Saturday, January 26, 2008

Debunking the District's propaganda.

The January 24, 2008 letter is an interesting, albeit unsophisticated attempt at pulling wool over the eyes of taxpayers. Because the blog firmly believes in honest and constructive engagement in issues that matter to our community, we will clarify the contents of this recently promulgated ejectumenta.

First, for the record, the blog is not saying that the contaminated property should not have been purchased. Sure, we question the wisdom behind even considering the location, but if we assume for a moment that the location and its potential traffic implications can be overcome, the real issue to ponder is the price that was paid.

There is no doubt the site is contaminated. I was in the room when every one of the District's consultants and their legal counsel agreed the site should not be purchased because of the contamination. I reviewed the documentation regarding the site at Raskin's office in Kirkland. I poured over the evidence of contamination and reviewed a lot of the documents on behalf of the District, prior to pulling AMEC and Reid Middleton into the process. In fact, along with my supervisor, I assembled an inventory of reports and findings held by Raskin prior to selling the site to the District. It was this summary that was provided to the District's consultants that allowed them to more fruitfully obtain the reports necessary to effectively study the site. That study resulted in the recommendation that the site not be purchased.

"All appraisals were done by certified, licensed appraisers." This is factually correct but it does not reveal who selected the appraiser or for which party the appraiser was working.

"All of the negotiations and aspects for this purchase were reviewed with district legal counsel and technical consultants, as well as with the Board of Directors." This is factually correct but it does not reveal the position taken by these technical consultants nor is there a single member of the Board qualified to effectively evaluate the aspects of this purchase.

"One rumor that has persisted about this property,... is that it was contaminated." We have never made any claim that the site "was" contaminated. Our position from the very start of this process has always been that the site "is" contaminated. Anyone saying that the site "was" contaminated would be spreading a rumor, because "was" implies past tense and factually the site is currently contaminated.

"As part of our review of the property prior to purchase, our consultants evaluated the soil and determined the risk of contamination should not preclude purchase of the site." Okay, this is a lie. But if you allow the District to be creative with their interpretation of what they pay people to tell them, there is still a problem. This risk of contamination should not preclude purchase of the site... if the sale price was less than three million dollars.

"We negotiated for the seller to pay for insurance to address any soils issues that might arise during construction." First, the seller's premium for this coverage would not be expensive if no actual construction or earthwork was to take place during the seller's period of coverage. The insurance provider was more interested in the manner of construction to determine real exposure to paying on the policy. If you don't dig more than a few feet, and avoid known hot spots, you could limit the amount of exposure to contamination. The fact the District even sought insurance for contaminated soils proves they were convinced of an elevated chance of liability.

"...since we recently completed demolition of the old school and grading of the property, and in the course of this work no contamination was found." The District was not looking for contamination and did not aggressively test while grading was taking place. Modern construction techniques allow for development on contaminated soils. The fact that such development occurs does not erase the existence of contaminants.

"The Department of Ecology also was asked recently to review all the data, and confirmed there are no contamination issues to be dealt with on the site." This is factually correct, but it was a member of our blog team that initiated contact with the Department of Ecology. Ecology has no data for the site because the District and the previous owner, MJR Development, did not provide the results of their environmental evaluation. Their process for investigating situations like these is currently underway. When we have updated information, the blog will provide it to our readers.

The District's drivel regarding the need to relocate to a site further from the commercial core of Alderwood Mall is not being challenged by the blog. We are concerned, however, that the City of Lynnwood, in their insatiable quest for sales tax revenue, is happily prepared to overlook regulatory issues to expedite the District's departure from the current bus barn location.

"The [D]istrict is ever mindful of how precious the use of public funds is for any and all transactions." Would someone kindly explain to me how the District would allow the piano transaction with Seattle Piano Gallery to move forward. It was a violation of public trust to craft the scheme in the first place and then matters worsened when Marla handed a $40,000.00 check to her friend from Rotary. The evidence is clear that the District's regard for public resources is an illusion.

The District goes on to make certain that everyone is clear about the source of the funding to buy this contaminated piece of property. The funds "came from the capital projects budget and not the general fund." Every dime in the District's pocket belongs to the public and should be spent with the highest regard for the appropriate use of public funds.

