More Sunlight for Santa Barbara County Board of Education
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis introduced the phrase “Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant,” in the early 20th century. He also penned the term in his book, “Other People’s Money.”
The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) regulates campaign financing, conflicts of interest, lobbying, and government ethics. Form 700 – Statement of Economic Interest, is one tool for holding school board members accountable to the public. As school board members, we must disclose financial interests that may be affected by our decisions and file our Form 700 every year in March. Form 700 filings are available to the public.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Education (SBCBOE) should be the shining example of transparency for all school boards and provide greater public access. Four months ago, I asked for our school board meetings to be video-recorded and posted on the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) website. Many local school districts, city councils, other County Boards of Education, and the County Board of Supervisors live-stream board meetings in English and Spanish and are posted for later viewing.
Our local newspapers play an essential role in our democracy, keeping the public informed and our government accountable. There was a time when local newspaper reporters attended public school board meetings regularly and would report on board comments and decisions the following day, but tight budgets prevent this practice.
The SBCBOE holds its school board meetings on the first Thursday of the month at 2 pm at 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road, Santa Barbara. Who knows who we prevent from attending our meetings because of time and costs, especially working parents, parents of young children, and those who live long distances (Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Santa Ynez Valley, Cuyama, and Lompoc)?
The SBCBOE serves approximately 70,000 students countywide, 23 school districts, and oversees a $104 million annual budget (taxpayer dollars). We also set Board Policy, adjudicate Charter School appeals, and Interdistrict Attendance Transfer Appeals.
On May 5, 2022, at our Regular Meeting, after a long discussion, the Board took action and voted “no” (5-2) on video-recording our school board meetings and archiving videos on the SBCEO website. The Board agreed to explore audio recordings at a future meeting.
During the board discussions, I took notes on board members’ comments as to the reasoning behind the “no,” which included: “We are very transparent,” “You are looking for a solution where there is no problem,” “We provide minutes,” “The purpose is not a town hall meeting,” “No members of the public are asking for this,” “Costs, staffing, and legal implications,” “What we do is very transparent; there is a possibility of politicization, grandstanding,” “In the past 20 years, there has never been a problem,” one board member quoted Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) from the Wall Street Journal article, “Sasse cites ‘jackassery’ in warning against cameras in Supreme Court.”
Public access to school board meetings is about inclusion. In this age of technology, I believe denying our community video-recorded meetings, especially regarding public education, will undercut the public’s faith in us.
I do not speak on behalf of the Santa Barbara County Board of Education or the Santa Barbara County Education Office.
Michelle de Werd
Trustee, Santa Barbara County Board of Education, District #4
Lozano for County Superintendent of Schools
As they say, “All politics is local.” That phrase could not be truer than with the election coming up in a couple of weeks.
Last week, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools challenger and teacher, Christy Lozano, got in a kerfuffle with the League of Women Voters (LWV) over splitting hairs about what she would and would not be allowed to say in the forum. Christy wanted to refer to the incumbent’s record. She wanted a civil but honest conversation. Then, shake hands with her opponent and wish her well. That’s democracy.
You wouldn’t buy a car without comparing it to another model. Isn’t this election more vital and life-changing than a vehicle? Of course, it is. Pointing out the failings of the current Superintendent of Schools is the reason Christy is challenging this office for the first time anyone has in four decades. That’s right. It’s been 40 years since this race has even had a contender. I can certainly appreciate the LWV’s desire for a “clean and fair fight,” which is something we need more of in American politics, however, the free and reasoned expression of speech by a challenger in pointing out the differences between herself and the five-year incumbent has the appearance of favoritism.
The bottom line is Christy is a parent and teacher with a heart of gold and a strong will that gets her into good trouble. She is a teacher who saw her educational world drifting from the values of love, discipline, and high expectations. These are her stated reasons for running. “I couldn’t sit back and watch this and do nothing.”
The reason I’m advocating for Christy in my neighborhood and writing this opinion is that I’m not politically motivated and neither is Christy. Educating our children is a partisan job, and Christy doesn’t lean hard left or right, but she is courageous and bold. When she sees something wrong, she speaks up. This is her greatest strength. Right now, this is the type of leader needed so that our students receive the best education possible.
