Thursday, June 24, 2010

"She speaks for us," said Gayle Rogers.

Some time ago I posed some questions to the School Board about the dysfunction I see in the Lowell Joint family. (See “A Story About a Family.”)

The kids wonder about Dad:

Why doesn't Dad stand up to Mom and make her be nice and play fair?
Is Dad afraid of Mom?
Is Dad too unconcerned to find out what's really going on?
Or is Dad in cahoots with Mom?
Does Dad really believe everything Mom says and none of what we say?
Mom is hurting us, and Dad won't do anything about it?

Some time after that meeting, the Superintendent informed the Teachers’ Bargaining Team that she wanted to meet again (Meeting #5).

We were hopeful. We hoped that the Board might have instructed the Superintendent to come to the bargaining table with a new, more meaningful offer.

But… that. did. not. happen.

And we were disappointed.

What happened Dad?

At the close of the June 21st Board meeting, Gayle Rogers noted the current crisis is not because of the Superintendent. It is because of the economy. Gayle said this about the Superintendent, “She speaks for us.”

So when the Teachers’ Bargaining Team returned to the bargaining table, expecting some new offer, the Superintendent came back, apparently PER THE BOARD’S INSTRUCTIONS, with no offer to compromise.


Oh, rats.

One speaker at the June 21st Board meeting noted that, “Poop in a sack stinks. If you put the poop in a box and gift-wrap it, it’s still poop, and it still stinks!”

Thanks for nothing “Dad.”

So what’s our hope now? The neighbors! (This blog is a note to the neighbors.)

The parents and voters of Lowell Joint are busy, but hopefully not too busy to ask questions, insist on answers, and make their voices heard -- as individuals, as voters, or as candidates.

Too often, the Board and Superintendent provide a biased spin of information depending on the audience. Only if the “neighbors” begin to compare notes, will the truth be found out. Macy parents may hear one spin, Olita another…. You get the picture.

If you attended the Rancho graduation, you "got" to hear about seven minutes of Mr. Najera’s spin on the situation in the District. (And who was the bad guy in his spin? The teachers.) The last three minutes of Mr. Najera graduation speech was about graduation. The first seven minutes were an improper use of a public trust to advance a biased spin.

Many in the audience were incensed. The unsuspecting were fed biased information without an opportunity for a public rebuttal.

(What was the Board’s public spin on the speech: it was wonderful! (At least that’s what was said at the June 21st Board meeting. But then again, there was no public protest -- by parent, teacher, or administrator.)

Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Beware of spin-doctors (even of me!)

Each of us need to connect-the-dots.

The dots I connected recently point to a School Board directing a Superintendent not to negotiate in good faith, and that saddens me.

But it also informs my course of action.

How about you?


What's a community/parent to do? (Run for the Board!)

This "connect-the-dots" blog has led me to see a bigger picture: one that includes parent involvement at the school board level. A good recent example was the service of Cathleen Greer.

Cathleen joined the Board, served several terms, and then moved on to other challenges. She stepped forward and took her participation to the next level. She added a needed voice.

Three of five seats on the School Board are up for election. Will the voters have a choice? Is it time for you to step forward and serve?

The deadline for filing papers is looming. Go for it!

Another level of parent involvement is simply raising your voice to be heard by the Board. They say they speak for the voters. Do they speak for you?

Got questions? (Ask them!)

Who said what? June 21st Board Meeting

At the June 21st Board meeting, a dozen or so attendees braved the speaker’s podium to share their concerns, cares, and opinions. Before the meeting, 20 or so teachers picketed in the area of Whittier Boulevard and Valley Home.

What are the teachers and support staff so concerned about? (School’s out, it’s Monday night, why are they coming to a Board meeting?)

Here are some names and some of their thoughts. (Names are mostly spelled right. Add a comment if I got something wrong. Thanks.)

Leslie Mangold (Meadow Green, 3rd grade teacher): Concerns over the increasing rift in negotiations.

Note: Comments made at an earlier Board meeting by a board member have incensed many of the classified employees in the district. The comments implied that the classified employees should carry more of the weight of needed cuts because they were less essential. (This is one reason board members seldom speak after comments from the audience, because their words – and beliefs – sometimes get them in trouble.)

Teena Serrano: Rancho-Starbuck (front office): In part, Teena informed the Board that she and many of her co-workers (non-teachers), consistently put in extra hours to make sure that the school site continue to function. She and her co-workers work above and beyond the call of duty!

Unknown: Another classified employee informed the Board of the many cuts the classified employees have endured over the past years: cutting of hours, cutting of benefits, cutting of jobs, etc. Classified employees have done their part in controlling costs.

Marilyn Durrazo (Meadow Green, Kindergarten teacher): Disappointment over...

MaryJane Barger: Disappointment at the lack of meaningful negotiations on the part of the District. The District called for a resumption of talks, the union complied, and the District just repackaged the same offer, for the 4th time. (Five meetings: one offer.) She noted that the union came with a one year offer with deeper cuts than the District had asked for, but the District was unwilling to consider anything but a three-year deal. The District came to the table and informed the teachers’ union, that the Board had directed the District’s team to offer no compromises.

Monica Redell (RSP instructional assistant): Concerns over paying people a fair wage for the work they do.

Martha Leonard (Macy Parent): Martha repeated her concern over a lack of fiscal leadership by the Board and Superintendent over pay. She asked the Board again, “What pay cuts are you personally taking to show good faith towards solving the fiscal problems?” 

Jeannie Nichols (El Portal primary teacher): She asked the question: Why is the District still not bargaining in good faith?

Teresa Herman (El Portal, 3rd grade teacher): She asked Mr. Najara, “You said you’d review the budget line by line… have you?” She noted that the District’s budget projections have been overstated 13 of the last 14 times. She knew the numbers, did they? Mrs. Herman was awake during the budget presentations tonight while two (of five) board members nodded, fighting sleep and boredom? She was awake, and they needed to be too!

Ronnie Mayer (CSEA president): Concerns over change in the philosophy of the District, especially in regards to classified employees. (Ronnie was cut off by the gavel, but finished her prepared remarks in a second three-minute segment donated by another speaker.)

Nancy Rogers (Jordan, 4th grade teacher):  Nancy raised concerns over the Board’s determined course to impose permanent solutions via permanent pay cuts, when the Board continually acknowledges that the problems we face are temporary.

Kelly Aldacoa (Macy teacher): What kind of the district is the Board building? One where tyranny runs rampant?

Marikate Wissman (CTA co-president): Concerns over negotiations, or lack there-of earlier in the day.

Margaret Palmer (Olita Kindergarten teacher): Concerns over the lack of true leadership being shown by members of the Board, who are more likely to ignore problems (head-in-the-sand) than to find meaningful solutions.

