Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"With great power comes great responsibility."

Spiderman was right, of course. But he was not the first or last to have this understanding of the proper and balanced relationship between Power and Responsibility. There seems to be even more responsibility placed upon those who have Power (and position) in regards to children and education. Where children are involved, we seem to understand the value placed upon responsibility is greater; protecting and/or guarding children whether it be physically, mentally, financially, or academically is of extreme importance and value. We hold those in positions of protecting and guarding children to a higher standard. In fact, in order for community or public guardians of children to successfully and adequately do their job ... we (the community) allow our public guardians great power and authority. The power is given to serve and to protect ... not to be misused, abused, or taken lightly. So, I guess Spiderman was absolutely right: "With great power comes great responsibility."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Facing the Giant is Half the Battle

My mother (who never finished high school) knew a few things about giants and bullies. When standing toe to toe with an oversized opponent (or an overwhelming task), my mother always said: "The bigger they are ... the harder they fall." Her legacy is one that consistently had a heart for the underdog. Although she is no longer with us today, her words, wisdom, and passion continue to live on before us.

To fight for a fair and dignified education is not always an easy task. Sometimes (as parents, guardians, and advocates) the educational giants we face (unqualified teachers, bully administrators, untrustworthy school districts, and inept school boards) appear bigger and stronger than any power we possess. However, even if we feel like an underdog, we should not lose hope, but remember that facing the giant (no matter how large or threatening) is always half the battle.


Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.
-Author Unknown

Saturday, July 19, 2014

You're Invited!

To the Next 
Calaveras Unified
School Board Meeting

Aug. 5, 2014 

Calaveras Unified School District 
3304 Highway 12
San Andreas, CA 95249
IMC Training Room (Green Building)
(209) 754-2300
4:00 P.M. – Closed Session
5:30 P.M. – Open Session 
Closed Session – Following Open
Session (Optional)

Karan Bowsher 
Evan Garamendi 
Gregory Gustafson 
Zerrall McDaniel 
Sherri Reusche 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Agenda Posted for Next CUSD Board Meeting

Regular Meeting 
of the Board of Trustees 
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 
Calaveras Unified School District 
3304 Highway 12
San Andreas, CA 95249

IMC Training Room 
Green Bldg. 2nd Floor
(209) 754-2300
4:00 P.M. – Closed Session
5:30 P.M. – Open Session
Closed Session – Following Open
Session (Optional)

for July 22, 2014 

1. Job Description Revisions 
It is requested the Board provide direction on proceeding with a revision to the Director of 
Fiscal Services and Director of Personnel job descriptions from Range 2(b) to Range 4(b) on 
the Management/Supervisor/Confidential Salary Schedule. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Next CUSD Board Meeting July 22--5:30 PM

Next CUSD 
Board Meeting
July 22
at 5:30 PM 
District Office

Main Item: CUSD Budget 

Can an adequate justification be given for the recent wage increases of 2 Calaveras Unified administrators? 

During this critical time of financial instability, there can be no justification for increasing administrative wages--none!

From the citizen's point of view (or the point of view of the support staff--CSEA) Superintendent Campbell negotiated a pay increase for 2 members of the CUSD administration team while ignoring the voice or need of the district's lower paid support staff. 

. --Allen Lujan (Sacred School Grounds)

Is Nepotism an Issue for Calaveras Unified?

Nepotism is the practice of favoritism based on kinship, like when the coach chooses his own kid to be the quarterback even if his kid stinks at football.
The word nepotism comes from the Italian word for nephew, nepote. Apparently back in the 17th century a lot of people tended to promote their nephews to powerful positions at the expense of other candidates. 

Nepotism has come to mean favoritism of any family member, so if you’re the daughter of a school district superintendent, don’t worry, you can still be the beneficiary of nepotism. 


