Monday, September 30, 2013

School funds go astray in La Jolla, Mira Mesa and Chula Vista--but the events in Chula Vista didn't make it into the news

In Sweetwater Union High School District, Mary Anne Weegar insisted that funds be spent for their intended purpose. The result? She lost her job. The superintendent was the notorious Ed Brand.

At another district in Chula Vista, two separate embezzlements occurred, in 1997 and 2005 at Castle Park Elementary, but the district was able to keep it hushed up. For some reason, it seems that school embezzlements in all other parts of the county manage to make it into the news.

$250,000 in San Diego student money misspent by staff, says audit
Staff breakfasts, popcorn machine among items
Mitch Blacher
ABC News

SAN DIEGO - A quarter million dollars meant for Mira Mesa High School students was "misspent" by school administrators on things such as staff breakfasts, personal expenses for school coaching staff, a popcorn machine, sound system, office furniture and more, according to an audit by the San Diego Unified School District.

The money originated from a fund for the "Associated Student Body" and was raised in part by students and also tax dollars mandated by the state.

The district audit shows 22 examples of money meant for students that was instead spent by staff.

((See Team 10 question the district today on 10News At 5:00.))

"Some people may view this as hundreds of thousands of dollars in misspent money," said SDUSD spokesman Jack Brandais.

The audit shows $20,785 raised by graduation tickets was misappropriated, and it shows Mira Mesa HS Principal Scott Guisti spent $41,666 from the student fund for office furniture.

Brandais said the district is not placing blame on any person for the misspending because the district did not properly train staff on how to use money from certain accounts, and, in fact, approved the spending.

The audit also shows the basketball and cross country coach using $3,058.37 for "personal gain."

"It was going to coaches' clinics, and student funds can't be used for that," Brandais said.

The audit revealed money spent on gift cards for staff.

It also shows the principal spent more than $37,000 on a sound system, ice machine, printer, portable stage and popcorn machine.

"We made errors," Guisti wrote in response to the audit. "I disagree with several of the auditor's findings."

Internal emails between Guisti and school district staff show the district itself authorized the expenditures.

"According to this report, we have a lot of work to do to do better," Brandais said.

Brandais said since the audit, SDUSD principals have been through new training detailing how to handle money meant for student causes.

This is not the first time San Diego student funds have been spent misspent. In July 2013, another district audit revealed $25,000 wrongly taken from a student fund at La Jolla High School.

UPDATED: La Jolla High clerk responsible for more than $25,000 in missing ASB funds
A former La Jolla High School clerk is under investigation for accounting irregularities. La Jolla school board representative Scott Barnett said he would likely ask the district attorney's office to open an investigation.
District calls 52-page audit of associated student body accounts worst the department has encountered.
To read the 52-page audit, click here.
By Pat Sherman
La Jolla Light
July 18, 2013

An auditor with the San Diego Unified School District says his 52-page audit of La Jolla High School’s associated student body funds is the longest and most negative the district has ever encountered, according to U-T San Diego, which first reported the story July 15.

Chief among the 60 negative findings in the July 2 report is that a school clerk, who resigned in February when the audit began, removed more than $25,000 in funds earmarked for student activities, using accounting ruses to cover up the loss.

Nine checks from The Foundation of La Jolla High School, totaling almost $14,000, were used to cover missing money from the various accounts, according to the audit of $1 million raised and $915,000 spent during the 2011-2012 school year (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012).

The report says $26,925 in unaccounted funds in the ASB accounts is only a “minimum amount.”

The financial clerk, whose name was withheld by district officials, might have done the same thing in a previous district post not identified in the report, it shows.

Asked to comment about the loss and other questionable ASB accounting practices detailed in the report, the school district issued the following statement from Superintendent Cindy Marten on Wednesday, July 17.

“The public can be assured that the San Diego Unified School District takes very seriously our responsibility to properly spend funds from taxpayers and donors alike.

“As Superintendent, my expectations are that all district employees understand and follow our district policies, procedures, and the law. It is the district’s responsibility to provide relevant, timely and clear information and training to our employees for this important function.

“In cases where an audit has shown that policies or the law are not followed, all appropriate action will be taken. Due to employee privacy rules, we are not always at liberty to share the consequences with the public. However, the district will follow through with appropriate discipline/legal action as required.

Our students, parents and the community can trust my full attention to these issues.”

Other irregularities detailed in the report include:

• More than $200,000 in spending unaccounted for by receipts or other required documentation.

• The school used ASB funds to pay a retired employee and Advanced Placement test monitors, which also should be paid with district money.

• When paying a construction company for football field repairs, Principal Dana Shelburne transferred $26,000 from an ASB account to his own discretionary account. The work, including construction of a wall, drainage and waterproofing, should have been covered by district funds.

• ASB money was used to purchase fireworks for a homecoming event (the district prohibits pyrotechnics on school grounds), and to pay almost $100,000 to the publisher of the school yearbook (awarded the job without it first going out to bid).

• La Jolla High accepted a grant for $26,386 from UC San Diego, which it deposited into the ASB checking account, instead of the district account.

• Unaccounted funds, included: $1,982 in senior dues for the class of 2012 and ASB Ball income totalling $3,360.

• The ASB received a $1,500 check from the La Jolla Kiwanis Foundation for football, though it was deposited to an account where basketball game proceeds are collected — to cover a deficiency in that account.

Don Hodges of the Kiwanis foundation told La Jolla Light the $1,500 is only a small part of what the foundation gives to the school annually (this year it awarded $15,000 to La Jolla High’s scholarship foundation to award student scholarships at local community colleges.

However, Hodges added, “any funds that are given for a specific purpose we would expect that those funds are used for that purpose. … If the funds go to other purposes, that would be a concern to us.”

Speaking with Light on July 17, Scott Barnett, a school board member whose district includes La Jolla High, said the board would likely ask the district attorney’s office to open an investigation.

“There are many times in an audit where it appears that there are accounting errors or sloppiness or mistakes, but the absolutely egregious level of missing funds is extremely worrisome here and I believe warrants the district attorney to investigate to find out who is responsible, and where those funds are,” Barnett said.

Steve Walker, a representative for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, said the office’s special operations division routinely investigates cases in which there has been a misuse of public funds. The District Attorney’s office won’t confirm whether a case has been opened until charges are filed, Walker said.

On Friday, July 19, Principal Shelburne issued the following statement to La Jolla High parents:

“The findings of that report focused mainly on monies allegedly misappropriated by means of accounting manipulations. The District’s auditors apprised me of their findings in May.

“We have been audited several times in past years without incident. This audit, however, revealed a fairly sophisticated, inappropriate series of monetary transfers that resulted in the loss of school funds. It is important to note the audit found the contributions of the Foundation of La Jolla High School to be completely lawful and above reproach. And while I am pursuing resolution to disagreements about acceptable use of ASB funds, please be assured we have instituted new safeguards to ensure monetary manipulation can never recur.”

Foundation of La Jolla High President Jeffrey Macelli, also released a statement in response to the audit:

“In light of the recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Foundation of La Jolla High School has been asked to clarify its role and position in the community.

The Foundation is a credentialed 501C(3)and is more than twenty-five years old. Its stated Mission is ‘to enhance the overall educational experience of LJHS students and programs by raising, managing and disbursing funds to support academic, athletic, building and grounds, and other needs of the school for which funding is not sufficient.’ The Foundation is a separate entity, distinct from La Jolla High School, the ASB, and San Diego Unified School District.

The Foundation provides funds to support or supplement activities and initiatives that adhere to rules and guidelines established by the Foundation, and which are acceptable to and approved by La Jolla High School. The Foundation delivers funding after a thorough review and vetting process that requires supporting documentation and LJHS administrative approvals.

We are aware of the SDUSD Audit dated July 2, 2013 that was made public on Tuesday, July 16, however it is outside our area of purview.”

Tri-City Healthcare loses appeal, wastes taxpayer money, in attempt to justify hostility to Kathleen Sterling

Kathleen Sterling wins; CEO Larry Anderson loses

By putting CEO Larry Anderson on administrative leave earlier this month, Tri-City Healthcare gives the appearance of an institution that might be trying to mend its ways.

Tri-City Healthcare got very personal in its efforts to destroy Kathleen Sterling, a board member who asked too many questions. When Judge Richard Mills wasn't impressed by the testimony of witnesses who were trying to help Tri-City get a restraining order against Ms. Sterling, board RoseMarie Reno suggested that the judge might have taken a bribe.

Perhaps Ms. Reno lives in such a small world that she thinks Tri-City's vendetta is the first that Judge Mills ever came across. She assumed that Judge Mills would be deeply impressed by the fact that a public entity claimed to have discovered a threat in its midst. She may have believed that the judge had never before seen public employees pressured to present overwrought accounts of non-events in an effort to get rid of someone. She must have forgotten that one of her witnesses said he did NOT feel threatened by Ms. Sterling.

