School Board Crushes Petition To Approve CIF Rule On High School Sports
To the Editor:
Last month, I presented a Proposal to the Board of the Santa Paula Unified School District to approve a CIF Rule allowing students from St. Augustine Academy to participate in Santa Paula High School sports programs. By a vote of 3-2 (Tina Urias, Diana Ponce-Gomez, Chris Wilson: No; Kelsey Stewart and Michelle Kolbeck: Yes), the Board rejected it.
After the meeting, many people were disturbed by the ruling and urged me to start a Petition to ask the Board to reconsider it, So I did. In a matter of a few days, more than 230 people signed it. Another petition was circulated that I didn’t even know about, and it fetched another 80 signature. What is remarkable, at least for me, is that I knew relatively few people who signed the Petition. And it includes names from long-time Santa Paulans and a wide cross of the community, including leaders from all youth sports -- Little League, Football, AYSO, and Cheerleading.
So, I presented it to the Board last night and urging it to take this simple approach -- try it out for a year, see how it works, and then let’s see if any problems arise next year.
The response was stunning -- and not in a good way. Ms. Urias said she was “appalled” that this Petition was back on the Agenda, when this matter had been discussed and debated extensively last time. I had to wonder what discussion and debate she was referring to, because none had occurred previously. Last time, seven members of the community spoke in favor of the Proposal, but for no more than three minutes at a time, and then each of the five Board members delivered short pre-made statements explaining their positions. No one asked a single question of me.
This prompted Board President Michelle Kolbeck to remind Ms. Urias that any matter can be put on the Agenda if members of the community ask for it. She questioned why the Superintendent, Alfonso Gamino, couldn’t provide better answers to the questions some members had raised previously. Kelsey Stewart, who reiterated her support fort the Petition, recounted that she, on her own initiative, discovered “all the paperwork” that some feared would be needed for the Proposal, and after the Superintendent claimed no such paperwork could be found: a single piece of paper signed by the Principal of Camarillo High School and the Headmaster of St. Augustine Academy. Some paperwork problem, she suggested.
The failure to get answers about the Proposal was what Chris Wilson said led him to oppose the Petition. He said this matter should have allowed for interactive questioning, so that an informed decision could be made. I only wish he and the Superintendent would have asked me questions in advance, as there’s not much one can explain in a three-minute speech which occurs before any Board member poses any questions. And I thought I had answered all questions in a summary I had provided him and the other Board members in April. Apparently not.
Diana Ponce-Gomez voted against the Proposal reiterating the comments she made at the last meeting, and read from pre-prepared comments stating that she opposed adopting “a policy in favor of just one person, Michael Shaneyfelt.” She, as a Board member, said she had to consider the impact of that policy on all other policies. Of course, the Proposal was never for just Michael; it was for any of the 25-some students from Santa Paula who attend St. Augustine’s, which, in reality probably meant less than five students. And she ignored my suggestion that she try it for a year and assess its impact then. She also noticed, with evident fear, that some Petition signers had commented that they hoped the Proposal would pass so that “homeschoolers” might eventually avail themselves of some option to participate -- an option she was clearly opposed to.
So, the same three Board members were wholly unimpressed by the Petition. I was particularly struck by Ms. Urias’ hostility, even after an extraordinarily eloquent statement from the SPHS Student-Member of the Board, Bailey Van Buren. Ms. Van Buren volunteered that this Proposal had been hotly discussed at SPHS and that, while she was initially inclined against it, she later came to support it and she opined that most of the students at the High School supported it also, and wanted to know why she couldn’t vote in favor it and change the minds of the three Board members.
But Ms. Urias scoffed at her remark and said she thought the student programs at the high school were “excellent” and that her job was to represent the 5,000 students in Santa Paula schools and to “defend them against outside threats” like this Proposal was. She proceeded to read from an article in today’s Santa Paula Times about several SPHS students who had received Rotary Scholarships. It was an embarrassing response and a non-response to the heartfelt statement of Ms. Van Buren, who made clear she was representing the voice of SPHS.
In sum, our Petition failed. But there’s always another year -- and another election. I commend Board Members Kelsey Stewart and Michelle Kolbeck for their good sense and their great ability to articulate fine thoughts in simple words. It’s not easy being a Board member, especially when you have to deal with what they have to deal with. And a special commendation to Bailey Van Buren for her courageous remarks, which she made knowing three members of the Board disagreed with her. She was visibly moved when she saw the Proposal fail and she left the meeting immediately.
I also want to thank Keshaun Mata, and mom, Tina, for their love and support and their appearance at the meeting. We’ve loved them since Michael and he started playing T-ball together and all and various sports in between, at least up to high school. We will remain his Number One fans through this season and on.
I have no regrets for the effort. It was worth the try. I trust that good will come of it.
To the Editor:
Saturday, May 9, 2015 was the postal carriers annual food drive to help supply food for the needy in Santa Paula. What a terrific job they did with the very large amount of donations that our Santa Paula residents placed by their mailboxes.
Much of the food was taken to the Community Assistance of Santa Paula (CASP) on North Mill Street where it wa sorted and given to the needy families of Santa Paula.
We are sincerely grateful for the assistance of the carriers and others who were involved in the food drive.
Please accept our sincere thanks and how much we appreciated their help,