Friday, May 29, 2009

Peg Myers Watch Day 9: When will Chula Vista Educators release election results?

Photo: CVE President Peg Myers

UPDATE JUNE 28, 2009: It's been five-and-a-half weeks now, and Peg Myers still has not posted the union election results on the CVE website. What exactly is the purpose of the website? Apparently the purpose is to give the impression that CVE has nothing to hide. According to Peg Myers' secretary, only board members are supposed to know the results.


Chula Vista Elementary School District teacher Kathleen Fernandez apparently created quite a stir during the election of Chula Vista Educators union officials this month. Nine days ago teachers belonging to the CTA affiliate finished voting, but the results have not been released. CVE President Peg Myers apparently thinks that some problem would ensue if the public were allowed to know who won the May 20, 2009 race.

So Peg Myers is keeping the results secret.

Furthermore, Myers refuses to say when the results will be released.

Myers seems to be bringing a little piece of Zimbabue to the folks in Chula Vista. The situation reminds me of this story:

Zimbabwe Election Results Delay Heightens Fears of Rigging
Voice of America
By Delia Robertson
01 April 2008

Independent analysts are expressing fears that the delay in announcing the result of the Zimbabwe elections is an indication that vote rigging is underway. Meanwhile, head of Zimbabwe's main opposition party Morgan Tsvangiari denies reports that his party is in talks with advisers to President Robert Mugabe about president giving up power...

The trickle of results being released by the Zimbabwe Elections Commission in Harare, nearly four days after the polls closed, is being widely condemned...

What makes the Chula Vista situation even stranger is that the candidates did not have any opposition for the offices of President, Vice-President or Secretary. All this mystery concerns only the run off race for Treasurer, in which Nancy Potts faced write-in candidate Kathleen Fernandez.

From what I remember of several years of teaching with Peg Myers at Castle Park Elementary, she wasn't one to listen to excuses for turning in homework late.]

Notes to Peg Myers:

#1: Your assignment is long past due, Ms. Myers. You should stay after school until you've got those election results posted on the CVE website.

#2: Relax and learn to love freedom of information. Quit trying so hard to silence me. Instead of trying so hard to eliminate my blog, how about you debate with me in public? If I'm truly crazy, as you like to say, then I'm sure the audience will quickly catch on. How about I present my information to the Representative Council of Chula Vista Educators? Or are you determined to perpetuate Gina Boyd/Jim Groth tactics?

[Note to readers: If you want to be the first to know when results are finally posted, check here: Chula Vista Educators website. You'll know you've got the results when you see Tim Kriss as vice-president and Kathleen Fernandez as treasurer.]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor ruled against student in free speech case

Sotomayor's Bad 1st Amendment Decision Should Disqualify Her
Paul Levinson
MAY 2, 2009

According to Sam Stein in the Huffington Post, Sonia Sotomayor is "the odds-on favorite" to be chosen by Barack Obama to fill retiring Justice David Souter's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. She now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit in New York City. She is regularly described as liberal and a judicial activist - fine in my book - and it would good to have a first Hispanic and another woman on the Supreme Court.

But she has one major, very bad decision on free speech and press to her discredit, which should give everyone who values these freedoms in our society serious cause for concern about Sotomayor's possible nomination to the High Court.

The decision came from Sotomayor's Second Circuit Court last May, regarding Lewis Mills High School student Avery Doninger. While running for Senior Class Secretary, Ms. Doninger found reason to object to the school's cancellation of a "jamfest" event, and characterized those who scotched the event as "douchebags" on her off-campus LiveJournal blog (she also characterized a school official in that same blog posting as getting "pissed off"). The school officials, in turn, took umbrage, prohibited Avery from running for Class Secretary, and disregarded the plurality of votes she received, anyway, as a write-in candidate. Avery sued the school officials, and the Federal District Court supported the school. Avery appealed to Sotomayor's Second Circuit Court.

After acknowledging the Supreme Court's 1969 Tinker decision, which held that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate," Sotomayor's Court proceeded to affirm the District Court's ruling - that is, Sonia Sotomayor and her colleague justices upheld the high school's right to punish Doninger for her off-campus speech. Their reasoning was that schools have an obligation to impart to their students "shared values," which include not only the importance of free expression but a "proper respect for authority".

"Proper respect for authority" ... is this what our democratic society and freedom is based upon? Last time I checked, I thought our democracy and freedom were predicated on the principle that all people have a right to express their opinions, which must certainly include disrespect for authority, if actions by the authority - such as canceling a school event such as "jamfest" - are at issue.

Or as Constitutional scholar and law-professor Jonathan Turley put it about this decision last year, "The continual expansion of the authority of school officials over student speech teaches a foul lesson to these future citizens. I would prefer some obnoxious speech than teaching students that they must please government officials if they want special benefits or opportunities."

Wikipedia article on Sonia Sotomayor

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Marsha Sutton exposes cheating students, but keeps mum on interesting antics at SDCOE

Below is an interesting story by Marsha Sutton. I'd like to ask Martha: why are you reluctant to expose dishonesty among adults in schools? Don't you think there might be a connection between the behavior of kids and the behavior of their role models? Years ago I asked you to look at what was going on at SDCOE. You ran a big story that appeared to account for SDCOE's entire budget, but you left out legal expenses and liability insurance. Haven't you been apathetic regarding the moral lapses of officials at SDCOE and in the schools?

