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Lodi Unified School District trustees finish closed-door interviews for board

Two finalists named: Jack Bray and John Carvana

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Posted: Friday, June 11, 2010 12:00 am

Three Lodi Unified School District trustees finished closed-door interviews of applicants for the board Thursday and named two finalists, Jack Bray and John Carvana.

The two finalists will now be interviewed by the full board of trustees Tuesday night. Other applicants are welcome to participate in that meeting as well, said board president Richard Jones.

Trustees are moving to replace Harvey Bills Sr., who resigned. The interview process has drawn criticism because it was held in secret, in an apparent violation of the board's own 34-year-old bylaw.

A section on provisional appointments reads, "The board shall interview the candidates at a public meeting, accept oral or written public input and select the provisional appointee by a majority vote."

Three of the seven applicants to fill Bills' seat were interviewed Wednesday afternoon, with three more conducted Thursday morning. The seventh was disqualified when it was determined that she does not live in the specific trustee area.

Jones said Thursday that he recognizes the issue with the bylaw language, and said it may need to be rewritten. "There are things we have to clean up. You're right, it's there," he added of the rule mandating applicants be interviewed in public.

"We're not trying to hide anything. The names are out there. We know who applied," he said.

"But the committee chair wanted to keep the integrity of the process and keep it closed. We're not trying to be anything but transparent."

It appears this is the way provisional appointments have always been made in the recent past, and until now the process was never questioned.

"Sometimes the bylaws are ambiguous, at least according to legal counsel," subcommittee president Joe Nava said Thursday.

Nava told the News-Sentinel on Wednesday morning that he'd have no problem with a reporter covering the interviews.

But when a different reporter showed up for the first interview at 3 p.m. Wednesday, an employee from the superintendent's office said the district's attorney advised the staff that the public could be banned from the interviews because only three members of the seven-member board were present.

On Thursday, Nava said he initially welcomed the press because he had not yet spoken to legal counsel or Jones.

The group that conducted this week's interviews did not violate the state's open-meeting law since a majority of its current six board members did not meet. The subcommittee is made up of three trustees: Bonnie Cassel, Ken Davis and Nava.

Some feel the closed-door interviews are reflective of the continued mistrust between the teachers' union and the administration that has been brought up publicly more than once.

George Neely, an outspoken board critic, showed up at the district office early Thursday to talk to the subcommittee about its alleged bylaw violation, and was told that the candidates had already been screened to ensure they were eligible.

"This is in clear violation of what is stated in the bylaws, as it skirts the public's right to witness the interview and to give input," he wrote on his personal website.

The former Creekside Elementary teacher was among the 250-plus teachers to receive layoff notices. He has already publicly announced that he will run for a seat on the school board in November.

He takes issue not only with the closed-door meeting, but also with the actual interviews. Pointing to the adopted board bylaws (see box), Neely said the committee should only confirm that applicants are eligible to serve before announcing those names and interviewing the candidates at a public meeting.

When told of the subcommitte's recommendation of two people early Thursday afternoon, Neely added, "Then am I to take it that the other four did not meet the eligibility requirements? Did they not live in area 6? Were they under 18? Were they not registered voters?

"That committee is not to narrow down anything in a closed meeting except those that do not meet the specific eligibility requirements. This is wrong."

Sonja Renhult, another pink-slipped teacher, said trustees state at public meetings that working together is important. "However, by keeping the interview process private when the bylaws state it should be public, they are clearly keeping us out of the process," she said.

But Jones said all six applicants will be invited Tuesday to answer questions from both the board and community members. He chalked up the distrust to an inherent skepticism of politicians, especially those in contract negotiations.

"It's something I wish we could change," he said.

Attorney Peter Scheer, with the watchdog group First Amendment Coalition, said it is clear that trustees violated heir own bylaws, and it's subject to be challenged if someone wishes to do so.

About provisional appointments

In order to draw from the largest possible number of candidates, the board shall advertise in the local media to solicit candidate applications or nominations. A committee consisting of less than a quorum of the board shall ensure that applicants are eligible for board membership and announce the names of the eligible candidates. The board shall interview the candidates at a public meeting, accept oral or written public input, and select the provisional appointee by a majority vote.

Source: Lodi Unified School District board bylaws, adopted November 1976 and revised May 2009

"Here there's absolutely no reason to exclude the public from the interview process. Good policy adheres to open government and argues that they should conduct these interviews in a public setting," he said, adding that he understands some candidates might not want to be identified if they weren't successful in their bid to sit on the board.

