Sunday, January 27, 2008

California's Newest School District

Last November, local voters passed a measure combining three K-6 districts and one 7-12 district into California's newest, Twin Rivers Unified School District.

I spent 11 1/2 of my 13 years of K-12 education in two of the districts making up Twin Rivers. I spent 5 years as a student, and 4 years as a teacher, in the Grant District. You'd think I'd be disappointed to see this element from my life go away, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's long past time for Grant to disappear.

Creating a unified school district from four relatively underperforming districts isn't automatically going to create a bunch of Stanford-bound students. Having coordinated curricula might help improve instruction as well as learning, though.

But the best reason for Grant to go the way of the dodo is it was just a horrible place to work. It was poorly managed, mismanaged, or not managed for over 30 years. There was constant strife between the district office and the teachers, strife that became almost unbearable under Superintendent Larry "Ratboy" Buchanan--whose only goal in life seemed to be to get good enough at something to merit having a school named after him, like his father did near Fresno. He failed miserably at that goal. His legacy was the dissolution of the Grant District, a fitting legacy for someone who should have disappeared himself several years ago.

It's clear my contempt for this man knows no bounds. Getting rid of Ratboy, though, which happened shortly before the election, wasn't enough; Grant had become so dysfunctional over the past few decades that the district administration needed a complete, bottom-to-top overhaul. There was no one--and I do mean no one--at that district office with any idea of how a school district should be run, or with any idea that one could be run without personal vendettas, cults of personality, vindictiveness, and corruption.

A school board has already been elected for Twin Rivers, and it does not include any of the former Grant board members. That school board has already named some of the district officers, including an interim superintendent, and none of those officers comes from the former Grant District.

I know the person who's trying to merge the four districts' teachers' contracts into a new Twin Rivers contract. He's picking the best parts from each contract and piecing them together to form Twin Rivers', and if the board approves his work, those teachers will be among the best compensated (in overall package) in the area! My current district used to hold that position, but it's slipped far in the past several years. When the Twin Rivers contract is ratified, I'll make sure my own local union takes a look-see at it in an effort to shame our district into paying a little more.

I wish this new district luck. Everyone with a stake in Twin Rivers deserves for it to be a well-run, high-quality education system. It has much potential and promise--let's all hope it lives up to that potential.


Chanman said...

As an employee of the new Twin Rivers School District, I am thrilled to hear that our teachers "will be among the best compensated in the area." It's about time! I can honestly say that I love the little school district I work(ed) for (Rio Linda)and am very apprehensive about the merge. I understand that the merge is about what is best (or what might be best--- we won't know for a while) for the kids, but as a teacher, I am hard pressed to come up with many reasons to merge our efficient, personable, successful little district with the others. I hope Twin Rivers lives up to its potential.
--- Mrs. Chanman

Darren said...

Of the four districts, Rio Linda was the best run.

Ellen K said...

That is one of the key problems with rural district in Texas. The small towns feel, and probably with some justification, that if they lose their high schools and their football teams, that the towns will cease to exist. That may be exaggerating the case, but right now we are duplicating efforts for special education, administration, athletics facilities and AP programs all to satisfy federal standards,when those same things could be accomplished by bringing a few struggling districts together and allowing the pooled tax revenue to fund much needed improvements. Instead these district would rather rely on the kindness of others via funding from Austin or Washington. Those funds come with big strings attached and defeat the freedom of site based management. I wish someone in my state would listen to the teachers rather than the coaches.