Indeed!

The following is a transcript of the closing comments made by TVUSD Board Member Julie Farnbach at the most recent school board meeting on June 2, 2015.1)While we have had no private communications with Farnbach, or any of the board members since they were sworn in last November, we fully agree with the content of Farnbach’s statement.

We the PeopleAt the beginning of every school board meeting, we pledge allegiance to the Republic for which this flag stands. For those of us who crammed right before finals then promptly forgot our civics lessons, a Republic is a government based on representation. Since a democracy fails to function as soon as a population outgrows the biggest venue in town, we elect representatives to make policy decisions on our behalf.

Except in cases where we must protect another’s right to privacy, this decision-making is to be done in full view of the public. The voters must be able to observe the process, give feedback to their representatives, and assess their decision-making in order to make an informed vote in the next election cycle.

Although as board members, each of us becomes the public face of the school district, our primary purpose here is NOT to represent district staff to the public, but to be representatives of the people TO the district. The school board exists to represent the people, the voters. We stand in for them.

Like the board of directors to a corporation, we are here to supervise the CEO. Board members of private organizations serve to protect that company’s stockholders. They may choose to hire a specialist to manage the company’s reputation, but the board represents those stockholders, and the board’s only job is to keep the business on track and in the black. They are there to keep an eye on the numbers, make sure their products or services are meeting customers’ needs. The ONLY way that company stays in business is if they keep their customers happy.

Public education is likewise organized with a board of representatives to oversee operations. Our job is to represent the stakeholders, keep the district on track and in the black. It is our job to supervise the chief executive, to bring out the best in him, not to ignore his weaknesses. Further, it is not our job to please the people who run the organization, though kindness and good communication go a long way toward that end. Our job is to make sure the product going out meets the needs of our customers, the stakeholders, the parents, the voters. Public education used to have a virtual monopoly on education services. That is no longer the reality. If we don’t deliver to our stakeholders, we are done.

I am frustrated that no one seems to recognize the truth in what I just said. We are so busy running a public relations campaign to buoy up public opinion of the district that no one seems to realize the real problem is customer service. There is a BIG difference between “public relations” and “customer service.” They are two separate problems with two distinctly different cures.

Did you know that Kohl’s has the best customer service ratings in the retail industry? The best. You know why? Because they are kind and respectful to their customers, and they listen. Does that mean they give customers everything they ask for? No. It means they work with them one-on-one to reach a satisfactory result. It means they listen long enough to figure out what the customer actually needs, then they get to work fulfilling that need the best way they can. Guess what happens when Kohl’s associates listen and treat their customers with kindness and respect? They receive reciprocal kindness and respect. And they are profitable because they don’t have to spend money on lawyers or public relations campaigns!

So can we please acknowledge the elephant in the room? The status quo isn’t good enough anymore. Did anyone notice the referendum from angry voters last November?!? Temecula voters said “enough of this–we demand a change.” NO one here seems to have gotten the message!! As a representative of Temecula voters, it is my job to ask the hard questions. I am proud of how hard our staff works, how our teachers hustle and bust their butts every day to meet the challenges of an incredible work load with reams of regulatory paperwork. I am happy to celebrate our successes! But it can’t always be a parade of rainbows and lollipops. The five of us are responsible for overseeing the stability of this $250 million dollar organization, not to protect the individual players within it. Every public agency operates at the will of the voters, and it is my DUTY to listen to them, and treat them with kindness and respect. It is insulting to every parent, to every voter, to every student when we continue our present course as if nothing has changed.

I’m not here to condemn anyone’s character. But I do have to judge the actions that affect our students. The bad news is that actions speak loudly. The good news is that actions can be altered, undone and relearned. Look at what Joe (Mueller) and Jeff (Kingsberg) did this year! If we can amicably negotiate with the teacher’s union, why can’t we do the same with every other stakeholder? Parents want improvement. Voters have demanded change. Let’s give it to them! It’s a win-win! I humbly suggest that we stop listening to attorneys and start listening to the hearts of the people we are here to serve.

If we can’t ALL put our egos aside and do the right thing, if we can’t manage our part of the system successfully, here in our NICE little town, then the American experiment really is over, and our republic is history.

I respectfully ask that no one attempt to reframe my comments tonight, or respond to them immediately. Please take time to absorb the message. I didn’t run for office in order to build a political resume. I am here to solve problems.

Notes   [ + ]

1. While we have had no private communications with Farnbach, or any of the board members since they were sworn in last November, we fully agree with the content of Farnbach’s statement.

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