Public Forum

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Sees charter as solution

I was sad to see that the overwhelming support I received over the phone for my letter about MHS was not reflected in the response letters in the paper.

To those who felt the need to attack me personally for expressing my views and proposing a solution to serious problems we face as a community, I suggest you “protest too much” and show defensiveness reflective of the truth of what I said. Don’t kill the messenger. We Californians are facing a huge financial deficit that will only get worse. In months and years to come we may see even more cuts in our school budget, redirection of funds and other financial burdens, negatively affecting our children’s education at Malibu High. Fewer teachers, higher classroom numbers, fewer courses offered, and an overall decline in the quality of the educational experience at Malibu are inevitable if we do nothing. Our school is being marginalized by the politics of the district and the state and, as a result, MHS may be facing an increase in crime, drugs, vandalism and a lack of resources to cope with these additional problems. We see signs of it already.

Blaming parents, teachers, administrators, the district, the governor or whomever is not the solution. These problems are certainly not the fault of the teachers or our students or even the administration per se. These problems are no one’s fault, though perhaps in some way we all contribute to the situation being what it is. Nonetheless, the way the situation has worked itself out we are stuck with a serious set of problems that is only going to get worse unless we act now. I believe the solution is to convert Malibu to a Charter School and put the control and support in the hands of the people whom the school serves-the Malibu community and its teachers. Here are some of the things we could do if we were a Charter School.

1. Have more money. Members of the community (including non-parents) who don’t contribute now may currently feel their money goes to certain other kids needs and not theirs and not to the community at large, but if the funds are tied to resources for the broader MHS community and if the Malibu community is directly involved in running the school, there will be a greater interest in supporting the school. People need to feel a vital interest in order to contribute.

2. More teacher pay. When parents can directly see how much the teachers are giving out of their own pockets, time etc. and understand how the politics of the district affect them, they will understand why we need to work together in running MHS. In some Charter schools teacher pay is augmented or increased, improving the quality of staff and the overall morale of the school. This is the best thing we can do for MHS because it is the teachers who most directly impact our school.

3. A more responsive school. Currently, there is an antagonistic atmosphere where people fight rather than work together, forcing little groups to battle for control of small issues. This stratifies our school into an elite group of influential parents and small enclaves of disenfranchised parents who fight with the school for their own kids. The school cannot respond to the needs of the community this way but if we had control and worked together, everyone’s needs would be served better.

4. A more successful school. A recent Harvard study shows Charter schools do better in math and reading. If Malibu were chartered we could still have our high achievers and provide AP and honors classes but, in addition, the quality of the experience for all the students would raise the morale and the performance of the school. We just don’t do anywhere near what we should given our demographics.

Thank you to all the parents who responded by phone to my letter in an overwhelmingly supportive way. For the few voices against, let me tell you that being in denial about a glaring set of problems threatens the welfare of the children of Malibu. Instead of attacking me personally, maybe listening to the voices of fellow community members would be better. If those of us who are concerned didn’t care enough to want change, then MHS would be in real trouble. We can change MHS, start a new Charter School, Charter MHS, create a new district or join Los Virgenes district. Whatever we do we must do something, to help our kids, our teachers and our school become what our community deserves it to be. Join us! There is a conference coming up on March first. Sign up now! http://www.cacharterschools.org/leadershipsummit/presummit.html

Stephen Wolfson