Mt. Diablo Unified School District Governing Board President, Cheryl Hansen asks the Contra Costa County Board of Education to return Clayton Valley Charter High School to the MDUSD due to the “corrupt and dysfunctional CVCHS Governing Board and Administration”.
High School Dropout
Why I have decided to resign from my job as a high school English teacher.
By Kiki Turrin
Monday I decided to resign from my job as a high school English teacher. I spent the following day processing the decision, trying to distinguish whether I no longer wished to teach in general, no longer wished to teach high school, or simply no longer wished to teach at my current school. I felt disillusioned to have invested tens of thousands of dollars and valuable hours pursuing a credential and masters, only to struggle to find a decent job and question whether I wanted to teach at all. Mostly, I felt disillusioned to have sacrificed so much for an ideal that does not seem to exist beyond the confines of my imagination.
And what was that ideal?
I thought I was going to spend my days reading beloved literature, engaging students in deep, meaningful conversations about life’s lessons, heartbreaks, and most puzzling enigmas. I thought I could enrich my students’ quality of living by helping them better understand themselves, their relationships, and the world they live in. I wanted to kindle within them a life-long love of learning and critical thinking; I saw myself sitting on a desk, surrounded by a circle of eager, animated faces, buzzing on the tips of their Doc Martens over the quiet heroism of Atticus Finch and tragic satire of Animal Farm. I wanted to be Mr. Keating in Dead Poet’s Society.
I forgot Mr. Keating got fired.
I was naive.
NPR’s “Where Have All The Teachers Gone?” couldn’t have popped into my Facebook feed at a better time.
The article questioned why enrollment in teacher training programs has declined so dramatically—as much as 53 percent in California in the last five years. The author speculated upon a list of reasons for this decline, many of which I could attribute to my own decision to leave teaching at the secondary level. Clearly there is a difference between opting to leave an established teaching post and opting out of teacher training altogether; however, much of these speculations are profoundly relevant to my experiences, which I have shared with prospective teachers and doubt are unique considering 40 to 50 percent of new teachers quit within the first five years.
Here are the ones that resonated most:
“There’s a growing sense…that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.”
The most instrumental factor in my decision to leave was the politics.
Last year two highly respected teachers at my school wrote a letter requesting the executive director to resign. The letter stated—on behalf of the faculty—that he had lost sight of the values set forth in the mission when our school went charter the previous year. Many seasoned teachers believed the administrative team and the board of directors were not living up to their commitment to transparency. Some had also reported feeling personally disrespected and belittled by remarks the executive director had made both behind closed doors and in public.
The director refused to resign and the news went public. Both sides started campaigning on social media. Surveys and petitions circulated. Teachers, old and new, were urged to attend board meetings and, on limited occasion, picket. Faculty who had been outspoken in their dissent reported being harassed and coerced into resigning. Others chose to leave due to an overwhelming sense of powerlessness, despite substantial efforts to improve the situation. Some of these faculty had been at the school for decades. They had been instrumental in the writing of the charter and accreditation of the school. They had served on the board, as department chairs, and headed school staples such as leadership. Curiously, nearly all of these cases were also women whose positions were promptly filled by men. New teachers— myself included—worried participation could result in dismissal on petty, unrelated technicalities, and I’m sad to say these concerns weren’t necessarily unfounded.
The county board of education is investigating our school for potential violations of the Brown Act and some have called this a victory. We’ve become the subject of political cartoons (pictured below) in the local Times. It is truly a tragic situation, yet looking at our school from an outside perspective, one might be impressed: our school presently touts an 836 API and a 9 out of 10 statewide school ranking.
“The job also has a PR problem…with teachers too often turned into scapegoats by politicians, policymakers, foundations and the media.”
To make matters worse, when the conflict went public on a local blog, much of the blame was placed upon the heads of “a minority of disgruntled teachers.” One commentator referred to teachers as “a dime a dozen,” while an ex-city council member (who had been booted from his seat and convicted on charges of embezzlement) advised any teacher who was unhappy to leave.
Some other gems:
To answer the question posed by “Amazing,” the inconsistencies their daughter is experiencing are due to high teacher turnover, which is, in turn, due to unbearable and hostile working conditions.
