Board Celebrates While Our District Goes Down in Flames

By Marianne Kearney-Brown – Director, WIT Academy


Recent letter writers have urged us to vote for the incumbent school board candidates, citing their integrity, hard work and compassion. However, as admirable as these people may be, Tony Ubalde and Hazel Wilson have not shown themselves to be successful at directing the course of the Vallejo City Unified School District. Compassion and integrity are not enough to fix Vallejo schools.

By any objective measure, Vallejo schools are failing.
If you use compare the most recent data on California unified school districts with enrollment of at least 5,000,
you will find that Vallejo ranks:
–159/167 in Academic Performance Index
–163/167 in student math proficiency
–161/167 in student English language arts proficiency

According to Ed Trust-West, an educational advocacy group that issues yearly report cards on how well districts serve their Latino, African-American, and low-income students , Vallejo ranks
–140/143 in college eligibility among students of color,
–144/145 in graduation rate among students of color,
–148/149 in performance rates of students of color and
–145/148 in performance rates of low income students.

Vallejo has the highest drop-out rate in the state and is tied with Compton Unified for second-to-last place in graduation rate.

In response to this alarming data, the governing board of VCUSD embarked on an expensive marketing campaign to let people know about “the fantastic things happening in the district”. In contrast, a Fairfield-Suisun Trustee John Silva responded to a drop in Math and English proficiency at Fairfield High by saying “(I’m) thanking god that Vallejo exists or we’d be in the cellar,….I’m optimistic Fairfield will turn and we can move up . . .”

This is criminal. There is nothing to celebrate if others look at us and say “At least we are not Vallejo…”

Tony Ubalde and Hazel Wilson did not cause these problems, but these numbers have gotten progressively worse since they were last elected. To spend $17,000 on a glossy “Celebration Report” and slick mailings when the district is in educational free-fall shows a disturbing disconnect between the governing board’s perception and the stark reality of the situation.

There are serious problems in Vallejo schools. Fairfield Trustee, Silva, knows this and is perversely grateful. Thousands of Vallejo parents know this and scramble to find options in other districts and in private schools. Brisbain Pucan, Ruscal Cayangyang and Burky Worel know this and are willing to try to solve them. They offer a welcome change from our current school board who “celebrate” while our district goes down in flames.


Note: All opinions expressed in the “Primal Scream” column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.

'Board Celebrates While Our District Goes Down in Flames' have 34 comments

  1. October 24, 2014 @ 5:51 am Invested

    Well researched and written, Ms. Kearney-Brown. I, too, feel that Worel, Cayangyang, and Pucan “get it.” If they don’t win, Vallejo is doomed.


    • October 24, 2014 @ 9:49 am Salty Dog

      @ Invested:

      Yes…..but WHAT do they get?


  2. October 24, 2014 @ 8:06 am Bong Hit

    Thanks for the report Marianne, perhaps Richmond High is a closer demographic match to Vallejo but for some reason they outperform Vallejo High by significant margins.

    Leadership Public Schools: Richmond (R)
    Vallejo High (V)

    Grade Span
    R: 09-12
    V: 08-12

    % Minority
    R: 98.5
    V: 88.4

    Average Class Size
    R: 25.5
    V: 23.2

    AYP Math % Proficient
    R: 66.7
    V: 34.4

    High Cohort Graduation Rate
    R: 81.54
    V: 60.75

    Cohort Dropout Rate
    R: 9.2
    V: 35.5


    • October 24, 2014 @ 10:01 am Salty Dog

      @ Bong:

      Drop out rates and graduation rates are deplorable, outrageous, and scandalous for such an, on balance, blessed District.

      Throwing nearly a half billion tax payer dollars at these rates in the hope that money will alleviate the problem is equally deplorable, outrageous and scandalous.

      The answer lies elsewhere. Hint: management philosophy/strategies that are failing to rouse the troops.



    • October 24, 2014 @ 10:44 am Marianne

      Is leadership a charter? VCUSD management in irrationally against charter, independent or dependent. In two years, they drove down Vallejo Charter’s Academic Performance Index 40 points from 821 to 781. THeir charter was a very good plan and VCUSD has gutted it.


    • Vallejo Voter

      October 25, 2014 @ 2:21 pm Vallejo Voter

      Richmond is a good comp : Vallejo and Richmond have access to the same, or at least, similar, pool of professionals: Teachers and administrators. Yet, Vallejo has been at the bottom of all ratings for more years than any of us would like to remember. But as long as Hazel Wilson has been on the Board, not only did the district face bankruptcy, and plead with the State for a bail out, but the scores and drop out rates have decreased every year.

