Saturday, October 11, 2008

Court says Poway Unified School District has to protect gay students

Here's a post from San Diego Education Report:

Attorney Jeffery Morris of Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holtz doesn't like the 70-page decision issued by California's 4th District Court of Appeal upholding the $300,000 jury award won by Joseph "Joey" Ramelli and Megan Donovan three years ago.

The North County Times reports that the students "sued the school district for "deliberate indifference" to harassment, which for Ramelli included getting beaten up and having his car vandalized.

"'I am blown away," Ramelli, 22, said in a phone call from his Santa Cruz home Friday. "For the first time in seven years, I can breathe easy. All the pain, sleepless nights, the time in court ---- it was all worth it...This has nothing to do with money. This has to do with protections for kids...'

"Ramelli said the situation was so bad, he had little choice but to turn to home-schooling. Donovan, who also received threats of violence, also opted for home-schooling.

"...The three-judge panel unanimously found that the jury had enough evidence to conclude that Poway school officials showed "deliberate indifference" when the two students complained about the harassment."


Apparently not.

Attorney Jeffery Morris said he and the district are "disappointed" with the results.

Perhaps he's not satisfied with the billable hours that he's racked up for arguing that the school isn't responsible for what happens to kids.

It's hard to know how much he and his law firm collected from taxpayers. The San Diego County Office of Education--Joint Powers Authority is not forthcoming with public records showing how much the firm is paid. Director Diane Crosier thinks the California Public Records Act gives her arbitrary authority to hide Stutz law firm bills.

In addition, thanks to PUHSD'S decision to appeal, taxpayers must now pay more than $420,000 for the students' attorney fees. My guess that this amount is considerably less than what the district paid to its own lawyers, BUT THE DISTRICT SHOULD HAVE APOLOGIZED INSTEAD OF APPEALING, saving around a million taxpayer dollars.

Attorney Jeffery Morris defends the district, saying that the school has been "very aggressive" in training employees to address harassment."

Oh, yes? My guess is that Mr. Morris went to Poway and passed out the same "BULLY BOOKLET" that Dan Shinoff passed out in Vista
Unified School District.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Are most school boards controlled by lawyers? Are government boards the same?

San Diego County is being exposed as a center of government corruption, and that corruption clearly reaches into school boards. In fact, school board corruption reaches into city government. In Chula Vista, school and city officials use the same law firm (Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz), and are supported by the same developers (Corky McMillan).

Here is a Voice of San Diego story that could apply to many boards. This one is about the recently exposed secret bonuses at the SEDC:

"...Derryl Williams, a member of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. board, just sent Mayor Jerry Sanders a letter criticizing the agency's culture and its president, Carolyn Y. Smith.

"The letter states: 'The culture of SEDC over the years has been to manipulate, cajole, ignore and intimidate the board into utter and complete silence. Materials for review are provided late and board members have customarily been thwarted in their opportunities to raise questions.'

"The letter adds fuel to claims made by two other board members earlier this week about the way the SEDC board meetings are conducted. The two board members said they had not been given enough time to review SEDC's budget before approving it, and that a budget committee has not met in the last 18 months.

"Williams writes in his letter that he and two other board members have tried to increase the flow of information to the board and have tried to perform adequate oversight of the agency.

"Those efforts have been blocked by Smith, Williams writes: 'Using corporate counsel and Special Agency Counsel, the President of SEDC controlled questions and the flow of information so that board members could not obtain sufficient answers to assist in making good judgments...'"

The author of the article is Will Carless, who has one of the the most earth-friendly names I've heard.

Monday, June 23, 2008

MiraCosta College apparently never cared about the palm trees; it spent $3 million on power struggles

It was obvious to anyone who paid attention that the MiraCosta palm tree investigation that netted a lot of money for Stutz law firm and its investigators was never about protecting public assets.

It was about personal power struggles. Shame on the board majority for using public resources to fight for personal power.

By Bruce Lieberman
June 18, 2008

There is yet another accounting of what is now the ill-fated donation of more than 2,300 palm trees a decade ago to the Oceanside-based community college. Accountants say most of the trees have died, are ailing or are too ragged to sell.