N favoritism shown to relatives or close friends by those in power (as by giving them jobs)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Letter to the Editor: "Shocking Cuts at Calaveras Unified"

"The mission statement of the Calaveras Unified School District is to provide all individuals with the tools needed to become life long learners who responsibly participate in our diverse changing society. Goals – our district affirms that education is a partnership of parents/guardians, staff, students, and the community. Because the board meetings start at 5:30 p.m. in the afternoon, I question if the school board really wants we the people at the meetings. I suggested at that board meeting that the meetings should start at 7 p.m. instead of 5:30 p.m."

"We, as senior citizens, should also be concerned if we own property in Calaveras County. When you see an article in the Calaveras Enterprise stating “CUSD budget in dire straits,” it gets your attention (Friday, June 27, 2014). It seemed that everyone that I talked with was in shock. Some of the cuts listed in the newspaper are music programs and all athletics, the consolidation of CUSD’s smaller schools (West Point, Rail Road Flat and Mokelumne Hill) and not hiring any new staff."

"Shocking Cuts at Calaveras Unified"
Calaveras Enterprise
Letter to the Editor:
July 8, 2014
By Lora Most

Parents Still Have Influence

Assertive Parents ...
  • Express themselves clearly, directly and without guilt
  • Are not intimidated
  • Prepare for meetings
  • Stay together
  • Are informed
  • Keep records
  • Collaborate
  • Effectively communicate
  • Demonstrate self-confidence
  • Advocate effectively
  • Are self-reliant and independent
  • Persist
  • Analyze problems
  • Organize to effect change
  • Are positive and strong
  • Have pride
  • Encourage others and hold people accountable.
Assertiveness and Effective Parent Advocacy 
by Marie Sherrett

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

CUSD Budget Watch Continues

CUSD faces $2.5 million in cuts

By Mike Taylor
Calaveras Enterprise

“To stop the budgetary bleeding at its schools, the Calaveras Unified School District board of trustees will have to make some tough decisions over the next few months. And as officials from the Calaveras County Office of Education watch the numbers closely, reductions must be made swiftly.”

The link to the entire article is provided below:

Sacred School Grounds: 2014 Education Priorities

Health & Welfare; Dignity & Integrity
Children are one third of the population, but all of our future
Sacred School Grounds

Friday, July 4, 2014

Letter to the Editor: “Calaveras Unified Budget Problems”

July 3rd Calaveras Enterprise Letter to the Editor: 

 "Calaveras Unified Budget Problems"

“Members of the Calaveras Unified School District Board of Education, do you like being made to look foolish?” 

“If I was in your shoes, I would be very very upset with the superintendent and his staff. The superintendent and his staff knew that budget problems existed for some time. Why would the superintendent bring to the board a request to hire new teachers with these budget problems existing and knowing that the money may not be there to really hire them?”

The above quotes are from a Letter to the Editor in the July 3rd Calaveras Enterprise, by Valley Springs resident Jim Rebstock.

The link to the entire letter is provided below:

This Letter to the Editor is worth repeating and sharing with others in our community. Thank you, Mr. Rebstock for sharing your point of view (and opinions) concerning CUSD’s current budget crisis.

We Got the Message, Superintendent Campbell

 The last CUSD board meeting was hot and crowded. 

The outside temperature (105) made the meeting very difficult (on the inside)--physically and emotionally.

We--the public--got the message: Superintendent Campbell didn’t really want the public to attend the June 30th board meeting.

A larger room should have been used to hold the meeting. The CUSD leadership should have expected the larger than normal turnout. The choice to keep the meeting in the small boardroom was clear evidence of inadequate leadership. There was a larger (air conditioned) room available (just a few yards away in the large green building behind the district board room), but the CUSD leadership decided to make the public (their constituents) very uncomfortable. If the Superintendent was trying to make the public (their constituents) beat down—they succeeded.

Furthermore, we pay the district’s Chief Technology Officer well over a hundred thousand dollars a year … but we were barely able to hear during the board meeting because there were no microphones--not one.

So there we are—the people, the tax-payers, and the parents—stuffed into a small, hot, over-crowed boardroom … without an adequate voice to be heard. This was no accident; we suffered through the evening … but it didn’t have to be this way.