Let’s look beyond my campus.
Consider the November, 2014 cover of Time, which likened public school educators to bad apples. I can’t necessarily disagree with the notion that there are some tenured teachers out there who leave lasting negative impressions on their students and the communities within which they teach; I’ve met such teachers myself. However, I do take issue, as have others, with derogatory sweeping generalizations about educators based on little more than standardized test scores, especially when—thanks to No Child Left Behind—teachers are held to a standard unrivaled by any other profession: a 100 percent success rate.
Let’s also consider Obama’s Race to the Top, which has encouraged merit pay and teacher evaluation based on test scores, while having little to say about socioeconomic influences, such as poverty, which plague student learning and subsequent performance on standardized tests. Instead, there’s an increased emphasis on “best teaching practices” and pedagogies.
Another implication of this federal mandate has been an increasing emphasis on privatization, which has ushered in a host of other concerns. As Diane Ravitch stated in a conversation on NPR’s Fresh Air:
“What has happened … is that [charter schools have] become an enormous entrepreneurial activity and the private sector has moved in,” she says. “So there are now charter chains where the heads are paying themselves $300,000, $400,000, $500,000 a year. They compete with regular public schools. They do not see themselves as collaborators with public schools but business competitors and in some cases, they actually want to take away the public school space and take away the public school business.”
I believe this entrepreneurial spirit is at the heart of the political conflict currently marring my high school. In fact, in November—in the immediate wake of a vote of no confidence by 27 out of 40 permanent faculty—the board voted on a nearly 20 percent raise for the director, hiking his salary to roughly $204,000, with added perks raising the total to an estimated compensation of $248, 000. In addition, our executive director has persisted in a relentless pursuit to expand our charter despite public outcry and protests from the community.
Going back to the subject of standardized tests, I’d like to get to my third point:
“The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations.”
While in my experience evaluation has not been directly tied to test scores, it has been based on the extent to which I set and assess objectives that are directly tied to Common Core standards. So, as a probationary teacher (first two years), while I may not be outright dismissed for poor student performance on a benchmark (they could, but as far as I can tell they wouldn’t say so), I can be dismissed if an administrator believes I have not made the standard and its subsequent assessment explicit enough. And in my case, my administrator wants to see the standard on everything. He wants it on the board and on every assignment and test. He wants me to tell the students at the beginning of class, remind them in the middle, and ask them to rehearse it back to me at the end. This, in my humble opinion, is overkill, and feels like a drastic underestimation of my students’ deductive reasoning skills.
Beyond this, the onslaught of Common Core has provoked a few concerns, including but not limited to the following:
National dependence of public education on computer software and technology.
Accessibility of said technology to rural and underprivileged schools.
Training of teachers and students on how to navigate said technology.
Accessibility for students who have linguistic, cognitive, or physical impairments. While it appears there will be a built-in set of tools, one of my biggest concerns is the disparity between understanding what is being asked and displaying a particular skill. How can a student do the latter if they don’t have the resources to fully grasp the former?
Growing doubt that every iota of learning can be measured. Still, it seems any skill that can’t be quantified on a scale of emerging to advanced has little value to the administrators at my school.
The glaring contradiction between what teachers are taught (truthfully, nearly indoctrinated to believe) in teacher education programs and the reality of how we assess the value of public school education. Let me clarify. Teachers are drilled on diversity. Diversity, diversity, diversity. How will we accommodate the needs of increasingly diverse student populations? How will we nurture students’ varied intelligences and strengths? Added emphasis is placed on IEP’s, 504’s, and specialized learning plans. Why are we moving toward an increasingly homogenized mode of assessment?
I see the value in standardized assessments. I really do. I’m just not so sure I’m comfortable with the increased emphasis on them. This emphasis has pervaded and hampered nearly every potential opportunity for useful professional development. Rather than collaborating with my brilliant and experienced colleagues on the development of meaningful curriculum that has been proven effective through years of trial and error (which is what every new teacher desperately needs more than anything else), we spend nearly all of our meeting time talking about benchmarks. We have spent three of our last four department meetings hopelessly attempting to patch together a persuasive essay benchmark without a proper pacing guide or rubric. What was the fourth meeting, you ask? A book pitch, because, if nothing else, Common Core is evidently a cash cow.
