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Why is the MPCSD Board Holding a Meeting at a Private Home?

Original post made by A parent who wants to know, \\"What are they thinking?\\", Atherton: Lindenwood, on May 27, 2013

I was looking for the agenda for the MPCSD special school board meeting regarding O'Connor School that is scheduled for this Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. The meeting was announced in the Superintendent's Update last Thursday. On the MPCSD Board web page, I found a statement that says special meetings, in most cases, will begin at 7:00 p.m. and they will be held at the District Office. The web page also states that agendas can be found on the web site approximately 3 days before the meetings. Wednesday night's agenda is not posted on the district's web site, and it is not posted in the agenda link that was included in the Superintendent's Update.

The agenda link did contain agendas for two other special board meetings. One is tomorrow, Tuesday, May 28, at noon at a private home, and the other is on Wednesday morning at 8:30 in the Board Room. The meeting on Tuesday is not posted in the Upcoming Events section of the district web site, and it is not listed in the district calendar on the web site. Curiously, tomorrow's meeting is being held at the home of board member Laura Rich, and the sole item for discussion, to take place in closed session, is the superintendent's performance evaluation. Although the discussion will be held in closed session, the public is "invited" to Ms. Rich's home, because the first item on the agenda is public comment.

Clearly, tomorrow's Board meeting should have been announced in last week's Superintendent Update and been posted on the district's web site, and it should be held at a time and location that would allow parents and staff to attend the meeting and comment on the professional performance of Mr. Ghysels. The Almanac recently awarded Mr. Ghysels a grade of "F" in leadership. During the 2 years that he has been the superintendent, the board has not requested input from parents or staff regarding his performance. Unfortunately, it appears that the board does not want district stakeholders to complete surveys that might further document Mr. Ghysels' grade of "F" and his breathtaking ineptitude; nor do they want to hear public comments regarding his questionable performance.

How long do our board members intend to keep their heads in the sand? Sooner or later, they are going to have to come up for air.

Comments (63)

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

First, the meeting agenda MUST be posted 72 hours in advance or the meeting is illegal and that includes a visible posting on the outside of the planned meeting place.

Second, if dozens of citizens showed up to speak during the mandatory public comment period preceding the closed session I can assure you that they would never again schedule a meeting in a private residence.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Each closed-session meeting must be preceded by a public agenda and by an oral
announcement. ( 54954.2, 54957.7.)"

"The Brown Act provides for three different types of meetings. Regular meetings occur at a time and location generally set by ordinance, resolution, or by-laws. At least 72 hours prior to a regular meeting, an agenda must be posted which contains a brief general description of each item to be transacted or discussed at the meeting. Special meetings may be called at any time but notice must be received at least 24 hours prior to the meeting by all members of the body and by all media outlets that have requested notice in writing. Emergency meetings, which are extraordinarily rare, may be called upon one-hour notice to media outlets that have requested notice in writing."

"When a member of the public testifies before a legislative body, the body may not
prohibit the individual from criticizing the policies, procedures, programs or services
of the agency or the acts or omissions of the legislative body. ( 54954.3(c).)"


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Agenda for tomorrow's special meeting has been posted - just in time!

May 28, 2013 12:00 PM
SPECIAL BOARD MEETING
160 Santa Margarita
Menlo Park, CA 94025

The posted agenda incorrectly limits public comment to items NOT on the agenda.
"
a. Procedure for Comments from the Audience (D)
Under Comments from the Audience, the public may address the Board on any subject not listed on the agenda. An individual may only address the Board once under this item. Three (3) minutes may be allotted to each speaker but can be extended by a Board member, if so desired. The Board cannot act on non-agenda items and cannot respond to issues other than to provide general information. The individual shall state his/her name and address before addressing the Board."

Clearly MPCSD does not understand the Brown Act.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

They really don't understand the law:
The 29 May agenda states:
" The individual shall state his/her name and address before addressing the Board."

Vs what the Attorney General has stated:

"As a precondition to attending the meeting, members of the public may not be asked
to provide their names. ( 54953.3.)"

Section 54953.3 states:
"A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.