There are many reasons why we should not return the incumbent to office on June 7, but I will focus on just two:
1. Non-transparency, and
2. Failing student standards.
In the past year or two, you may have seen the frustration of parents attending school board meetings across the country who have been removed from the podium and even arrested for voicing their opinions, yet elected school officials refuse to listen. This is because administrators don’t want their failings pointed out. Our schools are failing at teaching our kids the fundamental basics, and they aren’t willing to be held accountable.
The past two years of the pandemic have revealed an alarming nationwide lack of candor and transparency from our educational administrators and school boards. Thankfully, parents are engaged and pushing back because they demand real solutions.
If one asks our current superintendent how things are going, she’s been known to say, “Things are going great!” However, that statement, my dear friends, and neighbors, is not true. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
We can do better.
Someone needs to shake up an administration that is okay with 60+ percent of countywide students not achieving the minimum standard for math and reading. According to Ed Source (https://www.ed-data.org/county/Santa-Barbara), only 34% of the county students are proficient in math and 47.5% are proficient in English. This is simply unacceptable.
Santa Barbara County has quality educators and parents who possess the desire and passion to do better for our students. The weakness is a status quo administration that created a closed club incumbency that has not seen a challenger to their rule in four decades. It’s time for a change.
Christy is a parent and teacher in the Santa Barbara school system who has seen the failures of this administration up close and personal. She understands students’ needs. She has close connections, and she listens to parents. She will be transparent about the solutions.
I’m sure the current superintendent has many fine qualities and is a very nice person, however, educational outcomes in our local public school classrooms are not “…great!” I have cast my vote for Christy Lozano because she is a parent, a veteran, and a teacher in a unique position to understand the problems and provide real solutions. I suggest you consider voting for Lozano for the sake of our kids and our collective future.
Christy Lozano is Not the Answer
Recent letters to the editor have played fast and loose with data to claim that incumbent Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Susan Salcido, is failing. However, a more holistic view of the data suggests otherwise.
When Susan became the Superintendent in 2017, she inherited below average “meeting or exceeding standard” test scores:
• 2017 Math: SB County = 33.65% vs. Statewide = 37.56%
• 2017 English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA): County = 44.19% vs. Statewide = 48.56%
By 2019 County math scores had risen to 36.21%. ELA scores for the county had also increased to 47.22%. Then the pandemic hit, and administration of these test standards was disrupted.
However, other recent metrics, like graduation and college-going rates, say more. For example, our county’s 2021 High School Graduation Rates were 90.5% versus 87.3% statewide. And 2021 College-Going Rates were similarly favorable at 67.5%, versus 64.4% statewide.
The numbers do not justify the attacks on Dr. Salcido. The County Superintendent of Schools serves 20 school districts with nearly 70,000 students. The office supports student services, professional development for educators, and fiscal services for districts, with oversight of more than 200 programs. The job is big and multifaceted.
There are trying times ahead, and the bravado of waving fairy dust to make everything better is certainly appealing. Still, I’ll place my vote with experience and credentials, which is not Christy Lozano on her best day, but is Susan Salcido every day.
Susan Salcido Listens
My personal experience has taught me that any community without a shared respect for common interest and genuine commitment to open and honest communications is bound to fail. Incumbent Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido has long since proved she not only demands a high level of civic engagement and accountability of herself but expects the same commitment from her fellow educators and students to Santa Barbara’s ultimate benefit.
The most critical skill for anyone in any position of leadership, and most certainly the senior role responsible for educating our community’s children, is to listen. Not only to strive to comprehend, but to consciously invest in seeking out other people’s unique needs as they might express them and make vital decisions by drawing upon often-disparate perspectives.
At a time when some others would favor a cacophony of rancor, Ms. Salcido’s persistent civility, grace and cohesiveness will keep producing consistently strong results among local students and community we all share. For these reasons, and many others, I ask you to join me in supporting Susan Salcido for re-election as Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools.
Innovative Thinking Necessary
On a recent trip to two of my favorite and most beautiful cities – Montecito and Santa Barbara – I picked up a copy of the May 12, 2022 Montecito Journal and would like to comment on the Community Voices column.
The author states that the failure of markets is largely responsible for the climate crisis. The logic to support this type of thinking is economically naive.
Economics is not a chemical reaction where two or more ingredients cause an instant and unstoppable result. There are many “delays” in the impact of policies into the free marketplace where some reactions often never or only partially happen. Additionally, the scope of the marketplace may be local or limited to an area or country, not necessarily the global world marketplace.
