FINAL CVCHS Closeout Report-Conflicts of Interest
According to a declaration made by Neil McChesney in a letter addressed to CVCHS, “I left (CVCHS) on or about March 2, 2015 to pursue other interests, notably creation of a performing arts charter school”. Mr. McChesney continued to receive monthly payments, totaling $9,600.00 from Clayton Valley Charter High School between April 1, 2015 and August 1, 2015 for “consulting work.”
What exactly is Mr. McChesney doing for Clayton Valley Charter High School, besides receiving money that could be spent on the students’ education? Stakeholders for Transparency has requested a contract describing his duties, but have been told that the school needs extra time to “search for and collect” the requested information.
We are especially concerned because McChesney has been working to open the School of Performing Arts (SPA), and in the Contra Cost County Board of Education’s final report, “CVCHS provided the requested written confirmation that no funds were provided to the SPA Charter” and “provided the requested copy of its annual budget, showing no funds have or will be transferred from CVCHS to the SPA Charter.” (Final CCCBOE Report, page 4 – presented at the Jan. 13, 2016 Board Meeting).
If you subscribe to the notion that smoke is a telltale sign of fire, things must be getting uncomfortably warm for the leadership at Clayton Valley Charter High School, where cinders are floating in the air.
The Contra Costa District Attorney is investigating the school’s governing body for possible Brown Act violations — secret meetings and backroom deals. The county Office of Education has launched a 13-point investigation spanning governance, personnel, financial and conflict-of-interest issues.
This comes on the heels of an online petition, supported by more than 500 signatures, calling for the removal of Executive Director David Linzey. The only way this looks any worse is if the state attorney general shows up alongside FBI agents.
If third-party scrutiny comes as a mild surprise, the accusations of wrongdoing do not. A group calling itself Stakeholders for Transparency — made up of Clayton Valley teachers, parents and community members — has questioned the school’s leadership, decision-making and direction for nearly a year.
They say Linzey routinely berates and disrespects teachers, which may explain why three of them quit in the middle of this school year. They say he’s played fast and loose with finances, which beg to be reviewed by an independent auditor. They say the school board, led by President Ted Meriam, has been molded to do the executive director’s bidding, any dissidents weeded out. Among those was former administrator Pat Middendorf, who was fired last year.
One especially curious coincidence: At the same time 27 of 40 full-time, permanent teachers signed a vote of no-confidence in the administration, the board awarded Linzey a three-year contract at an annual salary of $204,000. So teachers’ opinions don’t matter?
Through it all, Linzey has defended himself, denying any malfeasance. He and Meriam cite the findings of a third-party investigator exonerating him of all accusations.
To this point, Linzey and the board also have received support from Clayton city leaders. That may be wavering after Monday night’s Council meeting — an informal session with trustees of the Mount Diablo Unified School District — during which Clayton Valley stakeholders vented their displeasure.
One parent said flatly that the charter is “imploding,” explaining that the collaborative effort so reliant on teacher buy-in has been “hijacked” by people in power. Another parent asserted that teachers who initially made the charter effort successful are being forced out for cheaper hires. A mother said that when her son turns high-school age, he will not attend Clayton Valley unless the board and executive director are changed. And a Clayton Valley student, who thanked council members for listening to her worries about teachers fleeing, said, “You guys have shown more compassion in paying attention to me in one night that I’ve seen from the entire Clayton Valley Charter board.”
But the strongest words came from MDUSD board President Cheryl Hansen, after listening quietly to parents’ and students’ concerns.
“This charter is suffering from exactly what Mt. Diablo Unified suffered from several years ago,” she said, “and that was malicious, ineffective, bad, divisive leadership. As a decades-long educator and former high school principal, I am devastated by this. It cannot continue. It’s dysfunctional.”
Though she said she doesn’t necessarily support blowing everything up, Clayton Councilwoman Julie Pierce said of Hansen’s words, “I couldn’t agree with you more. There are big problems.”
The smoke keeps billowing.
By Tom Barnidge Contra Costa Times Columnist
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clayton Valley Charter High under investigation
POSTED: 02/09/2015 05:10:28 PM PST0 COMMENTS| UPDATED: ABOUT 17 HOURS AGO
CONCORD — The Contra Costa County district attorney and the County Office of Education are investigating allegations that the Clayton Valley Charter High school board violated the state’s open meeting law.
In a December 22 letter to the chairman of the charter school’s governing board, District Attorney Mark Peterson revealed that he was investigating complaints related to potential violations of the Brown Act, or open meeting law, by the board of trustees.