"Certainly, if the property owner would have sold the property for less we would have purchased it for less." I suspect if the seller would have demanded more, Marla would have found a way to buy it at any price.

"However, we do not control the sale price..." The District has absolutely no comprehension of basic economic principles. The buyer always controls the selling price. Without a willing buyer, nothing sells. The seller only controls the asking price. Pick up a text book.

The District goes on to describe adversarial condemnation. Remember, Marla, I am well aware of the fact that Raskin asked the District to pursue this option. As far as the process "requir[ing] another appraisal to be entered into a court proceeding where the value/price would have been established", I cannot help but shake my head. Does the District actually believe that another appraisal would have been higher than $5,600,000? What would have happened if that third appraisal came back less than the District's appraisal?

"The Board determined that an adversarial condemnation action would have been contrary to our mission of being fair in how we work with people in our community, including property owners." Michael Raskin of MJR Development lives in Medina and works in Kirkland. How is he a person in our community? What about treating district taxpayers fairly? Raskin made a disgustingly obscene amount of profit on this transaction and avoided having to pay to remediate the contamination. District taxpayers will be paying that tab later.

"On behalf of the Board of Directors and district, we thank you again for your interest and support." That is rather presumptuous. We have been forced by district management to support MJR Development in their quest to develop more wineries and condos in Woodinville.

Mark Zandberg
Executive Director of Blog Content Development

Friday, January 25, 2008

District can't find their own property on a map.

Someone is getting a little ambitious with laying claim to real estate in Lynnwood. The diagram to the left includes a business immediately south of the District's entrance to their contaminated site. It is a business that manufactures skis. Perhaps Marla seeks to diversify the District's mission and start an apprenticeship program where students that fail the District's watered down math curriculum could be put to work making skis. With the proceeds funneled to the appropriate friends and business associates.

We already know this property transaction is mired in the District's delusional sense of reality. Now their illustrations reveal just how far District leadership has slipped into the confusion of their own propaganda.

Editorial: Sorry for the District's black and white image. Perhaps they are trying to save money by not creating pdfs in color.

Refusing to march to the District's drum of mediocrity.

I found the articles regarding National History Day (posted 1/23) very disturbing. It saddens me to learn that a program that promoted academic growth in middle school students was dismantled. This is not the first time I have heard about academic mediocrity in the District.

While I was at the District, I was fortunate to get to meet and know parents from various schools as part of emergency preparedness activities. Madrona K-8 stood out from all the rest as they had an established robust program. Later, I learned that parent involvement in every aspect of the school was exceptional, not just with preparedness activities. Students reaped benefits of enriched programs from a staff spurred by the engaged, dedicated community. However, from what I have been told, the school is now just a shadow of what was due to the systematic dismantling of outstanding programs and the loss of talented teachers.

One of these teachers, Tim Kennedy, had (and still has) the precious talent of inspiring kids while they learned MATH. Unconventional in style, Mr. Kennedy was forced to resign. No matter that the students adored him. No matter that they learned and were prepared for high school. Mr. Kennedy did not march to the drum of mediocrity preached by the administration.

How to teach math has been at the heart of debate for several years. Instead of teaching math how mathematicians, engineers and scientists actually use it, math is taught how educators believe how students will learn it. This begs a question. Which would you rather your child do? Learn how to drive a car from someone who never has but can describe it to them bit by bit and hope they discover how; or learn from someone who can actually drive and will let them take a supervised spin? No wonder the WASL deadline for math is now 2013. (This topic is covered in David Ross’s book Math Wars,

Erin Hothschild, a colleague of mine who is 23 years old, tells a powerful story. In the sixth grade, she and her best friend used to "cheat" in math. They were required to exchange and grade each other’s papers. They changed answers to get better grades.

Her grades compelled her teacher to place her in advanced math in middle school instead of integrated math. She academically caught fire as she took a traditional curriculum in middle and high school of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, analytic geometry and calculus. Now she giggles, "I’m now an engineer because I cheated in math!" She admits she would have never known her potential had she not had the opportunity to be challenged and would be "Flipping burgers like everyone else."

This is in stark contrast to the Edmonds Woodway High graduate I know who had to drop out of engineering school his first year because he was not mathematically prepared for the program. This begs another question. Why does the District cheat its students of the opportunity to excel? Equity does not have to mean mediocrity. When you set your sites on the lowest common denominator, sadly, that is what you will achieve.

Claire Olsovsky

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Our children need playgrounds.

There are a number of schools struggling to raise money for playground projects. Terrace Park for example was built without a playground because district management knew that parents and staff would take pity on their children and build a playground on their own. In fact, deleting a playground from the scope of construction at Terrace Park even improved the chances of passing a bond with a Capital Partnership element to it. District management knows what they are doing and what they are doing is immoral.

Our children need playgrounds.

When I left the District in June of 2007, there was a substantial amount of money left for Capital Partnerships. We had just fully-funded every project that applied for matching money and still had more than $150,000.00 in the fund. When the responsibility of managing those projects was moved to Capital Projects, where they charge management fees and overhead, the $150,000.00 went straight into their budget without any future rounds planned.

It would be far better to have another round of projects and combining forces would result in $300,000.00 in additional investment in scarce or deficient playground features. In fact, rather than just sign over $150,000.00 to the Capital Projects Office, why not just fully-fund all of the projects in the last round. Pay for everything. One hundred percent. Not the best or most equitable option but it is a lot better than just slipping the money to a department already flush with cash.

Our children need playgrounds.

The latest information from the tip line suggests that Westgate Elementary and Meadowdale Elementary are also struggling to raise money for their playground projects. Westgate's playground is sad and embarrassing. Meadowdale is another case where the playground was under-built during the construction of the school. In an earlier round, parents managed to plan, purchase and install an amazing playground with minimal effort from District staff.

Our children need playgrounds.

If you want to see your money used to build the playgrounds your children were promised, call Ed Peters (425-431-7170) and ask him if there will be another round. If you prefer to email, by all means, send him an anonymous message. The voters designated the funds to be used to build partnership projects. It isn't a partnership when the public spends $150,000.00 to lose $300,000.00 in value added to the District. The District needs to play fair and honor their commitments.

Editorial: Thank you to the caller that left this message on the tip line.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January is School Board Recognition Month.

To help our readers recognize the conduct and mentality of our current, elected board members, we have put together a little test to see if these people are, in fact, discernible from other faces in the crowd.

1) This member is prone to making phone calls to concerned members of the District community but then quickly changes his mind when you answer the phone. He asks for a person that you both know but promptly hangs up when he realizes he has made a serious blunder.

a) Susan Paine
b) Gary Noble
c) Pat Shields

2) This member maintains a death grip on his seat because his wife wants a brand new classroom in a brand new high school in a brand new part of a different town.

a) Ann McMurray
b) Susan Phillips
c) Gary Noble

3) This member was singled out by Marla Miller as one of two individuals that directed her to start the negotiations for a contaminated piece of property full of rotting and not-quite-compacted soil when no meaningful inspections or tests had begun. She had only been on the board two months and was certainly struggling to stay afloat in the deep end of the pool. The other board member was Bruce Williams.

a) Susan Paine
b) Pat Shields

c) Ann McMurray

4) This member tries to silence opposition by firing off anonymous letters from her place of employment making claims that have no foundation in reality. Fortunately, our team of investigators was able to specifically match postmarks and identify the culprit "beyond a reasonable doubt".

a) Gary Noble
b) Pat Shields
c) Susan Paine

5) This member started up a non-profit organization called Powerful Partners and used his seat on the board to avoid paying rent in the ESC. While he thinks he is in the clear because he is no longer the director, we all know it is still his pet project. Clearly he doesn't find such freeloading to be contrary to the appropriate use of public funds.

a) Susan Phillips
b) Susan Paine
c) Pat Shields

6) This member has yet to offend our moral senses, though we are currently distracted by all of the other offenses levied against common decency. She seems to be reading the blog regularly and leaves the impression that she might actually care. The other board members will soon pound that inclination out of her.

a) Pat Shields
b) Ann McMurray
c) Susan Phillips

You can submit your answers in the comment section of this entry and I will draw a random winner for a $20 gift card from Tully's. Of course, the winner will be anonymous, so what I will do is leave a balance at the Tully's in Edmonds and anyone going in during certain hours on a certain day will get a free drink of their choice. You will just have to provide a catch phrase to staff and your drink will be compliments of the blog. If you see Marla or Nick while you are there, be sure to tell them you have coffee there all of the time.

