Sunday, October 06, 2013

Tom Anthony, a favorite of San Diego County Office of Education, and a long-ago high school election

Superintendent Tom Anthony

Mia Wenjen

When a lowly student confronts a powerful school official 30 years after a wrong was committed, it's like a high school reunion--only better.

Here's the background on the powerful people in this story:

San Diego County Office of Education superintendents Rudy Castruita and Randolph Ward have kept the same interconnected group of people in positions of power at SDCOE. Among the most powerful positions are those of Diane Crosier and Lora Duzyk in the department that controls the SDCOE Joint Powers Authority ("JPA"). A small group of school superintendents is selected to run the JPA's legal advisory board.

For many years, Tom Anthony was one of those superintendents who worked intimately with JPA lawyers. See more on Tom HERE.

Here are memories of Tom Anthony by a girl who was a student at the high school where he worked as vice-principal thirty years ago:

A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years Later
Mia Wenjen
Pragmatic Mom Blog
August 19, 2013

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

When I went to college, my boyfriend informed me that I was provincial. From a province. He was from Queens, New York, and commuted an hour each way to a New York city magnet school. I protested that I was from a beach town. A suburban beach town! But he was right. I was provincial and my local politics prove it. Corruption is easy to pull off in a province.

The year is 1983. The month is June. Seniors are about to graduate but there is one thing left for me to do: I have to run the All Student Body Elections.

This cast of characters at Los Alamitos High School 30 years ago:

Tom Anthony: Vice Principal and in charge of Student Council. He’s going to University of Southern California (USC) at night to get his PhD in Education. He’s a young, affable guy and everyone really likes him, myself included, at least until THE CHEATING INCIDENT!

Mia Wenjen: I’m the Student Representative to the School Board. Admittedly, it’s a lame Student Council position, strictly for resume building. I may have even been appointed. I really can’t remember. My job is to attend School Board meetings which is harder than it sounds because it’s a snoozefest, and run the All Student Body elections for the next year’s student council.

Mark Abrams: A few years my senior, Mark at the tender age of 18 or so was the youngest person ever elected to the School Committee. He is a rising star in the politico world and in a different class than me. We, for example, never exchange words, even when we are sitting next to each other.

Phillip Swagel

Phillip Swagel: I describe him as the smartest kid in my high class but my husband would correct me to say that he’s one of the smartest people in the United States. With a PhD in Economics from Harvard, he was the Senate Confirmed Economist under Paulson who engineered the Investment Banking bailouts: AIG, Bear Stears, Lehman Brothers and the rest. Each blow up ruined his weekend. In high school, he was the only kid with a computer and, naturally, a wiz at programming.

John Orr: He was class of 1983 with me and on Student Council. Was he the treasurer? I can’t remember. His father is the Dean of USC’s School of Education where, you might have noticed, Vice Principal Tom Anthony is enrolled.

Shelley Sandusky: She’s the class of 1984 — one year younger — and John Orr’s girlfriend. They are both in band and drama club. She is running for ASB President and is a nice and smart person but not a “popular.”

Rich Morgan : He is the football quarterback who is also nice and smart. He’s running for ASB President as well. He’s popular as football star players tend to be who are also nice, smart and good looking.

I’m pretty burnt out of high school. I’m off to college back east and ready to blow this popsicle stand. It seems so confining. So many rules. So little freedom. But I need to run the elections as my final duty for my Student Council position. I wrangle Phill Swagel into writing a program for me that will count the scantron ballots which total around 1700.

The election process is fairly straight forward. Call for nominees. A round of speeches and then the voting and count the ballots. A scanner with Phill’s program makes quick work of it. Phill and I are done in less than an hour. We tally the winners, rubber band the ballots, and bring it to Mr. Tom Anthony who will announce the winners over the loudspeaker the next morning.

Only the next day, I can’t believe my ears. The ASB President winner is Rich (I can’t remember his last name) who won by a landslide. Only Mr. Anthony is announcing that it’s Shelley Sandusky.

Furious, I race to his office to confront him. I’m told by his secretary that I am not allowed to scream at him. I don’t care. I accuse him of cheating. That he’s just a loser shop teacher trying to social climb his way to Principal. That he can’t stop me from going to college. He claims that he did a recount that night and my tally was wrong.

“Liar!” I said. “There’s no way you did a hand tally. That would take hours. I am the only one with the computer program. There’s no way you spent hours counting ballots.”

I demand a recount. I get the ballots, find Phill and we’re off to the library for a recount using his program to rescan the ballots. Now it gets weird.

We are missing several hundred ballots (350?) but the winners of all the other offices — VP, Secretary, Treasurer, and rest of the offices — remain the same. Did Mr. Anthony throw out 350 ballots? If so, why didn’t the winners of the other offices change? Some of those positions were in close contention. Much closer than ASB President. Did he fill out replacement ballots with Shelley’s name keeping the other offices the same but ran out of time or motivation to complete the full number? He probably did not realize I had a total ballot count by way of the program. We could not figure out definitively what had happened. And where did those missing ballots go? I searched the waste basket but it wasn’t in his office. Maybe he took them home?

