Thursday, May 28, 2009

Peg Myers is keeping election results for Chula Vista Educators under wraps

There's something wrong with the Chula Vista Educators website.

I can't find any mention, anywhere on the site, of the May 2009 CVE officer elections. If you didn't know from some other source, you would have no idea that CVE is currently experiencing its own particular brand of democracy. That's the version in which election results don't get entered on the website until President Peg Myers and her supporters are good and ready.

Today I called CVE, and a nice woman whom I'll call "V" answered the phone. When I asked when the results of the elections would be announced, she said, "They have to run again for Treasurer."

I said, "They already did that."

(The voting in that runoff election between Kathleen Fernandez and Nancy Potts ended on May 20.)

"Then I don't know what's going on with that."

And that's all the information I got from V.

I left a message on Peg Myers' voice mail asking when the runoff outcome would be announced. I'll report any response I get.

UPDATE: Myers never called me back. I finally got the results, but not from Myers or the CVE office.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Intimidation by Jesus Gandara in Sweetwater School District? Perish the thought!

Looking for Park View Little League Story? Click HERE.

See all posts about Jesus Gandara.

Update: Gandara fires Dianna Carberry. (Carberry is the infamous principal who fired Coach James "Ted" Carter.)

SUHSD superintendent Jesus Gandara is being accused of using intimidation to control employees. It wouldn't surprise me if it were true, since I am familiar with the intimidation used by Chula Vista Elementary School's superintendents Lowell Billings (see the Ana Stover case) and Libia Gil (see the Maura Larkins case). But the SUHSD employees are asking for help from the wrong people. The school board is probably in full support of Mr. Gandara. In fact, it's newest member, Bertha Lopez, gave approval to CVESD's worst tactics. With all those signatures, surely these employees could have some sway at election time. What they need is new board members, and then they can solve a host of problems.

Displeased employees want superintendent fired
1,300 sign petition to oust Gandara
By Chris Moran Union-Tribune Staff Writer

May 23, 2009

CHULA VISTA — More than 1,300 employees in the Sweetwater Union High School District have signed a petition calling for the superintendent to be fired.

The signatures are the most concrete expression of discontent with Superintendent Jesus Gandara that has persisted throughout the spring as the district struggles with budget cuts and personnel reassignments.

There are about 6,000 employees in the district.

In March, the district put 109 educators on notice that they faced the loss of their jobs due to budget cuts. The district later rescinded all the notices. In negotiations with the teachers union, the district proposed a 2 percent pay cut for teachers. That, too, was retracted once the district was informed that it would soon receive $12.4 million in federal stimulus money.

Gandara also demoted several longtime and popular administrators as part of a larger plan to reorganize the leadership of the 42,000-student district. Karen Janney, the second-highest ranking academic administrator in the district and a former state principal of the year, refused to accept her new assignment and has left the district.

The petition calls for Sweetwater's five-member board of trustees “to immediately begin the process of seeking a new superintendent.”

The petition accuses Gandara of using intimidation to gain consent. Employees from all over the district signed even amid what some employees privately call a climate of fear. They say employees believe they'll suffer retaliation if they disagree with Gandara.

When the petition started circulating, board President Jim Cartmill issued a statement that called the petition “nothing more than a political tactic being used during difficult contract negotiations.”

Union leaders who organized the petition drive turned in the signatures at a board meeting this month.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Harsh disciplinarian=secret rule breaker?

Have you ever noticed that the teachers who are the most harsh disciplinarians of children, severely punishing minor infractions, are often also the most likely to break rules themselves?

In the teachers lounge at Castle Park Elementary a few years ago I saw the aftermath of a food fight by teachers on the last day of school. It took the custodians a week to clean the sticky soda, whipped cream and other food from the walls, carpets and upholstery. One of the participants in the fight explained to me that "we needed to let off steam." How could this teacher pass the age of forty without discovering some form of stress relief that didn't involve vandalism? And how could she show so much contempt for kids who failed on one occasion to finish their homework (she called them "losers"?