Other reasons I have decided to leave high school:
The more we adopt business models for our schools (which Race to the Top and the advent of charters have encouraged), the more teachers and students are treated like numbers, as opposed to individuals. I believe adopting a customer service approach in public schools is potentially dangerous and attribute much of the failure of administrative staff at my school to adequately support faculty to this mentality.
I do not believe “Fail Free” policies benefit anyone, other than administrators.
I do not believe K-12 teachers are given adequate time to prepare the caliber of lessons they are expected to deliver.
I am not convinced pushing students who lack the skills necessary to perform at a particular grade level into said grade level based solely on age is the most beneficial option for all students, yet this happens frequently.
I do not feel comfortable pressuring all of my students to go to college.
Before you raise your pitchfork, hear me out. I believe in education. I believe college is absolutely the best route for some. However, I don’t believe academia is for everyone. I have had so many students who have struggled in school despite their best efforts, but have had other valuable skills that I wished I were more equipped to nurture. I’ve had students who can build houses, cars, and hack the school’s WiFi (though I’m not sure how hard that actually is and I’m sure I’m forgetting all kinds of other cool skills that have graced my classroom). I’ve lost sleep over the possibility that these kids could be made to feel stupid, inadequate, or lose opportunities to become great at things they love because they lack the particular je ne sais quoi necessary to thrive in our public schools. In this regard I believe we are falling short. We need to offer more options.
Furthermore, there’s increasing evidence that college doesn’t always pay off. Consider findings by the Pew Research Center that although millennials are the most educated generation in U.S. history, they also have the highest share who are unemployed in nearly four decades. Consider the fact that nearly half of all college grads from four-year colleges are working jobs that don’t require four-year degrees. Finally, consider Gallup Poll findings that only one in ten business leaders strongly believe college grads possess the skills and competencies their businesses need.
We continue to sell our kids on the traditional model despite evidence that our system is faltering. We promise material gains for pursuing STEM and say little of the arts and other vocations. I’d like to believe a good education can offer more than a lucrative salary and benefits.
As an educator I can’t help but feel complicit in the advancement of these issues, yet powerless to correct them.
The choice to leave is my own and I understand it is not a choice everyone would come to under the same circumstances. Everyone must weigh matters according to their own priorities and principles. Though my brief time as a secondary school educator has been trying, it has also been a formidable learning experience. In a way I exceeded my expectations.
I didn’t just discuss the dangers of corruption in Animal Farm; I met the pigs and saw them walk on twos in their suits. I watched them violate the most sacred commandments of our school, slaughter their most loyal allies, and flush them out for newer, more ignorant and impressionable animals. I was one of those animals.
I didn’t just read about the quiet heroism of Atticus Finch, I witnessed it first-hand in a colleague who I attended the credential program with years ago and had the pleasure to get re-acquainted with at my current school. This colleague quoted Atticus over lunch as we discussed her decision to speak in a board meeting, despite valid concerns that the administration would retaliate. It was the voice of Atticus that compelled her to do what she believed to be right, despite her fear:
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
I heard the voice of Dante Alighieri in another colleague who’d taught friends of mine in high school and mentored me through the credential program. On her decision to speak up against the actions of the administration and the board she quoted Inferno:
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”
I encountered John Steinbeck in a woman who is arguably the most resilient person I have ever had the honor to meet. She has persevered through personal attacks and the systematic dismantling of the aspects of her job which she treasures most. She continues to fight ceaselessly for what she believes to be best for our community, of which she has invested her life’s work, and by many accounts has become a pillar of near-mythical status. When asked how she persists, despite what feels at times like a feat rivaling the curse of Sisyphus, she referenced this quote from Grapes of Wrath:
“This you may say of man — when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back….for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken.”
I could only wish to possess the courage and conviction of these teachers and feel privileged for the sliver of time I got to spend among them.
Perhaps I was never Mr. Keating.
Perhaps I have always been Todd Anderson. And now, it is with utmost gratitude that I stand on a tiny desk in the sincerest chamber of my heart and salute:
O Captain! My Captain!
