Friday, December 29, 2006

I've noticed that south county San Diego has more cover-ups

This morning I read in the Union Tribune that an ex-coach in San Marcos has admitted stealing $40,000.00 from a girls’ softball team.

Once again I am reminded that South San Diego County has the most deceptive news coverage in San Diego. If you steal money from a PTA or other fund for students in any other part of San Diego, your neighbors are probably going to read about it.

Why has the truth about Chula Vista Elementary School District crimes been covered-up? If the violations of law that were committed by the school board, teacher union, and PTA in Chula Vista had been committed in any part of the county other than Chula Vista and its surrounding communities, voters would have read about it in their newspapers.

San Diego south county voters, on the other hand, are kept in the dark by the Union Tribune’s Don Sevrens, the Star-News’ Linda Rosas Townson, and Daniel Muñoz’s La Prensa.

I doubt that Cheryl Cox would have been elected mayor, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District incumbents re-elected, if voters in south county knew the whole truth about them.

Don Sevrens wrote plenty of negative articles about these individuals in the Union Tribune’s south county edition, but at the same time, he covered up the facts that would have proved his points. Most people assume that anyone who gets fired probably deserved it. It is human nature to give the benefit of the doubt to authority figures. Don Sevrens wanted people to vote against the incumbents because they fired or transferred employees. Yet he covered up the fact that school board members had committed multiple serious violations of law. Why did he cover it up? Because the teachers’ union, Chula Vista Educators, had also been deeply involved in the crimes.

The former head of Castle Park Elementary’s discipline committee now sits on the site council, helping to cover up the theft of $20,000.00 by one of her supporters. This former chair of the school’s “Peace Committee” is known for dealing out punishments to kids that far exceed the seriousness of the child’s transgression—and for demanding that other teachers do the same. This teacher has often been verbally abusive and excessively punitive toward kids who commit small transgressions. But stealing $20,000.00 is something she doesn’t want to talk about or act on.

The staff as a whole has been unanimous in its desire to cover up serious wrongdoing at the school. Not one single teacher has come forward to tell the truth since a crime wave by teachers began in 2000.

After a year without investigating, the CV Police Department finally showed a tiny spark of interest in the missing $20,000 AFTER CVESD board member Cheryl Cox was elected as mayor of Chula Vista. Chula Vista police then called in Former PTA president Kim Simmons, talked to her, arrested her, and then let her go. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis did not press charges. Why? Perhaps she's too busy prosecuting a young man who worked for Cheryl Cox's opponent, Steve Padilla, for allegedly lying about taking two hours off work. The San Diego Union Tribune finally allowed a short note about the arrest of Castle Park Elementary's former PTA president to be published in November of 2006, but told nothing about the other serious crimes at Castle Park.

Update May 6, 2007:
Now that teacher Robin Donlan, a close friend of former PTA presidents Kim Simmons and Felicia Starr and former teachers union President Gina Boyd, is being investigated along with her husband Vencent Donlan for the theft of $7.7 million from Vence's former employer, perhaps the crime wave at Castle Park Elementary that was started in 2000 by Donlan and her brother MIchael Carlson will get some attention.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lora Duzyk and Dan Shinoff say Shinoff works for SDCOE

According to the San Diego County Office of Education's website, it offers the following slate of lawyers for school districts to hire:
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo
Best, Best & Krieger
Lozano Smith
Parham & Rajcic
(Link: List of approved SDCOE attorneys.

But recently I sent a public records request to SDCOE asking for "a complete list of attorneys currently approved by the San Diego County Office of Education Joint Powers Authority." Lora Duzyk passed the request to Dan Shinoff. He wrote that the complete list consists of the following lawyers:

Dan Shinoff of Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz
Randy Winet of Winet, Winet, Patrick & Weaver
David Monks of Klinedinst P.C.

How can the lists be completely different? It apears that Shinoff is talking about lawyers who represent the JPA itself, not lawyers approved by the JPA to represent school districts.

Perhaps the JPA has a contract with Shinoff that hasn't run out yet.

Or perhaps the JPA has decided that it wants an unethical lawyers for it's own legal problems, but it will stop foisting those unethical lawyers on school districts.

What will Randy Ward do with this public records request sent today?

Randolph Ward

Dear Mr. Ward:

Pursuant to the California Public Records Act, I request the following information:

1. The name(s) of all insurance companies currently doing business with or on behalf of the San Diego County Office of Education Joint Powers Authority.

2. How much money did the San Diego County Office of Education Joint Powers Authority pay to Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz or Stutz, Gallagher, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz between January 1, 2001 and January 1, 2006?

4. A complete list of attorneys currently approved by the San Diego County School Legal Council to do legal work for school districts.


Yours truly,
Maura Larkins

January 16, 2007
Randolf Ward refuses to tell how much SDCOE JPA paid Daniel Shinoff from 2001 to 2006.
For some odd reason, he also refuses to tell what insurance companies SDCOE JPA does business with.
Why on earth does he think the public does not have a right to know this?
What's going on, Mr. Ward?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is corruption increasing in school districts in San Diego?

The Washington Post reports that: "Congress isn't the only place where public corruption is on the rise.

"More than 1,000 federal, state and local government employees across the country have been convicted in government corruption cases over the past two years, including hundreds of crooked police officers and others who have dipped into the taxpayers' till, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said yesterday."

It's hard to know for sure if public sector corruption is increasing, since so little attention has been paid to it in the past. Is it possible that it was always this bad? One thing is for sure: the FBI is paying more attention to public sector corruption.

I had hoped that San Diego County Office of Education's new superintendent Randall Ward would try to clean up corruption in our schools. SDCOE lawyers have been charging millions of tax dollars each year to cover-up and defend illegal actions by local school board members and administrators and teachers.

