By Doug Porter
San Diego Unified President Marne Foster was in the news over the past few days, and not in a positive light.
The State Attorney General’s office, according to a story in the Union-Tribune, is asking pointed questions about a fundraiser held last month to help pay off debt and college costs for her sons.
On August 19th, the San Diego Unified School District issued a response to a grand jury report on ethics questions concerning Foster, essentially telling the panel to “shove it.”
Mario Koran at Voice of San Diego posted a piece today on Foster, filling in the blanks on long standing allegations about her role in the firing of a highly ranked school principal who refused to go along with special privileges for the School Board Trustee’s son.
An Opportunity Drawing
This weekend’s UT story concerns a letter sent by Kamala Harris’ office concerning a benefit held on July 25th by the C. Anthony Cole Repertory Dance Theatre. Approximately $4000 was raised at the event, which attendees paid $25 at the door or $20 in advance to attend.
Tickets were sold at the event for a “opportunity drawing” featuring framed art and other prizes.
The letter includes a summary of state legal requirements for holding raffles, including the code provision that authorizes eligible organizations to conduct raffles provided they are registered with the California Attorney General Registry of Trusts.
“Prior to conducting a raffle, an eligible organization must be registered with, and receive confirmation of registration, from the Registry,” the letter states.
Registration requires the filing of an application form, a copy of the organization’s Franchise Tax Board exemption letter and a check for $20 to be submitted no later than Sept. 1 for any raffles to be held in the coming year.
An earlier Union-Tribune story brought to light questions about whether Foster was using her position on the school board for personal gain.
A brochure promoting the “Brothers 2 College” event included a logo for the San Diego Unified School District. The event was also featured on a Facebook page for Foster’s school board district.
A link promoting the event was embedded in Foster’s board member page on the San Diego Unified website until it was noticed by staff and removed following the July 25 event, district spokeswoman Ursula Kroemer said.
Organizers of a the fundraiser for Foster’s have been given until Sept. 9 to show that a raffle-like drawing held at the event was conducted legally.
Was SDUSD Saying “We’re Number One?”
There was some kind of finger waved in the district’s response to the recent report of the San Diego County Grand Jury concerning the ethics of an unnamed board trustee who’s actions replicate those reported about Foster.
Knowing that the charges leveled against Foster involved her son, who was a minor during some of the reported incidents, the grand jury went out of their way to respect his privacy.
Names weren’t used in the report and neither was much in the way of identifying information about locations and titles.
The SDUSD board’s response to the report took advantage of the Grand Jury’s privacy concerns, by essentially stating “since you didn’t get specific, we have no idea what you were talking about.”
Recommendations about steps the school board could take to prevent future ethical conflicts were flat-out rejected, “because it is neither reasonable nor warranted.”
It was a shameful response, signed off on by Superintendent Cindy Marten, who’s claims about putting children first certainly look hollow in the wake of these incidents.
The Icing on the Cake
The story at Voice of San Diego provides details on Foster’s (and the district’s) actions concerning the School for the Creative Performing Arts. This is the story the grand jury was trying to be so polite about.
Here’s the lede from the story I wrote about Foster’s intervention in July, 2014:
Mitzi Lizarraga ran San Diego Unified’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) for seven years. Test scores improved, the school was named one of the best in the country repeatedly over the past 4 years and students were sought after by prestigious colleges and universities.
On Tuesday, June 10th, two days before graduation this year, she was gone. Students and staff were told Ms. Lizarraga was attending to an urgent and personal matter. “Interim” Principal Dr. Jenna Pesavento would be tasked with handing out diplomas to departing seniors.
I had some skin in this game. My daughter attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts. My family was shocked when we didn’t see the school principal at the graduation ceremonies.
Numerous parents appealed to the Board of Trustees and the Superintendent as it became clear Lizarraga was gone for good. I was told off-the-record that justice would be served in the long run.
VOSD reporter Mario Koran interviewed Lizarraga for his profile on Marne Foster. She told the reporter “I’m 100 percent sure Marne Foster is the reason I’m not at SCPA.”
Lizarraga said as the 2013-2014 school year drew to a close, Foster’s son had unresolved behavioral issues. Students have to meet with a school committee to review the issues before they’re allowed to participate in end-of-the-year activities. Foster’s son did not appear for the review, Lizarraga said. For that, he couldn’t go to prom – the same consequences students in similar situations face.
Not long after, Lamont Jackson, the area superintendent responsible for the school, requested a meeting with Lizarraga. He was there to tell her Foster’s son would be attending the dance, she said.
