Columbia School Board of Trustees should be replaced

By Union Democrat staff August 17, 2011 10:48 am
    Shame on the Columbia Elementary School District Board of Trustees.
    In an increasingly common show of contempt for the good of students and constituents, trustees in a single hour-long meeting last Tuesday failed to address the biggest issue on campus — Superintendent John Pendley’s son sexually exploiting a student in a classroom —  and even approved a policy that will compromise the safety of students in the misguided belief the district can revise history to save face.
    Who exactly do these people represent?
    It’s not the community at large.
       Trustees have shown an unwavering loyalty to Superintendent John Pendley to the extent they have declined to discuss what happened on campus publicly, have fought tooth and nail to hide public records, and have snubbed questions raised by the public about what exactly is happening on campus — specifically, will anyone be punished and will any policies to prevent such abuse be adopted?
   No. Instead, Tuesday’s meeting was conducted in a manner designed to avoid the public’s participation.
    At least a few audience members were dumbfounded when they were asked by President Laura Phelan to identify themselves, and that was the extent of the input invited.
    Phelan opened and closed the meeting’s “public comment” portion faster than you can say “public comment.”
    Do the trustees represent the students?
    Again, no.
    Trustees adopted a policy Tuesday that says the district will no longer require teaching aides, before starting their jobs, to have CPR/first-aid training and a passing score on an academic proficiency test. Brennan Pendley, hired as an aide with his father’s help, lacked both and, to the consternation of some district officials, this newspaper brought that to the public’s attention.
    Thanks to this new policy, parents (including those in the PTA, many of whom have thrown their support behind John Pendley) should pray no child has an asthma attack, chokes, or suffers any other immediate medical emergencies in an after-school classroom.
    Beyond that, they should hope their kids won’t need homework help from someone who has no demonstrated competence in basic math and English.
    Then there’s the matter of the abuse victim, an apparently troubled 15-year-old girl.
    Not one trustee has spoken on her behalf. President Phelan, in fact, even had the audacity to defend Brennan Pendley in a letter to Judge James Boscoe urging leniency in sentencing.
    If school trustees derive their power by representing the interests of the public and students, as the California School Boards Association suggests, then this board lacks the mandate and moral authority to govern.
    For the good of the community, and kids, they need to resign. Either that, or voters need to strip them of their authority in the next election.