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Menlo school district board to appoint new trustee

Original post made on Jun 3, 2011

The Menlo Park City School District board will appoint a replacement for member Mark Box, who announced his resignation from the five-member board last week. Applications for the post are due on June 17.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 3, 2011, 10:33 AM

Comments (83)

Posted by MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I do hope the Board can find another parent who really knows our schools, understands what challenges those schools are facing, and is willing to talk with the press (the Almanac) candidly in person about their experience and goals. It would be a terrible shame to get someone pushing a narrow special interest or a personal political agenda at a time when so much hard work is needed.

Specifically, I hope someone will step forwards who has already made the time commitment to serve on one of the Parent-Teacher Boards (or on the Site Councils), worked with the MPAEF, and volunteered in the classrooms, libraries and playgrounds. Yes, it's hard to make or find this time -- especially if both parents work -- but I don't trust anyone who hasn't. There's no room for power seekers here -- especially those who've been too busy to get their hands dirty but now want to rule the roost.

Fortunately, we have many parents throughout the district, working and stay-at-home, who have already showed a real commitment to all our schoolchildren by their hands-on involvement -- I do hope they'll step forward yet again.


Posted by Another MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm

@MPCSD Parent,

Unfortunately, much of what you have listed is code for: "someone who won't challenge the status quo".

In this case, as it will be by appointment, it will be someone who's part of the little "in crowd" in this town.

There are plenty of people who volunteer and donate directly to the schools who are not fans of the way things have been run, cheerleaders for MPAEF, and the various groupies in the favorite social clique.


Posted by same topic, third thread, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Another MPCSD Parent is right. Moreover, I expect that the board has already chosen the new member and is just carrying on this charade to try to convince us otherwise.


Posted by Open Minded Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Are you sure you should call yourself MPCSD Parent, or is MPCSD Spokesperson a better description? Your comment sounds like code-talk for "let's put another one of the usual clique from the Education Foundation on the Board". That's one of the issues we have -- it's the same tight circle of people who run everything. Money and Fund Raising are not the whole story. How about a little diversity of thought for a change? Not every parent in the district owns two vacation homes and is independently wealthy. Not all of us are white. Not all of us have perfect A+ students. Not all of us are trying to fulfill ourselves by being the MPCSD Volunteer of the Year; instead, some of us have a real life and do our parts quietly but can bring a broader point of view to the decision making process. Let's try a cross section of experience on the Board for a change.


Posted by Amazing, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Call me stupid but, "the board will interview candidates for the position on Tuesday, June 21, Mr. Ranella said, adding that it will vote to appoint the new member at the same meeting."

It definitely sounds like they have already chosen a candidate if they will chose one the very "same meeting". What's the rush? They can't wait a day or two to sit back and give the selection some serious thought? If this is how they chose the new superintendent with all his baggage and bad press, no wonder they managed to screw it up so bad! All this shows they should have held an election.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Show up at the meeting and speak your peace... or don't complain.


Posted by Another MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm

@POGO,

Apparently you've never been to the dog and pony shows that pass for MPCSD meetings or public forums.

You're funny.


Posted by MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm

What "little in-crowd" are you dreaming of? Over 180 parents, this year alone, have served on the PTO Boards and Site Councils, chaired PTO committees, and worked hard for the MPAEF. Extend this backwards a few years and the number is 500+. Is it so much to ask that a candidate for School Board has paid some dues?

POGO is right -- if you support a candidate, show up and lobby for that person. But realize that this school community demands constructive, informed decision-making on the Board -- not someone who wants their little patch enlarged or who has their eyes on a bigger political prize.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

If the citizens don't care to both speak out on this vacancy and also offer themselves as candidates then don't complain if the remaining four board members simply chose someone who shares their values and priorities.

Whoever is chosen will have a big advantage in the next election.

Demand that the board recruit candidates for this vacancy widely and that they then give the community the opportunity to provide public comment on these candidates BEFORE the board makes its choice. And make sure that the board has a strong and diverse slate of candidates from which to choose.


Posted by same topic, third thread, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Most of the people who volunteer in our district, even those who chair committees and/or spend many hours in the classroom, computer room, library, or gym are not part of the in-group. The in-group isn't tiny, and there are no membership dues, but it exists, and I say this as one who served on the MPAEF board and has volunteered in many other roles, has had MPCSD board members' kids at my house playing with my kids. I know who many of the in-group people are even though I am not one of them: overwhelmingly white, relatively rich, and well-connected.

The MPCSD meetings are indeed dog & pony shows because the board makes its decisions, including the upcoming vote on the new member, outside board meetings. If you want to make something happen in this venue, you really have to work behind the scenes because that's how they roll. Having wasted my time at a few board meetings I'm not sure I want to attend another one. Might be worth it just for another opportunity to see glib politics and polite corruption in action.


Posted by Another MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

@MPCSD Parent,

Pardon the sarcasm, but it's not reasonable include everyone that has bought a muffin at a bake sale.

Heck, I've even given to MPAEF. The "in-crowd" several of us are referring to is the one that's been pouring the kool-aid ... that some have been drinking.

Paid "dues"? Every parent in this district, especially the homeowners, have paid dues. Constructive and informed decision making? If you believe that is all that has gone on to do date, there is nothing I can possibly say that will convince you otherwise. Some of the decision making has been sound. A lot of the decision making has not met the standards of reasonable fiduciary oversight. Much of the decision making can be summarized by the following: "Nobody ever got fired for buying from IBM". IOW, the decisions have often had the patina of credibility, but not the substance. They were sufficiently safe to deflect blame.

I know they are volunteers, and I applaud them for that. We have fine schools and I applaud the parents and kids for that. Enough said.


Posted by Believe What You See, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm

This isn't a matter of whether the person who bought a muffin at a bake sale is better or worse than the person who volunteers for the MPAEF. It's a question of Group Think vs. Diversity. As "Same Topic, Third Thread" points out, you can contribute a lot in terms of time and money but still not be in the inner circle. No one bothers to run for open seats because once the ruling class decides behind closed doors who their choice will be there's almost no chance to break through. As a matter of fact, they risk being seen as renegades or outcasts and other parents turn against them. Therefore, hard-working though they may be, we have a cookie-cutter board who operates in lock-step with the superintendent. Getting along and working well together should not preclude diversity.


Posted by The Fix Is In, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

The criteria for choosing a replacement for Mark Box is dependent on a person's knowledge of the condition of the MPCSD and understanding of the California public school system laws, curriculum, financing, etc. Does this mean that the current board members and the new superintendent need help in these areas? Wouldn't there actually be some advantage to having a smart, well-educated and experienced community member who could look at things differently? The deck is stacked for this process. My guess is that current board members are now providing a tutorial for their designated appointee.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Another MPCSD Parent -

I suspect you were being clever by saying I'm funny. Actually, I have been to many school board meetings, although not the MPCSD. I don't think they are very different in Woodside, Redwood City, or Palo Alto. They are all pretty much insider boards.

That said, if enough people take the time and have the courage to go to the microphone and voice their concerns about this appointment, the more difficult it will be for the board to ignore them. Remember, the members of your board don't live in Sacramento or Washington, DC - they are your neighbors and often parents of children at the school.

