I’ve invited you to fill out a form:
SVUSD Budget Reduction Suggestions
Use the Google Form below to submit your ideas for reducing the district’s current budget obligations.




I’ve kinda been waiting 18 years for this request; glad it finally landed in my inbox. A three million dollar oops is one thing but what I want to address is a much bigger issue. One that will both solve the three million dollar question and help move the district in the right direction.


Three words: Student centered learning.


If you haven’t read my previous 64 blog posts, I’m in the engagement business. We are building a nuclear reactor in Physical Science, Tiny Library houses in Geometry, Redoing the infrastructure of Puerto Rico in Life Science and secretly (well, not anymore) distributing “Be Present” reminders around town for Art class.


I do this because designing a nuclear reactor is much more interesting than assigning pages 147-154 in the textbook (and it’s possible, look at this TED video: https://www.ted.com/talks/taylor_wilson_my_radical_plan_for_small_nuclear_fission_reactors).


Tiny libraries inspire reading and designing and building them covers the California State Standards for ratio, proportion and area plus seeing a little version of a house around town might inspire students to create bigger versions of houses around town.


Puerto Rico needs someone to redesign their infrastructure (as does the SDC: http://valleytalking.blogs.sonomanews.com/2016/06/18/bad-teacher-seeks-200-million-dollars/) and it teaches about carrying capacity and ecology through doing not watching. And, the problem really needs a good solution.


The “Be Present” part is just a joyful holiday reminder. Plus it’s a good way to recycle the old letters from the SONOMAWOOD sign



Plus at Creekside I’m able to show videos like this, on millennials in the workplace, in all my classes because I have some autonomy and the message is just as important as the state standards. Actually much more important. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU.


And then there’s this blog but since nobody f-ing reads, it’s not really having the radical impact I envisioned. Oh well, the important thing is to keep pushing forward.


So, how does this solve the three million dollar question? Couple of things, first it questions the academic hierarchy, a la, if you are not having a direct impact on student engagement, it might be time to rethink your position. And not just teachers, I’m talking top-down restructuring. Is everyone at the district office having an impact on student learning? Are the administrators inspiring students? Are all those meetings really a good use of time? Find out how many people are moving students forward and how many are perpetuating a bloated machine.


Or reconstitute the entire district, Balboa High School did it 25 years ago and it was a magical environment to work in.


And I’m certainly not above the law, Creekside has a very low student to teacher ratio and on paper, our results are not the greatest. Does that mean the program should be gutted? No, it would not be the best thing for the student. Did it mean that when there were teachers in our program who didn’t like students that they needed to move on, yes it did (this is not the case now, Shireen and Holly are rock stars). We have to look beyond the numbers at what we do for a population who would otherwise fail, but are we the best solution? Maybe. Can we improve? Always.


But here’s the thing, my way may not be the right way. 12 years ago engagement in my classroom was secondary to gang involvement (RIP Luis Miranda) and 8 years ago it was secondary to meth and very soon it will be secondary to screen addiction. You gotta adapt to stay ahead of whatever is in the way of student learning. And who knows where education will be in 10 years. Did we envision 10 years ago that we’d be confiscating smartphones because students want to snapchat all day? Uh, no, I was hoping for flying cars and educational brain implants.


So how do we solve the 3 million dollar question? First employ a leader with the right philosophy (no, I’m not talking about myself because I’m old and jaded, but someone who has energy and vision and understands millennials) Then explain to all the employees where the ship is headed and if people do not agree with the direction then it is time for them to exit. We are all in this together however if you are a teacher or support staff and are not student centered then you don’t belong. Really, it’s OK, teaching is not for everyone, the pay sucks and the work is hard so if you aren’t reaping the intrinsic rewards, it’s time to step away.


Offer an “early retirement because you don’t really like being a teacher” program. Accountability in teaching is ridiculous because tenure does not encourage innovation. We get so worried that someone will enter our little bubbles and criticize that we forget that’s how we grow.


Oh, and the best way to find out which teacher is student centered is to ask students because they are the product. And the question is not, “Who is your favorite teacher?” But, “Which teacher inspired you to learn.” There is a big difference in these questions.


Sounds harsh but think of, well, all successful organizations. Leader. Worker. Product. The tech industry knows this, it’s why the Zuck has coffee with the Zuck on Fridays and requires innovation as a big part of the job description. If you work for Facebook, you are not going to sit in an office for 30 years regurgitating the same lessons year after year, expecting and accepting a 32% failure rate.


Honestly, I’m kinda pissed about this form because it shows a lack of competence in a structure that I love, defend and have been a part of for 18 years. Isn’t it time to start asking the tough questions? Why is there a 3 million dollar hole when Sonoma is such a wealthy community? Why do so many students transfer out of district? Why did our superintendent, chief financial officer and head of student services leave so abruptly last year? Why do we not have a pool or functioning track or stadium? Plus can I get a few more tennis courts please. And, most importantly, why do my students as well as my own kids not have more pride in their learning environment?


Good luck with the deficit, sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.