Since the names were already released by the district, Scheer said he doesn't see a "rational reason" to conduct the interviews privately.

"Why violate the bylaws and create a risk of some sort of legal challenge?", he said.

In the meantime, Carvana, one of the two finalists, said he looks forward to Tuesday's meeting.

"I'm very excited," said Carvana. "I think it's a great opportunity. I look forward to the challenge."

Faced with having to vote on a new district budget, he said he'll read the budget proposal during the weekend if he is given a copy. Otherwise, he will abstain from voting.

Carvana didn't offer an opinion as to whether the committee's interviews with the six applicants should have been held at a public meeting or in private. "That's a tough question, only because I'm sure the committee followed the guidelines," he said.

Carvana, who lives in north Stockton, is an education and career consultant for a company called Level Playing Field Consulting. He has a son and daughter who graduated from Bear Creek High School.

Bray, who is a retired school administrator, could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Applicant Frank Michael said Thursday that he was not opposed to open interviews. "But it's up to (the committee) to make the decision of what they want to do," he said.

Applicant Ron Freitas declined to comment.

The final applicant was Karen Hettervik. The provisional appointment was required to reside in trustee area 6, which roughly encompasses portions of south Lodi and north Stockton, but is mostly rural. It includes Elkhorn and Larson elementary schools, among others.

All applicants were paper-screened by the same three-member subcommittee of trustees last week when Nava announced this week's interviews.

The subcommittee is expected to recommend an appointment to the board Tuesday, and all members will vote on it at Tuesday's meeting. The successful applicant will be administered the Oath of Office and seated at the same meeting the 2010-11 budget should be adopted, according to the adopted timeline.

The appointee will serve until the next board election in November. At that time, he or she could file as a candidate and run for election to finish out the term of office, which expires in November 2012.

When Jones was appointed a provisional candidate in 2004, he said he and four other applicants went through the same closed-door sub-committee interviews before he was recommended to the entire board.

Staff writer Ross Farrow contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.

30 comments:

  • posted at 6:37 am on Wed, Jun 16, 2010.

    Posts:

    Yes the Brown Act was violated when three members out of the six members of the LUSD met in closed session. The Brown Act was adopted to prevent a majority of board members from meeting in private and adopting a position on a subject. In fact the intent of the Brown Act is that all issues be discussed in public sessions. The intent of the Act was not to restrict members from informally exchanging information between each other. The Act does enumerate specific subjects that may be closed to the public. Legal counsels familiar with the Act suggest that no more than two members meet to avoid legal problems. Boards with an even number of members present a special problem. If half of the member meet and formulate a position, they can ‘rule’ the rest of the board by either stopping business with a tie vote or wearing the other members down. Legal counsel should be aware of this or replaced.

     
  • posted at 5:23 pm on Mon, Jun 14, 2010.

    Posts:

    Lodian wrote on Jun 13, 2010 11:29 PM:" Somethin' smells fishy. "or Something Wicked This Way Comes!I like that one

     
  • posted at 6:29 pm on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Posts:

    Somethin' smells fishy.

     
  • posted at 6:29 pm on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Posts:

    The committee chair wanted to keep the integrity of the process and keep it closed?Wow!

     
  • posted at 9:06 am on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Posts:

    Hey Giovanina,Bray doesn't have a "tan" either ... wink, wink.

     
  • posted at 7:11 pm on Sat, Jun 12, 2010.

    Posts:

    Well I checked Bray's past and I don't see him as having a philosophy that mirrors Odie Douglas.....And YES I am still alive, Leonard clone LOL

     
  • posted at 7:00 pm on Sat, Jun 12, 2010.

    Posts:

    And the candidate with a philosophy that mostly mirrors the philosophy of Odie Douglas is???? The winner!!!!!!Maybe we should start calling them all Odie-Clones.....has a good ring to it.

     
  • posted at 4:44 am on Sat, Jun 12, 2010.

    Posts:

    commonsense wrote on Jun 12, 2010 8:30 AM:" Surf!! The union is the teachers, so that blanket statement you put all teachers in the same categorySorry if I was not clear... I was trying to say that many teachers do care about the students... but... when the teacher is directly involved with their union and negotiate with the school board, they use that tired line during that process, which is what I object to... because in that capacity and situation... the children are not considered.

