Friday, November 16, 2012

Tony Brandenburg On This Week's PUSD Board Of Education Meeting

Armed with a newly cleaned and earth friendly eco-suds'd and air dried under a waxing crescent moon for two days Censure Honowitz shirt, we parked with our friends at the PUSD office to put up our recycled and green “Censure Honowitz”, and “Stop Bullying in Sierra Madre” signs on our SUVs and F150s, and then proceeded to directly challenge the status quo with our eighth on the street picket. We then attended the first part of the November 13 public board meeting.

Gone are the good old days when the PUSD administrative staff would call the police on us when we showed up with our signs. At some point they must have figured out that citizens have the right to peaceful assembly.

Don’t laugh. These are the very people in charge of teaching your children civics and teaching them the Constitution of the United States.

Ah, yes. The good old days. I still think my favorite visual picture was watching one of the lumbering unicorns scramble to make a cell phone call to report that someone posted a poster stating Inclusion Free Zone on the marquee of Sierra Madre Elementary School. I waved as I drove by. Toodles! Always the good neighbor, I am. That statement was  almost as good as the truck parked across the street from the school the day the Gayle Bluemel Auditorium was christened. It had one bold four letter word emblazoned in red paint across it: LIAR.

And so. Back to the meeting.  From the gate the questions were laid on the district. Our request some six weeks back for an investigation into Honowitz and claim that he and the PUSD had violated our son’s rights under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was investigated internally, and like every other PUSD investigation, the outcome was the same. No violation. Simply put, on with the usual business.

Honowitz, isn’t it true your wife worked on the same floor of the City Attorney’s Office as one of the elite Sierra Madre Elementary parents? Were they given more credibility than we were because of this? What does all of this have to do with Community Schools?

PUSD, why do you allow the criminalization of small children? Why do you allow parents to divulge the full names of children on a live stream without intervening? Why are parents allowed to violate FERPA? Isn’t it true that this is done because Ed Honowitz set the precedent when he discussed my child in a public meeting with you?

How is it possible that Ed Honowitz knew the outcome of a Uniform Complaint the Brandenburgs filed eight days before the report was even written? Where are the interviews and the informational file collected by Steve Miller of Human Resources? How is it that provided with all of the documents, Steve Miller is unable to find a single indiscretion on the District’s part?

We, of course, believe we know the answer. School Districts, like any government agency, are allowed internal investigations. Any employee that is found to be in favor of a parent would put the district into a compromised position, open for litigation. The reason that the Brandenburgs cannot get an honest answer, and an apology, is simple. The person in house would be terminated. Don’t doubt it for a minute. Like all government agencies that are held accountable only to themselves, justice is served only after the liars and vultures have picked over its carcass.

Anyone who ruled against Ed Honowitz would find themselves kicked to the door. If you don’t believe that is true, let me sell you a car that runs like a dream and only has 175,000 miles on it.

We read into the record the following request for a Board Hearing regarding our FERPA denial:

We are formally requesting to the Secretary of the Board, that the Board of Education hear our appeal of the denial of the FERPA claim.

We submitted this appeal September 26, and have heard nothing, despite the timeline of 7 days to submit.

Of note regarding Mr. Miller’s findings through his “investigation”:

Mr. Diaz and Mr. Honowitz were acting within the scope of their duties:

Mr. Diaz and Mr. Honowitz met with parents to discuss our son and his behavior, which is a manifestation of his autism - and somehow Mr. Miller determined it was not a privacy violation to have such a discussion in public, without our authorization, nor in our presence.

The PUSD investigator also determined that this public meeting to discuss an autistic child did not violate FERPA because it concerned the safety of students at Sierra Madre school.

Did Mr. Miller note that the child in question had not been in school 3 months?

Did Mr. Miller note that all services had been withdrawn by Elizabeth Blanco until we signed a document removing our son from all general ed classes at Sierra Madre School?

So what “safety issue” were they all meeting about?

We have asked to see the FERPA investigation file, as this should be a public record. No response.

We have asked how many times FERPA and UCP complaints involving discrimination internally investigated by PUSD result in findings of non compliance.

No response.