Marsha Sutton, Idealist

Why did Marsha Sutton write a long article about SDCOE for Voice of San Diego on May 23, 2005, without ever mentioning the JPA? Why does Voice of San Diego refuse to write about SDCOE JPA lawyers?

I won't even bother asking the above questions about the San Diego Union Tribune. It has a well-earned reputation for bias and cover-ups.

How did Voice of San Diego, which started out with such lofty goals of openness and honesty, become merely a slight improvement over the UT?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dan Shinoff appears to no longer be on the approved attorney list for SDCOE JPA

Update: I was mistaken when I first wrote this article.

While it is true that Daniel Shinoff is not on the Legal Services Council list of approved attorneys, it turns out that there is a secret list of lawyers, who have no written contracts with SDCOE-JPA, to whom SDCOE-JPA pays a secret amount of money each to represent school districts. SDCOE has ignored my public records requests for this information.

The following webpage lists SDCOE Legal Services Council-approved lawyers. The only thing I can't figure out is: Why is Ed Brand in charge of legal matters at SDCOE when he is no longer a superintendent?

List of approved SDCOE attorneys.

Previous SDCOE Superintendent Rudy Castruita knew about obstruction of justice and other wrongdoing by Daniel Shinoff, but was either unable and/or unwilling to challenge Shinoff. It turns out that Randy Ward, the new county Superintendent, is also covering his eyes and allowing wrongdoing to proceed unabated.

Cheryl Cox (the mayor-elect of Chula Vista), on the other hand, must pleased. Beginning in 2001, she did everything she could to support and protect Daniel Shinoff and his illegal activities. I suppose that's only fair, since he did everything he could to support and protect her illegal activities as board member of Chula Vista Elementary School District. Her most recent discussion of Shinoff's wrongdoing was in May of this year.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Castle Park Elementary isn't the only place PTA funds went missing

Castle Park Elementary in Chula Vista Elementary School District isn't the only PTA with embezzlement problems.

(SOURCE--Ricci Graham/Daily Review)

Hayward, California PTA theft

Five people were arrested on suspicion of embezzling $56,000 in PTA funds at Lorin Eden Elementary School. Former principal Mable Haskins, 58, agreed to turn herself in after learning that Hayward police had issued a $30,000 warrant for her arrest on three counts of grand theft by embezzlement....Others arrested were former PTA president Janet Castillo, 58; former PTA president Denise Chew, 41; Chew's husband, Johnny Chew, 31, and son, Derick Thompson, 22; and Steven Airo, 31. All are Hayward residents, and Airo is a close friend of the Chew family.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Did dirty tricks get Dan Shinoff "re-elected" in Grossmont?

Many school boards in the San Diego area allow lawyers to make their decisions.

Of course, they don't usually admit that the schools are being run from behind the scenes by people who weren't elected.

But public-relations director Bonnie Hall of MiraCosta College recently came right out and said it as clear as day:
“[The president of the college] was informed this morning by college attorney, Daniel Shinoff, that the vice president of instructional services will be on leave until further notice."

It was clearly NOT the college that made the personnel decision, but the lawyer.

It seems Dan Shinoff makes decisions for many districts. Some of his decisions are illegal. If people who were elected to run schools are going to ignore the law, and give Dan Shinoff millions of tax dollars to help them get away with breaking the law, those people need to be thrown out of office.

One such person is Grossmont Union High School District's Jim Kelly (who was re-elected, but lost his controlling board majority two days ago). On the day before the election, Jim Kelly's lapdog, Superintendent Terry Ryan, sent a phone message to parents in Santee to boost Kelly's candidacy.

Or was it Dan Shinoff who told Ryan to send the phone messages? Perhaps Shinoff feared that if Kelly lost his job, Shinoff might also be thrown out.

Dan Shinoff defends the message. He says it was meant to be informational.

Right. It was positive information about one member of the school board sent out in the hours before voting began.

Cheryl Cox, CVESD school board member and mayor-to-be of Chula Vista, came close recently to admitting that Dan Shinoff is in charge of CVESD, not the other way around.

As long as Dan Shinoff is in charge of their legal affairs, school board members will continue to pay him large amounts of money (which was intended for the education of children) for unethical and illegal actions aimed at keeping them in office.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Superintendent Ed Brand is out!

Ed Brand suddenly resigned from San Marcos Unified School District on August 30, 2006. This is almost as surprising as the fact that they hired him in the first place. What were they thinking? He was connected to well-publicized wrongdoing during his tenure as superintendent of Sweetwater Union High School District, and well-hidden wrongdoing as part of a committee that advised SDCOE's lawyers.

Speaking of SDCOE, Ed Brand's friend Tom Hassey claims that SDCOE "board members" approached Ed Brand and asked him to apply for the SDCOE superintendent's job. My guess is that it was ONE board member who approached Mr. Brand--Bob Watkins.

But I could be wrong. The rest of the board keeps disappointing me. I think they know Ed Brand far too well to want to expand his power at SDCOE. Nothing says "good old boys' club" like "Ed Brand." The SDCOE board seems to want to rein in the wild boys only slightly.

It seems to me that the SDCOE board is continuing the illegal and ineffective policies practiced during the heyday of good old boys Ed Brand, Rudy Castruita and their cronies. Now Randy Ward is rapidly becoming a crony.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It took a year for Chula Vista ESD to acknowledge a public records request. THEN IT SAID, "WE WON'T RELEASE ANYTHING!"

Chula Vista Elementary School District wrote me a letter recently in response to a public records request I've been repeating for over a year. Here is my response to Pamela Dempsey.

