CUSD School Board race 2020 – who will run, and what’s their position on the district’s new decision to keep schools partially closed?

23 Jul

In this upcoming election I’d like to get the voters to pay more attention to the school board race. This race is so under-voted in most elections, the two members up in this election, Elizabeth Griffin and Linda Hovey,  were both appointed due to lack of challengers. Neither of them has announced publicly that they will run for re-election. 

There is one challenger, a well-connected Sacramento politico turned rice farmer, Matt Tennis. Tennis, a Chico native who attended local schools,  is also a member of the Butte County Water Board, and has advocated the Paradise/Chico water transfer. That’s about all I got from a preliminary web search. 

According to his website and Faceblob pages, Tennis is running for school board with a campaign to re-open Chico schools. He is pushing for the district to apply for a waiver of the governor’s closure.

From the state website:

Governor Gavin Newsom Lays Out Pandemic Plan for Learning and Safe Schools  

“There is a single exception. Local health officers may grant a waiver to allow elementary schools to reopen in-person instruction if the waiver is requested by the district superintendent, in consultation with labor, parents and community-based organizations. When considering a waiver request, the local health officer must consider local data and consult with the California Department of Public Health.

The Department also issued updated guidance for when schools must physically close and revert to distance learning because of COVID-19 infections. Following a confirmed case of a student who was at school during his or her infectious period, other exposed students and staff should be quarantined for 14 days. The school should revert to distance learning when multiple cohorts have cases or 5 percent of students and staff test positive within a 14-day period. The district should revert to distance learning when 25 percent or more of its schools have been physically closed due to COVID-19 within 14 days. Closure decisions should be made in consultation with local health officers. After 14 days, school districts may return to in-person instruction with the approval of the local public health officer.”

The board voted July 15 to re-open according to the Governor’s rules – groups split between morning and afternoon, and on a rotating schedule – Monday, Wednesday, Friday one week and Tuesday, Thursday the next. Face shields will be required and temperatures will be taken.

I’m not sure if this is what Tennis wanted, or what the waiver would mean,  but I believe the board’s decision is a disaster for working parents. I’m just glad I don’t have school age kids anymore. I’ve never liked the idea of public school as free babysitting, but the fact is, working parents depend on having a safe place for their kids to learn. Our economy depends on it. What are parents supposed to do with their kids the other 2 – 3 days a week? Are they supposed to leave their jobs (including those who work 50 or more miles out of town) to pick their kid up at lunch time, and then what? 

As the child of working parents, I know this isn’t going to work. The state’s economy is going to tank if they don’t fully open the schools. Not to mention, the kids will get behind. And we can’t afford to get any further behind in education in this state. According to US News, California public schools have an overall ranking of 37 out of 50 states, with a 40 in “quality” and a 38 in “safety”.

Remember what strikes did to baseball and hockey? 

I don’t know how either Hovey or Griffin voted on this issue – one board member voted No, reasons unknown. 

I’d like to hear from some of you working parents what you think of this decision. 

UPDATE: The governor has put Butte County on the Shit List, so the district may have to go back to online learning in the fall. 


4 Responses to “CUSD School Board race 2020 – who will run, and what’s their position on the district’s new decision to keep schools partially closed?”

  1. Melanie D July 27, 2020 at 10:38 am #

    We desperately need new board members. I watched my first school board meeting two weeks ago because I was curious what they would do regarding school opening or not. The head lady, Griffin, cancelled public comments, saying she didn’t know how to do it. Does she not know you cannot legally do that? Read the comments if you have to, or put them on a camera like any other attachment, but the public comments or the people calling in are always far more interesting than listening to the district staff or board. They kept cutting off teachers or parents who wanted to express opinions about opening or closing the schools. Here we had one of the most important items in history, but they cut them off so we could listen to Board Member Kaiser tell us that Covid is no big deal and she compared it to mice in her house. “Just put a mouse trap out,” she said. I was aghast at her stupidity. Then there were the administrators who were so uncomfortable with their masks that they just let them hang under their chin. I don’t know what to tell you other than It’s like listening to completely incompetence making decisions that are incapable of making. One man, Tom Lando, at least was taken aback by Kaiser’s idiocy and told her. Good for him.
    We need Juanita Sumner to be both a City Council Member AND a School Board Member!

