Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Question: What kind of relationship does SDCOE-JPA have with Bonnie Dumanis?

Answer: A much too close relationship.

(See all Bonnie Dumanis posts HERE.)

Why did San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' Miracosta College investigation result in felony charges for $305 of water used to irrigate palm trees, but not even a whisper about the $3 million in tax dollars that was channeled to Victoria Richart and her SDCOE-connected lawyers? Did they commit extortion? Did they use their public trust for personal gain?

Why does Bonnie ignore wrongdoing by school board members? It seems to be a mutual back-scratching arrangement.

The ad above ran on SDCOE's website during Bonnie Dumanis' first campaign for District Attorney.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trusted occupations: teachers are never abusive to students

Photo: Jade Ray

Here's a photo
of Heather Hargett.

A recent San Diego Union Tribune article about a high school girl who is suing a teacher for kicking her and telling her to leave the room because she was too ugly to deliver singing telegrams on Valentine's Day brought on an onslaught of comments from people defending the teacher.

I believe that many teachers need a more positive attitude toward children in general. Just because a teacher has a few teacher's pets isn't good enough. Every child should be treated with respect.

Here are some snippets of the pro-teacher comments that were posted regarding Leonel Sanchez' story about teacher Heather Hargett and student Jade Ray of Grossmont Union High School District. The consensus of these people seems to be that there are no abusive teachers, because if there were the school would have done something about it:

"With 50 witnesses and 5 months passed, I have to suspect this would have come out a long time ago if the story was as outrageous as the student is claiming..."

"The story seems pretty un-believable really. It will be interesting for sure when the facts really come out. With so many eye witnesses, I can hardly believe that the child would dare make something up but who knows in this day and age..."

"...So she was embarrassed, so what- who is high school wasnt?"

"...The girl suing should be counter sued and if she is givin money, it should only go to fix her "ugly" attribute..."

"Freddieboy, if that were my WIFE on the receiving end of a false complaint that could ruin her career, that kid AND her parent(s) would be getting a lot more than a lawsuit."

[Note from Blogger: Don't worry. If schools fired teachers for being hostile and disrespectful, there would be a teacher-shortage of huge proportions. That won't happen.]

On the other hand, two people supported the student:

"I had a high school physics teacher who always singled me out to embarrass me in front of the class... I finally walked out when one time he said, "gosh, your parents must be really ashamed."... I hope the kid wins."

"The teacher should have been Fired and the School Board should've addressed the situation with her parents promptly to ensure she went back to that school. This is a story of just a poor educational system."

[Blogger's note: I think ALL teachers need to be supported more--and challenged more--to help them behave maturely in the classroom. I know there are lots of teachers who are more abusive than this one. This situation sounds familiar to me; a lot of teachers get socialized into girl-clique attitudes. The cliques form on teaching staffs and even in classrooms. This sounds like a typical "mean girls" moment. I'll bet there were sycophant students who laughed with glee when the girl was (literally) kicked out.

Maura's advice to Heather Hargett: We've come a long way in race relations, but there's plenty of sensitivity and actual racism today, so it might be a good idea not to call your black students "ugly". You're in a particularly bad position, being blond and attractive. It's not a big stretch for us to imagine that you really do believe that you're prettier than Jade. Just for the record, you're not.]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

SDUSD lawyer Jose Gonzales told Frances O'Neill Zimmerman exactly what she wanted to hear

Voice of San Diego published a thoughtful letter from Sally Smith of Serra Mesa on July 18, 2008.

Smith wrote: "San Diego Unified School District legal counsel Jose Gonzales must have been in a hurry to start his vacation when he advised the Board of Education trustees about meeting in a closed door session about Luis Acle..."

Smith was obviously going easy on Mr. Gonzales. But that wasn't good enough for former SDUSD board member Frances O'Neill Zimmerman.

Zimmerman wrote in the letter's comments section: "Jose Gonzales has been a lawyer for the San Diego Unified School District for many years, knows school law and policy inside out and always honors the truth. If he tells you something, you can believe it. If perchance he is wrong, he will tell you so. So much for the excellent reputation of Jose Gonzales. .."

So much for the credibility of Frances O'Neill Zimmerman.

Is it possible that she actually doesn't know that school attorneys are paid to tell board members what they want to hear?

I don't think so.

After reading the rest of Frances O. Zimmerman's comments in the same letter, it becomes clear that even after the recent avalanche of news about coaches and teachers abusing students, FOZ believes coaches should be allowed to conduct "closed" practices.

I agree with many of Zimmerman's opinions, but she is so deeply ensconced in the power structures of both the school district and California Teachers Association that she apparently believes that preserving the power structure comes first, and kids come second.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To Randi Weingarten, (soon-to-be) AFT president, from Karen Horwitz

Ms. Weingarten:

What due process? Anyone who even suggests we are being heard is being dishonest. Read my book White Chalk Crime: The REAL Reason Schools Fail.