Pamela A. Dempsey
Parham & Rajcic

Dear Ms. Dempsey:

I was pleased to get a letter regarding my public records request to Chula Vista Elementary School District. I’m wondering why CVESD decided to respond to my request at this time. I’ve been making similar requests for over a year.

But better late than never!

I look forward to receiving the information I have requested when CVESD personnel get back from vacation.

Thank you for your refreshing courtesy! I can’t help wondering if the reason that I’m finally getting a response to one my public records requests is that Mark Bresee has left the firm of Parham & Rajcic. I hope Mr. Bresee will behave more ethically when he is working directly for a public entity, rather than as a lawyer under contract with a public entity. But then, I’m an eternal optimist.

Again, thank you for your exceptional courtesy, Ms. Dempsey! It is as deeply appreciated as it is unexpected.

Pamela Dempsey wrote another letter after the letter described above.


CVESD relies on secrecy to protect itself from exposure of its wrongdoing.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

An Open Letter to CTA chief counsel Beverly Tucker

In the wake of the recent problems at Castle Park Elementary School, many union leaders and their lawyers have reverted to an us-versus-them thinking in which they see themselves as righteous victims and ignore or minimize the injustices they have done, and continue to do, to other people.

In fact, being transferred to another school is not the horrific fate that CTA and the “Castle Park Five” have insisted. However, both students and teachers have suffered great wrongs at the hands of the California Teachers Association. These students and teachers have legitimate grievances, legitimate fears, and legitimate distrust of CTA’s willingness to compromise for the sake of peace.

CTA has made no attempt to build trust. The only alternative to continued dysfunction at Castle Park Elementary is a comprehensive settlement based on simple principles:

--All teachers and students have equal rights to protection of the law; these benefits should not be limited to the leaders of CTA and their allies.

-- If CTA is unwilling or unable to negotiate a policy of respect for the law and the wellbeing of students and teachers, the community must take the lead in promoting one.

-- CTA bears a special responsibility for the current impasse,
by virtue of its massive effort to help union leaders and their allies escape responsibility for their violations of law.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Is it really Jim Groth, not Lowell Billings, who is responsible for the firing of Tim Suanico?

The people who attacked Lowell Billings when he defended the principal of Castle Park Elementary are most likely the people who forced Mr. Billings to fire Principal Tim Suanico.

The teachers' union, Chula Vista Educators, is as powerful as, or perhaps more powerful than, the superintendent, when it comes to personnel actions regarding teachers and principals.

Jim Groth, President of Chula Vista Educators, and his predecessor, Gina Boyd, have worked hand-in-glove with the district in many personnel actions.

But when the district doesn't do what CVE wants, CVE demands arbitration.

In the Castle Park Five case, in which five teachers were transferred out of Castle Park Elementary, CVE presented a shamefully false story to the arbitrator when it demanded that the teachers be returned to Castle Park Elementary.

Why didn't the district counter with the truth? Because the district had worked with CVE to protect Castle Park teachers who violated the law. CVE dishonestly concealed at the arbitration hearing any mention of the large amount of money the district had spent on legal representation for some of those teachers in the Superior Court case which resulted from crimes committed at Castle Park Elementary.

If CVESD had told the truth at the hearing, it probably would have won.

It's time for the truth to come out about past backroom deals between CVE and CVESD regarding personnel actions, and for both CVE and CVESD to begin a new era of respect for the truth and the law.

The similarities between the Tim Suanico case and the Maura Larkins case are remarkable. Teachers, not administrators, initiated both personnel actions. Bullying and cronyism are rampant in Chula Vista Elementary School District, as they are in many other workplaces. Competent employees are frequently attacked by colleagues who fear exposure of their bullying, cronyism or incompetence.

Chula Vista Educators is so powerful that it even pushes around its US Representative, Bob Filner.

For more information, see California Teachers Association and Chula Vista Educators.

Update: The San Diego Union Tribune is widely known for its biased reporting and censorship of the news, but the South County edition appears to be the most deeply-censored edition of the SDUT. The reporting on events at Castle Park Elementary is a case in point. The SDUT knows about the Superior Court Case involving Robin Donlan and other teachers, but has kept that information out of its many stories about Robin Donlan and Castle Park Elementary.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

While I was investigating Chula Vista Elementary School District...

While I was investigating Chula Vista Elementary, some interesting information about Cajon Valley Union School District in El Cajon popped up.

I have known for a long time that San Diego County Office of Education was spending large amounts of tax dollars on lawyers representing CVESD, so I reasoned that CVESD's insurance premiums must be going up.

I found some interesting figures on the Ed-Data Website.

CVESD was doing very well in 2001-02, paying only $331,539 for insurance, which was half as much per child as the average elementary district in California.

Then things started to go south. The next year that amount almost doubled. The year after that, CVESD reported expenditures of over $2 MILLION for its self-insurance fund, and $1,606,693 for 2004-05.

What happened? The "site-based decision-making" policies established by former superintendent Libia Gil in the 1990's began to bear fruit.

Gil's strategy was to allow problems to fester at schools until things went out of control, at which point Libia Gil, Richard Werlin and Lowell Billings came in and, without investigating, took arbitrary action in violation of the law. The superintendent's salary skyrocketed, but this was justified by the fact that Gil eliminated the positions of many district administrators who had been overseeing the schools. This was exactly what the school board wanted. In fact, the school board had brought Libia Gil down from Seattle to establish just this sort of top-down management-without-accountability.

The insurance figures I found for CVESD looked bad, but I wanted to be fair. I thought I should look at a similar district for comparison.

