Thursday, December 27, 2012

Previous waiver request invalid per Ed Code 33051?

It is possible that the previous waiver request was incomplete, that it did not include the objections raised by a member of the CBOC.  According to the Ed Code, a waiver can be denied if a written summary of objections has not been provided and if the "appropriate councils or advisory committees" did not have an adequate opportunity to review the request.  Was the previous waiver request invalid?  If so, does the State Board of Education need to be notified of the previous omission?  

Criteria for waiver rejection:
"Because this is a general waiver, if the SBE decides to deny the waiver, it must cite one of the seven reasons in EC 33051(a). The state board shall approve any and all requests for waivers except in those cases where the board specifically finds any of the following: 
(1) The educational needs of the pupils are not adequately addressed. 
(2) The waiver affects a program that requires the existence of a schoolsite council and the schoolsite council did not approve the request. 
(3) The appropriate councils or advisory committees, including bilingual advisory committees, did not have an adequate opportunity to review the request and the request did not include a written summary of any objections to the request by the councils or advisory committees. 
(4) Pupil or school personnel protections are jeopardized. 
(5) Guarantees of parental involvement are jeopardized. 
(6) The request would substantially increase state costs. 
(7) The exclusive representative of employees, if any, as provided in Chapter 10.7 (commencing withSection 3540) of Division 4 of Title 1 of the Government Code, was not a participant in the development of the waiver."

Measure E County Council ballot impartial analysis incomplete?

Who is responsible for protecting our county from potential financial ruin?  Where is the oversight?  The lack of oversight is highlighted by the State Treasurer's recent comments in which he states that some school districts are making financial decisions in a reckless manner, warranting the "firing" of Superintendents and replacing of school boards.  His own words.  So how is this being allowed to happen?

I am now searching for this oversight as parties are now debating as to whether or not increasing the debt limit yet again to pay for school construction in our county is acceptable.
For this oversight, I reviewed the "impartial analysis" provided with the voter information found here.
This impartial analysis is provided by the "County Council."  This individual can be located on this org chart.  I know nothing about them.  Are they even assessed for competency?

NOWHERE does the County Council mention the need for a waiver to approve this measure, that the 2.5% debt limit is being exceeded.  The County Council mentions other states laws and requirements, but not this one.  In May, 2009, the State Board of Education approved a waiver request allowing the WCCUSD to extend the limit from 2.5% to 3.5%.  In March, 2011, another waiver was approved for extending the debt limit to 5%.  I believe the current waiver request is to extend the limit to 6%.

This is an incomplete, not impartial, analysis.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

The booting of Anton Jungherr

Sometime ago, I came across this blog post about the ejecting of Citizens Bond Oversight Committee member, Anton Jungherr.

Why am I revisiting this?  Because of the recent discovery that his objections to the previous waiver had not been documented on the waiver request form.  I now have to wonder if he was catapulted from the committee for voicing such objections, that he didn't go along, that he provided too much oversight.

I am also revisiting this because of a comment that Mr. Studdiford (CBOC past-president) made at the most recent CBOC meeting.  He said that an attendance policy was drafted in response to Mr. Jungherr's absences.  I agree that attendance is important, but was Mr. Jungherr ever fairly warned?  Do I understand correctly that he was voted off of the CBOC for violating a policy that had not yet been drafted?

This is starting to take on the appearance of retaliation.

Budget cuts have made WCCUSD schools less safe

The WCCUSD cut funding for staff responsible for assisting with the morning drop-off procedure.  In 2010, at Ohlone Elementary School, a parent who had just fired a few shots with a handgun in a nearby subdivision then threatened parents at the school with a gun and struck 2 individuals while fleeing.

Report found here

One week later, I visited the school site to observe the drop-off procedure.  I was simply hanging out, watching.  I was not a school parent as my daughter would not be enrolled there for another 3 years.  And no one stopped to question me.  No one asked who this stranger was, standing in the parking lot.  

