Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pay the good teachers double or triple what they're getting now

Is Topix a cool website? I think so. Here's my December 2007 post:

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CVESD gets the Chula Vista fire department to look the other way--or at least it doesn't complain about lack of inspections

NBC News San Diego
Students in Danger?
December 20, 2008

I knew that Chula Vista Elementary School District was able to get the Star-News, Union Tribune, and the Police Department to neglect investigations of problems in schools, but I was still surprised to learn that the school district was able to get the fire department to look the other way--or, at the very least, not to complain when the fire department backed off.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Micromanagement or reform? New school board in Capistrano (CUSD) won't leave superintendent and teachers in charge of affairs

Micromanagement or reform? I don't know the correct answer to my own question, but I do know that many school districts are happily corrupt, and that the teachers union, the administrators and the board incumbants in those districts fight hard to prevent reforms.

I know that Capistrano was deeply corrupt a couple of years ago. But is the new board being reasonable in its demands? Maybe, maybe not.

I think it's interesting that the board says the superintendent doesn't "set up meetings as instructed." Why doesn't the board itself set up the meetings? How hard is that? Just name a time and a place and a subject for discussion. My suspicion is that the proposed meetings would not be open to parents and the public, and would simply be a tool for board members to increase their personal power.

On the other hand, it seems that the administration and teachers might also be trying to protect personal power. (PTAs aren't the same as the "parents and public." PTAs can be very narrow and clubby, and are usually closely aligned with administration or teachers or both.) Why doesn't the superintendent set up the meetings and invite the public?

I suspect that neither side in this battle is interested in including parents and the public in the decision-making process.

Was Capo superintendent supposed to be fired?
The Orange County Register
December 19, 2008

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – A contentious, 4-1/2-hour Capistrano Unified school board meeting that focused solely on whether Superintendent A. Woodrow Carter was to be fired Thursday...

When board President Ellen Addonizio announced at the end of the meeting that no action had been taken behind closed doors regarding Carter's purported dismissal, an audience of hundreds of fervent Carter supporters clapped and cheered wildly...

Carter, a retired Army colonel, was hired as superintendent of the Capistrano Unified School District in September 2007 on an interim basis, the fifth person to fill the top administrative spot in 13 months' time. But during his short tenure, a politically popular parents group known as the CUSD Recall Committee was waging a successful campaign to reconstitute the school board with all "reform" trustees.

The 3-year-old "reform" movement pledged to clean house, ridding Capistrano of what's been characterized as mismanagement and corruption reaching into the highest levels of the district's administration...

...Carter, who has worked as a school district superintendent for 81/2 years, is enormously popular among many of the district's teachers, administrators and other staff. During his 15 months at Capistrano Unified, he has earned tremendous respect from the district's PTA council leaders as well as fierce support from employee union leaders...

Trustees also routinely get into verbal tiffs with Carter from the dais, accusing him of failing to gather information and set up meetings as instructed.

In Carter's speech Thursday, he suggested some trustees were trying to "micro-manage and usurp" his authority and turn him into "a pawn on the chessboard that has to be removed."

...Recall Committee leader Tony Beall, a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman, reminded trustees Thursday that they would need to continue their "reform" effort, even if it wasn't the politically popular move.

"These entrenched interests don't want to reform our school district," Beall said. "With the removal of the last of the old guard (trustees), one battle is over, but no one should misunderstand: This fight is far from over."

[Blogger's note to Mr. Beall: I think you should open up your reform movement to the public, and be clear and open about the information and meetings you want to have.]

Earlier story from The Orange County Register:

Capistrano school district chief may face discipline, dismissal
The Orange County Register
December 18, 2008

Capistrano Unified School District trustees will meet in private today to discuss possibly disciplining or even dismissing Superintendent A. Woodrow Carter, hired just a year ago when the board was dominated by a different political faction.

During the meeting, Carter will face his second evaluation in five months and his first by a board on which all seven trustees were supported by the CUSD Recall Committee, the powerful community group that has battled to replace board members in regular and recall elections for three years...

Vicki Soderberg, president of the Capistrano Unified Education Association, said trustees would be making a mistake to remove Carter. Soderberg's group opposed the Recall Committee candidates in the November election...

Carter's tenure started amid some controversy. He initially rejected a $28,000 raise offered when he moved from interim superintendent to the permanent post – a time when the district faced major layoffs. He pledged not to sign the contract.

Later, however, he did sign the contract – still pledging not to take the raise – but the document included a new clause on termination pay that hadn't been approved by the trustees.

That contract was invalidated after trustees learned they violated the state's open-meeting law by adopting it in a Feb. 25 closed session.

"If you want to enter into a legally binding relationship with a school district, the contract and all of its terms need to be approved by a majority of the school board," Mark Bresee, the school board's attorney, said at the time. "In the case of a high-ranking district employee, that approval has to occur in open session."

The board adopted a new contract in June that included the raise, which Carter accepted since the layoff threat had largely passed. None of the current board trustees was a party to approving that contract.

Blogger's Timeline:
1. Carter refused to sign contract when he moved from "Interim" to "permanent" superintendent position because he didn't want pay raise;
2. Carter signed contract with termination clause that had not been approved by board;
3. Feb. 25, 2008 contract approved in closed session;
4. Contract invalidated because not done in open session;
5. June 2008 New contract approved with pay raise;
6. November 2008 Entirely new board elected.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Holocaust couldn't happen here...or could it? 70% of ordinary citizens willing to administer 150 volts if told to do so

How many Americans are capable of critical thinking at a critical time? About 30 per cent, according to a new study. Do schools and parents put too much emphasis on automatic obedience to authority figures?

Shocking revelation: Santa Clara University professor mirrors famous torture study
By Lisa M. Krieger
Bay Area News Group

Replicating one of the most controversial behavioral experiments in history, a Santa Clara University psychologist has found that people will follow orders from an authority figure to administer what they believe are painful electric shocks.

More than two-thirds of volunteers in the research study had to be stopped from administering 150 volt shocks of electricity, despite hearing a person's cries of pain, professor Jerry M. Burger concluded in a study published in the January issue of the journal American Psychologist...

The study, using paid volunteers from the South Bay, is similar to the famous 1974 "obedience study'' by the late Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. In the wake of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann's trial, Milgram was troubled by the willingness of people to obey authorities — even if it conflicted with their own conscience.

...The haunting images of average people administering shocks have kept memories of Milgram's research alive for decades, even as recently as the Abu Ghraib scandal.

The subjects — recruited in ads in the Mercury News, Craigslist and fliers distributed in libraries and communities centers in Santa Clara, Cupertino and Sunnyvale — thought they were testing the effect of punishment on learning.

"They were average citizens, a typical cross-section of people that you'd see around every day,'' said Burger.

In the study, conducted two years ago, volunteers administered what they believed were increasingly powerful electric shocks to another person in a separate room. An "authority figure'' prodded the volunteer to shock another person, who was playing the role of "learner." Each time the learner gave an incorrect answer, the volunteer was urged to press a switch, seemingly increasing the electricity over time. They were told that the shocks were painful but not dangerous.

...participants were told at least three times that they could withdraw from the study at any time and still receive the $50 payment...

Like Milgram's study, Burger's shock generator machine was a fake. The cries of pain weren't real, either. Both the authority figure and the learner were actors...

Burger found that 70 percent of the participants had to be stopped from escalating shocks over 150 volts, despite hearing cries of protest and pain. Decades earlier, Milgram found that 82.5 percent of participants continued administering shocks. Of those, 79 percent continued to the shock generator's end, at 450 volts...

The experiment shows that people are more likely to comply with instructions if the task starts small, then escalates, according to Burger.

...Finally, they had been told that they should not feel responsible for inflicting pain; rather, the "instructor" was accountable. "Lack of feeling responsible can lead people to act in ways that they might otherwise not,'' said Burger...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

News quiz: What do Tri-City Hospital, SDCOE-JPA and Otay Water District have in common? Answer: their law firms.

Photo: Public entity attorney Daniel Shinoff

"It must be a very fine line between what is criminal and what is, in my mind, very inappropriate and unprofessional."

