Thursday, December 30, 2010

A "heart-to-heart" talk about immigration by Edward Aceves

Edward Aceves worked as a principal in Chula Vista Elementary School District. He is now retired.



Hear me out, America, I have some unanswered questions that have been bothering me of late. I worry about your present state of mind, when it comes to dealing with human, and humane, needs. You don’t seem to have the same compassionate and caring demeanor, as you had in your younger years. Don’t you remember being presented with a statue of a magnificent and beautiful lady, who had etched on the base of her massive presence a cry for “ the tired huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? That symbolic lady standing at the entrance of Manhattan was supposed to be a representation of you, America. Have you stopped looking for these people, I ask?

What happened to the America that my parents spoke to me about when I was a kid? They were so quick to mention about the wonderful country that they lived in--you were “paradise” in their eyes, America. They spoke of how you went to the aid of those people under attack in far off lands. They talked about Social Security like it was from heaven--but, really, it was a thoughtful well-intended deliverance, by a grateful nation, towards those inhabitants who had worked for many years, and in the autumnal part of their lives deserved monetary assistance to accompany them for the rest of their living days. America, you were great back then--you cared!

My dad was an undocumented immigrant who landed in your backyard, when his mother brought him across from Mexico--along with the other brothers and sisters. They sought the warmth and security of your bosom --in order to evade the dangers of a violent revolution in the early 1900’s. He was about a year and a half old at the time--but you didn’t worry about his undocumented crossing, nor of the document status of the rest of the family. My future progenitor, and the rest of the family, eventually, made it to the Imperial Valley--a part of you that was turned into a fertile flourishing desert-land. Once settled--they made their town and you, America, very proud of their being there. Hard- workers, they were-- and they loved the environment you provided--it was, truly, a mutual love affair.

And, so, you were good to all those that found themselves in the same straits as my antecedent family. You fought wars to end oppression in faraway lands, you provided assistance to those areas that were devastated by acts of God, and you welcomed immigrants coming to your land with your arms wide open--especially “the tired huddled masses”. So, what became of the America we all admired and loved? Have you soured on your benevolent and caring treatment of others? Now, I understand your tentative feelings about those coming to your land unannounced. Since the occurrence of 9/11 you have become quite wary. Understood! But your wariness has lead to your becoming disconnected and dispassionate with most who come to reap the fruits of your offerings--and for them to give of themselves in like fashion. It’s no longer “business as usual” with you, America. People who look different than those who are considered to be the dominant structure of your society, now become suspect. They are not only seen as unwelcome but, they might be also categorized, prematurely, as terrorists. America, have you lost your love for the varied cultures of this world? You have become withdrawn and insensitive to a multicultural existence. You are, now, not how my parents described you to me in your younger days.

There continue to be those south of your border who seek to accomplish their lives’ dreams in your arms--they have crossed over your border in the past, and they continue to cross over at the present. These people do not, initially , want to come--but conditions in their lands are not economically feasible for a proper existence--for both self and family. You are seen as the “rich aunt“--next door . You hold opportunities for them to come to--and they, in turn, have the skills that you can use. They are the “tired huddled masses” that you yearned for back in the old days. By the time these “opportunities seekers” arrive at your door step--should they not die in the process-- they find themselves plenty tired, believe me! O.K., maybe you don’t greet them with great joy, because many of them do not have the educational level that you would prefer--but back in the old days, that lady statue didn’t say “give me your educated masses yearning to complete their Ph.D.’s”. Back then you were accepting visitors with very few conditions--so why not now? You know, down deep inside, America, that the people that come to your land in the aforementioned manner, come to seek employment--willing to do arduous work that you need done. Most do not come to take valued possessions from the coffers of your resident inhabitants, but rather, through the efforts of much of their hard work, many of them provide food on the tables of homes throughout your land. Low level skills? Maybe. But they are much needed for you to succeed economically--and you know that! America, you have been using these people for years and years--knowing that they have been present in your land and knowing that they were needed. Life went on as usual for all those residing in your land-- year in and year out. Everyone knew, and knows today, that these people exist. The undocumented situation was like the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about. They were, and are, in the fields harvesting crops, in the homes caring for others’ children, cleaning others’ homes, working in restaurants, helping to construct homes or acquiring an education in your universities in order to better their own lives and those of their children--and making your life better, too, America. Now, you are turning your back on these very same people that helped you succeed all of these years. You know, in your heart, that beet pickers, almond harvesters, farmers, and others of that ilk, will not be strapping bombs on their bodies in order to further harm you. The danger of a terrorist plot is not the reason for you turning your back on them.

The 12 million-plus people that live in your shadows have, now, become targets of vilification and scorn. Why? Much of it is because of the economics and danger alert levels that we now live with. These unsavory conditions have caused the mistreatment of these people--aided and abetted by those selfish malcontents and other hate-mongering individuals that get your attention. In spite of their loudness, meanness, and selfishness, you turn to them for advise. America, you will become as heart-less and insensitive as they, if you continue in this manner. You can’t do that, America-- your historical past does not allow it. Sure it is a problem of great magnitude--but so was Slavery , the Civil War, presidential assassinations ,World War I and II, the Korean War, Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Vietnam, Great Migration Periods of the Past, and hijacked airplanes being flown into your buildings--just to mention a few. You survived those through your determination, perseverance and never forgetting what you stood for. You need to find your, soul America. You need to find, once again, your compassionate heart. You displayed this vision of assisting mankind in the past --you need to embody these qualities, once again. Let’s stop calling this a problem--and begin seeking a solution!

You cannot make 12 to 13 Million people disappear--nor can you incarcerate them all, as some of your more enlightened and astute legislators suggested doing. This aforementioned type of thinking, only verifies an obvious existence of stupid and vacuous people living in your midst, America--but, that is a problem we can deal with in another discussion, later. Many of your inhabitants have turned their anger against these undocumented residents of yours--they blame them for many of their own ills. Does all of this sound familiar to you, America? There has been a historical “pecking order” in your life’s past blemishes-- from your cavalries massacring your native people, through mistreatment of each new group of immigrants arriving to your land, incarcerated Japanese, persecuted Communists, and a disdain for Muslims. You have known the vehemence that can exist within your people--you can‘t deny that. Make it all better, America. Soften your persona, once again. You used to be that way--you can be that way again. Bring all of your people together to find a solution. Once solved, then we can, once again, all sing your praises with glee and pride--across your “amber waves of grain“ from “sea to shining sea”. Rather than this becoming another blemish for you, America, you will be able to accept it as a successful “extreme makeover“, instead. You could use one, you know. After all, you are getting on in age.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pensions: teachers versus city workers in San Diego

Morning Report
Dec. 29, 2010
by Randy Dotinga
Voice of San Diego

...Nice Non-Work if You Can Get It:

The U-T looks at educator pensions and finds that "the average retired educator in San Diego County is paid $40,633 per year, or 58 percent of their final salary. That's more than the average general city worker at $37,442 but less than the $67,428 for firefighters or the $62,098 for police officers."

The retired county school superintendent, meanwhile, gets more than $200,000 a year in pension proceeds - also more than his final salary. The paper tried to reach the eight retired educators with the highest local pensions, seven former superintendents and one former community college president. Two agreed to talk, said their jobs were "very difficult." They also each get more than $200,000 in pension proceeds a year.

One ex-East County school superintendent had this to say: "It's a very difficult job, a 60-hour-a-week job. None of us are rich from it. Some may think we are, but we are not." Make a note of that, people who work 60 hours a week...

6 retired educators in county are paid more than U.S. education secretary
With no clear way to fund retirement benefits, state system faces huge shortfall

By Maureen Magee and Danielle Cervantes
December 27, 2010
Top educator pensions, San Diego County

1. Rudy Castruita, retired in 2006 as superintendent to the San Diego County Office of Education, receives $281,034 or 107 percent of his salary.
2. Kenneth Noonan, retired in 2007 as superintendent of the Oceanside Unified School District, receives $249,011 or 92 percent of his salary.
3. Larry Maw, retired in 2005 as superintendent of the San Marcos Unified School District, receives $229,326 or 98 percent of his salary.
4. Ralph Cowles, retired as superintendent of Vista Unified School District in 2006, receives $223,632 or 97 percent of his salary.
5. Sherrill Amador, retired in 2004 as president of Palomar Community College, receives $218,511 or 113 percent of her salary.
6. Warren Hogarth, retired in 2003 as superintendent of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, receives $216,348 or 105 percent of his salary.
7. Louis “Lean” King, retired in 2009 as superintendent of the Encinitas Union Elementary School District, receives $179,144 or 83 percent of his salary.
8. Thomas Anthony, retired in 2009 as superintendent of the Fallbrook Union High School District, receives $173,812 or 89 percent of his salary.