      Why vote for Wilson? What has she done? VUSD has become worse under her “leadership.” Time to go.


  3. October 24, 2014 @ 11:49 am An Alum

    Academic justice leads to social justice.


  4. October 24, 2014 @ 12:23 pm Julia

    Hear hear! I’m not saying that people like Burky have all the answers, but at least they’re willing to shake things up. And if there’s ever a Board that needs mixing up, it’s ours. Sometimes you have to tear things down to build things up again.


    • October 25, 2014 @ 4:48 pm Salty Dog

      I agree, Burky has the potential to “shake things up”. But, I wonder if he has the capacity to promote a more effective approach. Remember, he has spent his entire working life in a top-down regimented police force- a systems approach man who would be a good fit and ally for Bishop’s systems approach.

      In that regard, I view Shelee as a potential fit with her well developed communication skills, experience and willingness to explore other strategies.

      If we are looking at education/governance reform, there are the thinkers and the doers and those able to assist both. Each of these candidates has the potential to be catalysts for facilitative change at the Board table. imo


      • October 25, 2014 @ 5:05 pm Iñigo

        Shelee has a military (Navy) background. Isn’t it a “top-down regimented …” environment as well? My impression is that she loves Bishop. One reason I probably won’t vote for her. I won’t vote for incumbents Wilson and Ubalde, that’s for sure.


        • October 25, 2014 @ 7:30 pm Invested

          That is what they get. The district needs tougher discipline policies.

          Loughmiller is friends with Bishop and praises her. Mmmmm, no thank you.


          • October 25, 2014 @ 8:34 pm Salty Dog

            Are you sure that discipline alone will resolve the District’s deficiencies or is it part of a more fundamental governance malaise?

            I could be a friend of the Superintendent. Some of her strategies are positive ie academies to focus student interest. One strategy I disagree with is “Restorative Justice”, which is only ONE theory that addresses alternative behavior modification and one that does not lend itself to be effective or even appropriate as a broad based strategy. It is a theory only.

            The issue for me with Bishop, from what I can deduce is that her management philosophy does not appear to be inclusive in an enterprise that requires everyone heading in the same direction. It behooves every Superintendent to muster/energize/inspire all the talents in a District. That won’t happen in a top-down autocratic organization. And that is a waste and shame.

  5. October 25, 2014 @ 9:44 pm Salty Dog

    When it comes to discipline, there is no best practices, no one shoe to fit all in classroom management. Not surprising when you bring 30 individuals with different home experiences together who learn at different rates and in diverse ways. The fact is, teachers are winging it on the front lines.

    The good news is that some teachers have “withitness”. They have a natural teaching ability that most students can sense. Unfortunately, the less, shall we say, studious students, can also sense when the classroom teacher is not supported by the administration.

    The good news is that most educators have learned a bag full classroom strategies during teacher training. The bad news is that without administrative support, classroom management becomes a moot point.

    If more discipline is the answer, then the front line troops, the school administrators and senior admin need some serious and comprehensive sit down discussion time to develop trust and a broad and consistent approach to creating a secure,safe and inviting learning environment.

    Can a top-down, systems, factory, autocratic narrow focused management approach be effective in public education? Perhaps…..but am I willing to bet another half billion dollars that it will? No.

    But I am willing to let five or seven trustees shake up a Board so badly as to make it unrecognizable if it results in a District that is more inclusive of its staff, the public, parents and students. We may then see a turnaround from the pandemic criticism it currently suffers.


    • October 26, 2014 @ 6:49 am Invested

      Salty dog, even kids know that better schools have better dclpine practices. My kids are transferred to Benicia. They attended school in Vallejo. They tell me there is a difference in how kids are respectful. They don’t miss the chaos in Vallejo. They see more of their peers of all races who moved to Benicia or transferred. Every one of them really appreciate the discipline policies in Benicia. Bishop is driving a lot of the better achieving students out of Vallejo. Benicia is loosening up its transfer polices. If they have room, they review an applicants record and if the applicant has a good record in academics and behavior, they let them enroll. Many parents are learning about it and applying their students for transfers, MAINLY because that they know their kids will be safer in Benicia. Bullying is less tolerated and bullies have to serve Saturday detention. Transferring to Benicia is the best thing we did for our kids.


