Guest Commentary

School officials and decision making

2013-01-30T00:00:00Z School officials and decision makingMark Goodman / Guest Commentary Santa Maria Times
January 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Recent media reports regarding parent participation at Santa Maria High School have contained errors that are causing confusion.

First, on a TV news show, a parent was quoted saying the Shared Decision Making Committee at SMHS makes decisions regarding curriculum. That error was reinforced by the reporter and the anchor. It is completely erroneous.

The Shared Decision Making Committee is one of many opportunities for parent participation. It does not spend money — that is done by School Site Council, where parents and students hold half of the membership — nor does it make decisions on curriculum — that is done by department chairs and the California Department of Education.

So what is left? Decisions about issues like tardy policies, name tags, those sorts of issues. That is what Shared Decision Making does.

It is important to note that many schools do not even have a Shared Decision Making Committee. At those schools, such decisions may simply be made by an administrator, maybe with advice from staff and parents, and maybe not.

Lost in this recent debate is that Shared Decision Making exists in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, and parents are guaranteed voting, not advisory, positions on these committees, because the teachers of Santa Maria negotiated it into their contract.

Twenty years ago, when this language was bargained, teachers fought so parents would be heard. Today, teachers know better than anyone that involved, informed parents are crucial to the success of our children.

Administrators at SMHS have said they don’t want the committee to continue as a voting body. They say they would like it to be an advisory group. This would weaken the voices of teachers and parents.

Perhaps the saddest part of this episode is that some are using it to drive a wedge between the two most important forces in students’ lives — parents and teachers — and threatening to invoke California’s deeply flawed parent-trigger law.

The resulting charter conversion at SMHS would wrest local control from our duly elected school board, and allow a yet-unnamed charter operator to release every employee at Santa Maria High School — every administrator, custodian, counselor and teacher.

A charter would not have to accept every student who now attends SMHS and, since no student can be required to attend a charter in California, an untold number of students could demand to attend the district’s other schools, and the district would be compelled to accept them. This, and the resulting massive staff layoffs, would be chaos for the district and community.

Does this seem like a reasonable response to some parents’ frustrations over access to one school committee? I understand anyone’s demand to have a better chair at the table. I do not understand how they can end that by threatening to burn the house we share to the ground.

Mark Goodman is president of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School Faculty Association.

Copyright 2015 Santa Maria Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. cencitygal
    Report Abuse
    cencitygal - February 03, 2013 9:33 am
    Mark's explanation was self-serving and misleading. He is trying to preserve the status-quo at all costs. Parents are the best judge of excellence in education. Invite parents to be materially engaged in their childrens' education.

    Webcast teacher lessons to allow parents to see the quality and efficacy of public education, understand the depth and breadth of the teacher's daily lessons and keep their children on track academically. Let the sunlight in on public education.
  2. cencitygal
    Report Abuse
    cencitygal - February 03, 2013 9:29 am
    Getting bureaucrats to compromise is a long, arduous undertaking because they do not want to relinquish their power. The general public is not invested because they are not involved to the extent of your group. I commend you for striving to better the education of your children. I hope you are able to get the results you all deserve.
  3. cencitygal
    Report Abuse
    cencitygal - February 02, 2013 8:54 am
    I question your doomsday scenario regarding a Charter conversion. You paint a picture of hundreds of students being turned away from the school. As far as I know, only an expulsion can remove a student from a public school. Under Parent Trigger, wouldn't SMHS still be a public school? As for outside operators, I think parents are capable of determining who can best operate a school. Other Charters seem to be doing quite well.

    Sooner or later your fear mongering will cease to be effective. People are becoming more aware of the horrendous waste and inefficiencies of public education.
  4. SMHSsaint
    Report Abuse
    SMHSsaint - January 31, 2013 12:44 pm
    SMHS Parents do not want a Charter School

    We are requesting reasonable changes that will benefit our students

    January 26, 2013, Santa Maria, CA – Before delineating our requests, we would like to first thank all the teachers and staff of SMHS for playing an important part in the education of our children. Your dedication and efforts are appreciated and we look forward to continuing to educate our community together. Second, we want to make it very clear that we are not seeking a charter school. We are thankful for your services and we only seek to participate in our children’s success in school.

    As parents we want to be involved in our children’s education. However, it has been difficult to participate and have a voice in the education being provided to our children. For this reason, we are requesting changes that would allow us to be involved and more helpful in our partnership to produce productive members of our community and beyond.

    Our requests are as follows:
    1. Expand parent inclusion and school policy transparency in order for all stakeholders to collaborate in improving our children's education and move the school out of Program Improvement.

