Letters to the Editor 2-22-18
Superintendent Mike Matthews stated that the Manhattan Beach Unified School District is considering a parcel tax, because of a projected $5 million budget shortfall in each of the next three years and could face up to 60 teacher layoffs. I agree with MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews’s statement that “the schools are the number one reason people move to Manhattan Beach and schools increase property values.”
Why not a Parent Tax to cover the district’s shortfall, instead of Parcel Tax on all residents. MBUSD has 7,035 students. A tax of $1,000/year ($83/mo) would generate $7 million per year. $7,035,000/year. Tuition at local private schools ranges from $20,000 to $40,000 annually.
STEM your enthusiasm
I think that the Manhattan Beach School District (MBSD) has provided some insight into the causes of the conflict over social studies at Mira Costa High School (“MCHS Social Studies teachers enact easier grading scale to counter summer school scores,” ER Feb. 1, 2018). Last week, those of us who live in Manhattan received a slick, four-page flyer from the school district asking us to vote for a proposed parcel tax so we can “maintain excellence” in our schools. On page 3, the district outlines how revenues from an approved parcel tax would be spent, and that is where you’ll see the genesis of the problem. The money would be spent to “Preserve quality math, science, reading, art and music programs,” and to “Preserve advanced and honors classes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).”
What you should note right away is that there is absolutely no mention of preserving quality history, political science, economics, or other social studies programs. Nor is there any mention of preserving any social science advanced and honors classes. The district’s flyer demonstrates the low regard the Manhattan Beach school district has for the social sciences, and it demonstrates how misguided that thinking is in these days of political dysfunction and social upheaval. It also shows an inaccurate perception of student needs.
STEM subjects are undeniably valuable to students, but it is both a disservice to our young people and to our society not to simultaneously educate students in the humanities, which will both put the content of their STEM classes in a social context and equip them to make more informed decisions about how all the magnificent advances in technology and the biological sciences should be applied in our troubled and divided world.
It would be worth the school board members’ time and the superintendent’s and principal’s time to examine the arguments for teaching STEM and Social Studies classes as subjects of equal and complementing value. Three quick examples will suffice. First is an article that appeared in Scientific American, certainly a leading edge publication in the field, entitled “STEM Education Is Vital–but Not at the Expense of the Humanities.” Second is a statement from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT believes in the value of STEM taught in the context of our society. The article is titled “At MIT, The Humanities Are Just As Important as STEM.” And finally, even one of STEM’s leading lights, the late Steve Jobs, argued in The New Yorker that technology alone is not enough. It gives one pause to contemplate the district’s narrow thinking in farming out social science courses to private contractors in summer school, where content quantity and teaching quality cannot be maximized and vetted. If you consider nothing more than the events of the last week – Presidential statements, Congressional stalemate, school shootings, and international indictments – it is undeniable that a solid student understanding of American history and American institutions is a pillar of any education that makes a claim to “excellence.”
As plans for the Beach Cities Health District’s “Healthy Living Campus” proceed Healthy, it’s important to remind local residents that the District is a public agency (“Healthy Living Campus BCHD holds off on permits until Fall,” ER Feb. 1, 2018). The land on which the District proposes to build was purchased with our tax dollars. There are many allowable uses for this public property — including converting some of it to parkland — besides packing it to the maximum with very modestly-sized “units” where well-heeled seniors (many of whom very likely won’t hail from the Beach Cities) can live out their “Golden Years.”
Underlying the Beach Cities Health District’s proposed project is the assumption that, as the 2016 study it commissioned states, “The region could support an additional 400 senior housing units, and could comfortably offer rates that are competitive with other, local independent and assisted living complexes.” “Competitive rates” for assisted living would put these units way out of the reach of many local seniors. As their market study states, there are plenty of wealthier South Bay zip codes with seniors who would be prime customers for these units. Is that the best Beach Cities taxpayers can expect from a public agency whose mission is to deliver high-quality – and affordable — health-promoting services to residents of all ages?
The Beach Cities Health District has invested in detailed project drawings, which are currently being revised in response to advice from its assisted living industry consultants as well as community comments. While it’s commendable that the elected board members appear willing to take another look in response to residents’ concerns, they have yet to present a financial feasibility plan for public review.
With its lengthy history of failure to maintain its current buildings, one of which dates back to the 1950s and is in serious need of earthquake retrofit, the District owes us at least a glimpse into how the large increase in building density that the Healthy Living Campus would impose on its publicly-owned land would pencil out financially.
CEO Tom Bakaly has said he has no idea whether any of the proposed assisted living and independent living housing units for seniors would be priced lower than the current, very pricey market rate. This would be something its five elected board members would have to decide. While he said Beach Cities residents would have first-preference in filling these units, it also remains unconfirmed whether the company the District would hire to operate these facilities could be permitted, by law, to include that preference for local residents in its contract.
Reporter David Mendez did a fine job with this article, but there is one point in need of correction: The vocal opposition that the Beach Cities Health District has encountered from local residents has most definitely not “tempered” in the wake of its decision to slow down the process and reevaluate its mission and priorities. The ball is now back in the District’s court. In the meantime, there is still considerable concern among residents about how the District will address density and affordability — and whether valuable public land should even be put to this particular use.
All concerned Beach Cities residents need to attend Beach Cities Health District meetings where this project will be discussed, and make our voices heard. Three of the five board members will be up for election in November. It’s especially important to hold them accountable for the choices they make as our representatives, and as stewards of this public land.
A closer view
As a member of the Beach Cities Health District’s Healthy Living Campus Community Working Group, I disagree with recent letters criticizing that proposed project. I see many positives for the community in the plans to build a more inviting facility with environmentally sustainable buildings and grounds, including paths and meeting spaces and an improved fitness center. I myself was largely unaware of the services of the BCHD before becoming a member of the Working Group. Since then I have been exercising at the BCHD Center for Health and Fitness and participating in its programs. The proposed new campus will bring these programs to the attention of many like me who were formerly unaware of them. The proposed Healthy Living Campus does at present include some residential units for those in our aging community who would benefit from immediate access to the medical services provided by the BCHD, but these units are just a part of what has been discussed. The Health District offers, and will continue to offer, services designed to enable as many of us as possible to live out our lives in our current homes. But for some there may come a time when homecare will not be the best choice or even feasible. I am grateful that the BCHD is exploring a housing and care alternative that could allow many non-independent elderly to remain in their community, while also creating a campus that can be a true community center for everyone.
Death by fork
Living in Hermosa for 90 years has given me a bit of a perspective on beach life. All of my friends are dead and most committed suicide. With their fork. The Blue Zones study of the longest lived and healthiest people on earth, sponsored by National Geographic stimulated Blue Zone Projects in our three beach cities, with astounding results since its inception 6 years ago. Our Blue Zone Cities are now number 1 in the U.S. on the well being scale. Your MC won’t be able to enlighten you on the Blue Zone findings because they have had virtually no training in nutrition, but are accustomed to using drugs. Read the Blue Zones book and live 12 healthy years longer by following the Blue Zones life style.
I was saddened by the announcement of Slater’s 50/50 restaurant’s future occupation of Hermosa’s Mermaid restaurant. It is well known for its 50/50 bacon/beef patties. Beef and bacon are irrefutable cancer and heart attack causes, just the opposite of what any one living in a Blue Zones would eat. The Harvard Nurses Study (120,000 nurses for 42 years) has found that the #1 thing for wellness and longevity, is a small handful of nuts three to five times a week.
Don Guild, Pharmacist, Nutritionist