Ventura School Board ponders aftermath of Supt. Babb firing, takes public comment

By George Miller

The Ventura Unified School District held a special school board meeting today to talk about last week’s sudden firing of Superintendent Michael Babb and finding a replacement. 

Most attendees were only allowed into the public comment period and barred from the real meat at the subsequent closed session. We were not privvy to what was covered in that session which followed the public comment period.

Several public attendees talked to us on Monday and Tuesday. Here’s what we were able to piece together ….

We were told by multiple attendees that the room was full; there were about 30 non-school people there; some parents and aides “seemed scared and angry,” said that Principals and teachers are scared and wonder if they are next.

The Ventura Unified School Board found a silver lining to criticism about Superintendent Michael Babb’s firing at the meeting, though.
 

Paul D. White

While about half of the public comment at the meeting sounded like the latest anti-Trump video clip on CNN (“The Board’s firing of Mr. Babb has made teachers scared”; “Principals are worried that they might be next if they don’t do their jobs,” “The Board should have asked all the employees what THEY thought,” etc.,)  the other half of the public comment speakers were local Citizens  who voiced the opposite point of view.  “I want to compliment the Board for having the leadership and courage to cut their losses, terminate Mr. Babb immediately, and head full-speed in a positive new direction,” said Paul White.  Representing Point of View Ventura, QOL-Ventura, and the non-profit Stronghold Institute, White further offered the Board his organizations’ support in instilling drug-testing programs on Ventura campuses, and a program that would provide part-time paid employment to every VUSD high school student who met minimal qualifications.  White is a charter school founder, former public school principal and a self-described school turnaround specialist.

 
“I’m volunteering to work with the Board in developing a Best Qualties list for the new superintendent,” shared Peter Godinez, a local resident and sales executive.  Gloria Chinea of POV (Port Hueneme-Oxnard-Ventura) reiterated the opportunity Mr. Babb’s firing presents to the Board to instill a list of new program ideas mentioned in CJ’s recent op/ed “Ventura Schools Need to Change More Than Personnel.” “We need strong moral values on our campus,” emphasized Ms. Chinea.
 
White spoke confidently after the Board adjourned to Closed Session about their ability to use Babb’s departure as an opportunity to create a new leadership paradigm in the school district.   “All the Board needs is a new superintendent who will do the most rare of all things in public education:  Tell everyone the same story, tell the truth, let facts not feelings govern decisions that effect children’s lives, and set the non-negotiable OUTCOMES for all the schools (provable academic learning, 100% respectful behavior, drug-free campuses, etc.).  Then, you give each site the professional freedom for determining HOW they achieve those outcomes…and hold them 100% accountable for getting results.” (Editor’s note: An expanded version of this addressed in one of Mr. White’s books.)

An article in the Star focused on the fact that respected veteran Deputy Superintendent Joe Richards is taking over as interim Superintendent to help keep the District stable until a replacement is installed and public agitation about the firing. Mr Richards expertise is in administration. No one, including Mr. Richards, is expecting him to be permanent in this position.

Gloria Chinea’s comments on the Star article….  “Another great example of one-sided propaganda that meets the newspaper agenda. Where is true journalism? In the eyes of the reporter our three speakers info was nullify… non existent.  The journalist did not acknowledge even the presence of 5 POV members and others… more one sided journalism.”

Two attendees expressed concern about how poorly complaints to the distriict had been handled.

Gloria Masey-Chinea of POV sent us the following statement:

“Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Yesterday morning several concerned community members attended the Ventura Special School Board Meeting to share some perspective in the matter at hand.    We attended to support the BOLD decision of the BOD.   As BOD members they have a task at hand in the replacement of their leader the Superintend of Schools.   Nonetheless, even if it was a hard and bold decision to make it is also looked as a great opportunity to bring change in the local educational system.    The BOD’s are responsible and should hire someone that has the experience and knowledge to bring this district to the 21st century in relation to education.  The BOD responsibility lies in providing 18,000 students and 900 teachers with guidelines that are balanced and fair and that will create accountability to all and for all. 

The school district must commit itself to a policy of inclusion, balance in opinions, respect for difference and fairness, and guarantee the same rights and freedom to all the students to ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom as well as providing a methodology (scorecard) for administrators, teachers, parents and students that will make them accountable for their school work and improve the QOL of the schools and also provide the schools with benchmarks in their Educational system and work that they are here to provide as students and employees of the educational system.

Was able to share a number of specific ideas, models, and programs with proven track records that we would love to share with you.   Some items are:

  • We need accountable method for ensuring that basic academic skills are being taught and learned.  Create a report card to the community where it shows the reality of where we stand.
  • The board needs to insist that incidents of student misbehavior be accurately reported, and the standard for on-campus student behavior must be comparable to what is expected in the workplace.
  • Ventura needs to join the 20 percent of American public schools that use a variety of creative, legal ways to drug-test their students.  Provide those students testing positive to drugs and alternative and rehabilitation services
  • Paid work experience must become a graduation requirement. About 84 percent of high school students don’t work, and their future employers cite the lack of work experience and a strong work ethic as one of the greatest barriers to hiring new personnel. 
  • Moral values must be taught as conscientiously as English, math and science. Employers list honesty, character and integrity as some of the most important qualities they look for in new hires. 

And now we in Ventura County, have an opportunity to make that change and hire someone that is bold, with vision to implement needed changes.  We offer the opportunity to partner with the community in moving together towards a better future and to boldly reform our local educational system.  So employers can benefit of a well prepared student body as future employees, future community leaders, and future conscientious voters, which are our Ventura student body.   We depend that the student body will be prepared to engage soon in responsibilities as they grow older as they will be responsible in serving for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.

Together we can make a difference and we will work hand in hand to make that change.”

 

~~~

All school board members were contacted for this article. One has promised a statement soon. We welcome reader feedback, especially from meeting attendees, parents and district personnel.

 

Previous articles on this subject:

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George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard


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