By Paula McConnell
“I don’t have children in Vallejo schools, so I have not paid attention to any of this,” someone told me recently. Whether you have children in Vallejo schools or not, please know this: good families are leaving Vallejo every single day because of our low scoring and dangerous schools. Some families even refuse to move here because of our schools. Businesses will often not relocate to Vallejo because of our schools, and we are in severe trouble as a city because of these losses and abject conditions.Vallejo school board members brag about a 64% graduation rate, (up from 50%) while the city of Benicia boasts a 97% graduation rate. The district has sent out long, expensive full color glossy reports at taxpayers’ expense in celebratory propaganda. Are the currently high school dropout rates, and low graduation numbers something to brag about?
You can’t make this stuff up. Several Vallejo teachers were medically treated last year due to violence inflicted upon them by STUDENTS. A student reported that one teacher was so badly beaten that she never returned to teach.Teacher morale is very low in the Vallejo school district. Not only because they are the lowest paid teachers in the county, but because they fear for their very safety within the classroom. Teachers are constantly called vile names by recalcitrant students. They are often pushed, shoved, and watch helplessly as chairs and hard balls are thrown over their heads inside their classrooms. All school administrators can do is implement the school board policy concept called “Restorative Justice” wherein the perpetrators are asked to discuss their behavior and ‘apologize’ to their victims. Excuse me? This behavior should be unequivocally forbidden and never condoned. Many years ago a student conducting such violent behavior in a classroom would be thrown out, expelled, sent to a continuation school, or prison. But the Vallejo School Board and current Superintendent maintain that the violent students just need to talk about their actions, discuss the reason for their negative, angry behavior, and apologize to their victims. Really?
There have been three Solano County Grand Jury reports about the poor conditions of the Vallejo schools. That is totally unprecedented. And the recently “leaked” WASC report clearly threatens the very accreditation of the Vallejo schools. That issue, in and of itself, should be extremely concerning to each of us. There is an extremely high drop-out rate and truancy problem. Children are not held accountable for their actions; so what happens when they do finally drop? They end up on the street in a pipeline to prison.What do they do? They rob, mug, steal, burglarize, shoot each other and assault people. At the very least they hang out on street corners and chill all day.
But it gets even worse. At a recent school board meeting, teacher after teacher (some in tears) beseeched the school board for increased classroom safety and increased pay. A few of the board members and the Superintendent looked totally bored while listening to their heartfelt pleas; one even had a smirk. No one should be treated with such dismissive disdain. These same school board members have also openly attacked the three Solano County Grand Jury reports outlining safety issues within the Vallejo school district. Indeed, at one meeting, it was suggested that the Solano County Grand Jury members are all racists. That is preposterous! The lack of respect exhibited by the school board for these laboriously researched reports is appalling!
At that same school board meeting, just when we thought we had heard it all, another shoe dropped. A mother went to the meeting’s microphone to relate her tragic story. She explained that her son had his ear almost severed by another student in the halls of Vallejo High School. He had been attacked from behind. In that case, thankfully, the student/attacker was sent to jail for assault and battery. After serving his prison sentence, the former student/prisoner has been recently returned to the halls of Vallejo High School ‘to complete his studies’. When the victim’s mother requested that the perpetrator be removed and transferred to another school, she was all but ignored.
The end result of the matter is that the school’s Superintendent insisted that the victimized student should be removed from his class at Vallejo High School. The Superintendent wants to transfer the victim to Bethel High. Seriously? Why is it that the Vallejo school Superintendent’s policy chooses to punish and compromise the victim, and protect the perpetrator? Why should this mother’s son (who is on track to graduate in the spring) be moved away from his established teachers and friends at Vallejo High? And why is the criminal perpetrator allowed to return to class at Vallejo High School at all? Meanwhile, the victim’s mother is afraid to send her son back to school. She rightfully fears that he might be attacked again. It seems that the policy of ‘Restorative Justice’ is a classic case of coddling violent attackers and condoning violent behavior, while punishing the victims. Where is the structural discipline of yesterday? Enough already!
There is furthermore reported rampant nepotism in the Vallejo school district. Administrators (some friends and relatives) recently hired are some of the highest paid employees around. At the same time, teachers cannot keep up with California’s inflation, and students too suffer badly without a safe learning environment. What will it take before people finally get involved? Is a murder on our Vallejo school campuses necessary before people finally wake up? Why is there such apathy among voters?
Please citizens, pay attention to the travesties happening within the Vallejo schools, and get out and vote on Tuesday, November 4th. There are some excellent alternative school board candidates on the voter’s ballot, but whatever you do, do not vote for the incumbents: Wilson and Ubalde. Also, think very carefully before you vote for Measure E, the quarter of a billion dollar bond. The people within the current school’s administration, including the Superintendent, are simply not qualified, nor accountable enough to administer this grand amount of money properly. Besides, taxpayers still owe some $30million dollars from the last inappropriately allocated bond. That bond was supposed to have improved the schools, so why didn’t they perform the job properly then? Because they are incompetent! In the meantime, taxpayers will be paying for that fiasco until 2028.
You have until October 20th to register to vote if you have not yet done so.You may register to vote at the Vallejo Farmers’ Market on Saturdays between 9am and 2pm on downtown Georgia Street; the registration table is usually set up near Marin Street. Please help save our Vallejo schools, and by extension, save Vallejo. The Vallejo City Council can only do so much. Without a good school district, the members of City Council and City Manager Dan Keen are limited in their ability to attract new and viable businesses. Please use the power of your vote. It is our right as Americans to do so. Not one of us can afford to ignore the upcoming election on November 4th. Vallejo property values are greatly suffering by comparison to surrounding cities. If we don’t act we shall ultimately be left with only the prostitutes, drug addicts, victims, homeless and parolees on our Vallejo streets. But each of us has it within our power to make the change and move Vallejo forward again. Let’s make it happen!
Note: All opinions expressed in the “Primal Scream” column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.