San Diego’s pension problems have given the city a bad name nationally, but it’s becoming more apparent every week that similar benefit levels and funding shortfalls are plaguing governments small and large across the nation.

As part of an ongoing examination of these issues, The Watchdog has reviewed local educator pensions and found a familiar story — high benefits with no clear way to pay them.

The state teacher’s pension system faces a $40.5 billion shortfall over the next 34 years, in part because it owes payments for life to people such as Rudy Castruita, the retired superintendent of the San Diego County Office of Education.

Castruita receives the region’s top educator pension of $281,034 a year, or 107 percent of his final salary. That pay in retirement exceeds U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s 2009 base salary of $196,700. Castruita, a 1992 state superintendent of the year, did not return several calls.

The review found:

• The average retired educator in San Diego County is paid $40,633 per year, or 58 percent of final salary. That’s more than the average general city worker at $37,442 but less than the $67,428 for firefighters or the $62,098 for police officers.

• About 5 percent of educators receive pensions that pay them 100 percent or more of their final salary.

• Some 254 receive pensions of $100,000 or more, or 1.7 percent of the retirees. That compares to 3.4 percent of city retirees.

As with the San Diego city pension system, benefits for current pensioners are locked in and protected by law. Changes in the coming years could affect current employees — and taxpayers — as policymakers struggle to fill the gap.

The Watchdog looked at the pensions of 15,358 local educators who are members of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. The data represents a snapshot from September 2009 to August 2010. The survey includes educators who retired as recently as this year from the county’s 42 school districts, five community college districts and other educational institutions.

Seven of the top eight pensions belong to former superintendents, career educators whose experience includes everything from a teacher’s strike and bitter school board politics to test score gains and academic innovations. The other top pension belongs to a former community college president.

The top recipients retired after careers that lasted more than 30 years. Many of them worked their way up from teacher to principal and top administrator.

The Watchdog attempted to reach all eight, and two agreed to comment.

Warren Hogarth, who retired from the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District in 2003 after nearly 37 years, worked in the district’s print shop during college, getting his first teaching assignment at the elementary school he attended as a boy before he was promoted to principal and eventually superintendent — a post he held for 21 years.

“It’s a very difficult job, a 60-hour-a-week job. None of us are rich from it. Some may think we are, but we are not,” said Hogarth, whose annual pension pays him $216,348 or 105 percent of his final salary. “The job is like running a business or a city; you are overseeing 22 schools, operating a bus system, feeding 16,000 kids — not to mention the education part of it.”

Larry Maw, retired from the San Marcos Unified School District with a $229,326 pension, said he is distressed by the fiscal crisis for schools but that retirement payments remain an obligation for public employers.

“It was a very difficult job, and I was very fortunate to have support throughout my career from the district and board,” he said. “The pension is based on a formula.”

Most pensions are awarded as standard retirement packages that are based on a retiree’s age, the number of years worked and their highest and final salaries. Some educators can cash in unused sick time for pension credit.

Special programs can add more to an educator’s retirement. For example, in the last decade, veteran educators with at least 30 years’ experience were eligible for “longevity bonuses” that add up to $400 to monthly pension payments under a limited program designed to help districts retain experienced employees. Educators also receive a 2 percent per year “improvement benefit” in lieu of cost-of-living increases.

Educators who supplement their incomes by taking on extra duties — such as advising the campus newspaper or coaching a team — could count those stipends toward their retirement under a program that ends this year.

Higher-level administrators often negotiate more sophisticated retirement packages.

“Superintendents typically have between a two- to four-year contract, and they are challenged to do a great deal in a short amount of time,” said Richard Thome, co- director of the Educational Leadership Development Academy at the University of San Diego. “It’s a difficult job and we need strong leaders who are qualified to lead our school districts. Compensation has to correlate with that need.”


San Diego County
Retirees: 15,358
Collective annual allowance: $624.5 million
Average pension: $40,663
Highest pension: $281,034
Average final pay: $67,313
Average years of service: 26


Top city pensions, 2009, according to San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System data:

$299,103: Eugene Gordon, assistant city attorney

$247,312: Douglas McCalla, retirement system investment officer

$237,602: Thomas Clark, fire battalion chief

$235,936: Louis Scanlon, assistant police chief

$227,250: Anna Martinez, city librarian

Marcia Fritz, president of the nonprofit pension reform group, California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, said CalSTRS pensions are not sustainable and are out of sync with the private sector.

Any notion that top superintendent candidates would flee to the private sector without generous public compensation plans are a scare tactic, Fritz said.

“Let them go,” she said. “Turnover in the public sector is a fraction of what it is in the private sector.”

Educators pay 8 percent of their salaries toward their retirement, with taxpayers contributing 8.25 percent from school districts and another 2 percent from the state. Those contributions would need to rise to fill the $40.5 billion funding gap projected over the next 34 years.

“The longer it takes to implement a solution, the costlier that solution will become to the state of California,” said Ricardo Duran, spokesman for the state teacher pension fund.

Meanwhile, retired educators are cashing their growing pension checks as school districts cut programs and layoff teachers.

For example, Hogarth’s pension income grew by 2 percent last year, even as teachers in his former La Mesa-Spring Valley School District were directed to cut pink erasers in half to stretch their limited classroom supplies and save money.

See also: School chiefs average $190,000 in pay

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Can you raed tihs? Olny srmat poelpe can.

Can you raed tihs? Olny srmat poelpe can.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Do kids, parents or even administrators have a clue about which teachers are really teaching?

Do kids, parents or even administrators have a clue about which teachers are really teaching?
Not necessarily.

Popularity hinges on many things. For example, studies have shown that people tend to highly rate those who speak with confidence--and with words that are hard to understand! It's unbelievable. The less they understand, the higher they rate the speaker! They also rate more highly people who are good-looking. Strangely enough, bullies tend to be more popular than non-bullies. The ability to rate teachers effectively hinges on non-subjective measures.

"...[S]ome of my best teachers have the absolute worst scores,” she said, adding that she had based her assessment of those teachers on “classroom observations, talking to the children and the number of parents begging me to put their kids in their classes.”

“So if you have a teacher consistently in the top 10 percent,” he said, “the chances are she is doing something right, and a teacher in the bottom 10 percent needs some attention. Everything in between, you really know nothing.”

Hurdles Emerge in Rising Effort to Rate Teachers
New York Times
December 26, 2010

...“If I thought they gave accurate information, I would take them more seriously,” the principal of P.S. 321, Elizabeth Phillips, said about the rankings. “But some of my best teachers have the absolute worst scores,” she said, adding that she had based her assessment of those teachers on “classroom observations, talking to the children and the number of parents begging me to put their kids in their classes.”

...New York City began ranking teachers in the 2007-8 school year as part of a pilot project intended to improve classroom instruction. The project, which cost $1.3 million, with an additional $2.3 million budgeted over the next 18 months, was expanded in the 2008-9 school year to give rankings to more than 12,000 fourth- through eighth-grade teachers...

In support of the model, Douglas Staiger, an economics professor at Dartmouth College, cites research showing that if a teacher receives a high-performing score one year, there is a modest likelihood that he or she will receive a high-performing score the following year. The correlation is about 0.3, he said, with 1 being perfect, and 0 being no correlation. This means that about one-third of teachers ranked in the top 25 percent would appear among the top quarter of teachers the next year.

While that year-to-year link may seem low, in the budding and messy exercise of trying to quantify what makes students learn, it is one of the strongest predictors of future student performance, along with the reduction of class size. That means that, on average, students placed for a year with a high-value-added teacher will do better than those placed with a low-value-added teacher. Dr. Staiger placed the improvement at about three percentile points on a typical standardized test.

“This information is useful but has to be used with caution,” he said. “It’s that middle ground. It’s not useless, but it’s not perfect.”

Yet a promising correlation for groups of teachers on the average may be of little help to the individual teacher, who faces, at least for the near future, a notable chance of being misjudged by the ranking system, particularly when it is based on only a few years of scores. One national study published in July by Mathematica Policy Research, conducted for the Department of Education, found that with one year of data, a teacher was likely to be misclassified 35 percent of the time. With three years of data, the error rate was 25 percent. With 10 years of data, the error rate dropped to 12 percent. The city has four years of data.

...“So if you have a teacher consistently in the top 10 percent,” he said, “the chances are she is doing something right, and a teacher in the bottom 10 percent needs some attention. Everything in between, you really know nothing.”

Obama is USA's most-admired man, Clinton most-admired woman

Obama is USA's most-admired man, Clinton most-admired woman

Most admired man:

1. Barack Obama
2. George W. Bush
3. Bill Clinton
4. Nelson Mandela
5. Bill Gates
6. (tied) Pope Benedict XVI
6. (tied) Billy Graham
8. (tied) Jimmy Carter
8. (tied) Glenn Beck
10. The Dalai Lama

Most admired woman

1. Hillary Clinton
2. Sarah Palin
3. Oprah Winfrey
4. Michelle Obama
5. Condoleezza Rice
6. Queen Elizabeth
7. Angelina Jolie
8. Margaret Thatcher
9. (tied) Aung San Suu Kyi
9. (tied) Laura Bush
9. (tied) Barbara Bush

Source: USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,019 adults taken Dec. 10-12, 2010.

