Stacy Keszei

Question:

“What do you see as the three most important (long term or short term) issues facing public education, specifically in Coronado Unified School District?”

Answer:

Curriculum Erosion and Circumvention: The ongoing injection of political ideologies through both organizations and personal agendas threatens to “water down” education and creates a false narrative history based on revisionist propaganda. Academically discredited opinion pieces such as the “1619 Project,” which is being pushed by the UC Davis “History and Social Sciences Project,” into K-12 California schools, and currently injected into some CUSD history classes, has no business in public education, and especially the CUSD school system.

Esteemed historical scholars such as Professor Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, History of American Revolutionary Era, and Pulitzer Prize Winner. Professor James McPherson, Princeton University, American Civil War Historian, Pulitzer Prize Winner. Professor Gordon S. Wood, Brown University, American Historian, Pulitzer Prize Winner, and Professor Emeritus Victoria E. Bynum, Texas State University, San Marcos, have all come out against this politically charged reframing American history. Our school system has distinguished itself as a center of excellence within the region. It must stick to its core strengths and academic rigor to maintain its stellar reputation, earned by students, teachers, parents, and administrators over the years.

Looming Budget Cuts: The upcoming state budget cuts are a foregone conclusion. These cuts will trickle down to all local school districts, including CUSD. On or about May 2020, the CUSD board approved a $12M collateralized loan, using the Village Elementary School Buildings as collateral. This money was designed to enable Coronado to make it to 2027, upon which local property taxes could be utilized for school budgets in the CUSD district. The money has since been shifted to COVID-19 crisis management and training, thus negating much, if not all, of its original use. Since this time, the board and the superintendent have developed no coherent strategy for dealing with the next steps in a looming fiscal crisis. Waiting and hoping for the local control funding formula (LCFF) to end and local property tax subsidies to start in 2027 is a misguided and passive strategic approach to the immediate funding shortfall. Instead, a pro-active, “intrapreneurial, not to be confused with entrepreneurial” approach is needed by the board and superintendent. With declining CUSD enrollment already in effect and CSF understandably seeing a potential drop-in donation, the school system must look for new ways to maintain and increase enrollment to stop the “bleeding” and then capture additional new students.

Creating a fifth (virtual) school within the CUSD system could do both. The board should end the lease with NASNI and take back control of the ECDC facilities. These facilities could then be used to house the CUSD Online School, which would give parents the ability to enroll children online for an entire school year, should they desire. This would also enable teachers who wish to stay online to utilize their new online teaching skillset, already paid for by the CUSD $12M loan mentioned previously for online educational delivery. Additionally, this would enable CUSD to enroll students from outside the district virtually and capture the state revenue attached to each child. The other four schools would provide traditional in-person education, just as before the COVID outbreak.

It would be a devastating blow to CUSD to see enrollment declines of 20-30%, yet this is precisely what we are facing unless the board and superintendent step up and lead the school system out of this crisis! Our children need to be in school and not required to sit through the day as if they are entering a surgical center. According to the CDC and numerous clinical studies, virtually no children have contracted nor faced severe illness due to COVID-19. Yet, we have forced them and their parents into an absurd and Kafkaesque learning environment, which is anything but! Suppose inside learning is considered a health threat. In that case, we should leverage the best weather in the USA (and perhaps the world) and create outside learning environments for our children, thus negating the restrictive and ridiculous protocols currently being implemented, but not required, at CUSD schools. Why take out a $12M loan to help our students learn and not use it!

Assertive Versus Passive Leadership: While I appreciate the selfless act of public service, which all of our board members should be applauded for, it is also my opinion that the board has been submissive and reactive to the current crisis facing CUSD. As a stand-alone school system that is geographically very different than other schools in San Diego Unified School District, it is inconceivable that CUSD can only follow along blindly with the recommendations of San Diego Unified School District and schools across the bridge. Virtually no communication has come from the board explaining their decisions in the last nine months. After discussions with multiple administrators in the school system, there appears to be no strategic plan to deal with the current crisis, nor the coming fiscal crisis. Instead, a reactive week-to-week, wait, and see an approach that is not communicated nor understood by the respective four school administrators has caused “paralysis by analysis” to take over the board and superintendent.

I have more than 20 years of leadership and strategic planning experience, both in good times and crises. One tool the board could utilize is a “Balanced Scorecard” approach to rapid strategic planning. This strategic planning tool enables planning teams to attach specific, quantifiable goals with each goal the board sets out to achieve. This allows the board to measure, versus talk about, every goal they seek to achieve and then explain the outcome in quantitative terms to each stakeholder, especially parents! The board can then regularly communicate with the parents, teachers, students, and administrators, enabling each to clearly understand and share in the entire CUSD system’s governance.

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