1. Who said this?

(a) George Coulter, board member Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside
(b) Judy Stratton, board member of MiraCosta Community College
(c) Donna Frye, San Diego City Councilwoman
(b) Gloria Carranza, board member of MiraCosta Community College

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Answers to this quiz are HERE.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

2. Who is being talked about?

(a) William "Woody" Merrill, attorney for Tri-City Healthcare Medical Center
(b) Art Gonzalez, CEO of Tri-City Healthcare Medical Center;
(c) Daniel Shinoff, attorney, San Diego County Office of Education--Joint Powers Authority;
(d) Randolph Ward, administrator, San Diego County Office of Education--Joint Powers Authority; SDCOE-JPA at first refused to turn over documents about the Victoria Richart settlement;
(e) The speaker was speaking in general terms about district attorney Bonnie Dumanis' investigation of events at MiraCosta Community College.

"Some of these things don't seem ethical and not even legal...He's either got to change his ways or get on his way...We're not getting the transparency that's needed.”

3. Who said it?

(a) George Coulter, board member Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside
(b) Joe Biden, campaigning to be vice-president
(c) Judy Stratton, board member of MiraCosta Community College
(d) Rick Walker, student trustee at GCCCD

4. Who is being talked about?

(a) President George W. Bush
(b) Art Gonzalez, CEO of Tri-City Healthcare Medical Center
(c) William "Woody" Merrill, attorney for Tri-City Healthcare Medical Center
(d) Omero Suarez, Chancellor of GCCCD
(e) Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia, attorney for public entities, famously worked for Burke Williams & Sorenson

5. What law firm is now representing Tri-City Healthcare Medical Center?

(a) Best, Best & Krieger
(b) Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost
(c) Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
(d) Burke, Williams & Sorenson
(e) It doesn't matter which of the above it is; they're pretty much the same.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Answers to this quiz are HERE.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tri-City Health Care District Hospital places CEO on administrative leave and fires school attorney Woody Merrill

To see all posts on Tri-City Healthcare, click HERE.

UPDATE DECEMBER 25, 2008: In my opinion, Burke Williams & Sorenson law firm is no better than former Tri-City lawyer Woody Merrill. Reform is needed, but none
of these lawyers is interested in reform. Maybe the public should sell the hospital (cheap) to employees. (See Logan Jenkins' article.)

Tri-City Medical Center CEO Art Gonzalez has been placed on administrative leave. At a closed-session meeting yesterday Tri-City Health Care District Hospital (Oceanside) placed CEO Art Gonzalez and administrators who worked closely with him on administrative leave.

At the December 18, 2008 board meeting, Michael J. Williams of C.M. de Crinis & Co. in Sherman Oaks was hired to do a forensic audit of hospital books.

At the same meeting the board fired legal counsel William W. "Woody" Merrill, who is also one of the preferred attorneys doing work for San Diego County Office of Education. Merrill works for Best, Best and Krieger, a firm that has many contracts with public agencies in San Diego. Mr. Merrill's wife, Michelle Fort-Merrill, works for SDCOE-JPA, and is currently being sued by Rodger Hartnett, a former SDCOE-JPA employee.

Merrill was replaced by Julie Biggs, a Riverside attorney who works for Burke, Williams & Sorenson.

The San Diego Union-Tribune notes that legal counsel from Musick, Peeler & Garrett was also fired.

The North County Times writes:

...[Kathleen] Sterling and [George]Coulter did say they thought it was time for new legal counsel.

"I think it's important that we give control back to the people and the organization," Sterling said. "The board has by all appearances abdicated their authority to the CEO and it was time to re-evaluate our relationship with Best, Best & Krieger (and) Woody Merrill."

"I feel that these attorneys weren't doing what was right for the board or the public," Coulter said.

A year and a half ago Tri-City trustee Kathleen Sterling objected to financial irregularities at the hospital.

The board has tried for a long time to muzzle Ms. Sterling, and at one time hired a private security firm to follow her. North County Times published various articles about Sterling:
April 27, 2007
Oct. 31, 2005

Sterling was recently reelected.

Channel 6 covered protests in 2004 when Gonzalez and others were given $2 million in bonuses.

On June 1, 2007 Paul Sisson of the North County Times noted that Gonzalez was making $436,000 a year in base salary, and that the governing board had approved two raises:

On a 5-2 vote, with hospital directors Kathleen Sterling and RoseMarie Reno opposed, the board increased Gonzalez's base salary from $436,000 to $457,000. The raise is retroactive to Oct. 3. A second 5-2 vote along the same lines will increase the chief executive's base salary to $483,000 on Oct. 3 this year. Gonzalez's contract with Tri-City requires that his salary be reviewed annually and adjusted to keep his pay in the 65th percentile of hospital chiefs at similar-sized medical institutions nationwide...

Gonzalez earns a base annual salary of $483,000. The board voted recently to pay him a $90,000 bonus for 2008.

Other articles about Tri-City and Woody Merrill:

Opposition statement to Tri-City bond challenged; September 7, 2006

Tri-City sues doctor for breach of contract; July 9, 2007

Thursday, December 18, 2008

JPAs, insurance brokers, lawyers: who is profiting from school litigation? Santa Clara v. Keenan & Associates

Photo: Lora Duzyk (left) is San Diego County Office of Education's Assistant Superintendent for Business Services.

Who is profiting from inflated insurance premiums in San Diego schools? Perhaps just about everyone involved in school liability insurance.

Sometimes my commenters know more than I do about a subject, and school insurance is one of those subjects. A recent comment caused me to do some research. I already knew that the San Diego County Office of Education-Joint Powers Authority was paying millions of tax dollars each years for lawyers who cover up wrongdoing in schools. I didn't know how far up (or down) the corruption went.

I found this:

County pushing suit alleging misdeeds in insurance industry
By Julie O'Shea
San Jose Recorder

Following New York's lead, Santa Clara County is suing several top insurance brokerage firms, claiming they have duped customers out of millions through secret "kickbacks" and other "lucrative" service deals.

"It's almost cartel-like," said the county's outside counsel, Louise Renne, a for-mer San Francisco city attorney who wasbrought on board because of her extensive experience with this type of litigation. "We believe that every public agency in the state of California has been affected."

In a complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court in November, Santa Clara is alleging that industry giants Marsh & McLennan Cos., Driver Alliant Insurance Service and Keenan & Associates are "steering" clients toward insurers that are offering brokers undisclosed commissions, funded through insurance premiums.

"In the end," the complaint alleges,"clients paid more for less insurance, with defendants siphoning off the difference to pad their bottom line..."

Here is part of what my commenter wrote:

"...Three insurance brokers namely Driver Alliant, Keenan and Associates and Marsh & McLennan manage these super pools. These insurance brokers are being sued in Alameda County where the allegations are for unlawful business practices, in violation of California Business and Profession Code section 17200 et. seq. false and misleading advertisement where they cream millions of dollars in public funds in violation of Business and Profession Government Code Section 17500 et. seq., breach of fiduciary duty, illegal and secret kickbacks, steering premium dollars and getting public agencies to purchase services at high rates.

"...Keenan and Associates has a “HYBRID SELF-INSURANCE and REINSURANCE” [SDCOE has SELF-JPA where Keenan is also a member of this “Super Pool”] pooling program for nearly 400 schools and community colleges.

"Keenan advertised for its Super Pool’s conference at Lake Tahoe as, “The Pudding is in the Pooling,” in their invitations. Yes, the pudding is good, they are raking in Millions of PUBLIC FUNDS through their billable hours...

"Daniel Shinoff and his SASH firm takes the cream of the Southern District billable hours for BOTH Keenan and SELF which are brokered by Marsh & McLennan. The premium billable hours are steered to his firm with the blessing of Keenan, SELF and Diane Crosier.

"Keenan and Marsh and McLennan as the agents of California’s public entities have a fiduciary duty to recommend the best coverage at the best price for its clients. They are to provide independent, objective advice, and to put ‘their clients best interests’ ahead of their own. Keenan and Driver and Marsh and McLennan are hired to act as consulting, billing/premium administration, and claims administration. Their duty is to provide full disclosure, candor, and loyalty. Disclose the amounts of income; Contingent Commissions Agreements and remuneration they receive form all transactions to the public agencies they represent. Keenan has a policy where every employee, associate and partner has to belong to several churches, golf clubs, non-profit organizations and civic groups. This is how they create friendships with judges, political figures, churches and organizations who look the other way. While attorneys like Daniel Shinoff bully public boards into contractual agreements and decisions that are not in the best interest of PUBLIC AGENCIES but bring in a lot of billable hours to his firm and bigger premiums for insurance Brokers and JPA’s.