These are the winning law firms:

The McMillan Law Firm, Scott A. McMillan and Evan Kalooky for Defendant and Appellant Kathleen Sterling; Spiegel Liao & Kagay and Charles M. Kagay

These are the losing law firms:

Daley & Heft, Mitchell D. Dean, Scott Noya and Lee H. Roistacher;
Horvitz & Levy, David S. Ettinger, Mitchell C. Tilner and Jeremy B. Rosen;
Procopio, Cory Hargreaves & Savitch, Evelyn F. Heidelberg and Gregory V. Moser [an erstwhile school attorney], for Plaintiff and Appellant Tri-City Healthcare District.

The decision states:

"Tri-City Healthcare District (Tri-City) petitioned for protective orders against Kathleen Sterling, an elected Tri -City board member, alleging the protective orders were necessary to prevent Sterling from committing workplace violence against specified individuals. (Code Civ. Proc., 1§527.8.) After a four-day evidentiary hearing, the court denied the petitions, finding Tri-City did not meet its burden to satisfy the required statutory elements for the protective orders..."

Workplace violence? Are they kidding?

The decision continues:

"We summarize the relevant events based on the evidence found reliable by the court. The February 24 Board meeting was scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. At about 3:25 p.m., Sterling attempted to enter the Board meeting room, believing the existing sanctions orders applied only during the meetings and not before the meetings. Security officer Crooks, how ever, believed the censure order barred Sterling from entering the room before and during the Board meetings... "

Paralegal says Tri-City report is wrong
She balks at hospital's version of events involving board member Kathleen Sterling
Aaron Burgin SDUT Nov. 11, 2011

This is from the opinion: "Although we agree that prejudicial error analysis requires a review of the entire record, we find Tri-City's approach of highlighting only its own evidence to be unhelpful and arguably misleading.""

Board of Directors

The Tri-City Healthcare District is governed by publicly elected Board of Directors, who represent the residents of Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista. Click on highlighted names to contact by email.

Larry W. Schallock Chairperson
Cyril F. Kellett, MD Vice Chairperson
Julie Nygaard Secretary
RoseMarie V. Reno Treasurer
Ramona Finnila Assistant Secretary
James Dagostino, DPT, PT Assistant Treasurer
Paul V. L. Campo Member, Board of Directors

Judge revokes state oversight of 6 Aspire charter schools

Judge revokes state oversight of 6 Aspire charter schools
July 9, 2012
Corey G. Johnson
California Watch

A superior court judge has invalidated the State Board of Education's oversight of one of the state's biggest charter school companies, giving six schools until June 2013 to gain approval from local school districts or be forced to close.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jo-Lynne Lee found that the board improperly awarded Aspire Public Schools rights to bypass local district oversight and open schools anywhere in California, without evaluating whether the company met the state's requirements.

Lee's ruling represents a victory for the California Teachers Association, California School Boards Association and Association of California School Administrators, which sued the education board in 2007.v State law says charters can be allowed to open schools anywhere in California if they can prove their services are a "statewide benefit" that cannot be provided by a charter school overseen by a local district. But in their lawsuit, the school groups claimed the state education board awarded Aspire operating rights without assessing whether a benefit existed.

In 2010, an appeals court agreed and sent the case back to Alameda County for a final ruling. Lee published her 29-page order [PDF] last month. The state education board also must revamp its rules on state charters, according to the ruling.

Based in Oakland, Aspire is one of the most prominent charter school management organizations in the nation and serves nearly 12,000 students at 34 schools in California.

Six Aspire campuses with about 1,900 students were overseen by the state education board and now will have to reapply to local school officials. They are Aspire Alexander Twilight College Preparatory Academy and Aspire Alexander Twilight Secondary Academy in Sacramento, Aspire APEX Academy and Aspire Port City Academy in Stockton, and Aspire Junior Collegiate Academy and Aspire Titan Academy in Huntington Park.

Under the ruling, the schools have until June 24, 2013, to gain reapproval or close.

Aspire CEO James Willcox said he is confident Aspire's applications will be approved by local school boards. Meanwhile, Willcox said the organization might decide to appeal the judge's decision.

"We are committed to serving all of our students and families who count on Aspire and want to calm any uncertainty that this decision may cause," Willcox said. "As we discussed on our recent conference call, we have applied for charters or renewals nearly 60 times since our founding, with positive results in all cases. We are hopeful that the three school districts involved will recognize the success we have had for students from their communities."

In a statement, Karen Stapf-Walters, interim executive director of the school administrators association, said the organization was satisfied with the court's decision.

“We’re pleased by the judge’s decision to ensure the State Board adopts the required procedural rules so only those charters that truly meet the test of statewide benefit status are considered in the future,” Stapf-Walters said. "It is important that all public schools and students are treated equitably.”

The court ruling also has implications on Wall Street. Last month, Fitch Ratings downgraded and placed Aspire's bonds on "negative outlook" status, concluding that the organization hadn't fully shared the implications of the lawsuit with investors. Under statewide operating status, Aspire was able to successfully acquire $93.3 million in bond sales.

The assessment from the rating agency could scare off potential Aspire bond investors and result in higher interest rates for the company.

The organization is making strides nevertheless – outside of California. Six states have recruited Aspire to turn around underperforming schools, Willcox told Education Week recently. The Tennessee Achievement School District, a state entity, hired Aspire last month to take over schools in Memphis.

Court of Appeal, First District, California.


CALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION et al., Petitioners and Appellants, v. STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, Respondent; Aspire Public Schools, Inc., Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

No. A122485.

-- July 26, 2010

Deborah B. Caplan, N. Eugene Hill, Richard C. Miadich, Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, LLP, for Appellants, California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators, Stockton Unified School District.

Joseph R. Colton, Priscilla Winslow, California Teachers' Association, for Appellants, California Teachers' Association.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., California Attorney General, Susan M. Carson, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Benjamin J. Riley, Deputy Attorney General, for Respondents, California State Board of Education.

Paul C. Minney, Andrew G. Minney, Middleton, Young & Minney, LLP, for Respondents, Aspire Public Schools, Inc.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Arrests of teenagers are probably surprising parents of the Stephentown 300 who planned to take the victim to court

How many of these parents are lawyers--or have lawyers--who figure that well-off people deserve good reputations no matter what they do?

"As of the census of 2010...the racial makeup of the town was 96.7% White, 0.31% African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.14% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander,and 0.77% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.11% of the population...About 5.7% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.0% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over."--Wikipedia

Parents aren't doing their kids a favor when they teach them to ignore the rights of others. And they certainly are not doing the country a favor.

Parents want to sue ex-NFLer for outing brats
[Photos of graffiti, damage]
By Jeane Macintosh
September 20, 2013

Former NFL offensive lineman Brian Holloway initially thought the Twitter photos showing young people partying at his family’s second home in upstate New York were a hoax. Then he saw pictures of teens standing on the dining room table he bought with his Super Bowl bonus.

Parents of the hundreds of teens who broke into and destroyed former NFLer Brian Holloway’s upstate vacation home are threatening to sue him for outing their brats on Twitter — saying he’s spoiling their chances of getting into college.

“You would not believe the calls that have come in, threatening to firebomb me or hurt or sue me — any manner of things,” the stunned Holloway told The Post Thursday as he toiled away cleaning up the damage at his 200-acre spread in Rensselaer County.

The teens defaced Holloway’s home with graffiti.

“Some complained that this will ruin their kids’ college plans. Others have threatened me, saying ‘Take my kid’s name down or I’m gonna press charges against you.’

“You’re going to press charges against me? C’mon, now. If that were one of my children, they would be doing a year’s worth of apologizing,” said Holloway, a father of eight.

Holloway estimates that the teens caused about $20,000 in damages

The former New England Patriots offensive lineman learned of the debauched bash — attended by some 200-300 trespassers — after many of the punks gleefully posted photos and texts on social media from inside the out-of-control crash party that left 10 shattered windows, urine-soaked carpets, gouged oak floors and walls covered in graffiti and holes.

Holloway estimates the damage at more than $20,000 and took to social media to try to track down the vandals so they could be held responsible.

A handful of parents have apologized for their kids’ actions — saying they hadn’t known about the party or that their kids lied to them, he said.

But only one parent and child showed up this week at a planned cleanup of the stately Stephentown home, about 25 miles from Albany and near the Massachusetts border.

Holloway said he has hauled away more than 10 massive trash bags of liquor bottles, and found drug paraphernalia strewn across his property.

“How is this OK? How did we lose our way, that this is acceptable behavior? And how do we find our way back?” said Holloway, who had to delay last week’s planned launch of his new women’s-oriented football site,, to fly to New York and deal with the mess and an ongoing police probe.

