On Thursday, the school board votes on a resolution to extend Trustee Shirlee Hoch’s absence for another six months. I cannot speak highly enough about Trustee Hoch and her commitment to our schools. We all support Shirlee in her recovery but this issue goes beyond just one member and has great ramifications for the board and the district.
That Shirlee Hoch has contributed immeasurably to South San Francisco schools is an understatement. Going beyond her role as a member of the school board, Shirlee has devoted countless hours to the children of South City over the last several decades. She is, without a doubt, a model for those of us that strive to make a difference in our community. And as an added treat, she does it all with a warm smile that can make anyone feel welcome.
Through her work with the Foundation for Youth, Rotary, and other organizations, Shirlee has continuously demonstrated a firm commitment to student success, both in and out of the classroom. She understands the importance of well-rounded students and has always supported athletics, music, and other extracurricular activities, especially at times when those programs faced (and continue to face) threats of serious cutbacks.
Serving on the Board of Trustees since 1990, Shirlee was already a fixture in schools when elected. For many years nearly everyone on every campus knew her face, a quality to which most school board members can only aspire to achieve. It was a different time.
So when the first of Shirlee’s troubles began, the community rooted for a speedy recovery. Shirlee’s dedication coupled with her warmth and smiles had sustained us through some very challenging times in the district, so we would be there for her in her time of need.
At the onset, the board graciously -- and correctly -- approved a resolution that excused Trustee Hoch from attending board meetings. As she worked toward her remarkable recovery, Trustee Hoch continued to stay apprised of district happenings and the Foundation for Youth continued its efforts to raise money for essential programs.
Fast forward to over a year later and the Board has another resolution extending the period of absence for another 6 months. If approved, this would be yet another misguided decision from the Board; the school board will have sat for over 18 months with only four active voting members. This, at a crucial time when the district continues to struggle retaining our top employees and transitioning to new leadership at several sites. This, in the midst of a bond measure whose glacial speed of progress is testing the patience of trusting voters. This is not the time for a partially present, part-time Board.
This is a time that we need a full board at each meeting having a healthy dialogue about the issues facing our district. I’ve been to meetings with four trustees, three trustees, and -- yes, it’s possible -- even two trustees and this dialogue is not happening. If anything, Shirlee’s added voice is even more necessary at this time to bring to light concerns that are not being raised by other members when making key decisions. We need that fifth voice.
The voters chose five people to represent the interests of the community and the prolonged absence of one member is a threat to the integrity of republican government.