Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Caviness: Pullman out of touch with MUSD’s needs

I am a south county parent who has been watching the upcoming June election for Middletown Unified School District board seat with interest. I had previously been undecided, but I came across a Facebook post by one of the candidates, Bryan Pullman, recently. Some of the statements gave me pause. I’d like to share my initial thoughts and concerns below.

Pullman: “I have no problem with the many good teachers in our district, but they are the responsibility of their superintendent and their union and not the school board. The school board has one employee and that is the superintendent. I understand that and my opponent does not.”

• While this is partially correct, that the superintendent is the only employee of the board, it is an oversimplification. It is the board's responsibility to ensure that the CBA is negotiated in such a way that favors the school district. It is also the board's responsibility to ensure that the superintendent is effectively managing his staff, administrators and teachers. The school board's job is to set policy, and the superintendent's job is to implement that policy. It is all the responsibility of the school board at the end of the day.

Pullman: “Our school has spent almost all of a 42 million dollar construction fund without the benefit of a project manager.”

• This is not correct based on the most recent figures from the district office. Of the $42 million in potential funding, only $28 million has been pulled, of that only 8% has been spent ($2.2 million).

Pullman: “As someone with extensive experience contracting to schools I know that the 100k or so that a construction manager would cost would be a fraction of the money that the school has lost in spending this money without that professional assistance.”

• Most people I have spoken to acknowledge that the district should have hired a construction manager. Depending upon the level of service, a typical construction manager would cost around 3 to 5% of the total construction cost. This is a more realistic estimate and would still be well worth it in my opinion.

Pullman: “My opponent is on the record stating that she supports them (vaccine mandates). I am on the record stating that I will fight them. I believe in medical freedom for students.”

• As the candidate points out, most folks are against vaccine mandates without exemptions (including his opponent Charise Reynolds). There has never been a COVID vaccine mandate for children. The Newsom regulation never went into effect and will not happen for the 2023 school year.

Pullman: “I am opposed to CRT and SEL as they are currently offered as they teach racism, they do not work to stop it.”

• Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) classes have not been implemented at MUSD and there are no plans to do so.

• Here is a direct quote from someone who cares deeply about our students but wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

“Mr. Pullman, as someone who is building their campaign on the opinions and voices of parents, I encourage you to post this publicly for all parents to respond. Speaking as someone who observes students’ mental well-being closely. I'm afraid I must disagree with much of what you are saying, but I will mainly focus on your comment about Social-Emotional Learning and its place in our school. Our students have been isolated for almost two years and then quickly expected to readjust to said ‘normalcy.’ Refusing our children the right to learn coping skills, feel actively listened to, safe in their classrooms, and validating their needs is denying them the right to an education. Our students are emotionally struggling and deserve a space that encourages them to feel safe opening up. All parents want to see their children happy and healthy; actively campaigning to deny our students the right to this, is only harming our kids. Many potential suicides have been prevented this year from students that are benefiting from SEL.”

Pullman: “Our state wants to expose students as young as six to transgenderism. Transgenderism affects less than 1% of the population in California. The suicide rate for an adolescent afflicted with this is about 40%, Compared to straight adolescents suicide rate of about 15% ... People who are transgender deserve our help to work their way through their problem.”

• I was troubled by this statement in the candidate’s post. I’m not sure whether or not this statement was meant to be insensitive but it reads like transgender children have a “problem.” Do we really want someone who believes “transgenderism” is an “affliction” on the school board of MUSD?

My closing thoughts as a parent and long time south county resident: The candidate is out of touch with the needs of our district. He is not up to speed on the current funding, bond measures or state of mental health in our district.

We need board members who are informed, compassionate and focused on moving the district forward in a positive way. It appears to me the candidate is less interested in actual MUSD issues and more concerned about national issues in general. I will not be voting for Bryan Pullman in June or November.

Kent Caviness lives in Hidden Valley Lake, California.

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