A little more than two years ago, the college had 2,328 palm trees valued at $222,370. An audit in March counted 1,377 valued at $49,000...

And now the forest of free palms, once worth nearly a quarter-million dollars, looks bleak.

Of the 1,377 trees left, a college consultant has recommended throwing out 295, selling 791 wholesale and 196 retail, and keeping 95.

At yesterday's meeting, board President Carolyn Batiste said Carranza's outrage did not reflect the board's sentiments. “The board has not taken any position that there has been a dereliction of duty,” she said.

Batiste said the March 2006 audit, which counted 2,328 trees valued at $222,370, was not conducted by a horticulturist, who would have been most qualified to estimate the trees' value...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why did San Francisco teachers choose CFT in 1989 instead of CTA?

It turns out that CTA's executive director has had her finger on the pulse of California teachers for quite a while. This lady can see the truth beneath the surface. Here's how she explains CTA's loss: "When you're dissatisfied, you look at someone else."

Norman K. Holsinger of CFT said: "Teachers want a greater voice in what is going on."

Education Week said, "After an eight-year battle, the San Francisco-American Federation of Teachers union succeeded May 26 in wresting the right to represent the city's teachers from the San Francisco Classroom Teachers Association..."

In an earlier article, Education Week reported:

"Kate Dennis, a resource specialist for the district's elementary schools who has belonged to each of the unions at different times, says, "I'm unaffiliated, because I got so disgusted with them both. The organizations, rather than represent the teachers versus the district, have fought each other.""

The article spoke of "site-based decision making""

In a survey of 150 teachers, only 2 percent mentioned educational reform as being an important issue, he notes. In another, longer telephone survey of 300 teachers, the number who responded favorably to questions about site-based management and shared decisionmaking was "so small we didn't finish the analysis," according to Mr. Threatt.

"We found that teachers didn't know what that meant," Ms. Dellamonica says of the reform buzzwords...

The rival sf-aft has attempted to make teacher empowerment a central plank of its platform, calling for democratically elected faculty councils in each school to give teachers a voice in the development of curriculum, programs, and instructional policies...

The sf-aft's pre-election polling found that "the overwhelming majority of teachers in the district are in support of the kind of restructuring and teacher empowerment that gives them a voice at the school-site level," maintains Norman K. Holsinger, an aft national representative and campaign coordinator for the local...

Under the current contract, each school has an Association Liaison Committee with which the principal must meet. In some schools, Ms. Dellamonica says, the committees have been a vehicle for discussion of reform issues, while in others, they have not been active.

Under the contract, only sfcta members can serve on the committees, which serve primarily to enforce the contract. Ms. Shelley says the idea of the committees serving as vehicles for shared decisionmaking is ''preposterous," since the councils have "frozen out" faculty members who do not belong to the union...

Meanwhile, a small group of teachers calling itself citrus, for Committee for Teacher-Run Schools, has begun holding meetings and gathering ideas to push for restructuring schools, according to Jonathan Frank, a member of the group and science teacher at Mission High School.

The citrus members are backing the a.f.t. in the election, Mr. Frank says, since it is perceived as more progressive on school-reform issues.

"I was hopeful that restructuring would become the apple pie and motherhood issue, and that the two unions would try to outdo each other on teacher empowerment," he explains. "What I saw was lip service to the idea. You wonder what they're more interested in--power to the teachers or the unions."

Friday, June 6, 2008

Richard Werlin has surfaced again

After causing big problems in Chula Vista and Richmond, the amazing Richard Werlin has gotten himself hired in Compton, by none other than his old pal at WCCCUSD, Kay Burnside.

And Kelly Angell, who helped get a lawsuit against Werlin regarding criminal actions thrown out of court on technical grounds, without any findings of fact, is now an employee of Fagen, Friedman and Fullfrost.

Is it a small world, or do certain people just come together naturally? Or both?

