Tuesday evening's Board of Education meeting was a well attended, yearly ritual in which PUSD, like most school districts in California, paint the worst case scenario in order to try to justify the cuts they plan to make. March 1st is the date every year that the districts must notify employees that they may be out of work next September. It isn't exactly what anyone might call an exercise in team morale building.
"It is through no fault of the district," the PUSD claims. They blame the state, the Feds, declining enrollment, private schools, encroachment by special education, and the necessity for auxillary staffing as the barriers to balancing money.
"It is completely the district's fault" is the opposite claim from employees. They blame the Superintendent Jon Gundry, who is earning the typical superintendent's salary for a district the size of PUSD - and my favorite paisan John "Dr. P." Pappalardo, who is being beat down right now for getting a 2% increase for obtaining a Doctorate and the same anniversary steps that every other certificated employee gets. Apparently, it's fine when teachers earn raises, costs of living expenses, and anniversary steps, but maybe not so much when administrators do. Welcome to the PUSD.
One person no one complained about getting paid too much was Gary Carnow, the excellent IT administrator who has retired. As always, people who get things done are the ones that move on. Sorry to see him go. It already looks like the kids are going back to rock tablets and chisels.
Someone else's head is on the chopping block, my guess being David Azzcaraga, but as of 11pm Tuesday, the emergency closed session hadn't rebooted the meeting. Also no one has justified to me, anyway, why a total incompetent like Steve Miller, Director of Human Resources, should have a job when teachers, librarians, teamsters, and paraprofessionals are losing theirs. Maybe Miller can bring that great administrative pannache and style to the District Offices - you know, that special style that helped set off race riots back at Marshall Fundamental when he was the principal over there.
In any event, there are tons of things that money is wasted on that validate employees claims. In order to save redundancy, I will briefly point out they have easily spent $100,000 in legal fees covering up Honowitz and the OCR mess that went down when they went after my child. It was probably much more.
PUSD wastes literally millions of dollars bailing idiots like Comrade Honowitz out of trouble instead of just apologizing and doing the job right the first time. Then there are bundles of cash taken hand over fist by administrators on leave, and or retired, for travel and food. In my opinion the only people who should receive free food are kids who are hungry. Oh, and Honowitz. It keeps getting spilled on him before it gets to his mouth.
Sierra Madre Upper Campus Resolution 2233
Shout outs to Steve Tanner and Halcyon Koerber who outlasted me Tuesday night and saw that Resolution 2233 was moved through. Tanner hosted the Sierra Madre Upper Campus Tour yesterday for the Board hopefuls. The idea was to help establish their committment to see the project through, but only Stella Murga showed up. Just to let Ken Chawkins know what was going on most likely. In any event, it was not unlike touring a wedding party through the French Quarter post Katrina. Not unlike what a school might be if it was operated out of a series of carefully arranged large packing crates.
The Sierra Madre Upper Campus Resolution vote was 6-1, by the way. Kim Kenne being the lone wolf on this one. Anyone who pays attention to Ms. Kenne knows that she is a straight shooter and thorough to a fault, if such a thing exists. Shows a lot of backbone if you ask me. My assumption was that the numbers just didn't line up right, even on the promissory note.
Congrats to the people who worked hard to get it put through, let's hope some calamity doesn't derail it all over again. I am not holding my breath because a little bird referred to SMU as Muir Ranch East, which is funny. I hope I can look forward to pomegranate and mangos. It's a step forward I suppose, but even though this resolution isn't much more than toilet paper tight now, even toilet paper serves a purpose.
Two minute Warning
What follows is the presentation I planned to make at last night's Board Meeting. It was heavily edited by the time I actually went up to speak, and was cut down to two minutes at which point Renatta Cooper informed me my time was up. I goofed on her for a minute about calling the police to arrest me, like last week, and issue me a citation. I told her getting arrested for exercising my first amendment rights was not such a bad thing. She took in in good humor, considering the frustration of the many people there last night. It was easily the busiest Board Meeting I've seen in a year.
A couple of twelve minute speeches by Comrade Honowitz about things that pretty much outline his bountiful new Community Schools consultant commissions in the near future, along with a whole bunch of institutional racism talk that came straight out of reports by Leonard McClaren, and from the Special Education Task Force speakers like Monica Watts and the Brandenburgs, but somehow squeegeed through the Honovision Chu-Chu-Chaboogie-filter for a Brighter Honolicious Tomorrow; one that is free from separation, segregation, and financial distinctions. A world where everyone shares, rides the train, and has a cubicle to live in. Where everything that is mine is yours; and everything that is yours is also yours. Unless you are autistic, of course. Then you can go to Hillsides and Five Acres.
This week is an anniversary of sorts. A year ago, on February 28, 2012, Board President Cooper issued a Board directive. When she issued this directive, she, and the Board, made our child, and our family a promise to try and rectify what was done. Ms. Cooper reported out from closed session the following:
The board voted to deny the Brandenburg request for several investigations; however, the board has directed the superintendent to work with the Brandenburgs to address specific concerns regarding their son's education at Sierra Madre Elementary School. (click here)
The Board had no question regarding what our specific concerns were: our Autistic child was targeted, petitioned and harassed out of his 2nd grade classroom by a group of Sierra Madre parent vigilantes. This group of parents had enough influence that school staff repeatedly removed our then 7 year old child and secluded him in a storage classroom for hours at a time - without ever notifying us.