So I looked at Cajon Valley Union School District. I was shocked to see that Cajon Valley went from a pretty reasonable $402,611 in 2001-02, to (hang on to your hat) more than $14 MILLION in 2004-05!!!

I know that CVESD is corrupt. But what does this information tell me about Cajon Valley?

What is going on in Cajon Valley???

How could school districts save millions on insurance premiums and payouts? By obeying the law!

Obeying the law would have the added advantage of eliminating one of the basic reasons that schools are failing in their job of educating children. School board members, school administrators and teachers devote vast amounts of taxpayer money and teacher union dollars to protecting the power of the corrupt. This money, and the huge amount of time and energy that these individuals devote to protecting their personal power, should be spent on educating children.

The three members of CVESD's ruling clique, Patrick Judd, Pamela Smith and Larry Cunningham, seem to be incapable of acting in their own best interest, much less the best interest of children and taxpayers. These three have led the district into multiple and continuing violations of law. And the other two board members, Cheryl Cox and Bertha Lopez, are shamefully silent about it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

CVESD is in Violation of the California Public Records Act

Patrick Judd, the CVESD board's longest serving member

On May 5, 2006, I received a 300-page response from Chula Vista Elementary School District's lawyers to my request (sent over a year earlier) for budget information concerning payments for lawyers and liability insurance.

The documents I received indicate that CVESD spends about $10 million a year on "other."


CVESD is obviously in violation of the California Public Records Act. I should have received BUDGET documents.

Instead, I was sent AUDIT documents, which contain no details at all about expenditures--just a handful of huge numbers, such as the total paid for salaries.

Now I'm really curious. San Diego Unified School District posts every payment to every lawyer on the Internet.

What is CVESD hiding?

And who is hiding it? Was it top administrators Lowell Billings, Susan Fahle and Dennis Doyle who decided on this policy?

Or--more likely--was it board members Pamela Smith, Patrick Judd, Cheryl Cox, Bertha Lopez, and Larry Cunningham?

Or--most likely of all--was it CVESD's lawyers at Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz?

Clearly, all these individuals are responsible for the policy. I suspect that the policy was first suggested by the law firm which is handling this issue:
  • Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz

  • These policies put Stutz lawyers in bad company. The federal government began in June 2004 to keep secret the reports of inspectors who visited the Sago mine, where disaster struck in 2006. Where there are secrets, there is very likely wrongdoing. And where there is wrongdoing, innocent people are likely to be hurt.

    Sunday, May 28, 2006

    CVESD Culture Is To Blame for Illegal Acts

    I found a story in the Seattle Times today which indicates that Chula Vista Elementary School District's culture of secrecy and dishonesty is not unique.

    The article says:

    "Management and culture" were shaped during the 1990's
    using the "aggressive tactics of a political campaign."

    It sounds like CVESD, but this story was actually written about another corrupt organization that (like CVESD) was revealed to have manufactured false information in order to keep power and money flowing to top management. The corporation? Fannie Mae, the biggest home-mortgage lender in the US.

    The news will just keep getting worse until Americans start throwing corrupt leaders out of their positions.

    Of course, although former superintendent Libia Gil created the current management-without-accountability culture at CVESD in the 1990's, she doesn't deserve all the blame. She was just doing what school board members Pat Judd and Pam Smith wanted. CVESD's descent into illegality has gone much too far. It's long past time to get rid of Pat Judd, Pamela Smith, and the third member of the controlling majority on the board, Larry Cunningham.

    Unbelieveably, Cheryl Cox, who has helped cover up illegal actions (including crimes) at CVESD, has the nerve to bring up the issue of "how decisions are made" in her current campaign for mayor. Why don't you end the secrecy in your own office, Cheryl, before you complain about others? Your board is one of the most secretive public entities of which I am aware.

    What is worse, you have intentionally looked the other way as San Diego County Office of Education lawyers violated the law on your behalf (see A Phone Call to Cheryl Cox).

    I notice that your lawyer Daniel Shinoff advertises himself as an expert in the Brown Act. Clearly, he's an expert at HOW TO VIOLATE the Brown Act (see CVESD Is in Violation of the Brown Act).

    But that's why you hired him, right?

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    Kudos to Susan Hartley, Sharon Jones and the San Diego Union-Tribune

    I rarely agree with the San Diego Union-Tribune's endorsements, but this time they've got it right. Susan Hartley and Sharon Jones today received the endorsement of the San Diego Union-Tribune, which noted the "strident streak" of the challengers for their San Diego County Office of Education seats. These challengers are closely aligned to former board members who turned down millions of dollars in federal funds because they didn't want to obey federal regulations!

    These challengers care about political power, not kids. Challengers for Hartley's and Jones' seats want to inject their extreme political partisanship into the education system. For them, being on a school board is about obtaining power, not about educating kids.

    One of the challengers, Rick Winet, has a conflict of interest in addition to the fact that he cares more about politics than he cares about kids. His brother is a lawyer who defends the practice of covering-up violations of law by SDCOE lawyers. Brother Randy Winet also defends JPA director Diane Crosier's shady policy of indemnification of SDCOE lawyers.

    Good news! Next month Superintendent Rudy Castruita, who has maintained these corrupt policies long after being informed of specific violations of law by several of those who work for SDCOE, will retire. Let's hope that the new superintendent will clean up the JPA and stop the hemorrhaging of tax dollars into the pockets of corrupt lawyers.

    On the other hand, I also agree with the caveat offered by the SDUT: the SDCOE board needs to be doing more for kids.

    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    The Comer Program Caused Big Problems

    To: James P. Comer, Yale University

    Why did no one in your organization come to Castle Park Elementary School in Chula Vista when you were informed in 2000 of problems with your program? Taxpayers paid tens of thousands of dollars to implement the decision-making structure you recommended.