We have asked how Mr. Honowitz was able to determine the findings of the internal investigation EIGHT days prior to Mr. Miller’s findings?

No response.

It was not answered, and it will not be. To do so would mean accepting some level of accountability, and anything that is presented by the Brandenburgs need to be analyzed by attorneys, stalled until the deadline, and then discarded once the Statute of Limitations is exceeded.

You might ask: Knowing that this will happen, why don’t you take steps to circumvent this prior to its expiration?

The answer is simple. We are busy. We function on a single paycheck. We know that the next set of hoops - The Office of Civil Rights, The Department of Justice - those agencies are also in the back pockets of the elite. The districts know that people like us don’t have the money - only the moxie - to challenge them on these violations. They will gladly spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to win - rather than to be told that maybe, just maybe, they are out of compliance.

When school districts are found out of compliance they are rarely fined. Yes, you heard that correctly. They are simply served with a list of remedies which they must follow. That isn’t a guarantee that they’ll actually do it,-after all, that would require someone at the next level of government to actually enforce it.

What they do instead is leave it up to the districts’ honor to actually follow through, and the district's internal review team (people like Steve Miller) to make sure it’s done. There is no monetary penalty.

Read that again. No ... monetary... penalty. It is merely a suggestion of remedy. All of that talk about the Brandenburgs being litigious? That was planted to keep us - the parents - the center of focus, and not what these elitist bully parents, Superintendent Edwin Diaz, Special Ed Coordinator Elizabeth Blanco, Principal Gayle Bluemel, and Board Vice President Ed Honowitz did - a diversion to allow the liars and thieves to cut bait and run.

No monetary penalty. Yet PUSD spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to battle people like the Brandenburgs because this isn’t about righting a wrong. This is about power, and powertrips, and about elitism, and about political favoritism, and about winning at any cost. It’s not about equity, and it’s not about leveling the field, and it’s not about social justice. Those are just diversions to keep people like us spinning our wheels while the PUSD lawyers grab the cash hand over fist.

Now ask yourself, why would someone like Ed Honowitz knowingly engage with people like us in a situation that is basically a “No-win?” We don’t know, but he does. We can only speculate and ask unanswered questions. Perhaps he saw us as a couple of stupid crackers, as poor white trash (two names we have been called here in Sierra Madre) and thought it was an easy sell? Push their bratty autistic kid out of the school with the highest API and win over the votes of a large group of people? Remember, this happened before redistricting. Maybe it was because he had some common ground with the elite parent group, maybe a similar interest in property laws and cleaning out communities of people who don’t quite fit in?

It is no secret that PUSD has a double standard. That’s correct. It has been pointed out by the Brandenburgs, by parent advocate Monica Watts, by PUSD staffer Leonard McClaren, and by Board President Renatta Cooper. African American Males in PUSD are more likely to be suspended and expelled than any other subgroup in the district. It can be worded differently, sure - the system prefers language like “unusually high” or “imbalanced” or “disproportionate” because they think it sounds impartial.

Additionally, students with disabilities are more likely than their non-disabled peers to be suspended and expelled in the PUSD. None dare call it institutional racism any more than any dare to call it intentionally segregating children with disabilities. But we have, and we still do.

Let’s take this a step further. One in 88 children are autistic according to the CDC, with 1 in 54 being male. We have personally experienced, in this town, institutional segregation targeting that population. We have suggested, and continue to hypothesize that a number of the children being suspended and expelled, as well as those sent to non-public schools at an increased cost to PUSD - are children who have fallen under the radar; children who did not meet some “standard” of conduct, children who may be that 1 in 54 who were not identified because it is easier to allow them to fall out of favor and send them down the Pasadena Schools to Prison Pipeline. My child is not the only six year old this was done to, he was just the only “white” one.

PUSD is trying to combat some of these clearly racial discrepancies with Behavioral RTI (Response to Intervention), but in the presentation made at the last board meeting the disaggregated data regarding subpopulations was frustratingly absent. Teacher attitudes towards teaching behavior was also a bone of contention. It appears that many teachers don’t believe teaching children how to behave is part of their area of expertise. Yet, according to the PUSD and UTP contract, teachers are given the right to determine what type of  “Teacher Staff Development” they are to receive, and we sat in that board room and listened to teachers blast this RTI program because, at $200,000  it was so expensive. If you think $200,000 to train a group of teachers in order to correct a significant structural flaw is a lot of money, I am betting you have no idea what is spent every month on incidentals.

