Schools Trustee Admonished for Undermining Board Colleagues

Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Joseph DiSalvo came under fire this week for what some viewed as an effort to undermine his colleagues.

Constituents and fellow trustees admonished the veteran schools official in a public meeting on Wednesday for urging the state to authorize a pair of charter school petitions that failed to win approval from his own board. Trustee Claudia Rossi said she was disheartened that DiSalvo asked an appointed body to nullify the work of local districts.

“I ask you to consider what you’re doing because it’s not contributing to harmony on our board,” Rossi said. “I think it’s unprofessional and unbecoming.”

Perseverance Prep and Promise Academy appealed to the county last year after the San Jose Unified School District rejected their petitions, deeming them deficient. The charter proponents then revised their applications and submitted them to Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointed state Board of Education, which gave them the green light.

San Jose Unified officials traveled to Sacramento for the meeting to argue that its school board should have had a chance to weigh in on the updated petitions. DiSalvo and county trustee Grace Mah, on the other hand, were there to testify on behalf of the charter schools. In a Feb. 21 column for the Mercury News, DiSalvo praised the state’s decision as a win for “school choice” over “special interests.”

Vera Sloan, whose daughters go to school in DiSalvo’s trustee Area 4, told him that by portraying charter critics in his op-ed as unions and bureaucrats he ignored the parents who took a bus to that same hearing to oppose Perseverance and Promise.

“So I think you can imagine how they might feel to have been completely erased by you despite their efforts,” Sloan said, addressing DiSalvo during Wednesday’s public comment period. “This is a democracy, Mr. DiSalvo, as you are fond of reminding us, and you are our representative. You may disagree with us, but you may not pretend that we don’t exist, and you certainly may not tell the world that we don’t exist because it suits the interest of your financial supporters.”

Sloan questioned the ethics of DiSalvo apparently trying to circumvent local control, saying she was shocked to see him and Mah speaking against the democratic rulings of their own board. She ended her speech by condemning DiSalvo’s “rudeness and aggression” toward women.

In the past several months, she said, he has repeatedly interrupted and aggressively challenged female colleagues. He also had a public outburst against trustee Anna Song last fall, and for which he sent his wife to read an apology on his behalf.

DiSalvo and an ally dismissed the criticism.

“I think I have a public record that counteracts what they say,” he said from the dais. He added: “It is hurtful to sit here and listen to things that my mother—who’s 99 years old—would say aren’t true.”

Mah defended him, too, calling the accusations exaggerated.

“I think he’s been very supportive of women,” Mah said, “and he’s a feminist himself.”

Song calmly, firmly interjected.

“I think it’s wrong for a female who wasn’t attacked to defend Joseph,” she told Mah.

Directing her attention to DiSalvo, she said: “I do want to defend you, like Grace. But as the person who was affected, an apology would have been nice.”

The fact that the issue keeps coming up underscores the need for some closure, perhaps a public apology, she added.

Song said their conversation that night gave her “flashbacks, memories” to other times when it seemed that DiSalvo spoke more harshly to females chairing the board than he did to former board president Michael Chang, who resigned in December.

As for DiSalvo’s op-eds and activism on behalf of charters, Song said, that may merit another discussion. “We’re free citizens, we can express our opinions,” she acknowledged, “but there should be some guidelines.”

DiSalvo wasn’t the only board member to take some heat on Wednesday. Newly appointed trustee Kathleen King’s character was called into question by local educator Bill Conrad, who questioned the board’s judgment in anointing her Chang’s replacement.

“It is unfathomable to me that you would appoint an individual who has been accused of using public monies for her executive position on the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation to fund political campaigns,” he said.

King also allegedly siphoned money from the children’s health foundation to support a tax measure, Conrad said, and disingenuously sought a CalPERS pension even though she never worked for a public agency.

“I respectfully demand that you rescind your nomination of this individual to the board,” he said, “and that you appoint an individual who has legitimate educational credentials and who is exemplary in his or her educational, financial and political backgrounds.”

Click here to watch video of the board meeting. 

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. What a circus!

    Sadly, it’s kind of a low budget circus: no elephants, no seals, just clowns.

    It’s pathetic how little $155 million bucks buys anymore.

  2. There are consequences for children and parents when unqualified and larcenous individuals are appointed to the Santa Clara County Office Education Board. I have published data at that demonstrates that 0% of the 11th graders under the direct supervision of SCCOE at their schools meet or exceed Math Standards.