    The ramifications of the decisions made when your program was in force have been devastating. The Comer Process was tossed out, but the dysfunction it engendered continues.

    I understand that you are too busy writing papers to take an interest in schools that are damaged by your program. I appears that you think of Comer schools as little eaglets who must be pushed from the nest and forced to fly on their own.

    The "Castle Park Five" problems, and $100,000s of thousands of legal fees would quite possibly never have occurred if it hadn't been for your program.

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    Ron Nehring and Alphonso Jackson go over the top when it comes to partisan politics

    Ron Nehring (a member of the Grossmont High School District school board in San Diego County) believes that school boards should be politically partisan. Does he need a refresher course in citizenship and American government?

    I wonder if he agrees with Alphonso Jackson, the current Housing and Urban Development Secretary, who either didn't know or didn't care that it is a violation of federal law for the government to reject a business contract because the contractor criticized Republicans.

    The story goes like this: a minority contractor was recently awarded a contract by HUD. He approached Jackson to thank him, and mentioned that he didn't like Bush.

    Jackson canceled the contract!

    "Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe," said Jackson. Jackson is now being investigated by an inspector general. (Any bets on how far that investigation will go?)

    Jackson and Nehring don't appear to have a clue about how government of, by and for the people is supposed to work. Jackson is so clueless that he actually told the above story to a Dallas business group. Did he think that there was no one present who believed in the principles of American government?

    I'm wondering if Jackson and Nehring might have attended the Duncan Hunter School for Distributors of Government Funds and Perks (see How Duncan Hunter Treats his Constituents).

    What kind of teachers did Jackson have when he studied American government in school? For that matter, what kind of teachers did Nehring and Duncan Hunter have? I think we educators are largely to blame for the apalling ignorance of so many of our elected and appointed leaders.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Lowell Billings wants to save face

    At the Chula Vista Elementary School District Board meeting last night, Superintendent Lowell Billings talked about helping fired principal Tim Suanico "save face."

    Billings wants to put a band-aid on a serious culture clash.

    Filipino principals routinely run into problems at CVESD. I believe the reason lies in the conflict between a traditional culture which requires a lot of respect for authority figures, and the American culture, which requires a lot of respect for employees--at least, if they have a union, and the union bosses support them. Assistant Superintendent Tom Cruz is either unable or unwilling to help.

    The problem surfaced for Tim Suanico last December, when eleven teachers at Heritage Elementary School in Otay Ranch wrote an anonymous letter to the district complaining about Suanico.

    That was when Billings should have acted.

    But he didn't. Since Libia Gil came and established her phony "site-based management" in CVESD, the district has turned its back on problems at schools, preferring to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to lawyers to cover up the illegal actions the district takes when problems have spun out of control.

    Saturday, May 13, 2006

    MEA* needs better leaders and lawyers

    The San Diego Union Tribune says this morning that "an anonymous letter... told [MEA President Judie] Italiano to resign or face public exposure" of spending allegations.

    The SDUT and its anonymous source characterized the letter to Judie Italiano as "extortion."

    The lesson here seems to be that if you have reason to believe that your union leaders have committed violations of law, you should IMMEDIATELY REPORT IT to the authorities and the public. If you ask your leaders to step down before you have done this, they'll accuse you of extortion.

    After you have advised the authorities and the press, THEN ask your leaders to step down. But be warned that most union leaders have no inclination to apologize for wrongs they have committed against members, and will stubbornly hold on to power as long as they can.

    I believe that union members SHOULD publicly expose union leaders who will not clean up their acts.

    Shamefully, union leaders and their lawyers use intimidation to keep the rank and file quiet about wrongdoing. In fact, lawyers love to threaten people with extortion allegations. And isn't it extortion to threaten somebody with an accusation of extortion? It sure is.

    The person who wrote the above-mentioned anonymous letter to Judie Italiano gave her good advice, and Judie shouldn't have waited so long to follow it. But perhaps Judy's retirement wasn't entirely voluntary. Perhaps her friends made it clear to her that she had no other option.

    * Metropolitan Employees Association (San Diego)

    This story made me think about my union, Chula Vista Educators, an affiliate of CTA (California Teachers Association). The lawyers for my union include Ann Smith, who is also the lawyer for the MEA, and who is quite likely the source of the anonymous quotes above.

    I did a bit of research today, and came to the conclusion that Ann Smith and my union committed extortion by making threats to withhold testimony necessary to my case in an administrative proceeding and a lawsuit. The union made good on its threats by instructing leaders and members not to answer questions during depositions, and by creating false documents which leaders signed. Ironically, it never occurred to me that Ann Smith had committed extortion until I read this SDUT story containing extortion allegations which very likely originated with the very same Ann Smith.

    Looking for information from the San Diego Union Tribune archives?
    Don't bother. The SDUT's online archives have been censored. Some of the SDUT's own reports have been disconnected from its internal search engine. But there is a way around this problem: THE COMPLETE ARCHIVES SEEM TO BE AVAILABLE TO EXTERNAL SEARCH ENGINES! All you have to do is go to a mainstream search engine, and type in San Diego Union Tribune plus your search words.

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Should golfing buddies be chosen to run SDCOE?

    Is it dangerous to put too many golfers in charge of our businesses or schools?

    Sports commentator Frank Deford says it is.

    Yet this is just what Rick Winet wants voters to do at San Diego County Office of Education.

    One investment banker defended the practice of padding board rooms with golfing buddies: “A CEO wants a guy with shared experience and values...a guy, say, who gives him putts within three feet."

    Frank Deford worries about organizations that are "dominated by golfers and their cozy links mentality," by people who isolate themselves with their golfing buddies.