It is time the union people lined up with the teachers rather than those holding all the power and stopped pretending there is due process. It does not exist...

Union people, including the NEA, need to start expanding their vision beyond staying in business...It is time the unions began leading, not following the special interests of the powerful departments of education and public officials that are stuck in a materialistic vision, driving our country into moral bankruptcy...

Karen Horwitz
(Author of White Chalk Crime)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The most trusted occupation? Another doctor turns to the dark side.

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has finally been arrested.

In a switch reminiscent of Mengele, Serbian psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic became a master of genocide. Perhaps it goes to show that people without morality can become members of any trusted occupation. We in the US have already learned that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church was willing to protect child abusers. Now we learn that the Serbian Orthodox Church helped to hide an ethnic cleanser.

On July 7, 2008 a new coalition government was formed in Serbia, which has apparently decided that entry into the European Union is more important than nationalism, and that it was time to cooperate with European anti-genocide efforts.

New York Times
July 22, 2008

"He grew long white hair and a flowing white beard, and, as Dragan Dabic, the former psychiatrist worked for years in a clinic in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, as a practitioner of alternative medicine...

"But on Monday his false identity was broken, his mask pulled away, and secret police officers arrested Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted war criminals for his part in the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995.

"He had been sought by international prosecutors since he vanished from view in 1996.

"All along, he was said to have eluded arrest by disguising himself as a Serbian Orthodox priest and by hiding out in caves in the mountains of eastern Bosnia and in monasteries."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sure sign of trouble: Sandy Lopez brought a lawyer to San Ysidro board meetings

San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul

I know little about San Ysidro school board president Sandy Lopez (the sum total of my knowledge is contained in the San Diego Union Tribune story excerpted below), but I am already confident that the San Ysidro school board made the right decision when it worked to remove her.

Why am I so confident? Because Lopez started using an education attorney to get what she wanted. The minute a school official brings in a school lawyer to influence decisions, I immediately start to worry that someone is trying to push a dishonest agenda.

Lopez' long meetings (a recent meeting lasted until 1:30 a.m.) were abusive to other board members, and also, I suspect, a way to channel dollars to the lawyer to get him to do something he might not do otherwise.

Also, I am disgusted by Lopez' bizarre and contemptible allegation against the Superintendent.

Here's a part of the SDUT article by Chris Moran:

Board member Paul Randolph said he asked that her removal be put on the agenda because of Lopez's strained relationship with Superintendent Manuel Paul.

Lopez has insisted on having an attorney present when meeting with Paul to establish the agenda for board meetings. Lopez said she fears for her safety because Paul has mentioned several times that he is proficient in martial arts.

Paul taught karate at San Ysidro Middle School in the late 1970s, or as he said in an interview Thursday, “about 50 pounds ago.” He said he has never mentioned martial arts to Lopez.

The meeting to establish the agenda has typically taken 30 minutes, Paul said. In each of the past two months it has taken three hours, he said, at $200 an hour for the attorney.

Some small cases have exposed some big corruption in San Diego schools

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Terry Francke says Katherine Nakamura needs to obey the Brown Act

The SDUSD board doesn't like to appear as if it doesn't care about ethics. So it turns to its lawyers to point the way toward creating an image of upstanding behavior. And the lawyers are only too happy to talk anytime the board wants.

President Katherine Nakamura apparently doesn't want Luis Acle's election ethics violations to tarnish her own reputation. She turned to the board's lawyer, Jose Gonsales. I know that many school attorneys believe that their job is to help cover up for their clients. I don't know Mr. Gonsales, however. It appears that he's an expert at getting away with violating the Brown Act.

Here's the story from Voice of San Diego:
"President Katherine Nakamura said trustee Luis Acle's fine from the city Ethics Commission would be discussed by the board with its legal counsel in a closed meeting Monday.

"Terry Francke, general counsel for the open government advocates Californians Aware, said that it the school board's plan to discuss Acle behind closed doors "doesn't sound like it fits any of the lawful closed sessions listed in the Brown Act," which sets forth rules for public meetings.

"'There's no litigation involving the school district as a party that is either ongoing or threatened,' he said. If Acle faces litigation, 'that's a personal liability, not one of the district.'

"And Acle's future isn't a personnel matter, he said...Acle's ethics violations stem from an unsuccessful City Council run, not his campaign for school board."

Thursday, July 17 -- 7:38 pm

Terry Grier gets an "A" for coming up with the idea of higher pay for harder jobs

Emily Alpert at Voice of San Diego reports that SDUSD superintendent Terry Grier is a proponent of an idea that I have supported for a long time: pay more to teachers at less-desirable schools in order to attract better, more experienced teachers."...Grier's plans included a controversial move to use a county-paid supplement to teacher salaries to pay bonuses for teachers in "hard-to-staff" schools, Jewell said. He was overruled.