It is a further shame that Enterprise reporter Mike Taylor in his article--Cuts are Coming to CUSD--did not interview the teachers that were being un-hired. Some of those teachers were in attendance—they spoke and shed tears.

There was no mention in the article of the public outcry; Mr. Taylor, the Enterprise reporter, minimized (and ignored) the obvious story right in front of him--Mismanagement by Calaveras Unified (with full consent and blessings from Kathy Northington, Superintendent of Schools for Calaveras County Office of Education).

With an election in the future … it is highly suggested that we remember the June 30th CUSD board meeting (the feeling of being small, hot, and voiceless) when we mark our ballots.

Allen Lujan, Sacred School Grounds

Is Nepotisim an Issue for Calaveras Unified?

Recently in ThePineTree.Net (in response to a letter to the editor) the issue of nepotism--in regards to CUSD--was raised as an issue. In the comments section (in response to the letter to the editor), the topic of nepotism (or hiring a family member) was openly discussed and debated.

Letter to the Editor by Darren Spellman
The Pinetree.Net

When it comes to leadership and running a school district (or a county office of education), nepotism (hiring of family members) is not widely accepted behavior. The Superintendent of SJCOE, Mick Founts, recently had to defend his actions of hiring 2 of his daughters as teachers.


Tradition is no excuse for actions bordering on conflict of interest
October 16, 2013

Nepotism questions linger around S.J. education superintendent
Record Staff Writer
October 13, 2013 12:00 AM

Lincoln Unified studying $693K S.J. superintendent spent on county office gym from 'a legal perspective'
Record Staff Writer
September 08, 2013

Thursday, July 3, 2014

CCOE: Accomplice to Financial Neglect and Mismanagement

"Both Davis and Northington said they did not believe anyone made mistakes, but said the district should have begun making cuts sooner."

Cuts are Coming to CUSD
Mike Taylor of Calaveras Enterprise, 
July 3, 2014


It is appalling for Northington and Davis of CCOE to say that “they did not believe anyone made mistakes, but said the district should have begun making cuts sooner."
--Allen Lujan

 Not making cuts (starting 5 years ago) was--and still is--an enormous mistake. Northington and Davis are minimizing the CUSD budget crisis because they did not properly or adequately do their own job which is to oversee the 4 school districts (and their budgets) within Calaveras County. Over the course of five years, CCOE watched as the coffers of CUSD slowly ran dry. CCOE is not an innocent bystander; they are, by neglect of oversight, accomplices. Northington and Davis are--by virtue of the fact that they did not aggressively intervene (which is their role)—guilty of financial neglect and mismanagement. Knowing that Calaveras Unified should have made cuts sooner is an enormous mistake. Oversight by CCOE was not adequately done, and now Calaveras Unified is on the verge of bankruptcy and having the CDE—California Department of Education—takeover the daily management of the district. The leadership of both CUSD and CCOE are not successfully benefiting the educational needs of the communities and families of which they serve; I firmly believe it is time for a change of leadership in our local School District and our County Office of Education.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Jenny Lind Elementary (2014-2015 School Year)

Starting the 2014-2015 school year Jenny Lind Elementary  
will have a new administrator 
(for the 2nd straight school year).

JLE may acquire new leadership this coming school year, but it will still have the same (reoccurring) Health Issues:

“We worry about what a child will be tomorrow, yet we forget that he [or she] is someone today.” -- Stacia Tauscher

CUSD: Consistently Lowering the Bar

CUSD continues to maintain the practice of  "Waiving" requirements and/or standards when hiring and promoting CUSD employees. 

This practice does not benefit CUSD students and consistently lowers the professional and educational standards within the school district and community at large.

The Crisis: In California's School Buildings

Insightful and thorough resource from Just Schools California documenting the relationship between student health, learning and the current (and historical) condition of California's school buildings.
The Crisis: In California's School Buildings

California’s dilapidated, overcrowded schools expose students to unsafe and unsanitary conditions, limit their learning, and disrespect communities.

