Cambrian: Opinion

Outgoing school trustee offers words of advice to her successor

It is only after a very long and thorough deliberation that I have decided not to run for a fourth term on the Coast Unified School District Board of Directors. It’s too long to write out. No, seriously, it’s been an incredible 12 years, but I am done.

I have worked with two interim superintendents, two full-time superintendents and have just begun working with a third. One of the first actions I took as a new trustee back in 2002 was to lay off six staff members due to California’s dire budget situation at that time, including one teacher I’d known since moving to Cambria in 1981. There were bad times, but there were good times.

With no little effort, we got a new Grammar School built. Glitches, yes, but overall, quite an accomplishment. We have an incredible counseling program at all of our school sites; I felt it was one of our imperatives and am proud of how far we’ve come. We have Peace Leaders and Friday Night Live and YMCA programs that are truly enriching our children’s lives with communication and leadership skills, and I firmly believe the environment at all our schools is better because of them.

The school fields, proposed random drug testing, personnel drama, too many student deaths, first a “long-established” teaching staff and then all of a sudden dozens of new faces on campus all added, how shall I put it, interest, to the job. Mom always said life would be boring if it were boring.

To whoever signs up to take my place, I salute you. You are in for an extremely gratifying and fulfilling shift at the helm. Yes, you will be stopped at all the hot spots in town; yes, people will call you and share their concerns or even try to persuade you to make things happen for them. Don’t worry. There are protocols to follow, and if you abide by them, there can be no questions. Well, there will always be those, but

A school board’s job is to set policy. Not manage. Not order around. Not demand changes for their own agendas under the guise of “for-the-good-of-all.” Not do the day-to-day business that administrators and other staff are hired to do.

There is much we have the privilege of knowing but cannot share due to governing rules and diplomacy (doesn’t seem diplomatic at the time to not share). However, everyone’s concerns will be taken seriously and dealt with to the best of staff’s ability. We’re all human. Sometimes people forget that. Don’t you forget that!

While passion is a wonderful characteristic that drives much of our lives if we’re lucky, one must remember we are a multi-million-dollar agency that affects well over a thousand lives if you consider the students, staff, families and even the community from which we draw and to which we give.

Emotions serve as blinders in making sound business choices (yes, it is a business). No, this does not mean you can’t care, you can’t feel sorry for people, and of course you “want it all for them and you want it now” otherwise you wouldn’t be in this job. I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve shed. But reality is a hard teacher. Remember, there are “crimes of passion.” I rest my case.

One of the most important duties is to listen. To everything and everyone. That is followed by asking, nonjudgmentally, non-accusingly, with a more open mind than you could possibly imagine. Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to not know things, and be comfortable asking.

Also high up on the list: Be willing to compromise. We’re all in this together. Just because things don’t go someone’s way does not mean it’s “us against them.” It is just life. Plus often things work out better than you would have imagined.

Focus on your mission, which is first and foremost to provide a quality education to foster quality human beings. The big picture. That takes money to manage. Sorry, but it’s true. Look not for the biggest bang for the buck but for the best bang. If you get both, it’s icing on the cake. We have a lot of that in our district — think technology and programs offered in a small, rural district!

We have an amazing staff, beautiful facilities, an overwhelmingly supportive community and the best damned kids on the planet. They deserve to be loved and cared for, and as a trustee of the Coast Unified School District, you can make that happen!