Monday, September 3, 2012

Superintendent Harter a habitual offender?


The following is a 2008 letter from a Public Advocates attorney to Superintendent Harter regarding information not provided on previous SARC documents, meaning that my recent complaint is deja vu all over again.  Add the fact that successive performance audit documents cite missing and-or obsolete job descriptions for district staff and one might begin to question the competency of those entrusted to run-manage our school district.  In short, the work appears shoddy.  

Letter posted here
http://www.publicadvocates.org/sites/default/files/library/demand_letter_west_contra_costa_usd_2008_8-27-08.pdf


Letter
August 28, 2008
Bruce Harter
Superintendent
West Contra Costa Unified School District 1108 Bissell Avenue
Richmond, CA 94801-3135


SENT VIA REGULAR MAIL AND FASCIMILE
Re: Violations of SARC Obligations Dear Superintendent Harter:

The West Contra Costa Unified School District (the “District”) is in violation of state requirements concerning the preparation and dissemination of 2006-2007 School Accountability Report Cards (“SARCs”).1 An investigation by Public Advocates has revealed that the District has failed to prepare and publicize a 2006-07 SARC for 1 of its schools. The district has also failed to report in many of its SARCs key school-site information required under California Education Code (“EC”) Section 33126(b) et seq., and make translated copies of the SARC available where required by law (see Attachment A for a complete list of the District’s SARC deficiencies). This letter is to inform you that we are prepared to file suit in the event the West Contra Costa Unified School District does not fully comply within 30 days with the SARC obligations set forth in this letter.
Public Advocates’ Education Work
Over its thirty-seven years, Public Advocates has had a long- standing commitment to improving educational opportunities for low- income students, students of color, and English language learners. Through litigation and other means, Public Advocates has had significant success in supporting the fundamental right to education for all. Public Advocates was lead counsel in Serrano v. Priest, the landmark lawsuit that caused California to fund school districts more equitably. We also served as lead counsel in the educational equity class action, Williams v. State of California, which resulted in the August 2004 landmark settlement that takes important steps to provide all California students with basic educational necessities. An important element of the settlement in Williams was new SARC reporting requirements on teacher quality, sufficiency of textbooks, and the “good repair” of school facilities.
1 2006-07 SARCs are those required to be published during the 2007-08 school year.
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131 Steuart Street, Suite 300 • San Francisco, California 94105 • (415) 431-7430 • fax (415) 431-1048 *1225 Eighth Street, Suite 430 • Sacramento, California 95814 • (916) 442-3385 • fax (916) 442-3601
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As part of our commitment to education equity, Public Advocates works to ensure that all school districts abide by their nondiscretionary duties to issue timely and complete SARCs for each of their schools. Last year, Public Advocates brought successful litigation against the Oakland Unified School District for failure to comply with its mandatory SARC responsibilities. This and other enforcement activities by Public Advocates have received broad attention from the media, state officials, and legislators in Sacramento. This summer – like the past three summers – we conducted a statewide investigation of over 1,000 schools to do determine which school districts failed to meet their SARC obligations by the end of the 2007-08 school year. The investigation found the following deficiencies with respect to the District’s SARCs:
Failure to Prepare and Publicize SARCs in a Timely Manner
The District has failed to issue 2006-07 SARCs for 1 of its schools. This failure violates Sections 35256(c) and 35258 of the Education Code as well as the California Constitution. Section 35256(c) specifically provides that, “[t]he governing board of each school district shall annually issue a School Accountability Report Card for each school in the district, [and] publicize those reports.” EC § 35256(c) (emphasis added); see also Cal. Const. art. XVI, § 8.5(e) (“Any school district maintaining an elementary or secondary school ... shall adopt a School Accountability Report Card for each school.”). Section 35258 further provides that “each school district that is connected to the Internet shall make the information contained in the School Accountability Report Card ... accessible on the Internet.” EC § 35258(a) (emphasis added). Thus, updated SARCs must “be prepared and disseminated before the end of the school year” (Cal. Dep’t of Educ., Frequently Asked Questions – School Accountability Report Card, http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/questions.asp (last visited July 18, 2008)), or specifically, during “the period of November through June of each year” (Id. (emphasis added)), to comply with the law. The District not only failed to prepare and post 2006-07 SARCs for each of its schools by the end of the 2006-07 school year, but still has not yet done so.2