This teacher was a charter member of "The Castle Park Family," five of whose members were administratively transferred out of the school in August 2005. These teachers were not into good behavior, they were into power. They didn't lose their jobs; they were simply transferred to another school. But they themselves had caused a good many excellent teachers and principals to lose their jobs or be transferred out of the school.

The behavior of the Castle Park Family (a group that now has taken over Chula Vista Educators) is bullying, dishonest and disruptive, the sort of that would earn children a trip to the principals office for a lecture on playing well with others.

Not surprisingly, this same type of relationship, in which rule-breakers harshly enforce the rules over those below them, occurs in the relationship between CVESD district administrators and teachers.

The situation is somewhat analogous to the village in the new movie The White Ribbon which just won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival. (Is this analogy allowable, Mr. Shinoff? I'll grant you that the children in the movie are the generation that grew up to perpetrate the actions you don't want me to discuss, but surely I'm allowed to discuss the Palme d'Or prize winner without getting sued by your law firm!) Reuters describes the setting for the story: An inhuman, never questioned moral code holds sway, especially over the children who are constantly punished, both physically and psychologically, for the slightest infraction. The women are similarly brutalized and under the thumb of the village's unabashed patriarchy. The male adults, on the other hand, engage in clandestine acts of evil and cruelty that are kept hushed up...One day the order of things begins to unravel.

That last part about hushing up wrongdoing makes the analogy with Castle Park Elementary and CVESD complete.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dennis Doyle suddenly clears out as school superintendent at National School District

Dennis M. Doyle, former Assistant Superintendent at CVESD, has apparently not flourished as superintendent of National School District. Or perhaps he's had a better offer?

[Update: It turned out that Mr. Doyle did NOT have a better offer.  He eventually found a job at a much lower salary administering a small charity that promotes art in classrooms.  I found out years later that Mr. Doyle had been deeply--but secretly--involved in my own case at CVESD before he went to National School District.  He and I never met; he was apparently helping a pal with a personal agenda.  It appears from the article below that Mr. Doyle was involved deeply and secretly in some mysterious goings-on at National School District.  He is now a poster boy for Voice of San Diego online newspaper.  He's the guy with the friendly smile and head of white hair who pops up in the photo banners on the VOSD webpages.]  

Doyle suddenly clears out as school superintendent
No explanation from him, trustees
By Chris Moran
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
May 21, 2009

The superintendent of the National School District in National City abruptly resigned his post, moving out of his office five days before the school board formally accepted his resignation Wednesday.

Neither Dennis Doyle nor trustees explained Doyle's sudden departure. He had 13 months left on his contract.

In a prepared statement, the board and Doyle jointly declared: “Dr. Doyle's decision, although sudden, was his personal decision and not the result of any dispute between the board and the superintendent or any suspected wrongdoing on his part.”

Chris Oram, assistant superintendent of educational services, will be the district's chief executive until the board appoints an interim superintendent. That could happen as early as next week, board President James Grier said.

Doyle, 59, of University City, was hired as National's superintendent in July 2007 after spending 10 years as assistant superintendent in the neighboring Chula Vista Elementary School District. He has been an educator for more than 30 years, and was paid $154,000 annually.

“National is a fabulous district with a dynamic staff, motivated students and supportive parents,” Doyle wrote in an e-mail.

The district educates 5,800 students from kindergarten through sixth grade at 11 schools. It has a higher percentage of non-English-speaking students – 65.5 percent – than any other district in the county.

Doyle cited several achievements for the district during his 22-month tenure, including improvements in the district's state academic rating based on test scores and and improved language proficiency scores for its non-English-speaking students. He also mentioned teachers' widespread use of technology in the classroom.

“Nonetheless, it has become apparent to me that it is time to move on,” he wrote.

Grier said he was surprised by Doyle's announcement and did not find out until the day of the board meeting Wednesday.

