Beauty and the Beast


Email Sandra Nichols

  "While some people are throwing up their hands, making disparaging remarks about the prognosis of the public schools, others are knuckling down, taking corrective action. Do you want to join us?"


n the midst of chaos rearing its head like a beast —the budget crisis, school closures, a student protest and a trustee resignation —beauty descended upon my back yard this week in the form of a Yellow Shafted Flicker. Uncommon beauty, inappropriately called a "common" flicker, juxtaposed the miasmic quagmire —the Beast —the budget blues which face California schools.

To our north, three school districts have been making news by considering closure of up to five schools. Two factors have precipitated these school closure proposals: declining enrollment and the State budget shortfall. Now, it has become obvious that the threat of a school closure is not something that goes down easily. People got raudy, wrote nasty emails, threatened to do bad deeds, and thereupon, a trustee resigned her post.

People handle stress in a variety of ways. It may be wise in some cases to flee from the stress. But on the other hand, there are those who rise to the occasion in the face of adversity and turmoil.

Chatting with a fellow trustee about the resignation up in Santa Cruz, we reinforced each other's stamina and commitment in the face of trying times by asking ourselves, "Would we quit? — NO — NEVER — It only makes us want to work harder."

You've heard it said, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." I have learned on "" that Joseph P. Kennedy coined this expression. The feeling is alive and well here in Watsonville.

While some people are throwing up their hands, making disparaging remarks about the prognosis of the public schools, others are knuckling down, taking corrective action. Do you want to join us?

Please communicate with our legislators regarding the importance of maintaining funding for our public schools. State Superintendent of Schools, Jack O'Connell, during his recent visit to our area schools, advocated a letter-writing campaign to inform our government officials how important our public schools are to this community.

In an effort to facilitate this campaign, the PVUSD web site has posted the names and addresses that you will need in this effort. Go to and click on "What's New" at the top of the page. Follow the instructions in the message from the Superintendent. Then you will find several sample letters which you can download, change as you see fit, insert the names and addresses, print and send to your elected government officials in Sacramento. Those officials hold one of the keys to keeping our schools moving towards our goal of excellence. That key is adequate funding.

Write your own letter, use one from the web site, or take your inspiration from what you know about the schools, or from one of the many fine letters to the editor advocating for adequate school funding. But please do it today. Decisions are being made in Sacramento.

Superintendent O'Connell suggested additionally urging friends in other areas of California to write to their State officials. You could email them the above link. If we all wrote 10 letters now supporting our public schools, what a tremendous effect this could have far into the future, not just on our schools but on our community.

So why am I so excited about the Yellow Shafted Flicker? He lit in my yard during the aforementioned telephone conversation about the trustee resignation. He interrupted said conversation with his beauty. I have never seen this bird before and I take it as a very good sign. Here in the Pajaro Valley, you do not have to work hard to find beauty. It surrounds us. But we do have to work hard to fortify our schools in the face of budget cuts.

Here in the Pajaro Valley I have been serenaded for hours by mockingbirds. I fall asleep to owl hoots. My tiny puddle of a marsh area has been visited by a blue heron. Egrets abound even as we rush to work at 50 miles per hour. Visitors enthusiastically spot various raptors patrolling the premises from above.

If you also have a developing interest in bird watching, you may wish to take advantage of an educational opportunity coming our way. Watsonville-Aptos Adult School is going to be offering a class on birdwatching, starting March 7. Call (831) 786-2160 for details. The charge is $40 for which you get bird watching instructions on Friday evenings and a follow-up field trip to view the birds on Saturday.

While we tackle the Beast of the Budget, et al, we can spare some time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us every day.

Sandra Nichols is President of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Governing Board serving 20,000 students in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. She is a Speech and Language Specialist with Santa Cruz City Schools, and was recently appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the Santa Cruz County Children and Youth Commission. The opinions expressed are those of Sandra Nichols and do not necessarily represent those of any school district, print publication or web site.

© Sandra Nichols 2003