Failure to Provide Information on Per Pupil Spending and Average Teacher Salaries
The District has failed to report required information on school-level per pupil expenditures and average teacher salaries for 2 its schools. This violates EC § 33126(b), which mandates that the SARC include data on “[e]stimated expenditures per pupil and types of services funded” as well as average teacher salary at the school. Specifically, “[t]he assessment of estimated expenditures per pupil shall reflect the actual salaries of personnel assigned to the schoolsite. ... [The assessment] shall be reported in total, shall be reported in subtotal by restricted and by unrestricted source, and shall include a reporting of the average of actual salaries paid to certificated instructional personnel at that schoolsite.” EC § 33126(b)(3).
Failure to Provide Complete Information on Teacher Vacancies and Misassignments
The District has failed to report complete information on teacher misassignments and teacher vacancies for 59 of its schools for the 2005-06, 2006-07 and/or 2007-08 school years. This contravenes EC § 33126(b)(5), which requires each school’s SARC to report any misassignments “including misassignments of teachers of English learners, and the number of vacant teacher
2 Please be aware that, due to a change in the law, all future SARCs must now be published no later than February 1st of each year. EC § 35258, enacted by AB 1061 (Mullin, 2007).
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131 Steuart Street, Suite 300 • San Francisco, California 94105 • (415) 431-7430 • fax (415) 431-1048 *1225 Eighth Street, Suite 430 • Sacramento, California 95814 • (916) 442-3385 • fax (916) 442-3601
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positions for the most recent three-year period.” EC § 33126(b)(5) (emphasis added). SARCs without this information for the 2005-06, 2006-07 and/or 2007-08 school years are, thus, deficient and violate Section 33126(b)(5) of the Education Code.
Failure to Translate SARCs Into a Primary Language Other than English
The District has failed to make the 2006-07 SARC available in Spanish at 1 of its schools. This failure contravenes EC § 48985, which requires the SARC to be translated into other languages if 15% or more of the pupils enrolled in the school speak a single primary language other than English. Specifically, Section 48985 (a) provides:
If 15 percent or more of the pupils enrolled in a public school . . . speak a single primary language other than English . . . all notices, reports, statements, or records sent to the parent or guardian of any such pupil by the school or school district shall, in addition to being written in English, be written in the primary language, and may be responded to either in English or the primary language.
EC § 48985. Thus, it is mandatory that translations of the 2006-07 SARC be provided to parents or guardians of children in the district schools with 15% or more pupils that speak a single primary language other than English. In disregarding this requirement, the District has failed to meet explicit Legislative intent to “make a concerted effort to notify parents of the purpose of the school accountability report cards, . . .ensure that all parents receive a copy of the report card . . . [and] ensure that the report cards are easy to read and understandable by parents.” EC § 33126(d) (emphasis added). As such, many parents or guardians who speak a primary language other than English will not be able to read or understand the SARC unless it is translated.
Relief
By failing to comply with its SARC obligations, the District is depriving parents and communities of their ability to “guarantee accountability for dollars spent,” (The Classroom Instructional Improvement and Accountability Act of 1998, § 2) and to allow a parent to “make meaningful comparisons between public schools that will enable him or her to make informed decisions on which school to enroll his or her children” (EC § 3326 (a)). The District should immediately seek to correct its violation of SARC obligations.
This would be a fairly straightforward lawsuit with high probability that a court would determine that the District is in breach of its duties under state law, and that a writ of mandamus is appropriate. See Beverly v. Anderson, 76 Cal. App. 4th 480 (1999) (affirming grant of a petition for a writ of mandate where there was a mandatory duty under a state statute). The relief we would seek in the lawsuit is an order from the court directing the West Contra Costa Unified School District to do the following:
Timely Publication of the SARC
(1) Immediately prepare and publicize, including on the Internet, a complete 2006-07 SARC for the 1 district school missing a current SARC; (2) prepare and disseminate, including on the Internet, a 2007-08 SARC (published during the 2008-09 school year) for each school no later than February 1, 2009; and (3) provide the parent or guardian of each student enrolled in the district
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131 Steuart Street, Suite 300 • San Francisco, California 94105 • (415) 431-7430 • fax (415) 431-1048 *1225 Eighth Street, Suite 430 • Sacramento, California 95814 • (916) 442-3385 • fax (916) 442-3601
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school that is missing a current SARC with written notification that (a) a 2006-07 SARC for his/her child’s school is available on the Internet and at the school site, (b) a 2007-08 SARC for each district school will be available on the Internet and at each school site no later than February 1, 2009, and (c) at each school site, there are designated school personnel available to answer any questions regarding that school’s SARC.
Reporting Information on Per Pupil Expenditures, Average Teacher Salaries, Teacher Vacancies, and Teacher Misassignments.
(1) Immediately prepare and publicize, including on the Internet, 2006-07 SARCs for each district school with complete information on (a) estimated expenditures per pupil at the school site, (b) average teacher salaries at the school site, (c) teacher misassignments for the 2005-06, 2006-07 and/or 2007-08 school years, and (d) teacher vacancies for the 2005-06, 2006-07 and/or 2007-08 school years; (2) prepare and disseminate, including on the Internet, a fully compliant 2007-08 SARC (published during the 2008-09 school year) for each school no later than February 1, 2009; and (3) provide the parent or guardian of each student enrolled in a district school that failed to include any of the above information in its SARC with written notification that (a) a revised 2006-07 SARC with the required information specified above is available on the Internet and at the school site, (b) a complete 2007-08 SARC for each district school will be available on the Internet and at each school site no later than February 1, 2009, and (c) at each school site, there are designated school personnel available to answer any questions regarding that school’s SARC.
Translation of the SARC
(1) Make the full 2006-07 SARC immediately available in other required languages if 15% or more of the school’s students speak a primary language other than English; (2) make the 2007-08 SARC (published during the 2008-09 school year ) available in such additional languages no later than February 1, 2009; and (3) provide the parent or guardian of each student enrolled in a district school that has 15% or more pupils speaking a primary language other than English with written notification in that primary language that (a) a translated 2006-07 SARC for his/her child’s school is available on the Internet and at their school site, (b) a translated 2007-08 SARC will be available on the Internet and at each school site for those schools where 15% or more of the students speak a primary language other than English, no later than February 1, 2009, and (c) at each school site, there are designated school personnel available to answer any questions regarding that school’s SARC.
We would also ask the court for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs under Sections 1021 and 1021.5 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.
Resolving this Matter Short of Litigation
In an effort to redress the District’s noncompliance with its SARC obligations, Public Advocates is prepared to file suit. We hope, however, that we can resolve this matter short of litigation. Accordingly, if within 30 calendar days the West Contra Costa Unified School District provides the relief identified above, we are willing to forgo litigation, including an award of attorneys’ fees and costs.
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131 Steuart Street, Suite 300 • San Francisco, California 94105 • (415) 431-7430 • fax (415) 431-1048 *1225 Eighth Street, Suite 430 • Sacramento, California 95814 • (916) 442-3385 • fax (916) 442-3601
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Given that the start of the school year is rapidly approaching and parents have been without valuable information for long enough, we think you would agree that time is of essence. We look forward to your prompt response. If you should have any questions or comments regarding the allegations in this letter, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Sincerely,
Guillermo Mayer Staff Attorney 

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