The drama started on Aug. 31, when Holloway — home with his wife and kids at their year-round Lutz, Fla., home — learned from his 19-year-old son that dozens of kids were tweeting about a party at the New York country house.

Holloway watched in disbelief as the scene unfolded on Twitter. The revelers came from at least nine surrounding high schools and a local college.

“They had planned to stay there for three full days, if you can believe that,” Holloway said.

He was trying to reach local cops when someone tweeted that sheriff’s officers were on the scene.

“The sheriff came and got everyone out of the house without injury or violence, which is impressive with the amount of drinking and drugs going down and kids in a very dangerous state of mind,” Holloway said.

Holloway, who found “170 tweets from the party within its first three hours,” re-posted them to a Web site to help identify the house crashers and urge them to change their behavior.

6 Arrests In Vandalism Of Former Patriot Brian Holloway’s Home
George M. Walsh
Associated Press
September 26, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Six people were arrested Thursday on charges they were among hundreds of young partygoers who trashed a former NFL player’s vacation home, and police said more arrests were expected.

The arrests came after former New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders offensive lineman Brian Holloway said he signed papers authorizing the Rensselaer County sheriff to bring charges in the Labor Day weekend party, which was attended by up to 400 teenagers.

Holloway said that among those charged was a young man he had taken into his family for a time as a homeless teen, who’s accused of organizing and promoting the party. He said investigators have told him the number of people charged could end up in the hundreds as they work through the sheer volume of participants.

“Everyone that broke the law, I’m pressing charges against,” Holloway said. “The parents had a chance and students had a chance to come forward, and only four did.”

Holloway, who played offensive tackle for the Patriots and Raiders in the 1980s, gained national attention by reposting party pictures the teens had put on social media websites. He said he posted them on the website in an effort to get the teens to come forward, take responsibility for their actions and change their behavior.

[See earlier story below.]

...Police said a ringleader of the party was 19-year-old Seth Hawk, the young man Holloway said he had taken into his family a few years ago. Hawk, of Grafton, faces felony charges of burglary and criminal mischief and misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child and unlawfully dealing with a child. He’s accused of advertising the party and providing alcohol.

Three of the other arrested people face felony charges including burglary and larceny, and two are charged with misdemeanors, including trespassing. They range in age from 17 to 21.

A phone number wasn’t available for Hawk, and authorities said they didn’t know the names of the arrested people’s lawyers.

Holloway said Hawk was a classmate of his son and had a troubled youth but found stability living as part of his family when he was about 15. He said hearing about Hawk’s involvement “was a shocker.”

“We’re still pulling for him,” he said. “This may be the thing to get him on track.”

An Open Letter to the Parents of the Stephentown 300
Kelly Lynch
Huff Post

What planet do you live on?

Last week, word got out that your children had broken into a home in Stephentown, NY and threw a party. More than 300 of them partied and drunkenly smashed windows, urinated on the floors, stood on tables, punched holes in the ceiling and stole a statue that was part of a memorial for the owner's stillborn grandson. Oh, it gets better. Before, during and after the party, they tweeted about it and posted pictures of themselves engaged in this behavior.

Way to go.

The house is owned by former NFL player Brian Holloway. It is his second residence, paid for in part by his Super Bowl bonus. He lives in Florida and the Stephentown house is on the market. He watched this unfold online while at his home in Florida. Instead of demanding the arrest of your kids, he instead created a website,, where he reposted their photos, identified the people involved, and called for ways to reach out to young people and show them that there are better ways to spend their time than drinking, drugs and vandalism.

He is a better person than I would have been in that position. It takes class and compassion to see beyond the urine stained carpets, broken windows, damaged walls and blatant disrespect to reach out to your kids. He even offered to welcome these derelicts back to his house for a picnic, where they would work together to make repairs and clean up the mess they left behind. I don't know that the rest of us would have been able to react the same way.

And one kid showed up. One, out of the 300 teens who were there.

Instead of dragging your kids back to apologize and clean up the mess, you lashed out at Brian Holloway, threatened to firebomb his house, and are now planning to sue him. For what? For identifying your kids online. Well guess what? Your little Johnny did that himself the minute he tweeted that iPhone photo standing on the dining room table, holding a red solo cup filled with beer.

Look, I don't blame you for what your kids did. Heck, I don't even really blame them. Teens will be teens, and they do stupid things sometimes. We've all been there. It's not fair to judge parents on the mistakes their kids make. It is how you handle that behavior afterwards that reflects on you as a parent...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Google joins ALEC, apparently flirting with the thing it eschewed

Google Guys: Larry Page, Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin, Time Magazine February 20, 2006

See all posts regarding Google.

"We're charmed by their corporate mantras – for example 'Don't be evil' (Google) or 'Move fast and break things' (Facebook)" (quote from third story below).

I'm not surprised by anything that Facebook founder and world-famous jerk extraordinaire Mark Zuckerberg does. So it's no shock that Facebook has joined ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing organization dedicated to corporate profit.

But Google? Larry Page and the Brin brothers? They used to believe in doing the right thing. Or maybe that was never their plan when they came up with the motto, "Don't be evil." Perhaps they just intended it as a swipe at Bill Gates and Microsoft.

But now that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has withdrawn support for ALEC (see second story below), Microsoft isn't looking so evil anymore. What's going on, Google? You're falling behind.

Google alert: On a more personal note, apparently at the request of school board members in San Diego (or their lawyers), Google has eliminated my name from its Google alerts. You can get alerts for any Maura and any Larkins--except Maura Larkins.

Don't be evil, Google.


Google has joined ALEC
Sept. 27, 2013

Union-busting, fighting Obamacare, backing the Stand Your Ground laws that led to Trayvon Martin’s death, denying the proof of climate change… there’s nothing the American Legislative Exchange Council won’t stoop to.

The public outcry against ALEC has caused nearly fifty corporations to drop out over the past several months. But now Facebook, Google and Yelp are looking to reverse that trend. The companies recently joined the group responsible for some of the most egregious anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-poor, and anti-minority legislation in the past decade. Now, we need to raise an outcry to show them that getting in bed with ALEC is unacceptable, before all the hard work over the past year is undone.

We can’t afford to have three major tech companies help finance a monstrosity like this right-wing lobbying group, and they can’t afford the bad press that comes with an ALEC membership. ALEC has become a toxic brand that image-conscious companies don’t want to be associated with.

ALEC worked in close conjunction with the NRA to push the controversial Stand Your Ground law onto dozens of states. ALEC helped private prison companies enact Arizona’s “papers please” law in order to fill up cells with Latinos. It has sponsored a host of horrific laws that are tearing down personal rights and handing over money to corporations. We simply cannot allow such practices to be condoned by major companies.

Our voices already shamed over fifty companies and nonprofits, including the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Coca-Cola, into dropping out of the American Legislative Executive Council. Just recently, after months of pressure by students, Sallie Mae left the group. But if we don’t speak out now, Google, Facebook, and Yelp could start back the movement of corporate funding into ALEC.


Bill Gates’ Foundation Withdraws Support For ALEC
by Lee Fang
Republic Report

In recent weeks, Republic Report joined a coalition of other groups to demand that companies withdraw affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a front group that helps lobbyists pass pro-corporate legislation in states across the country.

Republic Report’s Suzanne Merkelson covered how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a charity set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, supports ALEC financially. Now, Roll Call is reporting that the Foundation is withdrawing support for ALEC:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today became the latest backer to withdraw financial support for the American Legislative Exchange Council. A foundation spokesman told Roll Call that it does not plan to make future grants to the conservative nonprofit, which has come under fire from progressive activists for its support of voter identification laws and other contentious measures.

Why did the foundation fund ALEC in the first place? It’s likely the group gave funds to ALEC as part of a larger effort by Microsoft-linked groups to promote K-12 virtual schools, a movement that is likely to benefit Microsoft as privatized charters adopt more technology in the classroom.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joins Kraft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Intuit Inc. in withdrawing from ALEC in recent weeks. Notably, some corporate interests, including the drug company lobby group PhRMA and Koch Industries, have refused to back away from ALEC.

We’re still waiting to hear from other ALEC-linked corporations. We recently visited the lobbying office of GlaxoSmithKline to make sure they received our letter.

ALEC has been around for years promoting laws that benefit large powerful corporate interests. State laws that promote prison privatization, criminalize municipal telecom competition, and outlaw hikes in the minimum wage have been linked to ALEC. The recent controversy was kicked off after it was revealed that the gun lobby worked closely with ALEC to promote the “Shoot First” law that will likely allow the killer of Trayvon Martin to avoid prosecution.

