Thursday, December 17, 2009

More On PUSD's Measure Y Theft Problems

A late night flurry of posting action on yesterday's topic made me dig a little deeper into the matter of those lost Measure Y funds. Money that apparently was stolen by a contractor and some PUSD employees, and has yet to be reclaimed. Now theft is something that happens from time to time in both government and big business. But what makes this matter a bit more intriguing is that when the Pasadena Unified School District went to the District Attorney looking for legal action against the thieves, the D.A. shot them down because their record keeping on Measure Y funds was so bad they didn't think they'd stand a chance of getting a conviction.

Now this matter came up during the Measure TT vote, with opponents of the initiative suggesting that the PUSD just can't be trusted with the public's money. Something that apparently did not worry the voters much at the time as TT passed by a huge margin.

But there are two things that make this matter relevant once again. One, despite the PUSD's assurances that the matter would be dealt with legally, nothing ever came of it. The money is still gone and those who took it are walking around without having suffered any legal consequences. Secondly, the Pasadena Unified School District, now desperately strapped for cash, is gearing up to try and convince the voters they deserve a parcel tax. And given the unfortunate debacle regarding the Measure Y rip off, you can't help but suspect some rather tendentious nonchalance on their part.

So here are three additional articles I found on the Measure Y funds theft. More corroboration that will hopefully dissuade the PUSD's last loyal supporters from their blindness on the topic. After all, incompetence at the top of our school district is pretty indefensible in my opinion, and in the end only hurts those who are least capable to deal with the consequences.

1) Measure Y funds probe ends (Pasadena Star News, October 25, 2008): A 10-month probe into allegations of fraud and theft in the Pasadena Unified School District ended with no charges when prosecutors determined there was not enough evidence to file a case ... Pasadena police Friday blamed shoddy bookkeeping and lack of oversight by the school district in administering the projects funded by Measure Y, a $240 million bond measure approved by voters in 1997 ... "Nobody was checking, nothing was being done," Pasadena police detective Lt. John Dewar said. "There was no paper trail verifying work was being done." ... From the beginning of the investigation, police "found some serious issues with lack of control and oversight," Dewar added. "There was no audit to check what was done," he said. "The thieves got in and took the money."

2) Pasadena school district withholds public records of alleged theft of school bond funds (Pasadena Star News, October 30, 2008): Pasadena Unified School District officials refused Thursday to release invoices, an attorney's report and other public records related to their investigation of at least $80,000 they say is unaccounted for from a 1997 school bond ... According to the District Attorney's charge evaluation worksheet, the allegations surround Eric Peterson, a former project manager for contractor Pacifica Services Inc. The District Attorney's worksheet said PUSD officials suspected that the company improperly billed the district for work that was never completed - or was completed by others - at Washington. The district hired Pacifica to complete Measure Y modernization projects. The contract required Pacifica to provide regular updates to a citizens' oversight committee. It's unclear if those updates were regularly provided, officials said ... Peterson said Wednesday he was the "13th project manager. Everybody else either went nuts or walked off the project," which he described as "pandemonium."

3) PUSD to file suit to recoup Measure Y funds (San Gabriel Valley Tribune, February 25, 2009): The school district will sue three contractors officials allege owe it at least $300,000 for unfinished work at Washington Middle School related to the Measure Y school bond measure passed in 1997 ... The school board late Tuesday said they will pursue a lawsuit against contractors Eric Petersen and Jess Yzaguirre and Mark Kingsbury, a former district official responsible for approving the invoices on Measure Y projects ... Superintendent Edwin Diaz Tuesday said the district will not wait for the District Attorney's office to reopen the investigation. The DAs office had declined to file charges in June 2008 and said it couldn't make sense of the documents provided by the district.

Rather cut and dried as far as I can tell. The thieves took hundreds of thousands of dollars in Measure Y bond money, and have yet to suffer any consequences. And to date there are no indications that I've seen of any lawsuits having been filed, nor has the District Attorney changed his mind about prosecuting anyone in this case. Again, shoddy PUSD record keeping being cited as the reason for the DA having backed off.

Pretty sad state of affairs, and hardly the kind of thing that would make anyone feel comfortable about approving their request for a parcel tax.

