Board Majority Rejects Subcommittee on AIM


One of the ideas that has been floated about this summer is the idea of creating a school board subcommittee that could work out a compromise on AIM reforms, build community consensus and maybe avoid some of the polarizing carnage that a vote on AIM reforms might entail. However, that option was officially removed from the table as the board majority rejected the proposal from Board President Alan Fernandes.

Alan Fernandes noted that, according to board policy, the board may establish both standing committees and ad hoc committees from time to time. “I wanted for reasons of discussion and action tonight, to see if the board is willing to (an) ad hoc committee for… later start and the AIM recommendations.” He noted that the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Advisory Council has been working with the Superintendent but “we don’t really have formal appointments on that effort.”

“I thought that because those are big projects that the board has directed staff to work on, that we should discuss creating ad hoc committees for those assignments,” he said.

Susan Lovenburg asked if Mr. Fernandes was advocating this. He said, “Yes. Just because I think it can’t hurt. I think any time the board has tasked the administration with coming back with recommendations on Later Start and AIM, the final product is generally improved when there’s interaction between the superintendent and administration and some board members. I surmise that that might be the case with these issues.”

Susan Lovenburg noted it might be late in the game to create a subcommittee on later start and AIM. “These are discussions that are well underway already,” she said. “I think all five board members have a significant interest in participating in those discussions.”

She felt board subcommittees would be more useful earlier in the process when there’s work to be done, rather than when policy decisions need to be made. “I think a subcommittee actually creates a side block where they don’t have to be Brown Act posted… What often comes back to the board is a recommendation from the subcommittee that other board members may not share because they weren’t part of the same discussions – it can actually in hindsight set up some potential conflict which I don’t think is necessarily some good thing, particularly on issues of as much interest to the community as AIM is.”

Ms. Lovenburg continued, “I really want to see that be as transparent a process as possible.” She expressed less concern about the later start. She added, “I’m not sure why this would be a good idea.”

Alan Fernandes responded that “there would be nothing in my view that would prohibit another board member who wasn’t part of the subcommittee (from working with staff)… I don’t see any downside to it. I wouldn’t feel if I wasn’t on the a committee that I couldn’t call the Superintendent and staff and be treated equally just because I wasn’t on the subcommittee.”

He noted that these were issues that generated great public interest – he sees a subcommittee as a benefit to the Superintendent and administrative professionals, enabling them to check in with the subcommittee as they continue to develop the recommendations.

He argued that this is an effort that would “promote a better product” coming to the board, one that the Superintendent could do, knowing there was direct input from two members of the board.

Ms. Lovenburg simply suggested that the Superintendent check in with all five board members. She said, “I think you create an unnecessary tension when you ask two board members to represent five perspectives.”

Vice President Madhavi Sunder said, “It’s not just that there’s no risk to having it, I worry there’s a risk to not having a subcommittee when we’re talking about an issue like AIM. We heard throughout the summer, folks from the public saying they feel like they’re being shut out of the process – that there doesn’t seem to be that there’s any longer an active GATE advisory committee.”

“The process here has deviated from the process we’re taking with later start and… the STEAM advisory committee,” she said. “I think once you start deviating from an accepted process… We have processes for a reason. They breed trust, transparency, participation, and as you say… the goal is to get a better product.”

“I am very concerned that deviating from that good, best practice, procedural approach on the AIM issue is going to invite more dissatisfaction and distrust,” she said. She called this a great suggestion from the board president for treating this important issue.

Barbara Archer said, “I think these are very important issues, obviously. Since they are such important issues, what I’m looking for is equal engagement from all five board members and equal access to the process.”

She said that staff has been working on this all summer and are bringing the board a recommendation in two weeks. She said, “I’m unclear about how two board members being appointed to enter this process at this time…”

Tom Adams said, “I’m not big on creating committees to create committees. I still haven’t heard the clear purpose of this committee.” He said he’s not sure if this just creates another process or a competing product with the staff recommendations. “To me I think the issue is, if these are such big issues then we have to keep it everyone’s responsibility. I’m not comfortable assigning it to people at this point.”