From left: Co-founders of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Chairman and CEO of Dell Michael Dell, Co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, and Chairman and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg Photographs: AP; Getty


New-tech moguls: the modern robber barons?
Are today's captains of industry – the wealthy and powerful figures who control the digital universe – any different from the ruthless corporate figures of the past?
John Naughton
The Observer
30 June 2012

Here's an interesting fact: 10 of the people on Forbes magazine's tally of the world's 100 richest billionaires made their money from computer and/or network technology. At the top (second on the list) is Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $61bn, despite the fact that he continues to try to give it away. Gates is followed by Larry Ellison, boss of Oracle, with $36bn, and Michael Bloomberg with $22bn. Larry Page and Sergey Brin – co-founders of Google – occupy joint 24th place with $18.7bn each. Jeff Bezos of Amazon is No 26 with $18.4bn while the newly enriched Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook sits at No 35 with £17.5bn. Michael Dell, founder of the eponymous computer manufacturer, is at No 41 with $15.9bn while Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, is three places lower on $15.7bn and Paul Allen – co-founder of Microsoft – brings up the rear at No 48 with a mere $14.2bn. Steve Jobs, who was worth about $9bn when he died, doesn't even figure.

What's striking about this is not just the staggering wealth that these people have managed to squeeze out of what are, after all, just binary digits (ones and zeros), but how recent are the origins of their good fortunes. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, went from zero to $17.5bn in less than eight years. Microsoft – the company that has propelled Gates, Ballmer and Allen into the Forbes pantheon – dates only from 1975. Oracle was founded in 1977. Bloomberg turned a $10m redundancy cheque from Salomon Brothers into his personal money-pump in 1982. Dell started making computers in his university dorm in 1984. Bezos launched Amazon with his own savings in 1995. Brin and Page turned their PhD research into a company called Google in 1998. And Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004.

For some of these people, great wealth is correlated with significant power. Once Microsoft captured the market for PC operating systems and office software, Bill Gates and co ruthlessly leveraged their monopoly to eliminate rivals (remember Netscape?) and dictate pricing. So we got a world where you could have any kind of computer you wanted, provided it ran Microsoft Windows. In the era when the PC was the computer, Bill Gates was king because he controlled the PC.

But although Microsoft remains a significant force, its power waned as computing moved from the PC to the network – and therefore to the people and companies who dominate that. Step forward the Google boys, who have the power to render any website virtually invisible, because if their algorithms decide not to index a site then effectively it ceases to exist – at least in cyberspace. Their computers also read our mail and store our documents. Google dominates the online advertising business. The company's founders say grandly that their mission is "to organise the world's information" – and they mean it. They have already digitised a significant amount of the world's printed books – although they are not yet authorised to make many of them available online. And Google's cars have photographed every street in the industrialised world.

Meanwhile, in another part of the jungle, Amazon's Bezos is not just vaporising bricks-and-mortar bookstores; he's also on his way to becoming the world's biggest publisher. And he's already the world's largest online retailer – the Walmart of the web. In social networking Mark Zuckerberg has cunningly inserted himself (via his hardware and software) into every online communication that passes between his 900 million subscribers, to the point where Facebook probably knows that two people are about to have an affair before they do. And because of the nature of networks, if we're not careful we could wind up with a series of winners who took all: one global bookstore; one social network; one search engine; one online multimedia store and so on.

There was a time when the power exercised by computer and internet companies seemed a matter of relatively esoteric concern. But as digital technology began to pervade our daily lives, the boundary between the "real" world ("meatspace", as geeks used to call it) and cyberspace began to blur. What happened in the latter suddenly mattered in the former – and not just in Tunisia and Egypt either. Think of the way Steve Jobs's creation – Apple – exercises such dominance over online music, smartphones and tablet computers. Or ponder what Google and Facebook now know about our lives, loves and obsessions. Or what Amazon knows about our consumption patterns. The implication is that cyberpower has correlates in the real world, which means that it's time we had a really good look at those who wield it. What are these masters of the digital universe really like? What are their values and their politics? And are they any different from the corporate moguls of the past?

Given their prominence, we know surprisingly little about our modern moguls – for various reasons. One is that we are remarkably incurious about what makes them tick. We focus instead on the fact that one of them (Zuckerberg) wears a hoodie even when being interviewed by investment bankers; or that Larry Page, co-founder of Google, refused to stop using his laptop when a big media mogul came to talk to him; or that Bill Gates used to rock furiously backwards and forwards in a rocking chair when being interviewed for an anti-trust case; or that Steve Jobs drove a comparatively modest sports car and lived in a small, old-fashioned house rather than the postmodern minimalist palace that many people would have predicted.

But this is all superficial stuff, the journalistic fluff of celebrity profiles and gossip columns. What's much more significant about these moguls is that they share a mindset that renders them blind to the untidiness and contradictions of life, not to mention the fears and anxieties of lesser beings. They are technocrats who cleave to a worldview that holds that if something is technically possible then it should be done. How about digitising all the books in the world? No problem: you just throw resources and technology at the task. And if publishers protest about infringement of copyright and authors moan about their moral rights, well, that just shows how antediluvian they are. Or how about photographing every street in Europe, or even the world? Again, no problem: it's technically feasible, after all. And if Germans object to the resulting intrusion on their privacy, well let them complain and we'll pixelate the sods. Oh – and when we discover that those same cars have been hoovering up the details of our home Wi-Fi networks, their bosses say "Oops! Sorry: it was a mistake." Same story with the high-resolution satellite imagery beloved of Google and – now – Apple. Same story with Mark Zuckerberg's fanatical, almost sociopathic, belief that the default setting for life should be "public" rather than "private". The prevailing technocratic motto is: if something can be done, then it ought to be done. It's all about progress, stoopid.

Actually, it's all about values. And money. The trouble is that technocrats don't do values. They just do rationality. They love good design, efficiency, elegance – and profits. That's why one of the poster children of the industry is Apple's creative genius, Jonathan Ive, who designs beautiful kit in California which is then assembled in Chinese factories. And when the execrable working conditions prevalent in such places are exposed, the company's senior executives profess themselves surprised and appalled and resolve to do everything they can to ameliorate things. And we believe them – and continue eagerly to purchase the gizmos manufactured in such oppressive plants.

Why are we so credulous, so forgiving? It's partly because wealth – like political power – is a powerful aphrodisiac. But it's mainly because we accept these people at their own valuation. We've bought into their narrative. They see themselves as progressives, as folks who want to make the world a better, more efficient, more rational place.

We're charmed by their corporate mantras – for example "Don't be evil" (Google) or "Move fast and break things" (Facebook)...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

High school students' SAT scores continue to slip; worse yet, the high scorers don't want to be teachers

Has teaching become a profession for dummies? Many SAT high-scorers would like to teach, but apparently most of them want salaries commensurate with their scores. My plan requires only 25% of teachers to be high scorers in order to give every child the benefit of an above-average teacher. It wouldn't result in any increased costs. And weak teachers wouldn't need to be fired, because everyone's skills would be used to maximum benefit. Impossible? See how I did the math HERE and HERE.

"Significantly lagging behind were students hoping to major in three of the most popular fields -- education (1442)..."

"Students wishing to major in multi/interdisciplinary studies earned the highest combined SAT score (1757)."

High school students' SAT scores continue to slip
Lynn O'Shaughnessy
CBS News
September 26, 2013

(MoneyWatch) The latest SAT test figures released today by the College Board suggest that most freshmen aren't academically prepared for college.

High school seniors who graduated earlier this year generated the exact same scores as last year's crop of test takers. The latest results continue a pattern of stagnating test scores that educators have lamented for years. The 2013 figures suggest that only 43 percent of SAT takers among this year's freshmen are ready for the academic rigors of college studies.

The average high school senior earned a 496 on the critical reading portion of the test and a 514 on the math section (The highest score possible for each of these sections is 800). Students fared the worst in the writing section, with an average score of 488. While the average composite score of 1498 out of a possible 2400 is identical with last year's result, it's 20 points lower than in 2006, when the SAT writing section was introduced.

Who is ready for college

Students who earn a 1550 on the test, according to the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, have a 65 percent probability of earning a first-year GPA of a B minus or higher. Most of the students who meet the readiness benchmark (78 percent) are enrolled in four-year institutions.

David Coleman, the College Board's president, said the latest batch of stagnant scores represents a "call to action."

"We must dramatically increase the number of students in K-12 who are prepared for college and careers," he said in a statement. "Only by transforming the daily work that students do can we achieve excellence and equity."

That's easier said than done., which is an opponent of the SAT and state-level programs that focus on K-12 testing, compiled this chart showing how much SAT scores have slipped since 2006:

Students planning to major in some of the liberal arts and sciences performed significantly better than many who are aiming at more vocationally oriented degrees. Students wishing to major in multi/interdisciplinary studies earned the highest combined SAT score (1757), followed by the physical sciences (1673), English language and literature (1665), and social sciences (1661).

Significantly lagging behind were students hoping to major in three of the most popular fields -- education (1442), psychology (1484), and business management and marketing (1497). Some of the lowest scores came from students wanting to major in parks and recreation (1328) and construction trades (1274).

