Sunday, December 13, 2009

John Pruitt describes Chino Valley Unified (CVUSD) fiascos: $609,164.72 to Dan Shinoff; A Superintendent closed schools for personal reasons

It appears that a former superintendent closed schools just to lower the number of schools in Program Improvement

'Another fine mess' for CVUSD
John Pruitt
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
December 12, 2009

The state action of placing Chino Valley Unified School District in PI (Program Improvement) status is a sad commentary on education for the CVUSD community. Basically, CVUSD failed to educate English-learner students based on AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) scores.

Wayne Joseph, the new CVUSD superintendent, must be repeating the words of Oliver Hardy from the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy - "Here's another fine mess you have gotten me into" - when thinking of former former superintendent Edmond Heatley's administrative management skills.

When the school board approved the closure of Gird, El Rancho and Los Serranos, the board was oblivious to the true reason behind the superintendent's recommendation. It was not savings vs. cost but to improve Heatley's chances to leave CVUSD. Heatley wanted three fewer PI schools on his resume. Three PI schools were eliminated but the English-learner students are our children, and they remained.

CVUSD had six PI schools and five were in danger of a state takeover. Each school was in the latter stage of a five-year improvement plan, and little progress had been made. After five years, the state of California has the option to take over a school. It was professionally unhealthy for a superintendent to be relieved of his responsibility of management; and there lies the reason for the unwise closures.

Although state mandates for student performance for categories such as English-learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, African-American students, Asian students, Latino students and special needs students are challenging, CVUSD should not be in PI status. If Upland USD, Walnut USD and Claremont USD are not in PI, then Chino Valley certainly should not be in PI status.

NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and state mandates are rising to irrational levels. There is a possibility other school districts will fall into PI status. But, CVUSD did not implement existing resources to avoid being placed in PI.

CVUSD's API (Academic Performance Index) scores are excellent. The school board gave Heatley raises based on API scores. That was a major mistake. A raise based on performance is a good idea, but performance should be assessed on a scale that is measurable and has balance (incentive).

Chino Valley USD is located in an area where high API scores occur due to factors of economics, education level of parents and parental involvement. All school districts have dedicated teachers giving their best effort to promote student achievement; that is the common thread among all school districts. The home environment of a student is the single most motivating factor regarding student achievement; of course there are rare exceptions. That is why some districts struggle with low scores and a school district like Chino Valley has high scores. Heatley was given raises based on factors he had absolutely nothing to do with in raising scores. The board missed that point in assessing Heatley on measurable factors.

The balance (incentive) factor is when a benefit is given for good performance, and a benefit is withheld when performance does not meet expectations. Heatley was given a raise based on an imbalanced assessment. A raise to a superintendent can never be taken back due to state law. The school board should have set another criterion to hold the superintendent accountable for performance.

When we review CVUSD catastrophes - the loss of $7.5 million in state funding due to two school sites not meeting state minimum minutes (CVUSD became a laughingstock in local and national news media); the loss of $947,404.62 in legal fees to Lewis Operating Corp. on the Preserve fiasco; the loss in legal fees to Dan Shinoff and law firm of $609,164.72 to represent CVUSD on the Preserve fiasco; placing legal counsel under the authority of the superintendent; the decision of moving Briggs to the Preserve school and the reversal; the decision of moving the agriculture program at Chino High to Don Lugo and the reversal; the loss of 60 percent of highly specialized speech and language pathologists (12 of 20); the needless elimination of three schools with devastating results to the community; the uncalled for disruption of student life from the three closed schools; flip-flop decisions on transportation fees and other fee services; the misinformation of the budget with a questionable $44 million deficit; weekend overtime pay to staff due to the closed schools; the layoff of 171 teachers and 47 CSEA employees (all layoffs could have been avoided); CVUSD in PI status by the state, and failure to hold Heatley accountable - one wonders: Where was the board? ...

John Pruitt is a former board member of Chino Valley Unified School District. He lives in Chino.

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