Gil Rebollar’s Small Town News podcast is a weekly program that interviews local leaders and community members on issues that affect citizens of the Imperial Valley. This program reflects a renewed sense of civic participation and interest that our Valley is in great need of. Impressively, over 100 guests have participated in the show providing a broad survey of varying levels of quality and character in leadership locally.
Perhaps there is no more important local leadership that affects the future of individuals and the community as a whole, and is most deserving of our collective attention and questioning, than that of our School Boards. Today, our schools are in a state of alarming decay that is startling not only in the numbers– but the deafening silence regarding these figures. It is long overdue that our elected representatives engage in meaningful dialogue and discussion about the appalling state of our schools as well as their leadership.
In Brawley Union High School, 13% of students are proficient or better in math and 32% in English– yet 98% of students graduate.
Witter (27%), Hidalgo (32%), Oakley (30%), and Phil Swing (28%) schools show that in no Brawley elementary schools are a third of students even passable as proficient reading and writing in the English language.
Small Town News podcast matters because it brings to the forefront questions about the community we desire to live in: How and why do we select our leaders? What does it mean to hold our leaders accountable? What responsibilities do our leaders have to the public they serve? What does it mean to live in a community that thrives? What is the current quality and health of our community and institutions?
As of yet, dozens of elected local leaders and candidates have offered their voice on the podcast, freely accessible to the public. As of yet, however, not a single individual of the 10 Brawley school board members have participated, an obvious gap considering that more members and candidates have appeared from Calexico, than have Brawley board members within walking distance, even after repeated request over some number of months.
Our community deserves to hear the ideas and plans that our school board members have for improvement of our failing schools, in a fashion more accessible and agreeable than small, cold boardrooms with Board Members sitting in plush leather chairs beneath framed photos of themselves adorning the walls– with community engagement limited to a public comment period without opportunity for open and frank discussion.
The Small Town News podcast serves as an excellent opportunity for these elected representatives to be an example of taking initiative by participating in dialogue and discussion about issues that impact the next generations of Brawley and Imperial Valley youth– more meaningfully than quadrennial free barbeque meat giveaways and plastic sign distribution that our local elections have too often stooped to.
Our School Board members should seek out community input and ideas, and actively air their own frequently and publicly. Not to do so ignores the core issues that are leading our community into a steady decline economically, culturally, and morally.
We should strive for schools that are marked by excellence and continuous improvement. When schools fail so poorly as our own, Board members should reflect qualities and actions of leadership for solutions to chronic incompetency and decay; which, to say the least, includes occasionally talking about what they are doing in their elected position. For BUHS and BESD members to demur in speaking about the job they perform to the public as a whole over this medium, it would reflect an utter disconnect with those they are tasked to represent.
For these reasons, I am optimistic that each of the 10 board members serving for BESD and BUHS boards will reengage in meaningful discussion about our schools and give us a chance to listen to what they have to say.
These individuals, by virtue of publicly campaigning and being publicly elected, have pledged their service to the public through maintaining and improving our public schools, which should include speaking publicly about what they are accomplishing in their public roles. Surely, sparing 60 minutes of time to share their background, ideas, observations, and solutions should be an easy task for such dutiful and sacrificing public servants. It is long overdue.
Link to Small Town News Podcast: smalltownnewspodcast.com
Below are names and emails for each School Board member:
Gabriel Contreras – firstname.lastname@example.org – 760-348-9906
Ralph Fernandez – email@example.com – 760-344-6246
Carol Sassie – firstname.lastname@example.org – 760-344-7267
Patti Wilson – email@example.com – 760-455-2422
Rusty Garcia – firstname.lastname@example.org – 760-587-1319