Open Letter to the New Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent

Black news from Pasadena - Commentary from the editor - an open letter to the new PUSD Superintendent, Jon GundryDear Sir, welcome to the hot seat. Today begins a new day in the history of the Pasadena Unified School District. What will be recorded  as your legacy depends on what you do in developing a partnership with the quiet majority of what will be known as your District. That majority will not be at your School Board meetings. They are the parents you will only hear from when there is a problem. This is unfortunate but always remember that “heavy is the head that wears the crown.” You chose the job and as Superintendent so you wear the crown.

A few suggestions are in order here. We know that you will be forced into the paper box  labeled  “no child left behind”  and, accordingly, your performance will be judged on how well your school district performs in that box. However, your true legacy and reputation will be measured by how the “least” of your children perform.  Many of the least of your children are those African American children who always seem to be found on the “bottom of the well.”  You already know that if you keep on doing only what your predecessors have done, you will not distinguish yourself, and the bottom of the well will still be dark.



Get A Trade, Get A Skill, Get A Job!

Black news from Pasadena - Commentary on job skills and a jobAn article in the Tuesday, June 21, 2011 issue of The Los Angeles Times by columnist Sandy Banks tells a story of a 20 year old young lady named Jasmine.  Jasmine is a mother of two who, when she found herself with a one year old child and an unemployed “baby daddy”, realized the only marketable skill between him and her was her sex.  She and the baby daddy decided that Jasmine would become a prostitute.  At the time Jasmine was 14. So by now she has been turning tricks on the streets for four years. It is not clear how old the boy (her pimp) was, but neither had an education or training in any trade.      

What this story points out is that for some young people there are not a lot of choices and so they choose anything. The article points out that parents, like Jasmine’s, and the schools are failing our children.  The churches aren’t doing a lot for young people either. 



A Grad Trip South

Black news from Pasadena - Commentary celebrating 2011 graduatesMy wife and I traveled to North Carolina to see our oldest granddaughter graduate from high school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We also made a trip to Atlanta to visit our youngest son, Jamal, and his family.  Travel fascinates me because I always learn something that inspires me, one way or another. 

Ironically, our granddaughter and son were both born in hospitals in Los Angeles.  They grew up in Altadena and attended schools in Pasadena, however, our granddaughter’s mother moved her to North Carolina as a teenager.  The South has been good for them, but we have always longed for the day they would both return to California. Thankfully, our granddaughter has chosen to attend a California college. As for our son, only time will tell.

Ironically, Jamal (a Ph.D. and Professor of Theology) teaches at one of the historical Black colleges, Interdenominational Theological Center.  ITC is the school of religion for Morehouse, Spelman, and the other colleges that make up the six Black Colleges and Universities of Atlanta University. Our granddaughter, Ifetayo (fondly called “Ife”, pronounced: “E-faye”), graduated from a school I have been told that was the last school district in North Carolina to desegregate in the turbulent civil rights days. Chapel Hill gave me the impression that it was the Beverly Hills part of North Carolina. Chapel Hill High School, which was at one time the only high school in Chapel Hill, has its second Black principal, Dr. Jesse Dingle. That’s progress, thanks to the civil rights workers! 



Do Opportunities in Spanish Discriminate?

African American news from Pasadena - Commentary on Spanish and discrimination.In April 2010, I was retained to represent two certificated African American employees of the Pasadena Unified School District. They were being terminated from their positions because they didn’t speak Spanish. One had eleven years with the District and had just finished a Ph.D.  Her “crime” was she allegedly spoke no Spanish. The District had interpreted a state education code [section 44955(d)] to mean that even if you had more seniority than another employee, you could be fired and replaced by another employee with less experience, if you did not speak Spanish.  The practice was called “skipping.”  I called it discrimination, in my brief, and in my oral arguments.

The result was that the Administrative Law Judge agreed with me and while one of the two had substantially more experience, the other had less experience and the need to skip was not necessary. This second employee left the District and was hired elsewhere.  Pasadena was then left with only one African American in the particular category.  I am not mentioning the client’s name or employment category because of the confidential nature of the Attorney-Client relationship. 



More Than Good Intentions

African American news from Pasadena - Editorial - solving global povery problemsMy wife has been telling me for years that sometimes my advice to others on subjects, like becoming entrepreneurs, just doesn’t work for every individual. She is constantly reminding me that my solution to unemployment is to open your own business, just doesn’t always work because what works for one may not work for another.

I have had a real problem believing that the entrepreneurship answer is not a universal one. I have a hard head and still believe that if the circumstances are right, entrepreneurship works.  I must admit that a book I ran across recently is causing the foundations of my belief to be shaken.  The book called, “More Than Good Intentions”, talks about how to solve problems of global poverty. One chapter is about the Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.” 



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