Marsha Sutton: Scandal exposes district problem
San Diego News Network
By Marsha Sutton, SDNN
May 26, 2009

I don’t know which is worse - the fact that dozens of kids were caught cheating at Canyon Crest Academy or the apathetic way parents and administrators regard the moral lapse.

Under pressure to bury the story, which was brought to my attention because of the wide scope of the sordid affair, I’ve had to sort out what it is about this issue that’s causing so many people to exhibit a jaded attitude tinged with resentment at my inquiries.

[Maura Larkins: It appears that you weren't under as much pressure to bury this story as to bury the SDCOE JPA story and the school legal fees and liability insurance story.]

“What’s the big deal?” is the most common refrain I’ve heard. “It goes on everywhere.” “Why are you picking on our school?” “What are you trying to prove?” “It doesn’t help to write about bad news.”

Well, golly. I was under the impression that journalism’s job was to expose corruption (and cheating certainly falls into that category, by my lights), hold government agencies accountable, inform the public, and increase awareness of trends and concerns.

[Maura Larkins comment: Your impression was correct. May we expect a story on Diane Crosier? And all the money taxpayers pay to help school officials cover up wrongdoing?]

A single incident of cheating involving 50 to 60 kids at one of San Diego County’s highest performing high schools is news, but bigger news is that apparently many feel it’s not news at all...

Once, this was just a story about a single incident. But it has broader implications. How is it that cheating is now so common that many consider it “no big deal?” And why are so many people not just puzzled, but perturbed, that this is being aired publicly?

[Maura Larkins' comment: Maybe the kids saw the adults getting away with it, and figured that's how business is done nowadays. And they're right, Marsha, aren't they?]

...Cheating by students - almost all of them juniors and seniors - was discovered in CCA’s two Advanced Placement psychology classes. Combined enrollment for the two classes exceeds 80 students, more than half of whom have been charged with a form of cheating....

There were those students who were said to have cheated on homework assignments and those who cheated on tests - an important distinction that appears not to matter when applying consequences...

School lawyer Greg Moser is in at Tri-City Hospital

Greg Moser, like the rest of us, wins some, loses some. He got good news from Tri-City Healthcare (see below). On the other hand, he recently got sued for hiding a crucial document in a Ramona School District case. It seems that there is a high demand for lawyers who keep the secrets of public entities.

Tri-City board hires its third staff counsel in 5 months

By Michael Burge
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
May 24, 2009

OCEANSIDE – The Tri-City Healthcare District has hired a new general counsel, its third in five months.

Gregory Moser of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, which has offices in San Diego and Carlsbad, was selected by the public hospital district's board Thursday.

Moser, who will be paid $305 an hour, has been advising the district on the refinancing of its high-interest bonds. The board will finalize the contract Thursday, district CEO Larry Anderson said.

Moser replaces Julie Biggs of the firm Burke, Williams and Sorensen, who was appointed interim general counsel Dec. 18...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Judge delays Hartnett decision even though SDCOE's Superintendent Randy Ward admitted there was no investigation

To see all Rodger Hartnett v. SDCOE posts, click HERE.
See also Michelle Fort-Merrill story in Voice of San Diego.

It really should be a simple concept, but San Diego County Office of Education Superintendent Randolph Ward doesn't get it: employers should investigate before they fire employees who are whistle-blowers. Randy Ward protested in March 2009, when Hartnett won the right to reinstatement, that "in all cases, the hearing is the investigation." But serious wrongdoing isn't alleged in all cases, is it, Mr. Ward?

The necessity of investigating serious allegations is great, particularly since the hearings generally result in putting a rubber-stamp on whatever decision the public agency wants. The hearing is most certainly NOT an investigation. Virtually all hearing officers assume that public agencies behave lawfully. Randy Ward should have investigated this accusation, as well as other serious accusations that have been made.

Voice of San Diego reports: " he "discovered and reported a culture of corruption within my department involving conflicts of interest and interpersonal relationships" that led to legal business being sent to friends and spouses of employees. He alleges that [Michelle] Fort-Merrill orchestrated his firing "because I had further discovered, exposed and reported what I reasonably believed to be conflicts of interest in her husband [Woody Merrill] acting as general counsel."

Furthermore, it would hardly have been proper for SDCOE to investigate itself, Mr. Ward. You should have brought in outside investigators. But it's not too late. You can still do that.

Somehow Randy Ward's lawyer Steven Cologne has convinced a judge to delay his own tentative decision to deny Randy Ward a new trial.

Cologne argued that the court can find that SDCOE actually did do an investigation if the court simply reconsiders what the meaning of "is" is. No, wait a minute. Cologne wants the court to reconsider what the meaning of "investigation" is, after his client already publicly admitted that he didn't do an investigation.

It is very unusual for a judge to delay his decision. Maybe Judge Denton will change his mind and grant a new trial. A new trial might be interesting. At any rate, Denton has shown more courage than most judges in demanding that SDCOE follow the law. It's no surprise that so few judges have courage. They fear they'll be targeted by powerful interests at election time if they demand that public officals obey the law.

Here is Voice of San Diego's update on the situation:

Judge Delays Decision in Hartnett Case

Superior Court Judge Steven Denton held off ruling today whether the San Diego County Office of Education can get a new trial in the case of Rodger Hartnett, a former employee who alleges he was fired for blowing the whistle on conflicts of interest in the agency. (Check out this article for more information on the allegations.) Denton had issued a tentative ruling yesterday that would have denied a new trial to the office, which would have been a win for Hartnett.

