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June 2002

Tam High School District Trustee Resigns;

Fear, Resentment, and Insecurity Impede Tam Schools

By Richard Raznikov

I have today notified the Marin County Superintendent of Schools, under the applicable statutory authority, that I am resigning from the position of trustee in the Tamalpais Union High School District, effective immediately.

I am leaving this position for several reasons. First, the board majority is unwilling to independently review and create policies which address serious problems within the district. Rather, the board operates as a rubber stamp for superintendent William J. Levinson, who has usurped the policy-making responsibility of the trustees by the simple expedient of controlling both the process and the flow of information to the board. The election of two new board members last November has not materially changed this condition.

Second, there exists a toxic level of school-induced emotional stress for a majority of students, and it is plain that neither the board nor Levinson are committed to a genuine, substantive response to this crisis. Despite investigative reports in the media, warnings by psychologists and school counselors, and even the district's own comprehensive "Perceptions Survey" all of which have made it quite clear that growing numbers of students are suffering from a far-too-rigid, constricted, punitive, and relentless academic and behavioral model, neither Levinson nor the board majority is committed to initiating anything beyond the superficial. Incidents of vandalism, self-destructive acts, drug- and alcohol abuse, and even suicidal ideation, cannot be casually dismissed as being the fault of â"bad families," as one board member evidently believes.

Third, recent events have made clear to me that conditions are getting worse:

Students at Drake who refused to take the odious STAR tests were accused by the administration of jeopardizing funding for the school's best programs, which is false.

Students at Tam were physically impeded from distributing anti-STAR flyers, which violates the First Amendment to the Constitution as well as existing state law.

The district is moving to impose a computer program called "PowerSchool," which has no program alignment for alternative education in the areas of flexible credit and flexible course scheduling; this endangers the award-winning program at San Andreas.

Further eroding the San Andreas success is the superintendent's scheme to break the long-standing cap on enrollment, thereby undermining personalized instruction.

Inter-district transfers are routinely denied, even in cases where the denial causes hardships for families and distress for students.

The board of trustees, on the urging of the superintendent, refused to include the statement ""students are entitled to respect" in adopting new "Values and Beliefs" for the district -- thus negating the single most critical expression of policy and belief urged upon the board by the district's own "Values Forum" held last November.

When the people who run the Tam District will not even enact a statement about respect for students, their own values and motivation become subject to doubt.

Because the board on which I sit systematically resists serious consideration of substantive change, I can see no useful purpose to completing the remainder of my term in office.

I will continue to seek changes in our schools. Great schools do not secure their greatness through test scores. They instead focus their energies on feeding and nurturing the passions, curiosity, inventiveness, and energy of our kids. Students learn best when they are free to do so. Education, to be truly excellent, must be liberated from the fear, resentment, and insecurity which now impede it in the Tam District.

I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to serve my community over the past two and one-half years. I leave richer for the experience, and for the many great friends I've made. I am impressed by the quality of instruction in the district, and by those administrators, teachers, and staff who do their work with an unwavering commitment to students. I am especially indebted to the students who have had the courage to speak out, and to those who have trusted me enough to tell me their truths. I remain hopeful that in the long run Tam District students will insist on removing those obstacles which interfere with their education. I pledge that I will continue to support their efforts in any way that I can.

 

 

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