The district attorney asked how the board disclosed to the public what it planned to discuss at meetings; and how particular discussions were handled by the board, including an investigation of two board members that allegedly led one to resign, a meeting regarding the extension of the executive director’s contract, and a closed session regarding an employee’s termination.
Steve Moawad, senior deputy district attorney, confirmed in an email that his office sent the Brown Act inquiry.
“The school has provided a response which my office is evaluating,” he said. “I cannot discuss the inquiry in further detail.”
Also, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata sent a letter last week to David Linzey, executive director of Clayton Valley High, seeking public records related to 13 areas of the school and board’s operations. These included board agendas and minutes, complaint procedures, investigative reports, settlement agreements, employment agreements, vendor contracts, board member documents, government agency filings, and conflict of interest statements from the school staff and board. Sakata said Monday that her office, which authorizes the school’s charter, has asked legal counsel from Dannis Woliver Kelly to investigate more than two dozen complaints received over the past few months.
“We’re waiting to see the results of the investigation and we’ll act upon it depending on what the recommendation is,” she said. “There might be suggestions for corrections so they can improve their process. But at this point, it’s too early to know.”
Linzey said Monday that the school’s “attorneys assure us that we haven’t done anything inappropriate.”
Ted Meriam, chairman of Clayton Valley’s governing board, said the school was cooperating with both agencies and that it complied with the Brown Act.
The letters come on the heels of a Change.org petition posted by a group calling itself Stakeholders for Transparency, which has gathered more than 500 supporters seeking Linzey’s ouster. In addition, some members of the school’s faculty have voted no confidence in Linzey.
“I believe what is happening at Clayton Valley has escalated into an investigation-worthy situation because the governing board and Dave Linzey refuse to listen to teachers, parents, students and community members,” teacher board representative Amber Lineweaver said in an e-mail. “Our charter was created and written in such a way as to avoid unilateral decision-making and top-down management. The investigation gives me hope that a resolution is in sight.”
But Meriam said the board stands behind Linzey’s leadership and has extended his contract for three years. He alleged that the stakeholder’s group has exaggerated issues at the school.
“I see this more as a public relations concern than a governance concern,” he said. “There are wonderful things we’re doing on a daily basis for our students.”
To improve communications, Meriam said Linzey and his administrators have begun meeting with teachers during “lunch and learn” discussions. The school has also created a Charting the Future for our Children Facebook page providing opportunities for questions and answers, he said.
MORE INFORMATION: Copies of the letters from the district attorney and county superintendent are available at www.contracostatimes.com/education.
Information regarding the “Stakeholders for Transparency” group is available atwww.facebook.com/CVCHSStakeholders.
The Clayton Valley Charter High governing board will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the school’s multiuse room at 1101 Alberta Way, Concord. More information is at www.claytonvalley.org. Click on Governance, then select Agendas and Minutes, then 2015, then Feb. 11.
Shan Man is seriously disappointed in the Governing Board at Clayton Valley Charter High School. What a complete embarrassment. First they do not allow interested parents to run for a board position so Megan Kommer can stay on, then they fire Matt Rosso the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so that he cannot run against and take Diane Bailey seat, so she stays on.
Keep in mind Diane did NOT want to be on the board until recently changing her mind. I wonder why? President Ted Meriam decides he would like to stay on the board so he votes for himself along with Megan, Diane, and April Winship at tonight’s meeting. You would think he wouldn’t get to vote right? There were over 110 people at the meeting tonight, 3 spoke positive of the board and Dave Linzey. Only 3. One was Kevin King, who used to be on the board and whose wife was hired by the charter with no prior experience. At tonight’s meeting the board voted to hire Kevin King. Continue reading
Ted Meriam, Megan Kommer, April Winship, and Dick Ellis (the only CVCHS Board members that were allowed to vote) terminated Matt Rosso at the special board meeting this evening.
More information on Matt Rosso’s story:
The CVCHS governing board met on Wednesday, November 122014. It was a historic moment. We all knew it was going to be a very special evening as soon as we walked into the room. Dozens of teachers filled the chairs and almost all were dressed in black. Dozens of community members also attended and almost all were dressed in black. This signified solidarity. Two stakeholder groups came together that night and publicly supported each other once again.
No longer can anyone say this is a few disgruntled people. Kipp Penovich, the teacher union president handed the school board 27 sworn statements from 27 of the 40 permanent employed teachers. He testified that there would have been many more but the other teachers were too afraid of retaliation to make a public statement. They had already witnessed this too many times with their colleagues who spoke out. Continue reading