87 comments:

  1. Just can't let up, can you Eric Maundry? please read the comments on your other post

    you are barking up the wrong tree

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  2. Jeezus Eric, just because the PUSD is run like a bughouse, got ripped off, and was basically laughed out of court doesn't mean we shouldn't pay even more taxes. Why so critical?

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  3. oh yes, you are right Ed, PUSD is run like a "bughouse"

    and full of "bugs". good point.

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  4. Wow, Sir Eric, the PUSD defense team has found the TATTLER!
    FUNNY STUFF! LOL

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  5. OK: Check out Mark's post on the previous thread.

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  6. Look, like Sir Eric points out...this is indefensible.

    Until the PUSD cleans up this mess, no responsible voter in the district is going to vote them even 1 quarter.

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  7. I don't see how the Pasadena School board can be considered
    beyond accountability. Especially when they are once again
    asking us for more money. This matter needs to be cleared up,
    and not just swept under the rug.

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  8. Curly: Read the post that Eric recommended (he, not I) on PUSD - it clears everything up!

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  9. We are all familiar with this material, Virginia. It didn't convince
    the District Atty to prosecute now, did it.

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  10. how interesting, to talk about something from 2007 that has been gone over one-thousand times. How productive...

    how destructive. We need to support our public schools wheather we send our kids to them or not because surely we want public education around in our cities.

    This is in the Constitution, equal education for all.

    The timing of this is what is making it "deadly", on the verge of a $25-million dollar loss. This doesn't only hurt the kids, it hurts the teachers and all of the people employed by the public school system.

    Thats our economy.

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  11. If the PUSD is asking for more money, it needs to be accountable for the money it already has. Sweeping this stuff under the rug does not help anyone, including public schools. And the stalled lawsuit the PUSD claimed to have initiated is a 2009 matter. Which is still this year. Just for the record.

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  12. Been there done thatDecember 17, 2009 at 8:52 AM

    Gosh, a slugfest has erupted on Tattler, all hands on deck!

    Look, I worked for one of the Measure Y architects, and politically aligned with the Citizen Oversight committee on that one because they were truly committed to minimizing the obvious Construction Management abuses that occur throughout the California school system construction chain. All improvement bonds are specifically written to fund certain physical improvements, and community oversight can make sure that buildings actually are repaired and expanded as opposed to adding trailers that the CM's try to bring in as a substitute (this is the ironically-named CASH), for example.

    In spite of this, there were serious issues in Measure Y, which I was in the trenches with. This problem with the fella who ran off with a chunk of dough happened because he was able to hack the system's checks and balances due to inside help. Happens sometimes, and you can't always nail these things.

    Do remember that none of the Bond money goes towards teachers, kids or supplies. The State is supposed to pay for that, and it's not. So once again the communities are forced to do battle internally to pay local parcel taxes on top of their property taxes for this specific purpose.

    Here's the fun part with that: the State has re-upped the Senate Bill which allows interdistrict transfers. Which means that the local districts that have added parcel taxes will attract the better students, regardless of supposed regs against cherry-picking. What do you suppose will happen to PUSD?

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  13. Beware of Politicans and other bureaucratic scum.Public Service no longer attracts high caliber and vituous people.They are repelled by the stench of corruption!The lame excuses by the DA and the other unwholesome characters is indefensible.You claim to be on the children's side...Shame on you!

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  14. When I went to John Muir in the late 70s and 80s, the school routinely graduated students that went on to attend the best universities in the United States including Harvard, Stanford, CalTech and Princeton. That doesn't happen anymore because the quality of the education there (and at other high schools in the PUSD for that matter) has declined.

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  15. To those of you who say we must invest in the childrens' future. I say I have invested and invested and received a loosy return. When I have a bad financial investment or one that is not preforming... I dump it and find something else that makes sense. PUSD is not and has not performed for years. I dumped it for my kids education. I had to pay twice. First through taxes for a bad system and then pay again for a private education. I will do everything to defeat any new tax for that educational mess of a district. Tax payers are not a money well.

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  16. 8:53. I agree. The quality of the education provided by the PUSD is not what it used to be.

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  17. Here's a question for you all. If we vote ourselves a parcel tax, what would prevent us from using that money to fund the schools within Sierra Madre, and going independent? If we're to pay a parcel tax, is there any reason why we need to give the money to Pasadena? Can't we just use it to pay for our school,and the PUSD be damned?

