By Jon Riley, Executive Director Napa-Solano Labor Coalition
Vallejo Citizens are faced with a very difficult decision on Election Day. Besides the Vallejo Unified School District Board Elections we are also being asked to vote to support a $250 Million Dollar Facilities Improvement Bond. If you are like most people in Vallejo you have not heard much about this unless you are the inside-baseball political watcher. But things are heating up with the absentee ballots out in the mail.
So what’s the issue? Vallejo Citizens always step up to the plate to support our schools. And rightfully so. So what is different? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Some say they do not like the direction of our schools under the current Superintendent, that she does not value her employees, that our schools are not safe to name two. Others say they do not trust the current board to provide the needed oversight, not only of the bond money but also over this same Superintendent. This is just another example of politics in the most diverse city in America, where we tend to celebrate this mere factual statistic, often turning a blind eye to the special issues this diversity brings. But without the much needed unity, which is our only hope to succeed, we cannot really celebrate. The only thing that all sides agree on is that this Bond is needed! Our Schools are in dire need of repair and safety improvements! On this we are unified.
I am writing this as a lifelong Vallejo resident who, like a majority of Vallejo voters, do not have children matriculating in our schools. And like many, I chose to send my children to private schools for many of the same reasons that parents today struggle with. As a matter of fact, I left Vallejo Public Schools in the 4thgrade because my parents had the same concerns. That was in 1969. So to lay the perception problems of Vallejo’s troubled schools on the current Board or Superintendent is just unfair. Maybe a bit of the Diversity/Unity topic rearing its head?
But just like every other Business or Homeowner, my wife and I have made an investment in Vallejo. We renew that investment every year we decide to stay. I love this town, its perfect weather, beautiful Waterfront and Vistas, its perfect location and yes, the diversity! We have suffered through decades of, bad luck, worse timing and dysfunctional leadership but always foremost in my families decision to stay is Vallejo’s limitless potential. And I know that, as a Community, if we hope to capitalize on our investment we need three things, Public Safety, thriving schools and most importantly unity. How do we hope to attract the Businesses and Developers to invest in Vallejo if we as citizens are not willing to invest in our Schools? So for those that are still not convinced to make another investment in our town because of these reasons here is my take on the subject.
We will have a change in leadership on the School Board come November. At least one seat will change with a Board Member deciding not to run and there is the distinct possibility that more may change after the polls close. All the dialogue surrounding the race has been the need to have transparency, oversight and solid leadership at the Board level to give direction to staff. So, knowing we have much needed change coming, doesn’t it make more sense to give the new School Board the resource’s necessary to improve our schools right out of the box? Or do we do as some suggest, wait to see if we like the change and then put it back on the ballot in two years? Seems reasonable. Kicking the can down the road is comforting, and easy. The only problem? Our new board, absent the infusion of money needed to help our struggling schools attract students and teachers, will spend the first year grappling with budget deficits and a wary employee base and then they will have to go out and convince the same electorate, that have already voted a bond down, why this time it’s different! And who suffers? We all do! You and I, the taxpayers, who have made the investment in Vallejo and are still waiting for the magic bullet to make it worth our while, but more importantly, our children, who continue to be forced to attend sub-standard Schools.
I see great improvement in Vallejo and think it is time to start thinking of our commitment to community as the investment it is and stop using this bond as a political football to be kicked around by the adults when in the end it is the children that will once again be made to suffer. I will be voting Yes on E on November 4th and hope you will join me. But whether you agree with me or not, please vote. Let’s at least show our youth what being part of a democracy is all about, caring enough to show up.
Note: All opinions expressed in the “Primal Scream” column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.