"'The teachers were up in arms," [North Carolina union leader Mark] Jewell said. "We viewed it as a tax on the teachers.'..."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Some people don't know when to quit fighting

It's hard to figure out some people. They seem to be intelligent, but then they act as if they don't have a grasp on reality. Why didn't Luis Acle show some remorse, apologize, and settle this case (see article below)?

Did he fool himself about his wrongdoing, or was he just convinced he could fool other people? I suspect that a combination of delusion and dishonesty caused him to act the way he did. After 34 years of dealing with people in the field of education, I've found that this combination is less rare than one might wish.

Scott Lewis of Voice of San Diego discusses the Ethics Commission fine against SDUSD trustee Luis Acle:

...he had the chance to cooperate with their investigation and maybe work something out like so many other politicos in town. Instead, he fought...

He took the Ethics Commission to its first ever full administrative hearing...

Acle must have argued worse than he did when he faced the IRS -- his fine, the paper reported, came to more than $75,000.

...He was found to have not only failed to pay contracted workers on his campaign, the commission found him to have hidden expenses and collected donations in cash. These are direct efforts to hide information from voters...

Unfortunately for him, he armed himself with very little evidence...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Manhattan Beach USD superintendent and board member charged with misappropriating funds

Steve Cooley, Los Angeles District Attorney

Thank you to the person who left the comment on the previous post about the good job the Los Angeles County District Attorney is doing at upholding the rule of law in public schools.

This is something we need in San Diego, but it won't happen until our district attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, is replaced.

Here is the story the commenter brought to my attention regarding the Los Angeles Public Integrity Unit:

TORRANCE – The former superintendent of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District pleaded guilty today to misappropriating public funds for personal expenses.

Gerald Frederick Davis, 58, who retired from the district in 2003 and now lives in Florida, was fined the maximum of $10,000 by Torrance Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Sokolov...

Deputy District Attorney Juliet Schmidt of the Public Integrity Division said the judge also ordered Davis to repay more than $6,000...

Davis pleaded guilty as charged to one felony count of appropriation of public money without authority of law (Section 424(a)(1) of the California Penal Code)...

In cases filed last week, Schmidt also charged former Manhattan Beach school board member Mary Agnes Rogers, 63, with one count of misappropriating public funds...

What is the benefit of bilingual education?

In my experience, first-grade students who don't speak English can learn basic English rapidly, and can learn to read basic English just as rapidly.

But soon they hit a wall.

They can't keep up with instruction because they don't have the advanced vocabulary that native English speakers have developed at home. The English learners don't understand the concepts that are being taught, and don't gain the thinking skills they need.

I believe these skills need to be taught in Spanish while the students are learning English vocabulary and grammar. Kids will naturally be able to use their thinking skills in any language, and will catch up to grade level in English as long as their instruction is of a consistently good quality.

Children learn languages rapidly; they seem to be hard-wired for grammar and vocabulary acquisition. Unfortunately, the same is not true for more complex thinking skills. One of the unfortunate characteristics of poor families of any color is that adults tend to talk less to their children. Teachers need to teach kids to think, but it doesn't do much good to talk to kids in a language they don't understand.

Why not get kids to operate on a higher level in the language they understand at the same time that kids are acquiring a second language? It takes more than the ability to speak English to get a good job; people who speak only English end up as ditch-diggers, too.

Why don't Hispanic immigrants assimilate the way other immigrant groups did? A few years back I was distressed to read that many second and third generation Hispanic immigrants are less successful in school than their parents were. I think this is a result of our failure to teach higher-level skills to the first generation that comes here. Sure, they learned basic English, but they didn't get the whole package, the critical thinking skills and love of learning that needs to start early if we want children to become part of our advanced technological society. And neither did their children.

Robert Samuelson of Newsweek recently wrote about a UCLA study: "Compared with their parents, the children of immigrants did make progress, Telles and Ortiz found. Incomes increased; English-language skills spread; intermarriage rose. But after the first generation, gains were grudging. Third-generation Mexican-Americans were only 30 percent as likely as non-Hispanics to have completed college. In the fourth generation, about 20 percent still had incomes below the government poverty line...Because government policies might mute these problems, they ought to be subjects of campaign debate."

Attorney Mark Bresee leaves as a recall effort comes to a vote

See all Terry Grier posts.
See all Mark Bresee posts.

[Photo: SDUSD Superintendent Terry Grier]

Capistrano Unified School District in Orange County has experienced criminal indictments of administrators for using public funds to play politics, and soon it will hold a recall election for two board members.

We have bad behavior by school administrators and board members in San Diego county, too, but our District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, seems not to be interested, except in very bizarre circumstances.

Still, events are converging for a possible legal blow-up here.

