By Paul Seitz
October 23, 2020
My name is Paul Seitz, and I’m proud to be running for a seat on the R. Roger Rowe School Board. It’s an honor to be one of seven candidates, all of whom are well qualified, very impressive, and share a common goal of wanting our school to not only succeed but thrive.
Let me be direct and tell you what sets me apart from the other candidates and why I would like to earn your vote. I am incredibly passionate about our school. I believe a warm and inviting school culture, a positive and respectful environment, and the morale of the staff and teachers are just as important as the curriculum and special programs the school provides. Amid a global pandemic, we all need to work together and be more cohesive than ever.
We are incredibly fortunate to be a small school with a spacious facility and small classroom sizes, ensuring we could open our school for in-person learning at the beginning of the school year. We have so much going for us in our district, including phenomenal teachers, good kids, parents eager to volunteer and get involved, and the most funding per child in almost any public school in the state.
What Once Was
My daughter began attending Roger Rowe in 2017. I am thankful to have experienced firsthand what an extraordinary school looks like, how it operates, functions, and how warm and inviting it feels walking into the school on any given day. From the professionalism of the administration to the dedication and smiling faces on all the teachers’ faces, it was clear Rowe was a special place. Two years of excellence enabled me to recognize the extreme contrast when the entire school turned on its head, forgoing all of what made Roger Rowe the extraordinary, unique, boutique-style school that rightfully garnered such a renowned reputation for years.
Too harsh? Perhaps. But I want to get your attention and make it crystal clear to all stakeholders that the current state of the school, pandemic aside, is dire and in critical need of revaluation and repair. Previous traditions and Dr. Rowe’s philosophy of providing a private school quality education were discarded and paired back beyond recognition. The sense of community and trust, destroyed. The hemorrhaging of money, inexcusable. The lack of resources during this pandemic, unconscionable. Morale and culture (even pre-pandemic) at an all-time low.
R. Roger Rowe School was at the forefront of employing single-subject credentialed specialists to teach art, music, PE, drama, science, and technology. What exactly does that mean? It means educators teaching your children those subjects have a teaching credential AND an additional credential in their area of expertise. In other words, those teachers have furthered their education to be specialists in their field.
The Education Foundation literature and The Yearly Family Guide would highlight the school’s specialists as one of its core offerings that Rowe provides its students. The single-subject credentialed teachers being one of the reasons the Foundation would raise upwards of a million dollars of community donations year after year. Because of the termination of many of these specialists and many other Rowe traditions and programs, our 2019 school year fundraising efforts suffered dramatically by almost half of the previous year in 2018. And it is not for lack of money, but rather the community’s belief in how the money is currently being spent.
The Fall Of An Extraordinary Education and End Of An Era
Until the 2019 school year, your elementary-aged student was learning science with an educator who held a single-subject science credential. Over the years, Dr. Rowe and then Linda Delaney would invest thousands of dollars to further educate and invest in the latest and most innovative science curriculum. Both elementary and middle school students enjoyed learning science in a dedicated science lab equipped with science tables and equipment.
A team of literacy teachers dedicated to K-5 students worked hand in hand with the classroom teachers in small groups of three or less. Groups paired together according to each students’ reading level. This literacy program gave more than ample attention from an early age through Grade 5 to provide all children with a head start and a love for reading that traditional public schools did not. Within these groups, advanced readers are challenged continuously, and readers who need a little push or additional help receive extra attention.
Your elementary-aged advanced math student would be challenged beyond their classroom and peers by a math coach who held a specialized credential in mathematics. Assuring our mathematically gifted students were continually engaged and learning at an advanced level.
The school was unique in that it employed a full-time teacher in our huge and impressive library, which throughout the years, became the unofficial social-emotional hub of the school. With the doors always open, it provided an excellent place for kids to play checkers, chess, or do puzzles. Our teacher librarian’s unique ability to inspire even the most resistant students to love reading is an intangible quality almost impossible to quantify. Building confidence in hundreds of students and teaching our kids how to handle conflict resolution properly are a few of the remarkable influences our school librarian would provide.
These are just a few of many examples of the caliber of education R. Roger Rowe would provide to our students year after year. In other words, our children indeed received an extraordinary individualized education.
Why And Who Decided To Overthrow Dr. Rowe’s Legacy
Six board members (one of whom resigned during his term and enrolled his children elsewhere) along with the schools long term team of attorneys, secretly with absolutely no input from any parents, students, teachers, or educators, decided to uproot and cancel all of the above aforementioned, plus much much more. Rowe’s reputable and renowned, innovative education model disbanded, abandoned, and destroyed by an uncreative board who sought out no alternative ideas from all of the resourceful minds in our community. Somebody made this monumental decision behind closed doors. Parents and teachers were hurt and blindsided when a special board meeting announced that 19 pink slips would be issued.
