Coastal Post Online


March, 2004

Skeptic's Journal
By Jeanette Pontacq
West Marin Schools

I am not a parent. But I believe in the core value of public education in the United States and further believe that any semblance of our republic and democratic principles depend upon it. Periodically, parents of West Marin kids just entering the school system flail around trying to figure out whether or not West Marin schools will provide their kids with what those parents envision as a "good" educational experience. Too often, those same parents see only the warts in West Marin schools and opt to send their kids Over-The-Hill.

Recently, another group of parents once more has questionned the educational processes at West Marin schools. Let's face it - any parent with an ounce of savvy will take a hard look at what West Marin schools have to offer their kids' futures. What too many see is a disfunction that makes them go to added expense, energy, and commuting to send their kids to alternative schools or just to other public schools Over-The-Hill.

Sending their kids Over-The-Hill is a pain. It means even more time/energy/money than they had budgeted. It would have been soooo much easier to send them to West Marin schools. We all need to know WHY these over-worked parents feel they absolutely must go to all that extra effort to provide a good education for their kids.

I interviewed parents who send their kids Over-The-Hill. This is what I heard....

1) West Marin schools (defined as both West Marin school and Tomales High) have a laisse-faire culture as far as a drive for excellence is concerned and teach to the lowest common denominator.

2) The overall student culture "disses" learning and excellence.

3) There are some really negative kids to deal with (coming from families without discipline, or with drugs and with no understanding of achievement or excellence).

4) That West Marin schools are under the sway of some families who "don't care" about real education, but just care that the schools act as caretakers for a period.

5) I have also heard comments about the difficulty of parents volunteering within the school culture out here, and how unpleasant that is, with back-biting and all that and a distrust of anyone who proposes changes in process.

6) Anger at the fact that it is so often necessary to send kids Over-The-Hill (especially girls) to put them into a culture of achievement.

These comments, of course, are not universal, with many other parents saying they are happy with the education their kids have gotten in West Marin. Still other parents with kids in West Marin schools agree that the above comments have truth in them. I think it is time for all of us to come together (non-parents, parents, everyone) to discuss how to take a hard look at what IS and what is just perception.

The drain of talent, money and energy from West Marin to Over-the-Hill is phenomenal. It cannot be ignored. One cannot really blame parents who do send kids Over-The-Hill because they are only trying to do the best for their kids. Who among us would honestly say they would do differently if they believed the education here was inferior? This is a community issue at the core of who we are out here. We need to get out of denial and look it square in the face.

The Election for Supervisor

I support Dennis Rodoni. I do so because my experience tells me that I can trust him to try to "do the right thing" for West Marin naturally, even when I may disagree with him. He is a good man, an honest man and a man of West Marin. I would feel good if he were Supervisor.

I cannot support Steve Kinsey because I recently dealt with him in negotiating an end to the BID for more tourism in West Marin. I like Steve personally and wish him well. But although Steve did the right thing in changing from supporting the BID for West Marin to negating it, my experience in the matter tells me that he did so because he was worried about the election to come. I believe that If my fellow activists and myself had not mobilized over 85% of West Marin to stop the BID for more tourism, logic demands facing the fact that Steve Kinsey would have continued along his previous course in supporting the new tourism district that could have added substantial tourism to our area. He just didn't get it... but he got it when he was threatened with an overwhelming resident revolt on the issue... and an election coming up. His flip-flops on a number of issues has some staff at the Board of Supervisors scratching their heads.

If Kinsey is re-elected, I expect the BID to possibly resurface in another form and tourism to become an issue again. With Dennis Rodoni as Supervisor, I know that he would naturally understand that more tourism is against West Marin values. Easy as that. I trust Rodoni. And I don't give my trust easily.




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