Obama is USA's most-admired man, Clinton most-admired woman
By Susan Page
Dec. 27, 2010

His party may have suffered a shellacking in November's elections, but President Obama remains the unchallenged champion on another front: For the third year in a row, he is by far the most admired man in America.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues an even longer run, ranked in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll as the most admired woman for the ninth straight year. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is second, as she was in 2009.

Despite Americans' unhappiness with the nation's politics, politicians dominate both lists. The top 10 men include not only the president but also the three living former presidents. Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton take the top three spots...

The End of 'The Stupid Class'

June 7, 2010
The End of 'The Stupid Class'

Bianca Penuelas and her friends used to joke about being in "the stupid class" at Correia Middle School. The gifted kids took one set of tougher classes for English and history; she and her friends took another, easier set of classes. So Bianca didn't bother to work hard at school.

"I didn't think I had to try because I was below average anyway," the eighth grader said.

Now she sits side by side with those smart kids she used to only see between classes, kids who she now counts among her friends. Correia put almost all students into the same classes this year, ending the controversial practice of splitting children into classes based on ability, also known as tracking.

"We wanted to debunk the whole thing and try something new," said Principal Patricia Ladd. Her hope was that doing so could raise the bar for all kids at Correia. "So we detracked."...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Diane Crosier and Dan Puplava cozied up to Life Insurance of the Southwest, among others

See all Diane Crosier posts.
See all Daniel Puplava posts.

Diane Crosier and Dan Puplava recently cozied up to Life Insurance of the Southwest, a company whose agents, Anthony Pavia and James Sanford, altered a document that I signed in 1999. The falsified document, approved by Chula Vista Elementary School administrator Lowell Billings, can be seen at the bottom of this page.

Hotel Stays, Flights and a $400 Bottle of Wine
December 26, 2010
by Emily Alpert
December 26, 2010

When San Diego County Office of Education employees flew to Boston to learn more about a company they were considering doing business with, they didn't need to worry about the bill.

The company paid for their flight to Boston. It also paid for their hotel stay. And when of the employees, Dan Puplava, picked out a bottle of wine from Napa Valley over dinner, he wasn't really sure who paid, but believes it was either the company or its marketing company. He thought the bottle cost $400.

"Here the bottle of wine would be, like, 150 bucks," Puplava later testified. "Out there it was outrageous."

Puplava manages a program that helps school district and charter school employees invest for their retirements. Four years ago, he and supervisor Diane Crosier made the visit to Aviva, a company they were weighing whether to do business with, to learn more about its investment products.

It wasn't their only trip. Between 2006 and 2008, the employees repeatedly took trips to visit companies the program worked with or was considering working with, paid for by those same companies.

Crosier is supposed to publicly report gifts she gets from companies or people related to her work. Yet the trips aren't listed on her economic disclosure reports. Ethicists say the free trips are also problematic because workers could be improperly swayed by gifts from companies they negotiate with.

"It smells bad," said Jessica Levinson, director of political reform for the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. "They're clearly trying to influence them."

The County Office argues that the free trips did not compromise its integrity and helped spare resources. Trips to visit companies are indeed common among other investment programs run by government agencies, a way to keep up with vendors and the services they offer. But several other government programs surveyed by don't let companies pick up the tab.

"We don't want to be beholden to anyone," San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister said. His office runs a similar program for county employees and pays for its own trips to see vendors. "We will turn down offers like that because we never want to leave the impression that there is a conflict."

Boston wasn't their only destination. They took several other trips on the tab of companies they were visiting: In Philadelphia, Crosier and Puplava met with Lincoln Financial, a company they were considering to manage their brokers. In Ohio they stopped in to see both Meeder Financial, which helps school employees manage their money, and Nationwide, their investment platform.

In Dallas they visited Life Insurance of the Southwest, a company that provided a special kind of investment plan for the program. In Utah they visited the company that administers the program, National Benefit Services. And they repeatedly visited Aviva's marketing company in Santa Barbara...

California also sets dollar limits on gifts to public employees, which bar them from taking more than $420 worth of gifts from each source each year. The rules are supposed to reduce the sway of money in government and allow the public to keep an eye on how public officials could be influenced.

In response to questions from, the County Office wrote in an email that it believed Crosier had followed the gift rules. But despite repeated questions, it would not specifically explain why the trips could be legally left off the forms. In an email, Crosier said only that the trips were not included "due to discussion with legal counsel."...

The investment program that Puplava manages is offered by a consortium of dozens of school districts and charter schools, which have joined together to get employee benefits at a lower cost. That pact, known as the Fringe Benefits Consortium, is run by the County Office of Education. The program has more than $210 million in assets and more than 6,500 participants.

The program says it offers a less expensive investment option to public school teachers. Attorney [XX], who fielded questions on behalf of Crosier and Puplava, said the agency had hired good, honest people.

"It's unfair to demonize people who have otherwise done great things," [XX] said in an interview earlier this year. "Public employees have saved millions because of their efforts."

But ethicists said the problem isn't whether Puplava and Crosier are good people. Taking the gifts could open Crosier and Puplava up to improper influence that public employees should try to avoid, they said.

Crosier and Puplava advise the committees that decide which companies get contracts with the program or what investments it can offer to employees.

[XX] said they don't give their opinion on companies. But La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Superintendent Brian Marshall, who sits on the executive committee, said that when vendors are up for approval, Crosier typically makes a recommendation to the committee...

The gifts came to light because the program is tangled in a lawsuit. Nearly two years ago, the consortium run by the County Office of Education sued a group of investment advisers it had terminated, accusing them of stealing trade secrets and other violations.

The advisers sued back, claiming the consortium had baselessly fired them.

After the Union-Tribune story on Puplava came out, County Office of Education employees Dan Puplava and Diane Crosier filed a defamation suit against one of the advisers, Barry Allred, and a former consultant, Scott Dauenhauer. Crosier claimed the two had given false information to a Union-Tribune reporter "to enact an unethical revenge."

Crosier's suit also argued that private emails between Allred and Dauenhauer were defamatory, including claims that did not appear in the newspaper. In one of those e-mails, Allred said Crosier and Puplava had accepted paid trips to Boston, Colorado, Utah, Ohio and Santa Barbara.

Attorneys for Allred and Dauenhauer declined comment for this article or didn't respond to phone calls by deadline. In their court filings, they attempted to counter the defamation claims by arguing that the emails about the trips were factual, quoting Puplava's testimony about his Boston trip.

Another bizarre prosecution by Bonnie Dumanis: the conflicts on the Tri-City Hospital board have spilled over from civil court to criminal court

See all posts re Tri-City Healthcare.

The Public Integrity Unit in the San Diego district attorney's office may have been officially disbanded, but the same names (Dumanis and Leon Schorr) are popping up in a bizarre new prosecution that seems every bit as political as two notorious Chula Vista cases. The Public Integrity Unit was embarrassed by the acquittal of Chula Vista councilman Steve Castaneda and the strange case of a Chula Vista employee who was charged with five felonies for taking two hours off work.

"...[A] local law professor said Sterling's alleged vote-swapping deal in late May closely resembled what occurs in Washington, D.C., every day. He cited an example of congressional Republicans refusing to support presidential initiatives until after tax cuts were extended. What is the difference, the professor asked, between this very public vote-swapping and what Sterling said in the restaurant?"

OCEANSIDE: Sterling pleads not guilty to felony charge
North County Times - Californian
December 16, 2010

Tri-City Medical Center Director Kathleen Sterling pleaded not guilty Thursday to a felony vote-swapping charge in Vista Superior Court.

On Nov. 19, the San Diego County district attorney's office charged Sterling with soliciting a bribe and a misdemeanor count of wrongful influence. She appeared, as scheduled, for arraignment Thursday, represented by a court-appointed attorney.

Stating that the hospital director was not considered a flight risk, Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr did not request bail. Sterling is scheduled for another administrative court date Jan. 3.

Sterling declined to comment on the court proceedings during the hearing. Later in the day, her colleagues voted 4-1, with Director Cyril Kellett abstaining, to again censure Sterling. This time, the censure regarded statements Sterling made at a hospital meeting Dec. 4. Those statements included suggesting that fellow board members "take the brown shirt and wear it" after they accused her of, and censured her for, calling board members "Nazis" at a previous meeting.

On Thursday night, board members called for Sterling to resign in light of the censures and felony charge.

Sterling said in a telephone interview Wednesday that she's not going anywhere.

