Published November 11, 2023
Only when local stakeholders get organized and get involved that public school leaders will be pressured to address the negative impact of a corrosive culture on students and the community. This is precisely why we need local watchdog groups like the PUSD Community Watch. In fact, we need one watchdog in every school district to stand up to bad leadership, monitor school policies, finances, programs and curriculums.
On Thursday, November 9th, 2023, CFER President Frank Xu joined parents, students and school staff of Del Norte High School at the Poway Unified School District (PUSD) board meeting to demand accountability and resolutions. Specifically, we urged the school board to hold its most senior administrator – PUSD Superintendent Marian Phelps- accountable for her wrongdoings.
In June 2023, Phelps directly threatened many student athletes and coaches at Del Norte with disciplinary consequences and even prospects of graduation. Why? Because she faulted the students and staff for not clapping loudly enough for her daughter at a softball banquet. This seemingly inconsequential incident kickstarted a series of questionable actions on Phelps’ part, including: targeting a high school senior perceived to be her daughter’s direct competition with untrue allegations of bullying, falsifying documents to trump up the bullying narrative, and retaliating against witnesses after the family of the senior student sent out a formal complaint. Phelps’ problematic conduct, for the sole purpose of personal benefits, has harmed many parties involved.
Enough is enough! Phelps’ abuses of her powers and authority are so egregious that concerned parents, students and PUSD employees finally rallied together and spoke up at the school board meeting yesterday. Not only were they asking for a thorough investigation to hold Phelps accountable, the community was also questioning the board’s inaction. After being alerted to the incidents and provided with evidence, the board has decided to acquiesce to Superintendent Phelps’ actions and ignore the pleadings of concerned parents and students.
CFER joined the local community group – PUSD Community Watch in voicing concerns and outrage. An incompetent leader who has also engaged in serious wrongdoings should be held accountable. If the leader can no longer lead the school district with trust and credibility, the school board needs to take proactive actions to select a new leader.
This latest development in PUSD is a snapshot of what has gone wrong with public education. Lack of integrity and accountability among school leaders and bureaucrats is often the result of a shift from theirs focusing on academic excellence to obsessing with ideological inculcation, from getting the job done right to covering for each other’s mistakes. For years, Superintendent Phelps has promoted ideological initiatives such as anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and ethnic studies.
Under these ideological spells, educrats uphold empty euphemisms as the ultimate truth and expect everyone under their command to conform. However, these dogmas mean different standards for different people, foster unfairness and also sabotage transparency. As a result, school cultures and decision-making processes change from being evidence-based and data-driven to being based on subjective feelings and virtual signaling. This cultural shift has led to deteriorations in academic performance and rising chronic absenteeism. To make matters worse, in attempts to masquerade a systemic failure to serve the students and parents, many school boards have absconded from their sworn duties to protect students and families, directly facilitating the indefensible, perpetuating a toxic school environment, and eroding public trust.
In the case of PUSD, the students, families and staff had courage to speak up about the harms they have been subjected to due to the superintendent's missteps and the board's inaction. They are in need and deserving of help and assistance from us and the local watchdog group. We must participate in this movement to improve the culture and practices at the local school district level.
Only when local stakeholders get organized and get involved that public school leaders will be pressured to address the negative impact of a corrosive culture on students and the community. This is precisely why we need local watchdog groups like the PUSD Community Watch. In fact, we need one watchdog in every school district to stand up to bad leadership, monitor school policies, finances, programs and curriculums. If you share this vision and want to start an organization in your community, please let me know by replying to this email. If you believe in CFER’s strategy and work to safeguard public education, will you make a kind donationtoday?
Thank you warmly!
About Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER):We are a non-partisan and non-profit organization established following the defeat of Proposition 16 in 2020, with a mission to defend and raise public awareness on the cause of equal rights through public education, civic engagement and community outreach. In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to amend its constitution by passing Proposition 209 to ban racial discrimination and preferences. Prop. 209 requires that “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” CFER is dedicated to educating the public on this important constitutional principle of equal treatment.