If an attendance list, register, questionnaire, or other similar document is posted at or near the entrance to the room where the meeting is to be held, or is circulated to the persons present during the meeting, it shall state clearly that the signing, registering, or completion of the document is voluntary, and that all persons may attend the meeting regardless of whether a person signs, registers, or completes the document."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The California League of Cities Brown Act guidelines state:

"The legislative body may request that persons who wish to speak fill out speaker cards; however, because anonymous speech is protected by the constitution, this must be optional."


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm

A person can refuse to fill out a speaker card. Just tell the clerk that you wish to speak OR you can fill out a speaker card and refuse to provide your name. All of those choices are legal under California law.

A person can speak about any issue (its a protect right) during the "public comment" session although officials can request that you speak when the item is addressed during the agenda. You have the right to ignore them but it may not help your case. It's better to say you can't stay that long and wish to get your comments on the record.

About the Brown Act and violations related to noticing meetings, I'll defer to Mr. Carpenter who is spot on with his comments.

After all the problems with this issue in the past, you would think that the city attorney would know a little better.


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Posted by Flabbergasted!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I am once again in a state of shock as to the level of entitlement that is happening in the Menlo Park school district. For months, we have been wondering why Ghysels is still there and now we can see it is because the school board that is supporting him is just as corrupt as he is! They won't answer to anything because they are behind it all!

Really, what possible reason could there be to have a board meeting in a board members home? They continue to cross a line that they may not be able to return from.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 27, 2013 at 11:19 pm

@Flabbergasted! -- why does this surprise you. Nobody is holding them accountable.

Thank goodness Mr. Carpenter does his homework and knows the Brown Act.

I say get all your friends to go to the meeting and submit a speaker's card.


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Posted by Flabbergasted!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 28, 2013 at 7:40 am

I guess it's because I would think that this educated school board would know better.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 28, 2013 at 8:48 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Today's MPCSD Board meeting might be a good test to determine if the citizens of the district do care. If they do really care then they will go to the meeting, submit card ( with or without their names) and provide input on the matter being considered in today's closed session - "
a. Closed Session
The School Board will meet in Closed Session regarding Public Employee Performance Evaluation (Superintendent), as per Government Code Section 54957"

If no one shows up then the board can safely conclude that no one has anything to say on this subject. And if 20-30 people show up the board will never again hold a public meeting in a private home.


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Posted by MP resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

Is this their twisted attempt to have an end of year party? Gross misuse of government process and power!


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Posted by Diana
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 28, 2013 at 8:57 am

To Peter Carpenter:

The board should not assume that people don't care by not attending the meeting. Unlike the board members, I hold a full time job and am unable to attend a meeting midday with such short notice.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 28, 2013 at 9:26 am

Sorry, Diana but a lot of us work and have prior commitments. Somehow we manage to make time to attend things that are important to us. Like City Council meetings. Like school board meetings.

Mr. Carpenter is right. People should show up, express their displeasure - at the time and location - or they can simply expect more or this. It honestly doesn't take a lot of time or effort.

Just show up.


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Posted by Educator
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 28, 2013 at 10:26 am

Educator is a registered user.

To Peter-

It appears to me that the district followed all the required rules for posting a Special Meeting, including posting the agenda within the required time line. In addition to allowing public comment on non-agenda items, which is required, they clearly state at the top of today's agenda:

"Regular Board meetings are open to the public. Prior to any final action being taken on any item or prior to moving on to a new item, members of the public in attendance are invited to address the Board regarding items under consideration."

So they have been clear that public can comment on agenda items as well as non-agenda items. This is clearly within the law.

As for stating their name before addressing the board, the Board can request that members of the public state their name, but they need to also state that it is not mandatory to do so. I would hope they will modify their future agendas to reflect that it is not mandatory.

The Board may meet anywhere it chooses within the School District Boundaries, including a private home, as long as the agenda is properly noticed, and posted at the meeting site.

To those residents of the district that would like to comment on individual employees and their performance, they may do so during the public comment section of the agenda during any meeting, but should be aware that their comments are not protected from individual defamation of character or other law suits.


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Posted by Renee Batti
news editor of The Almanac
on May 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

Renee Batti is a registered user.