"The agreements that the PUBLIC AGENCIES get pressured into signing with the JPA’s have different names like: “Contingent Income Agreements” “Production Service Agreements” “Volume Based Commission Agreements” “Profit-Sharing Commission Agreements” “Commission Override Agreements” Premium Value Contingent Commission Agreements” “Preferred Agency Agreements” and “Platinum Profit Sharing Agreements.”

"These commissions create a blatant CONFLICT of INTEREST and a direct financial interest for these brokers, JPA’s and preferred law firms. These commission and preferred agreements cause CONFLICT of INTEREST, along with premium prices in many cases with lower benefits. The insurance companies recoup the kickbacks paid to marsh & Marsh and McLennan, Keenan and Driver by higher insurance prices passed on to the public agencies. Whereby, suppressing competition in the market of insurance.

"This is the reason why the PUBLIC AGENCIES in San Diego cannot get insurance apart from the JPA’s. No insurance company can do business in California without belonging to one of the three “insurance brokers.” The insurance brokers have contractual agreements with certain JPA’s; like SDCOE SELF and these JPA use the same law firms they have contractual agreements with like Best Best and Krieger, Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz “SASH” and Winet..."

(End of quote of commenter to this blog.)

It turns out that insurance companies were doing a lot of harm long before they helped bring down the US economy in 2008 with their credit default derivatives. The derivatives were too complicated and clever by half, a scheme to get rich quick while promising that there would be no consequences. The government failed to regulate these scams, pretending they weren't really insurance policies. Institutions began to fail once it was discovered that the institutions didn't have any protection against defaults because they were unknowingly insuring themselves.

Many local school districts belong to the San Diego County Office of Education-JPA. Diane Crosier is the Executive Director of the SDCOE-JPA, and she works under the direction of SDCOE Superintendent Randolph Ward and Asst. Supt. Lora Duzyk. Crosier represents the SDCOE-JPA at a bigger JPA called SELF.

Diane Crosier then goes on to represent SELF when the other JPAs come together to form what it is called a “super pool,” then she reports back (delivers instructions) to SELF and SDCOE-JPA (which she herself directs).

This complete circle leaves me wondering who is in charge, the people at the bottom or the people at the top? There is some evidence that the person in charge is Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz attorney Daniel Shinoff, whom Diane Crosier most often selects to represent school districts in San Diego.

Another shocker: Dumanis ends one more college fraud probe without charges

Photo: District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis

DA ends probe of land sale to college
San Diego Union Tribune
By Jennifer Vigil
December 14, 2008

The District Attorney's Office has cleared everyone involved in a land sale to the San Diego Community College District that benefited two politically connected developers.

The investigation has been closed, and “no criminal charges are forthcoming against any individual or entity involved in this matter,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis wrote in a Thursday letter to the college district.

Dumanis' office looked into a September 2006 real estate deal in which the district paid $1.28 million for a 15th Street duplex for a campus expansion downtown.
Questions arose about the purchase after The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the developers, Mike Madigan and Paul Nieto, had bought the parcel eight months earlier for $750,000 and used a private trust held by Nieto's father-in-law to sell it to the college district.

Madigan was involved in San Diego's downtown redevelopment efforts, and Nieto is a former president of a Chula Vista homebuilding company and once sat on the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Board.

In correspondence sent to the duplex owners in 2004 and 2005, a real estate broker indicated the developers were speaking on behalf of the college district, a link that investigators found had not been formalized.

Deputy District Attorney Mike Still, who investigated the land transactions, said Madigan, Nieto and their broker may have made misleading statements, but a one-year statute of limitations had expired on any possible misdemeanor charges.

Felony fraud charges also were considered but dismissed as too harsh, Still said.
“We found some misrepresentations on the front end, but they may have been misunderstandings as well,” he said.

Former City Attorney Michael Aguirre investigated the matter and filed a civil suit against the broker. Still said the case was delayed pending the outcome of his investigation...

The district continues to plan construction on 15th Street, part of a $1.5 billion bond-funded renovation and expansion campaign, but more properties must be acquired. Jennifer Vigil: (619) 718-5069;

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Truth is an absolute defense to charge of defamation, says Christopher Juillet

Citizen Media Law Project has posted the EDF Ventures v. Ressi case, a defamation lawsuit regarding The Funded blog.

It appears that the lawsuit is in vain, since The Funded keeps no information about people who post on the site.

"The best rule for writers to follow is to avoid making posts if they can't back up their claims...Be right and be able to prove it because truth is an absolute defense."

Company files defamation lawsuit against anonymous Web poster
Posted by Tina Reed
The Ann Arbor News
August 21, 2008

After executives at an Ann Arbor venture capital firm discovered an anonymous, negative Internet posting about the company, they weren't just mad: They decided to sue.

In a court filing, EDF Ventures accused "John Doe" of defamation for implying in a comment posted on the Web that the people running the firm were dishonest. The comment was made on a California-based Web site called The Funded, which was created to allow entrepreneurs to rate investors anonymously...

Adeo Ressi, the Web site founder, said last week that he planned to cooperate with the subpoena and provide the records he has. But he said the information will likely be unhelpful because of the measures the site takes to make posters anonymous.

The Web site's policy tells visitors, who must be approved to sign up and comment, that all personal information is discarded after approval.

"It's the best thing that ever happened to The Funded," Ressi said. "This case will prove it is truly anonymous."...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Come back to fight the good fight, Jimmy Groth, Jimmy Groth

California Teachers Association's director from the San Diego area, Jim Groth, is missing in action. He seems to have quit writing his column for San Diego Education Association last May. Here's his last post.

Jim has, fortunately, left us with some wise words that we would do well to take to heart:

1. "Solutions used since 2001 will no longer work."

[I'm wondering if perhaps Jim took his own advice, and he's off trying to figure out a new approach to his job as a union official. The approach he came up with in 2001, and stuck with for the last seven-and-a-half years, has not worked particularly well.]

2. "Together we must educate the public about.. the need for leadership to find a better way."

[I'm 100% behind you on this one, Jim. I hope my website has helped let the public know that leadership--in Sacramento and Burlingame (headquarters of CTA)--has shortchanged the public in a catastrophic way, and needs to start looking for a better way. Have you made any progress, Jim?]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Miss Porter's school sued for bullying; will Daniel Shinoff and Jack Sleeth ride to the rescue?

See all posts about Miss Porter's School.

It seems that the Connecticut elite are in need of a resource that San Diego has in abundance: school lawyers who defend bullies. This case should fit in particularly well with Daniel Shinoff's and Jack Sleeth's talents since the targeted student has a disability.

Top Boarding School Sued Over Bullies
Associated Press AP
December 11, 2008

The bullying came at school dances and in class, on Facebook and back at the dorm by girls who called themselves "Oprichniki," a Russian attack squad notorious for torturing suspected enemies of a 16th-century czar.

The cruel clique at the exclusive Miss Porter's School allegedly harassed Tatum Bass for months, until two doctors advised her to take a break. That's when her tormentors put a "For Rent" sign on her bed and one of the nation's most selective, all-girls boarding schools threatened to expel her.

Bass and her parents responded with a federal lawsuit that offers a disturbing glimpse into life on the leafy campus in the affluent Hartford suburbs. To match tuition that can cost nearly $43,000, the school has an A-list of socialites, diplomats, artists and public servants among its graduates, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gloria Vanderbilt.

According to the lawsuit, Bass was on the honor roll, played sports and was elected by her peers to a top position in student government before her trouble began earlier this year. As activities director, she proposed holding the senior prom with other schools nearby.

Opposition to the idea ballooned, leading to bullying and taunts that Bass was "retarded" because she has attention-deficit disorder. Bass said in the suit that the girls turned on her, calling her "stupid" and peppering her with profanity and insults. She said she was bullied in front of hundreds of people at a school dance, in classes, around campus, in text messages and online on the Facebook social networking site.