Published in Human Parts by Kiki Turrin, March 6, 2015
Members of the Board:
My name is Laurie Arbour and I would like to address the agenda item regarding the reduction of hours for my employment time at Clayton Valley Charter High School. I am a founding member of the Charter. I suppose at this juncture, it should be reason enough for Dave Linzey to want to eliminate me from his staff. I do fully acknowledge that I have spent the past year pointing out the failings of our Executive Director and our Board which I hold fully responsible for the problems that we now have on our school site. All that being said, I would like to tell my story and this is it.
I entered the profession of Speech Pathology some 16 years ago. I began my practice at Stanford Medical Center and then determined that the commute from Concord to Stanford was too arduous when trying to raise two sons. One of my sons has a learning disability. I have devoted the past 16 years to working with students with disabilities. Yet, I have never limited myself to just that population. I will help any student who comes through my door. And there have been many. Speech pathology is a huge field which serves everything from stroke victims to stuttering to reading issues to memory failure. I have helped many students pass the High School Exit Exam, finish senior projects or just cope with communication in school. I believe that this is the purpose of my profession and my practice. I believe that just because you cannot speak does not mean that you don’t have something to say.
To that end, I played an integral part in writing the special education portion of the charter and working to build a program. I am the person who was able to enlist the El Dorado County Charter SELPA to take us on as a teacher conversion charter- easily touted as the best SELPA in the state for Special Education Local Plan Agencies. I am highly trained in special education law and the resulting paperwork. For the Charter I am the Special Education Information Systems (SEIS) manager and take care of the reporting to both the SELPA and the State. I take this job seriously and will tell you that we have a near perfect record. Yes, there are a few errors because, as our own District, we inherit the paperwork from MDUSD or a student who comes from a private school who has not had a current IEP in many years. When this record comes to us, it will show up as an error of “overdue.” But these are to be expected and the resulting reports are easily explained and subsequently dismissed by the State. And yes, there are a few Case managers who, for whatever reason cannot enlist the parent to come to a meeting on time, which will also show as an error. None of these errors are the result of my job as the SEIS manager. But I digress.
The most important part of this email stems from a reduction in my hours as a member of the Special Education Department. I believe much of this Reduction in Force (RIF) is retaliation for my vocal dissent and a direct attack on the Special Education Department at Clayton Valley Charter High School. Currently, the number of service hours on my speech pathology caseload adds to 2.56 days. I am diligent about exiting students as the record will show. I do not keep kids on my caseload so I will have a caseload. We have approximately 25 students coming on with IEP’s. Of those 25, we have no way of knowing how many have speech services as you cannot upload and assume the record until early August when their District releases them or when their parents show up with the paperwork. It is a guess. So, I have to wonder why Dave Linzey arbitrarily chose 40% because what I have now is 50% and we have unknown incoming freshmen. I have spent the rest of my full time employment as SEIS manager, Compliance Liason with CAL PADS, Medi-Cal Program and LEA billing, Severely Handicapped Program advocate, Testing Coordinator and Proctor for Materials and Accommodations per IEP and Transportation Coordinator. I cannot emphasize enough that the work that I do on any given day blankets the campus and contributes to the overall success of the special education program. I am the girl Friday who assists the school psychologist, the counselor or the student services employee who just has a kid show up who is in distress or needs help. I am the person who runs to a classroom if there is a special education student who is having a problem. I am one of the front line staff they call if there is an autistic child or handicapped child who needs extra help. I am the person they call to help with transportation, the need for an interpreter or some other issue. I am the person who helps that Athlete pass a course so they can play sports. I am exactly what the Charter envisioned. And yes, I am sure that even with the shortage of speech pathologists running around, Dave Linzey can find a contract agency to send him a speech path who will just deliver speech therapy, but they will not do what I do. This RIF is a direct retaliation for my voice at public meetings which this Board and Dave Linzey have more than earned.
