I had something unusual happen to me the other day.
I was at the Mammoth Unified School District offices speaking with new Superintendent Rich Boccia (pronounced Baa-chee-a, or like the game bocci with an ‘a’ tacked on the end) and I’d already asked him a fair number of questions and taken a lot of his time. So I thanked him and as I rose to leave, he asked me if I had a few more minutes because he wanted to turn the tables and ask me a few questions about the community.
Huh? I was momentarily dumbfounded. A genuine interest and curiosity in other people has not been my general experience with MUSD Superintendents.
“Maybe he’s not as insecure as the other ones,” proffered my wife.
Boccia, who prefers to be called “Rich” or “Mr. Boccia” (as opposed to Stan Halperin, who preferred to be called Dr. even though he didn’t have the credential) comes to Mammoth from Pasadena, where he’s spent the past 31 years. Boccia rose through the ranks, starting as a kindergarten teacher and winding up as a District Director, with principal experience at the elementary through high school levels in between.
Boccia’s wife, Diane, is a freelance dance choreographer and he has two daughters ages 23 and 20.
Boccia knows new Police Chief Daniel Watson from his days in Pasadena, as both were Rotarians and worked on the Corazon project (www.corazon.org) together, building houses for the poor in Mexico.
Boccia was born in Manhattan, grew up on Long Island, and attended Syracuse University, where he excelled as a gymnast.
Philosophically, his goal is to build a “learning community” and he is intent on hiring those who are passionate about moving kids from point A to point B.
The big questions he’s interested in tackling: 1. How do we close the achievement gap between caucasian and hispanic students? 2. Have we kept up with our demographics in terms of how we deploy our resources?
One of Boccia’s immediate challenges will be to sort out an enrollment fiasco involving the elementary school’s dual immersion (bilingual) program.
Several parents of incoming students who were initially told their children had guaranteed slots in the program were recently sent a letter saying that in fact, their children were on the waiting list.
The letter was conveniently sent after school offices had closed for the year and after Elementary School principal Pat Rogan had retired. The teacher who had overseen the mandatory meeting where parents were told their children were “in” is apparently no longer affiliated with the program. Nine families were affected.
In particular, The Sheet sees three flaws to the dual immersion lottery process.
1. The children of school district employees are given preference. Why? All this does is reinforce the impression that dual immersion classrooms get more attention and better resources than the English-only classrooms.
Lynn Altieri-Need of the Parent Advocacy Group (PAG) insists this is not the case based upon assurances from former Superintendent Rich McAteer.
2. The lottery was not held publicly, so therefore, how do we know a lottery was held at all? Or did a bunch of administrators get together for some wine and darts?
3. How come Spanish-speakers have a right to learn English, and English speakers have a right to English-only classrooms, but English speakers don’t have a right to learn Spanish?
The parents who were told yes and then no are really just looking to Mr. Boccia to find a way to say yes again. Will a third dual immersion class be created?
“I don’t have an answer to your question [yet],” replied Boccia, who added he would look at how the process went down. “Our core purpose is to improve student achievement for all students and close the gap,” he said. A Board Study Session to discuss the Dual Immersion issue is scheduled for Aug. 12.
Though the jury will remain out for awhile, Boccia appears to have a temperament suited to Mammoth and my gut feeling is that we’ve finally found a guy who may stick around for awhile and be effective.
If you are preparing to enroll a child in school either now or in the near future, I can offer one helpful hint: get your child’s required shots at the Mono County health department and save yourself a boatload of money.
The maximum you’ll spend on vaccinations at the health department is a total of $5 per family.
As opposed to the $774 recently charged to a Mammoth parent who had the shots administered at Mammoth Hospital’s pediatric clinic.
Though I’m told through haggling with her insurance company that that total has since been reduced to $320.
There is a sign posted at the pediatric window which states “Not all insurance companies pay for vaccines,” and employees advised The Sheet that Delta, Mammoth Mountain’s insurance carrier, generally does not cover vaccinations. Some individual vaccinations can cost up to $324 out-of-pocket.
The Hospital’s Public Relations Director, Lori Ciccarelli, added that there are hundreds of plans out there and folks really need to call ahead to determine what’s covered and what’s not.
She did acknowledge that she got similarly burned by not checking her plan before her son got his most recent school immunizations.