Lafayette Elementary, Clear View Elementary and Mar Vista Academy lose scores

The tip of the iceberg?

3 Schools Stripped of API Rankings for Cheating
Lafayette Elementary, Clear View Elementary and Mar Vista Academy lose scores
By Rory Devine and Andie Adams
10 News
Sep 25, 2013

Three San Diego County schools are disqualified from receiving state funding or awards for two years because of standardized test cheating – not by the students, but by the teachers. NBC 7's Rory Devine reports.

Three San Diego County schools are disqualified from receiving state funding or awards for two years because of standardized test cheating – not by the students, but by the teachers.

Lafayette Elementary, Clear View Elementary and Mar Vista Academy (formerly Mar Vista Middle School) will be stripped of their scores on California’s Academic Performance Index (API).

The rating system allows schools to set and meet performance targets, and losing the API scores can lead to funding cuts or removal of faculty and administrators.

Cheating can encompass many mistakes, from telling students outright that they have the wrong answer, to handing out the wrong study guide.

That’s what happened at Mar Vista Academy.

“It was brought to the attention of the principal that a teacher using a study guide possibly contained questions from a previous year,” said Manny Rubio, spokesman for the Sweetwater Union School District.

That study guide was given to hundreds of students in Mar Vista’s math classes, despite training for teachers on what is and isn’t allowed.

The state does let teachers use similar questions from previous tests as study guides, but teachers cannot use the exact questions.

At Lafayette Elementary, homonyms were left in a pocket chart on the board while students took the test, administered by a substitute teacher. A third grader pointed out that one of the homonyms was on the test.

The third school, Clear View Elementary, was stripped of its API scores after a teacher checked the testing booklets of certain students when they finished a section of the test. The teacher then put the test booklet back on the students’ desks on a specific page and told the students they need to check it.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District says the state’s initial determination to disqualify Clear View is under review. The district contends the irregularity may not have affected enough students to merit a disqualification.

“Most of the time, it is something that they hadn’t really planned on doing or thought about doing,” said Rubio. “In some cases it is. Unfortunately you’ll also see schools where it was intentional. It was very much their way of trying to boost their students’ performances.”

The state says it takes the reliability of assessments very seriously, as do the schools, which self-report.

Most schools abide by the law; 27 out of more than 10,000 California schools were flagged for irregularities this year.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Update: Autistic girl makes ‘miracle’ recovery after alleged murder-suicide attempt by mom

See original post HERE.

What a relief for everybody involved--including the justice system in Michigan--that Issy didn't die. It's quite possible that jail is actually easier for Kelli Stapleton than dealing with her violent daughter. Kelli was twice hospitalized after being beaten by Issy. I can understand that Kelli may have felt that life was impossible for herself and her daughter. Also, we now know that the local school had refused to allow Issy to attend at all. Kelli might not be the only person facing legal consequences in this case.

Autistic girl makes ‘miracle’ recovery after alleged murder-suicide attempt by mom
Issy Stapleton, 14, is up and about after being unresponsive and removed from life support. Charged with attempted murder, mom Kelli Stapleton remains behind bars in northern Michigan.
By Deborah Hastings
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS September 9, 2013

Fourteen-year-old Issy Stapleton, a violently autistic child whose mother allegedly tried to kill her in a botched murder-suicide attempt, is now walking, talking and smiling.

According to a family Facebook post, the girl’s recovery “is nothing short of a miracle,” her father, Matt, wrote Monday.

She was removed from life support Friday in the intensive care unit of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., where doctors concluded she had suffered brain damage and was unable to breathe on her own.

After her ventilator was turned off, Issy began breathing. By Saturday, she was awake, asking questions and “showing signs of the incredible young woman she is,” her dad wrote.

Mom Kelli Stapleton, 45, has been charged with attempted murder. The mother and daughter were found unconscious last Tuesday inside the family van, in which authorities say two charcoal grills had been lit and the windows rolled up.

Both were rushed to the hospital for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Kelli Stapleton is currently jailed without bail in northern Michigan, according to state police Lt. Kip Belcher. Her family has declined comment.

"We ask that you continue to keep the focus on Isabelle's recovery and not necessarily on the events that have brought us to this unfortunate fight for her life," the family posted on its Facebook site "Team Issy."

"We ask that people don't judge, but instead direct their positive energies on the recovery of this beautiful young lady."

Just hours before the mother allegedly ignited both cooking grills found smoldering inside the family van, she had picked up Issy from a residential care facility where the girl had received nearly two months of intensive therapy for violent outbursts associated with her extreme autism.

Her family had long struggled with Issy’s lashing out. Her mother had been hospitalized twice following beatings by Issy, according to The Status Woe blog site maintained by Kelli Stapleton, whose musings about caring for an autistic child vacillated from despair to hopefulness to just plain fed up.

In June, she posted photos and video of a visit to her daughter at the care facility, showing mother, daughter and two therapists seated together.


The soundless video soon becomes violent as Issy hits her mother and slaps and claws at the three adults.

“I retreated to the corner and refused to look so I wouldn’t reinforce Issy’s aggression,” her mother wrote. “I’m here to tell you that Carly and all of Issy’s workers are superheroes. Honest to God. They were both bleeding before it was over.”

Last week, on the day she picked up Issy to take her home for the first time in months, Kelli Stapleton sounded distraught as she recounted a recent argument with a school teacher who told her Issy could not return.

“So less than a week before school is to start, she is uninvited,” the mother wrote on her blog. “I am devastated. My husband is gutted. I have ruined everything.”

Around 6:30 p.m., officers found Kelli and Issy Stapleton in the family’s van, parked in a rural area near Lake Michigan.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A school official’s unbelievably racist texts

Many people in top jobs at school districts have no business being there. Politics, not professionalism or even good will, rules most school districts. The Pennsylvania school superintendent in the story below was obviously very good at putting on a hail-fellow-well-met facade to hide the sickness within.

Now how do we go about replacing the other corrupt, callous and incompetent school officials? It's hard, because when administrators get in trouble, usually the problem is covered up, and they're sent on to another district with a warm recommendation. Also, since school firings are so often politically motivated, there's a good chance that the fired person is an excellent employee. Obviously, the people in power want to keep playing their game. If problems were revealed, then they'd have to clean them up. Perhaps that is why San Diego County Office of Education and Chula Vista Elementary School District are supporting the effort to shut down this blog by paying taxpayer dollars to Stutz law firm to quash subpoenas.

A school official’s unbelievably racist texts
Tip to bigots: Don't text on your work-issued phone
By Mary Elizabeth Williams
Sep 24, 2013

Not your best moment, Keystone State. Just last week, Pennsylvania was in the news when gun-loving small town police chief Mark Kessler’s expletive-infused rants against “libtards” went viral – and cost him his job. Now, Coatesville Area School District superintendent Richard Como and Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato have gained national attention for their abrupt departures from their positions – and the slew of hateful and racist messages discovered on their district-issued cell phones. Board president Neil Campbell has called the texts “sickening and obviously unacceptable.”

The incendiary messages, which all date from this past June, are a regular cavalcade of bigotry. And a source told the Philadelphia Inquirer Monday that “What has been made public represents a fraction of the messages between the men.” In one exchange, the two riff on how “All should have whatever first names they want… then last name is [n-word]!” Over the course of their messages, they also speculate in details on other people’s sex lives, discuss a “Jew red haired ESL” teacher, “that ape,” “cotton pickers” and a “skinny bitch,” among others. Intriguingly, there’s also a reference to a “MAJOR sneak” who “made at least 1500 – 2000 on kickback.”

But to be honest, my favorite is the damming understatement that “This fucking phone! No idea how to work!”

A district IT worker allegedly discovered the messages last month while transferring data to a new device. Superintendent Como announced his retirement shortly after on the district’s Web site – a letter that now appears to have been quietly scrubbed. Director Jim Donato resigned a few days later. On the District’s site now, there’s a new letter from Acting Superintendent Angelo Romaniello, Jr., acknowledging “inappropriate and racial comments… made by people we trusted.” The Times-Herald reports that “the departures were the direct result of discoveries found on Donato’s cell phone.” And because of questions regarding the extent to which the District was aware of the texts and whether appropriate protocols were followed in Como and Donato’s departures, the District Attorney’s office is now conducting a criminal investigation.

According to records obtained by reporters Michael N. Price and Kristina Scala, Como’s 2010 salary was $192,897 – not a bad income for someone with a barely disguised loathing for the students and faculty he works with. But a comfortable salary can’t buy basic human decency. And for that matter, it definitely can’t provide a working understanding that if you’re going to be a hateful jackass, you should really consider whether you want a text record of that hateful jackassery – or least whether you want to be mouthing off on the equipment your employer issued you.