Here's the article I found:

School Board [Compton Unified School District] Considers Fourth Audit of District Operations
May 14, 2008
By Allison Jean Eaton

"...Last month, the school board supported three other similar audits at a total cost of $46,000 in the areas of human resources and personnel services, legal services and fiscal services, the latter of which will include an in-depth look at facilities funding and the affect it has on the district’s overall financial status.

"Consultant Richard Werlin is being paid $6,600 to audit the human resources and personnel services department. The Los Angeles-based law firm of Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost is studying the district’s legal services at a cost of $9,600...

"Superintended Kaye Burnside Ed.D., who officially took the helm of Compton Unified March 1, is exercising an “administrative best practice,” according to district Communications Director Christine Sanchez..."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Administrators went to Nevada to catch teachers on day off

The Californian
May 2, 2008

Two school district administrators traveled almost 300 miles and crossed state lines to catch teachers they mistakenly believed were using sick days to take a three-day weekend in Nevada, according to teachers who call the incident "creepy" and "Orwellian."

Six teachers at Elsinore High School in Wildomar took April 11 off, to go to Laughlin, Nev., said Juan Caballero, one of the educators who made the trip. The time they took off was in exchange for extra work they had done over the year, he added.

While in their hotel, the Aquarius Casino and Resort, the teachers say they were approached by Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Services Kip Meyer and Elsinore High School Principal Jon Hurst in the restaurant.

"We were having breakfast and I looked up, and they were walking toward us in the restaurant," said Ed Jones, a retired Elsinore High teacher who was with the group. "I said, 'Good Lord, there's Hurst.'"

Jones said that while Hurst looked "a little embarrassed," Meyer said something like, "I understand you guys are going to be playing golf at 10 a.m."

Caballero, who wasn't at the breakfast, said he didn't believe his colleagues' story until he received a call from teachers union President Karl Stuck, saying the administrators had traveled hundreds of miles to take pictures of the teachers golfing.

"We're still just flabbergasted at this kind of Orwellian, draconian approach," Caballero said.

Public money

Hurst referred questions to district spokesman Jose Carvajal, who declined to confirm or deny the incident.

Meyer said that, in general, he investigates concerns about fraud in reporting absences.

"I would say that almost every assistant superintendent who oversees personnel would have to investigate if there was a concern of mismanagement of attendance reporting," he said. "These are public funds."

Meyer declined to comment on whether he had ever crossed state lines to investigate a case and would not confirm the details of the Laughlin incident.

"Those are personnel issues," Meyer said. "The staff member has a right to confidentiality."

However, charges from Meyer's district credit card, which were released in response to a public records request, shows two charges in Laughlin for that day, including a charge for $21.53 at Windows on the River Buffet, a restaurant at the Aquarius.

Carvajal declined to specify the reason for the charges, but said Meyer was on official district business.

Past practice

Steve Clower, one of the six teachers who traveled to Nevada, said administrators indicated they knew of the trip in advance from reading teachers' e-mail. But if they believed the trip was improper, Clower questions why they didn't talk to the teachers before they left.

"Instead of coming and telling us about it and trying to stop it, they spent extra money by sending two district administrators to catch us," Clower said.

Teachers earn compensatory days for substitute-teaching during their planning periods, time designated for them to receive a break from teaching to plan instruction.

Clower said Elsinore High teachers typically report the day in advance as a sick day and a school employee later converts the days to "comp days." Clower said he was told to do that to avoid confusion between comp days and time taken off for workers' compensation, and so school staff members can ensure teachers have accumulated enough comp time to take a day off. Caballero also said the "past practice" for teachers at his school is to call in sick and have the day converted to a "comp day."

Carvajal said teachers can report comp days through the district's automated system, which employees use to report the reasons for their absences by phone or via computer. The system has separate codes for compensatory days and workers' comp days.

Meyer acknowledged that the way absences are logged varies from school to school, something he wants to change.

"What I am finding as I look into the procedures for reporting (absences) is that things are not consistently done throughout our district," he said.

Caballero said the teachers were called in after the Nevada trip and told they would be docked a day's pay. He said that when teachers explained they were using comp days, Meyer told them he would take the matter to Superintendent Frank Passarella.

