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Poway Unified: Style Over Substance?

This week's Evil Mother Lady confession: What was PUSD thinking?

So, now it is time for the next confession—what was Poway Unified School District thinking? This is on par with most adolescent decision-making—don’t pay attention to your math lessons because they have no real-world applications. Get bad news from one source and make a bad decision with said source without (a) getting second and third opinions, (b) signing up for the escape option, while procrastinating on telling those responsible for paying for the deal, and then defend it as the only option. As a parent who purchased a very expensive home years ago in this district in order to educate my children here, I had high hopes they might be representative of the skills I wanted my children to learn. Instead, I get a backwards teachable moment with said children, who in 40 years will probably be paying very dearly for their homes to cover that bond that pays for itself every two to three years. That is provided home values have recovered to the points assumed and people aren’t selling their houses in droves like many people I’ve already talked to about the issue.

So, my teaching moment went sort of like this: Remember the things I always tell you about when you feel you are in over your head? Always get a second (or third) opinion. Don’t commit to something you can’t back out of without consulting with us first, there’s always time to make a good decision. If it is a life-altering decision take the time to think about it, research on it some more and talk to the people who will be impacted most before making that decision. Well, your school district did none of these things that I can see.

And my daughter’s response was classic: I guess that makes them more like an adolescent teenager and me more like an adult … right? I laughed at the arrogance of youth. She felt certain she might make a mistake like that but not on that scale. I can relate to the district’s position a bit. After a long and difficult bond passage, you get bad news. You made a commitment that you intend to honor—not raising taxes. Someone offers you a deal that allows you to do the work you need to do with the bond measure, not raise taxes (if all of the projections run true, a reassuring idea in the midst of the recession we were/are in that things will get better and return to normal). And you can just approve the deal and not deal with the consequences until later, hopefully much later. Unfortunately, it’s not the adult reaction we aim to instill in our children.

Empathy aside, I still don’t understand why we taxpayers are in this predicament. I am perturbed that people are content to brush it off, that they won’t be here by the time it’s due, that the children of the students enjoying those beautiful campuses are the ones on the hook for this one, that the idea of getting something for nothing for 40 years is viewed as desirable in the short-term. I thought we were striving to teach our children to take the long-term view, not the short-term, instant gratification view. And I am amazed that we had almost half of the bond amount in reserves, that we will pay this bond almost 10 times over and yet we still have overcrowded classrooms with art and music and other enrichment activities at the elementary school level paid for by PTA and not the district. Another lesson we teach our children: it is what is on the inside that matters most, not outward appearances. We moved here for the educational excellence, not the dated '70s appearance of our local school. Then why are we suddenly on the hook for style over substance? So, how about you?

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