There is so much that’s contemptible about the exchanges between Como and Donato – the simmering, near constant anger they display, the grotesque, dehumanizing way they view pretty much anybody who isn’t a white man (to their credit, though, I didn’t notice any gay slurs in the lot) and the jaw-dropping amount of arrogance and privilege it takes to speak that hatefully, that freely. But what stinks most is the betrayal it represents, the lie that their jobs were. The disgust they had for their own kids. “They were friendly to our faces,” Zhaqweyza Armstrong, a 16 year-old Coatesville High junior, told the Inquirer Monday, “and then they talked about us behind our backs.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Chula Vista Elementary School District, upset over lack of warnings on teacher John Kinloch, sues federal Justice Department

See trial updates for John Kinloch.

CVESD has hired Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost to sue the United States Department of Justice. In its Freedom of Information Act complaint asking for a copy of the immunity deal teacher John Kinloch received in the late 1990s for testifying in a case about child pornography, the school district states, "The public interest in knowing those details far outweighs any privacy interest..."

I couldn't agree more. But CVESD has made clear over the years that it believes its own secrets about illegal actions of staff are not the public's business. CVESD reflexively pays lawyers to quash subpoenas seeking information information about serious problems.

Why didn't CVESD fire accused child molester John Kinloch after Victim #1, a former Feaster student, revealed five years ago that he had been molested for years by Kinloch? Why did he stay in his classroom until his recent arrest?

Who made the decision to keep Kinloch in the classroom? The Superintendent and board have a habit of looking away whenever any employment decision with legal ramifications must be made. They rubber stamp whatever decision the HR head presents after receiving instructions from lawyers. They don't like to know too much or think too much about such things, so they'll have plausible deniability when the decision turns out to be harmful or illegal. The public doesn't know what went on, so the board members are returned to office.

The principals I have worked with in CVESD didn't know most of the teachers on their staffs. Only a few teachers were close to the principals, and those few practically lived in the principals' offices. They served as the principals' eyes and ears. These powerful teachers were often motivated by school politics to sabotage many of their colleagues at the expense of children's well-being and education.

If Raymond Kinloch's principals had met with each member of their staffs for an informal 10-minute chat once a month about what was going on in the teachers' classrooms and the teachers' minds, I believe that CVESD would have found out years ago that something peculiar was going on.

Does CVESD now suddenly believe the public has a right to know? Can we now expect that Chula Vista Elementary School District is going to start seriously investigating problems, and producing information in court cases? Or can we expect more debacles such as the handling of a report by two teachers at Castle Park Elementary that a school shooting might be imminent? Instead of investigating, the board called in lawyers to conduct "investigations". But then the lawyers refused to produce their information in court, claiming attorney-client privilege, and--get this--LOST a slew of documents. Shame on the board, particularly Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham, for showing so little concern about student safety and the education of students. Their neglect caused my school to spin out of control due to the incompetent and malicious handling of the "imminent shooting" hoax. The school ended up having 11 principals in 11 years, and two separate embezzlements by PTA officials, before the district managed to push out the problem teachers and administrators.

Ironically, the federal judge in the infamous Moser v. Bret Harte High School District case ordered Fagen Friedman Fulfrost partner Howard Fulfrost to take ethics training because of "lying and obstruction" by his former firm, Lozano Smith. Apparently Mr. Fulfrost has a higher opinion of truth-telling now that the shoe is on the other foot.

See all posts about arrested CVESD teacher John Kinloch.

By Greg Moran
Sept. 21, 2013

Chula Vista Elementary School District officials are suing the federal Department of Justice, trying to figure out why no red flags came up when the district went to hire a teacher who had been involved in a child pornography ring.

The lawsuit filed in San Diego federal court on Tuesday says the government has refused to acknowledge it made an immunity deal more than 15 years ago with the man, 42-year-old John Kinloch.

The deal had been reported in the media as far back as 1998, and Kinloch himself testified about it in court.

Kinloch was arrested in December and charged with molesting a former student and persuading other boys to send him nude photographs. He pleaded not guilty and is on unpaid leave from his job as a teacher at Wolf Canyon Elementary School.

The district says it needs the federal documents to figure out why Kinloch’s past did not come up in the background check it conducted before he was hired, and determine whether any legislative fixes could prevent a repeat in the future.

The Justice Department cited a provision of the federal Freedom of Information Act that said confirming or denying any records of a deal with Kinloch would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The department refused requests to turn over information, and last week declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

“We would hope the Department of Justice would share our concerns of preventing this from ever happening again,” school district spokesman Anthony Millican said. “Why did the background check fail? We need their records to explain how this happened, so we can change it and stop it from happening again.”

Kinloch was hired by the district in 2000 and taught at two schools, most recently at Wolf Canyon.

Two years before he was hired, Kinloch testified in a trial in England against a man charged with what was then the relatively new crime of transmitting child pornography over the Internet. The investigation into the man in England led police to Kinloch, who would later testify he had traded child pornography with the man since 1995.

Kinloch struck a bargain with U.S. authorities: He would get immunity here from child pornography charges, so long as he went to England and testified. The agreement wasn’t really a secret, since Kinloch spoke about it in open court.

“They said they would not prosecute me if I told the truth and cooperated,” he testified, according to a news account of the trial in a British newspaper.

Also, the San Diego Reader in 1998 published a story about the case and Kinloch’s role, quoting Mitchell Dembin, the prosecutor who arranged the plea deal and is now a U.S. magistrate judge in San Diego.

When Kinloch returned to the states, he completed his course work at San Diego State University and got a teaching credential. When Chula Vista hired him in September 2000, nothing about his involvement in the ring, or the immunity agreement, turned up in his background check.

That could be because Kinloch was never formally charged here, so no court or arrest record would be in the system. The news stories did not turn up because the district did not conduct Internet searches then on potential employees and does not now.

Background checks for teachers in California are handled through a program administered by the state Department of Justice when applicants apply for teaching credentials.

The exact reason the background check didn’t uncover Kinloch’s past isn’t known, and the district wants to find out. It wants copies of the immunity arrangement as well as any correspondence with the department and with officials from Great Britain.

The public interest in knowing those details far outweighs any privacy interest, the district contends. Millican said that the public relies on the integrity of background checks to identify people like Kinloch, who testified that he was attracted to boys who were teenagers, and younger.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Another teacher suicide; students suspended for speaking out about bullied teacher Jennifer Lenihan of Bassett High School District

Jennifer Lenihan

See also post on death of Mary Eve Thorson.

Harassment and suicide are two of the results of the refusal of school districts to set up effective teacher evaluation systems and uniform policies for increasing teacher performance. If a teacher is doing something wrong, then the teacher should be given prompt and accurate feedback. Instead, principals tend to harass teachers they don't like, and incompetence is often not the reason for such harassment. In fact, weak principals allow incompetent teachers to rule the roost if they are politically powerful, and try to get rid of excellent teachers who don't go along with school politics. Ideally, evaluations should be done by outside observers who have no political ax to grind.

"Workplace bullying - the very stuff that Ms. Lenihan endured, the stuff your teachers fear - is VERY real. It IS 'the Elephant in the Living Room' of bullying at school. Children bully because adults bully."

Three students suspended from Bassett High for distributing stickers
By Jason Henry
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

LA PUENTE >> A little more than a week before her suspension, Associate Student Body president Johnell Gonzalez told the Bassett Board of Education that a staff member had scolded her for speaking her mind at board meetings.

That same meeting, senior Aaron Simental, spoke to the board about the problems the associate student body students had.

Gonzalez, who is the student representative to the school board, Simental and one other member of the student body were suspended Friday for circulating stickers calling for a “revolution” among Bassett’s students.

The stickers read “Revolution is coming” and depicted the mask of Guy Fawkes used in the film “V For Vendetta” and popularized by the hacker group Anonymous. Some of the circulated material included the date former teacher, Jennifer Lenihan, committed suicide. Lenihan’s family recently announced plans to sue the district after claiming administrators bullied Lenihan to the point she killed herself.

The students have expressed issues with their newly appointed advisor — who they said is an unqualified appointment — and with their lack of a voice in their own education. Recently, the students took issue with the school’s homecoming dance, which students said is slated for Oct. 4 but has yet to be planned out.

“We weren’t being heard, we were told going to meetings to have discussions about (the problems), but nothing was happening,” Gonzalez said after her suspension Friday.

The suspensions came after student Elizabeth Zevallos was caught passing out the stickers at the high school’s Back to School event Thursday night.

Administrators suspended Zevallos — the student body’s chief justice — and pulled Simental and Gonzales out of class the next day. Deputies were called to the school on a report of vandalism, according to the Industry Sheriff’s station, though no citations were issued. Placing stickers on a wall counts as vandalism because there is a cost, however minor, associated with their removal, according to a deputy.

In an emailed message to staff, superintendent Jose Reynoso said a student was found in possession of “items in the memory of Ms. Lenihan.”