I track down Rich, the real winner. I tell him that he really won. By a landslide. By 4: 1 margins. He shrugs. I tell him to get his parents involved. He won’t. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is too humiliating to fight for the office. Maybe it isn’t worth the fuss to him. Would it make a difference for college? I don’t know. All the smart kids at my high school want to go to Stanford and only a small handful – 4 at the most — get accepted from our high school.

I’m tired. Tired of high school. It’s not my battle. I did my part and tried to run an honest election but it’s clear to me that this is truly what democracy is: corrupt. Those with power manipulate the results. India is like this and so many other countries that have “democracies.” I’m a jaded teenage. I’ve been reading too much Ayn Rand and Catcher in the Rye. I am sickened but there’s nothing I can do.

Why did Mr. Anthony do this? Is it for dinner invitations at the Orr house? Is his PhD dissertation defense in jeopardy? (He’s a nice guy, but truly not that smart.) Does he think he is doing right by letting Drama Nerd win over Popular Athlete? This is 1983, after all. Decades before High School Musical!

About five years ago, curiosity got the best of me and I called my old high school under an assumed name to find out what happened to Tom Anthony. Posing as “Helen Lee”, I chatted up his secretary. [An assumed name was necessary because I am persona non grata after my little incident.] She gushed about him saying that he was so successful, moving up from Principal to Superintendent in the San Juan Capistrano School District, about 30 miles south.

One of south Orange County’s leading school administrators may leave his post to head a San Diego County school district, officials said Monday.

Thomas R. Anthony, Capistrano Unified’s associate superintendent of secondary schools, is one of two candidates being considered for the superintendent position at Grossmont Union High School District, a suburban school system in eastern San Diego County. LA Times

If selected, Anthony will leave 37,000-student Capistrano Unified for a district of 22,000 high school students, one of the largest secondary school districts in the state.

Anthony, 51, has spent the past 11 years at Capistrano Unified as a district administrator and principal at Capistrano Valley High School.

“I would be sad, really sad” to leave Orange County if given the San Diego job, Anthony said. “I’ve developed a lot of great friendships with administrators, teachers and students here.”

I have a brief fantasy of faxing my story over to the local newspaper. Superintendents are sometimes elected positions. But I am busy raising three kids and though usually good for holding a grudge, it seemed a extreme, even for me.

Now I realized that it’s been 30 years so it’s time for the true story to be heard. Tom Anthony must be retired by now, and it seems that the lesson here is that cheating does pay off. Or does it?

I did a recent google search and found this doozy.

Superintendent Tom Anthony has been sent packing from Fallbrook, December 13, 2007

Along with Ed Brand, Tom Anthony exerted a lot of control over San Diego County Office of Education. Or would it be more correct to say that through Ed Brand and Tom Anthony, Diane Crosier of the SDCOE-JPA exerted a lot of control over school districts? Either way, the personal advancement of individuals in high places has taken precedence over the well being of students in San Diego County.

Fallbrook has gotten rid of Tom Anthony. But has the rest of the county gotten rid of him?

and this …

FALLBROOK — Tom Anthony, the embattled leader of the Fallbrook Union High School District, will resign as superintendent Jan. 11, 2007 under a $319,931 buyout agreement that took effect Tuesday, officials said.

The arrangement requires the district to pay Anthony 18 months of salary — or $281,000 — plus health and other benefits through June 2010. Those figures are spelled out in Anthony’s contract, which would have ended then.

While no one contacted for this story would discuss the reasons behind Anthony’s departure, district teachers have complained for years about what they call his intimidating leadership style.

When polled in March, 122 of the district’s 150 teachers answered ”Strongly disagree” to the statement “I have confidence in the leadership of the superintendent.”

Anthony, who is 62, took over as superintendent in 1997.

The friction extends as far back as 2001, when then-technology director Doug Newton was fired after accessing the telephone voicemail of several teachers who were protesting salary issues.

Newton later charged that Anthony ordered him to gain access to the district-owned voicemail system…

Fallbrook High School Teacher’s Association President Tim Oder accused Anthony of running the campaigns of Fran White and Jim Hutcherson, who are both seeking re-election for the board in November.

“We have a tremendous problem in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District —- it is people who have abused their power and abused taxpayers’ money,” said Oder.

Oh, Tom Anthony. You are the same person when I was in high school! The more things change, the more they stay the same. You are still up to your old tricks! It seems election fraud is your speciality!

Thomas Anthony, retired in 2009 as superintendent of the Fallbrook Union High School District, San Diego, receives $173,812 or 89 percent of his salary.

[Rudy Castruita, retired in 2006 as superintendent to the San Diego County Office of Education, receives $281,034 or 107 percent of his salary. Rudy was the principal of my high school during this same period.]

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. --San Diego Education Report

After a little more Googling, I found out what happened to Tom Anthony…

The Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District will have a new superintendent starting in June, 2011.

