Saturday, December 15, 2007

President David Sanchez and Dean Vogel are trying to hide the truth about CTA and our failing schools

The California Teachers Association is hurting our students, teachers and schools. Its failed one-size-fits-all approach to education ignores the huge differences between teachers. Parents and teachers know all teachers do not learn in the same way or at the same pace. Some of them are far, far behind in intelligence, education, and understanding of how kids learn. They should not have full responsibility for any classroom. Pay the good teachers double or triple what they're getting now, and put them in charge of several classrooms. Each master teacher should be deeply involved in several classrooms, guiding several beginning or slow-to-learn teachers.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz representing MiraCosta; Randall Winet representing Victoria Richart

See recent updates.

It's all one big happy family of lawyers in the lawsuit against Victoria Richart regarding the way in which her $1.6 million settlement with MiraCosta College was reached.

San Diego County Offic of Education-Joint Powers Authority lawyers are coming out the woodwork. They're everywhere.

How exactly does SDCOE choose its lawyers? Does Diane Crosier simply tell school districts that they can choose any lawyer they want, as long as they are friends of the SDCOE-JPA director and Keenan and Associates insurance brokers?

After reading headlines, Pamela Smith, Bertha Lopez and Cheryl Cox to fight gender discrimination?

What do Chula Vista Elementary School District board members have in common with a religious Canadian man who demanded modesty from his daughter?

Gender discrimination.

Both stories were in the news today. The odd thing here is that the abuse in Canada was committed by a man and his son who are now charged with crimes, while the wrongdoing in California was ordered by a group that consisted mostly of women.

The school board members who voted to discriminate against Danielle Coziahr were three women and two men. Last Friday, a San Diego jury ordered the school district to pay Coziahr $1 million. But the perpetrators will not be charged with wrongdoing. They are above the law.

Here's what I'm guessing:

Pamela Smith, Bertha Lopez and Cheryl Cox aren't completely corrupted by their positions, and have actually had a change of heart regarding their firing of Danielle Cozaihr for having a young child while working at a school where probationary teachers were not allowed to have young children. The principal, Alex Cortes, had been picked by administrators Tom Cruz and Lowell Billings to put an end to the collegial spirit at Silverwing Elementary School. During the trial, the superintendent testified that the first-year principal had his "marching orders."

Here is the Reuters report about the Canadian tragedy:

Dad Allegedly Kills Girl Over Head Scarf
By Jonathan Spicer

TORONTO - A Canadian teenager who was said to have clashed with her father about whether she should wear a traditional Muslim head scarf died of injuries late on Monday, and her father told police he had killed her.

A memorial for Aqsa Parvez is set up at her high school near Toronto. Some of her classmates were quoted as saying she wore traditional Muslim dress when leaving her house in the morning, but would change into other clothes in school washrooms.

Aqsa Parvez, 16, was found without a pulse in her home in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga earlier on Monday. She was resuscitated by paramedics, treated at two hospitals, and later succumbed to her injuries, police said on Tuesday.

Her father, 57-year-old Muhammad Parvez, has been charged with murder and was remanded back into custody after his first court appearance early on Tuesday.

"There was a 911 call placed by a man who indicated that he had just killed his daughter," Jodi Dawson, a constable with Peel Regional Police, told Reuters. "Everything else is evidentiary in nature and the investigation is in its preliminary stages at this point."

The victim's brother, Waqas Parvez, 26, was arrested and charged with obstructing police.

The story was on the front pages of Canadian newspapers on Tuesday. The newspapers quoted friends and schoolmates of the victim as saying she argued with her father over wearing a hijab, the traditional head scarf worn by Muslim females.

Photos of the teen retrieved from a social networking Web site show her in Western dress with her long dark hair loose.

"She was always scared of her dad, she was always scared of her brother," the Toronto Star quoted a classmate as saying.

Others were quoted as saying the girl wore traditional Muslim dress when leaving the house in the morning, but would change into other clothes in school washrooms.

Dawson said investigators will likely speak to the victim's schoolmates. The father will return for a bail hearing on Wednesday.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The whole point of the big payoff was to keep Victoria Richart mum, right?