“The propaganda apparently spoke to the recent small print flyers such as ‘bullies,’ ‘morale,’ etc., Reynoso wrote. “We will be proactive for our district, those employees that are being tried in the public media as well as Ms. Lenihan’s memory. It is my hope that this investigation will uncover the trail to this cruel and unacceptable human behavior. There is no room for this ugliness.”

The students say administrators told them they could face jail time for making a “terrorist” threat, if they didn’t turn over the names of everyone involved in the campaign.

“We were told it is considered a terrorist threat and we’ll be expelled if we don’t talk, and now I’m suspended,” she said.

Simental said he received the same treatment. “They said ‘if you don’t tell us what you’re doing right now, we’ll call the sheriff’s office right now and let them figure it out,’ ” he said.

Simental’s mother, Vira Simental, called the suspension “ridiculous,” noting her son has never been disciplined in his entire time in the district.

“They saw that nothing is being done when they turn to the administration, so out of frustration the kids create these leaflets,” she said. “They’re missing the issue at hand — that these kids are crying out for help.”

Vira Simental said she came to the school to pick up her son, but office workers told her they were not sure where he was. Administrators then refused to let her see him.

She said Vice Principal Nathan Arredondo told her he knew a teacher helped orchestrate the campaign and that he wanted her son to give up the name, she said.

When reached for comment, Arrendondo said he had no knowledge of any terrorist threats and that there had been a problem with stickers.

“They’ve posted a couple in the hallways,” he said. “It is not widespread or anything.”

He declined to confirm if any students were suspended.

School Board Vice President Joe Medina said he’d heard students were handing out “inappropriate” materials. He said it would sound odd if two students were suspended a week after speaking out about being retaliated against, but that he did not know enough details to say what exactly happened.

“I think we’re very careful with the use of suspension as a tool, as a discipline tool,” he said. “I could say it is something that we veer away from and try not to use.”

Petitioning Tom Torlakson
Bassett Unified School Superintendent Reynoso: Find out how Bad the Bullying Really is - and tell us!
Petition by Sandra Goodwick
Montrose, CA

On July 1, 2013, one of your teachers - Jennifer Lenihan - took her own life. Her step-dad shared at a recent Board of Education meeting that she had been harassed by administrators in front of her students and other staff members. According to Jason Henry (SGV Tribune, (9/01/2013) Family plans lawsuit against Bassett Unified over teacher’s suicide your district's teachers are afraid to speak out about workplace bullying because they fear retaliation. Another teacher states that the type of belittlement Ms. Lenihan went through is standard in your district. “It is part of what they do, they make you so unhappy, they want you to leave,” the teacher said. Your teachers union president said she has received a number of complaints about the same administrators who harassed Ms. Lenihan, and that morale has dropped dramatically within the district in recent years.

And, Superintendent Reynoso, you said, “I don’t know that that has been brought to our attention in terms of any written form. No one has brought that to our attention, and they have never asked to discuss this as an issue."

You have an opportunity here, Superintendent Reynoso. Workplace bullying - the very stuff that Ms. Lenihan endured, the stuff your teachers fear - is VERY real. It IS "the Elephant in the Living Room" of bullying at school. Children bully because adults bully. Teachers and other employees commit suicide for the very same reasons school kids do - bullying. Superintendent Reynoso, denying it or minimizing its impact will only mean that bullying continues to wreak havoc among your students and teachers, parents and the community at large. This is real It will only get worse when ignored!

Honor your entire school community by contacting an organization such as Dr. Gary Namie ("Work Doctor") at 360-656-6603 Workplace Bullying in Schools Dr. Namie's organization has already worked with several California public school districts right here in southern California. Your school district can take a FREE Online Workplace Bullying Prevalence Survey. FREE!!

Then, share with your community what has been learned. If there's no bullying, we'd all breathe a sigh of relief! But if there's bullying, then honor ALL the people you serve - your students and their families, your staff, the surrounding community ... and tackle this - a problem that leads to suicide, disability and violence. Honor us all! We ALL care!

Family plans lawsuit against Bassett Unified over teacher’s suicide
By Jason Henry
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

LA PUENTE >> The stepfather of a Bassett High School art teacher who committed suicide in July has announced plans to file a wrongful death suit against the district after claiming his stepdaughter’s death resulted from bullying by administrators.

A series of incidents led to Jennifer Lenihan taking a stress leave, which left her in such financial turmoil that she took her own life July 1, the day her mother went to give her money to help with rent, according to Manuel Jaramillo, her stepfather.

“We believe she was driven to suicide,” Jaramillo said. “She had journals, she had emails, she has other friends that are willing to come forth in the trial.”

In the documents she left behind, Lenihan spoke of being harassed in front of students and other staff members, Jaramillo said. He declined to give names because it could hurt his future case.

A fellow employee who spoke anonymously out of fear of retaliation said she recalled two administrators, Robert Reyes and Jimmy Lima, the principal and assistant principal respectively, yelling at Lenihan in a courtyard in front of teachers and students. A friend of Lenihan said she told him of also being talked down to in her classroom while students watched.

Reyes and Lima did not return calls for comment.

A second ordeal involved a yearbook class the high school’s administration took away from another teacher and gave to Lenihan, despite her saying she did not feel comfortable teaching it. The class, typically a senior level class, had too many freshmen and did not receive enough funding. It also did not have lenses for the cameras used in the class, according to the teacher. When asked not to have the class, she was told she had to take it or she would lose another class she taught, Jaramillo said.

“The pressure got too great, and she left the school,” Jaramillo said. She received half her monthly salary while on a stress leave, which lasted from October to July, during which time she was denied disability and workers’ compensation. She took out a personal loan just to get by, Jaramillo said. She did not receive any part of her salary the month she killed herself because of the denial of workers’ compensation, Jaramillo said.

She was instead told she could resign or apply for a waiting list to return to the district, he said.

The type of belittlement Lenihan allegedly experienced has become standard in the district, according to teacher Tom Covington, who spoke separately from his position as the teachers union’s vice president.

“It is part of what they do, they make you so unhappy, they want you to leave,” Covington said.

Bassett Teachers Association President Maryellen Daners has received a number of complaints about Reyes and Lima, and in general, says morale has dropped dramatically across the district in recent years.

“People see what is happening, and they’re afraid it could happen to them,” she said. Changes, such as eliminated positions, seem related to personal issues rather than performance ones, she said.

Lenihan was meeting with the California Teachers Association to get assistance with her problems in the district, but Daners could not speak to specifics.

Bassett Unified’s new Superintendent Jose Reynoso said he is not aware of Lenihan formally bringing up the problem to the district’s top administrators.

“I don’t know that that has been brought to our attention in terms of any written form,” he said. “No one has brought that to our attention, and they have never asked to discuss this as an issue.”

Reynoso said he had no idea of the family’s accusations until the family announced their plans for a lawsuit at a recent board meeting.

Reynoso confirmed a number of small notes were found spread across Bassett High School’s campus after Lenihan’s death that read “Think before you speak to teachers,” “Bullies,” and “Where is the morale of Bassett teachers?”

No one came forward to speak about the notes and the topic dropped, he said.

The district does not have a morale problem, he said. Teachers who have spoke to him seem positive about the new year, he said.

“I see a new spirit in them, and it really brings me joy,” he said.

Reynoso said he feels sad about the passing of Lenihan and the pain her family is feeling but that he feels the district did everything it should have.

Desmond Jervis and Hugo Lopez both had Lenihan their senior year in 2005 and continued to stay in touch with her after graduation. Jervis described Lenihan as someone who, despite barely making enough to live on, would buy paint and supplies for her classes out of her own pocket.

Jervis noticed the change in recent months. Lenihan stopped wanting to be around her friends and even turned down visits to art museums, which she previously loved.

“She couldn’t even sleep, she just keep thinking about what went wrong,” he said. “I saw her cry the last time I saw her. I’d never seen her cry before.”

“They took away her happiness,” he said.

Lopez spoke before the Bassett Unified board at its last meeting and called for a change.

“I urge you to never let the fantasy of a few undermine the well-being of the many. Jennifer and I always agreed on that point. All of her activism and creativity lives on with me, her colleagues and every wayward child she taught to express what was in their heart,” Lopez said. “It’s time to pay her back with our future decisions. We can start here, in the school and in the district that originally gave her the platform and the audience to change individual worlds.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lawyers against bullying: has the San Diego County Bar Association decided to clean up its act? No, it's going after bullies who aren't members

I'm wondering, can the Constitution rein in abuse, deception and intimidation by lawyers?

It's interesting to note that Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz is still golden for the Anti-Defamation League in San Diego, and for Cal Western law school.

SDCBA to host forum on cyber-bullying
Daily Transcript
September 20, 2013

The San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA) and the Anti-Defamation League are hosting a workshop to discuss cyber-bullying Sept. 24 from 5-7:15 p.m. at the SDCBA's Bar Center.

