Showing posts with label school board trustees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label school board trustees. Show all posts

Friday, April 4, 2014

Monterey County Public Officials: think about it before you flip the bird


I got a fascinating photo this week of a public official flipping the bird. I won't say the name, or which city this person lives in, but I'll say the politician works with children. The offending party was caught in the birdy act while walking towards an event at the National Steinbeck Center last week.

And that's why I'm writing this. If you're working with children, and you're trying to set an example to them, and one of these values you're trying to demonstrate is to be respectful to others -- even if they're promoting ideas you don't believe with -- do you think flipping the bird is a good way to show respect?

Specially in this day and age of ubiquitous cameras. You never know when you're going to be recorded, when your photo will appear on Facebook.

Tst tst tst tst. Bad kitty.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Alisal Board seeks to muzzle Meredith Ibarra

Alisal Union Trustee Meredith Ibarra did not take well to a proposal that would limit the amount of time a board member can drone on about agenda items during board meetings.

Currently there's no limit on how many questions a board member can ask, or how much he or she can comment on an item. The always eloquent Ibarra has been told twice in recent meetings to stop being disruptive. Newly elected Board President Maricela Cruz has had Ibarra's microphone shut off to prevent her from talking, to no avail.

A newly introduced board policy would limit the amount of time a board member can comment on agenda items to five minutes, or longer if authorized by the board president.

The policy would also have disruptive board members removed from the board room and placed in a separate location to allow for their participation remotely. But the board president could stop the disruptive board member from participating remotely if the behavior persists.

Ibarra clearly felt she was being the target -- mmmmm -- and made it clear she's going to file a complaint.

"You don’t have a right to revise and approve this policy," Ibarra told her fellow trustees. "Just for you to know, this is a violation and I’m going to be acting on this issue."

To which, Cruz responded:

"People need to have control of themselves, and if they don’t, somebody else will. As a new board we have the right to revise policies."

Wednesday's was the policy's first reading. It will be enacted at the next scheduled meeting. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The COSCA Group meets MPUSD community members

Patrick Sayne of The Cosca Group, the consulting firm that's helping trustees with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District find the next superintendent, led a meeting today in Marina to find out what community members want in their next top leader.

The meeting was sparsely attended, not surprisingly. There were only nine people in the audience, who included two trustees, a district employee, and Marina's recreation and cultural services director Terry Siegrist. 
 Still, the views from the audience were telling. When asked, what's good about the district, the first answer that sprung up was: location. Yes, MPUSD is located in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. 

And what else???

It was Trustee Diane Creasey who said its diversity and its "improving API scores" that were good. 

And what are its challenges? Financial. Low academic standards and low achievement. Resources are not equally shared among the learning communities. Facilities are outdated. 

Lastly, Sayne asked participants what they wanted to see in a superintendent, and they came up with 12 desired qualities: innovative, visionary, outside of the education field (bad idea: read my blog on that one), great communicator, visible to students and parents. When the qualities had to be ranked, the top vote getters were: the finalist needs to work in partnership with trustees, he or she needs to build community partnerships, and he or she will know how to pick quality administrators. 

And so the wheel keeps turning. There will be two more meetings, one on Wednesday at Seaside High, and one on Thursday at Monterey High. 

See you there!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Give MPUSD trustees a break

Soon after officials with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District announced a round of  community meetings to gather information for the next superintendent, the district's naysayers lifted their heads.

The trustees are posturing, said the anonymous email I pointed to in my story about trustees in today's paper. 

"This board and previous incarnations have a sketchy record when it comes to hiring superintendents, which is no surprise," the email reads. "It is an exceptionally hard job and there is a shortage of qualified candidates nationwide. The job is so political and school district politics so mercurial that even a supremely qualified superintendent will likely encounter career-threatening storms early and often."

The email then describes the district's effort in finding a superintendent "a spectacular flop because of a seriously inadequate vetting process."

And the email goes on and on. You get the idea.

The writer's ultimate advice is a good one: trustees should probably get advice from personnel experts on how to evaluate the potential finalist. No quibble with that one.

What I'd like to take issue with is a) the tone of the email, and b) the overall implication that this board is inept and misguided.

We're not going to get anywhere if this district continues with its well-documented habit of throwing stones and hiding the hand. This district is not going to move forward if we continue with the snark, the bitterness, and the fingerpointing.

Yes, mistakes were made in April, and I believe the people responsible have shown a fair amount of contrition. Now, can we move on?