The school is now relying on volunteers to help with the drop-off procedure.  Maybe volunteers can get the job done, but we should at the very least make sure they are receiving the training necessary to deal with such situations.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Newtown Connecticut tragedy: a time to review school training and policies

Hercules Middle-High School (according to CC Times) has a policy where they suspend a child for 3 days if they have skipped one class.
Albany Middle School had (still?) a policy where they prohibited students from participating in the graduation ceremony if they had some D's or F's during the most recent quarter, or something to that effect. The child was qualified to graduate, but was deemed unsuitable for the ceremony.
These are examples of schools alienating our children, the very children that we need to try harder to help find their place in our society. Instead, we kick them out.
I did receive my teaching credential, but only taught for 3 years. During the credential program, I took one "Educational Psychology" course, but I do not recall discussion about the "misfit" or "socially awkward" child. What are the cardinal do's and don'ts with respect to ensuring no child ever feels alienated?
As someone who did not learn of their own learning impediment (Auditory Processing Disorder) until age 40, I now wonder how many kids are falling through the cracks, as the suspect is now being described as possibly having some sort of disability.
And what are our schools, as evidenced by formal teacher and administrator training, doing to help each and every child feel that our society values them? Our schools are a microcosm of society. This is where our children will learn if they truly belong and get the help they need.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Todd Groves' blog

Todd is making an effort to keep us in the loop every step of the way.  I highly recommend his blog.  Here is a board member actually taking the time to share his thoughts with us.  Who would have thought?

Thanks and good luck, Todd!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Last nights board meeting

Thank you Randy and Todd for the mission you have signed on for.
Thank you, Charles Ramsey, for reaching out to Hercules.
I was sorry to learn of the passing of WCCUSD custodian, Elijah Collor. I remember his presence at Richmond High School being a very positive contribution to the school team effort.
Regarding the Community Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) and the role it plays with respect to oversight of parcel tax funds, I support the suggestion made by the CBAC Chairman Eduardo Martinez, that the CBAC and Academic Subcommittee work more closely together.
At the recent CBAC meeting, I sought to gain a better picture of the qualifications of our teaching staff, but this was not the responsibility of the Business Manager who oversees the committee. I did greatly appreciated the input from the CBAC alternate Principal for sharing some of the considerations regarding school-classroom staffing issues.
When the taxpayer can truly visualize how the funds are being used, they will be more supportive of such parcel tax funding mechanisms.
Regarding the weighted student formula, this means no funding for the Adult School, correct? Why isn't the Adult School part of the Community College district? The classes offered at the Adult School are usually offered at local JCs. The WCCUSD has enough on its plate.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Debt limit waiver pulled from tonights board meeting agenda

Items F.2 and F.3 have been pulled and rescheduled for "a later date."  No reason given.

Agenda text
Notice of Public Hearing Regarding Request for Bond Waiver
Notice is Hereby given
the Board of Education (“Board”) of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (“District”) at a Public Hearing to be held on December 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m., or as soon thereafter as the matter may be heard, at Lovonya DeJean Middle School Multipurpose Room, 3400 Macdonald Avenue, Richmond, California 94805, on December 12, 2012 will review and consider adoption of a resolution of the Board to authorize a request for waiver from State Board of Education relative to statutory requirements on general obligation bond debt limitations, as applicable to the District, as provided by section 15106 of the Education code.

The purpose of the Public Hearing to be held on December 12, 2012, is to invite public testimony and comment on this matter. The draft of the request for waiver is on file and available for public review at the District’s office located at West Contra Costa Unified School District, 1108 Bissell Avenue, Richmond, CA 94801, and is herein incorporated by reference. To receive a copy of the draft request for waiver, or if you have questions on this matter, please contact Ms. Sheri Gamba, Associate Superintendent for Business Services, at telephone (510) 231-1170.
The Public Hearing of the District will be held on December 12, 2012 at the location set forth above. This matter will be considered at such time as this agenda item is considered by the Board of the District.