Orange County Department of Education lawyer Mark Bresee has come back to San Diego. He'll be an in-house lawyer for SDUSD. A few years ago he helped out Chula Vista Elementary School District by submitting phony documents to the Office of Administrative Hearings. What will he do this time? I guess that depends on what SDUSD's new superintendent wants him to do.

What is Terry Grier thinking?

Grier has shown so much courage until now. But it seems that insurance companies, not the education code and the law of the land, control school district legal departments. Perhaps Terry Grier hasn't figured out how much damage these insurance companies and the Council of School Attorneys have done to education. I would advise him to hire a lawyer who has worked for students or employees. That kind of lawyer would give better advice and would be more likely to stay within the law.

I found this article on the KPCC (Public Radio in Southern California) website.
by Susan Valot
June 23, 2008

"Voters in South Orange County will head to the polls on Tuesday. They're deciding in a special election whether to recall two Capistrano Unified School District board members. KPCC's Susan Valot says it's a battle that's been building for a while.

"Susan Valot: Three years ago, a group of parents unhappy with the Capistrano Unified School District board tried to collect enough signatures to recall all seven board members. That effort failed when the number of verified signatures fell short.

"Last year, voters replaced three of the seven board members with candidates supported by the CUSD Recall Committee. Now, that group's trying to recall long-time board members Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke. Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilman Tony Beall is part of the recall effort.

"Tony Beall: They have created a culture of corruption in our school district..."

Friday, July 04, 2008

San Diego County Taxpayers Association and Cheryl Cox

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox

I appreciated current SDCTA president Lani Lutar's efforts a few years ago to explain to me (via email) why SDCTA gave an award to Chula Vista Elementary School District about five years ago without even looking at the school district's budget. The award was given before Lani Lutar became president of SDCTA, and Lani wasn't able to explain it to my satisfaction.

When I learned about it, I wrote THIS.

Now I think I understand the situation better. Cheryl Cox was on the CVESD board at the time. That fact may explain more than I originally realized.

Here's more on the subject.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Barbara Kerr is leaving Long Beach teachers under the control of her "deputy"

Former CTA President Barbara Kerr

Teachers in Long Beach got into a power struggle a while back, and that didn't make California Teachers Association (CTA) happy. Instead of allowing the conflict to work itself out democratically and in the courts, CTA took control last October, and still hasn't freed TALB from its control.

Kevin Butler of the Long Beach Press Telegram Long Beach Press Telegram
announced on 06/11/2008 that former CTA president Barbara Kerr will no longer be the official trustee in charge of the local affiliate. After eight months, she is allowing her deputy trustee Jack Cottrell to take over.

Butler writes, "Kerr said she anticipates that the trusteeship will continue through the summer under the leadership of interim executive director and deputy trustee Jack Cottrell...Kerr, a former president of the statewide teachers union, said that the end of the regular school year was a natural time for her to choose to leave voluntarily..."

Good call, Barbara, to leave voluntarily.

The Press Telegram also notes, "Previously, the TALB board hired the executive director. Now, TALB and CTA officials will jointly screen candidates and hire someone..."

The last full time director, Scott McVarish, resigned after an audit that revealed that too much money was spent on politics. Barbara Kerr, however, had nothing but
nice things to say about McVarish.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Should we elect ALL public entity lawyers?

Who makes decisions for public entities? Is it the elected officials? Or do behind-the-scenes lawyers tell the officials and/or employees what to do?

I have long suspected that those lawyers-not the elected officials-make many decisions.

I found support for my suspicion in this July 1, 2008 Voice of San Diego article by Rob Davis:

"...The agreement to extend negotiations had already been approved by Janice Weinrick, the city Redevelopment Agency's deputy executive director. She said she was told to sign it by Murray Kane, a CCDC attorney. "I'm a document signer," she said. "I only did what I was told, to sign off.""

We need to know more about the lawyers who represent public entities. It seems that the lawyers make the decisions, and the officials and employees just obey them. If there's a problem, everyone says, "I was just doing what my (choose one: client or lawyer) told me to do.""

George McNeil running for MiraCosta College Board of Trustees

June 17, 2008
George McNeil has announced that he will be running for a seat on the MiraCosta Community College Board of Trustees this November.

McNeil is a retired educator who spent 37 years as a teacher, counselor and administrator. He will be contesting the seat currently held by MiraCosta Board Chairperson, Carolyn Batiste...

He stated that the cost of the investigation into the sale of palm trees, which eventually resulted in the resignation of the College President, is currently at two million dollars and continuing to mount...

McNeil also pointed out that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has issued a warning... McNeil, who has served on Accreditation Committees in the past, stressed that this is an extremely serious situation...

McNeil stated that MiraCosta is an excellent college with motivated students, a hard-working faculty and a dedicated administration that is however gaining a negative reputation because of the lack of leadership shown by its Board Chairperson...