  6. October 25, 2014 @ 9:57 pm wharf rat

    Salt You continue to have an expanded , thought process , notwithstanding your obvious , er ,ah , well , somewhat Archeological perspective … Your post Geritol Invectives have major merit .. Yet there is a Cultural explosion , City wide , seems that this burg has culture , beyond most BAY AREA CITIES ………. Vallejo has one of the most prestigious ART collections in the entire Bay Area … ‘YES THE ARMPIT OF THE BAY AREA’ is chattel to an amazing contemporary Art collection ………. This unexpected mystery , has been forgotten for decades , Untill local Activist , and community volunteer ‘Emeritus’ Doug Darling , illuminated the issue and spent over 9 months , doggedly determined to move this issue forward , climbing over stone walls , one after another , thrown up by Staff , all while Scaling the stone walls erected by entrenched Beauracratic enclaves , often until hands and fingers are raw …
    His efforts are not for nought , they will result in a HUGE re-dedication of this rich Collection , with the appropriate fanfare and flutes overflowing with Champagne , post a world class re-dedication and un-veiling Ceremony .. If wE could only find the missing Sculpture ‘Space Daisy” the collection would be compleat …


  7. October 26, 2014 @ 8:38 am Bong Hit

    Dr. Bishop’s strategy is to “save” all of the troubled kids from themselves and their highly dysfunctional home life. In pursuing this strategy, the entire school culture is reduced to the lowest common denominator of civil behavior and deportment. There’s no mystery here people. If you send your young adult to Vallejo High now, he or she will find a culture of poor black street ghetto where the strong and aggressive survive and the meek and reserved are consumed in the dysfunctional violence. There is no way a teacher can teach effectively and also maintain classroom discipline amid students talking, walking out of class and throwing chairs around.

    Stupid adult idiots will read these details as reported by me and others and immediately pull a race card and dismiss all evidence in favor of pandering to Dr. Bishop and her failed ideology. What stupidity cannot grasp is that the very bright and talented black children are just as much a victim of this disastrous strategy as every other kid. If we were to segregate the high school into one disciplinary school and one academic school, it would give the well behaved students an atmosphere of decorum and proper behavior to thrive in. In the disciplinary school, safety resources could be concentrated to keep a lid on the violence.

    The failure of liberal progressive policies never ceases to amaze. It’s as if progressives have embraced stupidity and eagerly pursue it, stepping over the crushed hopes and dreams of all the child victims along the way.


    • SilasBarnae

      October 26, 2014 @ 11:59 am SilasBarnae

      I think what you are trying to say is that we have a system with a California constitution that guarantees every child a “free and appropriate” education. Schools are mandated to give whatever, slob, pig or monster a free and appropriate education with no direction on what is considered a child. I think many Californians would vote to change the constitution to read, “every child not deemed to be “incorrigible” by the State is entitled to a free and appropriate education”.


  8. October 26, 2014 @ 8:14 pm Really?

    Pucan hasn’t shown up at any debates. I’m not voting for her. Why would I vote for someone who cares so little for the voters that she can’t attend even one debate? And if I hear “she war to busy, had other obligations” — if she doesn’t have the time to campaign, then does she have time for the school board? Her website days she has a “four star plan”… one less than Hermie Sunga, who by the way, has endorsed Pucan.


    • October 27, 2014 @ 12:18 am Ben

      She has business smarts and tells it like is. Forums? The AA was a foregone conclusion. The other two were scheduled when she had an opportunity to raise enough money to fund her campaign., and did. If you don’t take union money you still have to pay the county for the voters statement, the printer for the signs the post office for mailing, and all the rest it takes just to have holier than thou complainers harp about how someone who is willing to put herself out there instead of just running their mouth is not worth consideration.


    • October 27, 2014 @ 6:42 am Anon

      @Really.? Pucan has been campaigning, she been at several functions in the community. Unlike some other candidate, she is not kissing butt of special interests groups and Bishop. Pucan is smart and a very successful business woman, she is in the race because she wants to improve schools. Not because she is jump starting her political career like some other candidate.


