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Mailbag: Don't open schools 'before summer ends'

February 07, 2013

In important ways our public schools are a success story. Our goal is to sustain and enhance success. Accordingly, our school board should continue to encourage innovation, prudently husband resources, and try to turn weaknesses into strengths. You can count on us to support our schools, as we always do in so many ways.

But we can't let you turn strengths into weaknesses. In some small farm towns, you don't open schools at harvest. In some seafaring villages, you don't open schools when fish are running. In Laguna Beach, you do not open schools before summer ends.

For 80 years the Pageant of Masters has been a summer-long family affair for volunteer parents and kids. Summer does not end in August. Same for kids who work at the Sawdust Art Festival, for the city, or family owned businesses.

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Apparently letting a small cadre of educational bureaucrats trash 60 years of the "Artists" tradition at Laguna Beach High School was not enough. Now someone up on Blumont Street wants summer to end early? Whoever it is didn't go to school here, never sat on the sand with kids after a swim on the last days of summer before Labor Day.

The school board does much that is good, but then perversely persists in the most ill-advised notions and stubbornly refuses to correct mistakes. Yeah, we know pesky "militant parents" are annoying. Only thing worse is "officious public school bureaucrats" and "strident school board members."

By petulantly doing the wrong thing to prove the board can't be pushed around, school officials end up pushing citizens and parents around, even students. The way Supt. Sherine Smith spoke down to our young people and questioned their social ethics, after they had come so well and thoughtfully prepared at the City Hall hearings on the social host ordinance, was quite disturbing.

Apparently that negative civics lesson was not enough; now the board tells us failure to attend meetings forfeits the right to be heard. The subliminal message is that they have no accountability to anyone who does not attend their meetings.

Is this like adolescent negative attention-getting behavior? Feel neglected by low attendance at meetings? Need more recognition? More vanity press and self-initiated awards touted in local papers?

We elect you folks so we don't have to attend meetings unless we want to tell you how pleased we are about positive achievements, or when you screw up. We all screw up, but not all of us are so intolerant of debate and opposition.

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