    "Was this country built on that attitude?" Deford asks. Did the founders of America "ask their adversaries to provide them with gimmes?...I think it is this 'You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back' attitude which accounts for the fact that China practically owns us nowadays."

    "Golf is only game where the weak are propped-up and strong penalized," notes Deford.

    We already have Rick Winet's golfer/lawyer/brother Randy Winet advising and representing the Board of Education on legal matters. He has helped the board to prop-up incompetent school board members, lawyers, administrators and teachers.

    Now the Winets BOTH want to decide SDCOE policies. It's a safe bet that they want to continue the deeply corrupt policy of indemnifying lawyers. This means taxpayers not only pay lawyers, but also have to protect those lawyers if the lawyers violate the law--even when the violation is a felony!

    As Frank Deford says, "Golf is very socialistic. If golf were a country, it would be Cuba."

    The Winets seem to want socialism--for the privileged.

    Personally, I like the idea of people competing against themselves when they are trying to achieve something. But the idea of having the privileged acquire positions of power without competing against those who are stronger, smarter, more honest and hard-working doesn't make sense. Unfortunately, that is the current situation among many officials and employees in San Diego County schools.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    When teachers have contempt for kids

    Underestimating others is never wise, but when teachers do it to kids, it can damage a child for life.

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz

    Here's a link to my web page about Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz:


  • Update: These are the attorneys Cheryl Cox and I discussed in our phone call on May 15, 2006 (see above).

    What do you say on Day of the Teacher if you can’t read?

    “If you can read this, take time to say thanks to a teacher.”

    But what do you say if you can't read?

    As a teacher, I always appreciated being told "thank you" by my students and former students.

    But today I got to thinking. We have all these teachers on the one hand, and on the other hand we have all these former students. Happily, most of the former students can read.

    But I’m wondering, what are the ones who can’t read supposed to say to us teachers on Day of the Teacher?

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    CVESD's bogus response to Public Records Request

    Now I'm really curious. San Diego Unified School District posts every payment to every lawyer on the Internet.

    What is CVESD hiding?

    (See May 24, 2006 post "CVESD Is in Violation of the Brown Act.")

    Castle Park Elementary teachers should not be sued for perjury

    Should teachers from Chula Vista Elementary School District be sued for perjury?

    Of course not.

    But their lawyers should. These lawyers, including Daniel Shinoff and Kelly Minnehan of Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, and Beverly Tucker of the California Teachers Association legal department, not only intimidated the teachers before their testimony, but instructed them to cover up the truth.

    What teachers am I talking about? I'm talking about some of the teachers which the San Diego Union Tribune wrote about in articles and editorials published from the late summer of 2004 through February 2006. Editor Karen Winner and Don Sevren deceived readers into thinking that the problem was limited to the school principal, even though this principal came to the school after teachers had become embroiled in crimes and misdemeanors.

    The teachers remind me of Osama Awadaliah, an honors student at San Diego State University, whom no one suspects of terrorism. NO ONE. But he was prosecuted for doing what Castle Park teachers did: denying being associated with criminals. Mr. Awadaliah had the misfortune to be acquainted with one of the 9/11 terrorists. He admits this. The US Attorney has prosecuted him because he denied being acquainted with a second terrorist. This is a silly way to spend tax dollars. No wonder Mr. Awadaliah's trial ened on May 4, 2006 with a hung jury. Even if he were guilty, he was merely doing what Castle Park teachers did: denying his association with criminals. In fact, officials admit that when they went to question him, he had no involvement in any crime. This is more than can be said for several Castle Park teachers.

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    Can Education Prevent Drought in Malaysia?

    I was reminded this morning of the importance of education of American children to Americans and to people all over the world. It seems winds on the Pacific Ocean have reduced in strengh, threatening ocean life and weather patterns on land.

    Americans vote for politicians who shrug their shoulders regarding droughts, storms, melting ice, reduced salmon runs, and other effects of a changing environment. "What, me worry?" is the response of anti-environmentalists.

    I think voters and politicians would have a different response if they'd received better educations.

    Damaging the planet hurts more people than just about any other mistake that we can make.

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Compliance at Last?

    May 3, 2006
    To: Kelly Minnehan
    From: Maura Larkins

    I’m delighted that I won’t have to plow through more than 300 pages of documents at your office in search of the small amount of CVESD budget information that I requested over a year ago. I do have better things to do. Thank you for offering to mail me the information.

    I look forward to seeing on the Internet those 300+ pages of CVESD budget documents you mentioned--in the near future, in searchable text.

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Not enough security at the San Diego Superior Court?

    May 2, 2006
    To: Kelly Minnehan (AKA Kelly Angell), Attorney
    Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz
    From: Maura Larkins

    You filed papers with the San Diego Superior Court about a year ago in which you stated that you did not want to go to the courthouse to attend an ex parte hearing. The reason you gave was that you feared for your safety because I would be there.

    Your statements about me were as preposterous as they were false.

    You lied because you feared that I would serve you with my complaint for felony obstruction of justice. You calculated that your best defense against my true allegations was to make false allegations about me. You were successful in getting my complaint thrown out of court ONLY because I was an in pro per third-grade teacher unable to keep up with the eight law firms that were working against me.

    Clearly, I have much to fear from you.

    And you have a bit of explaining to do. Why would you want me to come to your offices, where you have no security at all, when you did not want to meet me at the courthouse, which has a security check at the entrance, and law enforcement officers in every courtroom? Please explain this.

    To protect myself from your aggressive dishonesty, I would like to bring a witness and a videocamera with me when I come to your office to view Chula Vista Elementary School District budget documents. Do you have any objections to my doing this?

    Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz aided and abetted your obstruction of justice, but now Stutz is apparently spending a lot of money manipulating Google results. It appears that the law firm you work for has gone rapidly downhill since Bob Gallagher left.

    But of course, plenty of people can and do access my website without any help at all from Google. And since the Internet isn’t the only means of dissemination of information, Stutz is wasting its money if it thinks it can continue to commit crimes and keep them hidden.

    Stutz would be smart to change its illegal behavior, rather than continue to struggle to keep it covered up.

    Update: On May 5, 2006 I see that my post on is on the first page of a "Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz" Google search. Stutz somehow got Google to remove MY website, but Stutz might find it harder to get ALL WEBSITES THAT TALK ABOUT STUTZ removed.

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Update on "Golden Watchdog or Golden Fleece"

    To: Cheryl Cox, Board Member
    Susan Fahle, Assistant Superintendent
    Kelly Minnehan (AKA Kelly Angell), legal counsel
    Chula Vista Elementary School District

    Thank you for finally agreeing to allow me to see CVESD budget documents free of charge. This is a big turnaround for you! Would Thursday, May 4, 2006 be convenient for my visit to Ms. Minnehan’s office to see those documents?

    I am pleased at the prospect of seeing CVESD budget documents. If the documents you show me do NOT reveal the amount of tax dollars paid by CVESD for lawyers and liability insurance, as I have requested, we can address that problem later. I do hope, however, that you have not removed the requested information from the CVESD budget that you will be showing me.

    I have learned that all of CVESD’s budget information is required by law to be on the Internet, yet I have been able to find only a small number of documents on the CVESD website. Obviously, it will be time consuming on Thursday for me to search for a few bits of information among the hundreds of documents you are offering. Fortunately, I’m a fast reader. Obviously, you are intentionally making access to the information I have requested difficult or impossible. You are attempting--in violation of the law—to hide the information I am seeking.

    Pursuant to the California Public Records Act, I hereby request Internet access to CVESD’s budget information. Are CVESD’s budgets available on the Internet in some secret location? If so, where are they hiding? Also, I request Internet access to budget documents with searchable text—as opposed to CVESD’s current format which contains text which cannot be searched. You are determined to violate the Brown Act and hide the truth about how CVESD uses tax dollars, aren’t you?

    Yours truly,
    Maura Larkins

    Friday, April 21, 2006

    Why is Barbara Kerr afraid of a secret ballot at CTA?

    Barbara Kerr (above) was re-elected recently as President of the California Teachers Association, but there was no secret ballot for that "election." Why? It would appear that Barbara Kerr doesn't want members of the CTA Board of Directors to be able to write-in names of other candidates. (No one EVER challenges the President of CTA officially in a union election.) Barbara Kerr sits at the conference table and stares with her steely eyes as Directors vote out loud. The result? Kerr was re-elected unanimously.

    Barbara seems to rule CTA with an iron fist, using intimidation to silence those who disagree with her. For many years, since before George Bush II became president, CTA has subscribed to the George Bush doctrine regarding those who do not share its opinions: They aren't the loyal opposition, because there's no such thing as a loyal opposition. If you disagree with Barbara Kerr (or George Bush), you're an enemy of the country (or union).

    No wonder Mayor Villaraigosa feels he needs to takeover Los Angeles Schools. He's concerned that only 39% of Latino males graduate from LAUSD, and that NO CHANGE is likely as long as CTA is in control. Why? Because NOTHING is likely to change as long as CTA is in control.

    Saturday, April 15, 2006

    What is Libia Gil's agenda?

    To learn about the Board of Directors of New Leaders for New Schools, click on the Susan Ohanian List of Outrages on the right sidebar.

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Golden Watchdog or Golden Fleece?

    I came upon an interesting item on the Internet.

    CVESD was a finalist in 2003 for the San Diego County Taxpayers Association' Golden Watchdog Award!

    Today I was told by the SDCTA that NO BUDGET WAS ATTACHED TO THE INFORMATION provided to the group of people who chose Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD) as a finalist.

    Hello, SDCTA? You didn't even look at the budget?

    It's true that there is no mention in the SDCTA press release about building schools for a good price. The write-up simply states that the board got along well with its builders, and the original budget was adhered to. But still, why would SDCTA choose a public entity as a finalist for an award for handling taxpayer dollars, when it didn't even look at their budget?

    I am concerned that the good relationship between the CVESD board and certain developers is circumventing the democratic process. Developers donate to political campaigns of board members who then choose developers to receive millions of tax dollars. And then the budget is kept secret.

    Unlike CVESD, San Diego Unified School District has information available on the Internet regarding exactly which lawyers were paid taxpayer dollars, and exactly how much they were paid.

    Perhaps SDUSD deserves a Golden Watchdog Award.

    Anyone can nominate a public entity for a Golden Watchdog or Golden Fleece Award. I think I'll nominate CVESD for a Golden Fleece Award. Any bets on whether my nominee will be chosen as a Golden Fleece finalist?

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Public Records Request to Susan Fahle

    April 6, 2006
    To: Susan Fahle
    From: Maura Larkins

    I would like to come to the Chula Vista Elementary School District office to examine the district’s budget documents which are public records.

    You have refused to provide me with the dollar amount which CVESD spends on lawyers and legal insurance each year, but have indicated that you will allow me access to hundreds of pages of budget documents which might contain this information.

    I accept the offer.

    I will be in the San Diego area at the beginning of May. Would an appointment time on May 3, 4 or 5th be convenient for you? I’d be happy to come at whatever time of day or night that would please you.

    Did Jerry Sanders describe Beverly Tucker?