"I'm not going to resign," she said. "This is nothing more than political bullying at its highest. Why not find out what is really underneath all of it?"

In court, Schorr, the deputy district attorney, said it was Sterling's statements at a May 26 dinner meeting with two fellow board members and a hospital administrator that led to the felony charge against her. Hospital Director George Coulter, board Chairwoman RoseMarie Reno and Casey Fatch, the hospital's chief operations officer, testified at a public hearing July 15 that Sterling offered to support unspecified future board business in exchange for being made vice chairwoman of the hospital board and chairwoman of the hospital's Human Resources Committee.

"Both positions have elevated personal power on the board and result in personal financial benefits," Schorr said in court. "Ms. Sterling's demands were offered in exchange for procedural votes on board matters."

If convicted of a felony, Sterling would no longer be able to serve on the Tri-City board.

Schorr said the misdemeanor charge of undue influence relates to a vote Sterling made during a formal sanctions hearing July 15. At the hearing, the board voted to strip Sterling of the stipends she received for attending hospital meetings. Sterling voted against that item even though the board's attorney told her she could be breaking a law that forbids elected officials from influencing decisions that could affect them financially.

"Ms. Sterling disregarded the advice and voted on issues that had a direct economic impact on her," Schorr said.

After the initial complaints against Sterling were filed, a local law professor said Sterling's alleged vote-swapping deal in late May closely resembled what occurs in Washington, D.C., every day. He cited an example of congressional Republicans refusing to support presidential initiatives until after tax cuts were extended. What is the difference, the professor asked, between this very public vote-swapping and what Sterling said in the restaurant?

Standing in the hallway outside the courtroom Thursday, Schorr declined to comment on the workings of Congress...

Several local officials already drawing public pensions

Several local officials already drawing public pensions
North County Times - Californian
December 25, 2010

...Dave Cowles, who was elected to a seat on the Vista City Council in November, said throughout the campaign that he ran for the post so he could use his experience as superintendent for the Vista Unified School District to benefit the city.

He served as the schools' chief from 1998 to 2006.

According to the California State Teachers' Retirement System, known as CalSTRS, Cowles earns almost $200,000 a year in retirement...

"He goes along, pretends to be a gentleman, pretends to be accommodative, pretends to be seriously committed to the law..."

"He goes along, pretends to be a gentleman, pretends to be accommodative, pretends to be seriously committed to the law, and turns around, sending people, beating up people, using violence to coerce and to literally defend power for the sake of defending power."
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI, prime minister of Zimbabwe, on President Robert Mugabe, who is seeking new elections.

Fears Growing of Mugabe’s Iron Grip Over Zimbabwe
New York Times
December 25, 2010

HARARE, Zimbabwe — The warning signs are proliferating. Journalists have been harassed and jailed. Threats of violence are swirling in the countryside. The president’s supposed partner in the government has been virulently attacked in the state-controlled media as a quisling for the West. And the president himself has likened his party to a fast-moving train that will crush anything in its way...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Getting things done requires a mix of compromise and confrontation

"...getting things done requires a mix of compromise and confrontation,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director.

Obama Is Set to Shuffle His Staff
New York Times
December 23, 2010

President Obama is planning the first major reorganization of his administration, preparing to shuffle several positions in the West Wing as he tries to fortify his political team for the realities of divided government and his own re-election...

“In a world of divided government, getting things done requires a mix of compromise and confrontation,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “What are the things you can do without Congress? In some cases, that involves executive orders, but it also involves using the bully pulpit of the presidency to make a political argument about the direction of the country.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Clusters of Confusion: Why Should Parents Care?

I've heard several people ask a similar question, one that applies to just about every elementary school: how come elementary and high school PTAs are kept separate? It seems that as soon as parents really begin to understand what is going on at their elementary school, they are suddenly no longer involved because their kids have moved on. It seems that schools prefer that parents not have access to information about what has gone on previously at the school. The teachers, of course, have that information, since they often stay at one school for decades.

Clusters of Confusion: Why Should Parents Care?
December 13, 2010
by Bey-Ling Sha

I'm really confused about the cluster stuff coming out of the San Diego Unified School District these days. I'm talking about the nine areas into which the school district is now administratively divided, along with correspondingly nice salaries for each area superintendent, not to mention their discretionary funds.

In his recent post, parent-blogger Paul Bowers highlighted the Point Loma cluster and the involvement of parents there. Parent engagement is one of the key planks in the school district's community-based school reform model. Okay, I get that.

What I don't understand though, is why a system put in place to facilitate parent engagement, would then not be set up to optimize parental motivation to get involved?

For example, my children attend a 100 percent magnet school, The Language Academy. Although the school is located in the College Area, 100 percent of the student body comes from across the entire school district; we have no "neighborhood" component to the student body. After completing the K-8 curriculum in French or Spanish immersion, most students matriculate to the School of International Studies at San Diego High (SDHS-IS). Most of our families see SDHS-IS as our "community" high school, given that we have no geographically based "community" or neighborhood.

Yet, The Language Academy is assigned to the Crawford and Hoover cluster. Last year, out of 67 eighth-grade students, only one went to Crawford, and none went to Hoover. In contrast, 20 students went to SDHS-IS, the largest matriculation group out of that cohort...

Financial crimes can equal murder

See all Bernie Madoff posts.

Madoff Investor’s Suicide Leaves Questions
New York Times
January 1, 2009

In the days after Bernard L. Madoff was arrested and accused of orchestrating a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, one of his investors — Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet — struggled with his role in the fraud.

Mr. de la Villehuchet, a French aristocrat and professional investor who lived in the New York suburbs, had put at least $1.4 billion of his and his clients’ money with Mr. Madoff. He had lost his entire savings. He was overwhelmed and depressed, according to people who had spoken to him.

Worse, he felt personally responsible for the money his investors had lost, his brother Bertrand said in a phone interview in Paris this week...

Ruth Madoff Reportedly Blames Bernie For Son's Suicide
Dec. 14, 2010

...Ruth Madoff is reportedly blaming her husband, Bernie, for their son Mark's suicide.

Here's what Madoff biographer Jerry Oppenheimer had to say about it on The Today Show:

"She claims that Bernie Madoff has blood on his hands. She calls him an SOB … that he's totally ruined his family, and the death of their son was the final straw."

Oppenheimer has also said that Ruth feels that Mark "would not have died if it weren't for what [Bernie] had done."

And more from Oppenheimer:

"Her wrath is aimed at her husband." ...

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, like so many human beings, is unable to maintain logical consistency

He accused his media partners at The Guardian newspaper, which worked with him to make the embarrassing leaks public, of unfairly tarnishing him by revealing damaging details of the sex assault allegations he faces in Sweden.

WikiLeaks' Assange Turns on Friends and Foes
Fox News
December 21, 2010

Julian Assange, the man behind WikiLeaks, Monday launched a wide ranging series of attacks on both his enemies and allies as he defended his public and private conduct.

In his first UK newspaper interview since releasing hundreds of secret diplomatic cables last month, Assange told The (London) Times he predicts the United States will face reprisals if it attempts to extradite him on conspiracy charges.

He accused his media partners at The Guardian newspaper, which worked with him to make the embarrassing leaks public, of unfairly tarnishing him by revealing damaging details of the sex assault allegations he faces in Sweden.

He insisted that the women behind the claims were motivated by revenge.

Finally, looking ahead to next year, Assange said he has enough material ready to destroy the bosses of one of the world’s biggest banks.

Speaking from a Suffolk mansion where he is confined on bail, the 39-year-old Australian said that the decision to publish incriminating police files about him was “disgusting.” The Guardian had previously used him as its source for hundreds of leaked US embassy cables.

Assange was understood to be particularly angry with a senior reporter at the paper and former friend, for “selectively publishing” incriminating sections of the police report, although The Guardian made clear that the WikiLeaks founder was given several days to respond...

San Diego firefighter wins $424,000 from city in court

San Diego firefighter wins $424,000 from city in court
He claimed retaliation for exposing wrongdoing in San Diego fire department
By Craig Gustafson
December 20, 2010

San Diego firefighter Paul Vandeveld on the job during the 2007 Witch Creek Fire.

A jury has awarded $424,000 to a San Diego firefighter who said he was suspended and denied a promotion in retaliation for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing in the city’s fire department.

Paul Vandeveld, 44, of El Cajon, has worked in the department since 1990 but his career stalled four years ago after he tried to stop his fellow firefighters from harassing a colleague and aided then-City Attorney Michael Aguirre with his investigation into the city’s pension scandal.

He was suspended without pay for 96 hours for sending an e-mail to higher-ups about the harassment and was denied a promotion several times despite being on the department’s “next in line” list to become a captain.

Background: Paul Vandeveld, a San Diego firefighter, filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the city in 2008 for suspending him and denying him a promotion in retaliation for helping a city attorney investigation into pension issues.

