We post transcript
(July 5, 2002) -- Two LB School Board members, Ed Eveland and (Board President) Bobbie Smith, have rejected a taxpayer's request that the LB School Board televise its meetings, with Boardmember Eveland claiming televised meetings of the LB City Council and L.A. School board "become nothing but zoos, with people like you that get up and are constantly negative, never have anything to say."
Three other Boardmembers, Suja Lowenthal, Mary Stanton and departing Karin Polacheck (who will be replaced by Jim Choura) watched and said nothing. LBReport.com posts a transcript below.
Ms. Reyna Akers, a taxpayer and veteran School Board meeting attendee, had just finished addressing the Board during the period (required by state law) when the Board must take public comment on items it has not agendized. Ms. Akers urged the Board to televise its meetings and (following up on testimony she delivered at the School Board's June 18 meeting reported LBReport.com) questioned the Board's unanimous vote to approve paying its newly named Superintendent a salary of $198,000 a year, more than CA's Governor.
Responding to Ms. Akers' request that the School Board televise its meetings, School Board President Smith said the Board had decided televising Board meetings "is too costly, and we could use those funds to improve student achievement."
Our transcript below is unofficial, prepared by us based on the LBUSD tape of the School Board meeting. (LBUSD staff made the tape available to us to hear promptly on our request).
Ms. Akers: Good afternoon, Boardmembers. At the June 18th meeting, I requested information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act regarding how the new Superintendent's salary was determined. I was not provided any responses as to why this Board does not televise this meeting. This non-disclosure gives the public the appearance the [School] District has something to hide and is particularly curious because LBUSD has its own cable TV station.
While the legal advisor wrote me a three page letter summarizing 'how I see these matters affecting the quality of district services,' my specific verbal and subsequent written request was not answered. [LBReport.com has posted the LBUSD Legal Adviser's letter verbatim in pdf format. To access it, click here.]
I wanted meeting minutes and hard facts. However, enclosed with the letter were a list of District Superintendent salaries in Orange County, Los Angeles County and those member districts of Council of greater city schools. This data raises even more questions because it clearly shows LBUSD is substantially overpaying its current and new Superintendent.
[At this point, LBUSD's tape captures laughter on mike. Contacted by LBReport.com, Board President Bobbie Smith (who chaired the meeting) acknowledged there was some laughter (including her own) in response to Ms. Akers' charge but said, "It wasn't meant in a mean spirited way. It was more a reflection of Ms. Akers' repeated efforts to rile the Board."]
Even the sprawling Los Angeles Unified District with more than 700,000 students ties its Superintendent's salary to student achievement and pays $250,000, the top salary in Los Angeles County. This just slightly more than our own Superintendent's salary for fewer than a hundred [thousand] students.
As the LBReport.com stated, Long Beach pays its Superintendent more than the Governor of the entire state of California.
In some ways, this Board behaves like a private corporation and accordingly pays their administrators generous salaries. But it fails to remember that the community that elects them are their stockholders, and that we want to see return for our tax dollars.
Voters can now view district and individual school performance on record on line. While LBUSD has local print media in spin doctor puppet strings, the student achievement data for both California and LBUSD are on its web site.
Why should taxpayers pay a premium price for such low performance? This is not just an opinion, but it is based on facts printed on the school accountability report card.
It is irresponsible of this Board to award a Superintendent a four year term contract, plus benefits, and not be held accountable for improving student achievement. To reiterate, and in accordance with the freedom of information act, I respectfully request this Board to please provide me with both written methodology and specific financial data, including benefits package in addition to the $198,000 salary, that was used to determine the new Superintendent's compensation for the four year term, no review, no accountability contract.
When can I expect to receive a report of this information? Thank you."
School Board President Bobbie Smith: "Reyna, this is not the time for debate. We simply make this time available to members of the public to give information to the Board. However, you make it very difficult for us to not debate when you come and bring those same issues over and over again. But we will, with the legal advisor sending you the information, showing you the comparison salaries and so forth that gave you an idea of how we arrive at our pay for our Superintendent. But we will provide you with some additional information.
Ms. Akers: And will you let me know why we can't televise our board meetings, because it would really [inaudible, off mike]...
School Board President Smith: The Board has debated that issue and the Board has decided that it is too costly and we could use those funds to improve student
Ms. Akers: Thank you.
School Board President Smith: You're welcome.
Board Member Ed Eveland: I can't let this go by, Reyna. I don't know, uh, I watch the L.A. Unified School District meeting every week and I watch the Long Beach City Council
meeting every week, and the reason I do is I get more damn entertainment out of those programs than any comedy that there is. I mean, they become nothing but zoos, with people like you that get up and are constantly negative, never have anything to say. In the years you've been coming, I've never heard one good thing from you about anything in this school district.
Now I know we can't be satisfying everybody all the time, but to ever try to satisfy you would be an impossibility. And I'm just speaking as one Board member, but I finally, you know, get it up to here.