Resolution No. 55-1213: Intent to Seek Debt Limit Waiver from State Board of Education for Sale of remaining General Obligation Bonds as approved by voters under Measure E, 2012
  • Comment:
    In order to complete the Bond program school renovation and reconstruction projects which are allocated under Measure E 2012, the District will need to sell the bonds approved under that measure. The District does not currently have sufficient bonding capacity to issue any of the $360 million in voter-authorized Measure E 2012 Bonds. Based on the 2012-2013 assessed valuation, the District’s
    current bonding capacity is $591 million. The District currently has $797 million in outstanding debt, with no remaining bonding capacity for Measure E 2012. In order to keep the bond program on track and finish current projects, staff is recommending that the District apply for a waiver of the bonding capacity limits from the State Board of Education. Approval of the District’s request for a ten year increase in its bonding capacity from 2.5% of assessed valuation to 6.0% of assessed valuation will allow the District to issue the full $360 million of the voter authorized Measure E 2012 bonds. Because of tax rate limitations and other factors, the District plans to issue these bonds in series over time. The bond language for Measure E 2012 includes reference to the need for a potential waiver of the bonded indebtedness limit. Voters approved Measure E 2012 with 64.4% in favor of the bond measure.

    The Department of Education requires that a request for waiver be filed by December 15, 2012, in order to be considered at the State Board of Education meeting March 13, and 14, 2013. In order to be considered by the State Board of Education, the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education must hold a public hearing and approve the request. In addition, the District will meet and consult with, and seeks the support of, its bargaining units including: UTR, Local 1, SSA and WCCAA. The District will present the proposed waiver to the Facilities Subcommittee and has the support of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committees for their review. The District will also seek support for the debt limit waiver from each of the five City Councils including El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond and San Pablo. Staff will begin this process
    Seek debt Limit Waiver from State Board of Education for Sale of remaining General Obligations Bonds as approved by voters under Measure E 2012.

    Fiscal Impact:
    Direct costs limited to costs of preparation and presentation of waiver request. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Previous waiver objections by citizen unlawfully not documented?

The following document states that there were no objections raised by the CBOC.

The following minutes mention that one member voted "No."  His objections are not documented on the waiver form.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Allegations of "false pretenses" raised by CalBOC member

The following is a letter from the California League of Bond Oversight Committees (CalBOC).

To: Members of the WCCUSD CBOC
CC: Superintendent Bruce Harter and members of WCCUSD's Board of Education
From: Alicia Minyen, Board Member of CaiBOC 

Date: December 5, 2012

I'd like to express serious concerns regarding WCCUSD's impending bond indebtedness waiver of the
Education Code 15106, which requires that school districts not issue debt over 2.5% of a district's
assessed valuation. Please consider the information below and conduct your own independent due
diligence prior to supporting or objecting to WCCUSD's bond indebtedness waiver as the State Board of
Education always considers the position of the CBOC with regard to debt limit increases as part of the
waiver application.

1. WCCUSD may have obtained authorization from the voters of Measure E under false pretenses.
WCCUSD has exceeded statutory debt limits and failed to provide material disclosures
surrounding this fact in the ballot, including that the ballot fails to disclose a) its current
"bonding capacity limits", as a percentage, and does not disclose that the district has currently
exceeded the statutory debt limit of 2.5% to 5%; b) Measure E bonds cannot be sold without
the State Board of Education raising the current debt limit above 5%; and c) the ballot fails to
disclose what the new debt limit will be, as a percentage, when the Measure E's bonds are sold.

2. In accordance with Measure E's bond ballot language, bonds should not be sold above the
statutory debt limit of 2.5%. (Please Note that the current approved 5% debt limit only applies
to the sale of bonds under the 2010 authorization and was approved by the SBE with

"To make schools safe, complete essential health/safety repairs, qualify for State matching
grants, shall West Contra Costa Unified School District upgrade schools for earthquake safety
and handicap accessibility, remove asbestos, upgrade science labs, restrooms, vocational
classrooms, technology and energy systems to reduce costs, instal/lighting and security systems,
and acquire, repair, construct, equipment, sites and facilities, by issuing $360,000,000 in bonds
within legal rates and bonding capacity limits with independent audits, citizen oversight, and no
money for administrators' salaries?"

Any reasonable person would understand Measure E's ballot language above to mean the $360
million in bonds would be sold within legal rates and bonding capacity limits (which are no more
than $60 per $100 of assessed valuation and 2.5% of assessed valuation, respectively).