    2. Shared Decision Making Committee (SDM) and School Site Council (SSC): Currently teachers have more than three times as many votes as parents. We are glad to have dedicated educators and staff guiding this committee. However, we are asking to be a relevant part of the committee so that together we can continue to guide the success of our students. Currently, the committee’s composition is grievously unbalanced and bringing in parents’ and students’ perspectives will lead to better decision making since all stakeholders will be involved. Similarly, we are equally concerned that in the past, SSC has lacked consistent and equitable representation for parents and students compared to staff.


    Please know these requests come only after many attempts over the last two years. Requests were made in the hope that the SDM Committee, SMHS, and the district would be responsive to our parent voice by integrating these important changes. Specific examples of our numerous collaborative efforts include taking time from our work day to meet with the Superintendent, district personnel, lawyers, and even writing a personal letter directly to SMHS on June 6, 2012 asking for changes. After receiving disappointing responses from various sources stating they were unable or unwilling to make such changes, we felt it necessary to explore the “Parent Trigger” law. This course of action then became our only chance to be taken seriously and have our voice heard. Additionally, we have also come to understand that through the "Parent Trigger" law we have several options, which are not limited to the drastic step of requesting a charter school. Once again, we would prefer not to exercise this option. At the time of this press release, there are no other parent meetings, events, or rallies scheduled to address these specific concerns or to discuss moving beyond the options listed in this release.


    In closing, we simply want the opportunity to be recognized and taken seriously by implementing the requested changes. This includes the invitation to fairly collaborate as an integral stakeholder versus being forced into accepting and implementing changes we do not feel are in the best interest of our children. To be clear - all we want is an equitable chance to participate and have an active role in our children's education. We, as parents, consider this to be both our moral imperative and inalienable right.
  5. SMHSsaint
    Report Abuse
    SMHSsaint - January 31, 2013 12:30 pm
    SMHS Parents do not want a Charter School

    We are requesting reasonable changes that will benefit our students

    January 26, 2013, Santa Maria, CA – Before delineating our requests, we would like to first thank all the teachers and staff of SMHS for playing an important part in the education of our children. Your dedication and efforts are appreciated and we look forward to continuing to educate our community together. Second, we want to make it very clear that we are not seeking a charter school. We are thankful for your services and we only seek to participate in our children’s success in school.

    As parents we want to be involved in our children’s education. However, it has been difficult to participate and have a voice in the education being provided to our children. For this reason, we are requesting changes that would allow us to be involved and more helpful in our partnership to produce productive members of our community and beyond.

    Our requests are as follows:
    1. Expand parent inclusion and school policy transparency in order for all stakeholders to collaborate in improving our children's education and move the school out of Program Improvement.

    2. Shared Decision Making Committee (SDM) and School Site Council (SSC): Currently teachers have more than three times as many votes as parents. We are glad to have dedicated educators and staff guiding this committee. However, we are asking to be a relevant part of the committee so that together we can continue to guide the success of our students. Currently, the committee’s composition is grievously unbalanced and bringing in parents’ and students’ perspectives will lead to better decision making since all stakeholders will be involved. Similarly, we are equally concerned that in the past, SSC has lacked consistent and equitable representation for parents and students compared to staff.


    Please know these requests come only after many attempts over the last two years. Requests were made in the hope that the SDM Committee, SMHS, and the district would be responsive to our parent voice by integrating these important changes. Specific examples of our numerous collaborative efforts include taking time from our work day to meet with the Superintendent, district personnel, lawyers, and even writing a personal letter directly to SMHS on June 6, 2012 asking for changes. After receiving disappointing responses from various sources stating they were unable or unwilling to make such changes, we felt it necessary to explore the “Parent Trigger” law. This course of action then became our only chance to be taken seriously and have our voice heard. Additionally, we have also come to understand that through the "Parent Trigger" law we have several options, which are not limited to the drastic step of requesting a charter school. Once again, we would prefer not to exercise this option. At the time of this press release, there are no other parent meetings, events, or rallies scheduled to address these specific concerns or to discuss moving beyond the options listed in this release.


    In closing, we simply want the opportunity to be recognized and taken seriously by implementing the requested changes. This includes the invitation to fairly collaborate as an integral stakeholder versus being forced into accepting and implementing changes we do not feel are in the best interest of our children. To be clear - all we want is an equitable chance to participate and have an active role in our children's education. We, as parents, consider this to be both our moral imperative and inalienable right.
  6. kdraper
    Report Abuse
    kdraper - January 30, 2013 9:58 am
    Very complete explanation Mark. Thank you for getting the clarification on the issues to the public!

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