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  18. How about turning Sierra Madre in to a charter school?

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  19. Been there done thatDecember 17, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    Questioner, parcel taxes don't work that way, they can only be levied by the District. Another way to approach this might be to set up the Sierra Madre schools as Charter or Magnet. That involves an application process that's fairly arduous and that forces the school to accept all transfers (within District and outside of it) on the basis of the application's specified mission, not on academics.

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  20. But if we became a district ourselves, then a parcel tax would be possible, right? We're basically spending money here to buy a service, I should think we would have some choices.

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  21. Been there done thatDecember 17, 2009 at 9:29 AM

    Questioner, another way to go AWOL from the State is to set up a local Schools Foundation as many small communities have done. The foundation supports teacher salaries, programs, supplies, etc. on top of what the State provides. Donations are voluntary, though, and this has proven problematic, even in San Marino.

    Hence the San Marino parcel tax of $800 on top of the $313 already being paid, but again, that was imposed by the District which is largely bounded by San Marino except for some County areas. Sierra Madre has a different situation.

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  22. Read about Virginia Hoge, she's rather famous!
    This is hillarious!

    http://underpasadena.blogspot.com/2008/08/weekly-pasadena-news-reports-virginia.html

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  23. If PUSD were fish it would have been thrown out days ago.

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  24. Any funds that come to Sierra Madre from the PUSD have to be FOUGHT for. The pro measure TT school administrator made that very clear. Not one penny of the money that comes out of Sierra Madre will necessarily return to Sierra Madre. It will be a matter of choice by the administrators. Just as they made the choice to hire a dishonest contractor, allow some kind of inside double dealing, and they made the choice to ignore shoddy accounting practices (sound familiar?).
    It sounds like there are a lot of knowledgeable people posting and that is very helpful in finding solutions, but I think the whole system needs a IFA, Independent Forensic Audit.
    Let's see who gets what as reported by an outside investigator.
    Then we can start over again with accurate information.

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  25. Good point 10:58. Who knew that the best up and coming business in America would be independent auditing?

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  26. They fooled me once (MeasureY), they fooled me twice (Measure TT) They won't shame me into the third time, voting for another penny in taxes.

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  27. Speaking of AUDITS...What happened to Zimmermans suggestion regarding Sierra Madre"s shady past doings..UUT hike--Forgot about that one?Of course they would find they could not prosecute because the evidence is missing.But just knowing that would be a victory for the people.Reform has to start somewhere either with PUSD or Sierra Madre!

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  28. At Pasadena High School they used to separate the freshman from the older kids because of violence and sexual assaults. They were put in a different building. Is this still the case?

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  29. where's the audit tooDecember 17, 2009 at 12:38 PM

    12:22, I'm still waiting for Buchanan's report on the missing audits from the shenanigan years, you know, the one where he claimed that we all knew what happened?
    Check out his speech on Neuroblast.

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  30. where's the audit too:

    you might as well be waiting for the tooth fairy.

    virginia hoge:
    are you part of the problem?

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  31. Johnny B Fogbank has also been a big time fundraiser for the PUSD as well. Maybe while he's talking about the blown audits and lost million bucks that happened on his watch he can also explain how the PUSD can't maintain a believable check book.

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  32. Thank you Sir Eric for exposing this disgusting and horrible district. They not only stole money but too many children's education by thinking of only themselves and how they would give their friends raises and great perks, for way too many years. There are many great posts today. .
    Virgina Hoge: Why are you defending criminals instead oF ADVOCATING FOR CHILDREN? Criminals are timeless and children;s educational lives are short. We MUST do something, a lot of great ideas, but where do we begin?

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  33. We begin with financial accountability.

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  34. 1:49. Amen. If government is not accountable to the people on what they've done with their money, then they're useless.

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  35. yes, Been there done that, the Tattler has descended into a slugfest, and I see I am the main one here getting slugged.

    so much for defending public education in an open dialogue.

    how petty and wrong.

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  36. actually, if you look at it from a distance, something is very strange here. Someone (myself) takes serious issue with a Tattler posting, gives reason for their opinion,

    and gets slugged by multiple Tattler commentators, without moderation.

    You know what this sound like? like an army is defending someone's "turf" (or biases)

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  37. Virginia, isn't it possible that people disagree with your interpretation of the facts?

