A little advice for ‘More Money’ McRae

On June 10, Gilroy Unified School School Board trustee David
McRae challenged Gilroy to pass a $350 parcel tax to be used for
teacher salaries and educational improvements. I will now think of
June 10, 2005 as the day David McRae decided he would not be
seeking reelection to the school board.
On June 10, Gilroy Unified School School Board trustee David McRae challenged Gilroy to pass a $350 parcel tax to be used for teacher salaries and educational improvements. I will now think of June 10, 2005 as the day David McRae decided he would not be seeking reelection to the school board.

Trustee McRae states that “while there are strategies we can learn from and adopt, we are avoiding the bigger issue: Money.” I completely disagree with this assertion. What GUSD does best is ignore the strategies of high-performing districts; the strategies that they should be learning and adopting. Every few years, the district will ask the citizens for more money to build new buildings in which strategies employed by the likes of Palo Alto will be ignored.

I agree completely that the community of Palo Alto cares more about education than Gilroy, but not because three-fourths of their population voted to extend and expand the existing parcel tax. Palo Alto does not pay the highest teacher salaries; in fact their starting teachers make approximately $3,000 more per year than a starting teacher in Gilroy. Every school in Palo Alto has an API above 800, and most are above 900. Every school is ranked 9 or 10. Both public high schools in Palo Alto have stellar reputations and are ranked in the top 350 high schools nationwide. Trustee McRae – the reason they have great schools has nothing to do with the parcel tax they just enacted.

Palo Alto’s motto is “Excellence by design.” Think about it – a school district whose schools and curriculum are designed to succeed. Gilroy’s motto is “Excellence – it takes everyone!” (Exclamation point included). Included in the “everyone” are a list of GUSD educational experts who are willing to employ and adopt every next-best-thing in education to come out of Santa Cruz.

The biggest problem, the main reason a parcel tax is a bad idea for GUSD is that our local public schools are simply a bad investment at this time. Palo Alto designed a program which has succeeded; that is how they became a high-performing school district. Once they got there, the community was more than willing to sustain the school system. We are not a high-performing district, we are not even close. Our district has not designed a successful program beyond those at a couple of our elementary schools. Our middle schools and high schools are not on par with Palo Alto. There is too much risk associated with giving any more money to GUSD. The risk involves more than just spending the money unwisely; I believe we need to overhaul the entire human resources department at GUSD and start hiring better people.

We need to clean out district employees whose poor judgment could result in our tax dollars being used to settle lawsuits. If you want to know how much interest there is in a parcel tax, just read the comments of the citizens questioned in the same issue of the Dispatch. More and more homeowners are choosing to homeschool, or send their kids to private school, or send their kids to neighboring public schools.

But our schools do need more money, and I believe that David McRae wants to commit himself to finding more money for Gilroy schools. Here are a couple of suggestions:

• Trustee McRae could go to Morgan Hill Unified and try to woo back the hundreds of Gilroy students who are enrolled in our neighboring district. That would be well over $1 million dollars per year for Gilroy schools.

• Trustee McRae could talk to private school parents and find out why they have opted out of GUSD. I would bet that for more than half of these families, it isn’t about religion (the number of non-Catholic students at Catholic high schools is increasing.) Maybe he would discover that many of the students who could positively impact our test scores are exactly those who are no longer interested in attending Gilroy public schools.

• Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind Trustee McRae that a $350 a year parcel tax would mean that his household would contribute $10,000 to GUSD over the course of nearly three decades. Trustee McRae could prove his dedication to public education by a very simple but powerful gesture. Our district would receive more than $12,000 per year if the McRae children were transferred from their private schools to Gilroy’s public schools.

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