3. WCCUSD may issue unnecessarily expensive Capital Appreciation Bonds in order to meet its
lowered promised tax rate of $48 per $lOOk of assessed valuation. (See case law, Golden Gate
Bridge vs. Filmer which requires Boards to obtain best financing terms).

4. WCCUSD's extraordinary number of bonds and excessive debt limits that have been imposed
will cause undue financial strain on the community. The excessive level of debt may ultimately
result in declining enrollment as families are discouraged to live within WCCUSD. WCCUSD
should consider that the long-term implications counter any immediate benefit from Measure E.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bond debt limit waiver: documenting objections

Last night, the CBOC committee was requested by the board to approve a debt limit waiver.  This was an action item that needed to be completed prior to next weeks board meeting.  I've just sent the following request for clarification to the CBOC Secretary (Charley Cowens), copying President Ramsey.

Hi Charley,
Although the CBOC voted to approve the debt limit waiver, will any objections be documented on the waiver form as a result of the nay votes?  The form specifically asks if there were any objections from the CBOC committee.  Can you also please seek clarification as to why the previous 2011 waiver document was revised on 10/10/12?  Thank you.

2011 Waiver
2011 Waiver (revised)

Giorgio Cosentino

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tonight's CBOC meeting

Regarding tonight's CBOC meeting

Some questions that came to mind:
1. Are district staff unwilling or unable to assist the citizen's committee?
2. Do some committee members have difficulty accepting criticism or complaints from citizens?
3. When a committee member proposed a mechanism for monitoring performance-progress of bond money usage, it was mentioned that other committee members had tried to obtain such information from the district 4 years ago.  Tonight, a district employee (in response to the committee member's proposal) said that he had started working on something similar 4 years ago, and could have it soon as he stated "I am now sufficiently motivated."  Can we replace this WCCUSD employee who is only NOW sufficiently motivated with the committee member who needed no motivating?
4. The committee consists of mostly very intelligent individuals who can read.  The WCCUSD staff should treat them accordingly, ensuring that these folks tasked with the oversight of millions of dollars of our tax dollars, receive all of the necessary documentation-information 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

State Treasurer calls for firing of WCCUSD school board

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer is blasting school boards and school officials for their choice to use Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) for funding school construction, saying "They are terrible deals," Lockyer said. "The school boards and staffs that approved of these bonds should be voted out of office and fired."

The Contra Costa Times further reports:

West Contra Costa: The district issued a $2.5 million CAB in 2010 to raise the money to issue a $25 million federally subsidized bond. The $2.5 million CAB requires $33.8 million total to pay off.

"If we didn't issue the $2.5 million in CABs," said school board President Charles Ramsey, "we wouldn't have gotten the $25 million to build the school for 1 percent interest, so we felt that was the responsible thing to do."

If Treasurer Lockyer is correct, then where is the oversight that should have prevented taxpayers from being persuaded to support such funding measures?  Why are we having this discussion after the fact?

CC Times report here

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New CBOC members?

The Citizens Bond Oversight Committee consists of a large number of representatives, including both school board and city council appointees.  We have two new school board members and at least one city council member who lost their bid for reelection.  Does this mean we will see new faces on the CBOC beginning in January, 2013?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Is there a financial crisis or not?

During the financial crisis, most government agencies have eliminated or limited travel for employees.  With the use of webinars and teleconferences, travel has become less necessary.

So how come I am always reading about WCCUSD board members attending conferences?  In this recent example, there are two meetings.  The first is in San Francisco.  Ok, I believe we should take advantage of attending meetings whenever they are held locally.  The only cost incurred will be that of meeting registration and mileage expenses.

The second meeting is being held in New York City.  And it is recommend that this trip be approved.  I can barely get some board members to visit Hercules, but we are going to pay them to fly and stay in New York?  When I have the time, I will tally up all of the 2012 travel that you and I paid for.

Item C.25

Add this to the fact that our district is also still paying 10 teachers per year to take year-long sabbaticals, with them receiving full benefits and 1/2 their salary.  Seriously?