Don Evans (El Portal, RSP): I spoke first about the shameful and degrading enforcement of the three-minute rule. It was rude and disrespectful. Additionally, it demonstrated the District’s true avoidance of meaningful dialogue. I provided the Board a copy of the main part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed last year by the Superintendent that assured that “in no event” would a teacher earn less in 2010-2011 than they would have had not the teachers voluntarily taken a temporary freeze in the salary schedule. That this was true was evidenced by the line item in their own “Approved Actuals” report presented earlier in the evening. A Board, which preaches Character Education and Honesty, is guilty of attempting to renege on their written, signed contract. That’s hypocrisy! (And maybe illegal.) ---- Then the bell rang --- and I said, “Go ahead, hit the gavel.” (But they didn’t, and I walked away.)

Ronnie Mayer (Part two): Ronnie noted that the Board’s repeated actions against the classified employees have greatly undermined morale. Despite all the Board has done, employees have continued to show up and perform their duties as true professionals, quite often above and beyond contractual limits. These employees deserve respect, not disrespect.

My apologies for mistakes in content and/or the spelling of names. If I got something wrong, let me know. Especially if you think I missed the point of what you said! This post is more of second-draft. If you have improvements, let me know.

Final Thoughts: The employees of Lowell Joint continue to provide award-winning performance for the students and the families of Lowell Joint. The recent Distinguished School awards simply document a reality that has been in place for decades. The above-and-beyond level of service is predicated on the professionalism and goodwill of the work force. That goodwill is being undermined by repeated indignities (both personal and fiscal) being imposed by the Board of Trustees and its Superintendent.

Ultimately, it is the participating public that needs to provide the pressure needed to keep Lowell Joint the jewel it has been for decades.
Those who give of their time and talents volunteering on campuses, in PTA committees, may also need to consider serving at a higher level of the organization. 

Applications for running for the School Board are due… very soon! 

(Mrs. Averill announced her resignation at the end of the June 21st board meeting. The meeting closed with Mrs. Averill presenting a gift to Mrs. Rogers, who announced last month that she was not seeking re-election.) 

Three of five seats are up for election. Will the voters have a choice? I hope so.


Shameful Behavior: The Three-Minute Rule and the Gavel of “Shhh!!!!”

The June 21st Board of Trustees meeting was an interesting, though long affair.

The meeting began on time at 7:30 with an overflow crowd of District staff and some parents attending.

The meeting began with well wishes from Jan Averill who said how glad she was to have so many attending, despite busy summer schedules.

How ironic that the District staff had closed many of the normally open rooms to keep people in the audience from getting themselves chairs to sit on: for over two and a half hours.

How ironic, that though an overflow crowd was expected, no attempt was made to provide a sound system to aid the hearing of those in the room, in the hallways, or in the lobby. Not even the microphone on the speaker’s platform was operational, nor a microphone for the Board President. How ironic? How shameful! (Perhaps it borders on intentional and sinister.)

Perhaps you think I’m overreacting? Well, I was informed that a district custodian was stationed in the main hallway with directions from the district, not to allow chairs to be brought out for those attending to use. How welcoming? (Or not.) How shameful. (How hypocritical! “Glad to see you… please remain standing…”)

Probably 95% or more of the audience was there to speak to Item 9 on the Agenda: Other Topics. (One set of parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bakis did question why the district was starting school so early this year, and why the District was making Thanksgiving a whole week of vacation.)

After waiting patiently for over 1 ½ hours the “welcomed” public was allowed to speak to Item 9: Other Topics. How welcome were the opinions, cares, and concerns of these Lowell Joint “family” members? The Board chose this night to enforce the three-minute-rule via a three-minute timer and a gong (I mean gavel.) Really?

I understand the need to keep the long-winded under control. I understand the need to keep a long meeting from getting epic. I understand Robert’s Rules of Order. What I don’t understand is how a school board that says, “We value you; You are important; You are appreciated;” could, through its actions, say, “Shut up. Sit down. We’ve heard enough. Your words aren’t worth more than three minutes: exactly!”

Researchers tell us that most people fear public speaking more than they do death, yet this night a dozen people had prepared remarks, come early, signed up to speak, waited their turn, only to be cut-off as they were in the process of making closing statements. REALLY???

Who would do that? Why would they do that? If actions speak louder than words, then the Board made clear that they are not interested in hearing from their “family” of employees, both classified and certificated. From their position of elected authority, they repeatedly issued a loud “Shhh…” via the sound of a bell and a gavel.

How bad was it? Mrs. Averill imposed the three-minute gavel on Mrs. Mayer, the president of the classified union, who had more than a dozen unit members standing while she made her remarks. (12 x 3 would be 36 minutes, but Ronnie was given three. She only needed six. She was reading her speech.)

The district is calling for “civility” in our exchanges, yet they gave an institutionalized “Shhh” to the head of one of the unions? It was shameful, and I said so when my turn came to speak.

Another member of the audience turned in a request to speak and then granted her minutes so that Mrs. Mayer could complete her remarks. She did so in less than three additional minutes. Could the board not give six minutes to the head of a bargaining unit with so many of the unit members in attendance? Really? (How unwise. How shortsighted. How rude. How uncivil.)

In another post I’ll share a bit about what each of the dozen speakers said, because it will not show up in the “In the Know.” Why not?

Because the Board demonstrated that it is not interested in any other opinion other than its own, nor is it interested in listening to the other stakeholders in the district, at least not to the workers.

What stakeholders will they listen to? The voting public! The informed and questioning public!

(And I’ll bet that they are a lot less likely to impose a three-minute rule on them when they speak at a Board Meeting. Just ask the Bakis family: they asked questions, they got answers, and they did not get the gavel.

The gavel was reserved for others. The gavel-of-shame was wielded to quell the speech of those who also asked questions, but got no answers. Who shared concerns, but got no response. What did we get? The gavel.

(We didn’t even get rollover minutes from the many who spoke in less than three-minutes.) AT&T gets it. Why doesn’t our Board?

Shame on them.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Majoring in the Minors: CPN... A sad sample of misguided priorities.

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." Thomas Jefferson

As I noted in an earlier post, I believe that the District has proposed adding language into the current contract that would disallow the use of Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN) before or after a contractual holiday.

You might think I'm exaggerating when I talk of Majoring in the Minors, but I'm not. A good example of this is the recent case of Mrs. Herman, a third grade teacher at El Portal. Mrs. Herman had scheduled herself to compete in the Paris Marathon during Spring Break. Her doctor suggested that she should allow several days to acclimate, and as a result Mrs. Herman used her two contractual CPN days to arrive early enough to acclimate prior to competing. So what's the problem?