What’s changing: A jury awarded $424,000 to Vandeveld in a verdict Thursday, a majority of the sum represents what he would have made had he received a promotion to captain.

Future: The city is considering an appeal. Vandeveld, a 20-year department veteran, has asked to have the suspension removed from his record so he’ll be eligible for promotions in the future.

The 12-member jury’s unanimous decision called for Vandeveld to receive the difference between what he would have made as a captain versus his current salary as a fire engineer. The jury also awarded him $60,000 in punitive damages and the lost pay from his suspension.

Vandeveld burst into tears when the verdict was announced Thursday in Superior Court, said his attorney Steven Shewry.

“He’s been under exceedingly high levels of stress and humiliation since people started getting named captain ahead of him,” Shewry said. “It’s been pretty tough on him. He’s not an emotional guy but you can see that it’s not all that pleasant every day for a guy who always wanted to be a firefighter.”

The circumstances that led to Vandeveld’s lawsuit began in 2006 when Aguirre interviewed the firefighter as part of an investigation into so-called pension spiking, a practice in which employees are promoted to higher ranks or positions shortly before retirement allowing them to collect larger pensions once they leave.

Shortly thereafter, Vandeveld tried to intercede on behalf of a fire captain who many in the department believed had leaked to a reporter that a battalion chief had been arrested for drunken driving. In his lawsuit, Vandeveld said some firefighters physically assaulted the captain and spray-painted “rat” on his fire helmet...

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Come Back?

Local ex-Navy sailor Joseph Rocha, one of the major players in the movement to allow gays to serve in the military, told us last year that he wants to return to service despite horrific experiences that were confirmed by an investigation. Will he and others be able to do so now that don't-ask-don't-tell is virtually dead? Slate says the answer is: "probably." But it will be complicated.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Come Back?
Congress voted to repeal DADT. Can gay soldiers who were discharged under the old rules re-enlist?
By Brian Palmer
Dec. 20, 2010

Lieutenant Dan Choi who was dismissed from the US Army for 'being openly gay'.Dan ChoiThe Senate voted to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on Saturday after weeks of wrangling. More than 13,000 service members have been fired since that rule came into effect in 1993. Can those people re-enlist?

Probably. For the past 17 years, service members discharged for homosexual conduct have been permanently barred from the military, even if they swore that their sexual preference had changed. During that time, Congress has considered several bills to repeal DADT, many of which would have explicitly permitted discharged service members to rejoin. (The process is technically called reaccession.) In the end, the bare-bones legislation that Congress is about to send to the president punts the re-enlistment issue to the Pentagon. We don't yet know for sure how the secretary of defense will handle the discharged soldiers, but the military's November report (PDF) supporting repeal recommended that they be permitted to come back. Secretary Gates commissioned the report and has so far endorsed its findings.

Any plan to take back dismissed soldiers may run into snags with the paperwork. Most gay people released under DADT received what's called an involuntary honorable discharge, which also applies to personnel with mental health problems or parental duties that preclude military service. Those who receive an involuntary honorable discharge are usually assigned the RE-4 re-enlistment code, which means they're not allowed to come back.

It's not clear how the Pentagon is going to work around this bureaucratic problem...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sweetwater moves toward stricter grad requirements

Plenty of the teachers didn't meet these requirements when they were in high school. If the teachers were capable of bringing the kids up to this level, it would be a different matter, but instituting these requirements in the present situation just means more kids are going to fail. Why is the ACLU getting involved in this? I ask this as a card-carrying liberal. Sadly, I believe the answer is that the ACLU is trying to get publicity and drum up support. I am familiar with several of the leaders of the San Diego ACLU (including Kevin Keenan and David Blair-Loy), and my experience is that these individuals are not so much interested in the success of students or in holding schools accountable for following the law, but rather in advancing their own careers.

Sweetwater moves toward stricter grad requirements
San Diego Union-Tribune
By Ashly McGlone
December 17, 2010

It may get harder to graduate from the Sweetwater Union High School District.

The Board of Education this week voted to require that students meet University of California and California State University admission requirements before they can earn their high school diploma.

No timeline has been set. The requirements include 15 college-prepatory classes in seven academic areas.

Waivers will be available for special needs students and those not fluent in English who enter high school during their junior and senior year.

Trustees opted against a timeline that would have required the courses beginning with the freshman class of 2012.

The resolution passed in a 4-1 vote. Trustee Pearl Quinones, citing her 20 years as a dropout prevention counselor, voted against it.

“Not one size fits all ... What about the ones that don’t want to go to college? All they want to do is graduate.”

According to a presentation by Maria Castilleja, executive director of curriculum and instruction, one-third of last year’s graduates completed the so-called A-G courses.

Nearly 22 percent of seniors currently taking A-G courses are passing with the B average or better, the standard required for university admission.

Students must achieve a C or better in an A-G course in order to receive credit for graduation.

Unknown is how much the transition will cost the district in new textbooks, teacher reassignments and training. The district is looking to cut $23 million from next year’s $320 million budget.

Castilleja said that the board’s move underscores the district’s commitment to college readiness.

In June 2009, San Diego Unified School District became the first district in the county to require A-G standards for graduation, beginning with the 2010 freshman class, but an external audit in September revealed that some 34 percent of students still don’t have access to the courses they need to meet those requirements. Grossmont Union High School District offers A-G courses but does not require them to graduate. Some 37 percent of Grossmont’s 2010 graduates completed the A-G course sequence.

The ACLU has been pushing for districts in California to adopt UC standards. Districts in Los Angeles and San Jose, among others, have made the switch.

Teacher’s union president Alex Anguiano spoke in favor of a gradual transition, suggesting the district begin by ensuring foreign language and art classes are offered at the middle schools.

Residents Karen Janney and Stewart Payne urged caution, saying the district needed to look at data and seek input...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Danielle Grijalva case settled

See all Danielle Grijalva posts.

Danielle Grijalva writes:

Below is an email dated December 10, 2010, from Jeff Laband, Executive Director of NorthWest Student Exchange.

...Paragraph four of Mr. Laband's email translated ... reads,

"Last but not least I would like to know why you sent a letter to Danielle Grijalva? Yesterday I received a message, that there had been a law suit about a calumny against an exchange agency. She was found guilty last month and had to pay a penalty of a 6-digits sum."

Mr. Laband's statement is false. To confirm; contact my attorney, Mr. Aaron C. Hanes of Winet, Patrick & Weaver at 760-758-4261.

[Maura Larkins comment: Danielle Grijalva's home insurance company settled the case without Grijalva's approval. The insurance company felt it would be cheaper to settle rather than to pay the enormous cost of a trial. The civil trial that was scheduled was canceled, so Grijalva's statements were not found to be false, and she did not retract them.]

Continued attempts to harm my reputation and thwart the efforts of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students will not be tolerated.

Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: direct placement Sebastian Grossmann. Baltmore Politechnic Institute
From: "Jeff Laband"
Date: Fri, December 10, 2010

Sehr geehrter Herr Grossmann,

...Letztlich moechte ich gern wissen, warum Sie Ihr Schreiben an Danielle Grijalva schicken. Ich bekam gestern die Nachricht, dass sie vor einer Weile wegen Verleumdung gegen eine Austauschorganisation verklagt und letzten Monat als schuldig verurteilt wurde. Sie musste eine 6-zahlige Busgelt bezahlen...

Jeff Laband
Executive Director
NorthWest Student Exchange
Seattle, WA 98105, USA
NWSE promotes affordable international exchange programs to great students and host families, is designated by the US Department of State and has full listing with CSIET.

[Maura Larkins comment: In reference to the statement underneath Mr. Laband's signature, the truth is that "designation as a Sponsor does not imply approval, sponsorship or promotion of an organization by the U.S. Government and should not be so implied in advertisements, business cards, websites, etc."]

The Diane Crosier/Daniel Puplava lawsuit by SDCOE has a status conference

The Diane Crosier/Daniel Puplava lawsuit by SDCOE has a status conference coming up. I think the "C: in front of Diane Crosier's name means "cross-complainant" or, more likely, "cross-defendant."

12/17/10 11:00AM Dept 62 Central
Judge Styn, Ronald L.
Status Conferen 37-2008-00090684-CU-BT-CTL
C)Diane Crosier
[represented by XXX]

It seems that Diane Crosier got a new lawyer in the case.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Buzz Woolley and Scott Himelstein

See all posts about Buzz Woolley.
See all posts about Scott Himelstein.
See all posts about San Diegans 4 Great Schools.

R.B. “Buzz” Woolley Jr., a financial mainstay of the Voice of San Diego ...

I notice that Buzz Woolley is a supporter of SD4GS and he's on the board of directors of Voice of San Diego. What's up with having 4 unelected board members, Buzz? What are you thinking? Here's what Voice of San Diego says about him: "Buzz Woolley
Buzz is a 40-year San Diego resident, a retired venture capitalist and entrepreneur. He is the president of the Girard Foundation which has provided millions of dollars for K-12 programs in San Diego County over the past 18 years." Did some of that money go to Ed Brand's school districts, Buzz? Did you and Ed become pals?

