Re: “Clarifying Program Improvement status for Fallbrook Union High School District” [Village News online, June 27, 2014]

I read with interest the letter Fallbrook Union High School District Board President Sharon Koehler wrote on the topic of Program Improvement. I am the former principal of Fallbrook Street School and have spent a career relentlessly demanding that schools reject excuses, think outside the box, and boldly create cultures of excellence that result in the academic achievement of all children.

I acknowledge the admirable commitment of some Fallbrook High teachers as they fight an uphill battle against arguably complacent leadership. However, I am dismayed that the Fallbrook community does not rise up and demand with one voice that their high school be lead in ways that result in a culture of respect, excellence, and high achievement for all students. Anything less is unacceptable. Our students deserve better than what they currently get.

Affluent children usually do well wherever they attend school. They and their parents find ways to navigate around pockets of mediocrity, and these students often leave high school with transcripts that allow them to attend good universities. However, an essential sign of a great school is how well students achieve if they live in poverty or speak a first language other than English. At Fallbrook High, too many of these students are left behind in shocking ways with few people advocating on their behalf. That is inexcusable.

To cite two disturbing statistics that make my point, consider the 2013 STAR test results that show only 4% of economically disadvantaged 9th grade Fallbrook High students finished the year proficient in general mathematics, and 15% of economically disadvantaged 10th grade students finished the year proficient in geometry. What are the chances these students will ever attend a four-year college? What would the community response be if these statistics represented the academic non-achievement of affluent white students? What will Fallbrook High do differently to change this trajectory of failure?

Poverty and English acquisition create unique teaching challenges. That is obvious. But there are many examples of high schools across America with demographics similar to Fallbrook High that have successfully addressed these challenges and created cultures of excellence for all students. When the academic achievement of low-income and second language students increases, the academic achievement of all students increase. We can learn from those schools.

Fallbrook High School belongs to the Fallbrook community. The residents of Fallbrook have the right – the obligation — to demand that members of the Board of Trustees stop making excuses and require their superintendent to exercise bold and collaborative leadership that results in schools where all students achieve at the same high levels.

Good intentions are not enough. Results count.

Jeff King

13 Responses to "Re: “Clarifying Program Improvement status for Fallbrook Union High School District” [Village News online, June 27, 2014]"

  1. Bill Leach   July 7, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Bravo. Well said Mr. King.
    Accountability starts at the top. These students are not being served properly. It is a systemic failure of both the elementary and high school district. Residents need to open their eyes to what is going on.

    In my opinion the best way to fix some of these problems is to unify the district into one K-12 district. It will save tax payer money. It will allow one board to establish one comprehensive educational plan.

    Would you support unification?

    Any residents who would like to stop the constant raising of taxes and lack of results please contact me. [email protected]

    We need to act now. As we speak taxes are being raised while the boards approve thousands of dollars per month in conference expenses. Should administrators use tax payer dollars to take trips to Key West and Las Vegas? Should they stay in 5 star resorts, then cut programs and ask for more money?


    VILLAGE NEWS NOTE: Mr. Leach, the discussion is not a problem but we cannot use this forum for campaigning for a board position. We will approve this item but please don’t continue using this as a means to have people join/endorse your campaign. That comes under our policy of political “advertising” which would have to be done in a paid fashion. Thank you. D. Ramsey.

  2. A Friendly Villager   July 9, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Jeff King was the former principal of a Fallbrook elementary school, and devoted his career to education. Given his experience and insider knowledge, all of us should read and re-read his opinion. Mr. King, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  3. Sharon Koehler   July 9, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Mr. Leach and all, I can assure you no one in the administration or on the FUHSD board has taken trips to 5 star resorts or misused any of our severely impacted funds in the 6 years I have been on the board. Our board has voted to take no pay, and we don’t even have bottled water at our meetings. I have attended only California School Board meetings in San Diego and we travel back and forth, not spending money to stay the night. The only place a tax increase can come from is Sacramento unless voters approve. As a district we cannot raise taxes. These accusations are unfounded. Each year the state has cut our funding millions of dollars, and yet, we have balanced our budget and continue to provide students with a quality education. Our staff is wearing many hats.
    There are over 1.3 million English Learners in California, constituting 21.6% of the enrollment in CA public schools. Between 40-50 NEW students enroll at FUHS as English Learners each year. They either have not been in an English class before or have very little English proficiency. Fallbrook High will have between 350-400 English Learners this fall in four different levels. 75% of them are considered Long Term English Learners, meaning they have been in an English Learners program more than 5 years. Some students have been in the elementary and junior high schools in Fallbrook and still are not English proficient. The English Learner classes have four levels before a student is redesignated English proficient.
    In order to give more support to our EL students and
    using the new Local Control Accountability Plan as our guide Fallbrook High School plans to do the following things for the 2014-2015 school year:

  4. Bill Leach   July 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Mrs. Koehler,
    You didn’t address my questions, only sidestepped.
    Is it unacceptable for a student to go through 5-6 years of public schooling and still be considered an English learner? Isn’t that in itself a failure?
    I think the whole term is an excuse for failure.