The school board voted last week to hire Michael Reid to replace Interim Superintendent Thomas Anthony at the end of the school year, according to the district. Anthony is a retired administrator from San Diego and was brought in to act as interim superintendent after former Superintendent Douglas Oliveira left for a coaching position at College of the Redwoods.

So that is cheater 1. What do you think? Despite being thrown out, he seems to have fared pretty well. Cheating agrees with him.

Cheater 2 is that promising politco Mark Alan Abrams. He became a real estate broker in the Los Angeles Beverly Hills area where he conducted a series of mortgage frauds affecting Lehman Brothers that went down like this:

Buy the cheapest house in a nice area. For the sake of illusrtation, we’ll call this $500,000.
Do nothing to the house.
Sell it for an inflated price (We’ll call this $1,000,000) to a buyer you are in cahoots with.
Have the house appraised by a crooked appraiser for $1,000,000.
When the bank runs a computer appraisal, it will check out as the homes in that area are in the $1,000,000 range.
Have the new owner take a second mortgage on the house. Default on the mortages. Take the money, split it among yourselves and run.
Do this over and over again.

For a long time, Mark and his partner in crime lived high on the hog, Bernie Madoff style. When it came to a head, his partner tried to escape to Mexico but was captured and extradited. Mark is now serving a 6 1/2 year sentence in jail.

Mark Alan Abrams, 49, of downtown Los Angeles, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson. In addition to the prison term, Judge Pregerson ordered Abrams to pay more than $41 million in restitution to two federally insured banks.

Abrams and Fitzgerald ran a wide-ranging and sophisticated scheme that obtained inflated mortgage loans on homes in some of California’s most expensive neighborhoods, including Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Malibu, Carmel, Mill Valley, Pebble Beach, and La Jolla. Members of the conspiracy—real estate brokers, appraisers, and mortgage bankers, who all shared in the profits from the fraudulent sales—sent false documentation, including bogus purchase contracts and appraisals, to the victim banks to deceive them into funding mortgage loans that were hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the homes actually cost. Lehman Brothers Bank alone was deceived into funding more than 80 such inflated loans from 2000 into 2003, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in losses.

February 15, 2005 | From Times Staff Reports

A week after the city Ethics Commission levied a record $270,000 fine against developer Mark Alan Abrams for laundering political contributions, the panel’s executive director accused six former Abrams associates Monday of participating in the scheme.

Mark Abrams isn’t making any friends either by the comments from this post:

I owe this guy a SERIOUS beat-down from when he used my friend’s dad’s name and literally almost ruined him. My friend’s dad had a severe heart attack because Mark Abrams defrauded him and my friends family back in 1989-1990. My friend’s dad trusted Mark and he drove my friend’s dad to almost ruins health wise. Listen up chump, if I ever find you Mark, I will, with my own bare hands rip your throat out and piss in your neck. Comment by Mark Abrams Hater — April 4, 2007 @ 6:31 pm Hey Mark, remember the white BMW you “sold” me? Remember me making payments to you that you never paid the lien holder to the car? Remember disappearing on me and sending my credit to the toilet because of this and the BMW you “sold” me was repossessed? I swear if I find you or if I find out where you are jailed, I will make sure the rest of your life is miserable. If I do find you before you go to jail, I will stuff every bill you left me with up your ass. You will pay for what you did to me and my family. I GUARANTEE that, you crooked ass loser. Comment by Mark Abrams Hater — April 5, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

I would guess that he is getting some serious beat downs in jail but maybe that doesn’t happen in white collar jail?

You remember that my friend Phillip Swagel was in charge of figuring out what to do when the sub-prime mortgage economic meltdown happened. How strange that a kid from our high school had a role in this. Phill ultimately decided not to bail out Lehman Brothers.

The world is small and everyone is connected. And it seems that character flaws that seem small continue on their path of destruction, leaving many, many victims in its wake.

As for Shelly Sandusky, she got into Stanford. Would she have been admitted had she not been ASB President? Who knows? Would Rich have gotten that coveted spot if he had claimed his rightful position thus demonstrating Leadership which all top colleges love to see? I think he ended up at U.C.L.A.

We’ll never know. Like many kids at top schools who wonder how the heck they got in, she should know that she caught a break. But it’s not so much how you got in, as what you do with it. Shelly is currently an attorney at The Habeas Corpus Resource Center (HCRC), located in San Francisco, which represents indigent men and women under sentence of death in California. The HCRC’s mission is to provide timely, high-quality legal representation for indigent petitioners in death penalty habeas corpus proceedings before the Supreme Court of California and the federal courts.

As for my provincial high school, I have to say that things are pretty exciting in the sleepy town of Los Alamitos where my high school is. We may be country bumpkins, but we aren’t boring!

Los Alamitos High School Swim Team, 1981. I’m the far right in the front row.

p.s. My thanks to Stacy Pollard Zuanich and Andy Morrissey for their help on Facebook recalling the names of the cast. Is it Rich Hernandez who was denied his ASB Presidentship? Also thank you to Rhonda Schwandt for the swim team photo. Good times!

p.p.s. Final thank you to Shelley Sandusky for identifying Rich Morgan as the person who really was elected ASB President and for weighing in.

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