Rising substitute costs

The episode comes as the district is looking into the use of sick days and personal days amid concerns over the rising costs of substitutes. From September to March, the district spent $3.3 million on substitutes for teaching and nonteaching employees, an increase of about $600,000 from the same period last year.

School board members said they were concerned about the rising costs because of anticipated state budget cuts and declining attendance rates, which has led the district to cut about $9 million from the budget for the current year and next year.

Meyer says one possible reason for the increase could be that the district recently upped pay for substitute teachers by $5 a day. Another reason, district officials say, could be that teachers are taking more time off for required training.

Meyer said he doesn't think "there's an overriding abuse" of the district's system, but believes his division has "to have better procedures in place."

Teachers receive 10 sick days a year, two of which can be used instead as "personal necessity" days. If teachers don't use up all their days, they carry over to the next year.

Records from the district's automated system show the district's 1,100 teachers and other certificated employees called in 4,972 sick days and 1,423 personal days from Aug. 16 to April 23. That is down from the same time last school year, when teachers called in 5,457 sick days and 1,493 personal days.

This school year, teachers reported missing 5,049 days for official business, such as attending conferences and meetings, through April 23. Last school year, teachers called in 4,463 missed days for official business.

Carvajal notes that those numbers are self-reported by employees and don't include changes by teachers who, for instance, initially pressed the wrong code and later changed the reason for their absences.

Abusing the system?

Trustee Tom Thomas said he believes some employees are abusing the system and that the issue has to be watched closely during tough budget times.

"I think in any large organization, whether it's a school district or a large private business, I think people can take advantage," Thomas said. "I don't think it's terribly widespread. I just think it's something we look at as we look at all expenditures."

Caballero said he doesn't understand why the district officials who are concerned about saving money would waste money trying catch teachers doing something wrong when he said it would have been simple to clear the matter up beforehand.

"Why didn't they just simply tell us and have a conversation?" he asked. "I'm still creeped out by the whole situation."

Contact staff writer Rani Gupta at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2625, or

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pam, Bertha and Cheryl listen to Dan Shinoff instead of their consciences

from CVESD Report
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Daniel Shinoff to appeal Danielle Cozaihr court decision

The Chula Vista Elementary School District board has once again abdicated its responsibility for moral decisionmaking. It has rehired attorney Daniel Shinoff, after an effort for a few years to use less controversial lawyers.

And Daniel Shinoff has decided to appeal the jury verdict won by teacher Danielle Cozaihr against the district.

A jury said the district violated the law.

I believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger's education budget cuts create a smoke screen for bad behavior by districts. CVESD probably won't lay off teachers (we've been through all of this before, when Rick Werlin was in charge of human resources at CVESD in 2003). But when they threaten to do it, everybody feels sorry for the pink slip teachers, and violations of the law against individual teachers don't seem as important any more. The first teacher that CVESD should rehire is Danielle Cozaihr.

But what happened to Danielle Cozaihr is an indicator of what is wrong with education: politcs matters more than kids.

Superintendent Lowell Billings is remarkably lazy. He doesn't pay any attention to what happens at schools until things go wrong. Then he does whatever the principal wants, or he fires the principal and does whatever the ruling clique of teachers wants. He never actually improves anything, just decides who gets fired.

And since the problems arise from a dysfunctional system--not from just one person-- the problems remain.

Posted by Marie Killelea

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Unidentified Air Force flying objects

The Discovery Channel is a great channel now, but there was a time I referred to it as "the alien channel" for all the unlikely stories about alien autopsies in Roswell, New Mexico.

Now Stephenville, Texas is trying to beat out Roswell for the title of alien capital of the world.

I don't know what the people in this dairy country saw, but I do know that their reports are more reliable than those of the U.S. Air Force.

Locals said they saw Air Force jets chasing a moving object. At first, the military denied that any of its jets were in the area. Now they say they did have jets in the area.

Here's the only thing I know for sure: if the Air Force has chased, is chasing, or ever chases strange moving objects, it wouldn't admit it to the public.