheimer told everyone to ignore it. This bothered me. As President of the Willow Creek Board, why didn’t he want us to do our own reading? How could we discuss FCMAT’s bombshell findings if no one would read them?
As the state Attorney General began its investigation into our district, I tried to open the local discussion with an email to Kurt and other Willow Creek parents.I wrote:
“Each of us needs to take this report seriously and look to our conscience for what to do about it. . . I love this school, too. If we are to continue to take pride in it, we must do what’s right. Our children are watching, and the choices we make now are their education, too. It isn’t good for them to be beneficiaries of injustice. If we are to restore our community, we must begin by making amends to those we have harmed in our children’s name.”
Two years later, I still feel this way. This is why I support Ida Green, Bonnie
Hough, and Nathan Scripps for school board.
They will approach their duties as child advocates. They deeply understand what Robert DeNiro said recently, that “education without humanity is ignorance.”