The Superintendent decided that this was an opportunity to invoke disciplinary action! So she did.

A letter was written admonishing the teacher, and the letter was placed in the teacher's personnel file.

But Mrs. Herman is not easily intimidated, bullied, or mistreated. She filed a grievance. (Not allowing evil to triumph sometimes requires that we learn what are rights are, and how to stand up for them. Go Mrs. Herman!)

Mrs. Herman also responded to the Superintendent's letter with one of her own, which was also placed in the personnel file.

In the end, the Superintendent agreed "to remove the formal discipline notice and Ms. Herman's accompanying response from Ms. Herman's personnel file effectively this date, May 24, 2010."

This all transpired just before the District supplied their final contractual offer before declaring impasse. In that new "offer" --  new language was added trying to codify the Superintendent's stamp of disapproval regarding the use of CPNs. Majoring in the Minors... at the expense of employee good will.

At the bottom of this post, I'll supply the text from all three pieces of correspondence. Mrs. Herman was willing to share them with us in hopes that this too will help us "connect the dots" and bring into focus some of the problems haunting Lowell Joint... behind closed doors.

Before the letters, how about a bit of irony...

"Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry." -- Thomas Jefferson

On the two days in question, I believe the Superintendent was on vacation, so she could spend some time with her husband, whose Spring Break did not line up with Lowell Joint's.

(Per her contract, she has vacation days that can be used at her discretion: no questions asked.)

"When people fear the government, you have tyranny. When the government fears the people, you have liberty" - Thomas Jefferson

* * * * * *
In reverse chronological order:

"Decision of Principal, Department Head or Next Level Supervisor:
     On May 24, 2010, the parties met to consider Teresa Herman's appeal and request to have the formal discipline notice and her accompanying response removed from her personnel file. In question was Ms. Herman's use of Compelling personal Necessity (CPN) on April 8 and 9, 2010, for travel to Paris, France, in order to compete in the Paris marathon. At issue was the interpretation of Article XXIII, Section F(1) of the Lowell Joint Education Association (LJEA) Contract regarding Personal Necessity that states: 'Personal Necessity Leave may be utilized by a unit member who has sufficient unused sick leave credit for circumstances which cannot be dealt with during off-duty hours and that are serious in nature, that is which cannot be expected to be disregarded and/or which necessitate immediate attention... Each unit member may use two (2) days of leave, under this provision, per year for personal reasons other than concerted activities. This day shall be deducted from the unit member's sick leave, and the reason for absence shall be Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN.)'
     It is Ms. Herman's contention that she was not in violation of the above referenced Article. It is the District's contention that while CPN days may be used for personal reasons, given that the days are entitle as Personal Necessity days, the personal reasons for the use of CPN days must fall within the description of Personal Necessity days as included in Article XXIII stated above, and that vacation days do not comply with the description as stated in the LJEA Contract. There, Ms. Herman's use of CPN days for vacation time was a violation of Article XXIII.
     During the conference on May 24, 2010, the Superintendent shared three areas that were of concern: (1) Ms. Herman's principal, as her direct supervisor, had approved the use of the two CPN days prior to April 8, 2010, knowing that Ms. Herman was planning to leave early for France. (2) While the District had not proposed deducting salary for the use of two work days, the Superintendent has determined that under the previous superintendents(s) Article XXIII, Section F(1) was not consistently interpreted and applied. (3) While Ms. Herman and the Superintendent have differing views as to the interpretation of the definition of a CPN day, it is clear that both LJEA and the District need to work together to further define the use of a CPN day and both parties need to be diligent in education the unit members and the administrative team regarding contract language.
     Therefore, the Superintendent agrees to remove the formal discipline notice and Ms. Herman's accompanying response from Ms. Herman's personnel file effectively this date, May 24, 2010."

Reading between the lines (where I added bolding above), I see that not all previous Superintendent's agreed with Dr. Howell's interpretation, and that -- by golly -- we need to add language to the contract (Further Define), so that Dr. Howell's interpretation will prevail! And be taught! And be adhered to! (Grrrr....)


"May 6, 2010

Dr. Patricia Howell
Lowell Joint School District
11019 Valley Home Avenue
Whittier, CA 90603

Re: Use of Compelling Personal Leave

Dr. Howell:

This letter is written to inform you that my use of Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN) leave on April 8 and 9, 2010, was not in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement and does not constitute cause for disciplinary action. There, your recent letter I received on April 29, has no place in my personnel file.

Your contention that my use of Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN) leave on April 8 and 9, 2010, was in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement represents your misunderstanding of the collective bargaining agreement.

The District's contractual agreement with the Lowell Joint Education Association (LJEA), Article XXIII, Section F(1), states the following concerting Persona Necessity (PN) and Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN) days: 'Persona Necessity Leave may be utilized by a unit member who has sufficient unused sick leave credit for circumstances which cannot be dealt with during off-duty hours and that are serious in nature, that is which cannot be expected to be disregarded and/or which necessitate immediate attention. A leave of absence for personal necessity may be granted to a unit member, for no more that twenty (20) days in each school year. Additional leave may be grated at the discretion of the Superintendent. Such leaves shall be deducted from a unit member's accumulated sick leave benefits for those situations necessitating the unit member's absence from duty. Each unit member may use two (2) days of leave, under this provision, per year for personal reasons other that concerted activities. These days shall be deducted from the unit member's sick leave, and the reason for the absence shall be Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN.)'

The language is very clear. Your contention fails to recognize a unit member's right to 'use two (2) days of leave per year for personal reasons other than concerted activities.' You further fail to recognize that 'the reason for the absence shall be Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN).'

Your assertion, per our conversat6ion on April 29, in the presence of Kim Likert, my school site administrator, and Tom Hollister, my representative from the California Teachers' Association, that CPN days were to be used for private matters such as psychological counseling and the like, implies that the collective bargaining agreement allows you to determine the scope of what is 'compelling, personal, or necessary' for any and all unit members. Clearly, such determinations are outside your purview. The CPN box checked serves as all that is required as a  reason. Please note that while it is not necessary for me to obtain the approval of my site administrator to take CPN days, as you know, my principal was aware of my plans, and substantiated my course, and validated my right to utilize my CPN days.

Furthermore, your practice of asking site administrators why teachers are taking CPN days, as you admitted to in our conversation on April 29, is emblematic of how you endeavor to overstep the boundaries stated in the collective bargaining contract. Frankly, it smacks of bullying and intimidation and undermines the professional relationship otherwise enjoyed by the teachers and site administrators of Lowell Joint.