To the board, I remind them that we are in a recession.   Please conduct yourselves accordingly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CC Times endorses Todd Groves and Randy Enos

This is one endorsement they got my opinion.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Please consider Todd Groves and Randy Enos for school board

I'm voting for Todd Groves and Randy Enos for WCCUSD school board.
No incumbents! Medrano is the status quo and is not paying attention to Hercules. Studdiford has a wife who is employed by the district and he accepts large sums of money from the developers, so he does not represent the average citizen-parent.
Todd Groves is very smart and thinks outside the box and is beholden to no one. And Randy Enos understands the machinations of the district entity.

United Teachers of Richmond-Misinformation?

A few months ago, the UTR President commented to the CC Times that they were opposed to the use of  Teach For America teachers because these were non-credentialed teachers.  The district reported using approximately 100 of these teachers.  If that is the case, then a review of the SARC data should show that at least 100 non-credentialed teachers were employed by the district.  I am now reviewing the SARC data yet again.  So far, the numbers are not adding up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

CC Times: Yes on G, No on E

Sunday, October 14, 2012

CITIZENS' Bond Oversight Committee hijacked?

The Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee was established to provide oversight of bond monies by the CITIZENS.  The law requires a minimum of 7 folks who represent the community.  The law prohibits anyone with business ties to the district from serving on the committee.  

Here is the current roster.

Note that one of the legally required positions is not filled, that of Business Organization rep.  Also note that one member is from the Building Trades Council.

"The board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District also has a policy in place to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in the Contra Costa County Building and Construction Trades Council."

Now, add the fact that current candidate Robert Studdiford has been the chair of this committee.  At the recent conclusion of his term, he nominated the rep of the Trades Council for committee chair.  Mr. Studdiford in the past has received large cash donations from labor organizations having ties with district development.  His nominee was elected, 6 to 4.  I must ask couldn't they have filled the legally required Business Rep seat before the election?  And the Public Employees Union rep had a vote? And Mr. Studdiford had a vote?  

Recently, an Assistant Superintendent commented to me "I want you on MY CBOC."  HIS CBOC?  That says it all.

For a combination of entertainment and aggravation, read the election report by Mr. Cowens.

SECTION 15278-15282 

15278.  (a) If a bond measure authorized pursuant to paragraph (3)
of subdivision (b) of Section 1 of Article XIII A of the California
Constitution and subdivision (b) of Section 18 of Article XVI of the
California Constitution is approved, the governing board of the
school district or community college shall establish and appoint
members to an independent citizens' oversight committee, pursuant to
Section 15282, within 60 days of the date that the governing board
enters the election results on its minutes pursuant to Section 15274.
   (b) The purpose of the citizens' oversight committee shall be to
inform the public concerning the expenditure of bond revenues. The
citizens' oversight committee shall actively review and report on the
proper expenditure of taxpayers' money for school construction. The
citizens' oversight committee shall advise the public as to whether a
school district or community college district is in compliance with
the requirements of paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) of Section 1 of
Article XIII A of the California Constitution. The citizens'
oversight committee shall convene to provide oversight for, but not
be limited to, both of the following:
   (1) Ensuring that bond revenues are expended only for the purposes
described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) of Section 1 of
Article XIII A of the California Constitution.
   (2) Ensuring that, as prohibited by subparagraph (A) of paragraph
(3) of subdivision (b) of Section 1 of Article XIII A of the
California Constitution, no funds are used for any teacher or
administrative salaries or other school operating expenses.
   (c) In furtherance of its purpose, the citizens' oversight
committee may engage in any of the following activities:
   (1) Receiving and reviewing copies of the annual, independent
performance audit required by subparagraph (C) of paragraph (3) of
subdivision (b) of Section 1 of Article XIII A of the California
   (2) Receiving and reviewing copies of the annual, independent
financial audit required by subparagraph (C) of paragraph (3) of
subdivision (b) of Section 1 of Article XIII A of the California
   (3) Inspecting school facilities and grounds to ensure that bond
revenues are expended in compliance with the requirements of
paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) of Section 1 of Article XIII A of
the California Constitution.
   (4) Receiving and reviewing copies of any deferred maintenance
proposals or plans developed by a school district or community
college district, including any reports required by Section 17584.1.
   (5) Reviewing efforts by the school district or community college
district to maximize bond revenues by implementing cost-saving
measures, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
   (A) Mechanisms designed to reduce the costs of professional fees.
   (B) Mechanisms designed to reduce the costs of site preparation.
   (C) Recommendations regarding the joint use of core facilities.
   (D) Mechanisms designed to reduce costs by incorporating
efficiencies in schoolsite design.
   (E) Recommendations regarding the use of cost-effective and
efficient reusable facility plans.

