Critical clause strangely missing from document package e-mailed to charter school


Two official documents from the Sequoia Union High School District -- a cover letter and an offer of facilities -- were e-mailed to Everest (charter) Public High School on April 1 without a key clause, approved by the board the night before, offering to discuss with Everest alternatives to moving the school's 200 freshmen and sophomores to a collection of classrooms on the campus of Woodside High School for the 2010-11 school year.

In an e-mail sent today (April 2) to The Almanac by board member Chris Thomsen, Mr. Thomsen reports that Mr. Lianides told him that "the sentences about our 'openness to alternatives' was included in the cover letter of the documents mailed by US post to (Everest)."

Mr. Thomsen's e-mail did not include the exact language of the offer to discuss alternatives.

Mr. Lianides goes on to say, according to Mr. Thomsen's e-mail, that he expects the mailed package to be delivered to Everest today or Saturday, April 3.

Everest is supposed to have a 14-day window, agreed to by the board on a unanimous vote on March 31, to propose an alternative to locating on the Woodside campus.

Everest, located in an otherwise empty office building in Redwood City, rejected on March 1 the Sequoia board's initial offer for a Woodside High site and has until May 1 to formally respond to a revised offer dated April 1.

The clause making the offer for further discussion, which was debated at some length by the board before its eventual approval, was missing from a set of documents e-mailed by Assistant Superintendent James Lianides to Everest co-founder and chief negotiator Diane Tavenner.

In interviews, Mr. Thomsen, who proposed adding the clause, and board President Olivia Martinez, who argued in support of its inclusion, sounded puzzled as to why the clause was not included in the e-mailed package.

That both e-mailed documents had been edited is not in question. In a copy of the package obtained by The Almanac, the cover letter and the agreement include other changes asked for by the board at its March 31 meeting.

Calls to Mr. Lianides' office have not been returned, nor has a call to Superintendent Patrick Gemma's cell phone. The district is on spring break and the district office is closed.

Everest, in its first year of operation, has long sought classrooms on the campus of Sequoia High School in Redwood City because of its central location and because Everest draws a substantial number of students from the city.

The district has repeatedly rejected this request, claiming that such an accommodation would hurt Sequoia High's program for students learning English. The offer to discuss an alternative to moving the school to Woodside High might include the possibility of the Sequoia district paying Everest's rent at its current location.

Everest is entitled to facilities because the Sequoia district, in its last three bond campaigns to raise money for capital improvements, employed a provision that allowed passage with less than the two-thirds majority normally required for tax increases.

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Posted by Simple Simon
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Apr 2, 2010 at 11:48 am

Is this not surprising at all that the key clause was omitted from the document? What kind of leadership do we have here -- dirty and conniving . SUHSD, you are beyond words. This is shameful.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 2, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The taxpayers and citizens will simply have to revolt before this arrogant Board changes its ways and starts to serve the community rather than serving its own narrow self interests.

Like this comment
Posted by lse
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I'm sure it was a simple clerical error. It's not like the board could hide or deny the fact that they agreed to the inclusion of the clause - Everest representatives were at the board meeting on the 31st, as were several reporters.

Like this comment
Posted by Simple Simon
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Apr 2, 2010 at 2:01 pm

resident of Menlo Park, you may be correct, if it is not deception, then it must be ineptitude.

I've been along for the ride since the first Everest proposal before the Board. I've come to question everything I read and hear from District.

All I see the move to Woodside do for Everest is thrust the kids and faculty into turmoil for a year, then dangle their future in front of them.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I don't think it's ineptitude or a clerical error. This was apparently a hotly debated point and the author of the letter knew what he was doing. This is just another example of the Superintendent doing something other than what the Trustees approved.

Trustees: Who's running this show, anyway - you or your staff? One of you with courage should call out the Superintendent (or whoever authored the letter) for not reflecting your decision. This is the kind of thing that gets you in trouble and costs LOTS of money in litigation.

Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm

POGO, while I respect your opinions enough to believe your question to be retorical, I'll answer it because Gemma's puppets won't. Gemma is running that show; no one else, period! And he will continue to run that show after he retires because his puppets put his replacement of choice in office at his direction. The scarey part to me is what is going on within the District that we don't see or hear about.

Like this comment
Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Apr 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

This is an edited excerpt from a story from this week's Almanac:

(Assistant Superintendent James) Lianides told The Almanac that he sent this (alternative discussion) proposal to Everest via U.S. mail as a cover letter with a package made up of another letter and the offer itself. They were expected to arrive on April 2 or 5.
This package, without the alternatives-discussion language but with other board-proposed edits, was e-mailed to Everest chief negotiator Diane Tavenner on March 31. The "alternatives" language was unavailable in electronic form, Mr. Lianides said.
Sequoia attorney David Levy said in an interview that the first letter was more of a formal document, and that a second letter was "a cleaner way of doing it."
Ms. Tavenner would likely hear about it anyway because Everest Executive Director Jon Deane attended the board meeting, Mr. Lianides and board President Olivia Martinez told The Almanac.

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