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Poway Unified: Style Over Substance?

This week’s Evil Mother Lady confession: What was PUSD thinking?

So, now it is time for the next confession—what was the Poway Unified School District thinking? This is on par with most adolescent decision-making—don’t pay attention to your math lessons because they have no real-world applications.

Get bad news from one source and make a bad decision with said source without (a) getting second and third opinions, (b) signing up for the escape option, while procrastinating on telling those responsible for paying for the deal, and then defend it as the only option. As a parent who purchased a very expensive home years ago in this district in order to educate my children here, I had high hopes they might be representative of the skills I wanted my children to learn.

Instead, I get a backwards teachable moment with said children, who in 40 years will probably be paying very dearly for their homes to cover that bond that pays for itself every two to three years. That is provided home values have recovered to the points assumed and people aren’t selling their houses in droves like many people I’ve already talked to about the issue.

So, my teaching moment went sort of like this: Remember the things I always tell you about when you feel you are in over your head? Always get a second (or third) opinion. Don’t commit to something you can’t back out of without consulting with us first, there’s always time to make a good decision. If it is a life-altering decision, take the time to think about it, research on it some more and talk to the people who will be impacted most before making that decision.

Well, your school district did none of these things that I can see.

And my daughter’s response was classic: I guess that makes them more like an adolescent teenager and me more like an adult … right? I laughed at the arrogance of youth. She felt certain she might make a mistake like that, but not on that scale. I can relate to the district’s position a bit. After a long and difficult bond passage, you get bad news. You made a commitment that you intend to honor—not raising taxes. Someone offers you a deal that allows you to do the work you need to do with the bond measure and not raise taxes (if all of the projections run true, a reassuring idea in the midst of the recession we were/are in that things will get better and return to normal). And you can just approve the deal and not contend with the consequences until later, hopefully much later. Unfortunately, it’s not the adult reaction we aim to instill in our children.

Empathy aside, I still don’t understand why we taxpayers are in this predicament. I am perturbed that people are content to brush it off, that they won’t be here by the time it’s due, that the children of the students enjoying those beautiful campuses are the ones on the hook for this one, that the idea of getting something for nothing for 40 years is viewed as desirable in the short term. I thought we were striving to teach our children to take the long-term view, not the short-term, instant-gratification view. And I am amazed that we had almost half of the bond amount in reserves, that we will pay this bond almost 10 times over and yet we still have overcrowded classrooms with art and music and other enrichment activities at the elementary school level paid for by PTA and not the district.

Another lesson we teach our children: It is what is on the inside that matters most, not outward appearances. We moved here for the educational excellence, not the dated ’70s appearance of our local school. Then why are we suddenly on the hook for style over substance? So, how about you?

About this column: Valerie Brown is a Rancho Bernardo resident and the mother of three teen and pre-teen girls who have (lovingly) dubbed her the "Evil Mother Lady" for her unique style of parenting. Her husband, Vince, is a stay-at-home dad. The Evil Mother Lady column covers Brown's thoughts about life and motherhood. She says, "Confessions of the Evil Mother Lady…it’s all about the real woman hidden behind the “mom” title. I hope to shine a light on the invisible lives mothers lead, starting with me, the Evil Mother Lady. Let’s continue our conversation about how our tenure as “mom” hides much of the woman behind the title. Please join in—your stories are relevant, amazing, and interesting and should be heard."

Babs August 29, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Essence over performance. Ms. Brown's essay reflects poorly on more than the PUSD's performance while missing the essence of the issue: the voters approved this bond. Anyone "buying an expensive home" to "educate my children" does NOT abolish the requirement to be a valuable and thoughtful voter within the district. Abrogating this responsibility to others without questioning what is going on is the "style" that is lacking. When voters fell for the words the bond will "not raise taxes" that was the big bright red flag that anyone seeking for a teachable moment of substance needed to excavate realistically. Some did and were shunted aside, most didn't. Trust is more than style or substance when it comes to elected officials. It's the essence of knowledgeable and informed voters to question unrelently or deal with the consequences. The voters who did not lacked both style and substance.
Fran August 30, 2012 at 02:29 PM
You're correct Babs - the voters who voted on this didn't read the fine print. I did and so did many others who didn't vote for it. Unfortunately in Poway we have a group of people that march like little lemmings to the sea when a certain group promotes an agenda. They get all wrapped up in "it's for the kids" and can't see past that. However, in looking at the broader picture on this - we elect Trustees to protect the interests of the beneficiaries (taxpayers). We have to give them some room to do their jobs. I have to agree we the taxpayers and voters were negligent in not checking in on these people more often. It is sad that it took a financial meltdown to wake this town up. What is even more unfortunate is that for the next 30 years no further bonds will be passed in this city. The irresponsible and egregious financial behavior of the Board has destroyed that.
Babs August 30, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Doing it "for the kids" and "no tax increase" yeah, right! Posted with permission of Joe (Part 1) When a bank statement or a credit card statement comes in do we toss it and assume, "the bank is a good bank" or the "credit card company is honest?" Most people want to know, to the penny, if the bank's accounting is correct and if all charges are valid on the credit card billing. When we elect someone to a public office it is incumbent on us to regularly check on what is going on. A REAL teachable moment for parents. When the ballot initiative said, "no new taxes" just how were the loans were going to be reimbursed? Did "no new taxes" mean extending more years the then extant debt? If so, by how many years? No information was given other than "it's for the kids" and "no new taxes." Who was "bamboozled?" Those that said "vote NO on this bond" or those that went out and bought expensive houses for their kids education and then trusted there wasn't anything more to do? If we all behaved like that, the banks would tack charges we didn't authorize and credit card companies would put transactions on our bills and we'd go on like nothing is a miss.
Babs August 30, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Doing it "for the kids" and "no tax increase" yeah, right! Posted with permission of Joe (Part 2) When bonds were failing at the ballot box, The VOTERS agreed to throw out the rule that 2/3 of the electorate needed to agree for passage. If that had not occurred then the 64% who did vote for the Billion dollar bond would not have been enough for its passage! The VOTERS elected the members of the PUSD board. The ad nauseum faulting of their deeds does not obviate the VOTERS' responsibility. When the bonds ballot initiatives were presented the VOTERS agreed. So, yes, the VOTERS did this. Keep those banks, credit card companies, and your local elected officials in check.
Babs August 30, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Doing it "for the kids" and "no tax increase" yeah, right! Posted with permission of Joe (Part 3) Let's put the cart before the horse. The real question is, " What were the VOTERS thinking? " NOT, "What was PUSD thinking?"
Chris Brisson September 01, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Applying Babs' logic: There were no weapons of mass destruction, but US forces invaded Iraq. The American voters bear all responsibility; they should have known that Bush and Cheney were chomping at the bit to invade Iraq.
Babs September 02, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Babs' deductive reasoning. Extraneous acerbic extrapolation aside, Joe's comment of: 'The VOTERS agreed to throw out the rule that 2/3 of the electorate needed to agree for [bond] passage' was a voter action - not that of the PUSD. One only need to remember the infamous 'Decider and Uniter' quote, "If you are not with us you're against us." With that in mind it's easy to agree that the above misinformed, Friday, August 31, opinion.

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