Panelists will include California Western School of Law professor Ruth Hargrove, San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Oscar Garcia, San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Reuben Littlejohn, and Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz partner Jeffrey Wade.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy will moderate the discussion, titled “Cyber-Bullying – Classroom to Courtroom: Can the Constitution Rein in the Bullies?”

The panelists will explore legal issues and developing case law surrounding the issue of cyber-bullying, a practice that increasingly results in intervention by the judicial system.

The event offers 1.5 CLE general credits and is free for SDCBA law student members. The cost is $45 for SDCBA and Anti-Defamation League members and $65 for non-members.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Occidental College reaches an agreement with women who say that officials bungled campus investigations

Petition at Occidental College, 2013

We'd have better leaders if schools were interested in teaching more than how to make money. It seems that the officials at Occidental (and other colleges) don't understand what a real education is. Perhaps a year's suspension would help. And perhaps the transgressors would be required to complete other tasks, such as writing papers or participating in truth and reconciliation meetings and reparations, before they would be allowed to return.

Occidental College settles in sexual assault cases
Occidental College reaches an agreement with women who say that officials bungled campus investigations.
By Jason Felch and Jason Song
LA Times
September 18, 2013

Occidental College has quietly reached a monetary settlement with at least 10 current and former students who have alleged that the Eagle Rock liberal arts school repeatedly mishandled sexual assault accusations, according to three sources with knowledge of the agreement.

During confidential settlement talks last week, senior Occidental officials agreed to pay the women an undisclosed sum to avoid a lawsuit.

Under the terms of the pact, they are barred from discussing publicly the college's handling of their cases and participating in the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition, a campus advocacy group of students and faculty that over the last year has been battling fiercely with the college administration over its handling of sex assault allegations.

The women, all represented by the firm of high-profile women's rights attorney Gloria Allred, were among 37 Occidental students and alumni who in April alleged in a federal civil rights complaint that the school deliberately discouraged victims from reporting sexual assaults, misled students about their rights during campus investigations, retaliated against whistle-blowers, and handed down minor punishment to known assailants who in some cases allegedly struck again. The settlement won't affect the federal action.

The federal complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, has since been revised to include allegations from an additional 13 people, including some supportive faculty members. A parallel complaint was filed the same month under the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges and universities to report campus crime.

Federal investigators are expected to visit the college in coming weeks to investigate both complaints, records show.

In a prepared statement on the Allred settlement, Occidental spokesman Jim Tranquada said:

"We cannot comment except to say that this matter has been resolved. It is a confidential matter and we intend to honor the confidentiality and privacy of those involved. The college continues to move ahead with its efforts to address this important issue and make Occidental a national leader in dealing with sexual misconduct."

After the federal complaints were filed, the college adopted an interim sexual misconduct policy and recently hired an advocate for abuse victims, Tranquada said. The college has created a 24/7 telephone hotline and expanded the preventative education programs for all students...

The Times has reviewed the federal complaints detailing the allegations of 10 of the women who settled their claims last week. They allege a pattern in which the college downplayed the incidents or tried to dissuade women from stepping forward.

Most of the men involved in the settled cases were ultimately found responsible for misconduct.

Not all of the incidents were reported to law enforcement, a decision left up to those who said they were victims.

According to the federal complaint, a female student who reported to administrators that she had been assaulted at a fraternity in February, said she was told by a school dean not to talk about the incident to prevent lawsuits against the college.

In addition, the complaint said, officials deliberately drew out the disciplinary proceedings. The case "fits a troubling pattern of school administrators running out the clock so alleged perpetrators who are found responsible can still complete their semester," the complaint alleges.

Throughout the complaint are allegations that men found responsible for sexual assaults at Occidental were given only minor sanctions.

In one case, a student admitted to administrators that he had sexually assaulted a woman in 2011 and went on to warn officials that other victims might come forward. The student was allowed to stay on campus while being barred from some campus activities and required to write an apology letter and a 15- to 20-page essay.

The final paper was "less than two and a half pages," according to the complaint. "The incredibly casually written paper was ridden with grammatical errors, incomplete sentences, and no works [footnotes] cited. It is an exemplary example of what a paper looks like that has been given zero effort, care or thought," the complaint alleges...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How many government institutions (besides schools) does Kaiser manipulate behind the scenes? NUHW Files Complaint Over Hiring of DMHC Attorney

DMHC Director (and former Kaiser counsel) Brent Barnhart

Kaiser has to make friends with school district officials in order to get favorable deals to insure school workers. It uses its expertise in mutual back-scratching at government agencies, too.

See full story HERE.

I've known for a long time that the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC or DOMHC) was in cahoots with Kaiser. DMHC responded to a complaint I filed by saying that Kaiser fulfilled its duty by taking X-rays, and was not obligated to look at them!

DOMC's actions shouldn't come a surprise, since Brent Barnhart,the Director of DMHC, is a former senior counsel at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan.

Having one of Brent Barnhart's attorneys move to Kaiser will make everything work smoothly. Marcy Gallagher will have access to Director Barnhart, and knowledge of the inner workings of DMHC. Although I can hardly imagine that things could actually get easier for Kaiser, since DMHC has to disapprove of SOMETHING every once in a while, just to pretend it's regulatory agency, right?

See full story HERE.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Larry Anderson placed on administrative leave at Tri-City Medical Center

Click HERE for more on the story, and for video and the facts behind Anderson's pals at Becker's Hospital Review choice of Tri-City as a top 100 hospital. US News and World Report gave TRi-City Medical Center a very low score.

Tri-City Hospital puts CEO on leave
Hospital directors provided no reason for decision.
By Paul Sisson
Sept. 5, 2013

OCEANSIDE — Hospital directors put Larry Anderson, Tri-City Medical Center’s chief executive officer, on paid administrative leave Wednesday night, according to board chair Larry Schallock.

Saying it was a personnel matter he could not discuss, Schallock declined to provide a reason for the decision.

“Larry Anderson is on paid administrative leave in relation to a personnel matter. Other than that, I have no comment,” Schallock said.

Anderson did not respond Thursday afternoon to a request for comment left on his personal cellphone. Shallock said Casey Fatch, the hospital’s chief operating officer, is serving as interim CEO.

Anderson joined Tri-City as interim CEO in late 2008, after the hospital board sidelined most of its executive team during a closed-session meeting. Most of the executives were eventually fired, though the investigation that led to that action was never made public.

Anderson has worked over the last four years to turn Tri-City’s finances around and had some success in previous years before running into financial difficulty this year. As of June, the hospital had posted a $11 million loss for the budget year that ended in July.

Though finances have sometimes been a challenge, the hospital has posted decent quality scores with Anderson at the helm. For example, the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit that rates hospitals on a spectrum of safety measures, grades the facility a solid B.

But the CEO has come under increasing fire for his management style.

In October 2012, for example, Steven Daniel Stein, the hospital’s former vice president of legal affairs, filed a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit against Tri-City alleging that Anderson was abusive to employees, berating some for taking time off work for medical reasons. In June a federal judge denied Tri-City’s motion to dismiss a key claim of Stein’s suit — that he was fired in fear that he would blow the whistle to authorities regarding workplace discrimination.


Tri-City surgery deal falls short of projection
Hospital CEO accused of railing against medical leave
Tri-City building deal in jeopardy
Tri-City profits have tamed of late
Suit: hospital CEO berated the unhealthy

It was not clear Thursday whether the lawsuit or Tri-City’s budget shortfall had anything to do with the board’s decision Wednesday night.

Schallock declined to say how many board members voted to put Anderson on leave, how long that hiatus might last or whether there is an investigation. The hospital board met in closed session at Wednesday evening with only a discussion of “potential litigation” on the agenda.

After leaving closed session, the board did not report its decision to the public in open session.

Open meetings law requires public bodies like the Tri-City board, which is composed of seven elected directors from Vista, Oceanside and Carlsbad, to report any action taken behind closed doors. However, Greg Moser, Tri-City’s attorney, said the law does not require the board to report its vote to the public until after an employee has exhausted all possible “administrative remedies.”

Those remedies are spelled out in Anderson’s 16-page contract, which runs through Aug. 16, 2014. A clause in the document allows Anderson to terminate the agreement if the board makes “any material diminution or modification” of his duties as CEO.

Moser said Anderson’s duties did change when he was put on leave.

“He is not currently exercising all of the authority that he otherwise would have,” Moser said.

According to the contract, if Anderson terminates the agreement for cause, he would receive a severance agreement equal to 18 months of salary.

According to the state controller’s office, Anderson made a base salary of $515,553 in 2011 and a total compensation of more than $666,000 when retirement payments and other types of pay were taken into account. The hospital did not provide a more current compensation figure for the executive Thursday afternoon. It was not clear whether any potential severance payment would be calculated based on Anderson’s base salary or total compensation.