In fact, several of the trustees who were involved in the process have actually moved on -- in case you have not noticed. In fact, we have three new members on the board. THREE. Two of them are not educators by profession -- Tim Chaney and Tom Jennings. Alana Myles, the third one, ended her career as a teacher but began in the insurance industry, which means she has experience in areas other than education. 

Debra Gramesbacher is not a teacher. Jon Hill, a former school superintendent, is now a personnel analyst for the Monterey County Health Department. Diane Creasey is a nurse.

You may want to quibble with this, but we now have a board that is NOT dominated by people whose SOLE experience is in education -- as the email claims.

And they are decent people. I don't have an I.Q. measuring stick, but they seem pretty smart people to me. And most importantly, they all seem genuinely concerned about our schools and our children. About education.

Now, can we all give them a break and support them and hope we all get it right this time? I'm pretty confident the board as an institution got so badly burnt last time the members who lived to tell are threading extremely carefully this time.

Enough with the snark, people. Let's give some constructive criticism. How about that?

For starters, attend those community meetings next week. You can find the schedule here and here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Alisal, MPC, and MPUSD

Ah, so many stories, so little time...

A brief taste of potential good stories.

ALISAL: Three new board members were sworn in at the Alisal Union School District this week, and boy, are they going to make changes soon. Their agenda for Wednesday's special board meeting includes dismissing at least five people who were hired during the Castañeda regime. These soon-to-be-unemployed people include relatives or friends of the Ibarra clan. Union leaders had complained they had displaced union members who'd worked for the district for decades.

Two previously dismissed employees are being re-hired. 

MPC: At a time when perhaps more transparency is needed -- given impending budget cuts -- student journalists of the MPC Pipeline are crying foul because the Associated Students of the Monterey Peninsula College cut its funding. MPC student council president Chris Marshall told me the cuts had nothing to do with MPC Pipeline reporting on his scuffle with Eric Foster.

This ongoing saga is worth at least an entire blog post and perhaps a full blown article in the print edition, since the number of newspaper publications has shrunk considerably in the last few years, and MPC Pipeline is the first paper I see come out recently. That and The Galleon of Monterey High. Story idea for the new year, for sure.

MPUSD: Joanna Greenshields was not the only person blown away by MPUSD trustees saying no to a $5 million cost overrun. I've been marveled by the fact that trustees get sort of "trapped" into positions they can't back out of, and I was wondering how long it would take for them to stop going down dead end roads.

The Digital Schools contract is such an example. They were warned by the Monterey County Office of Education not to try to go its separate way, but the trustees voted for "fiscal independency" anyway. Regardless, it was too late. By then, they had already approved -- unanimously -- a five year, half-a-million contract they could only use if they were fiscally independent. After Monterey County officials deemed MPUSD unable to become fiscally independent, it became obvious they would not be able to use the half-million dollars software they had already committed to buying.

The board seemed a lot more cautious on Monday, perhaps they've learned a lesson or two. Like Jon Hill told me: "This is a board that has learned they don't have to do what they don't want to do."

Which is sometimes more important than doing what you want to do.

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 27, 2013

MPUSD trustees to talk about superintendent search

Maybe it was the summer. Or the fact that, after the last superintendent search, the community was so exhausted there was no energy left to give.

But nothing like a good rest and a bit of controversy to spark things up.

MPUSD trustees will meet at a special meeting Monday to talk about the search for a new superintendent. They won't be the ones choosing, but rather, they want to set the wheels in motion so a new superintendent can be picked by the new board.

The meeting's open session is set to start at 5:45 p.m. at the usual place -- Instructional Materials Center, 540 Canyon Del Rey, Monterey.

It'll be interesting to see how the latest upheaval related to a proposal to change the math requirements at the high school level plays out. Math teachers are not happy, and they have not been shy about publicizing their concerns.

Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The wheels beging turning for the search of a new superintendent at MPUSD

Now that tempers have cooled off, it seems like a good time to begin the search for a new superintendent at Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.

Last night, MPUSD trustees discussed how the process will unfold, and what emerged was that K-12 Insight, the consulting firm they hired in November, will be asked to conduct public meetings and gauge community preferences for what they'd like to see in the next district's top leader.

Yes, MPUSD trustees will hire another consultant to help with the superintendent search. But somehow I doubt it will be Education Leadership Services.

The plan is to lay the groundwork so when a new board gets sworn in after the election, they'll get to pick the next superintendent.