      • October 27, 2014 @ 8:19 am Mensch

        Pucan has also been heard making statements to several city officials that if she wins she won’t accept the seat, she’s only running as a spoiler to split the Filipino vote away from Ubalde. Raising money instead of attending the forums is a bogus excuse to miss one much less all 3 of them. According to the tax filings reported to the county by the newspaper she wrote a $5,000 loan from her business to jumpstart her campaign. Smart yes, committed to serving the community with integrity is doubtful based on her actions. she’s a pawn for a very fear based group of politicos.


        • October 27, 2014 @ 8:55 am Not believing you

          Mensch, cite your resources!!! The only fearing mongering tactic is from you, spreading rumors about a particular candidate. Exactly to which city officials do you claim that she said this to?


          • October 27, 2014 @ 9:58 am Mensch

            Ask the McConnells and Joanne Shiveley for starters…..

          • October 27, 2014 @ 7:14 pm Not believing you

            Interesting the McConneles speak of her highly and both endorsed her. Schively’s FUx Vallejo also endorsed Pucan, Worel, and Cayangyang. Wow shooting blanks are we now? I heard Mrs. Pucan speak recently. She is very impressive.

          • October 27, 2014 @ 7:15 pm Not believing you

            Mean Fix Vallejo not FUx lol

          • October 28, 2014 @ 6:00 pm Not Believing the Mensch

            Hmmmm, drove by the McConnels’s office n Georgia Street, there is a huge blaring sign for Pucan. Drive by and take a good look. And so your little vile ugly rumors are null. Thanks for playing.

  9. October 27, 2014 @ 5:51 pm Really?

    Ah, I knew you’d explain away Pucan’s absence, “a forgone conclusion” She wasn’t at the Filipino debate, the AAA debate, the Mira debate. All others attended all three. Don’t vote Pucan. She may have “biz smarts” but if she can’t show up at a debate to share her ideas, would she give a damn about transparency? Do as I say, not as I do.

    The hatred of the other candidates, incumbents and bishop is blinding you.


    • October 28, 2014 @ 3:56 pm Mensch

      Not Believing You….Seriously, fear based letters to the editor, programming a young candidate to spout their divisive rhetoric, and people that say they want change in Vallejo yet endorse a union talking point guy? Check your disbelief at the door, facts are facts but innuendo, rumor & speculation seem to get more attention these days.


      • October 28, 2014 @ 5:57 pm Not Believing You

        Poor mensch. Sad that people are not supporting your incompetent incumbents? People have a right to vote for new candidates and don’t label us who want change as “haters.”


        • October 29, 2014 @ 8:13 am Mensch

          Far from sad since I’m not supporting the incumbents either. Merely getting the facts out there and recognize that politics is playing havoc on our city and the district. Vote for whomever you want, just do your homework . Seeing signs on the fence means Pucan is supported by this kind of political BS. Is that really the type of representative you want?


  10. October 29, 2014 @ 10:31 am don't believe you

    de-mensch-ia Ummm, people put up signs to whom they believe are strong candidates. Most of us have DONE our homework. have you? hmmmm, or just callously making false accusations. My point about the McConnells having a sign outside their office is that you were lying about them saying things about Pucan, which is slander against both Paula and Robert. The sign proves that they believe in her, and yes, both Robert and Paula do their homework. Have you no shame? You obviously have resentment against Pucan and Worel. I wonder why?


    • October 29, 2014 @ 2:13 pm Mensch

      Sorry, speaking out of resentment is not my style but it could be that Pucan is miffed that her kid didn’t get grad night honors that she felt were deserved. Apparently it’s OK with her that her so called campaign manager felt compelled to get physically abusive toward Ubalde, too. Now thats really adult behavior! I’m calling out a candidate on her own words spoken TO the McConnell group and calling this disingenuous plan out for the political BS gamesmanship that it is. Hang your sign up for whom ever, just thought illuminating the truth would be best for the VIB audience since they’re all known for telling the truth.


  11. October 29, 2014 @ 2:39 pm don't believe you

    Oh, my, mensch, your bitterness gets more patent with each posting. Your resentment is strong and loud. But please put aside your petty personal issues. Our children deserve better. and you are standing in the way because of some little chip on your shoulder. What next are you going to spout? Accusing Cayangyang of something far fetched, I wonder? of buying votes with free ice cream? I wouldn’t put it pass you. Really, the more you lie, the more ridiculous you come across. You are one to chirp about “truth”, when you have been caught with your lies about the McConnells. Vallejo is burning and our schools are horrible, please put away your personal feelings away so we can focus on the campaign. vote the incumbents out.


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