It's pretty hard for them to ignore people they see every day... unless, of course, you don't speak up.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Believe states"No one bothers to run for open seats because once the ruling class decides behind closed doors who their choice will be there's almost no chance to break through."

The four board members who will be making this appointment are PROHIBITED by law from discussing among themselves this issue and any of the candidates except in a properly noticed public meeting. If there is any indication that they have violated this prohibition any appointment which they make will be null and void. They should remember what happened when Ferguson held serial meetings prior to her nullified election as mayor.

Given the 17 June due date for application there is no reason that the board should not publicly announce who are the applicants and post those candidates' entire application well in advance of the 21 June meeting so that the public can be prepared to comment on these applicants before the board makes its selection.

Here are the questions that applicants for an opening on the Fire Board were required to answer in their applications:

Name:
E-mail Address:
Present Street Address:
Phone:
Are you a registered voter in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District?
What is your occupation?
Employer's Name:
Employer's Address:
Phone:
Your Present Position:
Length of Employment?
Self Employed:
Name and Description of Business:
Address:
Phone
Length of Ownership:

Have you ever served on a public board, committee or commission?
If yes, please explain:



Do you have any relatives presently employed by the District or serving in any official capacity?
If yes, please give names and relationship:

Are you able to attend night meetings?
Day Meetings?
Either?

Please list names of any community organizations or activities to which you belong or in which you have participated, including dates of participation and offices held, if any:



Please list individuals who are well acquainted with your personal and/or professional qualifications:



Please write a brief statement describing why you would like to serve on the MPFPD Board of Directors:


Posted by Not Surprised, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Why am I not surprised by the same ol' school bashers filling a school bashing blog? What a crazy, crazy place Menlo Park/Atherton is these days. Many of the posters even are drawing the race card and the envy of wealth card, crazy! So, let me get this straight:

* We have some of the highest test scores in the state, let alone the nation.
* We have brand new facilities that are the envy of all of our neighboring towns.
* We have a large amount of outsiders wanting to move to MP/Atherton BECAUSE of the SCHOOLS, so in turn we have almost doubled the number of students over the past 5+years.(oh, and by the way, have increased the worth of your homes)
* We have a Foundation that will once again far surpass the previous record in grant money.
* We were one of the very few Districts that have NOT laid off teachers during this recession.

And still we have the school bashers that get all sensitive because they believe they should be appointed, or someone else besides someone "connected"? Are you kidding me? Last time I checked, with the exception of this appointment, these positions are OPEN elections. They're not voted upon by MPCSD or the Foundation. If you want to win one of the seats, run for it. If volunteering for the PTO or MPAEF or school yard duties is a pre-equisite, then volunteer, get out there, do something. Just like any election, you should have some type of resume, some type of experience, just sitting at a meeting (of which most of you have never attended) doesn't do it. I don't think you'll get elected while having the platform of: "I complained about everything, as much as I could, and protested at every opportunity, in front of the Board" is going to get you elected. You bashers should live in Redwood City, or Mountain View, or anywhere in the state. It's also interesting to note, that out of the 10+ postings above mine, there is not ONE specific example of something MPCSD has "screwed-up", not one.(other than some of your assumptions that the new Superintendent was a bad choice, nice opinion by the way, the guy has yet to start his job!)
Crazy, crazy place that MP/Atherton is these days.


Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Mr. Carpenter,
Here is your chance to make good on all the issues you spoke of including the parcel tax, the violation of Brown act, pension reform, etc. Go to the meeting and step up to the challenge..............
BCPW


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Peter Carpenter,

I agree with Blue Collar Public Worker. It's very easy to say what should be done and ramifications if rules are not followed. Maybe you are the one that should follow up here, as you seem more adamant than anyone else (saying this in a positive way). You can say that they are "PROHIBITED by law from discussing among themselves this issue . . . ." but how is anyone going to verify whether this happens or not? We all know that it does.

You made the following demand of the school board regarding the appointment of the new superintendent. Could you let readers know what the result was? Were any actions taken against the board?

Thank you.

Peter Carpenter wrote: "Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 3:22 am
peter carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online

Dear Menlo City School District Board,

Pursuant to Section 549601. you are hereby notified that your actions in appointing a new superintendent violated the Brown Act and those actions will need to be declared null and void.

School Board President Maria Hilton announced on May 6 the appointment in an email to district families, saying Mr. Ghysels "possesses an impressive depth of educational and business leadership experience and a demonstrated passion for excellence."

The action leading to this announcement violated the Brown Act in at least two ways.

First, as Mrs. Hilton stated on May 10 that board members had voted, in a blind-ballot process, to rank the candidates.

Second, the Board had reached consensus on this matter without the opportunity for public comment at a properly agendized meeting. On May 10 Mrs. Hilton announced a "welcome reception" for the appointed individual BEFORE its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 10. The reception will be from 6 to 7 p.m. in the district office at 181 Encinal Ave. in Menlo Park. The agenda for the 10 May meeting, after the "welcome reception" included a Closed session item titled:

''The Board will meet in Closed Session regarding Public Employee Appointment (Superintendent) as per Government Code 54957"

and an Open Session item titled :

"a. Ratification of Contract with Dr. Maurice Ghysels for Position of Superintendent, Beginning July 1, 2011 "

Cure and Correct Demand:

1 - The Menlo Park City School Board made a preliminary decision regarding the appointment of a new superintendent by secret ballot in violation of Section 54953c which states (c) No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final.

2 - The Board reached consensus on this appointment without public input thereby denying the public's right to comment before the Board's decision was made.

3 - The Board then announced this appointment well before a regularly scheduled meeting at which the public would have been give the opportunity to comment before the legislative body voted to take action, also thereby denying the public's right to comment before the Board's decision was made.

4 - The Board then also announced that a welcoming reception for this appointee appointment would be before a regularly scheduled meeting at which the public would have been give the opportunity to comment before the legislative body voted to make this appointment, also thereby denying the public's right to comment before the Board's decision was made.

Therefore, the Board is respectfully requested to nullify this entire appointment procedure and to begin it search ab initio. When doing the new search and making the appointment the Board is urged not to use either secret ballots or closed sessions (even in those narrow instances when such session might be legally permitted) in order to ensure the public's confidence in and participation in the new appointment process.

.

I am also copying this Cure and Correct Demand Letter to the San Mateo District Attorney so that he may determine if civil or criminal action should be taken.

Peter Carpenter

54960.1. (a) The district attorney or any interested person may

commence an action by mandamus or injunction for the purpose of

obtaining a judicial determination that an action taken by a

legislative body of a local agency in violation of Section 54953,

54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or 54956.5 is null and void under

this section. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent

a legislative body from curing or correcting an action challenged

pursuant to this section.

(b) Prior to any action being commenced pursuant to subdivision

(a), the district attorney or interested person shall make a demand

of the legislative body to cure or correct the action alleged to have

been taken in violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6,

54956, or 54956.5. The demand shall be in writing and clearly

describe the challenged action of the legislative body and nature of

the alleged violation.

(c) (1) The written demand shall be made within 90 days from the

date the action was taken unless the action was taken in an open

session but in violation of Section 54954.2, in which case the

written demand shall be made within 30 days from the date the action

was taken.

(2) Within 30 days of receipt of the demand, the legislative body

shall cure or correct the challenged action and inform the demanding

party in writing of its actions to cure or correct or inform the

demanding party in writing of its decision not to cure or correct the

challenged action.