"This was the first time that negative attention was drawn to her disability at (the school)," the lawsuit said. "Oprichniki members were at the forefront of taunting Tatum in class and advising others about her disability."...

Admit it, Katherine Nakamura: SDUSD is stuffed to the gills with jelly donuts

SDUSD trustee Katherine Nakamura

In San Diego Unified School District, the right people finally got a bite of the jelly donuts. The right people include former San Diego County teacher of the year Guillermo Gomez, who took one salary cut voluntarily to change districts and teach at a school he believed in, but was laid off by SDUSD at a time of budget crisis.

SDUSD trustee Katherine Nakamura was against rehiring 200 laid-off teachers. She said, "It's nice to rehire teachers, but we're facing a heart attack in the state of California. You don't eat a jelly donut in the middle of a heart attack, no matter how sweet it might be."

Oh, come on, Katherine. You've got jelly all over your face. Didn't you yourself recently vote to hire Mark Bresee as your general counsel, and to pay him more than the last general counsel? That was a very big and costly jelly donut, since Mark Bresee has never responded to allegations that he and Richard Werlin led Chula Vista Elementary School District into a series of violations of law, orchestrated a bizarre farce at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) that prolonged dysfunction at Castle Park Elementary School, and triggered costly litigation and increased insurance premiums. What was your thinking on that one, Katherine?

Voice of San Diego
Half a Year Later, Teacher Layoffs Are Canceled
by Emily Alpert

The San Diego Unified school board voted unanimously to cancel the teacher layoffs that were carried out this summer...

..."I believe this budget was balanced the wrong way last year. And what we are doing now, is we are correcting a mistake the board has made," Barrera said. "We're not doing it because it's nice, not because we want a jelly donut, but because it is fair."

[Exactly. I hope Mr. Barrera will continue to do what is fair. I hope he isn't doing this just because the California Teachers Association wants him to do it. He needs to be independent of CTA, which is as much a violator of the fairness rule as the district.]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The tort claim that SDCOE-JPA director Diane Crosier hid has vanished again

Diane Crosier, executive director of San Diego County Office of Education--Joint Powers Authority

I was working tonight on a new webpage containing my deposition testimony when I made a discovery. A tort claim has been removed from a page in my website. I believe that this disappearance probably happened several months ago, when many pages on my site were attacked, but I'm still discovering damage that was done then.

The damaged page is here. I have added a link on the page to a repaired copy of the page.

Lawsuit settled; website wins freedom of speech case

Since school attorney Daniel Shinoff is suing me for defamation, I am always interested in stories like this one:

Gentle Wind Project Permanently ‘Becalmed’ by Lawsuit Settlement
November 11, 2006

Marking a landmark victory for freedom of speech, former members of Gentle Wind Project (GWP), Jim Bergin and Judy Garvey, husband and wife from Blue Hill, ME, are pleased to announce that they have written the terms for a Settlement Agreement that was requested by John “Tubby” Miller and Mary “Moe” Miller (AKA Panuthos/Carreiro), co-founders of GWP... The agreement ends 2 ½ years of lawsuits against the couple.

In an about turn from the GWP leaders’ determined verbiage in 2004 that they would take their case “to the Supreme Court” to force removal of the couple’s Internet stories, the Settlement Agreement insures that Bergin and Garvey will continue to operate, without interference of any kind, their website Wind of Changes...

Though the couple now admits to the unwanted stress they endured, at times, during the long lawsuit process, they quickly decided after being sued by the group that they didn’t want to live the balance of their lives with the regret of giving in to censorship.

“We have no regrets about our 3-year defense to maintain our public interest website,” say Bergin and Garvey, “even though it has been a serious hardship financially, physically, and emotionally. We couldn't ever imagine that the Millers would put themselves, and their activities, up for public viewing in a courtroom; yet their collective belief system, and apparent outrage at us for writing our personal stories, kept them going forward, spending hundreds of thousands of their donor’s funds.”...

Friday, November 28, 2008

"I believe that the board in their wisdom will do the right thing."

When will educators learn how to talk about problems openly and honestly, and solve problems like professionals who care about kids, instead of continually fighting for power? This school sounds just like every school I ever taught at.

The departure of Patricia Ladd from Keileer Leadership Academy has left a void atop the celebrated school.
Voice of San Diego
Nov. 26, 2008

Years after Keiller Leadership Academy transformed into a charter school, the sea of change at the school was visible even from its front gates, where its director greeted students by name and waited for eye contact before letting them pass.

Executive Director Patricia Ladd, a self-described "white lady from Point Loma," shepherded the struggling southeast San Diego school to higher test scores and a calmer, scholastic culture marked by uniforms and a public list of grade point averages.

But this year Ladd was absent at the front gates after a dispute over budget cuts led to her departure...

That turbulence has recently overshadowed the successes at Keiller, one of the few middle schools in California to pull itself out of penalties under No Child Left Behind, a school that credits its achievements to the autonomy and freedom it gained by going charter...

Teachers say the trouble began with money, or the lack of it. Budget cuts this spring forced Ladd to freeze salaries and to cut one of its two assistant principals, Dominic Camacho, who fired off messages to the board and staff complaining about his removal, according to several staffers. Eighth graders protested the elimination of Camacho with a sit-in at the campus theater, some complaining that the only Latino administrator at the school had been laid off. Camacho could not be reached for comment.

Deborah Ryles, a former Keiller teacher who left the school along with Ladd, said Camacho accused Ladd of favoritism and referred to her as a "white lady" that couldn't understand the largely Latino and black families whose children go to Keiller.

"It became a big brouhaha," Ryles said, adding, "And the board started investigating Patty."

The Keiller board of directors spent much of June locked in closed meetings about personnel issues, meeting an unprecedented four times in a single month.

Board secretary Paula Cordeiro, dean of the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences, said she is not allowed to discuss whether Ladd was being investigated or why.

Ladd referred questions to her attorney, who could not be reached this week for comment. Ryles and other employees said the board ultimately offered Ladd a shorter-than-usual contract that only extended through the summer instead of the whole school year, leaving her at risk of dismissal in the fall when principals' jobs elsewhere had already been filled.

Instead, Ladd took an offer in July to return to San Diego Unified and lead Correia Middle School in Point Loma. The remaining assistant director, Joel Christman, took her place as interim executive director of Keiller. In August the board began searching for a new school director and eventually narrowed its selection to two candidates including Christman.

But the board was dissatisfied with its choices. It threw the search open again, demoted Christman back to assistant principal, and chose a retired San Diego Unified principal, Linda Rees, as the new interim director of the school.

...Its test scores ranked in the top 10 percent among demographically similar schools in California in 2007, though its scores dropped notably last year...

But uncertainty over who will lead the school and why the search was prolonged has bred distrust of the board among staffers, who do not feel they have influence over the school and its direction.

Keiller board members include

Cordeiro, an educational heavyweight who also serves on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the James Irvine Foundation board,

two University of San Diego professors,
the Chief Executive Officer of an educational technology company,
a school police officer,
an Urban League employment director,
two parents,
a teacher,
and an outside consultant.

Though there are only three Keiller board members directly affiliated with the University of San Diego, some teachers now link their aggravation with the board to the partnership between Keiller and the Linda Vista university, which is supposed to provide student teachers, counseling interns and student tutors to Keiller under an agreement first struck in 2004.

...Christman said the university has been instrumental in providing teacher training, bringing the resources of a respected educational school to Keiller to help staffers hone their skills, and Heredia praised the University of San Diego student who helped in his class last year.

Research, however, has become a bone of contention...One study surveys middle schoolers over a three-year period to track how Keiller has impacted their progress in school, a study Cordeiro said was requested by the school...

"The staff, to a certain extent, feels like they are guinea pigs," Christman said. "They are unclear as to how the research will help them, specifically, with their instruction in the classroom on a day-to-day basis."

...Cordeiro was surprised to hear that research had raised concerns. The researchers "are fabulous and welcomed by the school," she said. "They are not going to go into any classrooms and work with teachers if they don't want to work with them."

The rift between school staffers and the Keiller board echoes the rancor this spring at Memorial Academy of Learning and Technology, where the board and staffers split over whether to end the charter. Much like at Keiller, Memorial staffers complained that the board was dominated by representatives of an outside group that did not share their interests...

