For nearly 40 years I have dedicated my professional life to the quality of public education. It has been an up and down journey for sure. Yet, each vote I take on the SCCOE Board and each initiative I pursue is consistent with what President Obama echoed Monday afternoon from the platform at the U.S. Capital: “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.” It is this pursuit of equality and equity that I continue to support efforts to improve the quality of public education for all children, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
President Obama’s vision will be my guiding principle on the Rocketship Tamien vote on the site zoning exemption resolution on our agenda Wednesday night. Irrespective of how the vote turns out—a 2/3 majority vote is needed to approve the resolution—I will work with the community and its leaders to bring a high quality public middle school to the Washington School/Sacred Heart neighborhood. And there is no doubt that the Tamien site of the proposed Rocketship 8 Elementary School needs and deserves a first-class soccer field. With hard work and a collective commitment we should be able to get that done, along with long-term maintenance through the support of private gifts.
On Another Note…
Earlier, I mentioned that my professional life has been filled with many ups and many downs. One big down moment came in a Jan. 9 email from District Attorney Jeff Rosen to Superintendent De La Torre, with a “cc” to the SCCOE Board of Education. In this email, Rosen said he had received a complaint that Darcie Green’s recent Board appointment was unlawful. The complaint, Rosen said, noted that Green was not a resident of the trustee area represented by the Board member—Craig Mann—whom she replaced.
I was Board president at the time of the decision to appoint a candidate to our Board in a 60-day window from Trustee Mann’s resignation, instead of holding a special election that could have cost up to $1 million. The Board and Superintendent’s legal counsel at the time was Lozano Smith. According to a memo Dr. De La Torre received from Suzanne Carig, staff support to the County Committee on School Organization, Ms. Carrig wrote:
“I just spoke with Tom Maniello from Lozano Smith regarding the board appointment question you asked.
“If a member who is up for re-election in 2014 resigns or becomes ineligible to serve Tom’s opinion is that there is some wiggle room in the person appointed to fill the vacancy. Tom states that an argument can be made to choose a candidate for the vacancy from the “old” trustee boundary. For instance, seated board members up for election in 2014 do not have to comply with the “new” boundaries until there (sp) seat is up for election. However, Tom sates (sp) that it is prudent to appoint someone who resides within the newly developed trustee area since it is likely that person will want to run for re-election when the appointment term is up in 2014.
“In a nutshell, Tom says the appointment and where the person resides is discretionary—up to the board…
It was on this opinion that an Aug. 28, 2012, SCCOE News Release read: “Applicants interested in the vacant seat on the SCCOE Board of Education can determine their residency eligibility by checking with the county Registrar of Voters…
“To apply for the position, applicants must be registered voters residing within Area 6, which includes the Alum Rock School District, Mt. Pleasant School District, Franklin-McKinley School District, and the corresponding portion of East Side Union High School District as well as a small portion of San Jose Unified.”
The County Committee on School Organization approved this new Trustee Area 6 in the decennial redistricting in February 2012.
I strongly believe the County Board and Superintendent proceeded to appoint in a timely manner from the area vetted in theory by legal counsel and the Registrar of Voters. All communications were open and transparent. If there was a legal question from August to the provisional appointment by the Board on Oct. 17, 2012 why did the DA or Registrar of Voters not raise the question to me as Board president or Dr. De La Torre? Certainly, if we were notified we were operating in illegal precepts then we would immediately and urgently moved to solicit candidates from the old, now-defunct Area 6.
This Jan. 9, 2013, memo from DA Rosen feels like an arrow in the back. It’s an egregious and costly error that could cost the taxpayers up to $1 million for a special election. From my perspective, we did what we were counseled to do in a process that received much praise from the community for its thoroughness, openness and integrity.
It is extremely unfortunate at this time that Trustee Green is left twisting in the wind. Every step of the way we were transparent and open. All five candidates we interviewed were exceptional in their knowledge and passion to serve. The SCCOE Board carefully weighed the pubic interviews and debriefed in public the strengths of each candidate. Trustee Green was selected in a first ballot by four of the six voting members. She was sworn-in to serve in November 2012.