(3) If the legislative body takes no action within the 30-day

period, the inaction shall be deemed a decision not to cure or

correct the challenged action, and the 15-day period to commence the

action described in subdivision (a) shall commence to run the day

after the 30-day period to cure or correct expires.

(4) Within 15 days of receipt of the written notice of the

legislative body's decision to cure or correct, or not to cure or

correct, or within 15 days of the expiration of the 30-day period to

cure or correct, whichever is earlier, the demanding party shall be

required to commence the action pursuant to subdivision (a) or

thereafter be barred from commencing the action.

(d) An action taken that is alleged to have been taken in

violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or

54956.5 shall not be determined to be null and void if any of the

following conditions exist:

(1) The action taken was in substantial compliance with Sections

54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, and 54956.5.

(2) The action taken was in connection with the sale or issuance

of notes, bonds, or other evidences of indebtedness or any contract,

instrument, or agreement thereto.

(3) The action taken gave rise to a contractual obligation,

including a contract let by competitive bid other than compensation

for services in the form of salary or fees for professional services,

upon which a party has, in good faith and without notice of a

challenge to the validity of the action, detrimentally relied.

(4) The action taken was in connection with the collection of any

tax.

(5) Any person, city, city and county, county, district, or any

agency or subdivision of the state alleging noncompliance with

subdivision (a) of Section 54954.2, Section 54956, or Section

54956.5, because of any defect, error, irregularity, or omission in

the notice given pursuant to those provisions, had actual notice of

the item of business at least 72 hours prior to the meeting at which

the action was taken, if the meeting was noticed pursuant to Section

54954.2, or 24 hours prior to the meeting at which the action was

taken if the meeting was noticed pursuant to Section 54956, or prior

to the meeting at which the action was taken if the meeting is held

pursuant to Section 54956.5.

(e) During any action seeking a judicial determination pursuant to

subdivision (a) if the court determines, pursuant to a showing by

the legislative body that an action alleged to have been taken in

violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or

54956.5 has been cured or corrected by a subsequent action of the

legislative body, the action filed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall

be dismissed with prejudice.

(f) The fact that a legislative body takes a subsequent action to

cure or correct an action taken pursuant to this section shall not be

construed or admissible as evidence of a violation of this chapter.

54960.5. A court may award court costs and reasonable attorney fees

to the plaintiff in an action brought pursuant to Section 54960 or

54960.1 where it is found that a legislative body of the local agency

has violated this chapter. The costs and fees shall be paid by the

local agency and shall not become a personal liability of any public"


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Not surprised states:"there is not ONE specific example of something MPCSD has "screwed-up", not one."

Not true. Just look at a number of other topics on this Forum involving this board and its consistent disregard of the Brown Act - secret ballots, agendas which do not provide for public comment on specific agenda items, etc.. And lots of corroboration by numerous posters of the board'd disregard for the public who its serves.


Posted by Not Surprised, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Here we go with Mr. Brown Act again. We have a DA, apparently your interpretation of the Brown Act Rule is a little different than his, or perhaps he sees this as "no big deal"? However, it is still quite fun seeing "the Brown Act excuse" thrown at every elected official that you do not agree with in MP/Atherton, so continue if you must. If it IS in fact a big deal, let the DA know, and let him do his work. This constant cry of "Brown Act violation, Brown Act violation...." is getting old, let them do their work, again think of the accomplishments of these ELECTED VOLUNTEERS.


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Pogo,

In regards to your comment that the school boards are pretty much the same, I don't think they are. Woodside is one school (probably an insider clique group though). Redwood City and Palo Alto are larger and a little more diverse. Menlo Park, unfortunately takes the cake when it comes to insider cliques. Yes, the school board members are our neighbors, but you'd be surprised that some of them do, in fact, find it very easy to ignore parents. I know of parents that have dedicated hours upon hours to the schools, only to have school board members act as if they had never met them. And yes, I've spoken up many times. An example: day after school board meeting I attended asked one very benign, non-controversial question.....ran into the board member that has been there the longest......said "hi".......she looked at me like she had never seen me in her life......no acknowledgement......... just walked away.

My guess is that the decision on the open position has already been decided.

Am looking forward to hearing the results of Peter Carpenter's response from the school board and the San Mateo County District Attorney (my previous post).


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 8:17 pm

MPCSD simply denies that they have violated the Brown Act in spite of the President declaring that they used secret ballots to select the new superintendent and in spite of the fact that the agenda for the meeting to select the superintendent did not provide for public comment before they made that selection.

I suggest that you direct your inquiries and outrage, if any, to the DA who has these complaints under consideration:

swagstaffe@co.sanmateo.ca.us

aserrato@co.sanmateo.ca.us


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Peter,

Thanks for the information. I suspect the same will happen with this situation. They most likely have already selected the person they want, but will deny it when challenged.

For what it's worth, I have only voted for one person that is currently on the board, and am now sorry I did.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 3, 2011 at 8:53 pm

1. Just because the San Mateo County DA doesn't prosecute violations of the Brown Act, doesn't mean that the elected body didn't violate the public trust. In some of these cases, they have admitted error but have avoided prosecution. But the election and re-election of these officials is ultimately up to the citizens. If you toss them out for ignoring their obligations for transparent governance, you don't have to depend on a very political DA to enforce this LAW.

2. I have attended school board meetings for Woodside, Redwood City, Sequoia Unified and Palo Alto and I can assure you they are just as "insider" as Menlo Park. Diversity applies to everything except opinion.

3. IT IS UP TO THE PEOPLE IN THE MPCSD to voice their sentiments to their school board. If you don't show up, don't complain. Personally, I have found that when I take the time to contact my elected officials - in my town, county, state and even in Washington, DC - they have been extraordinarily responsive. If you choose to remain silent, it just means that other opinions are that much more important. Your choice.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Not Surprised says

"Here we go with Mr. Brown Act again. We have a DA, apparently your interpretation of the Brown Act Rule is a little different than his, or perhaps he sees this as "no big deal"?"

This would be a Great subject for a Citizens Oversight Committee.

San Mateo County District Attorney does not prosecute Brown Act Law Violations......Why not? At least for the last 29 years.

Most people who violate these laws are elected officials, also appointed.


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Pogo,

I agree that many elected officials can be very responsive, but having been extremely involved in the MP schools (PTA's, Site Council, Foundation) I can assure you that this board does what they what, with little regard for parent input. I have heard others voice concerns or offer suggestions and actually be cut off. Phone calls and emails are ignored.

Your comment that if you don't show up you can't complain is a valid one. I, along with many others have shown up, so can complain. And yes I voted, but only for one that is on the board.....and regret that one.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 3, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Parent in Atherton -

I congratulate you for showing up. I wish there were more like you and I wish everyone would go up to the microphone and voice their concerns.

It's only scary the first time, then you get the hang of it! Let those officials know they are being watched and that they will be held accountable on election day!


Posted by MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 9:18 pm

OMG, never did I imagine that it was a more than an in-crowd, not just a clique -- but a cabal! And a corrupt one at that. For years I thought they were fairly smart, well educated, experienced volunteers muddling along like the rest of us. (I've never been invited to their parties, either. Or yours. So I didn't know what, it would appear, everyone knows. Sigh.)

