Mabel Kabani, editor-in-chief
Though the members of the 2013-2014 BHUSD Board of Education believe that they have had a successful year in terms of launching new programs, being fiscally responsible and initiating necessary change among the high-school staff and administration, the immense amount of litigation the Board must deal with obstructs its ability to fulfill its actual role in dealing with policy and budget, according to Board President Noah Margo.
“As far as the school year is concerned, I’m proud of the STEM [Science, Technology, Education, and Math] program we approved,…the new campus safety program that we devised,…the Fund 17 endowment which allows us to stock money away for a rainy day, which may be coming sooner than we thought,” Margo said. “However, we have a lot of unresolved issues, and a majority of these issues regard lawyers and court cases. It’s hard to do your job as a member of the Board of Education when everyone is so sue-happy all the time.”
Litigation cases the Board has had to deal with this year include ones in relation to the Metro, bonds in construction and the Beverly Hills Sports Academy, as well as continuing cases regarding special education, according to Margo.
“One thing I said coming in was that I want to return to being the Board of Education, not the board of litigation, but that hasn’t gone my way as quickly as I wanted it to,” Margo said. “There are a lot of cases pending that could get resolved and turn around come September, but we’re at the whim of the court system and the amount of litigation is just disheartening.”
Vice President of the Board of Education Dr. Brian Goldberg agrees with Margo in that so much wasted time and money is put into dealing with lawsuits.
“Many people see the school district as an easy target with deep pockets and we live in a very litigious society. People’s first reaction is to sue…[and] this requires the board to spend time and money in defending or suing in order to protect itself,” Goldberg said. “We [have also] spent a lot of energy addressing an investigation into the summer Sports Academy, which was necessary but costly in terms of time and energy taken away from other issues.”
However, achievements such as “supporting more opportunities for students to compete and engage in in extra curricular activities [such as] debate, Science Olympiad, DECA, Math Counts, ACADECA, Robotics, etc.,” has been, according to Goldberg, one of the Board’s greatest achievements this year.
Goals for next year include “rebuilding the administrative team at the high school and ensuring [that] they have the tools and resources necessary to make BHHS a positive learning environment for our students and ensure academic success,” Goldberg said.
Large changes in faculty have been made, and by next year, a new administration will take over. Both Margo and Goldberg are confident that this change will only increase the quality of the school.
“I hope the change next year is a step forward…it’s designed to take a step forward, though things can go wrong,” Margo said. “Not knowing an outcome is a risk, but we don’t take risks. The real risk is knowing that there are members of our faculty that could be more effective, but aren’t. Everybody deserves to have that great teacher that they rave about all the time.”
Margo believed that Beverly’s former position as one of the best high schools in the country was attributed to the skilled staff that once taught at Beverly, and that the district has lost sight that the key to a high quality school is a group of high quality teachers.
“I’ve tried stressing that the most important and effective way to be successful is to have the best teachers in our classrooms, and I think my colleagues are just beginning to see that,” Margo said. “Back when this school was among the best in the country, the staff was the reason, not the parking or buildings or all the other things we talk so much about; it’s the staff. We want to get to a point where students don’t complain about their teachers because everyone will learn and have that teacher they love.”
Goldberg agreed that “without great teachers who engage our students in learning a promote a positive learning environment in the classroom, our academics will not improve.”
He also stated that the “most important role our aviv struts have with regard to academic success is the evaluation of teachers.”
However, Goldberg went on to say that it is “often hard to balance all the competing interests within the district when there are limited resources and the students live in real time, meaning they do not get a do over for any school year.”
“As a board we have to constantly be looking at the big picture and see how everything fits together in a large puzzle that is BHUSD,” Goldberg said. “To be effective, we must keep focused on the big picture which can make you very unpopular and misunderstood at times.”
However, the key to being a successful board is to exhibit effective and powerful leadership, according to Margo.
“Something I’ve learned is that leadership comes from the gut…Sacramento doesn’t always know best.”