Saturday, December 16, 2006

CTA failed Angelides--and the kids of California

by Maura Larkins

Phil Angelides says, "If everyone had done what CTA did in the last election, it would have made a world of difference. You were soldiers. You were lions. And I'll be forever grateful for everything you did."

The problem for Angelides is not what California Teachers Association does at election time, it's what CTA doesn't do the rest of the time.

CTA sabotages the efforts of creative teachers and parents to bring about real reform. CTA makes sure that loyalty, not interest in fixing education, determines not only who rises in its organization, but who is allowed on committees in the district.

In Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Chula Vista Educators (teacher union) board of directors on Nov. 18, 2002 rubber-stamped CTA Executive Director Tim O'Neill's recommendation that "The CVE Board of Directors BE GIVEN THE AUTHORITY TO REMOVE representatives..." Tim O'Neill disingenuously claimed that "It is impossible to predict the circumstances that would result in the removal of a CVE representative to the PAR Joint Committee..." The truth was, he knew exactly whom he wanted to remove. He and others had arranged the removal of Joyce Abrams because they wanted her replaced by a more loyal union member. Joyce Abrams was outraged, and wrote scathing letters about CVE bigwigs Jim Groth and Gina Boyd. Abrams was absolutely right in saying that Jim Groth and Gina Boyd have little respect for CVE rules (she would have been right if she had added that they don't respect the laws of California, either). The problem is that Joyce Abrams helped Tim, Jim and Gina cover-up much more serious actions against another teacher. So who needs to start practicing what she preaches, Joyce?

The Fred Kamper case in Mountain Empire School District

by Maura Larkins

You sometimes wonder if the inmates are running the asylum.

Mountain Empire School District is a case in point. It's hard to tell whether it was the school board, its lawyers, or the teachers union that was most responsible in November 2006 for putting on the school board a man who can't keep enough space between himself and schoolgirls in his care.

The superintendent of Mountain Empire SD is Patrick Judd. He seems to be a problem magnet. (He moonlights as a board member in the troubled Chula Vista Elementary School District.)

Mountain Empire employee Fred Kamper was demoted from his position as principal when his lips "accidentally brushed" a girl's arm. Then he "inappropriately" touched a nine-year-old student who was sitting in his lap.

Daniel Shinoff, a lawyer for both Mountain Empire district, denied that Kamper was guilty, but nevertheless paid the girl's family $30,000. Why would he give away tens of thousands of tax dollars if there was no wrongdoing? Why did he get Kamper to agree to resign? It sure smells like wrondoing to me.

Months after the settlement and resignation, Kamper was elected board member with the help of California Teachers Association. Why would CTA endorse such a person? Part of the answer is that Fred Kamper was a former president of the CTA local affiliate, and CTA defends its local affiliate presidents, no matter what. (CTA also supported abusive and lawbreaking CTA leaders in Chula Vista. And none other than Pat Judd joined CTA in helping those Chula Vista leaders get away with wrongdoing.)

It seems that board members and union leaders seldom agree, but when they do, they are defending teachers and administrators from outraged parents.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

CVESD Incumbents Out! They focus on politics, not kids

Voters should end guaranteed tenure for Chula Vista Elementary School District board members! There are serious character issues with every one of the members of the CVESD board: Cheryl Cox, Pamela Smith, Larry Cunningham, Patrick Judd and Bertha Lopez.

Vote for the challengers!

Here is what I know about the challengers:

Seat 1. So far TAMARA ARCE, community volunteer, looks good to me to oppose incumbent Bertha Lopez. Ms. Arce astutely notes that "site-based decision making has been used as a shield to avoid responsibility and dilute the programs we have."

I don't yet know much about the other two candidates, Casey Tyler, parent and business owner, or Perry Mathes, cardiovascular engineer.

