By David Riemer
One thing I learned early in life was that if I ever found myself in a hole, I should stop digging. The more one digs, the deeper the hole gets and the harder it is to get out. Some people never learn this lesson.
Our local high school, Verdugo Hills, has been unable to figure out why, in the last three years, it has gone “in the hole” about $286,000. The management of the school—called an administration in the education game—can neither find this hole nor who dug it.
Just as alarming is that the administration seems unconcerned about fixing the problem. It is happy just to pay back the district what the district says it is owed.
I have worked in this community, namely at Verdugo Hills High, since 1988. I recently retired, but I’m still concerned with what is going on at Verdugo and in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The name of this column reflects my befuddlement at the current state of American education, and it comes from the beginning of the quotation, “The more I learn, the less I know,” attributed to Socrates.
During my tenure at Verdugo, I began a number of programs (most of which are still functioning) and helped turn the school around for the better. Among my major projects were the Humanitas Leadership Program, Smaller Learning Communities, and a media magnet. I also received the California League of High Schools Educator of the Year award for Region 7.
Verdugo was never “in the red” during my time at the school. But for three consecutive years it’s been losing money. Recently, a promising pilot school elsewhere in the district was shut down by LAUSD superintendent John Deasy because of a $500 shortfall. I wonder if the principal of that pilot school was personally appointed by Deasy over the wishes of the community, faculty, and the school’s governing body. Deasy also selected and appointed Verdugo’s current principal, Edward Trimis.
What would you do with a management team that managed to lose $286,000 in a couple of years? Would you like to know what happened to that money? In this column, we will explore this issue and others as they relate to Sunland-Tujunga.
Sunland-Tujunga is a unique place. If the citizens of this area want to take control of the schools they pay for, we can do so. I will back up my claims with facts and will have civilized debate.
It is time to stop digging the hole, to pull everyone out, and to start backfilling. My dad taught me about digging holes, and my wife taught me to not worry about the little things in life. As a school counselor early in her career, she used to ask her elementary school counselees, “Is this a big problem or a little problem?” The state of education is a big problem. Let’s roll up our sleeves and see if we can’t fix it.