Unlike Memorial, however, the Keiller dispute has thus far remained within the schoolhouse gates, and the existence of the charter is not at stake. Few parents are aware of the controversy, teachers said. Nor has it consumed the entire school. Special education teacher Rush Glick said he just wants to focus on his teaching and leave the politics aside.

"I believe that the board in their wisdom will do the right thing," he said.

UPDATE FEB. 3, 2009

Keiller Teachers Change Mind on University Split
Voice of San Diego
February 3, 2009

Teachers at Keiller Leadership Academy have pulled their petition to cut the school's partnership with the University of San Diego.

The act marks a shift at the school, which enjoyed a remarkable and rare academic turnaround in its early years but underwent turmoil after the departure of its first director, Patricia Ladd. Staffers who were frustrated with the board actions that preceded Ladd leaving had complained that the university had too much sway on the board. University of San Diego provides academic guidance and resources to Keiller and has several members on its governing board.

Not all staffers agreed with the petition. Parent Involvement and Recruitment Director Eva Contreras was alarmed that the petition caused the university to stop sending teachers-in-training to assist at Keiller.

Several changes led the teachers to reconsider the petition, said Robert Ryles, a teacher and newly appointed board member. Ryles and another teacher, Jonathan Saenz, joined the governing board and board President Maurice Wilson met with teachers to discuss their concerns and explain why the board couldn't share more information about the circumstances of Ladd's departure, a personnel matter that was aired in closed session.

"Nobody liked the outcome but there was due process," Wilson said Monday night. He added, "They wanted to hear detailed facts that we really can't release."


San Diego High School classes of 1918, 1966

In high school in the 1960s (class of 1966), I sampled the water in this drinking fountain to find protozoans to examine in biology class. Unfortunately for me, my sample had a shortage of interesting one-celled creatures to look at, and our microscopes weren't strong enough to see bacteria.

Apparently SDHS students had a different problem in 1918. As you can see from the above photo of boys standing around the fountain, there was a surplus of tiny infective agents at San Diego High School in 1918. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the masks saved the lives of many people in San Diego during the worldwide flu epidemic.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Megan Meir bullying case: mom Lori Drew convicted of lesser offenses

Click HERE for update.

Update March 2009:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krause is prosecuting a Missouri mother charged in a MySpace hoax that allegedly led to a 13-year-old girl's suicide.


Jurors came to a different conclusion than AOL users, 81% of whom apparently wanted Lori Drew to be convicted of more serious charges.

I suspect that jurors were more aware of the facts of the case. Lori Drew tried to stop the hoax, and she didn't send the final, fatal message. Ashley Grills, the person who did send the "world would be better off without you" message, was given immunity by the court.

My question is: why hasn't this case resulted in action by schools to teach young people and adults better ways of handling conflict?

Schools are crucibles of bullying behavior by students, teachers and administrators; plenty of kids commit suicide because of bullying done in person, not over the Internet. Yet schools prefer to cover up bullying. Why?

First, because bullying is a big part of education culture.

Second, resistance to change is basic to education culture.

Third, because bullying is a constant source of revenue for insurance company lawyers. If bullying in schools ended, the lawyers would have less income, and the insurance companies (including joint powers authorities) would have to lower the premiums they charge schools.

My previous posts on Megan Meir are HERE.
Mom Guilty of Lesser Charges in Hoax
Nov. 27, 2008

A Missouri mother on trial in a landmark cyberbullying case was convicted Wednesday of only three minor offenses for her role in a mean-spirited Internet hoax that apparently drove a 13-year-old girl to suicide. The federal jury could not reach a verdict on the main charge against 49-year-old Lori Drew — conspiracy — and rejected three other felony counts of accessing computers without authorization to inflict emotional harm.

Instead, the panel found Drew guilty of three misdemeanor offenses of accessing computers without authorization. Each count is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Drew could have gotten 20 years if convicted of the four original charges.

A Missouri woman was convicted Wednesday of three lesser charges in an online hoax that apparently drove a 13-year-old girl to commit suicide. Lori Drew, 49, was accused of creating a fake profile on a social networking site in order to terrorize Megan Meier.

U.S. District Judge George Wu declared a mistrial on the conspiracy count. There was no immediate word on whether prosecutors would retry her...

Prosecutors said Drew wanted to humiliate Megan for saying mean things about Drew's teenage daughter. They said Drew knew Megan suffered from depression and was emotionally fragile...

Most members of the six-man, six-woman jury left court without speaking to reporters. One juror, who identified himself by his first name only, Marcilo, indicated jurors were not convinced Drew's actions involved the intent alleged by prosecutors.

"Some of the jurors just felt strongly that it wasn't tortious and everybody needed to stay with their feeling. That was really the balancing point," he said.

The case hinged on an unprecedented — and, some legal experts say, highly questionable — application of computer-fraud law.

Drew was not directly charged with causing Megan's death. Instead, prosecutors indicted her under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which in the past has been used in hacking and trademark theft cases.

Among other things, Drew was charged with conspiring to violate the fine print in MySpace's terms-of-service agreement, which prohibits the use of phony names and harassment of other MySpace members.

"This was a very aggressive, if not misguided, theory," said Matt Levine, a New York-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. "Unfortunately, there's not a law that covers every bad thing in the world. It's a bad idea to use laws that have very different purpose."

Drew's lawyer, Steward, contended his client had little to do with the content of the messages and was not at home when the final one was sent. Steward also argued that nobody reads the fine print on service agreements.

Prosecutors said Drew, her then-13-year-old daughter Sarah and Drew's 18-year-old business assistant Ashley Grills set up the phony MySpace profile for a boy named "Josh Evans," posting a photo of a bare-chested boy with tousled brown hair. "Josh" then told Megan she was "sexi" and assured her, "i love you so much."
Grills allegedly sent the final, insulting message to Megan before she killed herself in the St. Louis suburb of Dardenne Prairie, Mo.
Missouri authorities said there was no state law under which Drew could be charged. But federal prosecutors in California claimed jurisdiction because MySpace is based in Beverly Hills.
Sarah Drew testified she never saw her mother use the MySpace account. But Grills, testifying under immunity from prosecution, said she saw Drew type at least one message under the name Josh Evans.
After the suicide, Missouri passed a law against cyber-harassment. Similar federal legislation has been proposed on Capitol Hill.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Verizon internal affairs investigation re Obama snooping leads to firings

It turns out that Verizon is tough on employees who break the law. Compare this story to the Sheriff of Santa Barbara, who is protecting a deputy who criminally abused his snooping privileges, and a commander who covered up for the deputy.

Verizon fires workers who snooped on Obama cell records
ZD Net Government
by Richard Koman
November 23, 2008

Red-faced Verizon Wireless has fired an undisclosed number of employees who couldn’t resist the chance to peek into Barack Obama’s cellphone records, CNN reports.

It was an old, flip-top phone, not his famous BlackBerry, and the account had been inactive for months. No text messages or voicemail contents could have been accessed. The employees were satisfying “idle curiosity,” a source told CNN, and the employees were not authorized to access customer records.

Verizon said, in an internal memo, that it has launched an internal investigation into whether the records “of our customer had in any way been compromised outside our company, and this investigation continues.”

The company has also notified federal law enforcement agencies.

While this appears to be little more than a case of bad behavior, it does highlight again the issue of telecom spying –and sharing with the NSA – on customer data. Obama supported legislation giving telecom companies immunity from lawsuits for such transfers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Terry Grier says SUHSD principals not properly evaluated

I agree that school districts need to find a good way to evaluate principals. However, I suspect that the $250,000 the SDUSD board has authorized for this effort will be wasted on people who will simply look for ways to make it legal to continue making arbitrary personnel decisions. I used to have hope that Superintendent Terry Grier would be an agent of change, but his association with the Aspen Group International makes me think he's getting lazy and just wants his job to be easy.

Voice of San Diego
Seeking New Ways to Evaluate Principals
November 18, 2008

The San Diego Unified school board approved a proposal Tuesday night to hire an outside group to help craft evaluation criteria and procedures for school principals, despite complaints about its cost and objections from the principals association.

