Letters to the Editor 2-8-18
My husband and I went to public school so we thought it important our kids do the same. That’s one of the reasons why we moved to Hermosa Beach. After reading the story about inflating students grades, I am shocked (“MCHS Social Studies teachers enact easier grading scale,” ER Jan. 8, 2018). Not only does this new grading system promote mediocre work by offering an A grade for C work, but it punishes those kids who do work harder for better grades. This will also be detrimental to students trying to get into college because schools will reweight GPAs to reflect this ridiculous grading system. And, for those kids who are especially bright and deserve straight As, they will no longer be able to stand out as high performers and will be punished when they try to get into top schools. When our kids are in high school, we’ll be considering other schools that teach kids they need to work hard to do well in life.
As my grandmother used to say, “Enough.” I have been Co-President at Pacific Elementary, Co-President of MBEF, TEDxManhattanBeach Curator and Producer, District Technology Chair, and now the Parent Representative of the Mira Costa Social and Emotional Wellness Committee (SEW). Over time, I have had the opportunity to work alongside amazing educators, parents, administrators, and students. It is no secret; we have a top-notch district.
It’s also no secret that the Costa History Department has had issues over the years (“MCHS Social Studies teachers enact easier grading scale,” ER Jan. 8, 2018). They have not been secretive about their concerns; angry and frustrated, but not secretive. It has always baffled me: “Why can’t these issues be worked out?” I’ll tell you why — dysfunction. And by definition, dysfunction is not one-sided. All stakeholders play a part. I have tried to stay out of it. I thought it wasn’t my problem. But we have seen in recent months that silence flames the fires of dysfunction. Our students are worth standing up for, and as the Parent Representative for the Social Emotional Wellness team, I must do it.
Here is what I have witnessed: The teachers in general, do not have an outlet to be heard. Communication is siloed by nature of the system, not through intention. You see the evidence: remarkably good teachers (History) are acting like petulant teenagers because they feel they are being pushed into a corner, not heard or respected. Yes, they played a part in this, but so have parents, administrators, and even the students. Students are choosing to take history in the summer, for several reasons. They do not have enough time in their schedule to take everything they want to take, and, for some, the rigor of the history program is too much. Maybe it’s time to rethink the “one-size” fits all teaching approach? Let’s not abandon rigor, but can history be taught differently? Can a new scheduling model help?
Parents have more access to be heard, but not necessarily by the teachers. In the recent Teacher Fishbowl (a Social Emotional Wellness exercise) a teacher showed us a five-page email from a parent. And the most shocking thing was, the parent’s student never once told the teacher he/she had an issue. It’s time for us to teach our kids to advocate for themselves, to speak up when they need something, to take responsibility and to teach them how to handle disappointment. Let’s let go of the Costa “F” (our inside “joke” for a B). Let’s keep up expectations and not stand by and let the grades be dumbed down, but let’s also keep in mind — learning is a process, and a healthy process incorporates trial and error, failure, and success.
As for students, hopping for easy teachers and easy grades is tempting and age appropriate. But is it appropriate? Maybe — but when tempted, why not try something new? How about stepping up to the challenge and asking for help if you need it? And while you are at it, please get more sleep. If all goes as planned, you are likely going to live to be over 100 years old. Life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s okay to take on fewer challenges and give your all to those you choose.
For the administration, it’s time to come to the table, put aside the frustrations and let go the “history” of past negotiations. Work with your people. No games; just solutions.
We adults were we all young once… remember? Take a step back. Do we need to push our kids so hard? Are we letting perfect get in the way of good? Do our kids have the right to be kids like we did?
It’s our job to find the win-win. Let’s do it. It’s time. Our students deserve it.
Mickey Mousing around
It was edifying to read that Mira Costa High School Principal Ben Dale of Mira Costa High School within Manhattan Beach Unified School District (MBUSD) disagreed with an “easier grading scale” designed by the social science department at his school. It seems like the easy A grading scale evolved, under the appearance of equality and equity, to compete with the summer school social science classes offered by the MB/X program. It was also noteworthy to read that parents developed non-profit, educational pathways within the same school district
family. Historically, high school students worked hard during the school year in classes that offered academic rigor, but usually needed a mental break in summer school with less rigorous classes. It seems like this initiative hasn’t really changed since I attended a comprehensive high school in the early ‘60s. For us, social science classes were called “Mickey Mouse” classes, providing relief from mental hernias developed during the regular school year. If we scratch beneath the surface of this issue, could the social science teachers, with the exception of one, be worried about losing their day jobs by a “reduction in force?” Could a teacher be “RIFed,” that is, released because students are “voting with their feet” by taking less rigorous summer classes. If a teacher is retained by the district, then they may have to fill in by teaching their college minor or be a substitute teacher because fewer students are filling the social science seats during the regular school year. Most teachers are smart enough to see a vested interest in education by enrollment. However, should the academic standards of the school be sacrificed? Who wins and who loses? Playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” I believe MBUSD’s district leadership and its good teachers have proven Shaw’s disparaging maxim terribly wrong. However, let us not give our school community reason to think it is plausible by promulgating a flawed grading system. Continue to honor and respect the service and dignity of the teaching profession because it was our hardworking teachers who educated our physicians, our Realtors, our attorneys, and our building contractors for our great community and that ain’t Mickey Mouse.
I admired Manhattan Beach Police Chief Harry Kuhlmeyer tremendously and worked under him for 15 plus years (“Police chief during Martin case refused to charge abuse suspects,” ER Jan. 1, 2018). At the start of the McMartin Preschool investigation I was the sergeant in charge of the Detective Bureau, but left to go back to patrol one-and-one-half weeks later. I was with the lead investigator Jane Hoag when the first search warrants were served. At that time there was only one alleged victim, whose mother was pushing the investigation. When the decision was made, by the chief and a captain, to send out the letter to parents whose children had attended the preschool, Hoag strongly advised against it because she could foresee the response it would bring. Hoag’s worst fears came true and eventually the Los Angeles District’s office came into the investigation because District Attorney Robert Philibosian was in a tough election campaign and needed a high profile case. His office decided to bring a child psychologist in to do the interviews of the children, with no law enforcement personnel present. Hoag and other investigators were tasked with reviewing the videos of the interviews then trying to construct a crime report from what the children told the psychologist.
As far as the supposed “arrest complaint,” mentioned in the story, that is not how the process goes. To obtain an arrest warrant an investigator brings his investigation to the DA’s office where it is reviewed by a deputy DA, who makes the decision whether to file the case and request that a warrant be issued for the arrest of the suspect. That is then forwarded to a judge who determines whether an arrest warrant will be issued. There would have been no need for Chief Kuhlmeyer to sign anything and had he been asked he was right in refusing. That would have been an investigator’s job. The grand jury was Philibosian’s idea probably to get the biggest bang for his buck. The whole Mcmartin case was a sad affair for the community, the parents of the children,
the children and the police department, which was placed under a cloud by politicians and some the the DA’s office who were looking to advance their careers. It also left a stain on Chief Kuhlmeyer’s career that needn’t have been there. RIP Harry, you were a great man.
by Judy Rae