Decision delayed on questioning of Richart

December 7, 2007
A judge delayed until Jan. 21 a decision on whether former MiraCosta College President Victoria Muñoz Richart must submit to questioning in a lawsuit over the $1.6 million settlement she received to leave the Oceanside community college campus.
Vista Superior Court Judge Thomas Nugent set the new date yesterday.
Carlsbad attorney Leon James Page has sued the college board of trustees and Richart, contending the settlement was an improper gift of public funds. Richart stepped down June 30.
Page's lawyer, Ron Cozad, is asking to question Richart under oath with a court reporter recording the proceedings. Richart's lawyer, Randy Winet, has objected.
Nugent also delayed until next week a hearing on a second issue in the case. Page contends the trustees acted illegally in holding an all-night closed session before announcing a unanimous vote in favor of the settlement.
Attorneys for the college have asked that the case be dismissed.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

How much have taxpayers paid so far for the Richart/Shinoff palm tree investigation?

Updates may be found HERE.

One of the big ironies of the MiraCosta palm tree scandal in Oceanside, California is that the palm trees were a gift to the college. Still, the college managed to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to investigate the theft of $305 during the sale of some of the palm trees.

This investigation was reprehensible. It was not intended to help the public in any way, only to benefit individuals and their lawyers in their battles for personal power and their quest for financial gain at the expense of taxpayers.

Here are the public expense estimates in chronological order:

May 2007

Victoria Munoz Richart
Former president of MiraCosta College
May 2007--Between $120,000 and $1 million

May 16, 2007
San Diego Union Tribune
by Lola Sherman

"MiraCosta College has been charged almost $200,000 by the investigator hired to probe the campus palm-tree scandal that began in February 2006...Last week, the former head of the Horticulture Department, Allene Texeira, pleaded guilty to a single grand-theft count.She admitted paying a former boyfriend, Jack Wackerman, $305 more than the college received in the sale of 30 to 40 palm trees. She paid back the money, plus a $2,500 fine, according to Richart's report...But trustee Gloria Carranza said the accounting presented by Richart doesn't answer her questions. Carranza said she wants to know all of the legal costs, which she previously had estimated at close to $1 million, including staff time and resources. Richart told Carranza yesterday that she will get those figures. But she said invoices from the college's lawyers include legal matters that have nothing to do with the Horticulture Department. The college has paid ESI $119,080 thus far, according to the company. And it notes that as much as $110,000 could be reimbursed by the college's insurance carriers. Jonathan Cole, president of the Academic Senate, told trustees that by his accounting, the college has spent $322,000 in total legal expenditures in the current fiscal year, five times the amount spent in 2003-04 before the palms investigation..."

June 2007

I found the following report dated June 2007 on the website of Bob Dutton, California State Senator:

"I have to tell you when it comes to law and order issues I am a strong believer it’s important to punish criminals for the crimes they commit.

"But sometimes even I believe agencies can get outrageous in their investigation of a crime, especially when it costs $200,000 to find out who stole a $300 tree. This, in my opinion is yet another example of wasteful spending and why I will never raise taxes.

"Recently MiraCosta College started a palm tree “probe”, which has cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m convinced the money spent on this debacle could have been better used to provide more students a college education.

"According to the North County Times, “ MiraCosta College has spent nearly $200,000 investigating an on-campus palm tree growing operation during the last 15 months. That amount does not include a sharp increase in legal fees paid by the college during the investigation, and it excludes money the college might have to pay several employees allegedly involved in the scheme who have filed law suits against MiraCosta.”

This incident occurred after “ a private investigator was hired in by the college and its law firm… to investigate allegations by a whistleblower that employees had been growing and selling palm trees on campus for personal profit over an eight-year period.”

“Since then , [the investigator] has spent 1 ,289 hours interviewing witnesses , reviewing employee e-mails and other documents and briefing county prosecutors about his findings. [The investigator] was paid $151 per hour.”

“Despite [the investigator’s] apparently thorough investigation , county prosecutors announced last week that there was only enough evidence to charge one employee , and that she would only be charged with stealing $305.”

“The president’s decision to treat this affair as a significant criminal operation , and the board’s concurrence with that decision , has turned what was merely a problem into a full-blown crisis….It has resulted in multiple lawsuits against the college , hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses and total expense that may exceed $1 million.”

"It is mind boggling to think that MiraCosta College would spend $151 an hour and waste more than 1 ,000 hours to uncover a $305 theft (not to mention the lawyers’ fees and settlements with employees that are yet to come). It must be nice to have access to limitless resources with no accountability for how those resources are used. If private businesses behaved in this manner , they would go bankrupt in short order. There is no excuse for this reckless spending of precious taxpayer resources."

June 20, 2007
MiraCosta trustees agree to part ways with president
By: North County Times

OCEANSIDE ---- The seven-member MiraCosta College board of directors agreed early Wednesday morning after an all-night closed meeting to end the employment of embattled Mira Costa College President Victoria Munoz Richart effective June 30.