By all means, let's throw the buzzards out! Let us force them to select the right person. (OMG, they are actually interviewing and voting in the same night? They must have selected someone; it can't be a mad attempt to respect the Brown Act!)

We must go and disallow this rush to judgment.

Now, how do we know who the right candidate is? Sure, they'll ignore us until we yell "Brown Act" until we're blue in the eyes. But that's the price of liberty.

It sounds like our criteria are:
- not white
- not wealthy
- not well-connected
- cannot own two vacation homes
- cannot have an A+ student
- ignorant of the current state of MPCSD
- unaware of California public school system laws, curriculum, financing
- does not share the current Board's values and priorities
- must be a good BFF to all of us -- remembering, if we show up and ask a question at any meeting, to say 'hi' the next day and make us feel popular
- expert about the Brown Act
- may not have served or drunk Kool-aid locally
- may or may not have bought a muffin at a bake sale
- cannot have been within a nickel's throw of the MPAEF

We're down to you, Peter. (Oops, are you white? I've never attended a Fire District meeting, either when you were elected, or recently after your appointment to an unfinished term based, I believe, on your previous experience. If you're white, I take it back.)

Well, perhaps there is someone else in Menlo Park or Atherton who will meet these criteria. Now it's the job of the Almanac to help us find him. Or her. Or, to be inclusive, it.

First, publicize the opening widely! Nail the Almanac to every phone pole and hydrant. Second, ask all the candidates about these criteria, please -- ferret out the Tiger Mothers and closet Serrano cognoscenti, demand access to tax returns, bank statements, and iPhones to rule out wealth, third homes, and, above all, connections (but make sure they've entered the rest of us as BFFs). Ascertain that they have done something in the schools, but not so much that any one has actually seen them doing it.

We cannot let the current Board pick someone like themselves -- someone like the voters picked seven months ago. Yes, we simply must find someone who will pass our eclectic Kool-Aid acid test.


Posted by same topic, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 4, 2011 at 8:58 am

Thank you, MPCSD Parent, for that eloquent post that beautifully illustrates the points many of us have been trying to make, and exemplifies why so many of us hate to speak up at MPCSD board meetings.


Posted by Not Surprised, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 4, 2011 at 9:23 am

MPCSD - Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your list is perfect, there has been no substance AT ALL in these posts, only envy, and some extremely sensitive nanzy panzies, that couldn't handle one minute of public work, let alone become a board member. My God what a waste of posting space!


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 11:23 am

Not Surprised,

I'm guessing that you are a new reader here. While I don't know them personally, Peter Carpenter's list of "public work" far surpasses that of any school board member in Menlo Park. And Pogo's does as well. I personally work full-time, served on the MPSD Foundation for 5 years, the Site Council for 3, was PTA president, chaired three annual fundraisers for schools, chaired a huge event for the city, am currently on 2 "public" board of directors and the parent association for my child's college and also read for the blind 2 hours a week. So "sensitive nanzy panzies"??? I hardly think so.

And as for "envy," the answer is a definite no. I do "public work" because I truly care and don't ask for accolades and recognition. It's not an ego thing for me, unlike our local school board members. I should also say that all the work I do (and I'm guessing Peter Carpenter and Pogo) is totally above board, honest, and totally transparent.


Posted by Wow, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 4, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Sounds like we've hit a nerve here. Either you agree with the current way the District operates, which is to follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law, or you're a jealous nay-sayer. And the proof for that is we have new buildings and high STAR scores. The reason we have new buildings is that we have a community who believes in education and has generously voted for all the construction bonds with the encouragement of a very high-paid PR firm. The reason the District has high STAR scores is because for the most part we have very smart kids who would do well in any school district, not because we're some wonderful, progressive utopia. The current Superintendent and the Board don't have to meet together secretly. On the big issues, the Superintendent meets with each Trustee individually and they speak in twos, so that concensus is built ahead of the public meetings. Along with that, information to the public is closely guarded and totally controlled. That's why they're so freaked out at the idea of an outsider getting a seat on the Board. If one person decides not to play the game that way, then the game is over. And you don't have a prayer of getting that seat unless you have Stockholm Syndrome from working on the MPAEF and believing that we are inches away from total ruin unless our main focus is on a huge money machine working 24/7.


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

MPCSD Parent,

Your post is actually not even worthy of a response, but you and Not Surprised seem to need a little clarification on this issue.

The claim that there is "no substance" to the posts here is totally incorrect. The school board, themselves, admitted that they took a blind vote. Meetings have been and are still being held in secret and not at all according to proper procedures. This has been, and is being challenged. You can make fun of our laws and the Brown Act, but where do you determine what is a valid law to be followed and one that we can all just ignore?

It really comes down to respect: Respect for the job you are elected or appointed to; respect for proper procedures; respect for those that elected you, and respect for those you are entrusted with serving (In the case of the school board it's the kids, the parents and the community). No, people aren't looking for a 'hi" just to be "popular." It's all about respect.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Wow states:"On the big issues, the Superintendent meets with each Trustee individually and they speak in twos, so that concensus is built ahead of the public meetings."

IF they do this then these are serial meetings and are prohibited by law.


Posted by Not Surprised, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Just to wrap things up:
* Thanks again MPCSD Parent, you seem to be the sane one on this post.
* Still looking for substance, and facts, about how poorly our MPCSD Board is performing??
Answer: There aren't any.
* Good luck with that whole Brown Act thing Mr. Carpenter, you're wasting your time.
* Parent In Atherton - Just helping you out, there is NO PTA, there are PTO's in MPCSD.
There is no such thing as the MPSD Foundation, it is the MPAEF.
There are no terms of 5 years on MPAEF, the longest has been 3.
Thank you MPCSD Board for your fantastic service to this community, my kids continue to thrive, and our community continues to benefit from your hard work!


Posted by same topic, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 4, 2011 at 11:28 pm

For those of you new to the district...

* The PTOs all used to be PTAs. So most of us who've been around for a while were involved in our kids' PTAs.

* When I joined the MPAEF board, I was told that the term was a minimum of 2 years, maximum of 6 years. It may be 3 years now, but that is a relatively new rule.

Although the MPCSD board has made some notable mistakes, mostly in hiring, I can't hold that against them. They are dedicated volunteers who contribute a lot to our schools. However, it is extremely unfortunate that they have become so inbred that they do not tolerate, much less welcome, diversity of opinion in their ranks. Nor do they value transparency. Anyone who has had a candid conversation with a board member knows the score. The question is: how can an outsider (or outsiders) effect change without getting steamrollered?


Posted by MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 8:24 am

The question, "how can an outsider effect change without getting steamrollered," is an interesting one.

My impression, when I've approached Board members with questions or issues, has been that they're like suspects who've been read the Miranda Act. "Anything you say, can and will be used against you." Thus, they may absorb my input, but are extremely cagey in any answer.

Rather than blame them, or impute evil backroom doings, I remember both my own and friends' service as corporate executives and Board members. Firing a popular employee for stealing to support a drug habit that he refused to seek help for ('everyone does it') was a hopeless situation -- label him a thief and junkie? or be reviled as a capricious, clueless boss? These damned-if-you-do-or-don't decisions are ones any Board member has to make daily.

