Dear Board Members,
Listening to SMMUSD site personnel and having an open mind to their ideas and input are not incompatible with the protocol structure of this district, but you’d never know it.
While protocol is in place to help put order to chaos, most SMMUSD personnel do not feel (their job is) safe or at ease in any way offering ideas or asking why. Why are decisions made without input from stakeholders or without input from experts other than staff? Why do “senior staff” ride rough shot over the district like rouge sheriffs? Why do they feel the need to control, but not to listen? I don’t believe this is at the BOE’s direction or desire, but it makes you look terrible, even complicit, all the same.
While the community may be comfortable offering suggestions or criticisms to the BOE about district inner workings, those who make up the backbone of the district do not have that same privilege. To speak out would cost them too dearly.
The Deasy Legacy is this: a model of “top down” tyrannical management and very little tolerance for questioning of those in authority positions. Doing so is met with great hostility and even retribution.
The result is a district full of administrators with little motivation and even less enthusiasm. They have become autocrats making it through the school year day by day, just holding on. They are supervised by senior staff, most of whom have never held an Administrative Credential and haven’t a clue what those they supervise are up against. Motivation to be the best you can be and do the best you can do for the students is historically low and that lack of motivation trickles down to every member of staff.
No one feels respected or appreciated. This breeds resentment and a less than stellar work environment. How do you, the BOE, think this affects the quality and equitable education we claim to give?
I moved into this district, bought a home here years ago, because of the reputation of the school district. I voted for most of you on the board. I am so sadly disappointed in SMMUSD after getting to know the district, reading the local papers and listening to its employees. As your constituent, I had higher hopes of you as BOE members.
I know you can do better than to say, “I didn’t know. I’ll look into this.” Why don’t you know? How can you be so out of touch? Remind me why we elected you. Where does the buck stop?
Please get your priorities straight and get your senior staff in line before this district goes even further down the tubes. Do not hire another John Deasy. He may have many accomplishments from your perspective, but from a community standpoint, a parent’s viewpoint, he drove this district into a nearly fascist state. Believe me, if district employees felt safe to speak up, they would tell you to your face. It is sad, really…sad for students who count on staff to deliver their best.
I have gotten my information from many “insiders” who wish to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.
Maybe you should have your million-dollar consulting firm anonymously survey district staff about management, what keeps them motivated and at the top of their game and what isn’t working. Do it for the students who we must remember are ALWAYS the most important priority. If their teachers are not in a healthy state of mind and their administrators are not in a healthy state of mind, it is due to your “senior management.” They need to hear FROM YOU.
I hope you take SOME action and do more than “look into” this sad state of affairs in our district.
Sorely disappointed constituent.
(name withheld by request)
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Who Are the Homeless?
“They’re just bums.” “The homeless are the problem.” We hear more of these statements as the crisis of homelessness takes on greater proportions in our communities. But can we relegate a segment of our population to this simplistic description? Who makes up the group we call “Homeless” anyway?
Studies by the National Coalition for the Homeless indicate homelessness affects a diverse cross-section of our population. The majority are single men but the number of homeless families with children has increased significantly over the past decade and comprises 40% of the total. Nearly the same percentage are children under the age of 18. Half of the homeless population are African-American and approximately 23 percent suffer from some form of severe and persistent mental illness.
Why are people homeless? Poverty is the driving force, coupled with: lack of affordable housing, eroding work opportunities, lack of affordable healthcare, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. Many people are forced to choose between food, shelter and other basic needs. Interestingly, as high as 25 percent of people who are homeless are employed. The notion that these “bums” are lazy and refusing to work is archaic, disputed by the facts and complexity of the issue.
It’s easy to react to the demonstrative byproducts of homelessness, i.e. sleeping in public places, aggressive panhandling for money, urinating and defecating in alleys. No one wants to be exposed to this in their community. But it’s a false assumption to attribute these problems to all people who are homeless, given the diversity of the population. Many are working to improve their situation and most do not violate the law.
People who become homeless do not fit one general description. It’s no more appropriate to ascribe common traits and descriptors to “the homeless” than it would be to race, religion or gender. While people experiencing homelessness do have certain shared basic needs, they are too diverse to be reduced to a single descriptive term.
We must find ways to reduce the contributing factors to homelessness. We must endeavor to make more housing available to those in need and create more job opportunities so that people can become self-sufficient in our society. We can take a step in this direction by recognizing the diversity of the population of people who are homeless. Let’s take a cue from our growth in the area of race relations and establish “the homeless” as a negative epithet inappropriate for society, a pejorative term that diminishes and no longer applies. Let’s just call them people and find ways to help.