From CMC to Entrepreneurship: Business Opportunities in the 1990s RALPH "BUZZ" WOOLLEY, JR.
Claremont McKenna College
February 12, 1987
Following January visits by Julie Dillon and Al Osborne, the Athenaeum's 1987 series on entrepreneurship continues on Thursday evening, February 12, when "Buzz" Woolley '59, trustee and the father of Michelle Woolley '90, addresses the subject, "From CMC to Entrepreneurship: Business Opportunities in the 1990s." After working for IBM, Mr. Woolley started a series of businesses, ranging from information processing to real estate development. For the past 12 years, he has headed Girard Capital, a San Diego-based venture capital company that provides financing and management assistance to other entrepreneurs. Girard has aided early stage companies in such fields as computer peripherals, artificial intelligence, advertising, banking, ceramic packaging, and electronic components.

In addition to his business activities, "Buzz" Woolley is on the steering committee for the Technology and Entrepreneurship program at the University of California, San Diego, where he also teaches a course, "How to Start a Business." From the Athenaeum's inception, "Buzz" Woolley has been one of its most generous benefactors, and it is consequently a special privilege for us to have him share his insights with us.

San Diego News Shoot-Out
Dirk Smillie

The Voice was launched in 2005 by a group of investors led by philanthropist Buzz Woolley (father of Forbes Los Angeles bureau chief Scott Woolley) and Neil Morgan, a former San Diego Union-Tribune columnist and editor who had been fired by the paper a year earlier. Its pitches to donors resemble those made by public television during pledgeweek. A $10,000 contribution gains you membership in the "Editor's Circle." That sum might cover the Voice's costs of web hosting and e-mail blasts for a year. Donate $1,000 and buy a journalist a new laptop and software.

The Voice, underwritten by 850 individuals and nonprofit benefactors like the Knight Foundation, focuses on in-depth, investigative coverage of local government, education and housing...

With a $1 million budget, the Voice's 12-member staff work out of a 1,400-square-foot office on the site of a former U.S. Navy base. Chief executive Scott Lewis says the Voice's public policy coverage has no connection to profits or page counts. "We only write about things we know we can report on uniquely and authoritatively." The Voice averages 78,000 unique visitors a month...

Our main founder, Buzz Woolley, was the son of a reporter.

Dec 9, 2010
The Meeting Man Goes Public

Twenty-two years ago, millionaire William Lynch opened his newspaper and was glued to the tale of a former rocker with a black beard and a briefcase, trying to sway skeptical congressmen to spend more on drug rehabilitation, hoping to do some good with his sociology degree.

As the story told it, what Scott Himelstein was good at was persuasion. He could translate the idea of salvation into dollars-and-cents for lawmakers, could listen and speak bureaucrat with ease. And he cared, saying simply, "We're here to do something about the waste of life."

Lynch himself wasn't keen on drug rehabilitation. But the more Lynch read, the more he was keen on Himelstein. He put down his paper and phoned the reporter, asking to meet the idealist over dinner.

They did. "He looked like a yeti," Lynch said recently. "But he was a very impressive young man."...

Scott Himelstein
Age: 52...
Director of USD’s Center for Education Policy and Law. Organizes San Diegans 4 Great Schools, a new group seeking changes to how San Diego Unified schools are run...

Went from New Wave rocker to social services advocate and consultant. Led the William D. Lynch Foundation for Children. Ran San Diego Reads, a literacy campaign under former Superintendent Alan Bersin. Became acting State Secretary of Education under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gates foundation research finds test score growth is sign of a good teacher

Gates foundation research finds test score growth is sign of a good teacher
By Nick Anderson
Washington Post
December 11, 2010

While debate rages in the education world about how to measure effective teaching - or whether it is even possible to do so - research funded by a prominent advocate of data-driven analysis has found that growth in annual student test scores is a reliable sign of a good teacher.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reported that and other preliminary findings Friday from a $45 million study of teacher effectiveness in several cities.

"In every grade and subject we studied, a teacher's past success in raising student achievement on state tests was one of the strongest predictors of his or her ability to do it again," said Vicki Phillips, who oversees elementary and secondary education grants for the foundation.

The findings arrive as state and local officials across the country are retooling teacher evaluations in an effort to make the annual ratings of teachers more objective than the customary short classroom observations made by a principal...

San Diegans 4 Great Schools would only need one elected board member on their side to control schools

If they succeed in getting four appointed members added to the San Diego Unified School District board, SD4GS would only need one vote from an elected member to have a majority.

Dec 10, 2010
Encroaching on Our Right to Vote
By Guest Blogger Doug Porter
Voice of San Diego

I find it quite curious that any mention of gun control anywhere leads to a chorus of cries that our freedoms are in grave danger. Yet when a private group openly espouses encroaching on our right to vote...[crickets].

We hear a lot these days about the failings of our education system. Everywhere you look, fingers are pointed at the supposed culprits behind this crisis: lack of funding, the unions, the special interests, television, the internet, poverty, parents, teachers, immigration and, perhaps, the meddling federal government.

Education reform has become a fashionable forum for philanthropists who are so sure they can transfer their success in business to education that they are willing to bet your children's lives on it. Diane Ravitch calls them the "Billionaire Boys Club" in her best-selling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

Now there is a move afoot, inspired by these well-meaning types asking the citizens of San Diego, via an upcoming initiative, to sacrifice your right to vote for school board members in the name of reform. Perhaps you've seen their (paid) signature collectors recently, asking for your support to "save our schools."

By 2020 just about one-half of students nationwide will be attending public schools clustered in 20 large urban districts. The research into large city school districts reveals widespread poverty, chronic academic underachievement, dropouts, crime, unstable school boards, reform policy churn, and high superintendent turnover. The typical tenure of a superintendent in the largest large city districts is two to three years. In San Diego, we've had four superintendents since 1996.

Reliance on test scores, charter schools and an ever increasing expectation for school system employees to do more with less are all parts of the currently fashionable "reform" picture. At the root of all this local push is the notion that such reforms can only be accomplished by a strong leader, one like Alan Bersin, who directed San Diego's system from 1998-2005.

Bersin's tenure ended here once the majority that backed him on the school board was defeated at the ballet box. Despite, for example, spending $720,000 to defeat Board member Frances Zimmerman in 2000, the pro-Bersin, pro-business interests were unable to persuade the public to buy into their approach.

Now these same groups are back in the game, hailing a self-financed study of San Diego schools that selectively uses data purporting to show that a "crisis" is at hand. Calling themselves San Diegans 4 Great Schools, their solution to this "emergency" is to appoint an additional four members to the school board.

Other major urban areas have tried this route, either going with hybrid appointed/elected school boards, or by having the mayor take control of the schools. Like charter schools, these attempts at governance reform have produced mixed results, and certainly nothing that would qualify as a game changer or a silver bullet for school performance.

There is no simple cure for the ills that plague our schools. But if the problem is worst in our largest districts, then one understandable policy proposal would be to divide them into smaller districts, as Harvard University economist Caroline M. Hoxby has pointed out. Her research indicates that smaller districts foster more choice for parents, with the resulting competition leading to significantly improved school performance. Given that parents greatly value neighborhood schools, smaller districts would seem to be a better choice. San Diego Unified is already taking steps in this direction on the administrative level by breaking local schools into eight clusters.

We've tried the "we need some appointed experts" approach in the not-so-distant past right here in San Diego with the city's employee pension plans. And I don't think that process has worked out too well for the taxpayer. We certainly need to question the motives of any group that claims to have "the" solution to a problem this complex. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.

As Winston Churchill said on the eve of the cold war, "Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect... Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Faced with the choice of giving up my right to vote or more local control, I'll take local control every time.

Doug Porter is a regular blogger for and a San Diego Unified parent. He is guest blogging about why he opposes a campaign to change how the San Diego Unified school board is selected...Doug Porter is a 1968 graduate from Point Loma High School and has a daughter that attends the San Diego School for Creative and Performing Arts. He blogs regularly for You can contact Doug directly at


"sinister" "suspicion" "behind closed doors" "martians will suck out my brains"

Come on, folks- this is just paranoia. I understand people disagree with this organization, and I understand why. As I pointed out, I'm not in complete alignment with them either. Fair enough.

But they are trying to bring options and they are trying to improve schools in a manner they believe match the needs of employers. And, as business types (myself included) we make decisions based on sound management and business principles. (OK, in my case maybe not so sound) Leadership is not defined as appeasing everybody or taking polls and deciding a course of action that is popular. Margaret Thatcher told us that "Consensus is a lack of leadership".