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  38. Virginia,

    Defending criminal behavior is not defending public education. And, being a sensitive person does not make someone qualified to participate in political debates.

    Politics is a brutal business, not meant for the faint of heart. Well-meaning, uninformed and politically naive individuals should think twice before engaging.

    Furthermore, if you can't back up your statements with facts, then you shouldn't be surprised when people argue them, however. I do agree that any personal attacks against you are wrong. Those that use personal attacks against people they disagree with do so, because they are unable to participate in an intelligent dialogue.

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  39. Ms Hoge, you have gone from an attacker to the victim, and in less than a single day. That is quite an impressive range of emotions for just one person.

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  40. thank you, Anonymous, I think personal attacks are wrong too.

    I do not see PUSD as doing anything criminal. I tried to give my reasons (and evidence) on the previous post, I worked hard on them, I hope they are clear.

    I know (some) people don't want to hear them, but isn't that what debate is all about? We can't all agree on everything, and certainly PUSD is a "hot" topic.

    that shouldn't mean it is a hostile topic, where one gets pummeled just for putting their opinion forth on an open debate.

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  41. when someone gets personally attacked in a debate, that is an open attempt to silence them.

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  42. Tell us Virginia, where exactly were you attacked?

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  43. it is so sad, the Tattle has lambasted the dirty, violent tricks of the Measure V campaign (like blowing up mailboxes),

    and yet it is allowing another human being (myself) to get pummeled by name, just for disagreeing with a post.

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  44. Poster 12:38. I'm still waiting for Councilman Bucahanan's audit too. It's sad, but except for Councilman Zimmerman, nobody on the counsel seems interested in looking into how money was spent or misspent during the "shenanigan years."

    Where were the other Council members when Zimmerman was pressing for a forensic audit or suggesting that we rollback the UUT?

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  45. Virginia, like Mark on the previous thread, you've managed to drag the discussion down to personal grudges and pettiness.
    If someone posts something unthoughtful, just ignore it for goodness sake, and continue on the topic at hand.
    Otherwise, you might as well be a troll.

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  46. Virginia, you came onto this site with both arms swinging. Your arguments, as they are, were refuted. And now, because you have basically lost in fair debate, you're claiming that you've been victimized, and you want me to start censoring posters who disagree with you?

    I'm sorry, but your predicament is of your own doing.

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  47. Poor Virginia. Boo, hoo, hoo. Can I send you eHanky?

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  48. Virginia, why not counter Sir Eric's criticism of the PUSD with examples of what's positive with PUSD.

    For example, why not write about those great API scores in Pasadena. Hmmmmm, scratch that suggestion.

    O.K. instead, you can write about the vast numbers of students who graduate from Pasadena high schools and then attend top-notch public and private schools. O.K. scratch that suggestion too.

    I've got it, demand that anyone who bashes the PUSD and who disagrees with you be censored.

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  49. Recently the Sierra Madre School had a lovely Christmas Program. Here is the kicker. It was held at 8:20 AM. As in the morning. I was told it was because there was no money to pay the teachers overtime. This community and the parents do so much for the school and the teachers can't show up for a Christmas progam in the evening??? I am sure many parents missed that program because they had jobs. These same teachers want us to tax ourselves again so they can have more money and they won't show up for an evening program. Do they get paid for Open House and Back to School Night also?
    NO to TAXES for PUSD

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  50. I was not swinging, Eric, I was debating your points. You have most defensively (and out of character) taken it as so.

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  51. Virginia. I have some kool aid for you.

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  52. 3:42. She's drunk enough already.

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  53. ah, another personal attack on the Tattler today

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  54. Maybe we should find a name for Sir Eric's army

    "The Tattler's Tasers"? (I am open to other suggestions)

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  55. Ms. Hoge, it's presumptious of you to assume that everyone who posts on this blog is a member of Sir Eric's army (i.e., somebody who always agrees with his arguments and is willing to blast anyone online who does not).

    On the contrary, if you look at the comments attached to his previous articles, you will see many examples of intelligent and spirited debate re points he has raised.

    In this case, however, it appears that EVERYBODY disagrees with you.

    What does that tell you?