In March, Denton ruled that Hartnett was entitled to his job and back pay because the county office had failed to properly investigate his claims. But today attorney Steven Cologne, who represents the county office, convinced the judge to give the issue more consideration before issuing his final ruling.

"This court has concluded for some reason that it was not a proper investigation," Cologne said, adding, "That is not my burden, it's [Hartnett's] burden." He argued that Denton needed to hear more evidence about how the office checked Hartnett's claims before ruling that no investigation was done. He also questioned the legal definition of "investigation."

Barry Vrevich, who represents Hartnett, countered that the office had to prove it had done an investigation, rather than forcing Hartnett to prove it had not. "What constitutes an investigation is a matter of common sense," Vrevich said, adding that it would include interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents. He added, "There has been no showing in opposition that an investigation was performed."

Denton did not name a date when he would make a final decision.


Friday, May 22, 2009


Judge Denies New Trial in Hartnett Case
Voice of San Diego
May 22, 2009

A Superior Court judge has tentatively denied a push by the San Diego County Office of Education for a new trial in the case of Rodger Hartnett, a former employee who claims he was wrongfully fired for blowing the whistle on conflicts of interest in the agency.

The same judge, Steven Denton, had earlier ruled that Hartnett was entitled to his job and back pay because the agency had failed to properly investigate his claims. The COE pushed to vacate that ruling or get a new trial. Denton disagreed with its arguments that requiring both a hearing and an investigation for Hartnett would be "absurd."

[Maura Larkins' comment: SDCOE should never have asked for a hearing until it had done a thorough investigation. Judge Denton is dealing with powerful interests here. I hope he continues to insist that Randy Ward but obey the law. This will take the kind of courage with which Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is credited: "As a trial judge, she earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into departing from the rule of law." (from]

The matter goes before the court this morning. Check back for details on how the County Office is responding and whether Hartnett will be reinstated.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rancho Santa Fe School District's friends fail to file FPPC forms

RSF Committee Slapped with $19K Fine
Voice of San Diego
May 21, 2009
Emily Alpert

A committee to help pass a 2006 bond measure for the Rancho Santa Fe School District, a tiny elementary school district, was slapped with a $19,000 fine today by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

According to the FPPC, Friends of Rancho Santa Fe Schools and its treasurer, Richard Burdge, failed to file key forms in a timely manner, such as a statement of organization, numerous campaign statements and late contribution reports, and failed to properly report information about their contributors on a campaign statement. The missteps were connected to the June 2006 primary election for Proposition H, a bond to acquire seven acres of property and build a new elementary school, which ultimately failed at the ballot box.

I haven't been able to reach Burdge. The San Diego Reader wrote that the unreported donations included $15,000 from the Rancho Santa Fe Association, $5,000 from Telacu Construction Management, a Los Angeles corporation that builds schools, and $2,000 from Keenan and Associates, which provides workers' compensation policies to school districts.

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" (Benjamin Disraeli quote popularized by Mark Twain)

This post isn't about statistics. It's about the first two kinds of lies. The self-righteous and wrathful Glenn Beck (photo at left) admits he fabricated a story about Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg (photo at right). To see a video clip of Glenn Beck and the ladies he lied about,
click here: At Your Beck and Maul
The View (Weekdays, Syndicated on ABC)

"'The View' crew annihilates Glenn Beck for flat out lying about them."

Sadly, Glenn Beck is not an aberration.

Beck's behavior is quite typical; it even happens remarkably frequently in schools when personal politics eclipses concern for students.

Union leader Gina Boyd of Chula Vista Educators (photo above) refused to admit that teachers fabricated a story about Maura Larkins.

I am fascinated by people who habitually lie, or tell a lie when it isn't even in their interest to do so. I can understand lying in a situation where telling the truth could cause irreparable harm; for example, I believe that if I were a Jew facing the Spanish Inquisition, I would say that I firmly believed in Catholicism, even if I had doubts. But to make up a story just to cause harm to another person seems stupid to me. This is exactly what Castle Park Elementary teachers did in order to get rid of teachers they didn't like. Shame on San Diego County Office of Education-Joint Powers Authority and its director Diane Crosier and on California Teachers Association legal chief Beverly Tucker for putting teachers in a position where they were pressured to tell their false stories under oath.

School violated boy's rights when it suspended him for his website

Student unfairly disciplined for Web site, U.S. judge rules
An eighth grader was suspended for creating a site critical of his school in Monmouth County
Apr. 04, 2005
By Krista Larson
Associated Press

TRENTON - A Monmouth County eighth grader who was suspended for a week from Oceanport's Maple Place Middle School after creating a Web site where he wrote about hating the school should not have been disciplined, a federal judge has ruled.

Ryan Dwyer, now 16 and a high school sophomore, "did not himself publish any material which constituted a true threat," District Judge Stanley R. Chesler wrote in his decision issued Thursday.

Therefore, Dwyer could not be disciplined on that basis without violating the First Amendment right to free speech, the judge wrote. Dwyer and his parents had filed a lawsuit in December 2003 in U.S. District Court in Trenton.

Launched in April 2003, the Web site greeted users with the legend "Welcome to the Anti-Maple Place - Your Friendly Environment," and said: "This page is dedicated to showing students why their school isn't what it's cracked up to be. You may be shocked at what you find on this site."...