    It is important that we take action. I have written a complaint about the illegal activities of Ms Kathleen King’s political and financial activities to the State Attorney’s Office for some serious investigation. I recommend that you do as well. You can make your complaint to Xavier Becerra at

    I also recommend that you send an e-mail to the US Common Sense Organization that fights graft and political skullduggery in Santa Clara County. You can reach this organization at;:

    Cockroaches like King can run but they can’t hide. Let’s keep the light and the pressure on these scoundrels. Our children are waiting but I suspect that they will not wait much longer if you know what I mean!

  3. While I am FAR removed from the County BOE having served on said body from 2006-2012, there is NOTHING that prevents an individual trustee from expressing their 1st Amendment Rights. No matter what anyone may think about any board member’s speech, they may express said speech without being impeded.

    • I don’t think the First Amendment protects men’s right to swat at female colleagues, but maybe we’re reading different constitutions. I guess he does have a legal right to verbally bully women, but voters have a right to make him do it in his private life, not in office.

      • I was speaking of a individual’s right to advocate for any issue. The article spoke about COE board members being unhappy about certain members speaking on behalf of certain charter schools with the State Board of Education. Elected bodies can’t prevent their members for speaking out on any issue.

  4. FYI to Bill Conrad: The BOE clearly knew you were coming to their meeting on Thursday — probably from reading these posts. Note the reaction of the trustee sitting next to Kathleen King, as soon as your name was announced (at 4:30 into the Section 4 video, viewable at the link in the bottom of the above article).

    • Thanks Nancy. I will view it. I am ok with their knowing. I had written a letter to Dewan demanding she rescind her appointment of strapped for Kash Kathleen. I like to be open, honest, and transparent which is a good approach with these secretive political animals!

  5. “Kathleen King’s character was called into question”? There is no question about Kathleen King’s character. It is reprehensible.

  6. I live in the downtown area and feel we have more than enough charter schools and certainly don’t need to spend taxpayers money on Promise Academy. What we need is less pupils per class in our public schools and more money so the programs like art and music can be brought back. DiSalvo and Manh do not support our public schools and do a disservice to the charter schools in our city. I do not know or understand what their agenda is for schools but perhaps they need to listen to the parents. It is so sad when politicians and school board members do not understand or care about the people they are suppose to represent. I guess this is the norm today.

    • > It is so sad when politicians and school board members do not understand or care about the people they are suppose to represent.


      You have explained the problem perfectly:

      “politicians and school board members do not understand or care about the people they are suppose to represent.”

      AND, they get paid and get their pensions and healthcare whether they care or not.

      The private school formula is completely different:

      If private schools DON’T care, they DON’T get any students, and they DON’T get paid.

      Aurelia: Let me share a little secret about life with you:

      “People who get paid by the government and who say they care about you DON’T really care about you. They care about getting paid by the government.”

    • The MAIN purpose of a school system is to prepare the children under its charge for success in college and career. This is what the children, parents and community want. It is not that complicated. The Sccoe Board is willing to abrogate this primary objective to the pursuit of political power and financial larceny. Otherwise they would not accept mediocre to poor student performance in many of its school districts and they would work to champion a second to none educational system with strong student academic goals, a clear and understandable implementation plan that focuses on professional practices, monitoring of implementation with regular reporting to parents and community, and a rigorous evaluation and accountability protocols. It’s easier to shirk this responsibility, roll the dice on charters, and hope for the jackpot!!!

  7. > but voters have a right to make him do it in his private life, not in office.


    • > Jennifer, hope you’ll investigate this more!

      Excellent detective work, Wondering.

      And an outrageous display of cronyism and lack of transparency.

      I believe Mr. Di Salvo was elected to the SCCOE Board, but nonetheless, parents, voters, taxpayers and citizens are entitled to transparency.

      “Transparency” meaning, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth insofar as they are relevant to ALL aspects of Mr. DiSalvo’s qualifications, competency, and character to be a chosen leader and steward charged with the education of our children.

      It is easy to imagine problematic or damning circumstances that could have led to Mr. DiSalvo’s departure from the Palo Alto school.

      Mr. DiSalvo MUST be fully open about those circumstances. NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS CANNOT excuse full transparency.

      If DiSalvo CANNOT disclose, he CANNOT serve.

  8. As county board of ed members, disalvo and mah act in a quasi-judicial manner when reviewing charter application. Can anyone think of a judge -misogynic or otherwise- going to personally lobby on appeal against his/her court decision? Of course not and if a judge did he/she’d likely be disciplined and possibly removed.

  9. > As county board of ed members, disalvo and mah act in a quasi-judicial manner when reviewing charter application.