It's absolutely clear that the labor-controlled board is acting in the best interest of union, often at the expense of the students and teachers. Remember the PLA?

This is a group that believes (and I agree) that our schools suffer from poor and biased leadership, and have strong and legitimate suggestions for changes they believe would help *students*.

DIsagree all you wish- that's good citizenship. But to use terms like "sinister" "suspicion" "behind closed doors" "martians will suck out my brains" to defend a weak argument belies the dedication to status quo that continues to cripple our schools. One cannot ask to "bring all players to the table" from one side of a keyboard, but on the other side criticize and besmirch the efforts of those players who do.

In short: Bring all players to the table, but don't change anything, OK?

Now, cue those conspiracy theorists that believe there is big bucks awaiting for these sinister and suspicious business types- wait for it- they'll arrive anytime.

Paul M. Bowers

Response to Paul Bowers from Maura Larkins:
You say "it's absolutely clear that the labor-controlled board is acting in the best interest of union," and at the same time you say it's paranoia to think that businessmen trying to pack the board with unelected members might have mixed motives.

Is that the best you can do to defend SD4GS's motives? To say that it's paranoid to question those motives? You're not much of a supporter of public discussion of public entities, are you?

You know that the "businessmen" you are defending have a spokesman, Scott Himelstein, who attended yacht parties with superintendent Ed Brand, and got Brand to interfere with a teacher hiring panel on behalf of his wife. You are either being disingenuous or you are kidding yourself if you still think that those "businessmen" have wholly pure motives.

At least we know what the union's goals are.

Democracy is far from perfect, but voters clearly chose union-connected board members. So you want to weaken democracy in the governance of schools? What do you plan to teach students about democracy? That businessmen should undermine it in order to help students? That the goals of these businessmen are so pure and paramount that they outweigh our democratic tradition?

It's simply wrong to assume that businessmen care more about education than teachers do. Both groups have mixed motives, neither group can be trusted to run schools alone. And who should decide what mixture of businessmen and union supporters should be on the board? The voters should continue to decide--not an appointed panel.

Maura Larkins

I agree and disagree when I hear that businesses need employees that can come out of school ready to work. Are you talking about high school grads?Than if that's the case Wal-Mart, Target and others always need a low-wage work force to be competitive. Businesses after all have the bottom line in mind, all the time. Or is business leaders talking about college grads (I doubt it)?

Mr. Bowers, do you remember when you were 18 and out of school? Yea, most people don't like hiring someone right out of high school, you know why? They don't have life experience and know the expectations for what the real world is like. I think you need to give teenagers a break (that's what they still are). You know and I know to make it in our county you need a college education, you can't survive on a high school diploma anymore. This goes back to loosing our manufacturing base, overseas jobs and oh, I could go on and on.

I would NOT want my child to work for someone who is going to hire them out of high school, instead, like all of us we want them to go to college and get a real job. I'm very suspicious of someone ready to hire my son right out of high school.

I think we can agree our children (city of san diego) need a great education, we just disagree on how to get there.

(Robert Hampton)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thad Jesperson was wrongly accused: Court of Appeal overrules Judge William Nevitt

UPDATE March 29, 2013: Court of Appeal says Thad Jesperson may go back to work

Judge Reverses Firing of Teacher Tried for Molestation
March 29, 2013

A Fourth District Court [of Appeal in California] judge on Wednesday overturned the firing of a San Diego teacher who spent more than three years in prison after being falsely convicted of molesting second and third grade students.

In a written ruling, the judge noted that officials at Clairemont's Toler Elementary School acted erroneously when they terminated Thad Jesperson's employment in November 2008.

Jesperson was arrested in April 2003, tried three times and ultimately convicted on seven counts of molestation. He was sentenced to serve 15 years to life in prison but was released in 2007 because of misconduct on the part of jurors and ineffective assistance from his own attorney. All convictions were overturned and Jesperson asked Toler Elementary officials to reinstate him.

The school denied his request despite the overturning of all molestation convictions and a ruling from a commission on professional competence that Jesperson was fit to teach and that "the evidence (in the case) did not establish that he touched (one of the students who accused Jesperson of molestation) in the manner to which she testified, or in any other manner that was immoral or a violation of district regulations...".

July 20, 2012 note: I used to have confidence that judges would never ignore the law and the evidence. But I have lost that confidence. There was no reason to believe the accusations that children came up with AFTER they were manipulated by adults. This reminds me of the Dale Akiki case. Amazingly, in this case the Office of Administrative Hearings got it right.


Bonnie Dumanis really wanted to get this teacher convicted, but it took jury misconduct and inadequate legal representation to achieve the goal.

I know Judge Nevitt to be a decent judge. Almost all judges feel an obligation to support school districts, but in this case, I think Judge Nevitt was right to overturn the decision of the Office of Administrative hearings. The OAH is pretty much a joke as far as administering the law fairly or effectively.

Schools shouldn't take risks with the well-being of kids. Even though he might be innocent, it makes sense for Jesperson to find another job. Jesperson might file a civil suit. In that case, it might make sense for the school to give him a desk job.


Thad Jesperson Conviction Overturned

Sep 13th, 2007
by Mark L. Jackson
Mark's Soapbox

Another blow to the San Diego Justice System. Appeals court overturns the conviction of Thad Jesperson. Citing incompetence on the part of his legal team, and the misconduct by the jury (no doubt the Judge has some blame here as well)...

When first questioned by San Diego detectives, the children who made the initial accusations denied anything happened

Eventually, the students said they were touched by Jesperson while they read with him at the front of a classroom. Some said the touching was a light rubbing over their clothes, but others said that the touching was more intimate.

Sevilla said that under repeated questioning by police, school officials and social workers at Rady Children’s Hospital, the students’ story changed.

What the hell were the prosecutors thinking? No doubt ‘this will get me a promotion and get me elected to City Attorney, or even *gasp* Attorney General.’

Where the hell were they when the Jurors were breaking the rules? One Juror lied about being molested as a child, no doubt hoping to hang a molester. Another Juror used previous training as a teacher in deliberations, clearly out of bounds.

However this is the worst:

On one tape, a social worker is heard to say “we are here to make sure he (Jesperson) doesn’t do that to you or any more kids.”...


Dec 10, 2010
Court Finds Teacher 'Unfit to Teach'
by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego

A Superior Court judge ruled last week that a San Diego teacher who was first convicted of child molestation, then freed after his convictions were overturned, is still "unfit to teach."

That would give San Diego Unified School District the legal backing to fire the teacher, who had successfully fought his firing in an earlier appeal...

Thad Jesperson had been put on trial three times before his conviction was thrown out because of jury misconduct and inadequate legal representation. After his convictions were reversed more than two years ago, San Diego Unified decided to terminate Jesperson for immoral conduct and unfitness for service.

The school district alleged that Jesperson had "engaged in lewd and lascivious acts" with four female students, the same allegations that led to his criminal charges, according to court documents. His teaching credential had lapsed while he was incarcerated, according to court documents.

Jesperson contested the charges before a panel called the Commission on Professional Competence, which hears teacher terminations. He argued that he never engaged in misconduct with any child and that trying to fire him based on allegations that had been overturned in court was "double jeopardy."

In February, the panel concluded that there was no cause to dismiss Jesperson, concluding that there was too little evidence to show that he had inappropriately touched a child the way she had testified. Only one of the students was called to testify.

The school district fought the finding in Superior Court. Attorney Jon Vanderpool, who is representing Jesperson, argued in a legal filing that the classroom layout and present witnesses made it implausible that Jesperson had touched the girl as alleged and that her testimony was not credible or consistent.

"Because they did not find Jesperson touched Emily inappropriately, no measure of unfitness, immoral conduct, or violation of regulations was demonstrated by the District," Vanderpool wrote.

But Judge William R. Nevitt, Jr. ruled against the disciplinary panel that had backed Jesperson, saying its finding was "contrary to the weight of the evidence." Nevitt concluded that the evidence showed the girl had been touched inappropriately, which "constitutes immoral conduct making him unfit to teach."...

Fact & Fiction About San Diego School Reform (or maybe just fiction, eh, Scott Himelstein?)

Which part of democracy does San Diegans 4 Great Schools not understand? Apparently the part where representatives are elected by the people.

More on Ed Brand.

Fact & Fiction About San Diego School Reform
by Scott Himelstein, guest blogger
Voice of San Diego
Dec. 9, 2010

...• The five-member elected board would be expanded, with four independent members appointed by a nominating commission comprised of educational leaders and parents....

More on Ed Brand.


Sounds fishy Scott. You say you're for teachers but it smells like big business which doesn't like unions at all and is part of the current anti-teacher fever in our country. Also the fact that people will be appointed is very undemocratic in itself, who are they accountable to? How can you say that they would not be influenced by special interest? I'm sure you have some quick response to this but I (we) are very weary of a wolf in sheep's clothing.