15280.  (a) The governing board of the district shall, without
expending bond funds, provide the citizens' oversight committee with
any necessary technical assistance and shall provide administrative
assistance in furtherance of its purpose and sufficient resources to
publicize the conclusions of the citizens' oversight committee.
   (b) All committee proceedings shall be open to the public and
notice to the public shall be provided in the same manner as the
proceedings of the governing board. The citizens' oversight committee
shall issue regular reports on the results of its activities. A
report shall be issued at least once a year. Minutes of the
proceedings of the citizens' oversight committee and all documents
received and reports issued shall be a matter of public record and be
made available on an Internet website maintained by the governing

15282.  (a) The citizens' oversight committee shall consist of at
least seven members to serve for a term of two years without
compensation and for no more than two consecutive terms. While
consisting of a minimum of at least seven members, the citizens'
oversight committee shall be comprised, as follows:
   (1) One member shall be active in a business organization
representing the business community located within the district.
   (2) One member shall be active in a senior citizens' organization.
   (3) One member shall be active in a bona fide taxpayers'
   (4) For a school district, one member shall be the parent or
guardian of a child enrolled in the district. For a community college
district, one member shall be a student who is both currently
enrolled in the district and active in a community college group,
such as student government. The community college student member may,
at the discretion of the board, serve up to six months after his or
her graduation.
   (5) For a school district, one member shall be both a parent or
guardian of a child enrolled in the district and active in a
parent-teacher organization, such as the Parent Teacher Association
or schoolsite council. For a community college district, one member
shall be active in the support and organization of a community
college or the community colleges of the district, such as a member
of an advisory council or foundation.
   (b) No employee or official of the district shall be appointed to
the citizens' oversight committee. No vendor, contractor, or
consultant of the district shall be appointed to the citizens'
oversight committee. Members of the citizens' oversight committee
shall, pursuant to Sections 35233 and 72533, abide by the
prohibitions contained in Article 4 (commencing with Section 1090)
and Article 4.7 (commencing with Section 1125) of Division 4 of Title
1 of the Government Code.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Is the school board sensitive to our financial crisis?

Is the school board sensitive to those citizens who are struggling financially? I ask because I heard Mr. Studdiford say we should support these bond measures because we are getting a good deal. Does he understand that we are getting a good deal because the economy, including my wages, are in the tank? I currently have been putting more money into our school facilities than I am putting into my house which is in need of repair.  In fact, we are now learning that compared to surrounding districts, we are NOT getting a good deal.
Mr. Enos said his father told him to never pass on an opportunity to pay for our schools. Of course, because we are also paying for the salaries of those like Mr. Enos and his father who work for the schools. I'd say the same thing if I were them.
During this economic crisis, we have been seeking relief any way we can get it. Maybe skipping this bond measure might be that relief. Homeowners are trying to keep and maintain their homes. In some cases, a family member has lost their job, so we are helping them, too.
When I listen to the board and the candidates, I'm observing a disconnect between themselves and me, the taxpayer. They tell us that the state is making cuts. The state is making cuts because many Californians are broke or are struggling. We are also being asked to support additional taxes for fire and safety.
This is when I take a closer look at our board members and candidates and ask myself "As citizens, who are they and are they truly able to represent me?"