Seat 3. RUSSELL CORONADO, principal and counselor, would be an excellent replacement for Pam Smith. Strangely, candidate Felicia Starr is strikingly similar to Ms. Smith, and not just in appearance. Both women have worked overtime to exacerbate problems at Castle Park Elementary. Smith is perceived to be anti-union, and Starr is perceived to be pro-union, but the truth is, they are both simply pro-strife. Perrennial also-ran Willard Howard is again trying to be a spoiler in this race.

Seat 5. STEVE YAGYAGAN is a member of the community who wants the best education for kids, and is not in the pocket of any vested interests. Norberto Salazar, unfortunately, must follow orders from CTA (California Teachers Association), which has caused tremendous problems at CVESD. Even Bob Filner has to follow CTA's orders. CTA operatives should take a break from playing politics with students' educations. These union leaders think their own personal power is more important than the children they're paid to teach. Both Steve Yagyagan, parent and bank manager, and Norberto Salazar, teacher, are far better choices than incumbent Larry Cunningham, but I prefer Steve Yagyagan because he has less baggage.

I am appalled by the way school board member Cheryl Cox refuses to face up to her record as a Chula Vista Elementary School District board member as she runs for mayor of Chula Vista. The character issue is important when evaluating the performance of Ms. Cox and her four fellow board members, who all seem to share one important trait: they refuse to take responsibility for the problems that have arisen and the tax dollars that have been wasted at CVESD during their tenure.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Who does Cheryl Cox work for as an "educational consultant"?

I've long wondered exactly what Cheryl Cox does as an "educational consultant." Is she paid public funds when she does this consulting? Is she really more like a lobbyist? Is she paid taxpayer dollars to help clients get more public funds?

Apparently at least one San Diego educational nonprofit had a relationship with Copeland Lowery, the lobbying firm connected to Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the San Diego congressman sentenced to eight years in prison for handing out military contracts in return for bribes.

Today the Washington Post says, "Lobbying fees paid by the Foundation for Improvement in Math and Science Education, an independent nonprofit formed to improve San Diego junior high school teaching, were understated by $220,000."

The Post story says that Copeland Lowery, which is currently under federal investigation, "failed to disclose at least $755,000 in income from 17 nonprofit organizations and governmental entities, and $635,000 from 18 other clients."

The Post said, "...Some experts have called them unusual and suggested that Copeland Lowery might have been trying to play down how much money it was paid by those who received federal grants the firm arranged, particularly the clients who paid its lobbying fees with tax-exempt or public funds.

"Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said that 'what we've seen by Copeland Lowery is highly unusual. Lobby firms make amendments all the time, but we have never seen it at that level.'"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

How Is Corruption Maintained in an Organization like Chula Vista Educators?

An Open Letter to Peggie Myers, who was recently elected to the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly

It appears that Jim Groth is grooming you for a leadership role in the corrupt teacher organization he hopes to maintain in Chula Vista. It is a shame that this influence has been exported to the NEA-RA. Obviously, you got votes based on your notoriety as one of the “Castle Park Five.” But you wouldn’t have received all those votes if the truth were widely known about you and Jim Groth. The two of you have so far succeeded in covering up the wrongdoing—including criminal actions—of teachers at Castle Park Elementary.

But how long do you think you can keep the truth covered up? I think you’ve got a few more months at most. After all, there’s a school board election in Chula Vista this fall. That will inevitably bring about a discussion about what happened at Castle Park. Don Sevrens likes to think he had the last word about Castle Park Elementary on May 25, but when he spread the Castle Park story all over the Union Tribune, he made it newsworthy beyond the Union Tribune. He can not silence further discussion of the story he brought, with your help, to the attention of the public.

Maura Larkins

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A note to Steve Padilla: Don't become like Cheryl Cox!

Is someone a little too friendly with developers?

Your opponent, Cheryl Cox, has been sliding in that direction for five years. The disgraced David Malcolm began his long slide to the wrong side of the law by doing just that. While on the California Coastal Commission, he appeared to sell himself to the highest bidder.

Don't follow in these footsteps.

You're better than that.