    As far as my comments above, let me clarify:
    When I referred to administrators spending thousands of dollars traveling the country staying in 5 star resorts I was speaking about the elementary district. They spend money like it is no tomorrow on wasteful and useless conferences.

    I applaud you for taking your fiduciary responsibility seriously. Tax payer money isn’t to be wasted.

    Taxes are being raised, the Vallecitos board is proposing to do just that in order to get $2,000,000 in renovations completed. Yes voters can turn that down and I hope that they do.

    The real problem is that there are three districts and the other two send their students to you for high school.

    You don’t answer about English learners because you don’t know. You have no access to the students until they enroll in 9th grade.

    Shouldn’t there be some sort of comprehensive plan? Or should the high school get students they don’t know and haven’t been part of the district and turn them into ace students? This is impossible. It is even more difficult if the elementary district is failing to get the Latin students proficient in English, yet passing them along to high school.

    Vallecitos proposes more taxes yet the Fallbrook elementary district is flush with cash.

    We have three school boards all doing their own thing and the students of this community are being severely affected by this. The taxpayers are being affected by this.

    It is handcuffing the teachers and stunting the education of our students.

    I would ask you again Mrs. Koehler to put the matter of unification on your agenda. To discuss the merits of this plan and let the community state their opinion. Let your board members state their opinion on the matter and have a discussion as to why they would or wouldn’t vote on the matter. It is pretty simple, just put it on the agenda and stop blocking it.

  5. Sharon Koehler   July 10, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Mr. Leach, our board is not blocking the concept of unification. This work needs to come from the public. It would be a ballot measure. If it s the will of the people, it will pass. It is as simple as that.

  6. A Friendly Villager   July 10, 2014 at 9:14 am

    To: Sharon Koehler and Bill Leach

    Thank you both for your constructive discussions. As a resident of Fallbrook, I do have a vested interest in making sure that our schools are offering the best educational opportunities to our children. The information provided by both of you are useful in helping me to decide how I should vote in the November 2014 election.

  7. Bill Leach   July 10, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Mrs. Koehler,

    That is simply not true.
    The matter cannot get to the ballot without certain steps:
    Either a petition signed by 20% of the registered voters of Fallbrook or a board resolution voted on and approved by each school board.

    If you would let your board vote on the matter you would save years in this process.
    Once the boards vote to approve the process it will go to the county BOE and the state BOE there will also be multiple public hearings and impact studies. After all of this it will be added to the ballot.

    You can add the matter to your board agenda and hear from the public as to what their opinion is on the matter. You can discuss the matter.

    What is the downside of adding it to the agenda and speaking about it?

    If you aren’t blocking it then please add the matter to the agenda of your next meeting.

  8. Bill Leach   July 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm


    Thank you for taking the time to pay attention to a huge issue here in our community.
    There are quite a few residents that pay little to no attention to these key issues.

  9. Reality Monger   July 14, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Fallbrook parents are speaking up…with their feet! They are pulling their kids out and putting them in other schools like Mission Vista. That is what I did! One of the counselors there even said that Fallbrook High was a great feeder school for them! Fallbrook High has been likened to Hell by my teen. In my opinion there is nothing that can be done to redeem this school. The “quality” of kids that remain is shall I say, less than desirable. I have younger kids in the elementary system and I will NOT be putting them into that nightmare of a school. The elementary schools are pretty good here. The junior high is middle of the road. The high school is an abysmal failure.

  10. To Reality Monger @ #9   July 15, 2014 at 8:58 am

    In your opinion, what can be done in the next 5 to 10 years to improve the performance of Fallbrook High School?

    It is reassuring to learn from you that Fallbrook does offer quality education at elementary school level. Since my child won’t be entering Fallbrook High School soon, as long as Fallbrook High School can make steady progress over the next 5 to 10 years, I will still be a happy parent.

  11. Bill Leach   July 15, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    To comment #10:

    1. Unify the school districts. This will save millions of dollars and enable the schools in Fallbrook to have one consistent set of goals for the students.
    2. Eliminate all out of state conferences. Currently the elementary board approves hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in conference spending. They stay in five star resorts and eat steak and lobster with tax dollars that were allocated to education.
    3. Use the money saved and invest it in the students of this community. Music programs, art, engineering, robotics, wood shop, auto shop, JROTC, and technology throughout the district.
    4. Raise our standards and put out students in a position to succeed in this global economy where they have to compete in order to get into a good college and to get a good job.

    These are the steps necessary to fix the problems and give our students every opportunity for success.

  12. Pink   July 16, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I agree with comment #11. When my oldest daughter graduated from FUHS it was a great school, and a stepping stone to pretty much any university in the country, including Ivy league. By the time my youngest graduated a few years later, that was no longer the case.

  13. To Bill Leach @ Comment #11   July 20, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Why does Fallbrook have two school districts, one for elementary schools, and one for high schools?

    Is there any legitimate reason for maintaining separate school districts for children who are growing up in Fallbrook?

    After reading your commentaries, I am planning to vote for you in the upcoming school board election, given your promise to reform Fallbrook’s educational system.


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