So, I am appealing to you because I believe that the Board’s decisions are ultimately responsible for the success of the Charter. If the Charter fails, it is because the Board has failed. Historically, this Board has done exactly Dave’s bidding without question or research (you can always call the SELPA to get more information) and that is why we are in the present predicament. I am an integral part of the Special Education Program and as a Charter you should know that if this program fails, the Charter can be revoked. So, if you do nothing else, share the concern of this email and be the voice of conversation. That is all any of us have ever asked for and that is why people have been vocal- because we wanted to be heard. I will say to you again, my unique ability to cross the “job description” line and get the job done for all students, regardless of their station in life, is the embodiment of what we thought this charter could be.
Laurie C. Arbour
The free-market case for district schools
Andrew F. Morrill – AEA president: Despite a wealth of choices, more than 80 percent of Arizona parents still choose neighborhood public schools.
Over the last six years, Arizona has suffered some of the largest education funding cuts in the country. Now our governor proposes cutting more while prioritizing private prison expansion over public education investments. Is this the path to an Arizona that offers opportunity for all?
In this choice-rich state, more than 80 percent of Arizonans with school-age children still select neighborhood public schools as their education choice.
This is a staggering majority with so many options available. Where is the support for parents who make this choice? Can a governor truly claim to uphold parent choice when he is not supporting the choice that the majority of parents annually make?
Gov. Doug Ducey and the GOP leadership have negotiated a budget that proposes to cut more than $100 million from district additional assistance. The only increases our schools will see come from Arizona voters in a formula driven by student growth and inflation, in which our state’s leaders still fail to fund at the appropriate base level.
Are those parents wrong, or is this budget out of touch with true parental choice?
8 things to know about the budget:
Arizona leads the country in school choice options. In the 1990s we pioneered the charter school movement on the promise of better education delivered more cost effectively.
It is troubling, then, that at least two prominent national studies — including one out of Stanford University — show that Arizona charter school students lag behind district students in academic achievement, despite charter schools receiving more state dollars per student than district schools, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
Charter supporters will argue that school districts receive money through bonds and overrides not available to charters. But many districts cannot get these passed in their communities. School districts also get federal funding because they serve special-needs students.
Charters need oversight
The number of new charter schools continues to grow at taxpayers’ expense while neighborhoods watch their public schools close due to budget cuts from the state Legislature.
According to the Washington Post, charter schools have become a booming industry for hedge fund investors who use federal tax credits to double their investments in seven years. Many charter schools are run by for-profit out-of-state corporations, putting their profits ahead of children’s well-being and classroom learning.
Without doubt, there are in Arizona many quality charter schools with committed teachers and leaders working in them; however, a quick review of headlines from other states reveals the waste, fraud and abuse committed by too many charter school operators, including some who operate several schools in Arizona.
CHARTER OWNERS: Budget cuts go way too far
In 2012, The Arizona Republic described the conflict of interest of many charter school board members, who provide vendor services to charter schools and pay themselves and family members with taxpayer money. In other states this practice is illegal, just as it is for those elected to district governing boards. But it is permissible in the charter structure. Are Arizona taxpayers aware and approving of this use of their money?
The Center for Popular Democracy and In the Public Interest recently released surveys that show the American people overwhelmingly favor common sense proposals that strengthen charter school accountability and transparency, improve teacher training and qualifications, prevent fraud, serve high-need students, and ensure that neighborhood public schools are not adversely affected by the charter industry.
Common sense dictates that schools receiving public money should be open and transparent to the public, require open board meetings, release financial reports with annual budgets and contracts, submit to regular state audits, require teachers and principals to be certified and serve all students, especially those with high needs.
Arizona’s parents should be included in the decisions made about their children’s education; the state should ensure schools provide that access.
Foundation for democracy
Our country was founded on the value that we are all created equal and that everyone has the opportunity to achieve the American Dream, regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status. One of the mechanisms our founding fathers supported as a foundation for democracy was a public education system funded by the public for the public.
America’s neighborhood, public education system is as expansive as our country’s Constitution. Our inclusive system means that all — not just the wealthy and privileged — should receive a free, quality public education. This mandate is based on the belief that an educated citizenry benefits communities and our country. It is, therefore, the responsibility of those we elect to support our public education system.
The very term “public schools” means that they are funded and owned by — and accountable to — the public. Taxpayers own the public school system. Locally elected school boards provide oversight for the education of our children and hire district administrators to lead our schools.
