County Office of Ed Dysfunction Leaves Foster Youth in the Lurch

Mary Ann Dewan is the fifth superintendent the county Office of Education has had going back to 2007.

Mary Ann Dewan is the fifth superintendent the county Office of Education has had going back to 2007.

New Vision

The level of bureaucracy in monitoring county foster youth shows just how dire a need there is for a working database. And while there will be no reclamation project with Terben, the county is in the initial steps of launching a new foster youth tracking system. The in-house database, Foster Vision, has been built entirely under the watch of Dr. Kelly Calhoun, the COE's chief technology officer.

"The good news is we have the product now, the bad news it was a mess of a project leading up to that point," she said.

COE has added new layers of security to the database, Calhoun said, and two school districts in Campbell and Morgan Hill have tentatively agreed to take part in the pilot program. Oak Grove and Franklin McKinley school districts have also given verbal commitments. Similar to the system under Terben, much will depend on how well the county can convince districts to sign on; that the past failures are just that.

After declining all of San Jose Inside's interview requests for this story, COE officials scrambled together a conference call after deadline Tuesday afternoon. Blackstone, who had previously declined to make anyone from COE available for interviews, was joined by Calhoun and newly anointed interim superintendent Mary Ann Dewan.

The trio said that some information about the Terben fiasco might never be known, due to a lack of institutional knowledge. But Dewan also noted that some safeguards have been put in place to prevent exorbitant contracts from going undetected.

"There wasn't as much clarity about which contracts need to go to the Board [of Education] for approval," Dewan said. "I've only been here since October, but we have been making concerted efforts to train staff that any contracts over $100,000 would need to go to the Board for approval."

There appears to be some willingness to see why things fell apart and conduct an internal audit.

"We would certainly take that under consideration," Dewan said.

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Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

7 Comments

  1. Well I made it through 3/4 of the article but finally couldn’t take it any more. Sorry Josh. Pity about those foster grants ain’t it.
    This whole story is not one bit surprising when one understands that the COE is not really concerned with students, education, or foster children. As a government bureaucracy peopled with protected, privileged, union employees, most of it’s effort and energy is directed toward such things as workplace grievance procedures, equal pay for women and minorities, making sure overtime gets paid if someone works through their lunch break etc. Above all, CYA! Don’t do much of anything that might potentially jeopardize your job, your pension, or the chance at one of those coveted disability early retirements. Cover your ass. Don’t rock the boat. They don’t pay you enough to do that. The boss is an idiot. Why should you care? They can’t fire you…….
    Government Industries Inc.- what a colossal racket.

  2. Thank you to turning the light on the county. The corruption comes from the top and is everywhere now. Shirakawa was the tip of the iceberg. Everyone you talk to is a liar.

  3. Minh Ngo from the Silicon Valley Children’s Fund was responsible for BOTH bringing Tracy Fried to Santa Clara County and was intrumental in getting her pal, Sonja House, hired onto the COE. Interestingly, Minh also signed a $28k contract with the COE after she was canned from The Fund to, in part, assist with the PR for Terben’s database. That brings the grand total to $593k spent towards the project. It sure does seem like the COE hates foster kids like Bush hates black people.

  4. How can this happen in Silicon Valley’s backyard? Is there no billionaire who could direct his programmers to fix this system for charity?

  5. As a former foster youth of Santa Clara County and current advocate, this is heart breaking. No responsibility will be taken and no justice served, this is the sentiment and statement (the lack of action) all these leaders are sending to our youth who depends on services of the county because WE HAVE NO ONE ELSE. Thankfully I transcended these types of bureaucratic faults and was able to be successful because of people standing up for us and thanks to who had the guts to bring this to the world. Thank you for exposing this. -Former Foster Youth of Santa Clara County and Current Advocate.

  6. Penalty Code 350.5(a), (b), (c) and (f)
    The above criminal code represents the charges for anyone who possesses personal information about another person, with or without intent to commit fraud.
    any person may be charged with felony criminal charges or maybe just informed

    While I have no direct knowledge about the situation, based on the article alone I’d want to understand why the $400k has any relevance to the matter about foster kids and juvenile justice? If the contract wasn’t issued to him he’s probably upset about the fact the money may have been for a fusion centered project. If true, simply acquire the NIEM service.

    I’m deeply concerned about the funds not once but twice from the DOE has shown to be missing or in Child Care segments only 100 new child care openings were developed when 90 million (estimated via state grant awards from state and federal budgets published for transparency.

    Potential fraud and/or white collar criminals steal far more each year than we know.

    While an average criminal may steal or commit fraud in the lower than 10k on average over a lifetime, a white collar criminal steals above 100k and well into the millions.

    High Risk Populations are far more likely to have their data stolen and used to commit fraud which would be a criminal charge without any knowledge and who would believe a foster kids with x, y and z criminal charges.

    The sad thing about white collar criminals or suppliers who know how to game the system “they are very well informed” and armed with ways to redirect focus from themselves to Juvenile Justice funds issues in this case.

  7. Thank you for doing a good job in reporting. Such reporting should be done more and more.