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Antonio Medrano doesn't get it

Antonio Medrano fails to understand his duties as an "at large" school board member. Board members are "at large", representing the ENTIRE district, not only their city of residence. His comment might explain why some cities feel left out of the district. He stated
"I have heard some of the discontent," he said. "Residents of Hercules and Pinole should find someone to run."
Wrong answer. The correct response should have been "I have heard of some of the discontent and am looking into addressing their concerns because that is what I was elected to do."
It is because of board members like Antonio Medrano who have no interest in taking the time to learn about the concerns of the entire district they represent that we have people feeling left out of the decision-making process regarding OUR school district.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Formal apology requested (yet another letter to the school board)

Dear WCCUSD school board,
I am requesting a formal apology from the board as a result of the comments made by the board President in June.  I apologize for not having made this request sooner.  My concern by not formally addressing this is that the citizens of Hercules and Pinole are now left wondering if the board does not fully support us.  If so, this is a very serious matter.  I, personally, expected the board members to work more closely with Pinole and Hercules, not push us away, as a result of the parcel tax vote outcome.  The Governing Board policy states  "
Govern in a dignified and professional manner, treating everyone with civility and respect."

I ask that the citizens of Pinole and Hercules be treated civilly and with respect.   Most of the citizens of Hercules and Pinole do embrace education.  Work more closely with us and you will see this.  I thank you for any consideration you can give to my request. 

Giorgio Cosentino, Hercules parent

"The measure passed overwhelmingly in most of the district, but in Pinole and Hercules, they voted just enough to kill it," school board President Charles Ramsey said. "They just don't embrace the funding measures like most of the district voters do."
Ramsey said he hopes the vote will spur renewed debate about the possibility of breaking up the district.
"We have to have the conversation about whether or not it's in all parties' best interest for Hercules and Pinole to start their own district," Ramsey said. "It's not fair for other communities in our district to have funding measures they overwhelmingly support being stopped by a tiny minority that says no."

Governing board policy:
The Governing Board believes that its primary responsibility is to act in the best interests of every student in the district. The Board also has major commitments to parents/guardians, all members of the community, employees, the state of California, laws pertaining to public education, and established policies of the district. To maximize Board effectiveness and public confidence in district governance, Board members are expected to govern responsibly and hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct.
The Board expects its members to work with each other and the Superintendent to ensure that a high-quality education is provided to each student. Each individual Board member shall:
1. Keep learning and achievement for all students as the primary focus
2. Value, support and advocate for public education
3. Recognize and respect differences of perspective and style on the Board and among staff, students, parents and the community
4. Act with dignity, and understand the implications of demeanor and behavior
5. Keep confidential matters confidential
6. Participate in professional development and commit the time and energy necessary to be an informed and effective leader
7. Understand the distinctions between Board and staff roles, and refrain from performing management functions that are the responsibility of the Superintendent and staff
8. Understand that authority rests with the Board as a whole and not with individuals
Board members also shall assume collective responsibility for building unity and creating a positive organizational culture. To operate effectively, the Board shall have a unity of purpose and:
1. Keep the district focused on learning and achievement for all students
2. Communicate a common vision
3. Operate openly, with trust and integrity
4. Govern in a dignified and professional manner, treating everyone with civility and respect
5. Govern within Board-adopted policies and procedures
6. Take collective responsibility for the Board's performance
7. Periodically evaluate its own effectiveness
8. Ensure opportunities for the diverse range of views in the community to inform Board deliberations

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Monday night candidate forum (and submitted question)

"The PTAs of Kensington, Hilltop, Madera, Harding, Portola and Mira Vista elementary schools are hosting a forum from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Harding Elementary Auditorium at 7230 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito. Candidates for school board will answer questions from the public. To submit questions, email

My submitted question:
WCCUSD board President Ramsey, after the failure of Measure K in June, made the following comments found here
"The measure passed overwhelmingly in most of the district, but in Pinole and Hercules, they voted just enough to kill it," school board President Charles Ramsey said. "They just don't embrace the funding measures like most of the district voters do."
Ramsey said he hopes the vote will spur renewed debate about the possibility of breaking up the district.
"We have to have the conversation about whether or not it's in all parties' best interest for Hercules and Pinole to start their own district," Ramsey said. "It's not fair for other communities in our district to have funding measures they overwhelmingly support being stopped by a tiny minority that says no."