“It's sudden to everyone,” Grier said. When asked why Doyle resigned, Grier said, “I wish I knew.”

When asked if she was pleased with his job performance, trustee Rosie Alvarado said, “He was all right, no big deal, he was doing OK.”

Trustees Anne Campbell and Barbara Avalos did not return phone calls Thursday. Trustee Alma Graham deferred to the prepared statement.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kathleen Fernandez offers the only choice to Chula Vista Elementary teachers in CVE election

Looking for posts on CVE President Peggie Myers? Click HERE.

The results of the 2009 Chula Vista Educators (CVE) elections have not been announced, but here they are anyway. There is very little mystery in the process. The results for three out of four positions were predetermined because there was no opposition.

There is one bit of suspense remaining, however.

Kathleen Fernandez turned out to be a strong write-in candidate for Treasurer, forcing a run-off. Here are the results.

Peg Myers (incumbent)--no opposition

This is the first time Myers ran for this office, even though she's held the office for two years since Jim Groth resigned to become a CTA director. Myers had no opposition when she ran for vice-president at that time. This year, as before, Myers had no opposition. Obviously, CTA isn't the CFT. California Teachers Association leaders tend to be anointed rather than chosen democratically, while California Federation of Teachers leaders usually endure a feisty election process.

Tim Kriss--no opposition

Nancy Potts--strong opposition from write-in candidate Kathleen Fernandez.

Fernandez was a member of the CVE bargaining team. Run-off ended May 20, 2009.

Barbara Dunwoodie--no opposition

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Who will take Michael Najera's place on San Diego Port Commission?

See all posts about Mike Najera.

Candidates for Najera's former Port District seat crop up
By Tanya Sierra
San Diego Union-Tribune
May 20, 2009

CHULA VISTA — Less than a week after Mike Najera resigned as Chula Vista's port commissioner, possible successors have emerged.

They include former Port Commissioner Bill Hall, who Councilmen John McCann and Rudy Ramirez want appointed as the interim commissioner while they look for a permanent replacement.

McCann asked Mayor Cheryl Cox to convene an emergency meeting at 6 p.m. tomorrow to make an appointment. She said she is consulting with the city attorney about the request...

Other candidates who have been mentioned or said they would apply are former Mayor Steve Padilla; former City Attorney Ann Moore; Sal Salas, a banker married to state Assemblywoman Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista; developer Kevin O'Neill, a close ally of Cox's, and former council candidates Scott Vinson and Dan Hom. Otay Water District board member Jaime Bonilla was named as a possible candidate, but he said he would not apply.

The San Diego Unified Port District administers state tidelands around San Diego Bay. Seven commissioners represent the five port cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Coronado, National City and Imperial Beach. ...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Builders at May 12, 2009 Chula Vista City Council Meeting demand they not be required to collect signatures in order to put their initiative on ballot

Arthur Salm: Council kicks sand in bullies’ faces
The initiative process opens the door to all kinds of mischief, most of it backed by interests with very deep pockets.

By Arthur Salm, SDNN
San Diego News Network

When you actually get to see a bully in action, it’s breathtaking, in a can-you-believe-that-guy? kind of way.

Few people saw it - after all, it was the last agenda item, it came up after five and a half hours of talk, and it was late, late in the evening. But at the May 12 Chula Vista City Council meeting, George Hawkins, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, put on quite a show.
San Diego: Arthur Salm is an SDNN columnist.

After a supportive lead-in from Mayor Cheryl Cox, Hawkins stood at the lectern and informed the council members that unless they placed an initiative on the ballot for the June 2010 election - an initiative that his organization has failed so far to place via the by-the-book signature-gathering process - they’d sue the city (over an earlier petition rejected for what the city clerk determined to be improper paperwork). That, Hawkins said, would cost the taxpayers a bundle. The initiative’s going get on the ballot one way or another, he declared, and if his group goes out and gets the required signatures, that will trigger a special election, costing the city even more.San Diego: sdnn-opinion1

Do it, Hawkins told the council members, or Chula Vista will also end up paying “not only your attorney fees, but ours.” He indicated that if the city council plays ball, the lawsuit will likely go away.

Translation: Even with our hired-gun signature-gatherers, we haven’t been able to meet the requirements to get our initiative on the ballot. But we’ve got the money and we’ve got the juice, so if you guys don’t put it on there for us, we’re going to turn the citizens of Chula Vista upside down and shake some serious coin out of their pockets. Figures ranging from $600,000 to $1.4 million got tossed around.
Click here

Hawkins didn’t shout. He didn’t shake his fist. Had he sported a Snidley Whiplash-style mustache, he probably wouldn’t have twirled it. He didn’t even glower. He spoke calmly and matter-of-factly, and it was downright chilling. The link is here if you want to watch; just click on the May 12 video. Mayor Cox’s warm and fuzzy introduction starts at hour 5:31.

And here’s what the Associated Builders and Contractors want: Their ballot initiative would prohibit project labor agreements, which are collectively bargained labor agreements for city-funded construction projects. They deal with wages, hours, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Typically a PLA will set a living wage, include medical benefits, and ensure that a certain percentage of the workers hired for a project live in the community. (Backers of the Associated Builders and Contractors’ initiative refer to it as a “fair and open competition ordinance,” a textbook example of nomenclature obfuscation; the art reached its dizziest heights with George W. Bush and his Clear Skies and Healthy Forest Initiatives.)

The response to Hawkins’ threat was immediate and compelling; this, too, made for good TV. (See that link, above? If you skipped it, click it now.) The outrage of the speakers following Hawkins seemed evenly directed toward the Associated Builders and Contractors’ would-be initiative itself and the audacity of their tactics.

“I’ve never witnessed such a scene of extortion in my life,” painter Paul Vauchelet told the council. A project labor agreement, he said, “is about working people and benefits and paying good wages. … You politicians are our last line of defense.”

The Labor Council’s Lorena Gonzalez let the council know that as long as they were considering placing initiatives on the ballot just because it’s cheaper, she had lots of ideas. How about a living-wage ordinance? “That would really benefit the workers,” she said.

Even after five years on the city council, Steve Castaneda said that every once in a while he still gets completely amazed - and he seemed floored by Hawkins’ proposal. Stating flatly that the council should refuse to cave in to threats, he added - and this shouldn’t have been necessary - “Unfortunately, democracy is an expensive endeavor.”

‘Round midnight it went to a vote. Pamela Bensoussan and Rudy Ramirez joined Castaneda in voting No; Mayor Cox and John McCann stood with the builders and contractors. Defeated, 3-2. A nice “almost” for the bullies...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Kaiser gift allows swim lessons for fourth graders in Chula Vista

Kaiser Donates $50K to Swim Program for Fourth-Graders
San Diego Business Journal
Joyce Glazer

Kaiser Permanente is donating $50,000 to a Chula Vista city swim program for elementary school kids. Kaiser’s grant will allow the Recreation Department’s swim program to reach 1,000 fourth-grade students and cover transportation costs. “This donation allows us to expand the reach of a valuable program that teaches children critical lifesaving skills,” said Mayor Cheryl Cox …

[Maura Larkins' note: I agree that this is a wonderful gift and a terrific program. It was very sweet of the San Diego Business Journal to give Cheryl Cox some publicity instead of contacting someone at Kaiser, the Recreation Department or CVESD for a quote. Perhaps the writer didn't know that the school district is involved; the fourth-graders will be transported to and from their schools during class time. My students enjoyed this program from 1974 until 1978, when the passage of Proposition 13 ended the program. It's a shame that it took thirty-one years to get back on track.]

