Dear Chuck,


Welcome! Can I call you Chuck? I hope so, Mr. Young is so formal and in 25 years of educating in Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Sonoma I always strive to be on a first name basis with administrators and superintendents because it’s much easier to talk with Chuck than with Mr. Young.


So let’s start with this shitstorm of drama you are now in charge of. By now you’ve been briefed by all the players as to the needs of the schools, the tragic losses of personnel and all the adults-behaving-badly-hijinks of the last year. Well, F-that, people fight, people disagree, people have different bubbles, views and agendas. We have to get back to good old civil debate, something you were apparently very good at at UCLA.


What is most important is what will happen on August 14 when the kids walk into their classrooms. Will their teachers be rested, invigorated, inspired for the year, and feeling like the educational hierarchy of support is in place? Will they be happy to be back because they miss their students and they miss the intrinsic rewards of developing minds and inspiring futures? Or will they dread the return because they don’t really feel supported or they don’t really like students or they don’t really like teaching?


No one expects miracles Chuck, you are a Band-Aid trying to cover a severed arm, but hopefully you can help stop the bleeding and I have a few ideas (shocker).


Sonoma is an amazing place, beautiful, wealthy, full of outstanding people who all want their kids to have the best education possible, let’s just start there. We’ve got the diversity covered in elementary choices, Waldorf, Montessori, Spanish dual-immersion, garden programs, music, drama, art, plus Presentation and St. Francis covering their individual needs. Choice is good; it’s the one thing I agree with Betsy Devoss about,.


But then the funneling starts: two junior high’s and one high school where the A-G college push is well intentioned but can also limit choices. Students are stressed about too much homework, too much pressure and teachers who require learning without sufficient explanation (#1 complaint of students who end up in my alternative program, teachers don’t listen to them when students don’t understand the information).


But let’s not blame the teachers, overall the quality of educator in the district is outstanding but many are stifled by a lack of support. See Chuck, I don’t work for you, I work for the students and you, the board and administrators work for me. The job of the educational hierarchy is to support the classroom,keep the learning environment healthy, and help make teaching fun and inspiring. To turn the light on inside the learner. That’s what it’s about.


But what can you do now to earn your $836/day?


First exit the excrement pool. You have an OK board, good administrators and OK teachers; it’s time to get some stuff done. Change is good only if it produces results and this district needs some results. You will have haters, people who say you are too old and out of the educational loop to really change things but you were hired for a reason. Move past the drama and start getting things done, look at programs like Altschool to see where education is headed.


Second, be present. You don’t have to go full Carlomagno ( but you do have to get in to the classrooms. Don’t trust the administration to tell you how things are going, see for yourself. Meet the kids, bring them treats, start a “Popsicles with Chuck” Friday program, whatever, just stay connected because it’s always about connection. Oh, and try to have a little fun cause we all need a little more laughter and a little less hate in our lives.


Third, utilize your environment. You moved to Sonoma for a reason and now you can work helping to incorporate the 100+ non-profits with the educational system. The Ed Foundation, Mentor Program, B&G Club, SVTS, Artescape, SVMA, SIFF, there are thousands of people who share your philosophy and want to see great things for kids. Let’s start the art school (yes, I do have a proposal), let’s ask people how to improve the learning environment, let’s empower people to think big ( Create a safe, supportive district and you never know what might grow.


And finally, always, always, always be student-centered. Your record is good in this department but the needs and priorities of a small town can get complicated. There are reasons Lou Car and Paul and John moved away from their home district this summer and sadly, the reasons have little to do with students and more to do with adults.


So, again, welcome Chuck, we are excited to have you steering the ship for the next 11 months. I promise a warm welcome if you want to pop into room L4 at Creekside on August 14.


My door, hopefully like yours, is always open.