Friday, May 14, 2010

Vista Unified School District violates Brown Act to conceal exit of Sandy Gecewicz

Updated May 16, 2010

Steve Lilly, president of VUSD board

Carol Weise Herrera
VUSD board

At its May 10, 2010 board meeting closed session, the Vista Unified School District discussed...well, we have no idea what they discussed, since two conflicting agendas were posted beforehand, and the board failed to announce afterward what, if any, actions it had taken.

Vista Unified School District has decided to pay $158,000 (plus health benefits, which I believe adds up to $167,000) to Sandra Gacewicz, the person who is perhaps most knowledgeable about what is going on in the district, in return for her resignation. The reason given is "a dispute." See separation agreement.

Why did the board see fit to spend tax dollars in this way? Hmmm. Perhaps they don't want Gacewicz to tell the truth when State investigators turn up this year to investigate VUSD (see list at bottom of this post). VUSD is getting an "On-Site CPM Review" this year.

First, the district posted a meeting agenda at the site where the board meeting was actually held that differed from the real agenda. The fact that the lengthier agenda was followed is supported by the presence of attorneys at the meeting. Public comment was allowed only on the one item mentioned in the abridged agenda.

Second, the board flippantly refused to properly announce its decision(s) made in closed session.

A citizen writes:

The board went into closed session immediately after the vote on the one item. After the board went into closed session, we were kicked out of the cafeteria. The closed session meeting was about an hour and then Gibson came out and said the closed session was over. The board was just in there chatting away. He talked to us for about 20 minutes and the board never came out. Gibson left; after Gibson left three of the board members came out to the parking lot chatting and got in their cars. We asked them where are you going you are suppose to go in open the meeting and announce what you discussed in closed session and then adjourn the meeting.

They said, "What are you talking about. The meeting is over."

We said, "Yes but per Brown Act you are suppose to open the meeting, announce and then adjourn." They giggled and got in their cars and left.

We saw the lady from the human resource the same one who signed the restraining order against Alejandro [a parent activist that VUSD is trying to eject from DELAC meetings and apparently from discussions with state investigators] coming out and told her the same thing. She went back and told President of the Board Lilly that they did not close the meeting. So Lilly comes out into the parking lot and says, "There were no announcements the meeting is adjourned.'

We said, "you cannot do this in the parking lot plus you don't have a quorum, your quorum left."

We again told him that per the Cal. Brown Act the board (quorum) was suppose to go out and officially open the meeting announce what they discussed in closed session and if any decisions were made. Then adjourn the meeting.

Lilly said, "That is not true. I can do this in the parking lot by myself and if you don't like it put it in writing."

Can you believe this? have you even been to a public meeting conducted in the parking lot? Unbelievable!

In the past, VUSD had a dispute with a psychologist, B J Freeman. The district actually sued the doctor because she said a child needed special education. Attorney Dan Shinoff handled that case.

The Gecewicz case is being handled by Fagen, Friedman and Fullfrost, a firm that was put together after Lozano Smith attorneys were ordered by a federal judge to take ethics classes. Howard Fulfrost was a shareholder at Lozano Smith when the firm billed Bret Harte Union High School District $500,000 for a case that could have been settled years earlier for $8,000. Mr. Fulfrost doesn't like to mention the name of his previous firm; here's what he says on his website:

"Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Fulfrost was an associate, and then
a shareholder, with another California education law
firm. While at that firm, he was co-chairperson of the Special
Education Practice Group – leading its growth to California’s
largest and most well-recognized special education practice."

Socioeconomic Integration and Achievement

Apr 6, 2008 by Jim Horn
... districts have high numbers of students with strong language skills and that can rub off on low-income students, who often start school a bit behind, said Sandy Gecewicz, chief academic officer for Vista Unified School District. ...