Cheryl Cox has gone along with the wrongdoing of the controlling majority of the board of the Chula Vista Elementary School District for half a decade. Don't be like someone who has been playing footsie with certain developers for years.

Hiding Public Records

I'm guessing that you were not part of the attack on David Rowlands, the well-respected city manager of Chula Vista who was recently forced to resign. It was the rest of the Chula Vista City Council that wanted to get rid of Rowlands, but who, to their shame, wanted to cover up the deal they made with him to get him to go away, so they paid him hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in return for signing a secrecy agreement. It was a purely political move, and the majority on the city council wanted to make sure that Rowlands couldn't reveal the truth to the public until after the November elections.

This sounds just like something Cheryl Cox would do. As a member of one of the most secretive school boards in the state, Cox has a history of thumbing her nose at the California Public Records Act and at many other California laws. For over a year I've requested public records regarding how much CVESD spends on laywers, but my requests have been ignored. Why? Because Cheryl Cox and her fellow board members think that I won't sue them. And if I do, they can just spend taxpayer dollars fighting the lawsuit.

How much will Cox and the CVESD board spend to fight public records requests? I don't know, but I do know how much the San Diego City Council has spent to fight public records requests: more than $20,000 (according to today's San Diego Union Tribune).

The last thing that the Chula Vista City Council needs is someone like Cheryl Cox as mayor.

Cheryl Cox and Chula Vista Elementary School District have worked closely with lawyers, in the process harming the proper functioning of several schools, including the notorious Castle Park Elementary, which continues to hold the attention of the media.

If you really wanted to work for the public good, why don't you take over Chula Vista Elementary School District, and fix it?

Maura Larkins

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

CTA Stopped Villaraigosa From Taking Over Los Angeles Schools (LAUSD)

On June 21, 2006, Mayor Villaraigosa gave up his effort to take over Los Angeles Unified School District.

It's probably for the best since California Teachers Association (CTA) wouldn't have allowed any real reform. This is how CTA described this development:

"Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, along with ...Lynne Faulks of the California Teachers Association (CTA), announced a historic agreement in principle for a comprehensive legislative package ushering in a new era of progressive reform in LA's schools."

They agreed that the Superintendent should have more power. If that would take politics out of the decision-making process, then I'm all for it. But let's hope politics doesn't enter into the decision of who will be superintendent.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Will CTA take over Los Angeles Unified School District?

Why did Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa endorse Kevin DeLeon, a CTA official, for the state assembly seat Villaraigosa used to hold?

Probably because DeLeon made a deal with him, agreeing to give up his opposition to Villaraigosa’s plan for a mayoral takeover of Los Angeles Unified School District.

DeLeon used to be unequivocally, emphatically opposed the mayor’s plan.

Something made him switch.

My guess is that Villaraigosa agreed to adhere to CTA’s terms in any takeover, and to support DeLeon in his assembly race. In return DeLeon announced he’d agree to a takeover plan that met his specifications.

I no longer believe that Villaraigosa wants to fix schools. I now agree with an engineer from Venice and his wife, whom I met in Washington D.C.. They said that the mayor’s plan was just a power grab, and that the best thing for schools is to decentralize control over them.

Research does indicate that schools controlled by a small community produce better-educated students.

If Villaraigosa is planning to give CTA control over LAUSD, his plan will NOT help students.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Advice for Steve Padilla, Mayor of Chula Vista

I had to laugh when Tanya Mannes reported that the Chula Vista city council was “criticized for voting as a bloc on issues that later became controversial.”

Voting as a bloc? On issues that later became controversial?

This sounds like a perfect description of Cheryl Cox and the Chula Vista
Elementary School Board.

In fact, the CVESD board engaged in, and covered up, a whole slough of illegal activities, including a handful of crimes. Secrecy is the lynchpin of CVESD’s governing style. And secrecy breeds illegality.

How did Cheryl Cox manage to get more votes than you on June 6, 2006? It’s clear that the Democrats can’t or won’t give you the support you need.