Student gets $117,500 in website free speech case

USA Today, AP

A New Jersey school district will pay $117,500 to a student who was punished for creating a website that included critical statements about his middle school.

The settlement of the lawsuit brought nearly two years ago follows a decision by a federal judge ruling that Oceanport school administrators violated Ryan Dwyer's free speech rights.

The settlement was announced Sunday by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

"While my parents and I are happy the case is resolved, most importantly, I'm hopeful this will help ensure that free speech rights of students aren't trampled on again in the future," said Dwyer, who is now in 11th grade.

Dwyer created the website containing criticism of Maple Place School in April 2003, on his own time from his home computer. Comments posted on the site's "guest book" section angered school officials, who suspended Dwyer for a week, benched him from playing on the baseball team for a month, and barred him from going on his class trip, among other discipline. The district's lawsuit said anti-Semitic remarks were posted on the site, which Dwyer denied writing.

"The school district has never — to this day — explained to us what rule or policy our son violated," said Kevin Dwyer, Ryan's father.

The school district issued a prepared statement that said it solicited advice and guidance from legal advisers and law enforcement officers and acted "on its belief that it was protecting all of the children and the staff in the district."

"In the settlement agreement, the Board of Education expressed its regret for the entire incident that caused a great deal of concern to the Board of Education, its present and former members, as well as the Dwyers," the statement read.

Grayson Barber, who handled the case on behalf of the ACLU, said the school presented no evidence that Dwyer's comments were threatening or disruptive of school activities.

"Our schools should encourage debate and political engagement rather than punishing students who provide a forum for free expression," Barber said.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Do public schools have a right to hide investigations of possible serious misconduct by employees?

No, says Terry Francke:

"Three decisions of the California Court of Appeal issued over 35 years-two of them overruling denials by school districts-conclude that public employees have no right of privacy to bar disclosure of, and their employers may not withhold, records showing complaints of serious misconduct that are found substantiated by investigation, or have other hallmarks of reliability.

"If the employees are public figures such as superintendents or other top officials, disclosure of investigative findings may be required, even when they tend to exonerate the official,
if doing so is necessary to restore public confidence. - Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware

(This quote is from:
Hornet audits local education agencies
Reporters worked with Californians Aware and requested public records
Michael Mette

[Maura Larkins' note: It would certainly restore public confidence if Chula Vista Elementary School District would release its investigation of a teacher at Castle Park Elementary who was suspected by fellow teachers of being on the verge of committing a mass shooting at the school. The safety of children and staff seems to have been of no concern at all to the district. The investigation was bungled, and the embarrassment regarding the bungling seems to have been of more concern to board members than the safety of children. They preferred to hush the matter up rather than do a real investigation.]

Ramona schools stopped 12-year-old Natalie's presentation about gay SF councilman Harvey Milk

Is it possible that Ramona School District doesn't know that kids talk to each other all the time about sexual issues? Officials seem to have gone too far in their efforts to help some parents keep their children ignorant about sex.

Certainly the school district is responsible for the presentations that teachers give to students, but a presentation by a student is another matter. The district has singled out a student and forbidden her to present to her class a well-written presentation simply because the subject is Harvey Milk, an advocate of gay rights.

See all ACLU posts.
See all David Blair-Loy posts.

School curbs girl's report on gay rights activist Milk
By Greg Moran
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
May 21, 2009

...Natalie, 12, is a student at Mount Woodson Elementary School and did the report last month as part of an independent research project class at the school. Students in the class are required to do PowerPoint projects on a subject of their choosing.

Natalie picked Milk, who became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States when he was elected in 1977 to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After serving 11 months, Milk was assassinated in a City Hall shooting in November 1978 by Dan White, who had resigned as a supervisor but wanted his job back. White also killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in the rampage.

The slain supervisor's life was the subject last year of the Academy Award-winning film “Milk,” starring Sean Penn.

[Maura Larkins: It's pretty hard to keep kids in the dark about an Academy Award-winning subject. I would urge parents to discuss the issue with their children rather than trying to hide it.]

The day before Natalie was to present the report in April, she was told by Principal Theresa Grace that she would not be allowed to show her project in class the way other students had done...

Superintendent Robert Graeff and Grace cited the board policy dealing with sex-education matters. The policy states that parents will be notified in writing about any teaching on the subjects of sex or “family life, human sexuality, AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases.”

[Maura Larkins' note: This wasn't "teaching." This was a student presentation.]

...The school rescheduled Natalie's presentation for May 8, at a lunch recess, Blair-Loy wrote. In the meantime, school officials sent home a letter to all parents in the class that included the permission slip...

Natalie gave the presentation to about half the class, Blair-Loy said. The ACLU wants the district to apologize to Natalie, send letters “reflecting such apology” to parents who received the school district permission request, let Natalie give the presentation to the whole class and clarify that the board policy applies only to course content for sex-education instruction. The group also wants the district to say situations like this won't happen again...

RAMONA: ACLU claims school violated student's free speech

North County Times
May 20, 2009

RAMONA ---- The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening a lawsuit against the Ramona Unified School District after an elementary school student was told she could not give a class presentation about Harvey Milk, an openly gay San Francisco supervisor assassinated in 1978.

The ACLU on Wednesday sent a letter to the school district asking for an apology to the student, Natalie Jones, a sixth-grader at Mt. Woodson Elementary School.

David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU for San Diego and Imperial counties, said Jones received 49 out of 50 points for her written presentation, which she prepared for an assignment in her Independent Research Project Class. On April 22, the day before she was scheduled to give her presentation to the class, Blair-Loy said Jones was called to the principal's office and told her subject was too sensitive to give to her class.