This Board Directive acknowledged that the Hostile School culture at Sierra Madre exists, even with the denial of the external investigation. We find this inconsistency most amazing of all. No answer says, "Hunh, Wha ...?" like a Definite Maybe does. Thanks for clearing all of that up.
Despite the issuance of the Board directive, a year ago this coming Thursday - not a single thing has been done to address the Hostile Environment at Sierra Madre School. There is no disability awareness curriculum, no training of parents, not even a simple apology. In fact, Mary Brandenburg was told she could go ahead and do this herself. The same parents involved in the harassment of a child continue to roam the campus, and are considered heroes - including the parent who told Comrade Honowitz that she’d use her sheriff husband, who is currently on trial for the excessive use of force, to deal with our child. Does that sound like Bullying to you?
During the same time frame that PUSD demolished Sierra Madre Upper Campus, PUSD also stood by and encouraged a group of parent vigilantes to destroy an autistic child. My child. So, three years later: in order to get things done, the people of Sierra Madre simply have to stamp their feet like five year olds, and bam, they get the Board’s ear. Unless, of course, it involves rebuilding the Upper Campus. Then it takes an Act of God.
Would you like me to have a tantrum? Shall I invite thirty of my friends here and have them take turns yelling at you? Will that get things done? How many more compliance complaints do we need to file for Special Ed to begin honoring the law? Or maybe there is no real desire on the Board's part to follow through on tonight's resolution or to help solve this problem.
At what point in time did a resolution, and there have been a couple five - take precedence over a BOARD DIRECTIVE?
When the Director of Personnel can whitewash the entire problem by saying there was no violation! Voila! He’s just saved the District from possible litigation.
Discrimination and civil rights violations against children? Not an issue when the UCP investigation is conducted internally by the director of personnel, Steve Miller, who is immune from any grievance, even if he violates board policies - as long as he finds the district “in compliance.”
Teachers are getting pay cuts or laid off while PUSD administrators, like Mr. Steve Miller, continue to rake in a fine salary with no fear of losing their jobs, or their pay - no matter how badly they fail the students.
Re: Brandenburg Request to Censure Honowitz
On March 2, 2012, as reported in the Star News (click here) and per Eddy Chu-Chu Honowitz,
“There already has been an independent investigation of the situation,” said board member Ed Honowitz, who was named in the Brandenburg’s complaint and recused himself from closed session meetings on the request. “As a result the board did not choose to commission an additional independent investigation to cover the same issues.”
Mr. Honowitz disclosed closed session deliberations to the media, closed session deliberations he stated he had recused himself from. However, what Honowitz reported to the Star News was false.
Honowitz did not recuse himself from the closed session proceedings, and in fact was present. Honowitz influenced the outcome of closed session deliberations by withholding documents from his colleagues during these sessions, the same sessions he said he recused himself from. This included direct knowledge that Special Education and Selpa Coordinator Elizabeth Blanco, who had fully participated in the PUSD internal investigation, had full knowledge of the petition. This petition was later hidden from the OCR.
(1C) Violation of Bylaw 9321.1: Closed Session Actions & Reports. The Board shall reconvene in open session before adjourning and report closed session actions, the votes or abstentions thereon, and other disclosures required by Government Code 54957.1.
On February 28, 2012, PUSD Board of Education President Renatta Cooper reported, “The Board voted in closed session to deny the Brandenburg request for several investigations, however, the Board has directed the Superintendent to continue to work with the Brandenburgs to address their specific concerns ..."
At no time did President Cooper report the votes, nor the abstentions of closed. This is a violation of the disclosure clause of Government Code 54957.1.
On March 3, 2011, Ed Honowitz reported to the Pasadena Star News/ Mercury News that he recused himself from the vote. In so stating, Honowitz not only disclosed his vote (Recused) which is a violation of vote disclosure, but also disclosed information that was not made public by Board Member Cooper; Ms. Cooper did not disclose any recusals, nor abstentions. Honowitz not only disclosed his vote (Recused) which is a violation of vote disclosure, but also disclosed information that was not made public. At no time was a statement released by the BOE granting Mr. Honowitz permission to disclose any information regarding the vote taken, nor any disclosures regarding the decision to deny the investigation.
(1B) Violation of Bylaw 9011: Disclosure of Confidential/Privileged Information; Confidential / privileged information which is produced for, or which comes out during, closed sessions of the Board shall not be divulged or released unless a majority of Board members agree to release the information, subject to applicable laws regarding closed sessions.
According to documents withheld by PUSD during the Office of Civil Rights investigation, and recent documents in the possession of Mr. Steve Miller, Elizabeth Blanco had met with and prepped both Mr. Edwin Diaz, former Superintendent, and Ed "Crib Daddy" Honowitz, Board Vice President.
Which means that not only did staff have full knowledge that our child had a disability, but it also matched up with OCR documents that revealed parents had met with both Diaz and Honowitz. This included the Sierra Madre PTA President along with the Sierra Madre PTA Webmaster, individuals that not only had direct knowledge of the child’s IEP - information they received from a staff member - but they also discussed consequences, i.e. punishment, as well as placement options. All of which was done in direct violation of FERPA.
By the way, the Item regarding us that day is the following one, for you sleuths, naysayers, and general busybodies. There are about two or three codes that indicate the Brandenburgs. The one from the previous year was Conference with Legal Counsel - Anticipated Litigation (GC §54956.9(c). Significant Exposure to Litigation: One Case.