Let me tell you, $200,000 for a ten month program to support teachers and to support kids is nothing compared to what the PUSD spends on attorney fees to protect and bail out dumbass teachers and administrators who break laws they don’t even know exist. The irony? The decision for what kind of professional training teachers in PUSD are given lays squarely in the hands of the teachers.

On the surface, that might seem like a great idea. After all, they know what they need, right? We suggest that no, they all do not.

We live in a world where their antiquated contract is creating a schism that opens the district up for significant procedural lawsuits. At the core of this is the teachers’ rights to refuse to attend meetings outside of their hours of employment. This runs contradictory to a family’s right to participate on the educational planning team if they are working during those staff hours. Additionally, in our experience, general education teachers are frequently lacking the knowledge and the understanding of the behavioral needs of not only autistic children, but also of children in general - especially those subpopulations who are from different socio-economic, ethnic, or second language backgrounds than their own.

Is it justifiable to punish a child for failing to complete class or homework if they cannot physically or intellectually complete it? It’s done all the time right here in Sierra Madre, and probably every school in the country. We also believe that removing physical break times (recess) for these “infractions” is inherently flawed and designed to agitate, not to solve learning or behavioral issues. We believe it is the academic equivalent of running over a blind person because they didn’t see the light was red, and then blaming them for being blind in the first place.

Teachers in this district, and yes, in Sierra Madre, need training that addresses the needs of families just like ours - the disenfranchised, the outsiders, the untrusting. It is not our children’s fault that we don’t trust the PUSD, or that we don’t trust our neighbors - but our children are the ones who pay the cost. Is that fair? Is that just?

So what does this have to do with the Board Meeting?

The time has come for some real dialogue to take place. It is time for leadership, and it is time to make some things clear. Proposition 30 was a sham, there is still a multi-million dollar debt. That is not the fault of the messenger, Chief Finance Officer Dr. John Pappalardo, who delivered the grim news during the audit. Nope. Dr. P just gets to drop the axe, the one that says, “We’re still in this pretty deep.” Proposition 30 for all of its hoopla was simply to stop the complete unraveling of the public school system. Districts like PUSD still have a debt of some 5 million bucks, and there are still going to be significant lay-offs and cutbacks.

Who’s fault, then, is it? It is the fault of the people who throw the district’s money at attorneys who, as pointed out by Board Member Phelps, and by people like the Brandenburgs, are ethically questionable at best. Attorneys who have been reprimanded by the courts for ethics violations, attorneys who have been cited for intentionally bleeding families into drawn-out legal battles that result in families’ financial collapse. Yet PUSD still utilizes these very SAME law groups to teach their administrative staff how to AVOID providing services, how to stall, how to confuse parents, how to divide families, and to how to divert. “Wouldn’t it be better,” I have heard Renatta Cooper ask aloud, “to spend the money doing  the job and providing the services?”

Renatta Cooper, when you are on fire, I swear I get chills hearing your voice.

The PUSD spends literally tens of thousands of dollars every month to bail out people who can’t do their jobs because they are bound by a teacher contract that refuses to allow them to enforce specific, systemic change through fair, and equitable instruction, including children just like ours. This is no longer a “special ed” situation.

It is time the district tell its staff what it needs - not just the other way around. In no other field does the worker have the sole decision to determine what the company’s best interests are - except in the Pasadena Unified School District. The time has come to clean house. If there are people who do not want to change with the needs of the field, with the needs of the consumers - all of them, including us - need to move over or get out. There are plenty of people who need the work more than you.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

81 comments:

  1. Hear, hear, Tony B.

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  2. Is it really that bad?

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    1. Is the PUSD really as bad as it's being portrayed?

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    2. 1:50, do you mean as the PUSD is portraying themselves?

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  3. Maybe Parent Revolution should take over the entire PUSD.