The district did offer Jones an opportunity to give her presentation to students whose parents signed permission slips, Blair-Loy said.

School district officials cited a board policy requiring written parental notification before students can hear presentations about sex education, Blair-Loy said.

The ACLU provided an April 28 letter, signed by Mt. Woodson Principal Theresa Grace, notifying parents of students in Jones' class that their children could see the presentation during the lunch recess May 8 if they signed permission slips. Blair-Loy said the district based its decision on a policy requiring signed permission slips for students to see presentations regarding sex-education.

"That's discrimination against protected speech," Blair-Loy said about the request for permission slips. "You cannot single out a specific speech and treat it differently just because you think it's a sensitive subject."

Besides an apology to Jones, the ACLU also is asking the school district to allow her to give the presentation to all members of her class and to clarify in writing the parental notification and permission portion of its "Family Life/Sex Education" policy.

The ACLU has posted Jones' Power Point presentation online.
It can be viewed...[HERE].

Harvey Milk’s legacy honored at local event
Young activist wins essay contest award
By Joseph Peña, SDNN
May 22, 2009

Megan Hogan – like the late, gay activist Harvey Milk, who was honored in San Diego at a diversity breakfast Friday – knows the value of building strong coalitions and inspiring others.

Despite taunts from classmates and objections from parents, the 18-year-old high school senior started the Diversity Club and Gay-Straight Alliance in January at Del Mar’s Winston School, a college-prep school for students with learning disabilities. The goal: to unite students from different backgrounds to underscore the importance of embracing one another’s differences.

“We can learn from each other and understand more about different cultures when we come together,” Hogan said. “We need our allies. We can make each other stronger and get more accomplished.”

Hogan said she relied on allies – her friends and family – to embrace her own differences: she is deaf and gay. Hogan first identified herself as a lesbian in seventh grade. She slowly confided in others, despite facing rejection from some. She’s opened up more, though, she said, and has made good friends who respect her for who she is...

Lozano Smith attorneys up to their old tricks--did they ever take the ethics training ordered by Judge Wanger in the Moser decision?

In the Moser case, Judge Oliver Wanger ordered Lozano Smith law firm in Fresno, California to take ethics training. Did they ever take the training? If so, it didn't take. Lozano Smith lawyers seem to be using the same old tactics on behalf of school districts.

Audit Sting May Have Led to Censorship Try
Californians Aware
April/May 2009

A recent audit of 18 Sacramento area public education institutions organized by Californians Aware (CalAware) shows serious ignorance of citizens' rights to public information—and may have prompted an attempt to censor the student journalists who conducted it.

On March 24, 11 journalism students from Sacramento State University on the staff of the student newspaper, The State Hornet, walked into the main offices of 14 school districts and charter schools, the Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools, the Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento State and the University of California, Davis.

They asked for copies of the statements of financial interest (Form 700s) filed by key elected and staff officers, which are required to be made public—no questions asked—within two days of the request, pursuant to the Political Reform Act of 1974. They also mailed letters to the institutions with a list of requests to see other public records as required by the California Public Records Act.

The resulting audit scoring deducted points not only for failing to produce the records at all or within the laws' deadlines, but for requiring the auditors to disclose their full names, affiliations, or purpose for asking, or to fill out a written form. Auditors also rated the agencies for the courtesy and helpfulness of the employees receiving the in-person request for the Form 700s—even if they were unaware of their legal obligations.

But after The State Hornet published its audit summary yesterday, News Editor Chloe Daley was called into the office of Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Gloria Moraga, where, Daley has told CalAware, Moraga questioned her closely about the purpose of the audit, suggesting that the number of records sought placed an unreasonable burden on the campus and was journalistically irresponsible.

Late yesterday the following e-mail message was sent to student auditor Mitchell Wilson, who had requested records from the Elk Grove Unified Schoo District, by an attorney with the district's law firm.

--- On Wed, 4/22/09, Sloan R. Simmons wrote:

From: Sloan R. Simmons
Subject: Public Records Act Request to Elk Grove Unified School District (1336/01)
To: "''"
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 4:31 PM

Dear Mitchell:

Consistent with my voice message from this afternoon, we
have been informed that Mr. Gonzales has requested that all
students withdrawal their Public Records Act requests
submitted in relation to a course at Sacramento State
University and that the article relating to information
sought in such requests has already been published in the
Sac State Hornet newspaper. It is our understanding that
your records requests is pursuant to this activity and
course work.

As soon as possible, please confirm to me via telephone or
in response to this message whether you are withdrawing your
Public Records Act request so that I can direct District
staff to cease efforts relating to responding to your


Partnering For Excellence In Education and Government

[Maura Larkins note: Is this a typo:? Did Mr. Simmmons intend to write, "Partnering for Exceptions In Education and Government (to any and all laws that conflict with the personal agendas of school officials)"?]

Sloan R. Simmons
One Capitol Mall, Suite 640 | Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-329-7433 | Fax: 916-329-9050

The records sought in the audit were selected, and the student auditors trained, by CalAware, a Carmichael-based nonprofit group supporting open government which in the past four years has provided similar leadership in Public Records Act compliance audits of Fresno area agencies, 31 selected state agencies, and more than 200 state and local law enforcement agencies.

