The current Davis Joint Unified School Board has done some very important things to help the children of Davis and to improve the schools. Going no further than the dismissal of Superintendent David Murphy that will enable the school district to get itself on stronger and more stable financial ground. (Murphy had presided over a mismanagement of finances and an administration of ethical & financial conflicts of interest.) Not to mention many other changes that needed to happen but could not happen because of the impediment that Superintendent Murphy represented. African American families have come forward asking for the district to make minority hiring a priority. Murphy had been an impediment to that. We have less than five African-American teacher’s in the district. How can that be allowed to continue? And yet, I have every confidence that under the leadership of the interim Superintendent and this board, that those wrongs will be righted.
However, for all of the good accomplished by this school board, this decision of whether or not to close Valley Oak Elementary School in the minds of so many will make or break their legacy. Will this be a great school board? Then they need to find a way to keep this school open. The People’s Vanguard of Davis cannot in good conscience support any member of this school board that does not vote to keep the school open. It is that simple. This issue is a make or break for us. That is despite the overall good record that its membership has.
In the nation’s second most educated city, this should not be an issue. Education should not be a priority–it should be THE priority. There should be no other consideration than the education and the welfare of our students.
The moral measure of a society is judged on how well it treats the least among us. There is one school in the district that is majority-minority. There is one school in the district that is heavily Title I. Our legacy will be judged based on the decisions we make on this school.
Today we throw out the fiscal points–there are strong arguments to be made both ways on the fiscal points. And we focus exclusively on what is best for these students.
On Thursday night, we heard parent after parent get up and attest to the strength of the Valley Oak Elementary school educational program. We heard Rick Gonzales, Jr. get up there as part of the Davis OPEN presentation and talk about how good an English Language (EL) program exists at Valley Oak. Gonzales dedicates his life to getting minority students to college through the Yolo County Concilio student scholarship program, whereby the Concilio gives disadvantaged students scholarships so that they may be able to go to college. Often these kids are the first in their families to go to college. This is an amazing program and requires amazing dedication on the part of the Concilio and the community as a whole.
Gonzales spoke forcefully on the need for continuity in the EL program and how high a success rate that this program has. He showed us how many of these students at Valley Oak Elementary School go from the EL program to mainstream and even to GATE classes. And how if they were to move the school, it would take two years for the program to be rebuilt. That may not seem like a big deal until you realize that there are children there that will be set back by two years. These are the most vulnerable children in this school district who cannot afford to lose two years. These are children that get one chance to catch up to their peers and if they miss it, their entire futures are put into peril. Which is why you saw mothers and fathers on the verge of tears begging the school district to keep THEIR school open.
When the task force speaks about walking distance, they are not taking into account that for k-3 students, they cannot simply walk one-mile to school. They are not taking into account that if they close down Valley Oak elementary school, the vast majority of the students will have to travel further to school. When they say this distance is the accepted standard by various groups and that only 25% of children district-wide are within half a mile of a school, they are failing to look out for the best interest of these children. We are not talking about a decision that is district wide, we are talking about closing down this school, a neighborhood school, a neighborhood school where a large percentage of kids are within real walking distance of the school and whose parents have to work to be able to put food on the table and make their payments.
We are talking about putting these children at risk. And for what? To what end? To save what in the scheme of the district is literally pennies on the dollar? Because the school district may have a very small decline in enrollment over the next 10 years based on some sets of assumptions? To what end?
It is time that we throw out our points of law, our projections, our budget forecasts, and we ask the simple human question: is it right to close this school down that means so much to so many?
The answer to this question from our perspective is an unequivocal NO. This district should be dedicated to keeping all schools open and providing the best possible educational opportunities for all. To the members of the school board: The whole city is watching and your legacy will be defined based on this decision. Please make the right one.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting