Monday, June 28, 2010

Avoiding the Public Scrutiny - Part 1

I have the privilege of serving as the board clerk of the Adelanto Elementary School District (AESD). The following is one of my public board comments for the June 22nd AESD Board meeting. What is at issue for me is the manner in which The superintendent and board president committed the district to a binding no opt-out agreement without prior board approval and public discussion. In response, I will be writing a series of blogs called Avoiding the Public Scrutiny.

Synopsis: The U.S Department of Education has $4.35 billion dollars in a competitive grant called Race to the Top. States must apply for the grant and agree to the sweeping mandates it requires. California, in this 2nd round of applications, if awarded, is eligible for up to $700 million dollars in a one time grant payout. School districts to participate in the application had to sign a binding no opt-out memorandum. Legal opinions opined that board action was not required to sign the agreement, but the California School Boards Association advised local school districts to secure board approval in order to comply with state law. The superintendent and the board president signed the binding agreement without prior board approval and public discussion. The Race to the Top grant was never placed on an agenda for discussion prior to the memorandum of understanding agreement. Nor was the action publicly called out (announced) in the next board meeting after signing the agreement. This action is not an example of transparency in governance.

AESD Board Comments from Carlos Mendoza III – Board Clerk

June 22, 2010

The superintendent of the Adelanto Elementary School District, Mr. Darin Brawley and board president, Mrs. Lisa Marie Garcia, signed and submitted a binding Race to the Top memorandum of understanding agreement without official board approval and without public discussion. This signed agreement, if the grant is received, commits the district to requirements never previously discussed nor approved by the board in an official public meeting.

The duration and termination of the MOU is defined in section V of the agreement.

“This Memorandum of Understanding shall be effective, beginning with the date of the last signature hereon and if a grant is received, ending upon the expiration of the grant project, upon termination for non-compliance, or upon written, duly authorized mutual agreement of the parties, whichever occurs first.”

The signatures on the memorandum of understanding denied the board of ever having the final say in the termination of this agreement. If the grant is received, the only way out of the agreement is through termination for non-compliance or with permission from the state and federal government in a mutual agreement.

Also, the California Department of Education ( put out a statement under the link Clarification – No Opt-Out provision for round 2 that it was incorrect to believe that LEAs (school districts) could opt-out after signing the MOU.

We are therefore in a situation in which there is now no action the board can take that definitively and with finality terminates the MOU agreement. The final say is now ultimately up to agencies in state and federal government.

The public was denied the opportunity to see transparency in governance. There are untested mandatory requirements attached to Race to the Top that should have been fully discussed with opportunities to hear comments and answer questions from the public before entering into the MOU agreement.

I believe that Race to the Top has radical mandates that will hurt public education. I also strongly disagree with the manner in which the superintendent and board president signed the memorandum of understanding agreement without official board approval and public discussion. It should be encoded into our institutional DNA that such behavior even if ever legal will never be tolerated. Therefore, my intention, should the grant be received, is to remind the public of this outrage and relentlessly vote no on every radical mandate of the Race to the Top that comes before the board until the agreement is actually terminated.

Please visit me at Facebook: Carlos Mendoza

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