In recent memory, the Board has found itself between the rock and hard place of an exploding school population, flat revenues, high parent expectations, and the realities of our outdated labor relationship. Every decision has a big highly vocal loser -- regardless of which way it's made.

So, how can an outsider effect change? First, get enough on-the-ground experience to know exactly how that desired change would effect the larger school population -- the children's schedules, the teaching, load, finances, physical use of the grounds, etc. Second, meet with the stakeholders. Third, make a solid proposal that reconciles as many of these factors as possible. And, while you're doing it, sit in on enough Board meetings that you understand how your change fits into the broader picture of all the other changes (external and internal) being demanded of the District.

Alternatively, and by all means, put your name in the hat for a position on the Board. But please, if you've stated publicly (like one candidate has), "I wanted to be a room parent,but the process here is way different than the East Coast so lots to learn," don't expect us to believe that you are capable of effecting productive, positive change as a School Board member any time in the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, if you've served the District well -- even if it was 8+ years ago -- please, come back, see how things have changed (the gutting of the foreign language program, for example), and help us get it together so our kids can attend the college of their choice like yours is!




Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 9:25 am

To Not Surprised,

As pointed out by "same topic," you are wrong. The Menlo Park School District did have PTA's. At Laurel School, Nancy Hendry was Principal and Suzy Conn was the Kindergarten teacher all the kids wanted. David Ackerman was Principal of Encinal.

I wrote MPSD Foundation because many of the readers are not part of our district, have grown kids, or attend private schools. Yes, it is the MPAEF, but many will not know what that stands for. When I was there it was referred to as The Foundation. And there were terms longer than 3 years.

You might want to do your homework.

You say that enforcing the Brown Act is a "waste of time." At present, it is a law. I am curious as to how you teach your children what is a law that should be followed and which ones can just be ignored. You have said that the Brown Act can be disregarded. Is it OK to run a stop sign if no one is around? Is it OK for 18 year olds to drink if they are in there own homes? How do you decide? (If you think the Brown Act is a waste, then you should take steps to have it overturned)

As for "substance," you have chosen to ignore the fact that the School Board has, in fact, broken laws and acted improperly--as recently as appointing the new superintendent. This is by their own admission. They also admit that they meet privately to determine issues ahead of time. In the past, I have seen one in particular, make a decision that benefitted her son, without input from anyone else.

As "same topic" said: "it is extremely unfortunate that they have become so inbred that they do not tolerate, much less welcome, diversity of opinion in their ranks. Nor do they value transparency. Anyone who has had a candid conversation with a board member knows the score."

To MPCSD Parent,

You say: " if you've served the District well -- even if it was 8+ years ago -- please, come back, see how things have changed (the gutting of the foreign language program, for example), and help us get it together so our kids can attend the college of their choice like yours is!"

I, for one, do attend school board meetings. Sadly, I see very few current parents there. I also still support the MPAEF fundraisers. As a taxpayer and member of our community, I feel that it is important to know what is going on and help out if I can. You might be surprised to learn about some of the programs started and still supported by parents whose kids are now in college. So, yes there are others out there helping "get it together."

The schools have a rough road ahead: a controversial new superintendent, a school board that does its own thing, huge budget issues, and a lot of current parents just willing to accept things they way they are. By the way, I have heard that the board has already picked the next member. If you check around, you'll find out that it's someone they know will be a part of their team.


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 10:03 am

Spelling correction to my 4th paragraph--should read: their own homes.

Also, just made a phone call and confirmed that there is a candidate who says they have been assured they will get the open board spot. Do you still think the board is acting openly and transparently?


Posted by MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 11:20 am

Thank you for continuing to work to make our community stronger, P in A.

Now, could you give us the initials of the candidate -- or even their last initial -- since I'm an outsider to the inner circle, I haven't heard a whisper.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 11:33 am

Parent states:"just made a phone call and confirmed that there is a candidate who says they have been assured they will get the open board spot."

Since there has not been an agendized meeting on this issue with the opportunity for public comment any agreement or even discussion amongst the current board members would be a violation of the law and would nullify any resulting appointment. IF there is any evidence that an illegal consensus has been reached then each of the board members will be called to testify under oath on their role.


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 11:49 am

Peter,

You are correct. It will be interesting to see if this candidate is, in fact, the one selected.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 11:57 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.


From: Peter Carpenter
Date: June 5, 2011 11:51:38 AM PDT
To: Joan Lambert, Laura Rich Rich , Terry Thygesen , MPCSD BOARD BOARD , Mark Box Box
Cc: Steve Wagstaffe , Al Serrato , Renee Batti , David DeBolt , Diana Samuels

Subject: Please use caution in the process of appointing someone to fill Box's uncompleted term


Dear School Board Trustees,

Here are some of the many comments already posted on the matter of your forthcoming appointment of someone to fill Box's uncompleted term. I urge you to proceed with caution on this matter and to provide the public with full and timely notice of the candidates who are being considered and the opportunity to comment on each candidate BEFORE you begin your consideration of these candidates.

It would be reassuring if, at the time of your 21 June meeting, each of you would publicly state that you have not discussed this appointment with any of your board colleagues or via a serial meeting with the Superintendent.

If this appointment is not made in full compliance with the Brown Act then the appointment will be challenged and those who violated the law will be subject to criminal prosecution.

Respectfully,

Peter Carpenter

*******************************
Posted by Believe states "No one bothers to run for open seats because once the ruling class decides behind closed doors who their choice will be there's almost no chance to break through."

Posted by same topic, third thread: Another MPCSD Parent is right. Moreover, I expect that the board has already chosen the new member and is just carrying on this charade to try to convince us otherwise.


PFC response:
The four board members who will be making this appointment are PROHIBITED by law from discussing among themselves this issue and any of the candidates except in a properly noticed public meeting. If there is any indication that they have violated this prohibition any appointment which they make will be null and void. They should remember what happened when Ferguson held serial meetings prior to her nullified election as mayor.

Given the 17 June due date for application there is no reason that the board should not publicly announce who are the applicants and post those candidates' entire application well in advance of the 21 June meeting so that the public can be prepared to comment on these applicants before the board makes its selection.

Here are the questions that applicants for an opening on the Fire Board were required to answer in their applications:

Name:

E-mail Address:

Present Street Address:

Phone:

Are you a registered voter in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District?

What is your occupation?

Employer's Name:

Employer's Address:

Phone:

Your Present Position:

Length of Employment?

Self Employed:

Name and Description of Business:

Address:

Phone

Length of Ownership:

Have you ever served on a public board, committee or commission?

If yes, please explain:

Do you have any relatives presently employed by the District or serving in any official capacity?

If yes, please give names and relationship:

Are you able to attend night meetings?

Day Meetings?

Either?

Please list names of any community organizations or activities to which you belong or in which you have participated, including dates of participation and offices held, if any:

Please list individuals who are well acquainted with your personal and/or professional qualifications:

Please write a brief statement describing why you would like to serve on the MPFPD Board of Directors:

****************************

Posted by The Fix Is In
The criteria for choosing a replacement for Mark Box is dependent on a person's knowledge of the condition of the MPCSD and understanding of the California public school system laws, curriculum, financing, etc. Does this mean that the current board members and the new superintendent need help in these areas? Wouldn't there actually be some advantage to having a smart, well-educated and experienced community member who could look at things differently? The deck is stacked for this process. My guess is that current board members are now providing a tutorial for their designated appointee.
Wow states:"On the big issues, the Superintendent meets with each Trustee individually and they speak in twos, so that concensus is built ahead of the public meetings."