Allow me to explain how this practice of yours is playing out across the district. When one of my colleagues heard last week about how disciplinary action was the topic of my conversation with you last Thursday afternoon, she responded with, "'I was planning to take my CPN day to attend a church function next month. I guess I should call in sick instead." Dr. Howell, is that the kind of work environment you wish to create? The fall-out of your management style is an unhealthy work environment. Teachers in Lowell Joint are feeling intimidated into reporting they are sick, instead of exercising their right to use CPN days, as afforded by the collective bargaining agreement. Be aware of that.

Your letter states: 'Your conduct is also in violation of Board Policy 4219.21 - Professional Standards. The policy states: ""The Board of Trustees expects district employees to maintain the highest ethical standards, follow district policies and regulations, and abide by state and federal laws. Employee conduct should enhance the integrity of the district and advance the goals of the educational programs. Each employee should make a commitment to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill his/her responsibilities and should focus on his/her contribution to the learning and achievement of district students. The Board encourages district employees to accept as guiding principles the professional standards and codes of ethics adopted by professional associations to which the may belong."

Your proclamation is puzzling to me. To my mind, training for and completing a marathon exemplifies goal setting and self-discipline, two of the character traits addressed in our District Character Education Program. I proudly teach these character traits and endeavor to reflect them in my professional and personal life. I recognize and take very seriously my responsibility to lead by example, and to that end, I was proud to share my experience of running the Paris Marathon with my students. I dare say, they shared my pride and were genuinely happy for my accomplishment. One student shared as we discussed my fitness goals and progress toward them, 'You've gotta go, Mrs. Herman. You've trained hard for it and it is your dreams.'

Your letter further states: "your duties as a professional education and your responsibilities to the students in your classroom are of utmost importance. As a teacher you are expected to serve as a role model for students in the district. Knowing that El Portal Elementary School and the District have been stressing the importance of student attendance every day, it is disappointing that you would knowingly miss two days of school for your own personal vacation time. This misconduct constitutes ground for discipline under Education Code Section 44939, and justification for withholding compensation under Education Code Section 45055."

Your hurtful accusation and question of my integrity begs the questions:

How do you then justify the District's proposal for the elimination of instructional days for the 2010-2011 school year, when such a proposal knowingly denies all students of Lowell Joint School District of education days?

How do you account for the fact that a Lowell Joint School District Board member took her child out of school early in recent years to head for a European vacation, and was congratulated and encouraged by District Administration for such an educational endeavor?

Why do you assume that my Compelling Personal Necessity was for my "own personal vacation time" when in fact an arrival time two nights prior to the Paris Marathon was necessary for adequate rest and adequate time to adjust to the vast time difference? Such preparation was vital to a healthful and successful completion of the marathon. French law mandates that all marathon participants provide a medical release form signed by a medical doctor in order to take part. I received this approval from my physician, with the understanding that I would have adequate time in Paris prior to the race to rest and adjust to the time difference. It should be noted here that these facts are again, outside your purview and only addressed here to respond to your false assumption.

Have you reviewed my Lowell Joint School District Evaluations of Teaching Effectiveness on file as you attacked my Profession Standards? They speak for themselves.

How do your practices of question site administrators about teachers' use of CPN days and intimidating teachers into being fearful of exercising their right to CPN days "enhance the integrity of the District?" You cited Board Policy 4219.21 - Professional Standards. Ironically, I believe you need to question your own behavior, as District Policy clearly refers to all District employees, not just teachers.

As you attack my right to take my CPN days, have you, at all, considered the fact that I worked a full day, each Saturday and Sunday, at my school site, for three consecutive weeks to prepare for our visit by the committee evaluation our school for the California Distinguished School Award? My colleagues and I wanted to make sure we were presenting our school in the most favorable light possible as we applied for that prestigious award. The extra time that was required was given freely by each of us. As professionals, we recognized the need to go the extra mile in order to earn this honor that bodes so well for Lowell Joint. We are so pleased and proud to be recognized as a California Distinguished School.

Your accusations are hurtful and unfounded.

The education Code Section you cite reads: "Except as otherwise provided in this code no warrant shall be drawn in favor of any teacher, unless the officer whose duty is to draw the warrant is satisfied that the teacher has faithfully performed all the duties prescribed."

You believe, as discussed in your letter that "the use of a CPN day must fall within the description of a PN day" does not line up with the contractual agreement. Quite simply, Dr. Howell, if CPN days needed to fall within the description of PN days, the CPN provision would not exist. To that end, when I checked the box "Compelling Personal Necessity" on my leave report, my report was complete and in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. The "Brief details" referring to items 'a' through 'h' under this policy refer to Personal Necessity. Compelling Personal Necessity is clearly delineated in both the collective bargaining agreement and the Lowell Joint School District Leave Report. Disciplinary action and/or a letter in my personnel file are inappropriate. I have and continue to perform all duties of my position in accordance with the LJEA contract, Board Policy, and the Education Code regulations, including properly utilizing CPN and PN days.


Theresa Herman

(The letter was cc'd to the principal, the LJEA co-presidents, Tom Holister - CTA rep, and all members of the school board. I hope they read it.)

A bit more irony?  Dr. Howell not only holds a Clear Administrative Credential, but she holds a teaching credential: Authorized Subject?... wait for it... Physical Education (by examination), with a supplementary authorization in Introductory Mathematics. C'mon!

Holder of a PE authorization, disciplining a marathon runner? She can't validate the endeavor? Really?


My hands are tired so I'm not going to retype Dr. Howell's entire two-page letter. The majority of it is quoted in Mrs. Herman's letter. I'll just give you the final two paragraphs:

"You are directed to perform all duties of your position in accordance with the LJEA contract, Board Policy, and Education Code regulations, including properly utilizing CPN and PN days."

"Your failure to comply with these directives could result in disciplinary action. Moreover, the District does not intend to impinge upon your right to participate in activities protected by law; however, your conduct as described above is not protected by law and should not be repeated."



Nothin' better to do than sniff out such non-violations? Really?

Let's Major in the Majors! And remove the "clarifying" language re: CPNs from the current "offer"! 

PS: Special thanks to Mrs. Herman for standing up for what is right, for allowing us to peak in behind closed doors, and for completing the Paris Marathon! Yowza.

On a happier note: Back to the Bargaining Table

The District (Dr. Howell) e-mailed the Teachers' Bargaining Team requesting a meeting on June 21st to negotiate. (LJEA said, "Yes!")


A flier was put out by LJEA saying,

"Thank You for Your Support at the Board Meeting!!"

"The district has invited LJEA back to the bargaining table on June21st!! Let's all think Positive!"

Although the In the Know barely acknowledged the 100 or so teachers, parents, and grandparents that showed up at the Board meeting, it appears we made some impact.