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    1. From what Tony is saying it did. The people who paid the price were those who did not fit in with the more elite of the revolutionaries.

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    2. Someone clearly needs to step in and take over the special education division.

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    3. Maybe they can entice Blanco back.

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    4. I wish they would. She and the Brandenburgs have unfinished business.

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    5. Sorry TB, she's off to bigger and better things.

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    6. Should she ever return to work in Southern California to work in public education or any related field she can expect to see me at public comments and pickets on a regular basis. I still may show up at SFUSD to do the same.

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    7. I feel the same way, too much of that
      1984 stuff ain't healthy. when I was a kid and into young adulthood I was convinced that televisions were really transmitters from our homes to THE MAN but as I got older I realized that big brother could get us to rat ourselves out voluntarily through the computer, more than any other spy network could possibly desire, is the human ego's insistence to be displayed.

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  4. My kids were in Sierra Madre elementary School over 20 years ago, when my kids teacher, Blumell, was the classroom teacher. She spent more time pushing her own agenda,rather than teaching, and had substitutes in her class all the time..She was too busy with more important things to do.
    Realizing I was dealing with an institutional problem that went back to the district offices, I pulled my kids out, and enrolled them in private school. Looking back, this confirms my feeling about PUSD. I am sure that is why, an overwhelming number of Sierra Madre residents' send their kids to private schools.
    The district has all the power, money, and attorneys. It is a loosing battle.
    I voted with my feet to make sure my kids got there educational needs met, and not to further Bluemel's career objectives.
    You either have to do that, or file a Justice Department Civil Rights suit, hoping you have enough behind it to make them sit up and listen,...or... for the sake of your children, home school, send them to private school, or move to another school district that can be responsive to your needs.

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    1. 7:50, problem is that some parents can't afford to send their kids private. Not sure what Bluemel's objectives were, or are, but she sure has tons of clout in a city she doesn't even live in.

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    2. Word is that the Office of Civil Rights has been pretty busy with complaints filed against PUSD. Maybe the DOJ will step in and take a looksie.

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    3. DOJ probably has to have a whole wing in their file warehouse for PUS

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    4. But knowing how bureaucracies function, it's much easier to go with what the other government agency wants the other to know. What validity do the lowly commoners have when compared to the likes of those working in the system?

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    5. That is why bureaucracies like this exist. To keep the taxpayers and parents out of their operation. COG, SCAG, PUSD, all designed to freeze out the people who pay the bills.

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    6. Wasnt Bluemell named our Grand Marshall of the 2011 Forth of July Parade....made Grand Marshall at the last minuet by Mosca and Bosse to prevent that honor going to local hero, John Shear, the 90 year old man who saved a child's life at Santa Anita?
      Isn't that this woman?

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    7. Yes, 10:43, she is one and the same.

      In fact, the year Bluemel was the Grand Marshall was the exact same year that the Brandenburg child's life was turned upside down, and she allowed it to happen. In fact, she was handed that same petition Honowitz was given, and she outright denied receiving it- during a federal investigation.

      How dare they reward that piece of work rather than John Shear, who SAVED a child's life!

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    8. that council choice was a shame. it really was.

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    9. Bluemel got all kinds of accolades. Don't forget the flash mob and her nice auditorium.
      If she retired before the crap hit the fan, good riddance. And to the fools who were so misguided as to reward her? Shame on them.

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    10. Too bad they can't retract their choice and reward the worthy recipient.

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  5. The lesson the PUSD needs to take away from all of this is eventually you are going to cross the wrong parents. The Brandenburgs are now fully invested in this fight. They aren't going away. And the more noise they make, the more people are going to discover that what they have to say has a lot of validity. Particularly among those people who have had similar run ins.
    It had to happen eventually. Now it has.

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    1. Too bad more people aren't more willing to voice what the Brandenburgs are. It sure would make them take notice.

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    2. That is really the point of this all. Democracy doesn't work when the people are not passionately involved. When all responsibility gets turned over to the bureaucrats, things go to hell fast.

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    3. Absolutely 8:13. Things don't go to hell so much as they go straight into their pockets.

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    4. Sounds like hell to me.

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    5. Well we know who's sold their souls for profit.