The proposal to craft new ways to evaluate principals gained more poignancy on the heels of a San Diego Unified report that found the district delinquent in evaluating its principals and administrators. Evaluating staffers has proved thorny in the past: San Diego Unified has twice fended off lawsuits in recent years about improper firings or evaluations of principals, said school board president Katherine Nakamura, who estimated that some administrators had not been evaluated in over a decade.

Superintendent Terry Grier attributed the problem to vague language in the school district agreement with principals that made it unclear how to evaluate principals without avoiding legal peril, and said those agreements need to be renegotiated. Grier said the $250,000 contract with a Colorado-based group would help solve the problem.

"In the long run, if you want us to hold principals accountable," Grier said, "... there has to be a different instrument."

Several stakeholders found the $250,000 contract objectionable in light of the budget crisis looming ahead for San Diego Unified. Administrators Association Executive Director Jeannie Steeg said that the amount was excessive, even though a new evaluation system was "desperately needed." Her comments were echoed by school board member Shelia Jackson, who called the proposal "irresponsible" and insulting to district staffers who Jackson believed could do the same work at a lesser expense...

[Blogger's note: District staffers clearly cannot do the job. Sadly, I don't think the people collecting $250,000 can do the job, either. What is needed is a change in culture.]

Monday, November 17, 2008

GCCCD still trying to silence teachers and students

San Diego Union Tribune
November 4, 2008
Academic freedom stolen?

A Cuyamaca College English instructor told police that someone entered his office
last week without his permission and removed an "Obama 08" sticker from his window.

Tim Pagaard brought attention to his sticker in late September when he claimed his academic freedom was threatened after college officials sent out a notice reminding employees not to post signs or stickers supporting or opposing political candidates on campus facilities. The sticker was in public view, near the entrance of the communication arts building.

Pagaard said he was told the district would not take action on the sticker until academic leaders could review the policies that it had invoked.

Pagaard, who teaches literature and rhetoric, said he noticed he sticker missing Thursday evening. There was no sign of a break in, he told police.

Pagaard said a colleague told him a few students had complained about the sticker a day earlier...

Bakersfield School District apologizes for assault on teacher's character

From the archives:

Bakersfield School Won't Discriminate
March 18, 1999

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund announced Thursday that client James Merrick had settled his sexual orientation discrimination case with a California school district.

As part of the agreement, the district will apologize for removing 15 students from the award-winning teacher's science classes and will strengthen district non- discrimination policy...

Lambda and the California Teachers Association (CTA) reached the settlement on behalf of Merrick, after the state Labor Commissioner ruled earlier this month that his Bakersfield school district discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation.

Officials at the Rio Bravo-Greeley Union School District removed 15 of more than 100 students from Merrick's eighth-grade science classes simply because some parents did not want their children in a gay teacher's class. Merrick is a recent recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award from the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce...

"Faced with a devastating assault on his character, he had the courage to seek justice. The result was a historic case that creates good law for all of us," said Lambda Staff Attorney Myron Dean Quon...

In addition, as part of the settlement, the district will not appeal the Labor Commissioner's decision," said CTA Staff Counsel Scott McVarish...

[Blogger's note: See also Scott McVarish and Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB)]

In the settlement, approved unanimously by the school district's five-member Board of Trustees, the school district agreed it would not remove students from any class for reasons relating to "the ethnicity, race, national origin, age, sex, actual or perceived sexual orientation, disability, or political or religious beliefs of the classroom teachers."

... "The Board will, in writing, express support for Dr. Merrick as a teacher and regret comments and actions by some members of the public and staff that may have called into question his fitness to teach," the settlement said...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sheriff Bill Brown, won't you please ask Commander Sam Gross to cough up these records?

Photo Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara

Eleven days ago, I talked to Commander Sam Gross of the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department, on November 3, 2008. He said he would accept mail service of
my subpoena for documents, but added "that doesn't mean that we'll honor the subpoena."

No, apparently not.

And it turns out that the Santa Barbara sheriff is also pretending that it didn't receive the subpoena. Today I was told that Sam Gross is not available, and the records supervisor is not available, and nobody knows when the records supervisor will be available, and the supervisor does not have an assistant who could answer the simple question: "Did you receive the subpoena?"

I was told to fax the subpoena, but the fax wouldn't go through.

I'm starting to get the feeling that the Sheriff of Santa Barbara doesn't want me to have these documents. Hmmm. Is it possible that this is the reason he wants to keep those documents hidden?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Racism in America

I can't say I'm shocked to hear the following. Racism is alive and well in America, and too many educators don't know how to teach kids how to think and talk rationally.

Schools not allowing students to mention Obama
Nov 8, 2008

PUCKETT, MS (WLBT) - More complaints from parents who say school officials will not allow students to talk about President-Elect Barack Obama.

Melissa Hayes says teachers at Puckett Attendance Center told her daughters they could not talk about Obama in class or in the hallways.

Her daughters, 15 and 18, told Hayes the principal says students can only mention Obama in history class Hayes says she called the school district to find out why, but did not receive any answers.

WLBT was unable to reach a school official this afternoon.


Obama is a bad word at some Mississippi schools
by Sandy Maple
AOL Living: parent dish
Nov 9th 2008

...The ACLU has received complaints from students and parents in that state claiming they are being told not to say Barack Obama's name or wear shirts or other items expressing their support for the President-Elect. At Pearl Junior High School, two students were kicked off the bus for daring to utter Obama's name. Players for the girls' basketball team were told they would be suspended if they spoke Obama's name. And at Puckett Attendance Center, two students were informed that Barack Obama was only to be discussed in history class, not in other classes or in the halls.

Stupid things banned by schools
(click thumbnails to view gallery)

Why would these so-called authority figures want to silence conversations about our soon-to-be president? I am going to resist the urge to speculate on that. Let me just quote, in part, from a memorandum sent to high school teachers in Magee, Mississippi: "Seeing history in the making and being a part of that process is a wonderful thing. Many of you are excited because of this. Others are not. It is absolutely critical that we not use this election as a divisive event."

Because haven't we had enough divisiveness?

Inspiring but arbitrary Capistrano teacher settles

August 08, 1999
Fired Teacher Settles Case With O.C. District
By Karen Alexander
August 08, 1999

Former Capistrano Valley High School teacher Paul Pflueger, who was fighting his dismissal for controversial teaching methods, has agreed to take early retirement because he said he could not afford to continue his legal battle against the school district.

Pflueger, 55, was fired by the Capistrano Unified school board in February on the grounds of unsatisfactory performance and has been on administrative leave while his appeal was pending.

Although there were frequent complaints about his unorthodox teaching methods and sometimes abrasive approach, Pflueger’s case drew testimonials and letters of support from hundreds of current and former students and parents.

He had vowed to fight the dismissal. But the 18-year history teacher entered a settlement with the school district on July 30 after he learned that the teachers union wanted him to begin paying a portion of his legal bills. The union had been covering most of Pflueger’s expenses until that time.

“I would like this thing to have gone a long way so we could prove to the parents and students who have supported me that they can’t get rid of a teacher just because [of] a few unorthodox methods,” Pflueger said.

A hearing before an administrative law judge was scheduled to begin at the end of this month and could have lasted several months, Pflueger said.

The state’s largest teachers union, the California Teachers Assn., has spent $46,000 on Pflueger’s case, according to Chris Kirkland, executive director of the union’s local affiliate, the Capistrano Unified Education Assn.

School board members voted 6 to 1 to remove Pflueger after an emotional meeting attended by about 300 people. Scores of parents and students spoke in his defense. Capistrano Valley High School administrators had leveled 42 charges against the teacher, claiming he taught inconsistently, used offensive language, graded arbitrarily and failed to comply with suggested improvements.

Pflueger’s defenders portrayed him as a caring and dedicated teacher who inspired students and challenged them to think for themselves. His rough manner was a valuable part of his teaching approach, some argued.

Under the terms of the settlement, Pflueger will remain on administrative leave until next June. He will be entitled to the same medical benefits as any retiree, according to the school district’s lawyer, David Larsen.

Pflueger said the district offered him another teaching position in its continuation home school programs, which he rejected.