For the record, the claim that this meeting was "unannounced" is not accurate. The district posted a notice of the meeting last Friday. The word "unannounced" has been removed from the headline of this thread.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""Regular Board meetings are open to the public. Prior to any final action being taken on any item or prior to moving on to a new item, members of the public in attendance are invited to address the Board regarding items under consideration."

This statement refers to a Regular Board meeting, today's meeting is a Special meeting.

The specific language in the Public Comment item on today's agenda LIMITS comments to non-agenda items: "Under Comments from the Audience, the public may address the Board on any subject not listed on the agenda." This is a clear violation of the law which provides for public comment on a closed session agenda item before the closed session begins.

These inconsistencies and incorrect statements serve only to dissuade public input and to demonstrate MPCSD's ignorance of the law.


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Posted by Educator
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 28, 2013 at 11:23 am

Educator is a registered user.

I completely disagree that MPCSD is ignorant of the law. You are correct that there is a typo. Regular should have been Special, but the error does not change the District's statement that public can comment on items on the agenda.

The statement: "Prior to any final action being taken on any item or prior to moving on to a new item, members of the public in attendance are invited to address the Board regarding items under consideration." could not be clearer. Public can comment on any agenda item before action is taken or before the Board moves to a new item.


"II. COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE" is an agenda item, not a general statement, and is a required agenda item. It does not in any way limit or supersede the public's ability or right to comment on each agenda item as it is addressed by the Board.


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Posted by Stealth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 28, 2013 at 11:24 am

Sneaky to hold this after a holiday weekend when so many people were out of town or occupied. Laura Rich has a relatively small home. I can't leave work, but I'll be interested to hear what happens.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 28, 2013 at 11:34 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Educator - you are wrong. The agenda item states:
II. COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

a. Procedure for Comments from the Audience (D)
Under Comments from the Audience, the public may address the Board on any subject not listed on the agenda. An individual may only address the Board once under this item. Three (3) minutes may be allotted to each speaker but can be extended by a Board member, if so desired. The Board cannot act on non-agenda items and cannot respond to issues other than to provide general information. The individual shall state his/her name and address before addressing the Board.

This follows and clearly supersedes the incorrect generic statement about public comment at regular meetings.

Here is the Attorney General's guidance - which is very clear:
"At every special meeting, the legislative body shall provide the public with an opportunity to
address the body on any item described in the notice before or during consideration of that
item. ( 54954.3(a).) The special meeting notice shall describe the public's rights to so
comment. ( 54954.3(a).)"


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 28, 2013 at 11:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is the proper manner to invite/permit public comments before a closed session:

AGENDA

ROLL CALL

PUBLIC COMMENT #1

A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives, therefore under Public Comment #1, the public may address the Board on any item on the Closed Session Agenda. Each speaker may address the Board once under Public Comment for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record.

CLOSED SESSION (1st FLOOR CONFERENCE ROOM)


From the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board agenda for 28 May, 2013


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Of course, you don't do any of those things if you are trying to discourage public attendance and input. Kind of like holding a meeting at someone's private home. That should be helpful to promote attendance!

But what's written in the notice and agenda isn't as important as the Chair telling members of the public that "this is their time to make comments about any issue." The public isn't as fluent as the members of the committee in these procedures and I always thought a key part of the Chair's job was to let people know what's going on and what they can do. Make them feel comfortable, if you will.


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Posted by Educator
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 28, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Educator is a registered user.

Peter - I think we are saying the same thing but in different ways.

School boards and other public agencies sometimes make a blanket statement that public may comment on any agenda item when that item is addressed, and then use a specific agenda item to provide opportunity for the public to speak on non-agenda items. This procedure has been vetted through counsel, California State School Boards Assoc, and SSC.

They accomplish the same goal. Public may speak on agenda items and on non-agenda items, as long as they do so at the appropriate time(s). If one were to gather agenda formats from all the public agencies in California, I think one would find that they vary considerably in their structure and wording. There are many ways to say the same thing.

The format you show for an agenda with one closed session works fine, but if there were fifty items on the agenda, plus more than one closed session, the notification statement would have to be repeated for every agenda item.

I still agree with you that name and address are not mandatory, and that there was a typo of 'regular' instead of 'special'.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The purpose of the public comment requirement is to encourage the public input and participation.

Here is the proper way to so encourage public input for a closed session meeting followed by a regular meeting:

PUBLIC COMMENT #1

A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives, therefore under Public Comment #1, the public may address the Board on any item on the Closed Session Agenda. Each speaker may address the Board once under Public Comment for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record.

When the regular meeting begins:

PUBLIC COMMENT #2

A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives. Therefore under Public Comment #2, the public may address the Board on any subject not listed on the Agenda. Each speaker may address the Board for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record. The Board can't act on items not on the agenda and therefore the Board can't respond to non-agenda issues brought up under Public Comment other than to provide general information.

Before the regular agenda items:

The public may address the Board on any subject listed on the Regular Agenda. Each speaker may address the Board once for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record. Each speaker will be called upon to speak by the President when the item is heard.

And at the end of the regular agenda items:
PUBLIC COMMENT #3

A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives. Therefore if unable to address the Board under Public Comment #1 and 2, the public may address the Board on any subject at this time. Each speaker may address the Board for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record. The Board can't act on items not on the agenda and therefore the Board can't respond to non-agenda issues brought up under Public Comment other than to provide general information.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm

If the school board had done things right, this would be a non-story.

Just because these elected officials may be educated and trained on the rules doesn't mean they conform to them. Kudos to those citizens who have watchful eyes to ensure our elected officials conform to the rules.


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Posted by Educator
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Educator is a registered user.

My point is, other than a typo and lack of a statement that names and address are not mandatory, I don't think they did anything wrong. These were probably both typos.

Here is my way of encouraging the public to participate on items on the agenda:

1) A blanket statement that says they can speak on agenda items when they are considered and my personal verbal statement on each item that "anyone wishing to speak on this item, please free to do so".

That verbal cue is far more likely to encourage participation than a bunch of legalese.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I don't think they did anything wrong."

I disagree - "Under Comments from the Audience, the public may address the Board on any subject not listed on the agenda. " is clearly in violation of section 54954.3(a).

I cannot speak to intent but that statement will clearly discourage any public comment on the closed session agenda item. It is NOT the citizen's responsibility to provide clarity regarding the rules but rather it is the responsibility of elected bodies to provide that clarity


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 28, 2013 at 2:24 pm

It may interest you to know that every public official is required to take Brown Act training. It is a very comprehensive program that is put on by the Department of Elections of San Mateo County. They will often come to the city or town to put it on.

There's no excuse for not knowing the rules....


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Posted by Menlo Park Taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Keep in mind, in the middle of all this, that Ghysels and the MPCSD are about to reach into our pockets for another $20-$30M bond issue. They are not inspiring trust and confidence...


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Posted by Interesting Topic
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Lots of talk about how to give input to the Board during the public meeting. But if the Board is conducting the Superintendent evaluation in closed session (which they should - it is a personnel matter and personnel are entitled to confidentiality of discussions of their job performance with their bosses (the Board), making comments when the regular session starts (which, since this is a one-topic meeting, will likely be at the next regular board meeting), it not a very effective way to communicate. Writing letters and e-mails to individual board members expressing your opinion of the Superintendent's performance would be a more effective way to get your message across BEFORE the evaluation takes place. Unless you want to grandstand. If that is the case, then by all means wait until the regular session to make your public comment... after the fact.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 28, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Writing letters and e-mails to individual board members expressing your opinion of the Superintendent's performance would be a more effective way to get your message across BEFORE the evaluation takes place."

That is EXACTLY why the law requires the board to hear public comments BEFORE they go into closed session to conduct this personnel evaluation.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Yes. I think we have all learned that individual emails sent to the board are never stated at the board meeting, which they should. Perhaps the board doesn't think that emails constitute "communication to the board" and don't feel the need to share those communications at board meetings. I'm sure they prefer this as they are able to hide issues under the rug and never address parental/community/staff concerns in an open forum.


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Posted by ha!
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 28, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Perhaps they wanted to have a martini lunch while they discussed business so opted for an offsite venue!

Even though "educator" said that it is within their right to have a meeting anywhere within district boundaries, the question is, should they? Especially with a bond up for a vote this soon. You'd think they would at least be attempting to be squeaky clean.


