Thursday, September 20, 2012

Letter to CBOC: Oversight compromised?

Dear Mr. Studdiford and CBOC members,

I am very concerned that the oversight responsibilities of the committee have been compromised.  I say this based on my observations of the joint board-cboc meeting in which district staff did little to prepare CBOC members for a discussion on the Grand Jury Report.  Associate-Superintendent Fay, in his discussion with me after my public comment, stated that "bumped meetings" and his concern that the media would have access to draft copies of the response were the causes for what I referred to as "lack of preparedness on the part of the district."  

Please see the previous Grand Jury response regarding truancy.  The WCCUSD chose to not answer many of the required items.  At a later date, it was discovered that Pinole Valley High had a large problem with truancy, one of the highest in the state.  This is an example of why oversight is critical.  I need to know that our district is on top of this stuff.  Therefore, I expect our oversight committees to stay on top of these items and stay on top of the district.  
Response to Grand Jury report on truancy 

The fact that multiple cboc meetings were bumped with such an important agenda item and deadline looming is also cause for concern.  In addition to the 90 day Grand Jury report deadline, there was the other timeline regarding the bond measure and its placement on the November ballot.  Oversight must be thorough before placing any such bond measures on the ballot.  This should not have been approved if the response to the Grand Jury report was still outstanding.  As a citizen, I disagree with President Ramsey's assessment regarding the committee selection process.  In my opinion, a conflict of interest does exist.  There needs to be more discussion on this item.  And there needs to be discussion on other issues pertaining to WCCUSD bond measures, including comparison studies that show our district is being taxed much higher than many surrounding cities. 

We have already seen lack of thoroughness on the part of the district regarding a Parcel Tax Financial statement that was approved in April by the CBAC.  In my opinion, it was an incomplete document, not citing the number of FTE used for Class-size reduction.  
http://www.wccusd.net/cms/lib03/CA01001466/Centricity/domain/20/parcel%20tax/Parcel%20Tax%20Financials.pdf
This was $2 million dollars, so should have included exactly how the money was spent instead of being left blank on that Financial document approved at the April CBAC meeting.  Combine this with the fact that since February 2012, the WCCUSD has been in violation of the Ed Code 33126 for omitting information on 89% of the School Accountability Report Cards, specifically that regarding the number of non-credentialed teachers employed.  In a recent performance audit, the auditor cited not being able to complete some of the audit as a result of not having the SARC information, so again, oversight has been compromised.  As a citizen, I am attempting to see how my bond and parcel tax dollars are being spent, so such information should be readily accessible. 

For two months, I repeatedly sought explanation for this Ed Code violation and was finally told off camera after my public comment by HR Director Whittimore that my observations were correct, that the district was in violation of the Ed Code.  There was a similar violation in 2008, making this a repeat violation.  It took me over 2 months to get a response from the district on this violation after emails to district staff and my previous public comment at the El Cerrito special meeting which was not recorded.  As there is no transcript of public comments, there is no documentation of my reporting the Ed Code violation at that time at the El Cerrito meeting.  

It should have shown up in the board meeting minutes somewhere along the line, but has not.  Why not?  Take a look at what is included in the WCCUSD board meeting minutes.  Everything.  And an Ed Code violation was left out?  And Director Whittimore says he did receive the email I sent to the board, but no one ever replied to that email?  How can this not look like they have been hiding this matter?  Documentation is the name of the game and this Ed Code violation has not been formally documented. 

Simply put, the district failed to fulfill a legally required responsibility to provide information for the purpose of accountability and transparency.  How can we place a bond or Parcel Tax measure on the ballot when we have not completely addressed outstanding issues regarding bond oversight or if we do not have all of the SARC data?  The handling of the task of responding to the Grand Jury report was treated in a manner that shows contempt for the Grand Jury process.  

There is a serious problem with respect to transparency and accountability and we better fix it asap.  That is the function of our oversight committees.  Thank you.

Respectfully,
Giorgio Cosentino

Here is the chronology of my attempt to seek a response to my concerns regarding the Ed Code violation:
June 21, 2012: I informed acting WCCUSD HR director (M.W.) of deficiency. No reply.
June 22, 2012: I sought explanation from Ohlone principal (E.L.) (no reply).
July 2nd, 2012: At the "Special" WCCUSD board meeting in El Cerrito, I informed the board and Superintendent that they were in violation of the Ed Code.(no reply)
July 17, 2012: Email to President Ramsey (copied superintendent and board) requesting explanation regarding incomplete SARC documents. (no reply)
September 5, 2012: WCCUSD board meeting. I informed board and Superintendent that this was a repeat violation, that in 2008, a lawyer from a public advocacy group previously cited this violation. No reply.
Upon leaving this meeting (now off camera), the new HR Director (Whitmore?) informed me that I was correct about the violation and that the district was in the process of correcting this for the 90% of the schools that failed to provide this information to parents. He told me (off camera) that the previous Director (A.R.) simply didn't do it.  Please note that on camera, the board President did take time to engage in meaningless discussion with the Hercules Mayor about whether or not phone calls were received, but a violation of the Ed Code was not worth a single comment from anyone?

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