Shoreline crisis has a silver lining

05/08/2014

The Shoreline Unified School District community deserves thanks for providing input in the continuing discussion about who will lead our district as superintendent next year. Last week’s special meeting was the most open and productive I’ve attended over the last four years and I want to thank President Jane Healy for conducting the meeting so well and all of the trustees for their openness to a healthy dialogue.

The show of force by parents, teachers, staff and community members at the last several special board meetings underscores the community’s desire to stay the course with Superintendent Tom Stubbs at the helm of the district for the coming school year. It’s May and all of us should be thinking of how to wrap up the school year with music performances, open houses, year-end field trips, staff appreciation events and graduation celebrations. Instead we are faced with a good deal of uncertainty and unanswered questions about why Stubbs’s contract was not renewed and, even more critical, why a broad set of voices were not included in the evaluation process. Board members agreed at last week’s meeting that the evaluation tool was flawed because it was too narrow in focus. 

I’m happy to say our voices are now being heard. In addition to the dialogue at last week’s board meeting, trustees are getting letters and phone calls from their constituents about what they’ve liked and disliked over the past year. One of the silver linings of this difficult situation for me has been the chance to meet and speak with parents and staff from across the district. 

While watching my son’s Little League game I met Mike Giammona, who told me about how Stubbs collaborated with him and Principal Adam Jennings to fix the baseball field at Tomales High, which was in great need of  repair. I received an email from Nuria Pont, the high school’s well-regarded Spanish teacher, who asked me to read a letter of support for Stubbs at the board meeting that praised him for addressing difficult and long-standing issues at the school. Anna Kehoe, a parent from the high school, contacted the West Marin Parent Teacher Student Association (there is no such group at the high school) because she was so inspired by a meeting with the superintendent last month and was dismayed to hear he would be leaving.

Parents representing Latino families have spoken about how they felt heard for the first time in the district, thanks to Stubbs’s leadership. Considering over half of the district’s students are Latino, this feedback is telling. Nearly every staff member at Tomales Elementary School signed a letter prepared by West Marin and Inverness parents and staff asking that Stubbs’s contract be renewed for next year. The list could go on and on. The crisis is bringing people together, and as a group they are standing strong.  

All of this feedback backs up my own impression of the superintendent. I’ve seen him conduct himself as a fair broker, good listener and positive force at a variety of meetings. His gentle presence on campus at West Marin School at Cafecitio (our weekly informal parent gatherings), student performances and staff meetings is a welcome change from the former superintendent. I was especially heartened by a meeting I attended with the superintendent, the district’s business manager and our School Site Council president about an ongoing budget concern at our campus. I appreciated the follow-through and professional way he conducted the meeting. I felt heard.  

I’ve shared my impressions of Stubbs with Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke. She made it clear that although she does not provide direct supervision to Shoreline Unified School District, she does offer support to its Board of Trustees and even participated in several board retreats last fall. My hope is that Ms. Burke will encourage Shoreline trustees to include the matter on the agenda for the May 15 board meeting and that Stubbs will be offered a new contract for the 2014-2015 school year. I look forward to working with him and the rest of our dedicated school community as we face the challenges and the considerable opportunities of the coming year.  

I encourage anyone in the community who wants to weigh in on the situation to email President Jane Healy (at quietgracie@aol.com) or any of the trustees, whose emails can be found at shorelineunified.org/index.php/school-board/board-members. Please join us at the May 15 board meeting at Tomales High School at 6 p.m. Feel free to call or text me with your thoughts and concerns at (415) 697.9180.

 

Donna Faure is the president of the West Marin and Inverness School PTSA. She is the mother of a sixth grader at West Marin School and looks forward to a summer with many fewer meetings.