Special thanks to those who spoke. Here's a list of those who spoke under: "Items Not on the Agenda." If you see them, ask them what they spoke about... (Sorry if I missed anyone.)

Don (Ponce/Potts?) parent (sorry about the last name)
Kelly Aldecoa
Margaret Palmer
John Dobson (grandparent)
Marsha Leonard (Macy parent)
Marikate Wissman (co-president LJEA)
Don Evans (RSP teacher El Portal) ;-)
Alison (teacher/parent)
Susie Toice (Meadow Green parent)
Shelly Pimper (Co-president LJEA)
Cindy Dember (Macy teacher... who also announced her retirement!)

Together, Everyone, Achieves, More: Go TEAM!

On a happier note: School Board Votes for Smaller Class Size

The only notice I got was a message written on a white board in the teacher's lounge. Someone would like to add details in a comment or e-mail?

(This move will mean a better education for children and teacher jobs saved.)

Majoring in the Minors... CPNs.

Once upon a time, a decade or so ago, I had a boss who was fond of saying, "Let's not major in the minors." It's another way of saying, Let's make sure we are focused on what is of major importance, not on what is of minor importance.

I think a case in point is the issue of Compelling Personal Necessity days. The current contract allows teachers to take two days off a year for reasons of Compelling Personal Necessity, aka CPN.

Here's how the current contract reads: (Page 53)

"1. Personal Necessity Leave may be utilized by a unit member who has sufficient unused sick leave credit for circumstances which cannot be dealt with during off-duty hours and that are serious in nature, that is which cannot be expected to be disregarded and/or which necessitate immediate attention. A leave of absence for personal necessity may be granted to a unit member, for not more than twenty (20) days in each school year. Additional leave may be granted at the discretion of the Superintendent. Such leaves shall be deducted from a unit member's accumulate sick leave benefits for those situations necessitating the unit member's absence from duty. Each unit member may use two (2) days of leave, under this provision , per year for personal reasons other than concerted activities. This day shall be deducted from the unit member's sick leave, and the reason for absence shall be Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN). Other personal necessity leave under this policy shall be granted in the following situations:"

Then the categories for Other Personal Necessity are listed: Death of a Member of the Family, Illness in the Immediate Family, Accident of an Emergency nature, Danger to Home or Property of Unit Member, Paternity Leave, Funeral, Examination for Selective Service, Court Appearance, Graduation Ceremony of an Immediate Family Member, and Weddings of Immediate Family Members.

Here is what the Superintendent wants to change the contract to:

Something along the line: Compelling Personal Necessity cannot happen on a day proceeding or following a holiday or vacation. (Really?) 

Who would want to open that can of worms? Who would want to be so invasive into a worker's use of Sick Leave, when the current contract includes the language in order to give some Personal leeway? Who?

Someone who wants to major in the minors. Someone who wants to ignore all the personal sacrifice given by workers without pay for the good of the students and District. Someone who wants to be penny wise and pound foolish. Someone who discounts the value of the good will of their workforce. That's how I see it. And it's sad, but indicative of a management stance that needs to be altered.

Is this really an issue the District wants to raise a flag and die on? (School Board... do you need to advise your Superintendent and your bargaining team?)

This is of MAJOR importance? This is worth aggravating your self-sacrificing teaching staff over? (Really?)

It's insulting to me that the District would feel compelled to make this a contractual matter. I think it falls in the category of majoring in the minors. Teachers recently gave many extra hours, weekends, and money to help Lowell Joint win Distinguished School Awards. None of the teachers submitted a bill to the District. Teachers who feel valued often behave in self-sacrificing ways.

When I worked in business, there was something called, Compensatory Time Off. It was a matter of "You scratch my back: I'll scratch yours." It was a matter of helping each other get done what needed to get done and then repaying an unofficial debt. It was a way of saying, "I value you and your sacrifice."

It helped build morale. It built camaraderie. It demonstrated appreciation. It also gave my boss some unofficial flexibility: some employee good will. My boss couldn't always reward us financially, but he did reward us with the next best thing: time off. Some, if not most of this activity was "off-the-books." The company practiced a bit of "Don't ask. Don't tell." Why?

Because we were majoring in the majors, not the minors. Majors like getting the job done, respecting each other, valuing each other, and rewarding each other in meaningful ways, even if it meant bending some rules.

Why? Because in the arena of human cooperation: that's just good leadership.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Life at the DO

The following is a guest post from Melissa. She couldn't leave a comment, so she sent me an e-mail. With her permission, I share it with this reading community.

Thank you, Don, for the post on the definition of a Superintendent. I tried to post this reply on your blog, but don't have any of the accounts listed.

As you may know I worked at the D.O. p/t from Nov 07 to June 09 as Rosie's Asst. Unfortunately, as I read all of the posts from the teachers and you, I am sad to hear that it wasn't only at the D.O. that morale was so bad, but that it has affected our teachers and staff at our schools so pervasively, as well. The stress level at the D.O. when I was there was palpable! We were all on pins & needles, and no one would speak out but for some, quietly, for fear of retribution. I have learned this sadly hasn't changed. It was virtually impossible to give your best there under such conditions no matter how hard you tried! This just shouldn't be, not when our kids are involved! Honestly, though I was there to help my family financially, I was so relieved to have been laid-off! It makes me angry that this is happening to our wonderful district with so many dedicated teachers and staff that have created and fostered this incredible district that has kept so many through the years moving to our area or transferring schools just to be able to attend us!

As examples, leaders, and mentors to our children, we must be able to make their school environment one that as a family continues to promote the joy of learning and discovery, but how it's so difficult to do in the midst of stress, strain, and frustration! I truly believe that with my experience working directly in the Supt's office, and being involved in the PTA at EP and now at Macy in various positions, and as a business owner, not to mention plenty of time on my hands right now, I can be a voice that stands against the injustices and help force a turn-around, taking back our great district and making right the wrongs that have gone on for too long now! We need to change the long-term effects as well as deal with the short-term issues by challenging and changing the manner in which we are currently governed. I hope to have the opportunity to lend my time and voice to this imperative task!

Thank you for your voice, Don.


Melissa Salinas
Macy Parent

(Thank you Melissa for providing a window into "Life at the D.O." It's not a pretty sight.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Those who cannot remember the past...

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

Recently I asked Mary Jane for some background information on when the last time Lowell Joint had gone to impasse. Mary Jane went the second mile and provided this background information. It was helpful to me. Maybe it will be helpful to you, the reader. (Note that "In the Know" has had its bias for years.)


Well, it was a trip down memory lane after school today. I wanted to really research the dates for impasse.

Our first impasse occurred in 83-84. We started negotiations with the district in May 1983. We filed for impasse in December, 1983. The mediator came twice and we reached agreement with the district by February 29, 1984.