“At that point, I just threw my hands up and said, ‘Fine. I’m so sick of Marne Foster. I’m tired of her throwing her weight around and her thinking the rules don’t apply to her,’” Lizarraga said.
She said she was shocked by what came next.
“He said, ‘Good. Now that that’s resolved, let’s talk about where you’re going to be next year. We have some questions about your leadership at this school,’ ” Lizarraga said.
Students at SCPA told me last year that Foster’s son bragged about his mother getting the principal fired during an senior trip to Disneyland. During a subsequent meeting with Superintendent Martin, they refused to identify those who actually heard this statement, fearing retribution in light of the decision to to yank Lizarraga on the eve on graduation.
What is infuriating to those students is that they saw firsthand the “behavioral issues.” Foster and her defenders repeatedly dropped not-so-subtle hints in the VOSD story that various charges arising are somehow connected to the fact she’s African-American.
It’s just shameful. Marne Foster has no opposition for reelection next year.
Homecare Workers Win Overtime Appeal
On Friday, a Federal Appeals Court reversed a lower court’s decision halting the implementation of overtime pay and other labor protections for in-home caregivers.
In 2013, the Department of Labor issued new rules extending overtime pay, minimum wage and other protections to homecare workers for the first time in history.
Homecare workers were previously excluded from these Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) protections for over 75 years under the so-called “companionship exemption.”
Large groups of low-wage workers (including domestic workers, home care workers, farmworkers, and seasonal workers) were exempted from coverage under the FLSA in 1938. This exclusion came from both gender considerations and the “Jim Crow” concessions to local (southern) power marking social progress in the 1930s and 1940s.
On the eve of the new rules going into effect on January 1, 2015, District Court Judge Richard Leon halted the new rules as part of a lawsuit brought by homecare agencies.
Then Governor Jerry Brown announced that California would not move forward with paying homecare workers in the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS) for overtime, despite the fact that funding was allocated for this purpose in the 2014-2015 budget.
From the United Domestic Workers’ press release:
“Homecare workers have been denied dignity and equal rights for far too long,” said Doug Moore, executive director of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930. “We call on the Brown administration to implement the new rules immediately without reducing any hours of support for clients, and to implement the rules retroactively to January 1, 2015 when they were originally supposed to take effect.”
“This ruling brings justice to the homecare workers who provide quality care to California’s seniors and people with disabilities,” added Moore. “Today the court recognized that homecare workers, who are predominantly women and people of color, deserve the same rights as all workers.”
Carly Fiorina’s Drought of Facts
GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s been working the political circuit lately, getting a lot of mileage by blaming liberal politicians in California for not building infrastructure capable of mitigating the effects of drought.
She tried to use this tale of woe with Chuck Todd, during an appearance on Meet the Press this past weekend and walked right into an ambush.
From Egberto Willies at Daily Kos:
Chuck Todd asked Carly Fiorina about climate change making the drought worse. Her answer was interesting and accusatory. “You know what has also made it worse? Politicians,” Carly Fiorina said. “Liberal politicians who stood up for forty years as the population of California doubled and said you cannot build a new reservoir and you cannot build a new water conveyance system. And so for forty years, 70% of the rainfall washed out to sea. That’s pretty dumb when you know you are going to have droughts every single year or every three years.
Chuck Todd then told her that he posed the question and Fiorina’s accusation to California Governor Jerry Brown. It turned out Jerry Brown would have none of the deflective false narrative. “I have never heard of such utter ignorance, “Jerry Brown said. “Building a dam won’t do a damn thing about fires or climate change or the absence of moisture in the ground and vegetation in California. So I think these people, if they want to run for president, better do kind of 8th grade science before they make any more utterances.”
Carly Fiorina was taken aback. She claimed it was a lot of insults but she made no sense. Was she not the one that first called California liberals dumb? She continued with silly comments about firefighters and more water as if what is being dropped on fires today is sand. The disingenuousness of her words is more pronounced given her party’s resistance to any tax for any cause as well as their new aversion to any infrastructure spending. She should recall that President Ronald Reagan played a role in drying up the funds that would otherwise be used to build dams.
Weekend Donald Update
— i100 (@thei100) August 24, 2015
On This Day: 0079 – Mount Vesuvius erupted killing approximately 20,000 people. The cities of Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum were buried in volcanic ash. 1970 – The United Farm Workers Union began a strike aimed at lettuce growers. 2006 – The planet Pluto was reclassified as a “dwarf planet” by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Pluto’s status was changed due to the IAU’s new rules for an object qualifying as a planet. Pluto met two of the three rules because it orbits the sun and is large enough to assume a nearly round shape. However, since Pluto has an oblong orbit and overlaps the orbit of Neptune it disqualified Pluto as a planet.
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