After Pflueger was dismissed, he rented a room at his own expense and offered students a free lesson to help them prepare for their advanced placement exam in U.S. history, his former subject.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Accelerated Charter School Sued by Former Teacher

Click here for all blog posts about Accelerated Schools.

Former teacher accuses officials of improperly using state construction funds

By Joel Rubin and Evelyn Larrubia,
LA Times
February 24, 2007

Seven years ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District joined with a charter school to build a sparkling new campus in South Los Angeles. The deal, using public funds and private donations, was hailed as an ideal partnership.

But that transaction is coming under scrutiny. Several individuals from the Accelerated School and the school district were named in a lawsuit this week alleging improper use of state school construction funds.

Among those named in the suit is Accelerated's co-director, Johnathan Williams, who is running for a seat on the district's seven-member school board.

Neither Williams nor his campaign staff had seen the lawsuit, but campaign consultant Ace Smith called the litigation "a shameless political attempt to try to denigrate the fantastic work that's been done by the Accelerated School in South Los Angeles."

Williams could not be reached for comment. But Kevin Sved, who directs and founded the school with Williams, defended the deal to build the school. He had not read the lawsuit, but said lawyers for the school and district had carefully vetted the project at the time.

"The result," Sved said, is a school "providing free, quality education in an underserved section of Los Angeles."

The lawsuit was filed by Dennis Dockstader in Los Angeles Superior Court last summer but kept under seal until late last week. Dockstader, a whistleblower and former teacher, has made at least two similar, unsuccessful allegations against the school district, according to Michelle Meghrouni, a senior district lawyer.

Dockstader brushed aside allegations that the suit was politically motivated, noting that it was originally filed months before Williams declared his intention to seek office.

Dockstader would not further discuss the suit — or the other false claims actions he has filed previously.

False-claim suits seek the return of government funds from a person or entity that improperly used or obtained them. If successful, Dockstader and his legal team would be entitled to 25% to 50% of the recouped money, said attorney Mark Allen Kleiman, a false-claims specialist not involved in this case.

Such suits are filed under seal until the attorney general decides whether to dismiss, participate in or stand aside during the litigation. In this case, state prosecutors chose to let the suit proceed without their active involvement.

The lawsuit alleges that the land and construction contract violated numerous state rules and bidding requirements and seeks the return of all state money applied to the project, estimated in court documents at more than $12.5 million. Dockstader charges in the suit that, among other things, the school project was designed to bilk the state out of $2.8 million it paid the district to help defray the costs of the campus land.

According to the lawsuit and Los Angeles Unified documents, the district and Accelerated pursued and then abandoned the idea of Accelerated donating the land to the district. (The land had originally been given to Accelerated by the previous owner.) The district instead bought the nearly four-acre site at South Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The move qualified the district for the additional state funds, which were used to help build the modern campus. The suit argues that the state was defrauded of money for which the school district and Accelerated had no legitimate claim.

Williams was not named in the original complaint, which targeted only L.A. Unified, the Accelerated School and the Cal State Los Angeles Foundation, which held the title to Accelerated's land. But a recent state Supreme Court ruling barred litigation against government agencies, so attorneys working with Dockstader amended the list of defendants this week to drop L.A. Unified and add specific individuals, including Williams, his partner Sved and Jim McConnell, the former head of construction for L.A. Unified. McConnell declined to comment on the lawsuit.

When the construction collaboration was conceived, L.A. Unified desperately needed to relieve overcrowding and was eligible for millions in state school construction funds. Accelerated, for its part, had a ready plan for a new, larger campus, but was short on capital.

Ultimately, the project cost more than $50 million, said Eric Johnson, the president of Accelerated's board of trustees. He estimated that about $21 million came from state and district funds and $18.6 million from Accelerated's own fundraising. In addition, L.A. Unified lent $9.9 million to Accelerated, and the nearly $6 million paid for the land deal was also used to build the new campus.

Johnson said it was clear practically from the start that the best idea was to sell the district the land, then pump that money back into the project.

"Someone may have suggested that the land be donated, but clearly that's not the smart way to do it," he said.

The state will only pay so much for construction costs, based on how many pupils the school will serve, he explained. But it will pay for half of the district's land acquisition costs on top of that.

"Part of their job is to get as much bond money as possible," Johnson said Friday. "I think the school district would have been clearly remiss to structure it any other way."

Separate from the lawsuit, Accelerated has fallen behind on repaying the loan from the district. (It made its first payment in more than a year in December.) With more than $9 million still unpaid and the loan due in summer 2009, school district officials have said they are negotiating an extension for the balance of Accelerated's debt. They also emphasized that the terms of the loan do not impose any penalties on Accelerated for late payments.

In previous interviews, Williams has characterized attention to the loan issue as politically motivated.

Williams, 40, is running a well-funded campaign to unseat Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the one-term incumbent who represents District 1 of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The school he co-founded was once named Time magazine's elementary school of the year. Accelerated's state-of-the-art campus opened formally in April 2005 and serves about 1,200 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Charter schools are publicly financed but, in exchange for boosting student achievement, are free from many of the restrictions imposed on traditional schools.

State officials had no immediate response on whether they were fully notified about the land transaction or what difference that could have made.

"The Office of Public School Construction takes the allegations very seriously," said Rob Cook, a deputy director for the California Department of General Services, which supervises the construction agency. He said agency staff "will take a close look at this matter."

The story below is more proof that TAS was having problems even before Patrick Judd arrived.

Jim Kouri
Vice President of the National Association of Chiefs of Police
Wednesday, March 30, 2005

...Accelerated School, Los Angeles: On August 17, 2004, Corey Lay pleaded no contest to possession of child pornography charges in county court. The 36-year-old man formerly served as a fourth-grade teacher at the Accelerated School in Los Angeles. ICE agents executed a search warrant at Lay’s home in December 2003 and discovered child pornography on one of his computers. Lay is now a registered sex offender...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Intelligent Community

I came across a new organization, The Intelligent Community. It's offering free access to research:

"Our company, Intelligent Communities, Inc., is rolling out a program known as The Intelligent Community Initiative. One of the main components of this program is an online educational arm known as The School for the Intelligent Community. The methodology of the school is radically different from the education of the past. For one thing, tuition is free. For another, all education is taught in a real-world context through projects with community nonprofits and businesses. And all curriculum is authored by the students themselves."

The organization is connected to Operation Energy Transition. At first I was suspicious that it might be funded by T. Boone Pickens, but it's clearly not. It argues against switching from one unrenewable, largely imported, energy source (oil) to another (natural gas). I agree with them on that, since we would soon be importing natural gas if we switched, and T. Boone Pickens would be right there to sell it to us.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mary Kay Rosinski wins in Grossmont Cuyamaca Community College District

NOVEMBER 5, 2008

I think I made a mistake regarding Mary Kay Rosinski.

Mary Kay Rosinski has unseated Grossmont Cuyamaca Community College District trustee Tim Caruthers. Actually, she unseated the least harmful board member. For the past couple years, Tim Caruthers actually was the "minority trustee," often a lone dissenting vote against bad decisions, and even held a public meeting against crooked chancellor Suarez and his supporters (in Feb. 2007, if I remember correctly). The worst ones - Weeks, Alexander, and Garrett - unfortunately will remain.

Why did Rosinski run against Caruthers and not against Bill Garrett? Probably because she knew that the powers that be would be willing to let him be taken down. Rosinski replaced a voice of the community with the voice of the California Teachers Association. I have a feeling that I made a mistake when I supported Rosinski. Perhaps she is willing to work with the corrupt board as long as they share some power with California Teachers Association. Perhaps the real target is the faculty unions that are independent of CTA.

I doubt that Ms. Rosinski will challenge the corrupt attorneys at Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holtz as she implied she would. She has helped them before to commit illegal actions against employees, so she may help them again. Even though she doesn't choose to speak out against illegal actions (see below), at least there will be more of a balance of power between the faculty and the board.

Precincts Reporting: 100.0%
MARY KAY ROSINSKI - 68.37% (79828)
TIMOTHY L. CARUTHERS - 31.63% (36923)

Sadly, the president of what is widely considered to be a deeply corrupt board has retained his seat:

Precincts Reporting: 100.0%
BILL GARRETT - 81.40% (90872)
MOE BAKEER - 18.60% (20769)

Rosinski herself, ironically, has worked with these very same corrupt lawyers. So she probably won't insist that Stutz law firm be fired as GCCCD's lawyers. But she is likely to be more employee-friendly, and work for a better relationship between employees and the board.