PFC response:
IF they do this then these are serial meetings and serial meetings are prohibited by law.

******************
Parent states:"just made a phone call and confirmed that there is a candidate who says they have been assured they will get the open board spot."

PFC response:
Since there has not been an agendized meeting on this issue with the opportunity for public comment any agreement or even discussion amongst the current board members would be a violation of the law and would nullify any resulting appointment. IF there is any evidence that an illegal consensus has been reached then each of the board members will be called to testify under oath on their role.




Peter Carpenter


Posted by MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 11:59 am

Peter - the Parent in Atherton who said this claims to know you and (more impressively) POGO.

So a phone call or even (since you both hail from Lindenwood) a neighborly visit is in order. If the successor has been picked -- before the candidate forms are even in -- you'll be the first to know and can blow the whistle!

However, you (who abhor anonymous postings) also know that this echo chamber can create a conspiracy where none exists. It would be all too easy to announce after the fact, "well, of course they picked [fill in the name] -- it was pre-arranged."

For those who enjoy articles on conspiracy theories, those who hold them and why, the New York Times Magazine has one this week, by Bill Keller.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 12:06 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

If the board has already picked a candidate, and I have no proof that this has occurred, then they will each need to be prepared to testify under oath as to their actions. The superintendent and the candidate will also be an object of any nvestigation.

My email is an attempt to preclude the violation of the law - which I think is much preferred to punishing violators.

I am blowing a warning whistle not a violation whistle because the facts do not yet show that a violation has occurred.


Posted by Good Guess, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Once her name is stated the board members will have to scramble for Plan B, but the word on the street is that the person who will replace Mark Box is Shari Conrad. I just hope and pray that other interested candidates will not be intimidated this time and will challenge this closed way of doing business. Even Jeff Child, a former board member who was at the special meeting last Tuesday, was noticably irritated by the tightly controlled approach. They believe they can dictate the terms of board service, and even an election, because that's essentially what they've been doing right along.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 1:36 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

If those who are concerned about the MPCSD's lack of transparency and willingness to accept public input want to do something to put pressure on the Board to change its ways then I suggest that each of you send emails to our District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe and his Brown Act specialist Al Serrato expressing your concerns for both the board's past violations of the Brown Act and any indications that you have that the board is getting ready to violate the law again with the process of appointing this new trustee.

swagstaffe@co.sanmateo.ca.us

aserrato@co.sanmateo.ca.us

It also helps to copy the press:

rbatti@AlmanacNews.com

ddebolt@padailypost.com

dsamuels@dailynewsgroup.com

The DA and the press know how to count and so far the number of people who have spoken out on this issue is ONE - a number which is easily ignored.

Feel free to post your emails here (without your name if you wish) so that others may be informed and encouraged.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Great Job Peter,

Everyone interested send those e-mails


Posted by same topic, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Shari fits well with the board. She is a nice person who has volunteered extensively for our schools. She is going to go with the flow. But it's hard to applaud the result when the process is so severely flawed.

When I referred to "outsiders" before, I was not referring to people ignorant of the school issues. I myself have had many questions about our district -- about funding, the unions, and the inevitable "why don't we merge with Las Lomitas?" -- that individual board members have answered. I suspect there are a lot of us peripheral people who volunteer as much as we can but who aren't anywhere near the inner circle. Who aren't heard when we speak up at board meetings.

And, though, they would deny ever having had the conversations, I have had board members make comments to me that reflected a violation of the Brown Act. I didn't think of it in those terms at the time of the conversation, just that -- even though they might individually be nice people -- as board members they were pretty arrogant and dismissive of their constituents. Much more so than our council members.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Same topic states:"it's hard to applaud the result when the process is so severely flawed."

Then please speak out - let the DA and the press know of your concerns and of your experiences.


Posted by MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Shari Conrad, whom I do not know, would certainly not pass the Kool-Aid test based on a quick web search. She has apparently coordinated lunchtime sports at Encinal for years.

Who believes she hasn't served Kool-Aid? And drunk some of it, when she did.

I think we can agree that failure to pass this most basic of tests caps any aspirations of one nice person who has volunteered extensively for our schools and would get along well with the current Board. (She can also, incidentally, see the Ravenswood School District from her house, which, I hope we agree, does not qualify her as an expert in inter-District relations, though it might suggest the absence of a second vacation home.)

But that was Good Guess (resident in Lindenwood) who responded, not Parent in Atherton (also resident in Lindenwood). I hope PinA wasn't told a different name. That would suggest a seriously flawed process.


Posted by Wow, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Shari (if it is her they're thinking about appointing) is a very nice person and generously volunteers her time for a number of things in the schools and for the education foundation. The point isn't whether she or others who volunteer for a lot of different positions are nice or not. The point is that there are many nice, knowledgeable, capable people who volunteer but not all of them are part of the inner circle. The majority have no chance of being on the board and if they try to do so they will lose and be frozen out of the school community. It's like middle school, only with more money and some job titles.


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Peter Carpenter,

Thank you for all of your efforts here! You've done a lot of legwork, and it is very much appreciated. I will definitely get on my emails to your suggested list this evening. Let's hope that more who read this will do the same. I encourage everyone reading this to refer their friends to Peter's recommendations.

To MPCSD Parent,

I did not say that I knew Peter and Pogo personally. If you read carefully, my comment: "While I don't know them personally, Peter Carpenter's list of "public work" far surpasses that of any school board member in Menlo Park. And Pogo's does as well."


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Parent in Atherton,

Please tell all other interested people to read this blog, very few people even know about it....pass it along with your e-mails


Posted by Questionable Tradition, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 5, 2011 at 4:55 pm

If the litmus test for serving on the board of education is that one must first serve on the MPAEF in some sort of fundraising capacity, then that is buying influence, plain and simple.


Posted by Another School Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I've put in many hours volunteering at both the elementary and middle schoola. I've had conversations with MPAEF board members who acknowledge that school board decisions are made well before any opportunity for public input, and who won't speak up for fear of their families being ostracized by the parents in power. Petty, mean stuff like children receiving no invites to parties or play dates, or parents getting the cold shoulder at hot lunch. From what I've seen over the years, when an issue gets "hot" the board politely hears public comment and then moves ahead with plans unchanged. If there's too much dissent, information sheets are sent home with each child describing the horrors that will occur should there be any delay in enacting board decisions. It's sad.


Posted by MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Many apologies, Parent in Atherton, my brain froze trying to compare the contributions of current MPCSD Board members with those of an anonymous cartoon acronym, as presumably self-reported elsewhere, along with those of a retired gentleman 30+ years their senior. For credibility, I parsed the "don't" right out of your sentence.

Now, aside from the interesting elevation of inside clique to cabal, and the publication of certainly calumnious, possibly libelous comments here, why exactly do we want large numbers of people to read these postings?