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  56. you know, I am sitting here at my computer, visiting the Tattler which was once one of my favorite blogs, having barbs thrown at me left and right

    ah, the Internet Age (yikes!)

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  57. I am really starting to believe 2012 is on its way

    (oh, you all disagree with me? oh well, its clearly not "my" day)

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  58. Virginia Hoge?

    Are you sure you aren't really "Josh" what's his name, the "smoker" rebel.....?
    He was another "victim" on the Tattler, because most people didn't agree with him.
    I recall a thread where he posted nearly 100 posts......keep going, you'll break loony Josh's record.

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  59. oh no, a fellow tormented Tattler debator who dared to disagree with the Crowd (the "in" crowd)? who was literally kicked off the blog?

    you mean to tell me, you actually have "victims" here - now why isn't there a warning notice published about that? Sir Eric?

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  60. you guys need a warning notice: "Consensus Only"

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  61. Virginia!
    I just googled your name and came up with several blog boards. Everyone seems to dislike you, a lot.
    Have you been kicked off every blog in the area?
    The Tattler readers are more tolerant, but there is a limit.

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  62. My Q. is this...Just what is the reason for wanting race horse teachers in the classroom any ways? I mean Santa Anita is in Arcadia, right?

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  63. oh no, I believe its time to listen to my higher power (yes, I listen to a higher power) and take my leave of the Tattler Tasers. I have heard (more than enough) the word that the "tolerance" (cough, cough) of the Tattler "in" crowd has been severely tested, Consensus (always the mission here) has not been reached.

    And so, I take my leave. I shall heretoafter refer to this thread as the "Night of the Living Dead" (no, not original I know) and remember next time I dare put a foot in the Tattler pond, to ALWAYS agree with the host.

    Goodbye (for now).

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  64. 4:10 you are right. This is like the cigarette kids thing. Complete with the toxic level of self-absorption.

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  65. Why isn't the District Attorneys office involved, you will get absolutely nothing accomplished trying to address this issue through the PUSD,(the absconded funds I mean)
    Virginia, you go girl!!

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  66. The D.A. refused to handle the case because PUSD's record keeping was so bad. He felt he'd never be able to win in the case because none of the paperwork coming from the pUSD on the matter made any sense. It was gobbledygook. And that is the problem. The incompetent PUSD got ripped off of Measure Y by a corrupt contractor, who was never taken to court because of nonexistent records. The guy got away with the crime. It's pretty scandalous, actually.

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  67. If only you could be a teacher in a classroom for a week, and attend meetings, work with parents who blame you for their child's problems, correct papers, plan lessons, work with principals who do not even know the subject area you teach in but have to observe you, no heat in the building, 36 in each class and 5 periods a day.........Lawyers do not go to the Courthouse on Sat/Sun, your Doctor is not in on Fridays.........Let us really re-think the teacher working after school, going to school maybe at night, and correcting papers and planning lessons.

    Join me in my classroom. Oh, by the way. I totally understand Sir Eric's choice for Private School. I sent my children. And, I do not encourage anyone to go into education. You will learn to teach to the test and create robots who compete with no emotions and no creativity. Keep building jails and highways.

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  68. Me thinks Virginia has Blog Envy. She only has 3 posts.

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  69. How do we know that the money was actually stolen? Hey, if they can find a million dollars then maybe they can find this so called missing money too. The article did say PUSD is bad at record keeping. Maybe they just lost it.

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  70. Ahhh, they just had it in one account instead of another account. That's what I've heard about our mystery millions. It was just over in someplace other than the place it was supposed to be.
    Surely no one leveraged anything with that "temporary relocation"

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  71. Somebody said something about high API scores? Here's one- Sierra Madre K- 8, 889. That's about as good as it gets! Hamilton Elementary is about 865, and is now a national blue ribbon school, recognized as one of the best in the nation. Don Benito and Norma Coombs have had high API scores for years. Franklin Elementary is a unique story in that they have a high API without the same level of parental support than some of those other PUSD schools. Probably just great teachers and administrators!

    And just yesterday, Field Elementary, another great, high API school, got an big arts grant! Good stuff is happening at PUSD.

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  72. Mark, Sierra Madre Elementary has high API scores despite PUSD. That's the problem. We could do so much better if we were independent.

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  73. Actually, Anonymous, I don't think that's true.