The cuts were made because the school was running a deficit. It is unclear as to why, as some of the excuses given don’t ring true. The fact is, year over year, the school has received more funding than the previous school year. Please contact me if you would like to see a spreadsheet.
One popular claim was that they needed to ”right-size” the school, as enrollment numbers had declined. How does firing our specialists and discontinuing programs right-size the school? Not to mention our school doesn’t receive the bulk of its funding based on the number of students enrolled. That particular fact was conveniently left out during the School Board ”Realign and Reset” slide show presentation meant to educate the public.
The backstory of the deficit and the budget cuts is too long to discuss in this article, but if elected to the board, I plan to be upfront and untangle some of the information or lack thereof.
So Where Are We Today
A credentialed science teacher isn’t teaching your elementary child science. They will not even be learning science in a science lab, like most other public schools. They will be taught science from their desk in their classroom by their classroom teacher. This week, classroom teachers are being prepped and familiarized with our newly adopted science curriculum (Foss kits). Substitute teachers are filling in the classroom during this time.
Your elementary children are not learning to read or enhance their reading in small groups or working with a team of literacy specialists. The classroom teacher will be teaching literacy the same way other public schools teach. One size fits all.
Your advanced math child or math child who needs extra math intervention will be learning with a teacher, not a credentialed math specialist.
Currently, as we speak, some cohorts are being mixed together and taught PE by para-professionals, not even a teacher, let alone a single-subject credentialed PE teacher.
The school library program no longer exists.
The school does not currently have a Human Resource Department. Let me repeat, the school does not have an HR department in the middle of a global pandemic. Over 80% of our budget is spent on people, yet the management and representation of those people are under siege.
For years, we have been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on a legal firm that has gone uncontested for almost 30 years. This money would be better spent in the classrooms.
Sadly, the list is long of what our school no longer provides and the many Rowe traditions that don’t exist any longer. New families or those with younger students cannot understand what has been lost as they never truly witnessed the real R. Roger Rowe School. They do not have a basis for comparison.
What’s worse is our neighboring public schools, who for years used to look to us as pioneers, are now employing single-subject credentialed teachers for math, science, etc. while we have delegated those subjects back to the classroom teachers. We are moving backward while our neighboring districts are moving forward.
Why Choose Me
My agenda is clear. I want to reinstate Dr. Rowe’s original methodology and education model. I want to hire credentialed specialists for STEM. I want to invest in literacy and library programs. I want to resuscitate our once nationally renowned after school robotics program once the pandemic is over. We have the funding and can achieve all of this, all while still being fiscally conservative, as we are grossly overspending in certain areas where we can easily cut costs.
I want the Education Foundation to thrive and proudly promote what the school has to offer. I want to inspire the parents who no longer donate to the foundation to open their wallets again.
My goal includes continuously being innovative and a leader in public education. Dr. Rowe used to say, “We don’t compare ourselves to other schools, as we are a school in of itself.” I plan to get that back.
I want you to know the truth. Our children are our most prized commodity, and parents deserve to know what is happening or not happening when they send their child to school. You deserve facts, hard numbers, and complete transparency. Board meetings should be a time to educate stakeholders where we are succeeding, where we are falling short, and where we have made mistakes. There is no room for ego, glossing over or failing to discuss problems, politicking or secrecy.
I will make sure board meetings will not be public PR sessions to receive complimentary write-ups in the Rancho Santa Fe Review. They also won’t be sales pitch meetings attempting to get community “buy-in.”
I will not pack the audience with my personal friends to make positive and affirming statements about controversial Board decisions. I will be honest and forthright. I am a straight shooter, not a politician.
If you elect me to the School Board, I intend to educate the public on the following:
- Explain how the school receives its funding. Hint, it has nothing to do with enrollment numbers.
- How much money we spend per student versus other districts.
- Educate the public on the value of hiring single subject credentialed teachers to teach STEAM.
- Continually review what other public school districts are providing students that we are not.
- Admit shortfalls.
- Take responsibility for errors.
- Listen and collaborate with teachers and utilize them properly per their credentials.
- Be forthcoming and provide hard numbers with what we spend on consultants, board membership clubs, legal representation, and accounting firms.
- Make difficult decisions after extensive consulting with all stakeholders.
- Intensively review what we are spending money on and renegotiate with vendors to bring down costs.
We need to build back trust. When we build trust, we build community. When there’s a sense of community and teamwork, we yield better results. It’s all cyclical.
If we continue with the status quo and refuse not to address or brush poor decisions under the rug, we will eventually be at the point of no return, and our school will lose its outstanding reputation of being extraordinary.
It’s not too late. Let’s stand up, dust ourselves off, and get to work. All of us!
I want to rebuild our school, but I need your help and input. Please vote for me on November 3, 2020 <x-apple-data-detectors://1>, or earlier on your mail-in ballot. I am a man of my word, and I will not disappoint you.