My question for the candidates is two parts:  
1.Do you share President Ramsey's assessment?  If not, why not?  
2.Have you taken the time to listen to the concerns of Hercules and Pinole residents?  If so, what are they and how would you address them?

Thank you.

Giorgio Cosentino, Hercules Parent and former WCCUSD teacher

Friday, September 21, 2012

Local socialist calls Candidate Todd Groves a "scab"!

A local self-proclaimed socialist has referred to Todd Groves as a union-busting "scab" and has openly given Todd a hard time about his volunteering efforts, specifically those as a math coach.   "The socialist" cites his reasoning based on the fact that Todd Groves volunteers, taking away jobs from "the working class."  That's right.  Todd is being criticized for volunteering!

I happen to know and like "the socialist."  Our paths crossed because we are in the same union for scientists.  This union was in violation of the California Corporations Code, resulting in the crushing of any avenue of democracy and accountability.  So, "the socialist" and I teamed up to take back the union and are now having success as the state has recently ruled in our favor.  At a later date, I will probably have to explain my relationship with "the socialist" at something akin to a McCarthy hearing.  In my defense, any union President who deems a member "a threat to the security of the organization" because of their desire to seek mechanisms for democracy more closely resembles a communist dictator than "the socialist" I teamed up with.

Back to candidate Todd Groves.  The criticism of "the socialist" did get me thinking, though.  Todd has had a very positive impact with his math coaching and his success with the Middle School Math initiative.   This does cause me to ask if a volunteer is able to accomplish so much, then why do we need the district staff who have been delegated the same task(s) regarding delivery of curriculum per their job description?  It seems to me that this union-busting "scab" should have an office of his own at Bissell St.

Electing Todd Groves to school board will be good for starters.

PS-Forgive me Todd.  If I crossed the line with this and you want me to delete this post, I will.

Asbestos hazard in our schools? (Measure E verbiage)

Is there a true asbestos hazard currently in the WCCUSD schools?  Very often, the only risk of asbestos is when one attempts to manipulate it, such as by removing it.  The bond measure cites this hazard as reason for the measure.  Since we first learned of the asbestos hazards in the 1980's, haven't hazardous asbestos situations been addressed in one manner or another?  If not, then this is a concern.  Why now?  

Perhaps some remodeling or construction is needed at some school sites, with the asbestos being an impediment to these projects?  I am not saying that the hazard is not real or does not exist, but I would like to see the risk assessment documentation that has been performed if I am being asked to pay for this.

I have just sent the following request to the CBOC chairman, Robert Studdiford.  

Hi Robert,
I noticed the bond measure verbiage mentions removal of asbestos.  Do you have access to or have you reviewed any risk assessment documentation regarding asbestos hazards that currently exist in our district schools?  Ideally, the CBOC and safety committee would have reviewed-discussed this, with such documentation in hand. If not, it might be something to consider taking a closer look at in the future.  Thanks.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Letter to the board: Documentation policies and procedures

Dear WCCUSD board members,
Over a period of 2 months, I attempted to alert you to a violation of Ed Code 33126.  I have now been told my observations were valid, that the district has been out of compliance with this law.  The question I have is where is my concern documented?  In addition to emails, I raised this item at the July 2nd special board meeting in El Cerrito.  Shouldn't this have become an action item on the meeting minutes?  

As that meeting was not televised, my comment was not recorded and public comments are never transcribed in the minutes.  It should also be noted that the reply I received, acknowledging that the district has been out-of-compliance, was given to me outside on the sidewalk as I walked to my car.  This discussion was not documented or viewed on camera.

Has this Ed Code violation been documented in any board meeting minutes?  If not, this is a very serious matter warranting investigation.  The board meeting minutes are very thorough.  They often contain comments thanking individuals or acknowledging the efforts of others, but no mention of an Ed Code violation raised by a concerned citizen?  I request that you review your documentation policies and procedures if I am correct that this matter was never formally documented in the board meeting minutes.  Thank you.

Giorgio Cosentino