    And since Sierra Madre can't fund a full time police or fire department, it is unlikely that SM could or would fund a school system. Sierra Madre Elementary and Middle School thrives in great part because of the support they get from being a part of the system.

    Right now, the Director of Elementary Education is Kathy Onoye, the former Principal of Willard Elementary (which might well be the absolute best school in the District, and again, that would make them one of the best in the entire valley). The new PUSD leadership put her there a couple of years ago because she is so brilliant at helping support teachers and creating an environment where all students excel, and just about every elementary school has made big gains ever since. A small school District would be hard pressed to get a big talent like Ms Onoye.

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  74. Sierra Madre does fund a full time Police Department, Mark. And the Fire Department is proudly volunteer. If you are going to patronize us, please do so with information that is at least remotely accurate.

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  75. My point stands that it takes a great deal of money to fund a school system, and it occurs to me that a small school system would not be able to afford some of the talent that you have access to with a larger system.

    While I agree that you want to keep administrations accountable, of course, you do now have some very talented people in PUSD who are doing a great service to our schools now.

    Many of them are new to the system, and some are still there because they have been doing great work for years (like Ms. Onoye). And the results, in terms of vastly improving API scores, regional, statewide and national honors, are coming in with greatly encouraging regularity.

    It all comes back to the students. It would be great if some of you visited one of these schools and volunteered to read to the students or otherwise work on a project in partnership with a PUSD school. Even if you hated the PUSD administration, thought that they were a bunch of demons in suits, you would be where you are most needed, interacting with the children who look to adults like you as role models- if, in fact, you see yourselves as role models for children.

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  76. Since you obviously know nothing about Sierra Madre, your points lack validity, Mark. You can huff and puff all you want, but you have no credibility here. And as far as being a role model for children, do you think a know nothing BS artist such as yourself is a proper example of what an adult should be? I don't.

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  77. And, of course, there is the irony that someone who claims that WE can't afford something also wants our money in the form of a new parcel tax to support his organization...

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  78. I am asking you to help if you think that YOU are a good role model. What I think of you is irrelevant. And what you think of me is none of my business.

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  79. Hey, Tattler Eric, are you running this blog about education issues here or is this just an insult hotline? Eric, I hope you can remind bloggers about the issue at hand, and keep the personal comments off the screen. And by the way, if my opinion is different than yours, that's what makes for conversation.

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  80. Sorry Mark, but if you want a cop call 911.

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  81. It is bad enough that Virginia Hoge is maligned on these posts but it is horrific that so many would callously deny the children of Pasadena a quality education for a few measly dollars! Pick on Virginia if you must, she is a powerful accomplished soul and can take care of herself. Leave the kids out of it!

    WHO WILL SPEAK FOR THE CHILDREN?

    Please please think of the children.

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  82. We all think of the children. Which is why so many think so poorly of the PUSD. They deserve so much better.

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  83. If you are thinking of the children, then you will really learn about PUSD, because there is much to applaud going on over there.

    When you say negative things about PUSD without knowing, you may be doing so and then negatively impacting the impressions of those who might otherwise give support to PUSD. That is what is probably meant by the comment "think of the children".

    Saying negative things about the local public school system without knowing could be construed as irresponsible and harmful. That's what the other commenter may have been trying to say.

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  84. Gaga 4 Dada said: "It is bad enough that Virginia Hoge is maligned on these posts but it is horrific that so many would callously deny the children of Pasadena a quality education for a few measly dollars! Pick on Virginia if you must, she is a powerful accomplished soul and can take care of herself. Leave the kids out of it!

    WHO WILL SPEAK FOR THE CHILDREN?

    Please please think of the children."

    Good question, Diane and Kelly, who will speak for the children? and why, when someone does as I do, stalker trolls like yourselves chases them all over the internet?

    another question to Kelly/Gin Knee, how come no one speaks out against you but me? Why are you tolerated in town? You are "only" one of the biggest Topix bully-trolls in the entire country, and this is no lie, people, she is.

    She "only" backed up a troll named Satan as he was hurling violent slurs against a woman's daughter, Satan was "only" threatening to beat her with a baseball bat - this is true, and there was troll Kelly, backing him up.

    "Our" tolerated local troll has real fangs, and there is no way she should be tolerated locally, this is an embarrassment to the local blogsphere.

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