To see analysis by Terry Francke, click HERE.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Robert Melvin Goode sentenced to 12 years for child molestation

Ex-school principal who admitted molestation gets 12 years
May 18, 2009

Click HERE to see all posts about this case.

VISTA – A former North County school administrator was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday after admitting he molested a girl for several years.

In March, Robert Melvin Goode Jr., 60, pleaded guilty to one count of continuous sexual abuse of a minor and one count of forcible lewd acts upon a child.

“Twelve years is a fair sentence, sir,” Judge Daniel Goldstein told Goode. “You caused irreparable harm to a young girl.”

Prosecutors have alleged the abuse began when the girl was 8 and continued for six years. They said they sought a settlement to keep the girl from having to testify.

Goode was a senior administrator at Classical Academy in Escondido, Classical Academy High School in Escondido and Coastal Academy in Oceanside. From 1983 to 1994 he was the principal at Tri-City Christian School, a high school in Vista.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More than 40 teachers arrested in Los Angeles

Los Angeles teachers arrested in protest against layoffs

LOS ANGELES, May 15 (Xinhua) -- About 45 Los Angeles teachers and their union leaders were arrested Friday after they sat down in a downtown street to protest possible teacher layoffs.

"We're being arrested to send a message to the (school) district and the city ...," said A.J. Duff, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, as he was being led away by police.

The teachers' action was part of a protest against budget cuts that could include thousands of layoffs. Police said the protesters were arrested for blocking a public street.

Schools across Los Angeles were disrupted Friday as thousands of teachers called in sick and hundreds of high school students walked out of classrooms to protest the budget cutbacks at the second-largest school district in the United States.

The teachers union earlier had called for a one-day strike for Friday, but decided to organize one-hour rallies at various schools instead after a judge issued a restraining order preventing teachers from striking.

School district officials also threatened to fine teachers and take away their teaching certificates if they walked off their jobs.

The Los Angeles school board voted last month to authorize thousands of layoffs, including teachers, to close an estimated 600-million-U.S.-dollar budget deficit. It was estimated that a total of about 2,500 teachers would be fined from different Los Angeles schools.

But the school district's budget deficit increased Thursday by about 250 million dollar after California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a new state budget revision, proposing deeper educational spending cutbacks and calling for more teacher layoffs.
Editor: Mu Xuequan

Should Lori Drew go to prison for three years? Federal Judge has his doubts.

Sentencing delayed in MySpace hoax case

By GREG RISLING, Associated Press Writer
Monday, May 18, 2009

...U.S. District Judge George Wu had been scheduled to sentence Lori Drew on three misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization. However, Wu delayed sentencing until July 2, saying he wanted to review the testimony of two prosecution witnesses.

Wu squared off with Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krause for more than an hour about a defense motion seeking to dismiss Drew's conviction. Wu wondered whether Drew should have been indicted under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which in the past has been used in hacking and trademark theft cases.

"Using this particular statute is so weird," Wu said.

Wu also was concerned that sentencing Drew for violating a Web site's service terms might set a dangerous precedent. He said millions of people either don't read service terms, as happened in Drew's case, or give false information...

While jurors didn't find Drew guilty of the more serious felonies, Krause argued that she should be sentenced to the maximum of three years in prison...

Probation officials recommended Drew should be placed on probation for one year and fined $5,000.

To see all posts on this subject click HERE.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

ConsumerAffairs warns of problems in People to People for-profit student travel program

People to People Uses Dead Student's Name as Recruiting Tool
By Lisa Wade McCormick
May 12, 2009

The parents of a Minnesota teenager who died on a 2007 People to People trip to Japan are outraged by the organization’s latest marketing tactics: Sheryl and Allen Hill learned People to People recently used their deceased son’s name...

Tyler Hill, 16, died in a Tokyo hospital on June 29, 2007, after People to People’s delegation leaders allegedly failed to get him the medical attention he requested.

Tyler had Type 1 diabetes and complex migraine headaches — conditions his parents disclosed before their son left on his overseas journey. People to People, an organization that touts its ties to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, assured the Hills it had a solid safety record and a 24-hour response team that could handle any medical emergency.

That failed promise is at the heart of a wrongful death Minnesota's Hennepin County District Court. The lawsuit alleges the organization and its delegation leaders refused to get Tyler the medical attention he requested after he and his group hiked Mount Fuji...

The postmark and address on the letter go to the for-profit Ambassadors Group, Inc., a publicly traded company (EPAX) based in Spokane, Washington...

In recent years, has repeatedly exposed how People to People used misleading marketing tactics to recruit students for its expensive, overseas trips...duped their children into believing they were specially chosen for these trips, which cost an average of $5,000...

Some parents also say People to People refused to refund their money — even when they had to cancel their child’s trips for medical reasons...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tony Licata story from Colleyville, Texas where insider, not foreign exchange student, was protected


Urgent message from CSFES:
May 23, 2009

Tony Licata [see news story below] has allegedly hosted more than four exchange students.

If you are a former exchange student who was supervised or lived with Tony Licata, you are encouraged to contact Officer Kathy Manning at 817-884-1204 or email:

You are welcome to provide a copy to the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students [at] Requests to remain anonymous will be respected.


To: United States Department of State

This is a complaint against American Field Service (AFS) for failure to report the following to the police. (See story below.)