* To ensure that no one in their right mind applies for the job? 'Wow' claims, "The majority have no chance of being on the board and if they try to do so they will lose and be frozen out of the school community." Wow, Wow. Any chance that people who hesitate to volunteer themselves do so because of (a) the extensive time requirements, (b) having to make brutally unpopular public decisions, and (c) knowledge that any decision will be anonymously second-guessed here? Those factors deter a lot more worker-bee candidates I know than fear that the 'in-crowd' won't 'like' them.

* To encourage the School Board to shift funds away from kids and into legal representation at every meeting, ensuring no accidental blind ballots? That would be productive. Not.

* To gather support for a special interest or political candidate? Frightening away or maligning the Shari Conrads of the District might achieve this.

* To extend a campaign of personal vituperation? Hell, it would appear, hath no fury like a PiA overlooked after an unmemorable question at a Board Meeting.

All I can hope is that, instead of this campaign of meanness (which does remind me of middle school, now I think about it), a few readers might try a different tack.

Can you think of someone who would be a good addition to the Board? Someone who has put in enough time in the schools to know the score, but is neither in lockstep with the in-crowd, nor with a special interest group, nor launching a political career?

You should encourage them to apply, then point them to the District website, which outlines the process, details the meeting that will be held to inform potential candidates, and includes the application. Then go with your chosen candidate to the meeting on the 21st. Support them -- make it clear what your candidate will bring to the table.

Web Link

A propos of all this, bullying in schools has been shown to be most prevalent at the top of the social spectrum, rather than the bottom. What we have here sure feels like posters throwing stones at the folks they seem to presume are at the top. Instead of throwing harder, try looking around for the change you want to see at MPCSD and encouraging it. Just being asked to run might make the effort seem worth it to a good candidate -- weakening the hold of the 'in crowd' mystique and strengthening the District. Not encouraging multiple candidates is simply forcing the Board to recruit one -- or accept whatever crosses the transom.

Unless, of course, it's psychologically more important to have an all-powerful'in-crowd' again, so we can all relive our adolescent insecurities, and demonize it. Anonymously, of course.

Bullying data available in the American Sociological Review, Feb 2011, covered in the New York Times:

Web Link


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

MPCSD parent asks:"Can you think of someone who would be a good addition to the Board? "

How about someone without children in the schools who would represent the people who pay the bills - the taxpayers? Or should taxpayers without children in the schools simply be taxed without representation?

How about someone with real financial management skills?

How about someone who has run a successful business?

How about an expert on education like a professor from Stanford?


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 6:41 pm

MPCSD Parent,

You said: "To extend a campaign of personal vituperation? Hell, it would appear, hath no fury like a PiA overlooked after an unmemorable question at a Board Meeting." You are the one that needs to get over this. I was simply giving an example of the arrogance shown by one board member. Frankly, didn't bother me in the least. As I said before, respect is key, and it goes two ways. If there was "fury" on my part, I would have stopped volunteering and donating money many years ago.

You say: " why exactly do we want large numbers of people to read these postings....? To encourage the School Board to shift funds away from kids and into legal representation at every meeting, ensuring no accidental blind ballots? That would be productive. Not." If the board acted openly, with transparency and according to proper procedures, there would be no need for "legal representation."

You also say: Can you think of someone who would be a good addition to the Board?" Actually yes, I can. But unfortunately, word on the street is that someone has already been selected, which just might tend to discourage others.


Another School Parent,

You are so right. A good example was several years ago when a MPAEF member's children were moving on to high school. At that time it was the practice for the outgoing parent MPAEF volunteer to receive a "service award." This particular mom had contributed hours upon hours to the schools and to the Foundation. She had challenged a vote initiated by the Foundation and the school board member liaison. She held her ground and gave good reasons why. And guess what? When the service awards were handed out, she was overlooked. Many of us asked that she be given this award, but the president wouldn't budge.


Peter,

Your suggestions are excellent. I especially like the idea of someone from Stanford. I do know of someone that I will contact. He would be great, but don't know if he would be willing. If it's OK with you, I would like to refer him to your comments and suggestions here.


Michael Stogner,

Good suggestion. Will do.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 8:13 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Parent in Atherton states:"I especially like the idea of someone from Stanford. I do know of someone that I will contact. He would be great, but don't know if he would be willing. If it's OK with you, I would like to refer him to your comments and suggestions here."

I would be pleased to talk with him and to give him by perspective on the challenges and the rewards of public service.

If the board is forced to choose in public between someone with expertise and someone whom they can control it might be difficult to choose the latter - particularly if they have a lot of citizens, and perhaps even someone from the DA's office, watching them.


Posted by Not Surprised, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 5, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Mr. Stogner, sorry that was an outright lie, and/or an incredible embellishment of the facts. "....but the President wouldn't budge". I know intimately what you are referring too, and you've been caught redhanded.
The conspiracy thinking, the over reactions, the automatic assumptions........this posting is crazy talk, absolutely crazy. All of you write this garbage about people knowing full well that your comments cannot be followed up with hardcore facts and figures, they're just accusations. Accusations against AGAIN one of the best School Districts AND Foundations in the state! It's absurd!
If you want to pick a fight go start with our STATE'S finances and craziness, and gossip. This is an absolute joke, go find something else to do.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Not surprised - but you should be - states:"All of you write this garbage about people knowing full well that your comments cannot be followed up with hardcore facts and figures, they're just accusations."

Fact - the school board used a secret ballot, as acknowledged by the board president, to make its first decision regarding the choice of the new superintendent. The law specifically forbids such secret ballots:
Section 54953c states (c) No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final.

Fact - the agenda for the closed session during which the board made its selection of the new superintendent did not provide for public comment BEFORE that decision was made.
Here is the California Attorney General's guidance on this matter:
"Public Testimony
Every agenda for a regular meeting shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item under the subject matter jurisdiction of the body. With respect to any item which is already on the agenda, or in connection with any item which the body will consider pursuant to the exceptions contained in section 54954.2(b), the public must be given the opportunity to comment before or during the legislative body's consideration of the item. ( 54954.3(a)."

What is the next baseless defense by Not Surprised for a board which continues to ignore the law?


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm

To Not Surprised,

First, you addressed the wrong person. Mr. Stogner did not give that example, so an apology is due to him from you. I made the post. And I remain firm in my example. This mom spent countless hours and years helping make Oak Knoll and Hillview better schools for our kids. I believe she is currently doing the same type of work at MA, but not sure what positions she holds there. She definitely should have been recognized for her efforts.


Posted by same, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 9:41 pm

"I've had conversations with MPAEF board members who acknowledge that school board decisions are made well before any opportunity for public input, and who won't speak up for fear of their families being ostracized by the parents in power."

Exactly. I had those same conversations about the decision process. And I have seen people get slammed for making waves. And when it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself if this cause is worth your sacrificing your and your family's comfort. There's a lot of middle-schoolish nastiness going on and not many people want to be on the receiving end of that.


Posted by Not Surprised, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 5, 2011 at 10:23 pm

No apology given here, I actually think you owe the school community an apology for your extreme over reaching and huge liberties taken with the truth. And to think this entire journal of whining and hurt feelings, without ANY bases for facts and hardcore evidence of any OTHER type of wrongdoings (other than Mr. Carpenter's little pet rule of the Brown Act).........wow, what a waste of time. Over and out, I'm done, I'll go back to doing something much more positive, and spend my time continuing to push forward this high achieving school agenda, and to help this community.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 7:19 am

Given the facts of the Brown Act violations and the number of experiences related in this thread of the board's intolerance for public input Not Surprised's faith based defense that all is well rings hollow.