    Diane Crosier and Daniel Shinoff, who work on behalf of the San Diego County Office of Education, and Beverly Tucker and Michael D. Hersh of the California Teachers Association, who work closely with them, practice the same "delay, deny and deceive" tactics that the corrupt San Diego City government practiced under the influence of Dick Murphy and Ann Smith. The pension practices supported by Murphy and Smith are now being investigated by the FBI and SEC as well as local prosecutors.

    Update 07-18-07
    I'm filing this under irony, because Jerry Sanders turned out to be one of the most secretive mayors San Diego has ever had.

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    Dale Akiki and CVESD

    Here is a quick summary of the Dale Akiki case, from Religious

    "The first Deputy District Attorney assigned to the [Akiki] case decided that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute the case. There are allegations that the grandfather of some of the alleged victims is a prominent citizen of San Diego who had financially supported the District Attorney, Ed. Miller. After an alleged personal meeting with Miller, the case was reassigned to Deputy District Attorney Mary Avery who brought charges against Akiki...

    "Akiki spent 30 months behind bars waiting for a trial.

    "After a 7 month trial, the jury deliberated for 7 hours and acquitted him...

    "The jury lashed out at the prosecutors for bringing the case to trial in spite of the complete lack of physical evidence. It was the longest and most expensive trial in San Diego history.

    "Six months later, District Attorney Ed Miller was turned out of office after receiving only 11% of the popular vote... With 23 years of service, he was the longest serving District Attorney in the history of California."

    Ed Miller's long career proves that bad public servants can last a very long time in office.

    Chula Vista Elementary School District board members Cheryl Cox, Patrick Judd, Pamela Smith, Larry Cunningham and Bertha Lopez orchestrated their own version of the Dale Akiki fiasco (see Fortunately, the amount of public dollars spent on CVESD's travesty of justice was far less than that spent on the County of San Diego's misadventure.

    Isn't it about time to turn the members of the board of Chula Vista Elementary School District out of office?

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    Do You Want to Know When Your School Is Being Investigated?

    A March 26, 2006 Seattle Times article makes one wonder: should students be told when a school is being investigated?

    Here are a few quotes from the article:

    "In the eight years that Judy McKinney was attending the Court Reporting Institute in North Seattle, the state investigated her school three times. But she didn't know about it.

    "Neither did other students attending the Court Reporting Institute. A state analysis found that only 6 percent of CRI students graduate. One percent become court reporters...

    "McKinney took out nearly $28,500 in loans to pay for school. After eight years of school, her transcription still isn't fast enough or accurate enough to pass the state's test to become a court reporter.

    "Now the state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, which oversees some vocational and technical schools, is trying to shut down the school...

    "The students said they were left on their own to learn to type in court-reporter shorthand and had to work off of taped dictations so garbled that they often couldn't understand the words. Computers didn't work and classes were taught by lab assistants — current students who weren't court reporters...

    "Some former students say that by the time they realized there were problems with the school, they had invested so much time and money that they thought they should stick it out. Some say they were so beaten down by failure that they didn't have the confidence to quit. Others were so far in debt that they couldn't afford to drop out because they would have to start paying back their loans..."

    Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246

    SDCOE JPA Lawyers Are Outraged When School Personnel Held Accountable

    San Diego County Office of Education lawyers maintain a constant state of outrage at the thought that any school employee might be asked to testify about violations of law in our schools. They clearly feel that the public and the courts have no business prying into the actions of public school employees.

    When the public pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawyers, it has a right to expect that the lawyers will not violate the law to protect those who have harmed the public.

    In the Maura Larkins case, one SDCOE lawyer became so outraged in court that she pointed her two index fingers at the plaintiff, holding her two hands like a pair of pistols, and jabbed them toward the plaintiff, as if she wanted to shoot her. This out-of-control hostility regarding the judicial process is not appropriate for publicly-funded lawyers. This lawyer was angrily trying to protect individuals who had harmed public school children and employees, and had cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why did taxpayers pay to defend these individuals?

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Interesting Documents

    Four interesting documents from the Maura Larkins OAH hearing are posted at
    Maura Larkins

    Sunday, January 29, 2006

    Everyone Can Fall Into This Trap

    "Everyone can fall into this trap. It's so easy to enter into indifference and stay there. An indifferent person remains indifferent unless shaken up."
    --Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner
    He wrote NIGHT, an Oprah's book club selection, about his time in a concentration camp in WWII.
    TIME January 30, 2006

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Response to Stupid in America

    January 22, 2006
    This is my response to "cslives" on regarding "Stupid in America. (See link to in sidebar.) Maura Larkins
    CVLIVES wrote:

    “When I hear the phrase ‘number sense’ it sends me running for the great god of porcelain! It's a code word for useless, feel-good math.” Posted by: cwlives

    Maura Larkins' response:

    There is no such thing as “useless, feel-good math.”

    “Feel-good math” is useful, and we should make sure that kids get enough of it to master necessary skills. Most kids are taught “feel-BAD math” by teachers who don’t understand math. In my experience, many elementary school math teachers perform math at a low level, and understand math at an even lower level.

    Are we limited to a choice between knowledgeable teachers who can’t get through to kids, and teachers with good communication skills who don’t have enough knowledge? No.

    There’s a third choice--a teacher who can think. Thinking is a different skill from acquiring knowledge. A teacher who can think can quickly obtain the knowledge he or she needs. But a teacher with knowledge can’t necessarily think.

    Schools of education should teach teachers how to think!

    George Will, as usual, wants to take extreme measures. Eliminating schools of education altogether would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. From what I know of George Will, I believe he would run screaming for the hills if the teachers of America actually began to think.
    Maura Larkins