It's going to be fun...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Former Monterey Peninsula College trustees spoke, and Marina listened

If you missed the controversy of the week, three former Monterey Peninsula College trustees (namely Charley Page, Jim Tunney and Lynne Davis) urged current Marina trustee Margaret-Anne Coppernoll to either not run or for Marina residents to step up and find someone to run against her.

You can find the Herald's story here, an editorial on the topic here, and a rebuttal from current Marina City Councilman Dave Brown here.

Well, it looks like at least one Marina resident will heed the Peninsula folks' advice. Former Marina Mayor Gary Wilmot has taken out papers to run for the MPC seat. His paperwork is not complete, but neither is Coppernoll's, so anything can happen between now and August 9. Maybe another candidate will throw his/her hat in the ring?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

School boards election watch in Monterey County

For those who want to represent their communities at the various school boards, we're almost a month away from Monterey County's deadline to file for candidacy.

A few interesting races are shaping up so far.

Maricela Cruz will take on Lilia Cortez-Garza for her seat the Alisal Union School District. Cruz co-owns a soccer store in the Alisal, which means she's probably well known among the area's soccer fans. Cortez-Garza, like the rest of the board, is a strong supporter of Superintendent John Ramirez and the current status quo, which some folks are unhappy about.

Former Salinas Union High Superintendent Fernando Elizondo will throw his hat in the ring on Aug. 8, when he'll announce his candidacy at a Salinas restaurant. His election website is up and running, and you can find it here. He's running against Lila Cann, who has been on the board since 2005 and who's well liked among his constituents, I'm told. Cann announced she's running for re-election a few weeks ago, along with all the incumbents seeking re-election.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Election season is upon Monterey County

Oh yes, we're going to have elections this year. And judging by the excitement already in the air, they're going to be more exciting than ever.

Deadline for candidates to file their paperwork is Aug. 9, but many have already announced their plans. At MPUSD, Trustees Helen Rucker and Regena Lauterbach already said they're not running, so there will be brand new trustees in those spots. Bettye Lusk will run for re-election, and I'll be interesting to see if anybody steps up to challenge her. Tom Jennings will have to run if he wants to keep his seat.

The list goes on and on. At the Alisal Union School District, where some constituents are not happy with decisions being made at the top, Lilia Cortez-Garza will have at least one challenger. Also up for re-election are Sarah Garcia and José Castañeda -- who's facing a lawsuit from the City of Salinas to give up his school board seat.

The office of Monterey County Elections will host a candidate's seminar from 9 to 11 a.m. this Saturday. So if you're interested, here's your chance. You can find more info here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

York School board of trustees elects new officers

Jane Paulsen of Carmel, a former journalist and public relations professional, is the new chair of the board of trustees for York School. Paulsen is the parent of a current student and of a 2010 York graduate.

The board of the independent school also elected Mary Adams of Pebble Beach, president and CEO of the United Way Monterey County, as vice chair.

The board also re-elected Gary Ray of Monterey board secretary, and elected Marilyn Calciano of Santa Cruz board treasurer. Ray, a partner in the Salinas law firm of Ottone Leach Olsen & Ray LLP, is the parent of two York students. Calciano also is the parent of two York students. Newly elected to the York board were: Drew Gibson, Carmel Highlands; Matt Simis, Monterey; Kirsti Scott, Aptos, and Gordon Howie, Redwood City.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

May First Alliance vs. Alisal teachers and employees

It should come as a no surprise to anyone that a group of friends and family members of Alisal Trustee Meredith Ibarra, Alisal employee Jose Ibarra, and those who support José Castañeda and Superintendent John Ramirez have come out publicly against salary increases for Alisal teachers and employees.

And they've done it via You-Tube.

The video is exactly what you would expect from this group, AKA the May First Alliance, who are now calling themselves Red de Padres por el Respeto y la Igualdad en la Educación -- Network of Parents for Respect and Equality in Education.

First the group takes credit for changing the school board and electing the group seated now -- the people who routinely rubber-stamp Ramirez's decisions with hardly any questions. Then it takes credit for kicking out the state trustee in two years -- wasn't that what the state said it was going to do in the first place?

Then the group says the teachers should not be getting salary increases because the children of the Alisal are not doing well -- 60 percent of them are reading below level, 40 percent are below level in Math level.

But wait a minute. Hasn't Supt. Ramirez been touting how much progress the Alisal has been making? How the achievement gap has been narrowing?

So which is it? Is the achievement gap narrowing or are the children still lagging? Are the teachers doing their job or not?