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    6. I think little by little more parents are going to call Sierra Madre on the hypocrisy. They can't all be that bedazzled by the glitter and unicorns.

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  6. Tony's point that the PUSD would rather turn their problems over to the lawyers and treat them as legal issues rather than problems to be solved is a very good one. The issue would the Brandenburgs could have been fixed long ago. Instead it was shuffled off to the legal people. Not very cost efficient, either.

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    1. 8:36, you are right, but they know how to do the "shuffle", and have endless funds, time, and talk. The odds are on the side of PUSD.
      No matter how loud you speak out, and everyone knows they are justified, it's the same result.
      Why do you think S.California is loosing population. You can't blame this on the Repubs, or Bush, the fish rots from the head down, and if you are not well connected to the party establishment, you are dirt to be swept away if you complain. Just pay your taxes on time.
      Talk to Holden, maybe he can help them out. Ha, Ha

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    2. Sadly, 8:56, you're right on the money.

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    3. Lol 856. I think I may have burned that bridge.

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  7. Maybe that's what the Prop 30 money is earmarked for? The attorney's coffers.

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    1. Or Holden's campaign?

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    2. Not getting the segregation point...

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    3. I have a question for Tony: Are you saying that teacher contracts are in conflict with federal law? If so, how is this allowed to slide? Is this just in PUSD? How much power do these unions hold?

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    4. Who are the majority of students that are banished from PUSD schools? What nationality?

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    5. I believe they are Americans.

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    6. Good question 10:38. I don't know if the board members have demographic information during Board meetings when they grant expulsions. We can all make some assumptions given the fact that the majority of kids suspended are black, hispanic and/or special ed.

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    7. @ 10:16, well, yes it does conflict with the law.

      This is the contract article 6. Go to 6.3.71
      http://utofp.org/contract-online/#VI

      The flaw here is that UTP and PUSD call IEPs, SSTs, and 504s "Professional Development. Professional development is training for teachers and planning. The type of meetings do not really fall under that criteria. They are instructional planning that involve parents, specialized staff, and district staff.

      By contract the teachers only have to do this on "B" Mondays- which essentially means for a 2 hour block twice a month- and that is if those days don't fall on a holiday.

      If a parent is left out of the meeting because they work, then a couple of things happen. They are left out of the IEP under the clause "Mutually agreed upon day and time." So, parents who work are punished by either giving up a sick day, or being excluded from the meeting.

      I used to take sick days to do the meetings. They came out of my retirement. C'est la vie. The last time I did that was the day I showed up for a meeting and arrived to learn that the meeting had been cancelled and I had not been notified. That oops cost me about $300.

      The administrators are not going to press this because they don't want their teachers upset, so they don't challenge this flaw. Board member Honowitz doesn't care about special ed anyway, so conflict there is not something he is going to tangle with.

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    8. And don't forget TB, Honowitz is very dialed in with the unions.

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    9. Honowitz is dialed in with a lot of things.
      What does he do for a living again?

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    10. He's a very educated photographer, well versed in how schools are run, how to make land deals, and how to cater to the elite.

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    11. He's a courtesan.

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    12. Honowitz is a unicortesan.

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    13. is that like a eunuch?

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  8. Segregation is always accompanied by discrimination against a national group, even when the principle of racial equality has been formally established, as in the USA. There are two forms of segregation. Institutional segregation is introduced in all spheres of social life, including schools, universities, hospitals, social services, and transportation, by the establishment of parallel institutions or of separate facilities for blacks and coloreds in a particular institution. (free dictionary online)

    So. The point being a class of people, AUTISTIC. African American children not identified but labeled something else? Institutional Segregation twice.

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  9. 10:47-and don't forget about resegregation.

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    1. This does not look good. It really doesn't. Since when did public education become exclusionary? Are there people in Sierra Madre who think our education tax dollars are to fund a private school, one designed to their specifications?

      I was going to say BUILT to their specifications, but that raises another touchy subject.

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    2. Unfortunately 12:11, there is a faction of Sierra Madre Elem. parents that believe that because they donate more money, time, supplies, etc. that they are entitled to special treatment and a louder voice.