He said that, if they are going to be working on a consensus model, “if we’re really going to own these issues as a board, then we’re going to have to act as a board.” He said, “I don’t feel comfortable splintering off as a committee with a charge that I don’t think is clear at this point.”

Alan Fernandes said that he understood the will of the board and agreed to withdraw the suggestion.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Don Shor

    I appreciate what Alan was trying to do here (and in general on GATE), but I agree that there is little point in a subcommittee at this point. Perhaps after the staff report and any board decision, a subcommittee could be useful in implementation.

    1. David Greenwald

      Don: Very much disagree. As I’ll lay out more tomorrow, right now GATE is either a 3-2 or 4-1 vote depending on what Alan ultimately does. But a split decision isn’t going to end the controversy, it just transfer it to the next election. To end the controversy they needed to forge a consensus which would have required both sides to forge an agreement. I don’t see that happening in open session.

      1. Don Shor

        I guess I don’t see it happening on a subcommittee either. They’d practically have to bring in professional conflict experts to come to consensus at this point. This is going to the next election.

      2. hpierce

        Spare us, David… it is what it is… your repeated articles on this seem, with the lack of tangible proposals, appears to be furthering someone’s ‘political’ agenda, and/or trying to generate ‘hits’ on this blog.  Most of us engaged, particularly in this forum, have formed opinions based on the facts/information provided to date.  New facts/information is always welcome.  More “stirring” is not helpful, IMO.

  2. Cecilia EscamillaGreenwald

    Thank you for your attempts Alan. I hope that ultimately both sides can meet and come up with a plan that is in the best interest of children. I honestly think the answer lies somewhere in “the middle.”

    1. hpierce

      I opine that compromise for the sake of compromise, is ‘wicked’. If the right thing for the students, is to find an answer different from the ‘models’ suggested to date, am ready,willing, and able to consider, and perhaps support it…

  3. Anon

    I actually think an AIM subcommittee at this point is either too late as well as paradoxically being premature.  It is too late, since the decision was already made by the DJUSD Board that DJUSD staff was to come up with a recommendation for changes to the AIM program.  It is premature, because the DJUSD staff recommendation is not published yet for public distribution.  As difficult as it is, the only sensible thing to do at this point is to wait and see what the staff recommendation will be.

  4. Napoleon Pig IV

    I don’t believe for a minute that Lovenburg cares about transparency – only about the appearance of transparency. The outcome of this was decided when Lovenburg and her two minions, Archer and Adams, were elected. The superficial run at the issue taken by the UC guys was at best a low quality diversion, and there is no actual public input that has or will have any real impact.

    The sheep of Davis are grazing in the pasture as the quality of public education here swirls down the toilet bowl and one particularly unpopular minority group of students (GATE/AIM) are blatantly treated with disrespect.

    Why would any high tech employer choose to relocate or build here when her or his highly intelligent and motivated employees will soon be forced to send their exceptional kids to private schools out of town to get the education they could have been provided (and has historically been provided) by Davis public schools?


      1. wdf1

        NPIV:  Think of the AIM program as the miners’ canary. 

        I agree with this statement, but probably not for the same reason that you intend.  I understand that GATE/AIM identification was originally primarily at the recommendation of classroom teachers.  Later on it was done primarily through standardized test scores, and it appears that the program has lost consistency over what is exactly being identified.

        This is the kind of trouble one can get into from relying so heavily on standardized tests to make major decisions about education.  In similar ways, we’re in trouble with standardized testing that was mandated for NCLB, and that is now mandated for Common Core.  That information (standardized test scores) is only very partially important in the bigger scheme.

        1. Napoleon Pig IV

          wdf1, I don’t know if we agree on AIM or not, but I agree with everything you just wrote. Standardized tests might not be completely worthless, but I like the way you described them as “only very partially important in the bigger scheme.”

