Editors Note: This Marin Voice article was taken down by the IJ after less than one day, and is not referenced any longer on the IJ’s Marin Voice menu page. Curious, we think.
Editors Note 2: This article has been restored to the IJ this morning (11/12/2019) after 3 days.
As a former administrator in the Ross Valley School District, I was beyond dismayed to read that the RVSD governance team just approved $5.5 million to renovate Red Hill and prepare new administrative offices for itself.
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Fewer than 20 years ago, a new, taxpayer-funded district office was designed and built in San Anselmo. What is inadequate or insufficient about the current district office? Aren’t we still paying off the bonds issued to build it? I was in meetings in that building when I worked for the RVSD; it’s as nice or nicer than many district offices in Marin.
Sure, RVSD could use more meeting space but there are three gorgeous bond-funded multi-purpose rooms at Wade Thomas, Brookside and Hidden Valley schools that could easily be used for district meetings or community gatherings.
As a career educator focused on underserved or inadequately served kids, my first thought went to the children who attend Fairfax-San Anselmo Children’s Center — a community-based preschool and after school program housed at Deer Park, a property owned and managed by Ross Valley School District. The center serves some of the most vulnerable children in our community, in buildings that have all but been discarded and are in shameful disrepair. We are their landlords.
If Ethel Siederman were alive today, there would have been hell to pay at the recent RVSD board meeting for prioritizing Red Hill and administrative offices over attending to long deferred maintenance issues at Deer Park, where children are cared for every day. A unanimous vote by all five trustees to blindly follow an administrator’s lead — with no community input and advocacy for student-centered priorities — is just further evidence of RVSD’s broken system of governance. It reinforces people’s suspicion when educators say “kids first” but fail to follow up with actions and funding that prioritize kids and erodes public trust in school bond and parcel tax projects.
Siederman was a true social-justice champion and tireless advocate for the center and the hundreds of kids and families it has served over the years. These families treasure their children as we all do; the center is their home away from home. How could the RVSD board not be compelled by their responsibility to invest in protecting the community’s property and prioritizing children and families who depend on safe and loving care at the children’s center? Where is the outrage in San Anselmo and Fairfax?
RVSD administration and staff recently attended a training titled “Beyond Diversity — Courageous Conversations.” This training focuses on the role that privilege plays both implicitly and explicitly in our everyday decisions. Is there anything more indicative of white privilege than voting to build a second district office while one of your properties that serves many children of color rots across town?
Why not spend half the money to address the most significant deferred maintenance at both district properties — Red Hill and Deer Park — and forego the cost and distraction from core educational issues of making a district office move? Why not protect the public’s trust by enabling the highest level of transparency, including showing all facilities priorities and publicly vetting priorities, insisting on public competitive bidding processes and actively soliciting public input and oversight?
Why not focus on generating rental revenue at Red Hill while addressing the ongoing slum landlord conditions at Deer Park? Anyone who visits Deer Park would see for themselves the conditions of that facility and the fact that our low income neighbors go to school there each day.
After spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on wasted lawsuits against the Ross Valley Charter (a school that is now at capacity, by the way), isn’t it time for RVSD to start prioritizing kids and education again?
How long will taxpayers sit passively by while adult-centric and ego-driven agendas violate the public’s trust? The RVSD board needs to walk back this decision and immediately direct significant facilities resources to Deer Park.
Whitney Hoyt is an adjunct professor at Dominican University and a former Ross Valley School District administrator.