Our second impasse was in 2007. Howell was hired July 1, 2006. During the Spring of 2006, Ron would not negotiate the contract which was to expire June 30, 2006 since he was interim Superintendent.

So after Howell started in July, 2006, Julie Mayhew and I went to her in August, 2006 and offered to rollover the contract for a year since she was new to the district and we were in such a financial mess. Her response was a definite "no" because she had concerns about our contract. Part of her concern was the fact that we were to get a funded COLA that year if we rolled over the contract and she was opposed to it.

So we started to negotiate in Nov. 06, which was the soonest that the district was ready. We had 10 meetings, mostly after school hours for us, and then impasse was declared on March 30, 2007. We met with the mediator on May 8, 07 and June 1, 07 and officially reached an agreement on Thurs June 28, 2007.

So we were without a contract for one full year. It was devastating to read IN THE KNOW for all those months. I have kept the copies and they are all the district's point of view. Also remember that she used district money to communicate with the parents. We were getting In the Know frequently and we then had to publish our own information to combat her point of view.

It was truly ugly and no wonder I blotted out all the dates and information. Our contract for that period was for 2006-2009. In Spring of 2009, Howell did agree to roll over the contract with the MOU for freezing step and column since no one really knew about the crisis in the state budget. So we are at the end of our one year agreement and trying desperately to negotiate another contract.

Hope this helps with the "perspective" and now you are up-to-date with all the correct dates.

Mary Jane

(Special thanks to Mary Jane for letting me share this with you.)

What is a Superintendent to do?

What is a Superintendent to do? (I looked it up and created a list of three.)

1) To manage the school system and provide leadership according to the district’s vision.

2) Oversees employee relations in the school system.

3) Maintains open lines of communication and cooperative relations with a school staff, the School Board, parents, and the community at large.

Provide leadership? (Lead by example?) Really?

Oversee employee relations? (Promote employee morale?) Really?

Maintain cooperative relations? (Like keep promises, overlook minor faults, and negotiate fairly?) Really?

Strike one, two, three.


More family talk and Deja-vu (Impasse)

Family Talk
After the Board meeting last night (June 7th), two of the negotiators from the 2007 union team were talking. One recalled, that during those negotiations, the other had likened Dr. Howell to an evil step-mother invading our family and giving rules where they weren’t needed or appreciated, coming into the family without any past history, and making unnecessary changes without getting to know the family.

This was done in a face-to-face negotiations session. The words were uttered in the heat of the moment, but they didn’t seem to have an effect.

Why not?

Perhaps because to the Superintendent: we are more like a business than a family to her.

Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe some of us are just starting to see what’s been there all along. Maybe the public is just becoming aware of what’s been happening behind closed doors.

Trust is built, a little at a time. Trust is lost in large lumps.

Another speaker at the June 7th Board meeting noted that although many of the negotiators on the union side have been negotiating with the District for years, it’s only recently that impasse has become a typical (two-time) outcome. When was the last time the negotiations went to impasse before Dr. Howell’s tenure began? Way back in 1983. Wow.

Have financial times always good between then and now? I doubt it. The State’s economy fluctuates.

But the union and District leadership negotiated fairly, agreements were reached, and impasse was avoided.

Until… the family-style leadership began to be transformed into a business-styled leadership. A family certainly has a financial side, and families need to be fiscally responsible, but families do business differently than businesses.

Who does LJSD want to become? A business run by a boss, or a public school district led by a Board of Trustees and Superintendent with a business head and a mother’s heart.

2007, 2010: Deja-vu all over again?


PS: Not all step-mothers are evil. Some are wonderful! Just sayin’!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Story About a Family

(This is the "story" I told at the June 7th Board Meeting, under "Other Topics.")

Last time
At an earlier Board meeting I spoke about “butchery masquerading as bargaining and deception masquerading as good faith.” I had us look at the numbers: the heart of the contract -- the proposed, unfair salary schedule.

Then I waited... and looked for change...

And nothing came...

So on June 7th, I was back again.
Why am I back?
The Contract: It's Personal.
It's a family matter.
A speech didn't bring change, maybe a story will...

A Story About a Family
Some say that Lowell Joint is like a family, and it is.
Some say it's run like a dictatorship, and that it has been for decades.
But in the past... it was run by a Benevolent Dictator, a dictator with a big heart.
But things seem to have changed and so...
These days the kids in the family are upset.
The family is dysfunctional... and there are rumblings/speeches/stories.

Tight Times
Tight times put stress on families, but sometimes they just highlight what's been going on for years.
Most family struggles surround two topics: kids and money.

Hmmm... What do kids want and need?
Kids want two things: fairness and safety.

Kids want Fairness
More chores and less allowance? That's not fair!
Pretending to be nice in front of the neighbors: students and parents. That's not fair!
Having to make small talk instead of real talk when we pass in the hallway. That's not fair!
And for our birthday present? A manual from the DMV?

Kids want Safety
We get scolded by Mom for missing chores, while Mom wasn't there to do hers? That's not fair!
Mom makes us change bedrooms because we don't do what she says.
Some of the kids just disappear... Exiled? Laid-off? Forced resignations?
And I hear Mom got a lawyer to help rework the family contract! Oh, no. That can’t be good.

Money is tight
Money is tight, but Mom controls the purse-strings.
No money for our allowances, but Mom and her Directors get raises!
Mom makes charts and speeches and blames the State economy... but what’s really going on?

What can the kids do?
So the children complain to Dad: “Dad, Mom's being unfair and mean!”
So Dad says, "Okay, I'll talk to Mom" but nothing changes.
The allowance schedule stays the same.
And behind close doors... things don't change... the tyranny continues…

So the kids wonder...

The kids wonder about Dad
Why doesn't Dad stand up to Mom and make her be nice and play fair?
Is Dad afraid of Mom?
Is Dad too unconcerned to find out what's really going on?
Or is Dad in cahoots with Mom?
Does Dad really believe everything Mom says and none of what we say?
Mom is hurting us, and Dad won't do anything about it?

The kids wonder about Mom
Why does Mom hurt the kids behind closed doors and act like every thing's okay?
Why does Mom parade the kids in front of the neighbors and pretend every thing's okay?
Why don't I trust Mom to tell the truth or listen to others?
The kids wonder about ourselves
Will we be punished for complaining?
What will happen to us when no one is looking?

Maybe I need to tell the neighbors what's going on...
What did that DMV manual say? In the back...

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

The King practiced tyranny, so the colonists made a list for all to see!
A list of abuses published on the world-wide-web for all to see?
Would people connect-the-dots?
Would the tyranny stop then?

Don, Why not just give up or shut up?
It's a family matter.