There is nothing undemocratic about what we are trying to do. Propositions are a long-time and permanent part of the democratic process. None of the proposed reforms will happen unless the people of San Diego vote for them in a democratic election! Sorry that you are so weary of an open proposal that voting members of the public can decide for themselves on.

Scott Himelstein

I agree that schools need to be involved in continuous improvement. Electing School Board members by districts may be a good idea, although I am not sure than building in district vs. district "special interest legislating" is any better than what we have now. I would welcome financial contributions by well-intentioned philanthropists to support public education.

But my wife and I would never, ever, in a million years support having appointed members serve on the School Board. We will gladly tell the paid signature solicitors that, if they ask us to sign a petition, and if the petition drive succeeds we will gladly vote against the initiative. To say that adding appointed members is not "anti-democtratic" simply points how deceptive those mounting this campaign are willing to be.


I have criticized the teachers union severely, but that doesn't mean I think that its power should be transferred to unelected board members. Here's what I'd like to know: once San Diegans 4 Great Schools disenfranchises the teachers union, what specific reforms will it try to get implemented?...

I think San Diegans 4 Great Schools are well-meaning people who think democracy isn't working. Why do they think that? Because voters elected board members who are loyal to the teachers union. Anybody who knows me knows that I am deeply disappointed in the teachers union, but I have seen that administrators and others who are hostile to the teachers union are also guilty of putting their own interests ahead of children. There is a lot of money involved in education, money that goes to expensive programs that achieve nothing, and to lawyers who help schools keep financial documents secret. Have you ever tried to get public financial records from San Diego County Office of Education? Apparently SDCOE's rule is that if they don't want you to have public documents, the only way you'll get them is by going to court to enforce the law. (That's what it took to get SDCOE documents about the MiraCosta College scandal.) I continue to believe that democracy is our best bet.

Why aren't San Diegans 4 Great Schools trying to educate voters instead of disenfranchising them? SDRGS should be campaigning to make schools transparent. The public should know that most administrators and board members behave as though their main goal is to promote their own careers, not educate children. It's not just the teachers that are trying to make their jobs as easy and lucrative as possible.

Maura Larkins

Still googling, but I was googling for Mr. Lynch and this old history popped up.

Lee Hazer

Good work, Leecal!

The connection between Scott Himelstein and Ed Brand is significant. It's beginning to look like this is a conflict between right-wing superintendents and the teachers union. Ed Brand is one of the most notorious superintendents in the county, and has been closely connected to the secretive SDCOE-JPA. The JPA allows superintendents to choose the lawyers they like, and then spends millions in tax dollars protecting those superintendents in court. The JPA also protects the superintendents from the media by refusing to turn over documents to the San Diego Union-Tribune and Voice of San Diego. It's all starting to make sense to me.

I take back what I said about SD4GS being well-meaning people. I think you're right that is a raw power grab.

Maura Larkins

...Mr. Himelstein’s group would only have to work on getting one elected board member in place to have a majority. By electing the board members within districts the plan would atomize politics and make it easier to sway elections. Again, moneyed elites would easily buy a candidate within a district...

Scott Mullin

It is true that Himmelstein is a hired gun. He has been one for years. The reason is that he has been paid through donations (tax deductable) to folks that are exempt from full disclosure. USD is one such place. And Mr. Himmelstein is not starving. I bet he will never supply anyone with his tax data. As to the merits of the proposal, one should look at the motives surrounding it. Hiding a dilution of the power of the voters behind the "obvious" merits of separate area elections is no cooincidence. The standard political strategy for getting what you want is to disquise it within a popular cause. If the motives for district elections was pure (like one I got on the ballot years ago) then ther would be two petitions, one for district elections, and the other for appointments of board members. Guess which one might pass? The fact that the district is now suffering from a labor board takeover (conducted fairly, but misguided) which will preside over the worst cuts of valuable educational programs in history is also likely to make this new skirmish go to ballot. A disgruntled public is just the ticket for this kind of ploy. If the public continues to see the decimation of our local schools by the current board, with no temporary concessions by labor to help balance the budgets, I see this misguided anti-democratic end run as gaining traction. I only hope that the public starts to pay attention to what is needed to make our schools great instead of taking sides in a battle that will DESTROY public education. Taking control of your schools is done by voting for the RIGHT people, not diluting power of those you were foolish enough to support. You get what you vote for! Don't blame anyone but the person you see in the mirror. Don't let the paidgunslinger fool you. This isn't about better education at all, it is about where your educational dollars are spent and who controls your schools. Taking them back is a great rallying cry, but giving them away is worse.

...Because the backers are funneling money to the 'reform' group based at USD – a private institution – the money trail is covered. I am not an expert in the rules governing contributions to private organizations housed on the grounds of private institutions. I base my understanding of the hidden money trails on what John de Beck has been writing about the USD based group over the past year or so. I don't remember vilifying anyone anywhere. If I have I apologize. I work for change every day with the students I teach. Teachers are eminently qualified to effect change in the public schools. And we are a part of change every day. Many, if not all, of the 'reforms' that the well funded group at USD hope to put in place through their end run around democracy have been tried and shown to be ineffective throughout the United States. As Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."...

Scott Mullin

Even one puff of tobacco harmful, reports surgeon general

Even one puff of tobacco harmful, reports surgeon general
By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 10, 2010

...Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 70 that cause cancer, according to the report. That means there is no "risk-free level of exposure" to tobacco smoke. Even a whiff of tobacco smoke can adversely affect the body, the report concludes.

"The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale, causing damage immediately," Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said in a statement. "Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer." ...

Five federal judges say California may be about to execute an innocent man

Framed for Murder?
New York Times
December 8, 2010

“California may be about to execute an innocent man.”

That’s the view of five federal judges in a case involving Kevin Cooper, a black man in California who faces lethal injection next year for supposedly murdering a white family. The judges argue compellingly that he was framed by police.

Mr. Cooper’s impending execution is so outrageous that it has produced a mutiny among these federal circuit court judges, distinguished jurists just one notch below the United States Supreme Court. But the judicial process has run out for Mr. Cooper. Now it’s up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to decide whether to commute Mr. Cooper’s sentence before leaving office.

This case, an illuminating window into the pitfalls of capital punishment, dates to a horrific quadruple-murder in June 1983. Doug and Peggy Ryen were stabbed to death in their house, along with their 10-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old houseguest. The Ryens’ 8-year-old son, Josh, was left for dead but survived. They were all white.

Josh initially told investigators that the crime had been committed by three people, all white, although by the trial he suggested that he had seen just one person with an Afro. The first version made sense because the weapons included a hatchet, an ice pick and one or two knives. Could one intruder juggling several weapons overpower five victims, including a 200-pound former Marine like Doug Ryen, who also had a loaded rifle nearby?

But the police learned that Mr. Cooper had walked away from the minimum security prison where he was serving a burglary sentence and had hidden in an empty home 125 yards away from the crime scene. The police decided that he had committed the crime alone.

William A. Fletcher, a federal circuit judge, explained his view of what happens in such cases in a law school lecture at Gonzaga University, in which he added that Mr. Cooper is “probably” innocent: “The police are under heavy pressure to solve a high-profile crime. They know, or think they know, who did the crime. And they plant evidence to help their case along.”

Judge Fletcher wrote an extraordinary judicial opinion — more than 100 pages when it was released — dissenting from the refusal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case. The opinion is a 21st-century version of Émile Zola’s famous “J’Accuse.”

Mr. Fletcher, a well-respected judge and former law professor, was joined in his “J’Accuse” by four other circuit judges. Six more wrote their own dissents calling for the full Ninth Circuit to rehear the case. But they fell just short of the votes needed for rehearing.

Judge Fletcher laid out countless anomalies in the case. Mr. Cooper’s blood showed up on a beige T-shirt apparently left by a murderer near the scene, but that blood turned out to have a preservative in it — the kind of preservative used by police when they keep blood in test tubes.

Then a forensic scientist found that a sample from the test tube of Mr. Cooper’s blood held by police actually contained blood from more than one person. That leads Mr. Cooper’s defense team and Judge Fletcher to believe that someone removed blood and then filled the tube back to the top with someone else’s blood.

The police also ignored other suspects. A woman and her sister told police that a housemate, a convicted murderer who had completed his sentence, had shown up with several other people late on the night of the murders, wearing blood-spattered overalls and driving a station wagon similar to the one stolen from the murdered family.

They said that the man was no longer wearing the beige T-shirt he had on earlier in the evening — the same kind as the one found near the scene. And his hatchet, which resembled the one found near the bodies, was missing from his tool area. The account was supported by a prison confession and by witnesses who said they saw a similar group in blood-spattered clothes in a nearby bar that night. The women gave the bloody overalls to the police for testing, but the police, by now focused on Mr. Cooper, threw the overalls in the trash.

This case is a travesty...