While no doubt the video is a blatant attack on teachers, it makes a point that is very important. A leader of the California School Employees Association is quoted repeating several times that parents of the Alisal don't know the legal names of their children, which causes undue burden on the employees as they have to spend a lot of time searching for their records.

So now it's parents who don't know the names of their children? How about parents living in a system that practically eradicates the existence of one of them in their children's lives? How about the system being disrespectful of people's right to give their children two last names -- the mother's and the father's?

Unfortunately, these are the type of comments that May First Alliance, Red de Padres, the Ibarras, the Castañedas, seize on to demonstrate how Alisal teachers and employees disrespect them. It's unfortunate. The district is not moving forward by having one group attack the other, and viceversa. An eye for an eye does make the world go blind.

It will be interesting to see how the unions respond to this video. Maybe with another one, with fewer inaccuracies? Stay tuned.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Only one person wants to be next MPUSD trustee for Marina

Trustees with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will interview today the only candidate who filed to fill a vacancy on the board. Tom Jennings, a fire security technician, ran against Diane Creasey in the 2011 election, largely by attacking Creasey's record.

It seems like a foregone conclusion that he'll be appointed, seeing that no other candidates filed to be considered. Then again, these are strange times. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Deadline to apply for MPUSD open seat is Friday

The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will receive applications until 5 p.m. Friday, May 31, for people wishing to be considered to be appointed to represent Area 1 in Marina.

Curtis Parker resigned effective April 22, and the provisional appointment would serve his remaining term until the end of the year.

The application packet and map to determine residency requirements is posted on the MPUSD website or interested people who would like to be considered for appointment to this office should request an application from the Office of the Superintendent, 700 Pacific Street, Monterey, (831) 645-1204, or e-mail Tricia Westrick at

Requirements for Appointment
1. A registered voter residing within Trustee Area 1
2. 18 years or older
3. Not an employee of the school district.

Postmarks will not be accepted. All completed application packages should be returned to the Office of the Superintendent, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.

The Board of Education will interview qualified candidates at a board meeting on Monday, June 3, 2013, 7:00 p.m., at the Instruction Materials Center (IMC), 540 Canyon Del Rey, Monterey, CA. A provisional appointment will be made at that meeting to fill the term of office which will expire in November, 2013.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mark Stilwell to fill vacancy on Carmel Unified School District board

Mark Edward Stilwell Sr., executive vice president for the Pebble Beach Company and a 12-year resident within the boundaries of the Carmel Unified School District, has been appointed to fill a vacancy on its board of education.  The appointment was confirmed late Tuesday at a special meeting.

Stilwell and his wife Susan have three children who attend Carmel High School. He's been an involved parent, volunteering as a youth sports coach in soccer, basketball and baseball for the Monterey YMCA and Carmel Unified Youth Baseball. In addition, he volunteers as an alumni interviewer for Yale and has interviewed seniors at Carmel High and other local schools for many years.

Mathew Fuzie has resigned from the board effective June 5, and Stilwell will be in office until the next election scheduled for November.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Carmel Unified board to interview and appoint candidate to fill vacancy

Trustees with the Carmel Unified School District will hold a special meeting today to interview candidates and appoint a new member of the board of education.

 Mathew Fuzie has resigned from the board effective June 5, 2013, and officials with CUSD will fill the vacancy by provisional appointment. The appointee will hold office until the next regularly scheduled Board election in November of 2013.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at the district office, 4380 Carmel Valley Rd. Interviews will take place during open session for six candidates: Mark Stilwell, Gordon Freedman, Kristy Downing, Bill Leatherberry, Leslie Ann Cooley, and Jamie Devon Shrabeck.

Trustees will vote on their selection right after the interviews.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Carmel Unified looking for new trustee -- apply today!

It's not to late to apply to be considered for a trustee position at the Carmel Unified School District.

Trustee Mathew Fuzie has resigned from the board effective June 5, 2013, and officials with CUSD will fill the vacancy by provisional appointment. The appointee will hold office until the next regularly scheduled Board election in November of 2013.

Persons interested in being considered for the position may request an application at the district's office, 4380 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel, CA 93923, at either (831) 624-1546 ext. 2021, or by e-mail to or via the district website here.

Applicants must reside within the District boundaries and not otherwise be disqualified from holding a civil office. Applications must be submitted no later than 4:30 pm on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

Candidates for the Board appointment will be interviewed by the Board of Education at their meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in the Carmel Middle School Library. The community is invited to provide input, either in writing or in person at the meeting.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Of test scores, credit card charges, and where the truth really lies...