Rampant and unchecked disrepair

• 42% of California’s schools have at least one building in bad condition.
More than half the schools are old enough to need basic plumbing,
ventilation, and heating repairs.
• 32% of California teachers say their classroom temperature interferes with learning; 27% report problems with cockroaches, rats, or mice; 17% complain that the bathrooms at their schools are either dirty or closed.
• California schools have molds, and allergens from mites, animals, and insects. Over a third of elementary schools have lead-based paint.
• Many students are taught in portable classrooms that are built with toxic materials. These classrooms have poor ventilation, which increases health risks.
• Students of color and those living in poverty are far more likely to endure these shocking conditions.

Do bad facilities cause problems?

• Students learn less in dilapidated school buildings. Temperature, noise level, and other environmental factors all impact student performance.
• Rundown facilities reduce teachers’ effectiveness and weaken their commitment to teaching. When physical conditions improve, so does the teaching.
• Mold from dampness and humidity leads to asthma, coughing, and headaches. Pest infestations contribute to asthma and allergies. Exposure to lead-based paint causes developmental disorders. Even small levels of chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene are toxic.
• Schools with dirty or locked bathrooms force students to “hold it”
all day. One California school with 4,000 students has only two usable toilets.
• Poor students and students of color disproportionately attend schools with deteriorating buildings.
• Forcing students to attend decaying schools tells them that they are not valued. Poor conditions can lead to anger, shame, not caring,
and promote fighting between students.

Why are California's schools so rundown?

• The state has few requirements for school upkeep, unlike the health and safety codes it sets for restaurants, hair salons, and nursing homes. For example, there are no requirements that school toilets be kept open or sanitary.
• California makes local school boards responsible for maintaining schools. If local districts cannot or do not fix the problems, the state does not step in, even when the state knows that serious problems exist.
• California does not keep track of the condition of school buildings,
so it cannot make realistic plans for fixing and preventing problems
with facilities.
• All of the above have allowed Californians to let the state’s schools deteriorate and avoid spending the dollars that well-maintained school buildings require.

How can California's school buildings be fixed and maintained?

• The State should require that every child has a safe, adequate facility (clean, functioning bathrooms; adequate classroom space; outdoor space to exercise; heating, cooling, and electrical outlets that work; and access to technology) in which to learn.
• Adequate funds should go to fix and maintain all schools. Schools in the worst condition should be given funds first.
• The State must be accountable for fixing known health and safety hazards IMMEDIATELY! If school districts do not respond to problems, the state must step in. There can be no excuses or arguments over who is responsible.
• California must inspect its schools, as other states do, to identify schools that need repairs. Inspections must take place regularly to catch safety and health hazards early.
• California must identify school districts and state officials who are responsible for maintaining school facilities and make it easier for teachers, parents, students, and community members to report problems.
• California must develop a system of reporting school conditions to members of the community. References are available at: www.ucla-idea.org

CUSD Budget Crisis

Board Meeting on Monday (June 30th) will decide the financial fate of Calaveras Unified. CUSD must have an approved budget before the end of June. Parents, Citizens, and Tax-Payers are encouraged to attend.

At the previous CUSD board meeting (Tuesday, June 24, 2014) the Director of Finances, Titia Ashby, reported CUSD was $1.8 million in debt.

The meeting was also attended by Kathy Northington, Calaveras County Superintendent of Schools, and Claudia Davis Financial Director for CCOE. Claudia Davis has previously warned CUSD concerning their risky spending practices.

During the meeting on Tuesday, the Board (because of the severity of the current budget) also approved a resolution to rescind the contracts of 8 newly hired teachers.

The current budget status is viewed as both critical and severe; the upcoming board meeting on Monday will be used to decide which “big ticket” items will be cut from the CUSD budget in an attempt to reduce the current gap or short fall.

The current budget status (Qualified to Negative) puts CUSD on radar for the State to step in and takeover the district. 

Potential “Cut List” items:

Railroad Flat Elementary School
CUSD Sports Programs
CUSD Band Program
Upgrade of Toyon Middle School Kitchen


Resource to understanding Qualified and Negative Budget Certifications (Presented by CSBA—California School Board Association)