  5. MrsW

    … will soon be forced to send their exceptional kids to private schools out of town…

    This comment has struck a cord with me.  Please list all of those private schools within commute distance of Davis, as well as their admission criteria and their prices.  Let’s pretend this private school is within an hour (yes, 1 hour each way, morning and afternoon, east, west, north or south).  Short list?  10K to 50K a year? Only accepts the very most high-performing high-achieving children?  And/or the very pious of a specific denomination?  You’re right.  You need to live somewhere else entirely, if you want to have educational choices other than DJUSD.  We are stuck with each other. How about making a commitment to make it work for ALL of our children?


    1. zaqzaq

      Mrs. W.,

      In a few years our in GATE student will enter high school and we will have to decide whether to send the child to Davis or a private high school.  There are a number of options Jesuit (boys), St. Francis (girls) and Christian Brothers (both).  We can afford to make that financial sacrifice if needed.  Many Davis parents opt for those schools and make the commute. Parents can opt out of the local school district before high school locally with St. James as one option.  If the school district gets rid of the program that our child is thriving in we do have options and will consider them.  After all we as parents have an obligation to do what is best for our child.  If we opted for one of these private schools do not expect us to participate in any local school fund raisers or vote in favor of the local school taxes.  It makes no economic sense to do so as our dollars will be going to a private school.  To date we have voted in favor of every local tax on the ballot.

      I am also concerned about the deception of Archer and Adams in their campaigns.  At no time did they advocate for the elimination or drastic reduction in size of the then existing self contained GATE program.  This deception causes me to pause when considering future votes on parcel taxes for the school district when it has become routine for me to vote yes.  Do I trust these individuals with my money.  Right now the answer is no.

      Since this issue has caused so much strife for the public I think that we ought to recall all five of the board members and have an election where they debate the issues, especially the GATE program alternatives, and let the public vote on the issue.


      1. MrsW

        there are a number of options Jesuit (boys), St. Francis (girls) and Christian Brothers (both).

        That makes two options for boys and two options for girls.  If you add Country Day, you have three options out of a greater Metro area of over 2,400,000 people.  Admissions are highly exclusive for Jesuit and Country Day. Children from Davis don’t always get in, but I wish you luck.

      2. ryankelly

        Actually, this issue has not caused that much strife for the broader Davis public – the broader Davis voting body – many who do not have children attending Davis schools currently.  I think that any effort to remove people from office will backfire.  Likewise, any campaign against a school parcel tax by disgruntled GATE parents may be met by voters only too happy to reduce their tax obligation and shouldn’t be viewed as a response to Board action on GATE.

        1. lotaspark

          Well I believe the homeowners of Davis will stand up and take notice when the high-achieving students make other choices (charter school anyone?) and the district’s scores are no longer supporting the high home values we enjoy today. Unlike what the 3 board members (who laughably call themselves “trustees”) would have us believe, we actually have the option of creating our own STEM charter school at no cost to us. I will not stand by while a few people in the community tell me that I should accept a mediocre education for my kids. Every child in this district deserves to be challenged to achieve their potential. Not just kids in AIM, but every child. The fact that the district would consider taking that option away from 2000 kids should be a concern to everyone!

  6. iWitness

    Another sly attempt at undermining the minority of two on the school board who are open to appropriate education for all Davis students!  I agree with everyone except hpierce, no surprise, while I wonder also whether it wasn’t always too late for Alan Fernandez to propose this.  Mediation wouldn’t cut it at this point.  Protestations of openness on the part of the closed majority were scandalous and laughable.  I’m glad the Vanguard gave an airing to this situation.   Right on, MrsW.  Only hark back to the pressure valves districts with student demographics like Davis’s enjoy — districts that have been much praised by our school board and their same-page partners for paring their successful GATE programs down to the core — in the large numbers of private schools, and often very good ones, in their proximity.    This is the only game in town and in the next TWO elections, parents need to vote more astutely, pay out of pocket, or take their kids away to excel elsewhere.

    Good for David’s articles on the lousy (he was more respectful) research by our so-called experts from UCD.  The more they open their mouths about their penetrating contributions to the research, the worse it looks.  The few response to the two most recent articles shouldn’t be taken as a sign of late summer loss of interest, but instead of what little there is to say about such self-referential posing.   We despised laypeople can read.

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