July 2007

Gloria Carranza,
MiraCosta College Trustee

Gloria was right!
July 23, 2007 Over $1.2 million

North County Times
July 23, 2007 11:56 PM PDT

"OCEANSIDE -- A few months ago, when MiraCosta College Trustee Gloria Carranza predicted that the palm tree imbroglio could cost $1 million or more, the four-member majority scoffed at the figure and berated her for speculating.

Now, with the release in the last two weeks of a pair of documents that put the personnel, investigative and legal costs at more than $1.2 million as of May 30, Carranza's claim has been vindicated.

July 31, 2007 Over $1.2 million plus $1.5 million = Over $2.7 million

July 31, 2007
North County Times
MiraCosta adjusts estimate of Richart buyout to $1.5 million

OCEANSIDE -- Former MiraCosta College President Victoria Munoz Richart will get roughly $1.5 million in salary, benefits and unspecified damages under a controversial buyout reached with trustees last month, according to updated numbers released by the college Tuesday...The deal with Richart has been challenged by Oceanside resident and attorney Leon Page, who says it must be set aside because, he alleges, the closed session violated the Ralph M. Brown Act -- legislation that defines how public agencies must conduct public business.

Page alleges that the college erred in announcing the closed session meeting and that the participation of a retired judge as mediator was improper.

In rejecting Page's claim, college attorney Jack Sleeth said the meeting did not violate the Brown Act.

Sleeth said retired Superior Court Judge David Moon was not in the closed session, but instead waited outside so that lawyers and trustees could shuttle in and out to him "to discuss the claims, demands and negotiations."

Because Moon was not physically in the room, no violation occurred, Sleeth said. However, he added, no legal opinion exists regarding the presence of a mediator in a closed session.

Sleeth said mediators must be a part of closed board meetings to help minimize chances of the issue going to court, which would escalate the cost to the taxpayer.

Page brushed aside the argument that Moon was outside the meeting, saying his location was irrelevant.

"The notion that Moon was not in the room -- I'm not sure that matters," Page said. "The fundamental problem is that at that moment in time, Judge Moon was speaking to board members and enjoying the opportunity to speak when no other member of the public was (allowed the same opportunity)."

If Moon was considered "a member of the public" -- and Page said he believes a judge would agree -- then at the moment he spoke with board members, the meeting should have become a public forum open to all.

If the closed meeting continued -- as it did on June 19 -- any decision made after that moment was illegal and must be set aside, Page said.

Diane Crosier, former associate of Daniel Shinoff and current director of SDCOE-JPA

North County Times
November 1, 2007
by Philip K. Ireland

"The visiting team from the regional Accreditation Commission called upon the parties at issue at MiraCosta College to cooperate mutually, for the good of the college, in finding a resolution to the rift opened by the precipitous and unwise actions of the Board Majority," the news release states..."




November 20, 2007
MCC paid $46K to provide documents in county probe

By: PHILIP K. IRELAND - Staff Writer
DA's office investigating buyout deal with former president
OCEANSIDE -- MiraCosta College has paid about $46,000 so far to a law firm with expertise in defending companies against allegations of white-collar crime.

The firm, McKenna, Long & Aldridge, was hired in August to review and select documents requested by San Diego District Attorney's office, said Jim Austin, the college's assistant superintendent of business services.
County investigators are probing the circumstances surrounding former President Victoria Munoz Richart's $1.5 million buyout deal with trustees, inked in a controversial all-night board meeting on June 20.

In July, trustees refused a request by deputy district attorney Mike Still to provide closed session details and documents about the Richart settlement. However, the board instructed college administrators to cooperate with investigation. The decision was made in closed session.

"We feel strongly that our board has done nothing wrong," Austin said.

[Blogger's note: Well, then, why didn't you just turn over documents, instead of keeping them secret, and paying a lawyer to look for reasons not to turn them over?]

In discussions among trustees Tuesday regarding the McKenna contract, trustee Simon said she wanted to know why the board had not been notified sooner about the contract and the spending.

Carranza questioned why the college should pay attorneys $380 an hour to $500 per hour to review documents. She also wanted assurances that the contract would be available to the public.

Austin said all contracts are public documents.

In the end, all but one trustee voted to ratify the contract, with Strattan opposed, saying the fees were exorbitant. The college has already spent more than half of the allotted $75,000, she noted, adding that had the board agreed to give county investigators the documents in July, the college would not have incurred the costs in the first place.