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Board member says Brown Act violated

 

Last updated 4/26/2007 at Noon



Just prior to the closing of Monday night’s meeting of the Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) board, trustee Lynn Colburn read a prepared statement, intended to become a matter of public record, that stated he felt some of his fellow board members had violated the Brown Act and routinely divulged confidential information from closed sessions. “It really troubles me when I hear those conversations, which are intended to be confidential, discussed in our community,” Colburn said. “We need to decide if we are here in the role of setting policy for the district or serving and being controlled by some special interest.” Colburn appeared to be making reference to board members whose political campaigns were financed primarily by the teachers’ union.

“Hidden agendas and political ambitions serve no purpose in advancing our mission,” said Colburn, encouraging fellow board members to conduct themselves in a lawful manner.

Colburn also publicly chastised board president Bill O’Connor for “ignoring” a request he made to have an item placed on a previous agenda relating to the disclosure of an attorney-client communication.

“My request has been completely ignored,” Colburn said. “I think the public should have been given the opportunity to hear the legal opinions we received on certain subjects.”

Shortly after opening the meeting, O’Connor pulled an item from the agenda, stating he was doing so based on legal advice he had secured earlier in the day.

The item (D/I-15), listed as “Evaluation of Superintendent,” was followed by the statement “The Executive Board of the Fallbrook High School Teachers’ Association has requested an agenda item regarding the evaluation of the superintendent.” O’Connor had placed the item on the agenda after receiving a written request dated March 27, 2007, from teachers’ union president Tim Oder.

“From my perspective, my rights were violated by that item being placed on the agenda,” Superintendent Tom Anthony said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I am going to deal with this in a very respectful and professional manner.” Anthony would not expand on how he plans to address the matter.

In Oder’s written request to have the item put on the agenda, he stated, “The superintendent’s contract calls for staff input in this evaluation process…” In examining a copy of the superintendent’s contract, and board documents relating to the evaluation process, it appears Oder may have somewhat misunderstood the procedure outlined for the superintendent’s evaluation process. It clearly states that the first step in the evaluation process asks the superintendent, in communication with the board, staff and community, to develop and submit to the board an analysis of the district and his recommendation as to the priority goals and tasks to be addressed for the upcoming year.

After the governing board adopts the preliminary goals for 2007-2008, an administrative workshop slated for June 19 will bring together district and site administration teams and their support personnel, teaching department chairs, union presidents, the activities director and the athletic director in order to give input and recommendations on the final goals established for the district.

Nowhere in any of the documents does it say that any district employee is entitled or invited to participate in another district employee’s performance evaluation, unless he or she is the individual’s supervisor.

Regarding the Evaluation of the Superintendent, FUHSD Board Policy 2140, last revised January 24, 2005, states, “Evaluation criteria shall be based on district goals and success indicators agreed upon by the board and superintendent prior to the evaluation.” It also stipulates that each board member is to independently evaluate the superintendent’s performance, then summarize and combine the individual evaluations to create a consensus document that is a composite of the individual board member’s opinions.

In the public comment section of the meeting, O’Connor allowed union representatives Tim Oder and Joe Comella to present the results of a “staff survey” they claim they administered to the district’s teaching staff that painted a picture of dissatisfaction with the superintendent. Oder stated he wanted to present his information in closed session to the board but was told it had to be in open session.

In irritation, Oder said, “We didn’t want the press involved. We wanted to do this behind closed doors.”

When asked if teachers’ unions conduct these types of surveys and report on them in public comment in other districts throughout the county, Jim Esterbrooks, public information officer for the Office of the County Superintendent of Education, said it is “not uncommon.”

“It’s within the rights of teachers to conduct surveys,” Esterbrooks said. “Teachers’ associations regularly issue votes of confidence, or ‘report cards,’ on their respective superintendent in the public comment portion of a meeting. Having them put on the board agenda is another matter entirely.”

In other significant board business, a motion was passed unanimously by the board to award a $2,415,232 contract to Byrom-Davey, Inc. for the football field/track renovation project at Fallbrook High School.

A discussion was also held by the board in regards to proposed salary adjustments for certificated management and classified management, another item with potentially notable financial impact to the district. After commenting, “This has been a long time coming,” board member Marc Steffler indicated that at a future meeting he particularly wants to review a comparison between the salary of both Fallbrook High’s athletic and activities directors to those in other districts.

 

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