The Contract: It's Personal.

Because if a speech and a story don't change things...
...maybe a public list will.

Maybe then we call all connect-the-dots and see what's really going on in the Lowell Joint family.

“To criticize is easy, to do better, may be difficult.”

Life is a process of on-going improvement.
I’m a problem solver, but I’m not sure what the problem is, and
I’m afraid the problem may be bigger than the current contract...

The future is just ahead, so let’s change it!

Arbitrary and capricious behavior!

In a recent post I noted that "Repeated indignities large and small seem to be a recurring theme in Lowell Joint." And that, “Perhaps the current negotiation process is only high-lighting a larger problem?”

Some teachers are waking up in the middle of the night angry. Why?

Because we feel betrayed, lied to, and mistreated. Our sense of justice has been violated. Some of us feel that tyranny is seeping into our professional lives. What is tyranny? It is “oppressive power exerted by government,” in this case our District leadership. So what are we to do?

The Declaration of Independence provides us with a model for dealing with tyranny.
"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

The colonists decided provide a set of examples of the behaviors they interpreted as injurious, usurpataious, and tyrannical.
So, let me give you an example from our current LJ history:

The recent "complete" minutes of the Board meeting of June 7, 2010 contained a section on a recent dispute about a layoff notice.
One teacher was laid-off by the District and another one wasn't. The one who was laid off protested and filed a complaint. She didn’t think she was being treated fairly by the District. The two parties went before a judge, with the Superintendent representing the District's layoff decision.

The judge ruled in favor of the protesting laid-off teacher.

In addition to the fact that the District got the issue all wrong, the judge also commented on the manner in which the District pursued its aims. In the judge's summation concerning the District's position presented by the Superintendent, the judge noted that the District behaved in a manner that was "capricious and arbitrary."

The judge also stated that the District's misapplication of reasoning and policy was a "guise" for circumventing the clear intent of the law.
One of the major complaints in the current cycle of contract negotiations is the apparent high-handed inflexibility being demonstrated by the District's negotiating team led by the Superintendent.
It's almost like the District is being "capricious and arbitrary." It's almost like the District's performance at the bargaining table has simply been a "guise." It's almost like there is a recurring theme of indignities large and small, of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of absolute tyranny. This time, a judge stopped the injustice and tyranny. (Woohoo!)

Hopefully, this is an indicator of a new trend. Hopefully, the District noted that "capricious and arbitrary" behavior in matters of contract law will come to light and justice will prevail. And hopefully, this incident will serve as another Connect-the-dots moment for the reader.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you’d like to see the document… “Complete minutes of each Board meeting are available in the Superintendent’s Office for review.” (Sure wish they were available as a PDF on the District’s main web-site… but they are not.)
I’ll provide a few paragraphs from the judge’s ruling below, just to provide context. Quotes are from Exhibit A in the LJSD Board Meeting minutes of June 7, 2010:

“Nancy Beezy Micon, Administrative Law Judge, Office of Administrative Hearings, heard this matter on April 26, 2010, in Whittier, California.”

“Superintendent Howell’s use of tie-breaking criteria number ten to determine Respondents’ relative qualifications for a potential assignment was improperly applied. Tie-breaking criteria are not to be used to determine a person’s qualifications for an assignment. The use of criteria ten as a basis to determine competency is inherently unfair since the person currently holding the potential assignment is likely to have more years of service in the subject matter or field. The majority of employees who have the same first date of paid service are not being compared for potential assignments. The criteria are intended to be used to rank seniority based on the needs of the District. In this case, the wording of tie-break criteria number ten was vague and it led to the application of tie-breaking criteria number ten in a manner that was arbitrary and capricious.” (Page 6)

“A senior teacher has a right to have competence determined with a view to courses and programs. A senior teacher has a right to have a competency determination focused on his or her specific training and experience as they relate to the duties of a position. A school district may not, in the guise of determining whether a teacher is competent, promote some policy that is not focused on that question.” (Page 9 and 10)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Guest Posts: An Invitation

One of the goals/purposes of this blog is to provide a forum for others in Lowell Joint who want to contribute pieces to puzzle. If you have information or a story, or even a good question that you'd like to pose in a post... then type it up and submit to me at

My belief is that the more information available, the easier to define the problem(s), and the easier to see viable solutions.

If you're interested in providing a guest post or posts... let me know.

It's about dignity!

Reading the headlines this morning, my attention was caught by a story from Associated Press about Chinese workers committing suicide. Wow.

So I read the article. Here are some highlights:

Title: Foxconn to give Chinese workers another pay raise

"TAIPEI, Taiwan — Foxconn workers in China will get another pay raise in coming months, on top of an increase that just took effect in response to recent worker suicides, the company said Sunday."

"Less than a week ago, the maker of iPads, iPhones and other electronic gadgets for international companies had raised workers' pay by 30 percent at its plants across China."

"This wage increase has been instituted to safeguard the dignity of workers," said Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou in the statement. "We are working diligently to ensure that our workplace standards and remuneration not only continue to meet the rapidly changing needs of our employees, but they are best-in-class."

"Labor activists accuse the company of having a rigid management style, an excessively fast assembly line and forced overwork. Foxconn denies the allegations, but it has been under great public pressure to improve conditions at its Chinese operations."

Remuneration (salary plus benefits) is about dignity. I feel bad for the ten workers in China, who were so frustrated and hopeless, that suicide was the option they took. I feel bad for their co-workers and families.

The company's ultimate response was to improve conditions (and install safety nets!)

What was the impetus to the change? ..not just the deaths (the ultimate protest), but the company "...has been under great public pressure to improve conditions..."

Public pressure can move companies, even those with a "rigid management style."

In the West, our problems pale in comparison with many parts of the world, but one thing is consistent: we are all people. When workers are faced with a lack of options, a lack of meaningful negotiations, and are met instead with inflexibility and injustice, then frustration grows.

It's not always about higher wages, but it is always about dignity, honesty, forthrightness, and trust. When management behaves in ways that undermine worker dignity, then unrest grows.

Repeated indignities large and small seem to be a recurring theme in Lowell Joint. Perhaps the current negotiation process is only high-lighting a larger problem?

Let's connect some dots and see what develops!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bias in the news? In the Know?

Anyone think that In the Know might be biased? Really!?!

Some time ago I was trying to have a discussion with my cousin about Health Care Reform. In the past I have worked for Kemper Insurance in their claims office, worked for Santa Fe International in their Risk Management Department, served more recently on the District's health care/benefits committee, and have even done some online research accessing such publications as The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). You'd think my cousin would have listened to me... but...