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cheryl Cox wins against Port Commissioner Michael Najera

Cheryl Cox, without the tiniest bit of behind-the-scenes pressure having been applied by her husband Supervisor Greg Cox or anxious developers, has managed to kick Michael Najera off the Port Commission. Well, maybe she had a little help from her friends.

San Diego Port Commissioner Resigns Under Pressure
Michael Najera Wants To Avoid Legal Battle
Channel 10 News
May 15, 2009

CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- A San Diego Port commissioner who was blamed for the failure of a project to develop the Chula Vista waterfront resigned Friday, a week after the city's mayor called for his voluntary departure.

Michael Najera is Chula Vista's representative on the Board of Port Commissioners, and had previously indicated he would fight to keep his position.

In a resignation letter, however, Najera said a legal battle wasn't in the best interest of Chula Vista.

"I feel strongly that my legal position was strong," Najera wrote. "However, I have determined that a protracted legal battle against my beloved hometown is not in my best interests, and more importantly it's not in the best interests of Chula Vista's taxpayers, since they are the ones that would have to foot the legal bill."

"Given all due consideration, for now I have decided that it is in my best interest to resign from the Port Commission and concentrate my efforts on several exciting new business ventures," he said...

The Board of Port Commissioners sets land-use policies and manages tenants along San Diego Bay's tidelands.

San Diego Business Journal
Port Commissioner Bows Out

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox apparently got her wish when Port Commissioner Mike Najera resigned from his position May 15.

Cox had asked Najera, who owns a construction company, to resign about a week ago, but he refused, and even contracted his attorney to send a letter to Cox, saying there was no reason for him to leave.

Cox never provided a reason for wanting Najera out...

See original post.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Cheryl Cox finds it's harder than it used to be to get rid of people she doesn't like

Mayor told to halt attempt to expel port commissioner

Najera's attorney calls actions illegal
By Tanya Sierra
San DiegoUnion-Tribune Staff Writer
May 7, 2009

An attorney for Chula Vista Port Commissioner Mike Najera warned Mayor Cheryl Cox to stop trying to oust the commissioner, saying her actions are illegal and politically motivated.

In a letter sent late Tuesday to Cox, the City Council and the city attorney, lawyer Joseph Casas states the council must have justification to remove a port commissioner.

“The involuntary removal of a port commissioner without good cause is not only unethical, but case law indicates that such an action is unlawful,” Casas wrote.

Najera said Cox on Monday asked him to resign, which he refused to do. He said Cox gave him until noon Tuesday to step down or she would “go to the media.”

Cox did not return repeated phone calls yesterday seeking comment. On Tuesday, she confirmed she met with Najera the day before to discuss concerns but wouldn't say what they were.

Some council members say they have not spoken with Cox and can't figure out why she would ask Najera to resign...

The city councils of the five port cities appoint Port District commissioners. Najera was first chosen in 2006 to fill the remainder of William Hall's term and was reappointed to a full four-year term in 2007.

The Port District's governing rules state only that “a commissioner may be removed from the board by a majority vote of the city council which appointed the commissioner.” In his letter, Casas cites a 1990 opinion written by then-San Diego City Attorney John Witt, who stated a council needs “good cause” to unseat a port commissioner.

“I haven't heard anything back from the city of Chula Vista,” Casas said. “I really think that the ball is in the mayor's court right now. She is the one who has the burden of proof.”

Chula Vista City Attorney Bart Miesfeld did not return calls yesterday.

UPDATE: Will Cox be able to unseat a port commissioner for supporting Cox's opponent?

Chula Vista council will address Najera's position
By Tanya Sierra Union-Tribune Staff Writer

6:47 p.m. May 8, 2009
Chula Vista City Council Meeting
When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.
Where: 276 Fourth Ave., in the City Council chambers.

CHULA VISTA — The City Council on Tuesday will discuss Chula Vista Port Commissioner Mike Najera, who said this week Mayor Cheryl Cox asked him to resign.