     
  • posted at 3:30 am on Sat, Jun 12, 2010.

    Posts:

    Surf!! The union is the teachers, so that blanket statement you put all teachers in the same category.

     
  • posted at 4:51 pm on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    commonsense.... re; best interest of the children... is an old tired line the union spouts that from my perspective is a blatant lie. The union represents the best interest of the teachers. The children have absolutely nothing to do with what they do. The union uses the children for selfish reasons. It is the teachers themselves that care for the children. It’s a shame they do not have the good sense in decertifying the union.

     
  • posted at 4:42 pm on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Lodian... How do I know... the sun may or may not rise in the east tomorrow... I bet it will just like it always does... there is no guarantee... but chances are... it will... and just like the sun most likely will rise... George will represent teacher’s interest or be attacked by the union just like any board member is. I hope I am mistaken... we will see. Ive heard George speak several times, and read things he has said… he seems so one sided…. That side being the union side.

     
  • posted at 2:07 pm on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    surfgliderdb wrote "You know if elected, George will be so biased towards his union buddies that he will not effectively serve all interested partied."surfgliderdb: How do you figure?

     
  • posted at 1:19 pm on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Some of you do not seem concerned on the process that leads to the end result, if the board has followed their own bylaws. That is concerning to me as a taxpayer, and someone that want to see the best candidate for the job, and not an inside decision.I don't believe what is best for children is a old dead line or just the concern of the "Union"If the "Union" was so concerned why would they stand nuetral on the waiver to the State regarding increasing class sizes above the required limit by the State? The waiver is on the agenda to be viewed by all!

     
  • posted at 1:05 pm on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Lets Be Real ... of course "ATEACHER" is George... you would think that since he thinks he is qualified to serve on the school board that he would change his handle and indicate who he really is... but you know how dishonest union people are... you cannot expect much from them. You know if elected, George will be so biased towards his union buddies that he will not effectively serve all interested partied. Of course he will say he has the best interest of the children at heart... but that is a tired old line that the union has utilized for years.

     
  • posted at 11:49 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    pre$$ure$on... you never disappoint... you are one observant blogger. You and everyone else making passionate observations about a closed door meeting an obscure school board participated in... I was trying to be as absurd as you... but obviously, I could never hope to accomplish that one.You are just too bright and clever for me. The wisdom you display is awe-inspiring. Fortunately, you do keep making comments that result in many people chuckling and feeling better about themselves. When they compare their wit with yours, how can they not feel better.

     
  • posted at 11:18 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    News Alert: PLEASE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT "ATEACHER" IS AN UNBIASED AND CONCERNED CITIZEN. HE IS GEORGE NEELY, THE SAME ONE WHO IS RUNNING FOR OFFICE!

     
  • posted at 10:10 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Surfglide, your hallucinogenic comments don't seem to have anything to do with this blog. Please add somrething of value or sleep it off.

     
  • posted at 9:28 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    We need you, George Neely! Keep up the great work!

     
  • posted at 8:34 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Maybe the CIA, United Nations, FBI, and maybe even the KGB should investigate. This school board is obviously hiding something so important that no expense should be denied in order to uncover the truth. Maybe this information will result in answers so long hidden in “AREA 51". I’m so thankful for all these diligent detectives and will help make the earth a better and more fair place to live.

     
  • posted at 6:25 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Carvana mentioned that he will read the budget proposal over the weekend IF he is given a copy. The budget proposal from the June 1 board meeting is on the district's webite. LUSD's website menu lists "Electronic School Board." Agendas for each meeting are posted by 5:00 p.m. the Friday before any school board meeting. By holding your cursor over the list of agenda items and clicking, you can access each document that is part of the meeting. Any document relating to any agenda item is there for you to read with just a click of the mouse.

     
  • posted at 4:02 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    I am wondering whether a Brown Act violation will occur if the Board goes ahead on Tuesday and votes on a provisional appointee. The boards' actions are subject to the Brown Act even if these committees are not. Since the Bylaws that were adopted by the district require that the process be open, and it was not, if the board follows through, have they not in effect ratified the violation? Once the board has adopted a procedure for filing vacancies in its bylaws that mandates a public process, isn’t the Boards’ failure to follow the rule a Brown Act violation? Isn’t the attempt to do a quick fix by inviting all the candidates to be interviewed too little, too late, since the committee knows things that the public does not (the questions, the answers) and because everyone already knows the committee’s choices?I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I have to say that this situation does smell right, and it never will.