He just called the WSJ a "right-winged, bogus, publication" and dismissed me completely (and loudly). The Journal has been around since 1889 and "The Journal has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the United States." In the Know 5/10/10. Didn't matter what I said or it said.

Does the WSJ have a bias? Sure. (Hey, some might say I too have a bias. And they are right. But shhh... don't tell anyone.)

So does the LA Times and Fox News. If you own the publication, you control the spin. That's journalism.

But what about In the Know where the footer states, "Published by the Superintendent’s Office."

Let's see...

In the Know has two main parts 1) Highlights of the ___________, Board of Trustees Meeting, and 2)We’re Proud That…

Who chooses the highlights? The publisher!

The District is currently in contract negotiations. Attendance is up at the Board meetings, in fact many teachers and parents have spoken! What have the said? Who knows? Let's look at the In the Know coverage, maybe it will put us "in the know"...

May 10

Topics Not on the Agenda
Two teachers and one parent shared their concerns about negotiations and the current budget crisis.

Mrs. Gayle Rogers announced her retirement from the Board of Trustees effective June 30, 2010.

April 9

Topics Not on the Agenda
Several teachers and one parent shared their concern about negotiations, the current budget crisis, and retaining quality teachers.

March 15

Topics Not on the Agenda
Two teachers shared their concern about class sizes being increased.

March 1, February 1, January 11, December 7 : None

November 2

Topics Not on the Agenda
Mr. Najera shared that the Lowell Joint Education Foundation fund raising event on Saturday, October 24, was a success. Many community members attended.

Dr. Howell stated that there is time to sign up for the November 7 Lowell Joint Education Foundation 3rd Annual Turkey Trot.

Mr. Barber extended his sincere appreciation for Dr. Karen Herbst, Director of Special Education, and Mrs. Sandy Jan, Special Education secretary, for their hard work behind the scenes on confidential student matters which may not be discussed.

October 10

Topics Not on the Agenda

Mr. Najera shared that there is still time to register for the Lowell Joint Education Foundation’s upcoming fundraiser events for Saturday, October 24, and Saturday, November 7. Anyone interested may go online at to register for the events.

Mr. Barber shared that he had the privilege of meeting Mr. Jack O’Connell, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Mr. O’Connell, while visiting school districts in the Whittier area, stayed for a meeting where the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) was discussed.

September 14

Topics Not on the Agenda

So what's my point?

Wow, so much effort in summarizing what Board Members say under Topics Not on the Agenda and so little effort on behalf of parents and teachers. Really?!?

That looks like... bias.

But wait...

To counter what is not seen in the minutes... In the Know does have room to publish this...

"Mr. Ken Shelton, Los Angeles County Office of Education Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, shared the importance of maintaining fiscal responsibility and commended the Board of Trustees and Administration for their diligence in maintaining the District’s budget during such difficult financial times. He also stated the current financial concerns are not because of mismanagement of the District, but rather the outcome of California’s state of education funding. Mr. Shelton also stated that the community is being well served by the Board of Trustees and Administration and commended the Board of Trustees for their willingness to face tough challenges with transparency."

Wow. Someone took really good notes! Really?!?

And Mr. Shelton was speaking as the invited guest of... who do you think he's gonna applaud? The guys who invited him. They like his bias.

Hey. I spoke at the April 19th meeting. It was really good. I guess the note-taker fell asleep. Really?!?

I'll bet those teachers and parents who spoke at the board meetings, who prepared long and hard to be heard, are happy that In the Know worked just as hard to make them feel regarded, heard, cared about. Really?!?

Because if you read In the Know, you'll never know the other side of the story: the thoughts and concerns of the parents and teachers who made the effort to speak out.

You won't be "in the know," you'll be in the dark... by design? by bias?

Ya think? Really?!?

I expect bias from my paper, TV, and what-not... but "Published by the Superintendent’s Office"? Really?!?

Wouldn't it be nice not to just get the edited/spun Highlights, but a complete copy of minutes of each Board meeting online in 2010 and going forward?

But don't forget... "Complete minutes of each Board meeting are available in the Superintendent’s Office for review."



This post is my second under the label: Really?

One definition of rubber-stamping is "To endorse, vote for, or approve without question or deliberation." A sample sentence? "Nearly 60 banks have rubber-stamped a refinancing deal."

On other posts I will be sharing about what is and what isn't on LJSD's web-site.

One thing that is there (and is kept current) is a publication from the Superintendent's office entitled, "In the Know."

One thing that is not there are full minutes of each Board of Trustees Meetings. (Really? In 2010 LJSD can't create a PDF and post it? Really?)

In the Know gives us the pasteurized version, the Super's version?

One thing I noticed,see if I missed something, but I looked through all of this year's In the Knows and counted all the Board votes that weren't 5-0.

What did I find?

All the votes noted were the strangely the same: 5-0. Really?

No dissension, over anything, all year? Really?

Or maybe that's just what the Super wants us to think. The publication is from her office. (So says the footer.)

We'll see if any mention is made in In the Know of the special board meeting where there was actually a difference of opinion regarding filling an upcoming vacancy. (Vote: 3-2) Wow! Really?

In the Know tells you how you can view a full copy of the minutes: "Complete minutes of each Board meeting are available in the Superintendent’s Office for review."

Really? We can't put those online like other Districts? Check out what another local district has done: Magnolia School District. They've got minutes online! Really!

But then, they have a Director of Technology and we... do too! (Really!)

Labels -- Finding What You're Looking For

This blog is, in some ways, a poor-man's web-site. Web-sites aren't easy to make, support, nor organize; therefore... labels.

Labels appearing at the bottom of a post serve to organize various posts under a topic. For example: Really!

Betty White was recently on Saturday Night Live. As a result I happened onto a segment called Really!?! with Seth and Amy. I enjoy humor, sarcasm, and poking fun at the obvious. So I'll be using a label called "Really"

Satire is at the same time funny and thought provoking. I may be pointing out some "dots" on this blog, but there's no reason I cant' have some fun while I'm doing it.



What's the point? Connecting the dots!

LJSD is like a family. These days, the Spring of '10, it's more than just a bit dysfunctional. My mom used to say, "Son, don't air the family's dirty laundry." Most families heed that advice.

But LJSD is not a family: It's a school district. As a former systems engineer, I believe that the more data on the table, the easier it is for everyone to see what's going on and what needs to be done. You can't solve a problem until you have a clear picture of what the problem is.

Real-life problems are like connect-the-dot puzzles. In the case of LJ, many people have a piece of the puzzle: a dot, or two, or three. The more dots on the page... the easier it is to solve the puzzle.

So what's the problem? I'm not sure... let's get some dots on the table!

(If you'd like to add a post, e-mail me your story/facts/etc., and maybe I'll post it!)

e-mail address: