Letters to the Editor
May 20, 2010

To the Editor:
It was brought to my attention that on Friday May 14, 2010 at the Piru Elementary School ELAC Meeting, Susan Dollar was there and seemed to be working in some way for the school or district. My questions, as a tax payer and voting member of this community are: What is her job title, function, role and responsibilities at the school? When and why was she hired? Which Advisory Committee was consulted to approve her salary expenditure and what action was taken? When was this available position posted and when was it approved by the board? I looked in the minutes of the last Board meeting and could not find any evidence of budget approval as required by Law.
As a concerned parent listening to all the budget cuts and teachers concerns, I would like to recommend to all Members of the Board to be frugal in your spending of our Superintendent’s administrative budget. I would like to request a budget cut proposal from Mr. Sweeney for all the administrators of our District. I WOULD LIKE TO REQUEST A BUDGET FREEZE FOR all outside consultants including Mrs. Dollar until we have a proven assessment from all the Trustees that the services provided are directly affecting our children’s learning progress effectively. Along the same line, would you please provide our community an explanation of where has Superintendent Sweeney found funds to pay for her consulting fees? Is Piru’s budget paying for it? Please supply us with SSC minutes indicating the SSC’s approval. IF the district’s budget is paying for it, which funds have been allocated for that purpose and when? I could only hope that Mr. Sweeney may be paying her out of his personal budget.
Mr. Sweeney, can you please report to this Board and deliver an assessment review of Mrs. Ramos of her managerial skills, budget allocation skills and teachers’ support skills, so that we might better understand why she needs the assistance of Mrs. Dollar.
How has she improved our school for the last 9 months? Has she followed all mandated guidelines and CDE regulations? Please Board members, request a full report for the tax payers and voters of our District community.
I hope these questions will be answered by the next board meeting scheduled for June 1, 2010.
Thank you!
Rita Avila
Parent Coalition for Excellence in Education


To the Editor:
School Board Prefers to Focus on “The Good Stuff” while ignoring the Brown Act.
On Tuesday, May 18, 2010 the Fillmore School Board of Trustees gathered for a regularly scheduled public meeting at its board room on Sespe Street in Fillmore. The first order of business, as usual is public comment. This is the part of the meeting when any member of the public may speak to the Board on any issue whatsoever, whether it is on the agenda or not. Public Comment is the appropriate time for community members to ask that the Board examine any issue of interest or concern, and it is the time to request that items be placed on future Board agendas. Any issues that require the Board to take action must be placed on the agenda. In most cases, public comment is the time when the public puts the Board on notice of complaints or issues that they want the Board to address. Frequently, these are requests, which may be viewed as negative comments, and this Board seems to view most complaints as the publics effort to “tear down” the District, as stated by Board Member Ms. Virginia De La Piedra.
And this public comment period was chock full of these so deemed negative positions. Several parents from Piru brought issues to the Boards attention, including how funding was approved for recent personnel additions, the state of academics at the school and what is being done to improve the school’s scores on State tests, and a threat issued at last weeks ELAC (English Learners Advisory Committee) meeting to a bilingual mother of two, that the police would be called if she did not stop asking questions about how funding was used at Piru School to benefit English Learners. One Piru resident,
Mr. Freddie Galan, brought to the Boards attention his stance that this mother was owed an apology for the way she was treated, but both he and the Board remained focused on his complaints of another member of the public who reportedly was “interrupting” their meeting as well. The Board did take the time to comment and ask a few questions during public comment, including a comment about how all the “bad” comments were coming from Piru. As public comment concluded, those in attendance could really see the Board wake up with the “Good stuff” as Board President Mr. Tony Prado called the agenda items that followed public comment.
Two local businesses; Otto & Sons and Quallity Ag Inc, that are helping prepare for graduation were honored with an award, and Board Member reports included several comments of pride in the skills and sound of both the Fillmore Middle School and Fillmore High School Marching Bands as displayed at recent public events. Brief comment was made on the need for uniforms for the Bands, and it was noted that to outfit the entire High School band it would cost $25,000.00. The students are apparently working on fundraising ideas.
The Board also approved, with one opposing vote cast by Board Member Mr. Mike Saviers, a measure which lays off certain “classified” employees. This measure will result in library and computer lab hours being reduced. Superintendent Mr. Jeff Sweeney did mention that they are exploring the possibility of a teacher accompanying students to the library or computer labs when it is closed.
In addition to these normal agenda items, it is not uncommon for things to happen at meetings that are not on the agenda. Equipment may malfunction, someone misspeaks or trips, but at this meeting the unexpected events included several violations of the Brown Act. The Brown Act (CAL. GOV. CODE § 54950 : California Code - Section 54950), enacted in 1953 is part of our State legal code. It governs public bodies, including school boards. The Brown Act provides the legal framework for how these bodies shall run their meetings with the intention of maintaining open and free public access and participation in the meetings of the public body, in this case the Fillmore School Board of Trustees.
Part of the Brown Act requires that no member of the public be required to provide his or her name or any personal information. This would seem to include a person’s street address. Apparently it has been normal practice for some time that the Board requires all those speaking in public comment (but not those speaking on specific agenda items) to provide their name and street address. At Tuesday’s meeting, several individuals who spoke during public comment attempted to refuse to provide their street address by invoking the Brown Act. To his credit, Mr. Prado did admit that “(he) is not an expert on the Brown Act”, and that he “does not want to stifle public comment”. So he graciously allowed those who refused to give their street address their time to speak. Mr. Prado does not seem to be the only Board member who is unfamiliar with the reach, scope and content of the Brown Act. Board Member Mr. John Garnica stated that while the Brown Act may not require it, “Our Board Policies” do, and so the information must be provided.
The Brown Act, also requires that school boards “allow non-disruptive recording and broadcast of meetings”. Again the Fillmore School Board seems to have violated this part of the law when, nearing the end of the meeting Ms. Rita Avila was asked to stop recording the meeting. It was apparent to a witness who attended the meeting and was present at the time, that a district employee sitting next to Ms Avila was sending text messages to the Assistant Superintendent Ms. Katy Hadley, notifying her that Ms. Avila was recording the meeting. This text was distributed to the Board, and Mr. Prado asked Ms Avila to turn it off. At this point Ms. Avila felt uncomfortable and decided to leave rather than state her legal right to record the public meeting.
The next Fillmore School Board meeting is scheduled for June 1, 2010, with the Open Meeting beginning at 6pm.
Kimberly Rivers