     
  • posted at 3:47 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    There is a hidden agenda on the candidates. A complete resume of the candidates should be known for all to look at, and them make a decision. Every citizen in LUSD should be looking between the lines. That is transparent. The board needs to be held accountable for this fiasco.

     
  • posted at 3:44 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    "He chalked up the distrust to an inherent skepticism of politicians, especially those in contract negotiations."It's something I wish we could change," he (Jones) said.Are you kidding me? Who do they think they are talking to? They are the only ones who CAN CHANGE IT because THEY are the ones RESPONSIBLE for our MISTRUST of LUSD! Another typical politician blaming EVERYONE else for their bad behavior! I'll take bets on their choice of the former school administrator - just another "yes-man" for their old-boys standard opperating proceedure. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Their blatent avoidance of the issues and continuation to do whatever the hell they want despite what is best for the district at large is incorrigable. This is no longer an issue of money - and hasn't been for a long, long time.

     
  • posted at 3:44 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Apparently the "Board" has learned their "transparency" procedures from Obama. So transparent nobody can see it. Public entities should be just that. OPEN to the public. Just what are they hiding?

     
  • posted at 3:14 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    LNS-An invaluable public service was served by this article! The significance of the appointment of someone to public office, should not be minimized Mr. Jones. It is not about a current negotiations. If it is, did you set up this process in violation of the Bylaws so that you could try and fill the position with someone who will vote with you? Is “distrust of politicians” a defense to this board’s actions? Therein lies the problem. It will not matter which side gets the one or two crucial pending votes, many will be unhappy, and everyone will wonder what information about the candidates that was obtained in secret was disseminated by the committee members to others on the board, why they got chosen, or left out. The damage to the community is already significant. The process is tainted, and should be abandoned. The other members of the Board should take note. On Tuesday, they will have to make the decision as to whether they are willing participants in these shenanigans, and whether they take public appointments and Bylaws lightly. We will all be watching.

     
  • posted at 3:08 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Two members of this committee, Nava and Davis, side with Jones on everything. So will it be any surprise that the person they select will also fall into the same category. This is outrageous! The LUSD Board has no right to exclude the public from this process. The public has an absolute RIGHT to be involved in the selection of the school board. This whole thing needs to be stopped immediately, and then started over and done the right way. The two candidates that were selected by Jones’s committee need to be removed from consideration. And finally, this board needs to get with the program. We are tired of the way you conduct the business of this school district. First you wasted all the federal money we received, then you gave us the massive layoffs of teachers, and now you try to push through a replacement board member without allowing the public proper input. We deserve better!

     
  • posted at 2:10 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    There is nothing ambiguous regarding the BYLAWS. Read it. It is pretty forthright!

     
  • posted at 2:06 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    I believe a recall of the board should happen. If they cannot appoint a candidate within there OLD bylaws this is not being open for the public. I would rather be reading why these two candidates were choosen! What made their qualifications better than others!The candidates knew they were going to be under scruntiny by the public. Nava did not mind, but now does mind that if interviews were open to the public. This is corruption at the local level. This is a seat that is voted by the public! Jones was appointed in the same manner in 2004. So what, that was wrong then, and should have been corrected this time. This is OUTRAGEOUS!!! RECALL! RECALL!!

     
  • posted at 1:24 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    I am very disappointed in LUSD Board! When you close the door it is because you don't want the public to know what is happening. We will SAVE LODI SCHOOLS!Can't wait until November!

     
  • posted at 1:02 am on Fri, Jun 11, 2010.

    Posts:

    Mr. Jones said, "But the committee chair wanted to keep the integrity of the process and keep it closed. We're not trying to be anything but transparent."Please! Mr. Jones, I am ashamed that I once thought you were on my side, looking out for the children of Lodi. Being a politician has changed you. Your closed-door politics are the exact opposite of transparent, so please do not insult our collective intelligence by telling us otherwise and expecting us to believe it. Furthermore, your stubborn defense of failed and dangerous ideas is the opposite of leadership. A leader finds new courses of action to lead his people to a better future. Either (a) you aren't a leader because you just follow what has always been done, or (b) we aren't your people, because you are not leading us to a better future. You will be replaced... with our votes... and we will SAVE LODI SCHOOLS!

     

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