Saturday, February 23, 2013

If not secession, then what?

As a result of some recent negative experience related to my criticism of the district, I thought I should take Mr. Ramsey's advice and give some thought to the possibility of secession, not because I want this, but because perhaps this is what some district officials want.  It is obvious that some of them do not welcome folks like me wanting to get in their (our) business.  I appreciate Trustee Ramsey's efforts to address some of my concerns, but he is only one person, that the issues regarding the WCCUSD are bigger than him.

So I began reviewing the avenues of secession of a city from the district.  It looks pretty darn complicated as a result of monies owed for school construction projects, etc.  Here are the minutes from the 2005 secession attempt

If one cannot secede, then the other option is to bring more oversight to the district.  I am exploring the following possibilities:

1. The establishing a true oversight committee for WCCUSD parcel taxes.  Currently, the oversight is nothing more than folks being invited to attend the Community Budget Advisory Committee.  The fox guarding the henhouse scenario.  Here is an example of a true parcel tax oversight committee.

2. The establishing of an Office of Inspector General for all Contra Costa School districts.  LA Unified has such an office.

3. The restructuring of the WCCUSD board composition to require that each city or municipality have one elected member on the board. 

4. A state-wide initiative calling for the requirement that school DISTRICTS be accredited. Kansas City, MO has such accreditation.

5. Restructuring of the CBOC composition.  I am going to perform a breakdown of the CBOC votes to see if decisions have been influenced by the current less-than-independent make-up.


With some of these ideas, some WCCUSD staff might beg for some of us to secede. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Charles Ramsey makes a promise

Last night, I received a communication from Trustee Charles Ramsey which read "Giorgio....At the next Citizens Bond Oversight Committee I have committed to bring up points that you have raised in emails to me and before the City Council."

This last week has been a roller coaster of sorts for all participants.  Mr. Ramsey has been hearing me out repeatedly, and discussion has continued repeatedly.  And when I voiced my concerns at the Hercules City Council, creating a very awkward moment, Mr. Ramsey followed up by inviting me to attend the WCCUSD information meeting, saying "I hope to see you there."

Mr. Ramsey also shared with me a letter from Senator Hancock supporting the WCCUSD debt limit waiver.  I previously told Mr. Ramsey that I wanted to see some sign from Torlakson or Hancock that they were paying attention to our situation.  I mentioned Senator Hancock as she sits on the Senate Education Committee, the same committee that conducted hearings on the state's school construction program.  Note: the hearing website is now functional after a one month disappearing act.  The Education hearing website went down immediately after I began pointing attention to it, specifically the report that stated more oversight and accountability was needed for our state's school construction program. 

Senator Hancock is well aware of the problems.  And she still wrote the letter supporting the waiver.  To protect her reputation, I expect she will act on some of the recommendations made for the purpose of bringing oversight, transparency, and functionality to our state's school construction program.  

Dialogue is key as we continue to fight for our kids.  Mr. Ramsey knows that all eyes are on the WCCUSD bond program.  What better time to make any necessary improvements?  I eagerly await the next CBOC meeting.  I also now have a lower deductible for my car, just in case someone out there in the land of CBOC still has hard feelings.  So do I and I'm not one to be intimidated.  Just a bit startled.  

Trustee Charles Ramsey meets me half way

WCCUSD trustee, Charles Ramsey, has said he will

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Does Hercules need to fear retaliation?

On September 5th, a Hercules parent expressed to the school board concerns of "retaliation" against Hercules.  His comments stemmed from then President Ramsey's criticism of Hercules and Pinole for not supporting Measure K enough to pass it.  This parent helped man the phones for the Measure K vote, so he felt betrayed by Mr. Ramsey.  Then, there was the incident regarding the very sudden (less than 24 hours) displacement of Ohlone Elementary School students.

Last week, at the Hercules City Council, I spoke against supporting the debt limit waiver being sought by the WCCUSD.  I cited what I believed to be the deceptively written Measure E ballot document, along with the compromised oversight of the bond program as a result of the composition of the CBOC.  I cited my concerns about the matter regarding Mr. Jungherr and his not being reappointed to the CBOC.  I further cited a report from the Senate Education Committee which stated numerous deficiencies with the state's school construction program, including the lack of oversight. 

This resulted in President Kronenberg commenting that no one had ever criticized the WCCUSD CBOC before.  I replied with the name of at least one critic, and was then quickly silenced by Mayor Delgado's gavel.  Trustee Ramsey said I hadn't attended enough meetings to really be able to make a meaningful evaluation of CBOC protocol that was in place.   As an auditor once said to my employer after a short period of time reviewing our records, "I've seen enough." (Gulp).

Councilman Kelly said he had concerns, that he would pass the waiver reluctantly.  He added that the CBOC "didn't pass the sniff test" and that if any of the concerns brought to his attention turned out to be valid, that he would notify the State legislature.

The following night, I attended the WCCUSD bond program information meeting.  I found it pretty useful and was glad I attended although I was unable to remain until the 11:00 conclusion.  I was disappointed to learn that while I sat in in this meeting until 10pm, someone was smashing my windshield.  I had parked in the lot often used for meeting attendees. There were no officers around as I exited the meeting by myself, and walked to the car.  All previous WCCUSD meetings that I had attended had security.  In fact, I had a bad feeling, just like in the movies, as I realized I was all alone, walking to my car in the lot at the end of the street. 

One movie comes to mind, The Godfather, in which the individual pulls up to the toll booth, and then notices all the toll collectors ducking down in their respective booths.  That was how I felt as I walked to my car.  Maybe the assault on my (and only my) car was a coincidence, that it had nothing to do with my criticism of the WCCUSD the night before.  Maybe it was just a random-act-of-not-so-kindness.  Or karma.  Was my criticism the night before of the CBOC too harsh?  I am awaiting any video footage if such exists. 

Back to the parent's concerns about retaliation.  Retaliation is an act of deliberate unfairness.  In order to understand if such has happened at any time in the past, present, or future, one must have a clear understanding of what fairness looks like.  Fairness must be clearly defined and articulated before we can ascertain as to whether or not any deliberate acts of unfairness have occurred.  The default is that the district is one that is fair and just.  I would like to believe that no one has to fear retaliation by our own school district.  This isn't The Godfather, right?

Soon, I will attempt to paint a picture of fairness as is relevant to our school district as I understand it.