    • Juanita Sumner July 27, 2020 at 2:10 pm #

      Thanks Melanie, for paying attention to the school board. I have not looked in since 2016 when they ran Measure K. I have not had any experience with Hovey, Griffin or Lando, but I have sat in on conversations with Kaiser and Robinson, and that’s exactly what I got – they need to go. They make asinine remarks that indicate to me they don’t read the reports. They both have their own agendas, they don’t care about the kids.

      But, I’ll tell you why I won’t run for school board – I’ve never had kids in the school district, I home schooled my kids. There were and are so many things about Chico Unified that are wrong I wouldn’t know where to start. I’d have a stroke at the first meeting.

      If I was 20 years younger and had kids in the district, the first thing I’d do, is make the Superintendent elected by the voters, and hire a new finance director. I’d get out of CalSTRS (I can hear the union punching their fists through the ceiling right now…) and I’d institute 401K’s with an employer contribution that starts at 5% of employee contribution and goes no higher than 50% with sufficient years of service. I’d get rid of step salary increases and go back to employee reviews. Parents would have more say-so in teacher hires and fires.

      I know, wildest dreams of mice and moms, usually don’t get out of the carport.

      Seriously, it needs to be parents. The idea that I’d let a bunch of strangers take my kid for 8 hours or more a day, and then not even have anything to say about policy or practice makes me physically sick. One problem I have with a lot of parents (and I know them) is they think of school as nothing more than free babysitting. They don’t know anything about what is going on in the classroom and they don’t want to know. And I know teachers that have admitted to me they leave the classroom by a back door to avoid parents at the end of the day and change their phone numbers regularly even though this is against the rules.

      So, until the parents wise up and rise up, the school district will continue to be run in the employees’ best interests, not the kids.

      When my kids were little, the place to raise this kind of chatter was the playground after school. See what COVID has done? And we’ve let it happen.

      • Melanie D July 28, 2020 at 8:13 am #

        Thank you for your words and opinions. This is exactly why you are so needed! You are one of the few out there not afraid to speak your mind and you see things that others don’t. Something happens to board members who seem to get intimidated by lawyers or the schmoozing that goes on and within a short time, they just go along with everything. Teachers consistently say this is the weakest group of district administrators ever. Hard to have that when we are at a time we need smart people. You cannot take idiots and tell them to “think out of the box,” when they can’t do that naturally. Scary times for sure, and it’s not dissimilar to having beginners on your baseball team and expecting them to win. “Ain’t gonna happen.” Thanks for all you do. Your vision is exemplary.

      • Juanita Sumner July 28, 2020 at 12:56 pm #

        Thank you Melanie, if only I was young again.

        Yes, it’s time to shine the flashlight on the school district, get people to pay attention. One more badly educated generation and I think we’re headed for the dark ages. When I was young I had a “knee jerk” reaction – I saw that school had only got worse since I was a kid and I kept my kids at home. Years later, I can’t regret that decision. Another kid we know that went through Chico schools has ended up in really bad trouble.

        Our schools are turning perfectly good children into dysfunctional adults. Too many kids coming out of CUSD have NO job skills, they aren’t enlightened to higher learning, they just want to get out of the maddening sausage factory that our schools have become. They have no idea where they’re going, they have no hope for the future here. So one day they get a gun and shoot all their roommate’s possessions and then they start shooting the outside of their house and then when the neighbor comes over to see what the hell is going on they shoot him.

        I’m sorry, I’m feeling very emotional right now. A lot of kids my sons have grown up with who went through Chico public schools, who came from “nice” homes, have come to bad ends or are living in a nightmare of addiction and behavioral problems.

        I get what you’re saying – I just watched “Bad News Bears” yesterday and I cried and cried. Thank God the roommate was fast asleep on my son’s couch when the shooting started.

        All these people were tiny children once.

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