    You’re confusing executive power with judicial power.

    DiSalvo is NOT a judge, he’s an executive board member.

    An executive CAN advocate and lobby for their preferred policies. Even bad policies.

  10. Can we get a link to the actual charter applications? I have reviewed many in the past and they are generally strong on fluff and short on detailed implementation plans aligned to specific student academic goals, professional practices, monitoring, evaluation, and accountability. These plans should include provisions to automatically shut charters down if they do not achieve rigorous predetermined professional practice and student targets with no help from bleating political lambs like Mah and DiSalvo!

    • > These plans should include provisions to automatically shut charters down if they do not achieve rigorous predetermined professional practice and student targets .. . .

      The provisions should apply to public schools. too. Right?

      • If public schools fail to meet performance targets, there should be an automatic provision that the School Board Resign, new elections held, and a new superintendent hired. Enough is Enough!

        • No, if public schools fail to meet performance targets, there should be an automatic provision to rescind sanctuary city policies and to insist that only children who are here legally be afforded the privilege of a publicly financed education.

          • Logical Fallacy here. You have redirected the argument to a focus on immigrant students. Very bad! Schools have the responsibility for educating ALL children. Bring it on! If they do not meet targets, there should be sanctions. If they exceed targets there should be rewards. Why not? You can bet that the evaluation system for teachers and administrators would return to a focus on improved professional practices that get academic achievement results for our students.

        • While keeping in place the same administrators who had the direct responsibility of ensuring students met those performance targets?

          So those District Office administrators would continue to keep their control over an underperforming District?

          Yeah, that sounds like a solution.

  11. > Logical Fallacy here. You have redirected the argument to a focus on immigrant students.

    DR BILL:

    Not a logical fallacy. Just introducing a new, but nonetheless pertinent issue.

    I have no doubt that the public education establishment and the teachers unions WANT the largest possible customer base, and that “litigants” have gotten judges to agree with the “ALL students” notion of public education, but I suspect that there is much yet to be settled on the matter.

    For example, the idea of “birthright citizenship” is not as clear cut as immigration radicals represent it to be.

  12. SJ. You may have a point here. It is to the advantage of School Districts to increase and maintain their student base. It should be noted that school districts receive federal funds for their English Learner population. I worked in Santa Clara Unified School District and Mary Kay Going (Asst Sup) did not even hire an EL director or coordinator. I always thought that odd. But keeping the federal EL money stream flowing into SCUSD was the real priority. SCUSD was sanctioned by the state for not directing federal EL funds to the schools and instead kept that money at the district level to fund pet technology projects. It was a $3 million larceny that went on year after year after year. They were allowed to redo the books to accommodate this “snafu.” for one year only.

    Also, school districts have institutionalized “Long-term English Learners.” It has become a generational issue. Hispanic students actually born in the U.S. end up in EL classes. San Jose Unified even conducts its EL parent meetings in Spanish! The District touts Dual Immersion programs where White kids get to learn Spanish at the expense of English Learners (aka Latinos). The first year of these bogus programs are taught 80% in Spanish. Is it any wonder it takes the EL students 6-8 years or beyond to learn English? The scam keeps the money flowing to the District though covered by the veneer of “caring” for our EL students. Laughable.

    Asian students want nothing to do with these EL cash cow programs for Hispanic students. They have no incentive to attend EL parent meetings conducted in Spanish or Dual Language programs taught with 80% Spanish being spoken. These parents make sure that their kids are enrolled in regular classrooms and they make sure their children get tutoring and that they work harder and longer on their studies. These Asian EL kids learn English in a year and ultimately succeed. My wife insisted that her children attend main stream classes even though they did not speak a word of English. They are now enrolled in doctoral programs at University of California schools. This EL scam system has to be turned on its head. We need to create a sense of urgency in making sure that EL students learn English within a year even if it means having to turn back EL money!

    • > We need to create a sense of urgency in making sure that EL students learn English within a year even if it means having to turn back EL money!


      Turn back money??!!! Are you nuts?

      Refresh my memory. I thought ESL (“English as a Second Language”) was discontinued a number of years back. What happened? Is EL just ESL with new buzzwords?

  13. EL or ESL is going SO strong dude! It is a cash cow for the school districts as they invent new ways to prolong EL status of students by making EL student reclassification a byzantine bureaucratic process; promoting dual language programs that take 6-8 years to help students learn English while White kids learn Spanish; misappropriate federal EL funds; lead EL parent meetings in Spanish; fail to adequately monitor and improve English learning by EL students. And so it goes!

    You are so 2000 and late SJ!

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