I can’t believe I’m writing about this again.
My fourth column, written in October of 2003, focused on the mountains of scientific research showing conclusively that early school start times for middle and high school students are harmful for teens.
Since then, I’ve written two more columns on the subject, in 2010 and 2013, and referenced the insanity of early start times in numerous other columns, all the while expressing exasperation at the deafening silence from education leaders.
Some of you have asked why my columns are so long. It’s a good question, because I never set out to write so much. It’s hubris to think my words are so important – I recognize that.
Every time I sit down to write, it’s always with the goal to keep my words under 1,000 – 800 is the target.
But here’s a perfect example of how it happens.
As part of its contract with the San Dieguito Union High School District to shoot senior yearbook portraits, Keane Studios, located in Carmel Valley, receives personal contact information for each 12th-grade student and their parents.
Some parents say this is wrong, citing a violation of privacy rights.
“A few weeks ago I received a letter that [child’s] personal information was sent to Keane Studios so she could be photographed for the yearbook,” said one parent in May, whose child will be a senior this fall.
Few issues cause parents more distress than changes in school boundaries. Who can forget the tumult when in 2002 the Del Mar Union School District moved hundreds of families from one attendance area to another? Resentment still lingers, 12 years later.
The San Dieguito Union High School District created its system of boundaries nearly 18 years ago that has worked well over time – until now.
It would be easy to assume, after the last few columns, that the staff at the San Dieguito Union High School District deserves condemnation.
Recent stories highlighting what may be unlawful student fees have been critical. The schools’ nonprofit foundations have not always followed the rules, the district dropped the ball by improperly charging for graduation attire, and district policy to charge students for parking privileges is being challenged.
What were once requests for money have over the years escalated into a sense of entitlement. Topping everything was the property tax bill overcharge debacle last fall.
At $40 annually per vehicle, the San Dieguito Union High School District collected over $77,000 in fees this year from students for campus parking permits.
With an overall budget this year of about $107 million, $77,000 may seem insignificant. But there’s a principle at stake here, says Sally Smith, a San Diego attorney and relentless crusader for equal access in public education.
Parents who paid for caps and gowns for their graduating high school seniors this year are owed a full refund, the San Dieguito Union High School District has determined.
Because the district did not make it clear that caps and gowns could be provided at no charge, SDUHSD is now forced to offer refunds to anyone who purchased the attire and does not wish to keep it.
In her fight to ensure fair and equal access for all public school students in California, Sally Smith is a champion for those without a voice and Public Enemy #1 to those who view her as a destructive force in public education.
Smith is a doggedly determined attorney who began her pursuit to eliminate improper fees in public schools in the San Diego Unified School District where her children attended school.
A lawyer once told me he would rather defend rapists and murderers than dive into the ugly world of education politics. Although joking (sort of), I take his point.
Having written about education for the last 18 years and suffered more than my share of abuse for the positions I have espoused, I vowed never again to enter into a debate about the merits of one candidate over another for school board seats.
Following last week’s column on the property tax bill error caused jointly by the San Dieguito Union High School District and the county of San Diego, left unsaid was how it happened and what’s in place moving forward to ensure it never happens again.