The federal regulations are clear: Reporting requirements. Along with the annual report required by regulations set forth at § 62.15, sponsors must file with the Department of State the following information:

(1) Sponsors must immediately report to the Department any incident or allegation involving the actual or alleged sexual exploitation or abuse of an exchange student participant. Sponsors must also report such allegations as required by local or state statute or regulation. Failure to report such incidents to the Department and, as required by state law or regulation, to local law enforcement authorities shall be grounds for the summary suspension and termination of the sponsor's Exchange Visitor Program designation."

Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496
Oceanside, CA 92052

Colleyville councilman accused of assaulting exchange student
By Darren Barbee

Colleyville City [Texas] Councilman Tony Licata is accused of pinning down a foreign exchange student on a bed and touching her inappropriately before she fought him off, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Licata, 57, resigned Thursday, the same day he was booked. He did not respond to email and phone messages seeking comment.

"Once we have investigated the allegation we'll have more to say," said Stephanie Luce, a Dallas attorney representing Licata. "He is a good and decent man."

The incident happened in November but wasn't reported to police until April, after the student told a counselor. After receiving an emergency report about the situation in November, American Field Service, which arranged for Licata to host the student, moved the student from Licata's home but did not contact police.

According to a Web site, Licata is chairman of the Tarrant County chapter of American Field Service (AFS).

The safety and security of students is the first priority of the service, said Marlene Baker, AFS spokeswoman.

"I can't discuss specifics with you. What I can tell you is that based on information we had at the time that we followed protocol at that time," Baker said. "The protocol included moving the student, notifying the student's parents, notifying the (U.S.) State Department and offering counseling to the student."

...Here's what happened Nov. 4, according to the arrest warrant affidavit:

About 5:30 p.m., Tony Licata called the girl into his bedroom to show her a cellphone that he had for her. They sat on the end of the bed reading the instruction book.

The girl said she was tired and started to get up. Licatta "grabbed her from behind and began hugging and rubbing her on her breast and stomach," according to the warrant.

The girl struggled and Licata threw her on the bed, got on top of her and began kissing her neck and shoulders, the warrant says. The girl continued to struggle, got free and stood in the corner of the room crying...

A counselor reported the allegations to authorities...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Charter Schools May Have Fewer Secrets and Cozy Relationships if law passes

Photo: Guajome Park Academy

Making Conflicts Law Apply to Charters
Voice of San Diego
May 5, 2009

A proposed California law would tighten rules around conflicts of interest and public information at charter schools, a change that would settle disputes over what public school rules apply to charters.

It would explicitly require charter school board members to file statements listing their economic interests, mandate that meetings be open and noticed to the public, and require schools follow the Public Records Act.

...Encinitas Union School District claimed that the charter school was subject to a state law that bans public officials and employees from participating in contracts that could benefit them financially.

Charters have long argued that the specific rule does not apply to them. They point to other protections in the California Corporations Code. The question has never been settled in court...


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

No flags allowed when teaching geography at this Denver school

Teacher showing foreign flags put on leave
By Karen Rouse
Denver Post Staff Writer

A seventh-grade geography teacher who refused to remove Chinese, Mexican and United Nations flags from his classroom was placed on
paid administrative leave Wednesday by Jefferson County officials who were concerned that the display violates the law.

District officials said state law forbids the display of foreign flags unless they are temporary and related to the curriculum.

Carmody Middle School principal John Schalk looked at the curriculum for Eric Hamlin's world geography class "and there was nothing ... related to any of these countries," said Lynn Setzer, district spokeswoman.

She said Schalk asked the teacher three times to remove the flags and warned there would be consequences, but Hamlin refused.

Hamlin, in his first year at Carmody, said he regularly displays flags from different countries, rotating them out based on countries being studied.

He said that the first six weeks of school are devoted to discussing the "fundamentals of geography" and that the flags were randomly selected...

New York's UFT president Randi Weingarten says unions and charter schools aren't mutually exclusive

By YOAV GONEN Education Reporter
May 1, 2009

...An unusually conciliatory Randi Weingarten, head of the city's teacher union, took a flurry of jabs yesterday from Harlem charter-schools operator and former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz during a televised debate.

The powerful pair -- who for a decade have butted heads over charter schools, labor contracts and the fixes for the city's ailing public schools -- again showed the gulf between them, even as Weingarten appeared ready to extend an olive branch.

"You could call Mike Bloomberg tonight and you could say, 'Mike, I don't think tenure is working. Let's not have a system where teachers get lifetime job security irrespective of performance,' " Moskowitz told the labor leader on NY1.

"Let's not have a system where the standard -- and this bugs me so much about the contract -- the standard [for removing a teacher] is incompetence."

[Maura Larkins' note: Incompetence isn't even the standard. I've often wondered why my district never dismissed any of its incompetent teachers. I've concluded that the district feared that the targeted teacher would respond, "But look at these other teachers, they're clearly more incompetent than me." The district can't dismiss underperforming teachers because it doesn't know where to begin. As long as a teacher keeps quiet, the district seems to maintain a hands-off policy. The district only fires teachers for political reasons, in my experience.]

Weingarten deflected much of the criticism by contrasting states like Massachusetts -- which have strong unions and excellent schools -- with areas in the South that lack both unions and good schools.

"So it's not the unions and it's not a particular union contract" that's to blame, she said...

Green Dot charter high schools score big

US News and World Report Ranks Three Green Dot Schools Among the Nation's Best

US News and World Report ranked three Green Dot schools in 2008 as among the best in the nation. Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School and Animo Leadership Charter High School both made the top 100, with Oscar De La Hoya ranking #53 and Animo Leadership ranking #94. Animo Film and Theater Arts High School made the Silver Medal list.