It’s time for you to stop being a lap dog for Democrats and unions. Take a page from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who realized during last year’s election that the Republicans couldn’t deliver results for him.

Expand your repertoire. Strike out on your own. Do the right thing. It’s supposed to be a non-partisan office.

I understand the feelings of physical danger which caused you to ask for a bodyguard. I can see that certain nasty characters could make you a target. It’s easy for others to criticize you, but I’ll bet some of your critics would be equally, if not more, paranoid in such a situation.

Now is the time for courage. Cheryl Cox takes orders from Patrick Judd, Pamela Smith and Larry Cunningham. You can easily do better than that, Steve.

Why not start now?

Yours truly,
Maura Larkins

We Must Proceed Without Bob Filner

Congratulations on your win, Mr. Filner. I supported Juan Vargas, but am not surprised that you won. You've done a lot of good things, and you have curried favor with the powerful. You will almost certainly win in November, too.

But you will not succeed in covering up the truth about your knowledge of criminal actions on the part of Chula Vista Educators, and your craven scurrying about to please them even after you obtained that knowledge.

I'd like to think that Miles Blake and Dan Litwin will give you the courage to stand up to the small minds that control CVESD (Chula Vista Elementary School District) and CTA (California Teachers Association), and demand that they be replaced by people who care about children more than personal power.

If not, we can fix education without you. We will proceed without your help, and we will overcome the obstacles you put in the way of education reform.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Did CTA Lawyer Beverly Tucker miscalculate?

The teachers of California deserve better legal representation than they are getting from the California Teachers Association. Teachers pay millions of dollars in dues, so CTA could afford top-notch lawyers. The problem is that the union is run by cronies, and perhaps the top crony is head legal counsel Beverly Tucker.

Cronyism has caused CTA lawyers to live in an isolated world into which reality is not allowed to intrude.

Even when these lawyers make serious miscalculations about what they can get away with, there aren't any leaders in CTA who can demand that the law be followed. The problem is that the lawyers have more power than the "leaders"! In a bizarre move, Beverly Tucker not long ago added the title of "Associate Executive Director" to her title of head legal counsel.

In my experience, nominal executive director Carolyn Doggett takes instruction from Beverly Tucker, not the other way around.

It appears that Beverly Tucker is the Dick Cheney of CTA, the real power behind the president, the real decision-maker. Unlike the President of the US, however, the president of CTA, Barbara Kerr, is not elected by the people she governs. She is chosen by a voice vote of the board of directors of CTA.

California Teachers deserve better representation.

Beverly Tucker and her cronies need to be thrown out, and be replaced by leaders who have respect for teachers and for the law.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

An Open Letter to CTA Lawyers Beverly Tucker and Michael Hersh

An Open Letter to CTA lawyers Beverly Tucker and Michael Hersh

In the wake of the recent problems at Castle Park Elementary School, many union leaders and their lawyers have reverted to
an us-versus-them thinking in which they see themselves as righteous victims and ignore or minimize the injustices they have done, and continue to do, to other people.

In fact, being transferred to another school is not the horrific fate that CTA and the “Castle Park Five” have insisted. However, both students and teachers have suffered great wrongs at the hands of the California Teachers Association. These students and teachers have legitimate grievances, legitimate fears, and legitimate distrust of CTA’s willingness to compromise for the sake of peace.

CTA has made no attempt to build trust. The only alternative to continued dysfunction at Castle Park Elementary is a comprehensive settlement based on simple principles:

--All teachers and students have equal rights to protection of the law; these benefits should not be limited to the leaders of CTA and their allies.

-- If CTA is unwilling or unable to negotiate a policy of respect for the law and the wellbeing of students and teachers, the community must take the lead in promoting one.

-- CTA bears a special responsibility for the current impasse,
by virtue of its massive effort to help union leaders and their allies escape responsibility for their violations of law.

by Maura Larkins

Sunday, February 19, 2006


We have a real opportunity right now to create change in Chula Vista Elementary School District.