According to the City Council agenda, which was issued just after 3 p.m. Friday, officials will “consider and potentially act upon” Najera's position.

...Najera found out he was on Tuesday's council agenda when contacted by a newspaper reporter. He said city officials should have told him...

Councilman Steve Castaneda said he also was not informed the issue was on the agenda.

Najera said before his meeting with Cox, she asked him to give an update on the Chula Vista bayfront at Tuesday's meeting, but that isn't listed on the agenda.

Calls to Cox, City Manager Jim Sandoval and City Attorney Bart Miesfeld were not returned Friday.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Did Mayor Cox tell Najera to quit as Port Commissioner because he held a fundraiser for someone else?

Update to this story is HERE.

Najera Held Fundraiser for Cox Rival
Voice of San Diego
May 6, 2009

Mike Najera, a port commissioner who was abruptly asked to step down from his position by Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox on Monday, just told me he recently held a fundraiser for Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda, who is widely expected to challenge Cox when her term expires in 2010...

Steve Cushman, chairman of the port commission, said he's waiting to hear an explanation from Cox as to why she asked Najera to resign. Najera has been a "terrific commissioner" who works hard, never misses meetings and has done a great job, he said. Cushman said he called Cox to ask for an explanation but has not yet spoken to her.

Castaneda said Cox's leadership of the city has been disappointing and said he supports a change in leadership in the county's second-largest city. But he stopped short of saying he would be running against Cox for mayor...


Did Mayor Cox tell Najera to quit Port post?
By Tanya Sierra
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
May 5, 2009

CHULA VISTA — Chula Vista Port Commissioner Mike Najera said Mayor Cheryl Cox asked him to resign Monday, and he refused.

Cox gave Najera until noon Tuesday to resign or she would go to the media, the port commissioner said.

“I'm not sure of her motivation,” Najera said.

Cox said Tuesday she met with Najera to discuss her concerns but she would not elaborate.

Najera said Cox made her request during an 11 a.m. meeting Monday, which he thought was a catch-up session.

He recalled her saying, “'I just want to cut to the chase and I want you to resign. I want you to step down. I lost confidence in your ability to get the bayfront done,'” Najera said. “She said 'It's been two and a half years and it's not done yet.' I said 'You've been mayor for all this time as well, should you take part in the blame?'”

Chula Vista City Attorney Bart Miesfeld said the City Council can remove a Port District commissioner with a majority vote. It was not an item on Tuesday's City Council agenda.

Najera was first appointed in 2006 to fill the remainder of William Hall's term. He was reappointed for a full four-year term in 2007 and at the time vowed to transform the city's bayfront through development saying, “I want that land to be deep in the first phase of construction by the end of my term in 2011.”

Plans for the bayfront halted in November when for the second and final time Gaylord Entertainment dropped its plan to build a hotel and convention center. The failed deal was the latest in 35 years of attempts to develop the city's waterfront.

Bayfront projects are not in the hands of a sole port commissioner. Seven commissioners represent the five port cities of San Diego, Coronado, National City, Chula Vista and Imperial Beach.

“I think that over the 40-plus years that the port has been in existence, there have been numerous port commissioners who have represented Chula Vista and none of them have been able to accomplish any sort of development either,” Councilman Steve Castaneda said. “So, I'm not sure that we can lay any significant blame on Mr. Najera.”

Councilman Rudy Ramirez said he did not want to criticize Najera, but said he is unhappy with the slow progress on the Chula Vista bayfront.

“I'm dissatisfied overall with the progress that Chula Vista has been able to make with our port,” Ramirez said. “Nothing seems to get done over there and I'm concerned with that.”

One reason Cox could be upset, Najera said, is the proposed land swap between the Port District and Pacifica Companies, a development company interested in building a hotel and condominium development on the bayfront adjacent to where the Gaylord project was slated.

The port's board discussed the deal in closed session Tuesday, Port Commissioner Steve Cushman said.

“We are trying like crazy,” he said...