The following will be added in 2010-11:
County: San Diego
3773569 Oceanside Unified
3768296 Poway Unified
3768304 Ramona City Unified
3768312 Rancho Santa Fe Elementary
3710371 San Diego County Office of Education
3768338 San Diego Unified
3768346 San Dieguito Union High
3773791 San Marcos Unified
3768353 San Pasqual Union Elementary
3768379 San Ysidro Elementary
3768361 Santee Elementary
3768387 Solana Beach Elementary
3768395 South Bay Union Elementary
3768403 Spencer Valley Elementary
3768411 Sweetwater Union High
3768437 Vallecitos Elementary
3775614 Valley Center-Pauma Unified
3768452 Vista Unified
3775416 Warner Unified


Kaia Evangelista said...

Vista unified school district violates Brown act to conceal exit of sandy Gecewicz. Its all about Education and politics.

retired said...

I am afraid you have been badly mis-informed about the actions that forced Sandy Gecewicz out at VUSD.

According to the VTA president, Jan O'Reilly, at the VTA May Rep Assembly meeting, the 'grapevine' said the forced resignation was due to special education deficits that Ms Gecewicz oversaw.

There was apparently a lawsuit by very angry parents either filed or about to be filed.

There was no Brown Act violation.

In VUSD we have a very small group of an angry cult like offshoot of Christianity. Members of this group managed to get a three member board majority in 1992 by coming to our churches and introducing themselves as Christians. We found out after they were elected that they were very different kind of Christian. They deny virtually all science discoveries of the 19th and 20th century, deny the offering of life saving information in sex ed to students, and turn down federal government grants.

One of their board members worked at the Institute for Creation Research--a cult formerly located in Santee now in Texas that denies all science from chemistry, physics and biology. Employees of ICR must take an oath that they believe the universe to be less than ten thousand years old in order to get a job at ICR.

Our extremist board majority made national headlines and turned our district into a national laughing stock.

Read more about their 1992-94 antics here:

This crowd has not gone away. They still are attacking our fine VUSD schools, teachers and four rational school board trustees with made up accusations. Brown Act violations are one of their favorite made up charges they level at the rational four. They have one member on the school board currently, Jim Gibson of "Carrie Prejean Day" fame. Read more about our VUSD ANTI public education crowd here: or google "Carrie Prejean Day" to read more about their one remaining board member.

Maura Larkins said...

To retired:
Thanks for your background info on the board members.

I happen to think that there was a minor Brown Act violation. It wasn't serious. If I were a board member, I'd simply apologize for it.

I don't think Ray Artiano and Leslie Devaney are going to do a Brown Act shakedown of VUSD like they did to Tri-City Hospital. Tri-City gave these two lawyers $300,000 merely to drop Brown Act litigation. Artiano and Devaney's partner Dan Shinoff is a lawyer for VUSD.

I think there are special education deficits, but that they were there before Gacewicz came to VUSD. I think that VUSD wants those deficits covered up. If Gacewicz had done something wrong, the board wouldn't have paid her so much money, would they?

I'm not a fan of extremists, but the board of VUSD needs to do a better job of showing respect to parents. The board should start by telling Dan Shinoff that he should help them follow the law, not help them get away with ignoring it.

Maura Larkins said...

P.S. to Retired:
I have sympathy for schools that are struggling with limited budgets to serve special education needs.

But we have a real problem when schools respond, as VUSD did in 2004, by hiring lawyer Dan Shinoff to <a href=">sue a psychologist</a> for saying that a child needed special education. I suspect that the reasons for taking action against Gacewicz in 2010 were similar to the reasons VUSD took action against Dr. B.J. Freeman in 2004. This use of the justice system to intimidate employees and parents is common among "rational" board members in many school districts in San Diego county. The reasons for this seem to be:

1) to cover up problems;

2) to protect the political fortunes of "rational" (and "irrational") board members;

3) to give decision-making power to lawyers who have no stake in the education of children;

4) to provide billable hours to lawyers like Dan Shinoff and Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost.