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Embarrassed by an attorney's actions M. Kevin O’neill | Sat, Mar 23 2013 12:00 PM

Attn.: Dan Shinoff

Having read your two letters of February 24, 2013 to BOC Chairman Marinovich, I am both embarrassed for and disappointed in your firm. You were either duped or compliant in the Superintendent's heavy handed attempts to silence any criticism from the BOC. The first letter makes it clear that you had no factual knowledge of the alleged incident and were instructed to send a “slap” letter. The follow up letter was a lame attempt to regroup. I find it ironic that you quote Board policy when the present Board and Superintendent recognize their policy primarily in the breech.

Allow me to provide context to the events of that evening. First and foremost, no one from our group asked to have a representative from the District come to us and extoll the virtues of the IPad program. What was asked for at the previous meeting and expected at this meeting was the written rationale of the District for the expenditure of the Bond funds on IPads. I made a motion that passed unanimously asking for this information, specifically the Board’s rational and not an attorney’s opinion. We received an e-mail from Mr. Calhoun stating that Ms. Castilleja would attend the meeting to “explain” the IPad program. I replied that Maria was fine but we expected the written rational that was requested.

The issue of the use of Bond funds for the purchase of IPads falls well within the BOC’s purview as does the effectiveness of the program since funds have already been used. Ms. Castilleja expertise is in the area of curriculum, and when quizzed on the useful life, maintenance, programing and mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in general and the IPads specifically, she answered that she was not part of the early decisions or that we would have to direct our questions to another department i.e. Finance, IT, Purchasing, etc. Our Chairman redirected when she went into her spiel about curriculum advantages of IPad use, something near and dear to her heart, but not germane to our area of concern.

More than one committee member expressed frustration with a seemingly headless program with no mechanism in place to judge its effectiveness. She was also told more than once that our criticism was not aimed at her and that she should not take it personally. Since she was sent to us to represent the District as their PMK, it only follows that she would be the one to hear our misgivings and frustration with the program in order to convey that to the Superintendent and the Board. Ms. Castilleja was hit with hard pointed questions for which she had no answers. Did we vent our frustrations? Yes. Was she treated disrespectfully or personally singled out? No, in fact, Chairman Marinovich’s comments were less aggressive than several CBOC members, why weren’t they sent letters as well?

The Prop “O” BOC is an independent oversight body that does not serve at the Board’s pleasure and certainly is not subservient to the Superintendent. The sooner the Superintendent realizes that this “group of cats” will not be herded and that we have claws, the sooner we can establish an effective working relationship.

Happily for us, the meeting was taped and there was at least one member of the broadcast media present during the alleged incivility. Ms. Castilleja may have a grievance but it is with those that sent her to us, ignorant of the information we requested, not with the BOC. Having said that, I can be gruff and do not suffer the fool well, so please give me any words or phrases in context that you and your client feel lacked civility so that we can learn from this. I know that I can speak for my fellow committee members when I say that it is not our intent to cause pain in a fellow human being. Should I not hear from you with examples within five days, I will accept that your letter was a misunderstanding of the circumstances.

Perception becomes reality and this episode smacks of a ham handed attempt to stifle and limit this group in the performance of our mandate.

O’Neil is a member of the Sweetwater Union High School District Citizens Bond Oversight Committee.


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Elsie Says:

Wed, Mar 27 2013 02:39 PM

Here here! Well said! And thanks so much for not backing down from the fight. You are so right to state that the iPad program is currently headless, as have been most of our forays into the world of computers and technology. The biggest problem is that the technology is way ahead of applications needed to utilize it effectively. Can someone just take a deep breath and plan?

JoAnne Silva Says:

Mon, Mar 25 2013 08:33 AM

Thank you to Mr. O'Neil and the other members of the BOC for their willingness to serve the community. I, as most citizens of Chula Vista/National City/ San Ysidro/Imperial Beach/Bonita/Eastlake are more than willing to support the school districts but it is IMPERATIVE to monitor how money is spent. We should all be stewards of the finances of the district. As a retired SUHSD teacher who was responsible for thousands of dollars of grant money, I can guarantee that those dollars MUST be monitored so expenditures are appropriately designated. Somehow pots of money can get co-mingled and Bond money should be exclusively spent for what the taxpayers voted! The BOC committee raised some important concerns which must be addressed. We all want our students to have the best available resources for learning, but we must stay in budget and we must be prudent on the cost effectiveness of what we spend. Asking for a response in writing is always wise if for no other reasons than to assure everyone is operating from the same premises. Thank you BOC.

Kevin O'Neill Says:

Sat, Mar 23 2013 07:05 PM

PMK as used in this letter is an abbreviation for "Person Most Knowledgeable" It is a term used in the legal arena and I used it since my letter was addressed to the Districts' attorney.

sosocal Says:

Sat, Mar 23 2013 10:35 AM

Well put.

It is very important that all members of the educational community and the community at large speak out when Ed Brand attempts to squelch the public's right for information and the public's right to free speech.

Ed Brand would just love for the Sweetwater constituency to be cowed into submission and fearful to speak the truth. However, Ed Brand will just have to be disappointed. We are not fooled by his clumsy attempts which might even be considered actionable by some.

Let us all recognize the problem: Ed Brand, the out of control superintendent, and his voting majority of spineless self-seekers.

The solution: supporting the BOC and their good work; unceasing vigilance with regard to all of Ed Brand's schemes; continual demand for the information the public has a right to know; appreciating the teachers who have suffered under truly pathetic "leadership" for far too long.

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