The New High School Rankings Are Here
US News and World Report
December 14, 2008

U.S. News has just launched its second annual list of America's Best High Schools. The analysis of more than 21,000 public high schools in 48 states is available here and on newsstands as of December 8 in the magazine issue dated Dec. 1522, 2008.

To produce the 2009 America's Best High Schools rankings, U.S. News teamed up with School Evaluation Services (SES), a K-12 education data research business run by Standard & Poor's. SES developed the comprehensive methodology that judges how well high schools serve all their students, not just those who are collegebound...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Federal Judge James Selna rules that a teacher may not call creationism "superstitious nonsense"/Capistrano Superintendent Woodrow Carter Fired



It looks to me like this judge violated a teacher's right to freely discuss with students the origin of life.

Does this decision forbid teachers to say that the Greek and Roman myths were "religious, superstitious nonsense"? Or is this decision only about modern creationism?

Does the judge himself believe in creationism? Is the judge using his position to punish a teacher who disagrees with his religious beliefs? It sounds to me like the judge is the one violating the establishment clause of the constitution.

Calif. youth prevails in suit on teacher's comment
By GILLIAN FLACCUS, The Associated Press
May 4, 2009

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A federal judge ruled that a public high school history teacher violated the First Amendment when he called creationism "superstitious nonsense" during a classroom lecture.

U.S. District Judge James Selna issued the ruling Friday after a 16-month legal battle between student Chad Farnan and his former teacher, James Corbett.

Farnan sued in U.S. District Court in 2007, alleging that Corbett violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment by making repeated comments in class that were hostile to Christian beliefs.

The lawsuit cited more than 20 statements made by Corbett during one day of class, all of which were recorded by Farnan, to support allegations of a broader teaching method that "favors irreligion over religion" and made Christian students feel uncomfortable.

During the course of the litigation, the judge found that most of the statements cited in the court papers did not violate the First Amendment because they did not refer directly to religion or were appropriate in the context of the classroom lecture.

But Selna ruled Friday that one comment, where Corbett referred to creationism as "religious, superstitious nonsense," did violate Farnan's constitutional rights.

Farnan is not interested in monetary damages, said his attorney, Jennifer Monk of the Murrieta-based Christian legal group Advocates for Faith & Freedom.

Instead, he plans to ask the court to prohibit Corbett from making similar comments in the future. Farnan's family would also like to see the school district offer teacher training and monitor Corbett's classroom for future violations, Monk said...

"They lost, he violated the establishment clause," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "From our perspective, whether he violated it with one statement or with 19 statements is irrelevant."

In making his decision, Selna wrote that he tried to balance Farnan's and Corbett's rights.

"The court's ruling today reflects the constitutionally permissible need for expansive discussion even if a given topic may be offensive to a particular religion," the judge wrote...

[Maura Larkins' note: I think the judge is trying to put lipstick on his own decision. His decision is a clear effort to stifle discussion, but he feels the need to declare otherwise.]

Corbett, a 20-year teaching veteran, remains at Capistrano Valley High School.

Farnan is now a junior at the school, but quit Corbett's Advanced Placement European history class after his teacher made the comments...

[Maura Larkins' note: It sounds like young Mr. Farnan is trying to silence his teacher without giving the teacher the opportunity to fully explain his views. Clearly the student is opposed to listening to ideas that differ from his own.]


Trustees Fire Superintendent Carter

By Jonathan Volzke
San Clemente Times
March 12, 2009

Capistrano Unified School District trustees
unanimously fired Superintendent
A. Woodrow Carter on Monday, hours
after he dramatically addressed them in his
first public comments since being placed on
involuntary paid leave in January.
The decision was made in closed session
and announced after 11:30 p.m., when only
a handful of observers were left in the audience
after Mondays’ board meeting. President
Ellen Addonizio announced the decision
as required by law, and only said it was for a
“material breach” of Carter’s contract with
the district...

But in a 10-minute speech at the start of
the trustees’ meeting, Carter appeared with
his attorney to urge the elected officials to
reinstate him, saying he’d return to work the
following day. It has been widely accepted,
however, that his 18-month tenure with the
district effectively ended when he was placed
on leave January 6, and the only question was
whether trustees would fire him or buy out
the remainder of his contract.

Carter said he’d received 60 allegations of
misconduct from trustees on March 4, and
he and his attorney had refuted them in a
22-page letter back to district. He declined to
release either document, saying it remained a
personal matter.

In his speech to trustees, though, Carter
referenced e-mails officials found on his
computer. He pointed out district policies do
not prohibit personal emails and said trustees
were trying to smear his reputation and
embarrass his friends and family.

Carter said he felt targeted ever since
a new majority of “reform” trustees took
control of the board after a recall election in
June, the same month trustees approved his
three-year, $975,000 contract.

Since November’s election, all seven board seats have
been held by “reform” candidates.
“Acrimony was immediate and working
relations strained from onset…With the exception
of Jack Brick, there isn’t one person
on the dais that is completely clean in this
affair,” Carter told the board...

...He was accompanied by his attorney,
George W. Shaeffer, Jr. of Irvine.
Carter was greeted by an ovation from
the 100 or so parents gathered before the
board meeting. He left—before trustees
voted to dismiss him—to a standing ovation.

Hear Carter’s complete speech at the Beyond the Blackboard Blog at