Joseph Ovick is the Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools.
Bruce Harter is the Superintendent of the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Charles Ramsey is the President of the School Board for the West Contra Costa Unified School District. (The e-mail address shown is wrong. It should be firstname.lastname@example.org.)
-------- Original Message -------- Subject: Concerns about the Conduct of the Last WCCUSD School Board Meeting Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2011 13:39:03 -0700
From: Charles Cowens <email@example.com> To: Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D. <firstname.lastname@example.org> CC: Harter, Bruce <BHarter@wccusd.net>, 'Charles Ramsey' <email@example.com> Dear Dr. Ovick, I attended the September 7, 2011 meeting of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education (beginning as a public meeting at about 6:30 pm). In this letter, I would like to raise some concerns about the conduct of this meeting. I am not sure about who to turn to outside of the District about this, but I'll start with you. The agenda for the meeting is available at: http://goo.gl/GxCnF (shortened URL from WCCUSD Web site) However, I've attached the agenda text for just item F.1 at the end of this e-mail. The video of the meeting is archived by KCRT at: http://richmond.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=15 1. My Speaker Request Ignored I turned in a speaker form to speak on the item "B.5 Agenda Review and Adoption (Public Comment)." When this item came up very early in the meeting, the President of the School Board (Mr. Ramsey) did not ask staff for any public comment about this item. Mr. Ramsey then sped on to other parts of the rearranged agenda. This forced me to raise my concerns about item F.1 as an agenda item as part of the 60 seconds public speakers were each allotted to speak on the item itself. 2. A Resolution to Initiate Debt Payoff Used as a Pretext for Making a Snap Budget Decision to Repudiate the School Closures Plan Starting at around 7:05 p.m. until about 9:10 p.m. the Board took up the item "F.1 Resolution No. 15-1112: State Loan Pay Off and Budget Implications." The Board voted on and approved two things under this item. First, the Board approved Resolution No. 15-1112, which was clearly described in the agenda and whose simple straightforward text was included in the public meeting packet available before the meeting. At this point the item should have ended. However, later, under this same item in the agenda, the Board approved a motion that included immediately removing two of the five schools still open on the closure list from the list. Repudiating the school closures component of WCCUSD's fiscal recovery plan (originally imposed as a condition for the qualified approval by the CCCOE of the WCCUSD budget in 2008) is a major decision. From my layperson's understanding of the Brown Act, I don't see how the Board could vote on anything but the approval of the resolution. Is this closure-canceling motion invalid as a violation of the Brown Act's standard of providing adequate notice to the whole public? If it is invalid, what recourse is available? 3. Interference with the Ability to Make Public Comment I was one of the speakers under general public comment (item E.2). At about 9:50 pm, I was called and tried to speak on the role of the state trustee and how that might be affected by the board decision to remove schools from the closure list despite the beginning of the debt pay-off process. When I was in the middle of discussing the fact that the state trustee and her veto power were still in place, Mr. Ramsey jumped in and started arguing about how likely the trustee would be to exercise her veto. This seems like a clear violation of the Brown Act. Not only is Mr. Ramsey taking my time (The clock continued to run.) and disrupting my ability to continue (I was just speaking from a few notes like most people, so it's hard to pick up again.), he is sending a clear message to all potential public comment speakers that, if the Board President doesn't agree with them, he reserves the right to disrupt their speeches. What recourse do I have if this sort of practice continues? Thank you for your time, Charles Cowens Kensington ==== Item F.1 text from the agenda ==== F.1 Resolution No. 15-1112: State Loan Pay Off and Budget Implications Comment: The Board of Education has provided input to staff, at the August 17, 2011 board meeting, to begin the process required to pay off the outstanding debt and to release the District from all encumbrances related to the debt. This resolution provides an opportunity for the Board to take action on their intent. This resolution will officially record the Board's desire to pay off the State Loan and will direct staff to complete the necessary steps, including a fiscal audit, to accomplish the loan pay off. Under the current debt service schedule the State Loan would have been paid off in 2018. The outstanding principal on the debt is estimated to be $8.1 million. A final pay off figure will be requested from the Infrastructure Bank. The estimated ending fund balance in the long term debt fund for 2010-11 is $9 million. Therefore, there should be sufficient funding to accomplish the pay off during the 2011-12 fiscal year. When the loan is paid off, the District will no longer have to budget for the payment each year out of the general fund. At the July 27, 2011 meeting, the Board reviewed the adopted State budget and its implications for our school district. The State budget includes mid-year budget reduction "triggers" if State revenue falls short of projections. In 2011-12 budget, the Board set aside $10 million in special reserve so that in the event of mid-year reductions the Board could draw upon these funds to prevent program cuts during the current year. However, the current multi-year projection uses $3 million of that special reserve in 2012-13 and $2.5 million in 2013-14 in order to balance the budget. The multi-year projection includes the elimination of the current K-3 class size reduction program since it is funded by federal grant money that will not be available after this year. The multi-year projection also includes school closures for Shannon and Lake schools and the assurance from the City of Richmond to continue to provide $1.5 million for Kennedy, Olinda and Grant schools. Given the variables, the Board may consider setting priorities should the mid-year "triggers" not occur and if the mid-year "triggers" take place. Among those considerations are programs that the Board has designated as priorities in the past. If there are no mid-year cuts, the Board could consider how to allocate the savings from paying off the state loan and the remaining balance of the special reserve. If the mid-year state budget cuts are at the maximum level, the Board will need to consider where the additional reductions will be for the 2012-13 school year. Recommendation: Recommend approval of the resolution to pay off the state loan and discussion of funding prioritization. Fiscal Impact: $1.4 million in general fund savings, ongoing