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On The Contrary:

Board meeting shows dire straits

March 10, 2010|By Richard Tafilaw

If you watched the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education meeting Thursday night on television, then you missed an extremely important part of the program — the trembling. The cameras don’t pick it up. You have to be there in person.

It came in all the different passions and hues of the two dozen or so speakers who dared to approach the lectern and beg the school board to find a way to make our children’s lives the best they can be by not laying off teachers, counselors and programs within our school district.

It was the French teacher with a nervous twisting of her ankle pleading to the board not to drop the opportunity for Burbank children to learn one of the great languages of the world. Or the English department head spitting fire on the board for nonessential spending while her shaky fingers fumbled with her notes. Or a special education student with more guts than the whole football team awkwardly taking the podium and asking the big wigs for his chance at the American Dream like they had had before him.


Again and again, slight or seemingly ordinary neighbors, friends, students, teachers and parents approached the microphone and became Abraham Lincolns or Martin Luther King Jrs. for a brief moment of quivering intensity, arguing, cajoling, daring or merely imploring our school board to find a way to make it work.

Dads with a thousand other worries on their minds took the time to speak up. A bleary-eyed union rep fresh from the negotiation trenches got in his licks. And maybe most poignantly, a mom speaking a new language in a new country earnestly offered to go out and bring back as many signatures as the board might require to help see that her children will not be shortchanged of the finest education our city has to offer.

The school board did its bleeding, too. The law requires this, the law requires that, $11 million gone here, $34 million gone there, $73 million more down the road. One member is pulling her hair out, one has no hair left to pull, another hasn’t slept in days, one may end up laying off her own daughter, and a fifth will be sentencing his elementary school child to an overcrowded classroom by his vote.

They’re cooking the books, twisting the arms, scraping the barrel, cobbling the scraps together, praying to Sacramento and praying to places even farther away than that. For the last nine months I thought “The Hurt Locker” was the most edge-of-your-seat thing I’d seen until I took in the Burbank Unified school board meeting. Now I don’t know anymore.

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco — this is one fantastic mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. The time to stop procrastinating and call, write or e-mail your state legislative representative and demand proper funding for our schools is not next month, next week or even tomorrow — it is now!

Get in touch RICHARD J. TAFILAW is a Burbank resident, small-business owner and freelance writer. He can be reached at tafilaw@

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