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