Mary Kay Rosinski's experience:

1. Teacher, National School District, 27 years
2. President, National City Teachers Assoc., 2 terms
3. SD County Service Center Council Officer, 6 years

[#4 above is the position from which Rosinski helped GCCCD's current lawyers, Stutz, Artiano Shinoff and Holtz, cover up illegal actions at Chula Vista Elementary School District during the period of June 2000 to June 2006. Rosinski was the boss of SCTU executive director Tim O'Neill, who directed Chula Vista Educators' illegal actions in this case.)

Here we go again in Grossmont Union High School District

See all Jim Kelly posts.
See all Grossmont Union High School District posts.

Will the extremely aggressive trustee Jim Kelly (above) go back to trying to keep board member Priscilla Schreiber (below) from visiting schools?

The extreme right Christian wing is in charge again in GUHSD.

That's saying a lot in these parts, since our left wing has consisted of conservative Republican Christians. Conservatives Priscilla Schreiber and Larry Urdahl and the more moderate Republican Dick Hoy have been in control for a couple of years. Heaven help us now that the even more extreme Gary Woods will be replacing Larry Urdahl.

Precincts Reporting: 100.0%
GARY WOODS - 26.95%
MEG JEDYNAK - 18.65%
LARRY D. URDAHL - 19.07%

Russell Coronado beats Patrick Judd in CVESD, but Judd's pal Bertha Lopez wins in SUHSD

UPDATE: Voters will be the ones losing this election if the CVESD board decides to appoint an insider instead of allowing Archie McAllister, the highest runner-up in the voting, to take the seat of Bertha Lopez, who will be taking a seat in the Sweetwater School District.

Original post:

Russell Coronado brings a breath of fresh air to Chula Vista Elementary School District



Patrick Judd failed to keep his board seat in Chula Vista Elementary School District in spite of the efforts of Aurora Murillo-Clark to split the vote.

Clearly, voters had had enough of Mr. Judd, who was recently forced out of his job as superintendent of Mountain Empire Unified School District due to sexual harassment charges.

Precincts Reporting: 100.0%


Spoiler Norberto Salazar, however, was successful in splitting the vote for seat 2. Salazar, who can't seem to open his mouth without praising former San Diego police chief David Bejarano, managed to get his idol elected for the first time. Bejarano got his position on the board through appointment.

The real opposition candidate, ARCHIE MC ALLISTER, did very well. Let's hope he runs again in two years.

Precincts Reporting: 100.0%



Patrick Judd's obedient servant Bertha Lopez, however, will apparently carry his torch to Sweetwater Union High School District. This will give Bertha Lopez' cronies on the CVESD board the opportunity to appoint her replacement, instead of allowing the voters to choose. Obviously, the voters' top choice is ARCHIE MC ALLISTER. The board should either appoint Mr. Mc Allister or hold a new election.

Precincts Reporting: 100.0%
BERTHA J. LOPEZ - 42.99%



Pearl Quinones kept her SUHSD seat, as expected.

Precincts Reporting: 100.0%

Monday, November 03, 2008

Is CTA's Jim Groth confused about the meaning of the word "people"?

I'm against Proposition 8, just like Jim Groth, one of the directors of California Teachers Association.

I agree with his statement: "It´s about taking away the fundamental rights of people and treating them differently under the law."

But Jim Groth himself doesn't practice what he preaches.

If anyone gets in the way of his political ambitions, neither their fundamental rights nor the laws of the land are of much importance to Mr. Groth. I saw his attitude close up when he was a sixth grade teacher in Chula Vista Elementary School District, then CVE President.

He's not a sixth grade teacher now. Still, I can understand why described himself as such when he spoke to the California Chronicle (see link below). Revealing himself as a CTA official wouldn't work too well when posing as a "man on the street."

California Chronicle
Educators Condemn New Prop 8 Ad
Education Desk
November 02, 2008

..."Prop 8 is not about field trips, added Jim Groth, a sixth grade teacher in San Diego.

"It´s about taking away the fundamental rights of people and treating them differently under the law."...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Another reason to vote for Russell Coronado: Patrick Judd's been showing signs of moving to another state

Update: Russell Coronado unseated Patrick Judd in the November 2008

Rumor has it that Patrick Judd is looking for a state job in North Carolina.

I guess Judd's not planning on cleaning up the messes he's made in Chula Vista Elementary School District, San Diego County Office of Education, Mountain Empire Unified School District, and the Accelerated Charter School in Los Angeles.

The decent thing would be for Judd to announce that he's planning to leave Chula Vista.


One suspects that he wants to win the election, then resign, preventing the voters of Chula Vista from choosing his successor. His pals on the CVESD board would instead appoint his replacement.

Court of Appeal says GCCCD defrauded David Agosto

Looking for Kristin Rossum "American Beauty" case? Click HERE.

Click here for lawsuit against Keenan & Associates et al. Also, see San Francisco School District v. Keenan & Associates.

The California Court of Appeal has ruled against Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College and in favor of David Agosto, who appealed the dismissal of his case by Judge Joan Lewis in San Diego Superior court.

Never one to accept a loss, Jack Sleeth says David Agosoto "owes us money."

Ironically, when the case went back to Superior Court after the above decision, Agosto was awarded back pay but denied reinstatement. If the District had filed appropriate papers the District would not have had to pony-up Agosto's back pay. It turns out that if there is no order for reinstatement, there should be no order for back pay.

The Court of Appeal said (in a separate decision from the one above):

"Nevertheless, because District did not file a cross-appeal challenging the trial court's writ of mandate directing District to pay Agosto back pay (for the period of July through November 2006), District cannot now challenge the trial court's error in awarding him back pay..."

Agosto made mistakes, too. Agosto's petition for writ of mandate was denied because he should have filed a complaint for damages instead.

By Chris Reed
San Diego Union-Tribune (blog)
July 30, 2008

I've badmouthed the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District for years for its power plays, contempt for ethical standards and atttempts to whitewash scandal. Now I have fresh evidence that district constituents should be ashamed of the people they've elected as leaders. In comes in the form of a sharply worded decision issued yesterday in which an appeals court reversed a Superior Court judge's decision to throw out a lawsuit in which a fired top official at Grossmont-Cuyamaca charges he was denied due process and essentially forced out with a legal dirty trick. The ruling remands the lawsuit back to the lower court and orders its reconsideration. David Jay Agosto was hired in 1995 as executive dean of community services at Cuyamaca College and went on to serve in a variety of big jobs. But in February 2006, while Agosto was on medical leave to cope with kidney disease, he was fired by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca board of directors in a closed-session meeting.

Agosto challenged this ruling, saying his original 1995 contract made him the beneficiary of job protections which required the board to give him notice of at least six months before the expiration of his contract. Here's where the dirty trick comes in: The argument that the GCCCD's lawyers used to persuade Superior Court Judge Joan M. Lewis to throw out Agosto's lawsuit was that the original 1995 contract had never taken legal effect because it was -- for reasons unknown -- never signed by the district's chancellor. It was kept on file, just never signed.

The district argued that contract was invalid under the "statute of frauds" -- a legal provision which requires hard, documented evidence of contracts that last more than a year to ensure that they are not fraudulently redefined at some later date by the employer or employee.

[Maura Larkins note: This is exactly what Chancellor Omero Suarez did: he ordered his contract changed without approval from the board.]

What a joke. The district operated for more than a decade as if the contract were in effect, then, when convenient, declared it null and void. The appeals court figured out this stunk to the high heavens even if Judge Lewis couldn't. Here's a sign of its disgust:The statute of frauds exists to prevent the commission of fraud, not to facilitate fraud.You follow? Judge James A. McIntyre is saying the fraud that's going on here is on the district's part! Wow. He's absolutely right.Now get ready for the members of the district board to blame its lawyers. It's what they do. Lots of rotten stuff happens on their watch, sure. But, you see, it's never their fault.Read the appellate decision here. The passage I cited is on page 5..