Advocating For Our Students, For Our Schools

December 13th, 2011

“No generation of educators in the history of the world has been asked to do what Americans now demand of their public schools.” This quote from Jamie Vollmer is dead-on. Motivated in part by Jamie’s presentation at the recent California School Board Association’s Annual Education Conference, I wrote and recorded the following Public Service Announcement for our local radio station, KBHR:

Listen to the PSA

Special thanks to KBHR’s Angela Meyers, and especially Rick and Cathy Herrick for their ongoing support of our local schools. The transcript:

BVUSD Radio PSA – 12/9/11

Hi, I’m Randall Putz, President of the Bear Valley Unified School Board of Trustees. Three years ago when the Valley elected me to the School Board, I was charged with advocating for public education. And if there was ever a time our local schools needed advocacy, it is now. As you know, our state of California, is remarkable in many ways. But unfortunately one way California is remarkable is in its lack of support for funding public education. California ranks almost dead last – 49th out of 50 states – in how much it spends per student on education. And even then, the state doesn’t pay the full bill, withholding funds through differrals, and when the State finally does pay, it pays late, putting a severe cash squeeze on schools. When the voters demand the State make good on its education responsibilities through Proposition 98, even that gets ignored, to the point where several organizations are currently suing the State to force it to meet its education obligations. Its a tough time for education – the worst since the Great Depression.

And yet despite these challenges, our local schools in Big Bear, our teachers, administrators, and staff, they do an extraordinary job under challenging circumstances. We have wonderful teachers and distinguished schools. This year Big Bear High School was 1 of just 2 high schools in all of San Bernardino County to receive distinguished school status. We have remarkable students and graduates. Maybe you noticed one or two in the Olympics or on top of Mount Everest. Chances are you, your family, or someone you know have benefitted from our Schools. Bear Valley Unified School District is one of the Valley’s largest employers, and frankly an important part of what makes our Valley the very special place it is.

Every year we ask our teachers to do more, and lately with less. But they have to, WE have to, keep teaching. Because public education is important, critically important. Education provides opportunity to children who otherwise would go without. Education makes better informed citizens. Education reduces crime. Education helps make sure that the doctor who takes care of you, the policeman who protects you, and the fireman who saves you, are all competent and capable. Education is always in our best interest.

Which is why I hope you will Join me, my fellow board members Bev Grabe, Ken Turney, Al Waner, and Paul Zamoyta, and our Superintendent Kurt Madden, in supporting our schools and our students. Please, visit a school, volunteer in a classroom, come to a Board meeting, or come to a student play or an athletic event. Come help us help our students. Thanks for listening.

Tour of California Comes to Big Bear – Again!

December 12th, 2011

Big Bear Lake has been selected as the race’s Stage 6 Finish on Friday, May 18, 2012. The City of Palmdale will serve as the Host City and start location for Stage 6, which ultimately finishes with a demanding climb to Big Bear. This is the second time in three years Big Bear Lake has been selected as a Host City, which reaffirms the mountain resort as a world-class road cycling destination.

Two years ago I served as Community Outreach Director for Big Bear’s Local Organizing Committee. Phil Hamilton and I did numerous presentations to local community groups and brought up professional cyclists to visit our local schools. We even had a student art contest with the wining pieces published in a calendar. I admit it was quite something to witness the peloton racing live up Summit Blvd with the whole world watching.

Footage from the Tour’s 2010 visit to Big Bear:

Cover of the 2010 Tour of California Big Bear Lake Student Art Contest Calendar (all participants received a limited edition silicon bracelet we made just for the students – the winner got a bike):

Randy’s Education Links

December 11th, 2011

Some of my favorite links collected during my recent travels on the BVUSD School Board:

  • Jamie Vollmer – I had the opportunity to hear him speak live to thousands of California School Board members in San Diego and found his message to be the most motivating to date. His list of  The Ever Increasing Burden on America’s Public Schools really drives the point home. Watch Jamie’s CSBA presentation here.
  • To Those Who Would Lead – A manifesto of sorts that does a good job of summarizing and contextualizing education, technology, and the 21st Century.
  • Saddleback iEngage – Fellow Board Member Paul Zamoyta arranged for a question and answer session with a couple of Saddleback teachers who were doing some impressive things with iPod carts in their classrooms, further underlining the huge opportunity before us. Also see a related article about how iPods help ESL students in Escondido.
  • The Kahn Academy – Another innovation in education with great potential that demonstrates how technology can better serve our learning minds. I enjoyed  hearing Sal sharing his remarkable story live at the 2011 CSBA Conference.