Letters to the Editor – 3/24/17
Posted: Friday, March 24, 2017 – 10:17 AM
As a parent of three children at Horace Mann, I attended our PTA Meeting, prompted by the news that teacher layoffs were discussed as means to budget cutting at the last school board meeting, and that both Superintendent Bregy and Board of Education President Mel Spitz would be speaking at our meeting. I have been told that 8 teachers at Horace Mann will be let go, and was very curious as to how that was being justified.
Mr. Spitz addressed the BHUSD’s woeful budget condition right off the bat, listing four main reasons for our current shortfall. He was very thoughtful, reasonable and clear. To summarize, I believe his four main points were (1) the district is running at a structural deficit; (2) the formula for teachers’ salary is tied to property tax revenue, a fluctuating amount which the school board has no control over; (3) our schools have declining enrollment and are overstaffed. Small class size and our extensive special needs programs are expensive; (4) the K-8 model is expensive.
While some of these are intractable problems, to be sure, laying off teachers cannot be a solution. These are schools we are talking about. I genuinely believe that Mr Spitz, and the rest of the board, sincerely want to improve the district’s academics. But I cannot see how pushing out the esteemed veteran Director of Academics Jen Tedford and laying off teachers is the way. It’s illogical. It’s the same as saying you want the crime rate to go down, therefore you are going to reduce the police force. There is no logic here.
I love the small class sizes we have and that our schools offer valuable, extensive resources to our special needs families. I do not consider our schools “overstaffed” but “well staffed.”
Mr. Bregy bemoaned his small staff. Surely he knew when accepting the job that this BHUSD runs admirably lean. While showing our director of academics the door, he has asked for and received a $120,000 a year communications director, “because the community needs to hear what we are doing.” Why didn’t the board send him to Beverly Hills High School’s Journalism Department, where he could, I’m sure, have his pick of seniors who would volunteer to cover board meetings and send out mass emails? Has the board suggested that Dr. Bregy consider Jen Tedford for the (once again—fourth time in four years) open principal position at Horace Mann? She’s on our payroll, she knows the district, let’s give her a real job.
As for the topic of the K-8 model being an expensive one, I take no issue with that as I’m sure it’s true. And I agree that a critical mass of middle schoolers at one dedicated campus would lead to beneficial economies of scale. I personally have loved having all three of my kids at the same school for the last few years, but the dismal offerings for the tiny class of my eighth grader do make me worry about what it will be like when my next two kids hit middle school.
However, the option of three elementary and one middle school, has been discussed for decades. Plenty are for it, plenty against it. In the mean time, what about simply balancing the roll sheets? Horace Mann is so small, budget-wise, I understand it’s difficult to justify having extensive programs for such a small group. But the classes in the middle schools at El Rodeo and Beverly Vista are packed to the rafters. Why not move some of those kids to Horace Mann, especially those whose parents, in droves, transferred them out of Horace Mann during the construction? And equalize some of the middle school assets in doing so.
I am not going anywhere. I love the small class sizes we have and that our schools offer valuable, extensive resources to our special needs families. I do not consider our schools “overstaffed,” I consider them “staffed.”
I appreciated very much how thoughtful Mr. Spitz and Dr. Bregy were with us yesterday, and that the problems facing our district are deep and true. I simply reject their solution. Their job is to provide the best education they can to the students of the BHUSD. My job is to advocate for my kids and their marvelous teachers. BHUSD is well funded…and just needs an enlightened board.
The majority of our water in Beverly Hills comes from the Sierra-Nevada Mountains and flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s old, failing dirt levees before it’s pumped through aqueducts and canals to our region. It’s clear from recent dirt levee collapses, including Tyler Island in the Delta, that California water infrastructure is in dire need of upgrading.
West Basin Municipal Water District, serving Beverly Hills, sources two-thirds of our water from this system of aging levees, aqueducts and pipes. But heavy floods or an earthquake could decimate these levees, jeopardizing our water supply.
We can no longer sit idle while critically outdated statewide water infrastructure jeopardizes Beverly Hills and Los Angeles’ drinking water for our homes and businesses.
That’s why it’s so important that California leaders move forward with implementing Gov. Brown’s California WaterFix to secure a reliable supply for future generations. WaterFix will protect water supplies by delivering through a modern water pipeline rather than depending on existing crumbling dirt levees. It also protects fish and wildlife by restoring more natural river flows and is coupled with California EcoRestore, a plan to restore at least 30,000 acres of habitats by 2020.
Our aging water infrastructure prevents us from capturing and storing water when we have abundant rains. In fact, last winter, California lost over 486,000 acre feet of water due to inadequate infrastructure – enough to supply nearly one million homes for a full year. With record rainfall, California will continue losing significant amounts of water, risking exposure to unsafe saltwater contamination if natural disasters strike.
WaterFix is the only viable plan to secure our water supply, and also much cheaper than other sources at $3-7 per month for residential customers.
Ron Hasson, President Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP
We are so fortunate to have a real friend of the arts here in Beverly Hills in Michael J. Libow.
Here is a guy with no kids in our schools, who is actively and consistently producing plays and musicals at Beverly Hills High School.
With all the budget cuts of late in the arts and music programs in public schools, Michael has stepped up his philanthropy to a truly admirable level.
His personal love of musical theatre is reflected in this mentoring role he plays for so many young actors.
The recent Spelling Bee musical was a huge success and I recall seeing Guys and Dolls in a lavish production in one of the final shows at the Peters auditorium.
Michael lives in the famed Witch’s House here in Beverly Hills and I fulfilled a childhood dream of seeing it from the inside recently as Libow hosted a rally for City Council candidate Robert Wunderlich.
It lived up to all the expectations I had in my mind when passing by as a kid in my parents’ Chevy Impala in the 1960s, when visiting my Aunt Miriam and Uncle Herb Lieberman around the corner on Linden Drive.
I always figured a magical character must have lived inside the confines of the Witch’s House, originally a movie set at Willat Studios Culver City brought here to Walden and Carmelita on a flatbed truck in the early 1930s.
It appears I was right.
Michael continues to give money all over Beverly Hills to various schools, library, police and fire departments and more. He works his magic on our City and every time I see him, he is smiling and so are we.
Hal & Brigitte Lifson