Second string superintendent sacked by his own record.

I was truly amused to note that Ken Limon was scheduled to run the Superintendent's Roundtable on January 9, 2008. The topic of this forum was "meeting academic needs of high performing students" and a "discussion of the District's Challenge Programs and its support for all students." I find this amusing because on July 21, 2005, Mr. Limon sent me an e-mail from which I quote: "...the measure of a great school is what it is able to accomplish with the mediocre or underprivileged (or unmotivated) students, not those who will succeed anyway (emphasis added)."

This was his response to my appeals to him that our ability to bring challenging curriculum, the National History Day program, to all students of Meadowdale Middle School was being slowly, yet systematically limited by the principal in our building. I wrote the e-mail after we had just returned from Washington, D.C. with one of our students who had qualified to go to the National exhibit. (She was accorded the honor of displaying her exhibit as the representative of Washington State in the Museum of American History on the Mall.) This was our "Thanks" from Mr. Limon.

We had worked for four years to improve our delivery of this quality curriculum, in spite of the yearly cutbacks in our ability to do so. The entire 8th grade, 340 students, did NHD because the principal demanded that there be uniform instruction by grade level and subject area. He demanded, we delivered, he took it apart. I was removed from 8th grade, moved to 7th, and told that I couldn't do History Day with my students. Because of this shift, we moved from doing NHD with all 8th grade students to 120 8th graders and 30 7th graders.

We had written a PEF grant for two I-Mac computers with I-Movie software so that our 340 students could have the ability to work in the documentary category; we had no capability to work with documentaries before this grant. What would the PEF leaders think if they knew that their award to us and our attempt to bring quality curriculum to ALL students was immediately undermined by our building principal and later backed up by Mr. Limon?

I did NHD with my Honors students anyway and for 2 consecutive years coached documentary groups to the final judging round at State (one group place 5th in State). After the first year of teaching 7th grade, the principal further attempted to limit NHD at MMS by trying to remove the Honors class from me. Had I displeased him by offering quality curriculum to my students? Was it a bad thing to qualify students to go to State?

Further, Mr. Limon said, "If (Principal X) is saying that the primary focus must be on what happens daily in the classroom to create thinking and true understanding of history and therefore current events, then I am absolutely with him. This is not to say that I don't value National History Day activities, only that they are secondary to our primary mission (again, emphasis added)."

Mr. Limon and Principal X are speaking in ignorance of how we used NHD to TIE CURRENT EVENTS AND HISTORY TOGETHER. We did it all the time. The skills that are taught in NHD work will last these students a lifetime. The librarians at Meadowdale High sent word back that they could tell which students had been ours because they knew how to research efficiently. These are the skills used by lawyers, librarians, researchers (various vocations), newspaper reporters, historians, authors of historical fiction, archivists, and on and on. These were "lifelong learning" skills, the specific skills named in the District Subject Guide for Social Studies that we should be teaching our students. And yet Mr. Limon thinks they are "secondary to our primary mission."

Mr. Limon's preconceived idea of NHD was that it was for the students "who will succeed anyway." He never investigated and found that the students who benefited the most from NHD were, in fact, "the mediocre or underprivileged (or unmotivated) students." I can cite example after example of average or unmotivated or troubled students who caught fire with NHD. Every year we had students come to us and say "That was great! That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in school! I've never gotten a B+ (or an A) in social studies before!" We were serving all students with quality curriculum and he couldn't recognize it.

And I will just mention in passing the elimination of the for-high-school-credit honors biology class at MMS that was also placed under seige by Principal X and eventually eliminated by his successor. I can only assume that Mr. Limon was aware of these assaults on quality curriculum as well.

On January 9, 2008 he stood in front of business leaders, parents, and taxpayers of the Edmonds School District and spoke about the District's Challenge Programs.

It is laughable. "Do as I say, not as I do."