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    3. People don't see an option but to do what an authority like that of a school system. They just think this is the way it is and get in line.

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    4. Oh yes, 1:06, the Sierra Madre Prom Court. Aren't they a lovely bunch?

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    5. Yes 1:15, sad but true. The schools are turning out a bunch of mindless, compliant sheep. But what's wrong with the parents? Is this the best we can offer the children?

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  10. Moderator: Is there a way to check how many views you get from PUSD computers? I wonder if they're paying attention.

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    1. No, they're too busy covering their butts with all those investigations they're trying to slip out of.

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    2. 1:18, I don't think it's possible to track that information from this type of site.

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    3. It's not. You're right 1:18. I love the Blogger platform. It is very basic, and doesn't cost anything. And it is simple enough for me to use. But I cannot track where posts come from. And honestly, I don't think I want to. I'd rather hear what people have to say. The rest is none of my business.

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    4. That one about TVs was supposed to go here. ah, technology and the aging vision which I insist doesn't need to e corrected

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  11. Hey Crawford, I think you found yourself a decent muckraker for the PUSD segment of the Tattler.

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    1. Good thing his mailbox isn't out front.

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    2. Special people are murder on mailboxes.

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    3. 1:23 -- I think some people may have underestimated Mary and Tony. Big mistake. Two of the smartest and most determined people I know. The truth is out there and they will find it.

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    4. Well Moderator, that's something coming from you.

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    5. we think john is, in the vernacular of the yoot, " the bomb"

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  12. Check it out, papers are being pulled for the Board of Ed seats. With all that redistricting mumbo jumbo, I'm still scratching my head at what happened to Sierra Madre. Hello? Bart? Are you going to be pulling papers soon?

    http://www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/CityClerk/Nomination_Papers_Issued/

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    1. Sierra Madre doesn't get to vote for PUSD until 2015. Thanks, Bart.

      BTW, How's that El Monte FBI investugation going?

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    2. Does Bart represent himself, or did he earn some special favors from PUSD to borrow their legal teams?

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    3. Isn't it strange how Bart or those who appointed him to the redistricting commission ever bothered to explain why Sierra Madre will not be allowed to vote for its own Borad of Ed repreentative until most of the other districts do? 2015 is two years later than the majority of PUSD districts. How can this be legal? Why are we being discriminated against?

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    4. I'm with you 2:34. I don't understand how this is being allowed. It seems that the redistricting was supposed to support a more fair representation. Why isn't Sierra Madre entitled to the same?

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    5. We were told some very outrageous lies by the supporters of Measure A.

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    6. I am currently working on an exploration of the new board candidates, as well as the players in the proposition A task force. so far, interesting stuff......

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  13. Tony, thank you for your tenacity and for shining a spot light on the bigger underlying challenge parents and kids have been facing here in PUSD. If your efforts do not lead to changes in the Teacher Union (UTP) Agreement that reflects the need for teachers to adapt to the kids they are serving?.... I don't know what else can be done other than Class Action lawsuits.... a push for more charter schools (and class actions against them if they discriminate)..... brighter lights into the crevices of the Honowitz machine..... and boycotts against their supporters.
    Please do not give up. There are many without a voice who need you!

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    1. Absolutely 7:08! With the way things are looking in PUSD more money is being spent to litigate than to educate. Maybe a few class actions, OCR and CDE complaints will help them rethink the tactics that their Lozano/Smith/Fagen/Fulfrost scheisters advised them to take.

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  14. Citrus College needs to be investigated, this college is located in Glendora, California.

    And if it's anything like the Glendora city council then they do have a lot to hide from the public and law enforcement.

    The Glendora city council failed it's voting residents as well, what has the college done for the student body?

    Like the city council all they do is enrich themselves and give a lot of lip service to people who ask questions. Public records requests seem to be another one of many failings that Citrus College has recieved a "F" for.

    Don't worry the City COuncil of Glendora, California has also recieved a "F" for their efforts but a quick trip to a Court Room turned their backward minds around.

    http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_22019442/edward-barrera-is-citrus-college-hiding-something?IADID=Search-www.pasadenastarnews.com-www.pasadenastarnews.com

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