Parents and community members attend and speak at public school board meetings. And the public interest in academic and financial accountability requires districts to hire certified teachers, report annual financial records and submit to state financial audits.
Community members know that strong public schools mean strong local neighborhoods. Schools hire professional, degreed teachers and administrators. Dozens of essential support roles mean hundreds of jobs for those who live within a school district. District employees spend money in their local economies; further, a majority of the money spent by school districts remains in Arizona since districts contract for services with local and state businesses.
Research by national economists shows that personal income increases as a result of investments in a state’s public education system; in fact, tax cuts often underperform school funding increases in measurable job growth. Well-educated students today mean an able and robust workforce tomorrow. And businesses often cite quality-of-life indicators, including public school quality, as more important than low taxes as criteria for relocation or expansion.
If tax cuts, rather than education funding, provided a lever for state economic growth, Arizona would certainly know it by now.
Sadly, the education choice of our elected leaders differs sharply from the majority of voters.
We talk a lot about education reform, but that talk focuses almost exclusively on district public schools. Arizona must expand that conversation to include all schools that receive public funds and hold them to an equal standard of accountability and transparency. Consistent with America’s promise, we must ensure that public dollars are invested in high-quality schools owned by and accountable to the public.
Andrew Morrill, AZ I See It 3:09 p.m. MST March 6, 2015
Andrew F. Morrill is president of the Arizona Education Association
Clayton Valley Charter High School allegedly violates contractual obligations with Mt. Diablo Unified .
The realignment process for the North Coast Section’s Valley Conference is nearly complete, with Clayton Valley Charter High’s future league the biggest remaining subject of debate.
After originally suggesting Clayton Valley move to the Bay Valley Athletic League, the alignment committee is now backing a proposal that keeps the school in a league with its Concord and central Contra Costa County neighbors.
The committee’s decision came after hearing an appeal by Heritage High at its Thursday meeting.
“The basis for the granting of the appeal came down to the belief that the Valley Conference as a whole did not properly consider the alignment criteria geographical proximity, which includes travel distance, travel time, time out of class and travel costs,” NCS Commissioner Gil Lemmon said in an email.
The alignment committee will forward both proposals to the NCS’s Board of Managers, as is customary when an appeal is granted. The Board of Managers will then will finalize league realignment for the 2016-2020 cycle with a vote at its April 28 meeting.
Under the alignment committee’s suggested proposal, the BVAL wouldn’t change. The East Bay Athletic League would add Dublin and Dougherty Valley to create a “super league” and the remaining DFAL teams would combine with the Diablo Valley Athletic League to form another super league.
Both super leagues would be divided into to two divisions for each sport based on competitive equity.
The only difference between this proposal and one originally drafted by the committee last fall is Clayton Valley’s placement.
By Stephanie Hammon
POSTED: 02/27/2015 04:59:28 PM PST
“A letter from CV’s most recent staff resignation”
I worked for the MDUSD for 20+years. 4 years ago, I started working at Clayton Valley knowing the school was trying to go Charter. It was a very exciting time. It was also scary leaving a place I’ve known for so long but I took a leap of faith and went with the Charter.
Things changed for me once the office staff was reorganized. We were being micro managed and a once happy staff working together was now divided and unhappy. I’m not going to speak about Mr. Linzey, although I could. Working outside his office I have seen and heard a lot. I work in a TOXIC work environment. I felt I was harassed and bullied out of that school. My co-work/member of our Board posted on Facebook, “if you don’t like it then leave”. I can tell you it was very hard for me to make this decision to leave CVCHS. I kept hoping things would get better. Unfortunately, for me it only got worse. Working in the front office where it was known I was on the side of the teachers, the students and wasn’t going to give in, was painful to go to work. I felt I was being harassed. I didn’t know when the next time I would get written up or accused of doing something wrong. There were a lot of anonymous things being reported about me. A he said/ she said with no names. I felt I had to watch what I did all day long. I had to keep a log of what and when I was doing things. I had anxiety of what I was going to get accused of next. To keep my sanity and health I had to leave.