Westside Shelter & Hunger Coalition/SPN
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To Whom This May Concern,
I am sending this email as both a new concerned citizen of Santa Monica and someone who is currently a homeless student. When I arrived in Santa Monica in December of 2005, I had made a choice. My choice was to find a roommate as soon as possible, close to school, or to live somewhere where I could save some money and have some stability while attending college. My choice was to move into “transitional housing” and save some money. I thought this would be the most economical choice, especially since I am not from Los Angeles or Santa Monica.
Upon my arrival to the “transitional program,” I found myself suddenly being categorized amongst people who did not bathe and talked to themselves. I was actually misdirected to what is called a “Cold Weather Shelter.” As I entered the shelter feeling very frightened and alone, staff quickly came to my side and let me know there was another program that could assist my needs better. I was told about this program before and that was why I decided to live in the “Transitional Housing,” instead of trying to find a roommate as quickly as possible. I am not sure if it was the frightened look on my face, the laptop I carried with me, or the highlights in my hair but somehow I got the feeling they knew that this was not what I was expecting.
The next day I went into the “Transitional Program” and began what would become my six month stay in one of the worst experiences I have had in my life. I went to this shelter a confident, highly-motivated and hard-working individual and have come out a homeless person. When I first arrived I looked at everyone there the way most people may or may not look at me now. I saw everyone as unmotivated, unproductive members of society who made any excuse not to get a job. I now sympathize and empathize with those same people.
The verbal abuse we receive, the non-hygienic values that are practiced and the shady monetary transactions that exist all lead me to believe we are in a situation that is controlled by people who are not capable of improving the lives of the transients. Several people have threatened to write to City Hall or the local newspaper but have not done so or are told they will lose their bed if they do.
As I learned to be empathetic with the people I used to despise, I also learned why people stay homeless for so long. I currently work, study and go to school (as do several other people) but I am not given a sufficient amount of time to study or a quiet place to study regardless of what a counselor’s note may say or the syllabus requires. Where I am currently staying, about 40 percent of the population either is currently unemployed or disabled and can not work. Those 40 percent are picked and prodded and verbally abused to no end. Those are the people that get kicked out into the streets if they make a complaint about staff or the program.
One story that really touched my heart was a women who is a former city councilman’s daughter. She also turned her nose to the homeless problem until she became homeless herself. She is an older women and currently uses a walker to get around. She became homeless because she lost her job. She had money saved but after several months, savings can only go so far. She ended up in this shelter and experienced the same verbal and psychological abuse that we are still receiving. Her time ran out in the shelter but she was left with the impression she would get an extension. The staff failed to inform her that she could not have an extension and she found herself having to take off time from work to move her belongings. They had only given her one hour’s notice to move and she had made no plans. As I talked to her she felt the decision they made was fair but she wanted to know why they would only give one hour’s notice or why the staff continued to treat the residents like they were worthless. She told me as she left that as soon as she got back on her feet she would do whatever she could to make sure that no one else would go through what she had been through.
When I see a homeless person sleeping on the street, my first reaction is to walk quickly away to avoid them, my next reaction is ask myself, “Why is this person homeless?” Was there a staff member who enjoyed putting people down because of the low self-esteem they possessed? Did the staff that were in charge of their lives get a high from kicking someone out on the street who didn’t stroke their ego correctly or refused to allow someone to tell them they were insignificant and would never amount to anything? I remind you of the Zimbardo study and what happens to people when they are put in charge of people’s lives. I have also included a web link, www.prisonexp.org/.
I am aware that one of the shelters in Santa Monica is currently working on an $11 million grant from the City of Santa Monica. I think the City of Santa Monica and the citizens of Santa Monica need to be aware of what is really going on before they decide to give such a large gift. 40 percent of the population currently in the shelter are active members of society or disabled persons that you would never guess were homeless. They are not people who make excuses, ran into bad luck, use drugs and alcohol, or have a mental handicap, although this population does exist inside the shelter. These are people who work hard and deserve to be treated as equals inside of the shelter. If someone makes a choice to try and provide more financial stability in their lives, why should they become a target to become the next homeless person who is on the street for years and years. My greatest wish is that attention would be brought to the matter at hand. I would like to see people with more credentials working here. We are people who have already experienced domestic violence, who just lost our homes to Hurricane Katrina, or to a massive eviction or are simply trying to get a college education. We are working and saving money. We should live in an environment that welcomes growth and opportunity. We do not deserve to be treated as if we are not important.
I hope that you can see the importance of this issue and how it affects everyone in Santa Monica. My goal is to bring enough attention to this matter so that homelessness can improve and not be a drain on our economy. Thank you for your time.