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