The notion that “other nations are incentivized to adapt similar policies” is not economically based but is politically dominated. Economically sound policies are only influential within the sphere of that economy. Many environmental policies long implemented in the United States have not taken hold in other countries. In fact, local economic realities may work against accepting these policies into their countries and their economies.
Today, China and other countries especially in Asia are building coal plants at a tremendous rate. This cheaper fuel will produce products vastly cheaper than we will be able to produce with only renewable energy fuels and especially if we unilaterally include these “externalities” into our pricing.
While a carbon fee (tax) does put a price on carbon, it does not necessarily reduce carbon in the environment but often transfers the costs to other industries, especially where tax credits are traded. This may impact slowing the growth of carbons but not for the reduction of carbons.
And be careful restricting the extraction of minerals as minerals are a key component of renewable energy products such as batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines.
If you think the free marketplace has failed, wait until a government – think China, Indian, Russia, North Korea, Brazil, or even the U.S. – steps in to manage and “fix things.”
The U.S. needs to continue to move toward more renewable energy. But to achieve this or any other community goal, we must allow our ideology to be challenged, to foster innovative thinking, and to assure our course of action is correct, in the name of pluralism, democracy, and community. Exposure to diverse opinions helps to sharpen our own viewpoints.
My name is Ronald Toya. I am now retired and living in Albuquerque, with a degree in economics and having worked 40 years in economic and community development. Thank you for your time.
At What Age Can a Child Consent?
Did you know that our school district and State think that 12-year-old children are old enough, smart enough to consent to medical procedures without parental consent?
A 12-year-old cannot vote, drink alcohol, smoke, or join the military, but the wisdom of the State and schools think children can consent to medical procedures.
Never mind that per STAR testing about half of the kids cannot read and write at grade level due to poor academics in our schools. Never mind that CA is ranked at the bottom of the country in education. Our school district thinks children are smart enough despite them not being able to read the menu at The Habit.
Why are they pushing to allow children to go behind their parents backs to take a COVID vaccine for a disease that the CDC Data states children have a zero percent risk of health issues? However, per the CDC and FDA, school-aged children are at the highest risk of severe health issues from the COVID vaccines. Per the CDC, your child is twice as likely to die in a car accident than from Covid.
The district has tried bribing children with pizza and prizes to get kids to take the vaccine. When that didn’t work they then discriminated against unvaccinated children. They even have pro vaccine articles written in their school papers without any data or interviews from opposing views. Spreading misinformation.
Facts, FDA and CDC state children are at the highest risk of severe health issues after taking the vaccines. The school vaccine clinics do not provide the FDA Approved Comirnaty, nor do they provide the FDA Disclosure sheets so a person cannot give informed consent, not even an adult.
This School Board and administration is well aware of these dangers and practices occurring on public school grounds. To date the district has been unable and unwilling to produce any CDC data or peer reviewed scientific research supporting any of their mandates.
If there is a danger to children, why would they host, promote, bribe, and coerce children? Why would they encourage children to go behind their parents’ backs?
These are questions you should be asking.
Brian E. Campbell JD, GPA, ABR
Mr. Brutoco’s column is spot on again. The leaked draft opinion by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alito to overturn Roe v. Wade is not only one of the most radical decisions in the court’s history, it was one that was to be expected by the decades-long fever dream by the Republicans’ embrace of extremist evangelical “Christians,” with their intention of packing the court with “constitutional originalists” which was achieved under corruptive political power moves by Republican leader Mitch McConnell. This political crowd and their supporters are playing for keeps. What other rights will be on the chopping block next that evidently ARE NOT covered by the Fourteenth Amendment as noted by Mr. Brutoco? The insurrection at the Capitol Building on January 6, Supreme Court rulings to roll back of the Voting Right Act and the Citizens United decision that dark money in political campaigns equals free speech, Republican controlled state governments enactment of restrictions on voting, four years of a lawless president with a “Big Lie” end game to steal a lawfully decided presidential election should tell the American public all they need to know about where this crowd wants to take the country. Remember, ALL elected officials swear an oath to the U.S. Constitution to uphold and defend the country against all enemies foreign and domestic. At this time in our nation’s history, the Democratic Party, even with its own internal problems, is the only national party that can be expected to live by that solemn oath, act as transparent public servants that do not lie or distort information when discussing the issues facing the nation, and act politically in the best interests of the country. In the coming mid-term elections, vote like the future of the country depends on it… because it does.