It's not just the sexual harassment lawsuit that has MPUSD's pants in a tizzy. Opponents to naming Alain Guevara as the new superintendent for the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District are citing issues with how Lake Elsinore Unified, the district where Guevara comes from, failed to count migrant students scores in years past and how that inflated their schools and district  Academic Performance Index.

Here's a story about it, courtesy of the Press-Enterprise.

I talked to my personal test scores guru, Doug McRae, to ask his take on it. First of all, he says, a change in rules for API calculations is very different than a cheating scandal, what happened in Atlanta and Washington D.C.  And second he said that "virtually all school administrators in the state pay a lot of attention to API calculation rules, and if those rules permit a district to include or exclude certain students from their calculations and those inclusion/exclusion decisions positively affect their API's, they are likely to use the rules to their own advantage."

"It's not unlike deductions on your tax returns . . . . if you can legitimately claim a deduction, most folks claim it and reduce their taxes regardless whether they think the deduction is "fair" or not, regardless whether others are claiming the deduction or not. A lot of the inclusion/exclustion rules for API calculations are pretty arbitrary [just like rules for tax deductions]."

"But, it appears that Lake Elsinore was the beneficiary of previous rules for inclusion/exclusion of migrant students, at least in terms of absolute API scores, and when the rules changed they were no longer the beneficiary. It makes Lake Elsinore look bad when folks look at absolute API scores before the rules change and after the rules change. But, since the API system is based on changes not from year to year, but rather from base to growth where the rules are the same from base to growth, Lake Elsinore's API gain scores did not benefit from the change in rules."

It could have been, McRae conceded in a conversation, that Lake Elsinore officials were taking advantage of existing rules to make their API scores look better. To find out truly what the intentions were, we probably need a time machine to be sitting at the room where the decision was made.

We likely will never know.

Just like we probably won't know if John Ramirez, superintendent for the Alisal Union School District, really used his credit card in legitimate district business to stay at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco the first weekend in December.

Monday, April 8, 2013

MPUSD officials get closer to picking a new superintendent

Trustees with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will meet tonight to select the candidates they want to interview as part of the process to select a new superintendent.

They're not expected to announce who their pre-finalists are, district officials tell me.

The final selection may take about two to three weeks -- in their original timeline, trustees were hoping to have a new superintendent in place by the end of April.

Scuttlebutt, my most reliable source, tells me a certain, very well regarded principal is in the running. This rumor has been confirmed by my personal observations during board meetings: a couple of trustees have made casual mentions about internal candidates, people who already know the community, etc.

The question is: does Dr. Mary White want the job?

This should not surprise anyone who observes MPUSD. No doubt Dr. White is respected, liked, admired. She's done wonders in Seaside and I have a feeling some believe she would do the same for the entire district.

We'll find out in a few weeks. In the meantime, I have no doubt Scuttlebutt will be reaaally busy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Of Michelle Rhee and the upcoming school board elections

Michelle Rhee and her organization, StudentsFirst, are doling out a lot of dough to elect candidates that will carry out her anti-union views at school boards. Here's a really good article about her recent contribution to candidates for the L.A. Unified School District.

I wonder what her daughters think about her mom's "frank talk." 

School board elections are more than seven months away, but there's already chatter on both sides of Monterey's Lettuce Curtain about who's going to run and who's going to throw in his/her weigh behind candidates.

I expect it's going to get really nasty at the Alisal. There's rumors that anti-status quo forces (and yes, Castañeda is the status quo) are gearing up to recruit three candidates to take over the board. One of the candidates would have to run against -- yes, you guessed it -- José Castañeda.

Not only is Castañeda nowhere near giving up his seat at the Alisal board, but I hear he wants to run AGAIN for the seat come November. I'm not making this up.

Speaking of the Alisal, there's a lot of discontent brewing because administrators fired Oscar Loya Principal Dannette Bryson, who has not even been at the district for a year. Then about 15 classified employees were given a pink slip last week. Long time principal of Alisal Community School Elizabeth Armenta was also forced out. No surprise there. Castañeda and his allies have always had it against Armenta's brother-in-law, Monterey County Supervisor Fernando Armenta, and it's surprising Elizabeth lasted this long after Castañeda took over the board.

At MPUSD, several trustees have said they don't want to run again. It'll be interesting to see who throws their hats in the ring.