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Posted by mpcsd employee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I agree with Mr Carpenter - the law requires the board to hear public comments BEFORE a closed session in order to conduct a valid and legitimate evaluation of the superintendent. What is obvious by holding the meeting in the middle of the day at a board member's house is that the board is not interested in comments from the public, and particularly from the staff about Mr. Ghysels performance as we would be unable to attend. To my knowledge, the board has not asked a single staff member what they think of the superintendent's leadership. Do they care? This is shameful and arrogant.


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Posted by Menlo Park teacher
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I agree with you, MPCSD employee. Ghysels is such a fan of business practices, why not adopt the 360 degree evaluation used by corporate executives? If you've got nothing to hide, open yourself up to feedback from your immediate work circle, subordinates as well as your superiors. If the board wants to measure his leadership, ask those who he is leading, or who he is trying to lead. I do not know of one teacher in this entire district who is proud to have him as our superintendent or believe in the direction he is setting for the district. Shouldn't that weigh into the evaluation process?


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 29, 2013 at 7:20 am

Good luck on getting a 360 evaluation on Ghysels. He only talks leadership and corporatisms. He never practices or follows what he speaks. But he does love to mix the personal with the professional as we saw in Mountain View, so hence I can understand why he might want to meet in a private home while on the clock.

This issue of holding a board meeting in a public home is such a bonehead move, I can't even formulate a reason why it could be possibly justified. It's beyond dumb. Again, the MPCSD board and supe cast a dark shadow over themselves. Totally avoidable.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 29, 2013 at 7:39 am

Well, if the public wishes to make comments about the performance of Superintendent Ghysels, then show up at the meeting and voice your concerns. You've have a chance to state your case. You can insist that the board seeks additional input from the public or seeks additional input from the staff.

And showing up in person is FAR more effective than an email.

Of course, you don't have to do any of these things. Don't show up, don't say anything... and you can just complain when they give Ghysels a big pay raise.

Tonight at 6:30pm is your chance. Be on time.


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Posted by another observer
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 29, 2013 at 8:11 am

Unfortunately, in the current climate many staff are afraid for their jobs and are unwilling to stand up at a board meeting to express concerns. We've already seen what happens to those who don't tow the line. The superintendent's behavior has a chilling effect on open dialog. It's hard to have any trust in him or the system.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 29, 2013 at 8:56 am

another observer -

That's understandable and we always hear that when the complaints are limited to a small number. There is safety in larger numbers. If the mass discontent was there, it would be heard.

That said, it would not be very difficult for one or more members of the staff to request a private meeting with one or members of the school board. You could send a letter or set up a private email address and coordinate a meeting. I'm sure that these officials would keep such a meeting confidential.

But you actually have to tell someone - not just post anonymously on this website.


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Posted by Dollar Signs
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 29, 2013 at 9:00 am

Really, this is not a big mystery. There has been so much public backlash stirred up by the reassignment of the special ed director that the Board is trying to lay low and avoid any leftover drama. Especially since performance reviews usually include a salary increase. Ghysels may well be the highest paid Superintendent in northern California, especially if you look at it on a per-school basis. We have only FOUR schools in Menlo Park, and last I heard the superintendent's salary was $250,000 plus a housing allowance and other benefits. Sweet.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 29, 2013 at 10:46 am

Maybe the issue isn't only with the superintendent but also with his supervisors -- aka the school board.

When is the next election?

And yet a very common problem in the U.S. is to complain about our elected officials and still re-elect them.


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Posted by mp teacher
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm

We can't speak up at board meetings because we all fear for our jobs. We know what happens when people speak their minds. And most of us don't live in the area so are unable to vote in the next election. All we can do is to inform the public what a downhill slide this district is on and hope that they can help the situation with their votes.


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Posted by Really?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Even with all of this, the board is having yet another meeting at Laura Rich's house to discuss Ghysels evaluation. Really? Such arrogance! Ghysels and the entire board needs to go!

Web Link


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 29, 2013 at 1:53 pm

That's not all you can do. You can contact members of the school board and meet with them privately. Yes, it does take a little effort.

They owe you and will provide you with the same confidence and courtesy they provide to their Superintendent. And if they don't or if there is retribution, they face incredibly serious consequences for violating whistleblower statutes.

Just ask.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 29, 2013 at 2:07 pm

@ mp teacher-

Why can't you speak to your union reps or the school board? If you are too "afraid to speak" wouldn't a letter or petition signed by all be a pretty safe approach? Other teachers in other districts have done that and kept their jobs.


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Posted by Another MP Teacher
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm

@Chris
I can't talk to the school board because I don't trust them. They hired Ghysels and so far have stood behind him 100%. Also, I've been told that if I send an email to Board@mpcsd.org, guess who else is on that mailing list? Yes, Ghysels. They're enmeshed.

@Really?
I also can't believe they're having another meeting at a private residence. No, it's not against the Brown Act, but it's definitely bad practice. How likely is it that community members with concerns about Ghysels will go to a private residence to raise these concerns? Not very likely.

This feels like a sinking ship and employees affected are feeling impotent to change anything.


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Posted by mp teacher
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2013 at 7:36 pm

POGO:
You have no idea how corrupt this district is! Collective letters have been sent to the board and are never addressed, though they should be read publicly at board meetings. Individual employees have gone to address board members and each time the board members pretend like they've never heard anything negative about Ghysels before. We can't even go to the HR manager because nothing is confidential. The union can only provide so much support, but many employees are unrepresented or know that Ghysels can make our lives miserable while still following the letter of the law.


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Posted by Another MP Teacher
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2013 at 7:47 pm

POGO:
"many employees are unrepresented or know that Ghysels can make our lives miserable while still following the letter of the law"

Three words: His previous assistant


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Posted by another mp teacher
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2013 at 7:57 pm

And given the fact that he (SHOCK!!) has hired someone that he knew as the new Special Ed Director, there is little hope of things changing. Everything the mountain view folks said was true. He is bringing in all of his own people so that there will be no one left to challenge him.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm

@ MP teacher & another MP teacher -

Do you belong to the CTA? Are you tenured? If not, have you been in MP less than 2 years? Are you part-time or temporary?

Most districts either give tenure or dismiss teachers after 2 yrs, unless they are part-time or "temporary". It's pretty hard to fire a tenured teacher for expressing an organized, well-supported complaint, especially if other teachers participate as co-complainants.

Your CTA union rep is the one you should go to. Has anyone approached him/her about this? If the majority of the teachers agree with your assertions, why are you afraid? Don't you believe that CTA. one of the most powerful unions in California will support you. Your union also can provide legal representation for its members.


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Posted by MV Teacher
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2013 at 6:12 am

They can't fire you for speaking out if you have tenure, but they certainly can make your like hell by reassigning you and harassing you in your classroom while you teach. Don't be naive Chris. That's how he did it in Mountain View. In other words, there is precedence for all these Ghyselisms as Menlo Park is beginning to discover.


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Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 30, 2013 at 7:44 am

If people are afriad to speak up, and neither the board or administration is interested in getting feedback about leadership performance, maybe someone else should send out a survey. It's easy enough with google or surveymonkey. And it could be anonymous.


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Posted by Truthiness
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 30, 2013 at 8:35 am

I don't like the idea of Survey Monkey because the district will just keep that information secret under the lame excuse that it's personnel related. It's much better if we give anonymous evaluation of the Superintendent right here in the Almanac! And this is so much better because everyone in the public can see it! Wow! How great will it be for us to really start publishing lots of anonymous feedback on of all the District's employees. I think the teachers and principals will also really appreciate getting all this feedback. This anonymous system is so great. It's so yesterday to have to take responsibility for what you say or worry about being factually correct about anything. As long as we feel it must be true, that's what really counts!


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

Perhaps the Almanac can put on its investigative reporter's hat and look in to some of the allegations made in this forum. If true I would think that there might be an avenue to go to the State Board of Education.


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Time to separate fact from fiction. The Almanac needs to lok into this and report on their findings. Comments to the article to registered users only.


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Posted by A parent who wants to know, "What are they thinking?"
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 30, 2013 at 7:34 pm

I recommend that the leaders of the MPCSD employee unions develop a survey for their members to complete. Or, they could request a copy of the survey questions developed by the Tamalpais Union High School District Federation of Teachers and modify them for the MPCSD. Last Spring, the TUHSD Federation designed a 13-item survey that was provided to the faculty, and approximately 70 percent of the teachers responded.

