Sweating students and Swilling School leaders

The Smiling Spotlight The Smiling Spotlight 7 Comments

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AC finally comes to Encinitas school

The U-T reporter missed what really caused the outrage: While the students sweated, the school district administrators and 4 of 5 school board members (Board Member Maureen “Mo” Muir didn’t go) attended a booze fueled “retreat” at a luxury hotel. They didn’t post this as a public meeting, there was no “facilitator” and as many as 35 people were allegedly there on the school district’s dime? This party cost the district a heck of a lot more than 13 temporary A/C units will!!

And some are questioning if they managed to break the CA Ralph M. Brown Act.

The school district is not being open with the public re: the expense and attendee list of the junket which is consistent with their recent label as a VERY non-transparent organization.

Is there no real investigative news media left? Where are those “Brown Act cops” when you need them!

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Comments 7

  1. SS: We’ve added a link to the 10News story on the retreat. Can you document that the other four board members all attended…and that the meeting wasn’t posted? Stories, links, etc?

    Thanks.

  2. It’s hard to prove a negative, but my source (primary) assures me it was not a publicly noticed meeting with 72 hours notice etc. also, the news reporting indicates that only M.Muur of the board didn’t attend, which is consistent with info from my source.

  3. Baird indicates “Board Retreats” are exempt, which indicates more than 3 were there. BTW I’ve not heard of such an exemption to the Brown Act.

    Commentary: EUSD responds to questions about posh retreat
    Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 5:00 pm
    by Thomas K. Arnold

    We finally have a response.

    Last week, you might recall, I wrote a column in which I blasted the Encinitas Union School District for sending its board members—and Superintendent Tim Baird—on a mid-summer retreat to the posh La Quinta Resort in the Palms Spring area, and not providing any answers on how much the shindig cost, or where the money came from.

    Just a few months earlier, the board had sold the abandoned Pacific View Elementary School site to the city of Encinitas for the ridiculous sum of $10 million—money that’s going to have to come out of the taxpayers’ pockets at a time when the city is struggling with infrastructure repairs and other badly needed expenses.

    Meanwhile, the school district isn’t exactly flush with cash, either. School budgets remain tight, classroom sizes continue to grow, and parents are being asked to shell out more and more money for various programs and activities—even essentials such as paper at Mission Estancia Elementary School.
    Just last week, news broke that Paul Ecke Central Elementary School can’t even afford air conditioning for 13 of its classrooms, angering parents who say the extreme heat this summer is hurting their children’s ability to learn.

    After calling the school district last week, I was told the person to talk to about the retreat expenses is Kristine Beverly, whom the EUSD’s website identifies as an executive assistant in Educational Services. Beverly didn’t return phone calls or emails, so this week I renewed my efforts to find out who paid for the retreat, sending emails to Baird, Beverly and the various board members, asking them:

    How much did the La Quinta retreat cost?

    What funds were used to pay for it?

    Is this retreat an annual event for EUSD?

    Do you believe this may have been a violation of the Brown Act by conducting a meeting that the public was not notified of?

    Baird eventually called me back, and we commend him for him for his explanation. For starters, Baird said, the total cost was about $240 per person, and “34 or 35” people came, which would put the total cost of the retreat at just north of $10,000.

    “They shared $90 rooms, and that amount paid for all meals and rooms,” he said.

    Baird noted that the district goes on a retreat every year, although this is the first time in six years that the retreat was held out of the district. “I think almost all organizations do management retreats,” he said. “It’s a time to bring the team together, and we actually did a lot of work. We focused on what happened last year, and the direction, moving forward, for next year. So I thought it was a very valuable use of time and funds.”

    He added, “I know a lot of districts will bring in a speaker, but we did all this internally, with our own set of trainers, so the only cost was the sharing of rooms and meals. This wasn’t families coming, just the management team.”

    In retrospect, Baird said, he believes the retreat was “definitely worth it – we had some very powerful training, and we stand by our record. We have a very successful school district, and a lot of that is based on the hard work of our management team…I couldn’t send these people to a conference for $240, so I think we did it pretty effectively.”

    As for allegations that the retreat may have constituted a violation of California’s so-called Brown Act, which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies, Baird said, “Retreats and conferences are special exemptions from that, because you’re not actually doing board business. They can go and participate; what they can’t do is pass policy and do things like that.”

    As I noted in last week’s commentary, the three-day retreat kicked off Aug. 6 with a “Welcome Happy Hour at Tim’s Suite.” After Happy Hour came dinner at the Adobe Grill, the resort’s onsite Mexican restaurant that one Open Table reviewer called “undeservingly pricey.”

    The first day of the “educational retreat” ended with “evening libations in ‘The Suite’ or TWENTY6.”

    The next day, according to the agenda, a breakfast buffet on the Waterfall Patio was followed by a four-hour “management retreat,” which must have been grueling because the rest of the day was remarkably light: lunch, then “Relaxation and Reflection,” “Happy Hour at Tim’s Suite,” “Dinner off-property at The Grill on Main” and more “evening libations.”

    A notice at the bottom of the flier urged school board members to “bring laptops, iPads, sunscreen, swimsuits, hats and any other desert survival items.”

    In July 2014, the San Diego Taxpayers Educational Foundation released a “transparency” scorecard on local school boards, based on the accessibility of information that makes it possible for taxpayers to assess the performance of school bond programs. The Encinitas school board, according to the report, was one of the two “least transparent,” the only two to meet fewer than half of the criteria on the Transparency Scorecard.

    Baird deserves credit for providing us with a detailed explanation. We still think the timing was bad, and the agenda—especially as detailed on the flier—seemed light and glib. But, then again, we’re not running the school district, either.

    Thomas K. Arnold is a veteran San Diego journalist who throughout the 80s and 90s wrote for the San Diego County Edition of the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Reader and San Diego Magazine. He has won numerous awards from both the San Diego Press Club and the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Arnold is currently publisher and editorial director of Home Media Magazine, a weekly trade publication serving the $20 billion home entertainment industry. He is a former City of Carlsbad planning commissioner, editorial editor and editorial writer for U-T San Diego, and columnist for U-T San Diego and the North County Times.

  4. Cool. But, you copied that from somewhere. Link please. It’s very difficult to read with all the ancillary hodgepodge.

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