Letters to the Editor
November 26th, 2009

Attention School Board Members: Time to stop being led around by the nose by Jeff Sweeney and Mike Bush and time to start thinking for yourselves.
First, you followed Sweeney down a legally confusing and morally bankrupt path leading to Townend’s misconduct going unpunished and rewarded. Instead of firing Townend, as Sweeney had the legal right to do, he “granted her request” for a new position where she’s not doing a damm thing and continues to receive her same superintendent level salary and benefits in excess of $100,000 a year. And to make things worse, Sweeney hired an expensive consultant, in the middle of a budget crisis, to take over Townend’s responsibilities, depleting the district’s already reduced operating budget. Furthermore, some district employees, who are still adjusting to last rounds salary and benefit cuts, are now being asked by Sweeney and Bush to give up their healthcare benefits entirely. What a mess.
Second, Sweeney was advised by the Ventura County Office of Education to approve the new Piru Charter School because “if you don’t approve it, the state will” and “don’t waste any money on legal fees trying to fight it.” Instead Sweeney and Bush (known as the “Charter Killer” referring to the charter school he defeated during his tenure in Santa Paula) did just the opposite. They fought it and fought it hard. They demoted Piru Elementary School Principal Richard Durborow (who oversaw the most improved campus in the district) for considering going charter. Bush and Townend rigged the Piru Principal Election Committee to block another charter school supporter, Susan Jolley, from becoming Piru’s next principal. Sweeney and Bush used Piru teachers sympathetic to the district’s anti-charter position to intimidate charter-supporting teachers, indicating that “if they backed out now, no harm would come to them”. Sweeney prohibited any talk or meetings about going charter on school grounds, forcing charter supporters to go “underground” setting the stage for the district’s “information war” spreading fear and uncertainty amongst Piru parents. These same parents were bussed to the Piru Charter School hearing to make sure board members witnessed overwhelming anger and dissatisfaction over going charter. Its ironic that board member De la Piedra stated “We don’t like the division” while sitting next to the people who caused it. By pitting long time friends against each other, Bush and Sweeney have caused permanent damaged to the Piru community.
So, what happens now? Lacking any axes to grind or “Charter Killers”, and happy to take advantage of the Sweeney Bush blunder, the County of Ventura or State of California will approve the new charter school and receive monies (monies that Fillmore Unified could have received) for providing services to the new school. More unethical behavior and bad decisions will now lead to further depletion of Fillmore Unified’s budget, reducing services to our children and guaranteeing more salary and benefit cuts to Fillmore Unified teachers and staff. Another mess.
Third, it looks like Sweeney and Bush have led you down yet another unethical and potentially illegal path. Just last week, a petition was submitted to recall one your most vocal critics, Fillmore Teachers Union President, Theresa Marvell. The petition was signed by a group of teachers not only sympathetic to the school board, but related to several school board members and Bush himself. The petition signers include Rene Bush (Mike Bush’s wife), Bev Garnica (School Board Member John Garnica’s wife), Magaly Dollar (School Board Member David Dollar’s daughter in-law), Greg Spalding (Bev and John Garnica’s good friend and apparent “hired gun” when it comes to issuing detailed emails and public statements supporting school board decisions). But somehow, I have a feeling you already know about all this. Shame on you.
What bad decision or unethical behavior will you be involved with next? Time to get rid of Sweeney, Bush and Townend once and for all.
An ashamed FUSD employee

Response by Jeff Sweeney, FUSD Superintendent
It is unfortunate that the letter submitted by the anonymous “ashamed FUSD employee” stoops to the level of personal attacks, name-calling and the dredging up of old issues in an apparently misguided attempt to garner sympathy and support for the Piru Charter School proposal. While I could respond to each and every one of the misstatements and unfounded allegations contained in the letter, that would serve no purpose but to further inflame and divide the community.
The letter’s author attempts to ascribe unsavory motives to Mike Bush and myself, and blame the failed charter attempt on an alleged inappropriate agenda by the two of us. As was clearly evidenced at both District Board meetings, as well as in other forums during the District’s consideration of the Charter, the overwhelming feeling of the entire community, particularly including Piru parents and District employees, was strong opposition to the Charter. The Charter itself contained a number of flaws and misleading and/or incorrect information, much of which is specifically addressed by the Board’s Resolution of Denial.
But the most fundamental cause of the Charter’s failure was the fact that it was demonstrably unlikely to be successful because the Charter petitioners failed to garner virtually any support for the Charter proposal. The families whose students attend Piru School, and most District employees, opposed the Charter. The families made clear that they simply would not send their children to the proposed Piru Charter School. Without students, the school obviously would fail.
The bottom line is the petitioners did not present the District a workable and potentially successful charter proposal, and for this reason, the Charter was denied. Mr. Bush’s and my purpose in recommending denial of the Charter was only to protect the interests of all District students, including the Piru students. The petitioners have the right to appeal the District’s decision, if they so choose, and that decision and the ultimate fate of the Charter request are now out of the District’s hands.
On a final note, I am aware that the membership of the Fillmore United Teacher’s Association submitted a petition for the recall of their current president, Theresa Marvel, and vice president, Chris Pavik. This recall effort was not instigated by the Board, Mr. Bush, nor myself, and it is not within our control, but, rather, is an internal decision for the FUTA membership. The District will, of course, continue to work for the best interests of the District, including its students and employees, with Ms. Marvel and whomever else may serve in leadership positions in FUTA.
I hope that we can all move forward from here in order to continue to provide the quality education that all of our students deserve, rather than concentrating on past disputes.
Jeff Sweeney
FUSD Superintendent