If the board wanted public input why would it set the application closing date to 17 June which only gives the public 3 days to evaluate the candidates and that is IF the Board releases the applicants names and all of the information which each of them have submitted to the public on the 18th?


Posted by Also Not Surprised, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 6, 2011 at 8:29 am

Not Surprised gives the typical party line -- "I'm going out to do something POSITIVE". As if anyone who has an opposing opinion is just a negative old grouch. That's the attitude that has created this closed situation -- be happy and go along or there's something wrong with you. Sorry to rain on your parade, but dissent is an important part of any open process and (gasp) can actually lead to better ideas and better leadership. Counter to what this happy little insider wants to believe, people are not whining nor trying to tear down the school district by pointing out the closed nature of the process. Some people actually want to help but aren't allowed to do so other than forums like this because they can't get in the door. The reason no one is giving "hard core evidence" is that to do so exposes the victims to further social exclusion. Referring to the Brown Act as a "pet rule" goes to show you how the school board and adminstration feel about it. It's the law, not some little obsession.


Posted by Curriculum Not Tests, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

There's been a lot of talk about how great MPCSD is doing because it has high test scores. As a reminder, the STAR was created as a measure for failing schools. We happen to be in an area where the majority of children have parents with post-graduate degrees, so having high test scores is not a very telling measure of how good the schools are doing. Raise your hand if you think MPCSD has an excellent Math program. Raise your hand if you think MPCSD has an excellent Writing program. Raise your hand if you think MPCSD is doing a good job with Reading mediation for struggling students (hmmm...why not check those scores?). So, in Reading, Writing and Math we are average at best which is not really a very strong argument for holding the current leadership model sacred.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

So much of this contention could be eliminated if the official made the selection and deliberative process public. It is disrespectful to for the board to signal that they already have a candidate.

I guess it's that little "pet rule" called the Brown Act which, by the way, is LAW. Honest, transparent government is good government.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 10:09 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

The school board, superintendent and not surprised would do well to memorize the preamble to the Brown Act:

"In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards, and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's
business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly."

"The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good
for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

The people reconfirmed that intent fifty years later at the November 2004 election by adopting Proposition 59, amending the California Constitution to include a public right of access to government information:
"The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and
agencies shall be open to public scrutiny."

The Brown Act's other unchanged provision is a single sentence:
"All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, except as
otherwise provided in this chapter."


The board only exists and act by virtue of the delegated authority of the citizens whom its serves. Adherence to these basic principles would fundamentally alter the behavior of the school board and the people's support for the board.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 6, 2011 at 11:30 am

Not Surprised:

The Brown Act is a law, not a rule. Is that your attitude toward all laws or just the ones you don't think are important? I hope you don't raise your children with such disrespect for the law. There's a reason teh Brown Act was put in place. The behavior of this board is a perfect example of why. I can't wait until their idiotic appointment of a superintendent blows up in their faces.


Posted by Past MPCSD Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

Menlo Voter makes a good point. What are Not Surprised and MPCSD Parent teaching their kids about laws? Do they teach them that some can just be ignored? How do you determine which ones should be followed and which shouldn't? I agree that this shows huge disrespect for our laws and our society.

I hope that parents like Not Surprised and MPCSD Parent realize that the people paying for their children's educations are all of us. Not Surprised might be a little surprised when she makes that phone call asking us to support the next, inevitable, parcel tax or donation to the Foundation.

Peter Carpenter has done a great job of showing us what we need to do. Please, please write and email his list. There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the way things are being run. Please help change this. Thank you Mr. Carpenter.


Posted by MP Parent - Allied Arts, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm

A few things that might encourage greater participation.

1. Post the agenda more than a day before the meeting, and remind district parents that the information is there.

2. Televise meetings

3. Hold Town meetings or other open forums with constituents, similar to town meetings that an assemblyman has, to engage with constituents vs. talking with who you know.

All have been suggested to existing board members, and all knocked down by current and recent board members.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm

The Brown Act Laws are being violated because our District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe allows it.
He is following in the footsteps of James P. Fox who allowed it for 28 years.

We citizens need to put pressure on Mr. Wagstaffe to enforce this law. It's a shame that we have to put so much time and effort into this but it will be worth it, once he gets it.

I have just started a San Mateo County Brown Act FB page.

Thank You to Peter Carpenter


Posted by Thomas (Sharon Heights), a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Thomas (Sharon Heights) is a registered user.

There is no district attorney in the state of California that has ever prosecuted the Brown Act. Does anyone have knowledge why Mr. Stogner is so preoccupied on trying to find fault with the San Mateo County D.A.? It would seem to me that if D.A. Wagstaffe had been lacking in his performance as a deputy D.A., someone would have stepped forward to run against him in last November's election. This fact coupled with Mr. Stogner's congratulations to Contra Costa D.A. Peterson on another thread, who also has no record of ever prosecuting a Brown Act violation seems to illustrate this bias.

That said, I suggest people explore civil actions if they feel they have evidence of a violation. A great example of this was an article published two days ago in the Ventura County Star:

"Rio School Board Sued Over Alleged Brown Act Violations"

This same school board was successfully sued back in 2003 in a civil action for a violation of the Brown Act with the plaintiff receiving a large settlement.

There are plenty of attorneys that would be willing to file a civil cause of action if there is sufficient evidence of a clear violation by a public entity where the possibility of tapping into taxpayer dollars is involved. In my opinion, nothing I've read on this thread or any other threads on this forum rises to the level of a criminal complaint and frankly rises to the level of even a civil cause of action.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Stogner but I disagree with his statement that "Brown Act Laws are being violated because our District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe allows it."

The Brown Act is being violated because elected officials have a disregard and disrespect for open, transparent government. It's always easier to perform your work in private without public scrutiny or input.

While I think our DA is delinquent for not prosecuting these officials - and all it would take is a SINGLE prosecution for everyone to begin honoring their legal obligations - it is ultimately up to the people to toss out their elected officials who have such disrespect for open government.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Thomas states:"In my opinion, nothing I've read on this thread or any other threads on this forum rises to the level of a criminal complaint and frankly rises to the level of even a civil cause of action."

You are wrong - the school board has violated the law and they will be held accountable.


Posted by Parent in Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Last night I sent emails to the recommended list from Peter Carpenter. I am in meetings this evening and tomorrow, but will also try to post them on this site in the next few days.

Thank you, Peter Carpenter.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

It appears that the scrutiny of the school board's compliance with the Brown Act has paid off. Here is their statement regarding the appointment of someone to fill the Box vacancy:

"The entire selection process will be conducted in Open Session, including interviews/meetings with the candidates and final deliberations by the Board of Education. The public may attend the entire process and may provide comments to the Board prior to its final vote."

The burden is now on the community to encourage the best possible candidates and to attend this meeting and speak out at the 21 June meeting on those applicants whom you support and those whom you oppose.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Hallelujah. At last, some sanity prevails.

Thank you, school board!


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Good Job


Posted by same topic, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Of course, they can still all vote for Shari, but at least they are making an effort.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm

And hear public input and make their deliberations public.


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