Teacher Satisfaction in the TUHSD
The first three questions addressed overall teacher satisfaction and satisfaction with salary and benefits. Results of the survey indicated that:
75 to 85% of the responses to these items were positive.
67% of the academic staff members were satisfied with the Tamalpais Federation of Teachers.

Concerns of Teachers in the TUHSD
Results of the survey indicated that:
Over 70% of the teachers were dissatisfied with the climate of the district.
Over 60% were dissatisfied with the district's direction.
73% reported dissatisfaction with the district administration.
60% were dissatisfied with the school board.
76% were dissatisfied with the district's decision-making processes.
70% were critical of the frequency and clarity of communication in the district.

Sound familiar?

As a parent, I am curious about what the results of a staff survey in the MPCSD would reveal. Although the board appears to not be concerned about how teachers and support staff are feeling about the leadership of the district, our parent community, which provides an incredible level of financial support for the district, needs to know.

If the unions are not interested in conducting a survey, perhaps a simple "no confidence" vote would suffice to document the current level of employee satisfaction with the superintendent's and board's leadership.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm

@ truthiness:

Who's "we"? In order for the feedback to be meaningful to, it can't be anonymous ratings of the supervisor posted on the website of the local weekly free paper. School board can easily argue that the comments are made by non-teachers or a couple of teachers with multiple aliases.

As the Lindenwood parent points out, Tamalpais Union did a survey but someone clearly had to organize & initiate that.

You MP teachers who are so unhappy may need to organize yourselves to prepare & circulate something similar. What % of your co-workers will participate & support this? Someone among you will have to do some work. Anonymous postings aren't going to bring the Lone Ranger to your rescue.


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Posted by Another MP Teacher
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Peter Carpenter, Do you know if, in the Brown Act, there is a required timeline to post meeting minutes? It looks like minutes haven't been posted since 2/13/13, which was 3.5 months ago.


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Posted by Perplexed
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Can someone please detail exactly what Ghysels has done that is so bad?

I haven't heard much noise in general so I am unclear on what the alleged transgressions and missteps have been. A brief point by point listing from the informed would be much appreciated.

As for the Board, they are a silly clique trying to relive their frat and sorority days -- so they're really just a microcosm of the portion of Menlo Park that lives west of El Camino. Volunteer or not, they bring little to the table in terms of analysis and thoughtful problem solving. Most of them have gone to considerable lengths to regale us with their educational pedigree and career accomplishments. While none of these aforementioned credentials are as impressive as the board members think they are, they would appear to suggest a hint of analytic abilities. Sadly, I have seen little of this as they have performed poorly in their role of fiduciary oversight and listening attentively and critically to advice provided by concerned and thoughtful community members -- of which there is an abundance in MP. Go read past minutes and note the abundance of warnings from community members about the O'Conner campus, demographer missteps, poor spending decisions, etc. You won't have to dig far ...


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Posted by interesting
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Looks like Menlo Park isn't the only school district with a board who oversteps their boundaries:

Web Link

Let's hope this situation can be reigned in before it gets to the level of Santa Clara.


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Posted by Edwin
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 2, 2013 at 7:34 am

Perplexed:

To answer your question, just google Maurice Ghysels with the terms affair, bully and leadership associates and you will get plenty of information. You can also look up past articles in the Almanac and Mountain View Voice. Reader comments on these articles are quite interesting, just be sure to filter the wingnuts out. There are elements of truth in a lot of what is written.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 2, 2013 at 9:09 am

It's up to the School Board to facilitate the conversation by making it easy for the public to provide input.

And it's up to those with positive and negative comments to speak up when given that opportunity.


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Posted by How about tonight
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm

There is a 6:00 board meeting again tonight. 160 Santa Margarita. Public should try to go to this meeting. Speak out.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Board's insensitivity and lack of compliance with the law is appalling. Tonight's agenda continues the illegal prohibition of comments on agenda topics during the public comment period:

"a. Procedure for Comments from the Audience
Under Comments from the Audience, the public may address the Board on any subject not listed on the agenda."

I urge anyone who can to go to this private residence and express your outrage at both the inappropriate, but legal, venue and the illegal restriction on public comments.


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