It angers me and saddens me that people on the “I support Clayton valley charter” page and other community members don’t believe us… The staff that work there. (I was even blocked from their page.) We know what kind of environment it is. WE ARE LEAVING. It shouldn’t be if you don’t like it leave. It shouldn’t be teachers are a dime a dozen. It shouldn’t be a handful of disgruntled employees or this is all because of Pat Middendorf. People commenting on these sites don’t even attend the board meetings. Although at this point, I don’t know if it matters. The 15 members from the I support Clayton Valley Charter page come to the last 2 board meetings and they don’t listen or see what’s going on. They are blinded by Mr. Linzey. They are not listening to the teachers who signed the no vote in confidence against Mr. Linzey. They are not listening to the almost 600 people who signed the petition asking Mr. Linzey to resign.
It’s unbelievable to me what goes on at the board meetings. I don’t understand why they won’t do the right thing. How do they fire Matthew Rosso before Thanksgiving in a special election in which was put together so quietly over break most couldn’t attend, how are the elections mishandled, how the F was Bud Beemer not seated on the board. And now it’s all the Board Members against Amber Lineweaver. WE THE STAFF SHOULD HAVE A VOICE. WE THE COMMUNITY AS PARENTS SHOULD HAVE A VOICE.
I welcome the CCCOE and DA. It’s too late for me and the ones that have already left. Not sure how long others can hold out in this unhealthy work environment. I feel bad for the kids who lose their teacher mid-year but as a parent, could you imagine your child growing up and working in this environment? Surely you can listen to the teachers and staff who are imploring everyone to do the right thing. I can tell you working in the education field for 24 years, it is NOT normal for this many teachers and staff to leave mid-year…
The next Board meeting is March 11. I hope to see you there.
# savecvchs .
February 15, 2015
Allison Wintery: I’m so sorry Jenn. CVCHS’ loss is MDUSD’s gain. #SaveCVCHS indeed.
15 February at 13:25 · Like · 3
Maria Bekakis: Thank you Jenn for stating correct facts. I am truly sorry you are leaving.
15 February at 13:31 · Like · 3
Kristi Ramey Buchholz: So thankful for your words here Jenn, we will miss you so much!!!!!
15 February at 13:44 · Like · 2
Shannon Brandt: Thanks for posting Jenn. The “I support” page blocking employees of the school like yourself says all you need to know about that page.
15 February at 13:59 · Like · 5
Karley Bohner: I’m so sorry.
15 February at 14:04 · Like · 1
Sharon Garcia Degener: Jenn, thank you. I hope that your honesty and perspective will help open up our community’s eyes. You will be missed.
15 February at 14:36 · Like · 4
Jaime Jimno-Lynch: Such a bummer! I will miss knowing you are working where my kiddos go to school. Good luck on your new adventure!
15 February at 14:40 · Like · 1
Becky Feeney Heindel: Sorry you had to leave a job that you once loved and hoped to stay at for a long time. Welcome back to MDUSD where you won’t get bullied and written up every day!
15 February at 15:09 · Like · 5
Amber Lineweaver: Love you Jenn.
15 February at 15:43 · Like · 4
Lisa Hamilton: Sorry you’ve had to go through all this Jenn.
15 February at 17:11 · Like · 1
Pat Middendorf: So sorry Jenn. I really hate this!
15 February at 18:43 · Like · 3
Michele Neys Hill: Thank you Jenn for stating the facts. I can’t understand why some people don’t believe what’s going on. Good luck at your new job, I know you will be loved and appreciated there.
15 February at 19:21 · Like · 5
Maggie Wise: Wow, wow, wow!
15 February at 19:23 · Like
Jeanne Klenow Costello: I admire your courage to speak about your experience. No one should have to go through that. We’ll miss you!!!
15 February at 19:34 · Like · 3
Cheryl Schaefer: BRAVO, brave friend!
15 February at 22:36 · Like
Debra Elizabeth Gonsalves: Spoken like a true soldier!! You did the right thing. Best of luck. We DO believe you.
22 hrs · Like · 1
Susan Oksenendler: Jenn, you will be missed! I always enjoyed working with you.
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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.
A public record request was sent to CVCHS Governing Board President Ted Meriam asking for detailed breakdowns of legal expenses paid to Young, Minney & Corr LLP and the response was that there were “no public records responsive to the request.”