High standards and expectations. All students can learn.

In 2001, my husband and I began to use the National History Day process as a research, skill-building process. We were teaching with LA/U.S. History block classes which was ideal because it allowed us to teach research, skimming, note-taking evaluation skills and analysis skills in both academic areas. As most of you know “Teaming and blocking are considered best practices by the National Middle School Association.”

We assigned projects that allowed students choice: choice of specific topic, choice of performance (presentation), choice of working with a partner, or not working with a partner. NHD presents a specific theme each year, such as Communication in History. Students are to select a specific event, research it generally, develop a thesis statement, continue in-depth research which requires skimming, analysis, synthesis of what they have learned. They are encouraged to travel to museums, contact experts, dig deep into online and brick-and-mortar archives, asking questions of archivists, and discuss their learning with partners or adults.

Their final product may be a research paper (individual), exhibit board, play, documentary or website (individual or group). The result of this process is the hardest work most students have ever been asked to do, and with it comes huge self-respect and pride. It is an epiphany for many students. For example: The first year we attended Washington History Day regionals our students wanted to pack up and go home in the early afternoon. They were just proud to be there. We told them they had to stay until the winners were announced.

Their delight and surprise, when two group exhibits and one individual exhibit won placements to State, was awesome. There are nine regions in the state; each region sends the first three placements of Junior and Senior Divisions in seven categories. So up to 42 projects move on to State Contest. Fewer yet go on to Nationals. But every year we took someone to State. This was a very special honor.

It took us three years of hard work to produce the necessary structure: models, practice skill builders, weekly deadlines, and self-analysis of student samples. Out of this came uniformly strong projects. Teachers at the high school noticed and remarked on the skills students brought to English classes.

Celebrations: The students who built a cardboard “Hooverville” house and let their classmates crawl inside to read the great story they told; the first documentary we took to state which made it into the finals, but did not win a prize; the group documentary kids who loaned their equipment to another contestant who’s equipment had failed; the boy who brought a shabby looking project on The Everett Massacre and received an A because he had fulfilled the research requirements; the two groups who stayed after school for hours so they could rework their projects before they attended regionals; the girl who stood alone for her team when her partner was too ill; the boy who argued convincingly that “Skate boarding” fit the topic and proved it by winning at regionals and traveling to state; they day the students graded each others projects and suddenly found room for improvement on their own work; the day a girl who had upgraded her project between regionals and state contest won first place in her division; we all went to the contest at University of Maryland, and she was selected to represent the state of Washington by exhibiting one morning at the Smithsonian American History Museum. My final fall I had five classes of 8th graders, 28+ students in each class, researching for NHD.

I had planned to stay until the end of January to guide those who chose to go to History Day regional contest, but left because of the disheartening lack of support from the administration. The principal undermined this outstanding skill building process for the four years before he left suddenly at the end of school June ’06. He broke up the 8th grade teams and ignored the value the OSPI placed on this project. The following year he applied for a job in district administration as the head of Teaching and Learning. I attended the public forum. There he presented himself as admiring mathematics and technology, but said derogatorily, “Who can understand history?” School leadership should admire all academic areas, should be interested in pupils, employees and patrons at the school. Yet when he was asked at the forum by the mother of the student who qualified to go to Nationals about programs of excellence, he responded by saying, “We don’t do National History Day” with pride. Why would you be proud of not doing a program valued and promoted by OSPI?

1. knowledge of, experience in, and training in recognizing good professional performance, capabilities and development;
2. interest in pupils, employees, patrons, and subjects taught in school;
3. leadership;

Even as the principal was urging teachers to create curriculum that provided choice and was challenging, he was simultaneously reducing our ability to do so. Ironically, the History Day process requires students to complete the skills listed in items A and C below.

Edmonds School District Subject Area Guide, page 61 lists Anchor Tasks for U. S. History as follows.
A. Historical Research Project—Construct a thesis about an issue, person,problem, or event using evidence from multiple primary and secondarysources.
B. National History Day: TBD
C. Historical interpretations—Using artifacts to construct a coherent historical interpretation.

Are we really supposed to ignore the man behind the curtain?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

She only shares what she wants to share.

We have come to a very sad day in education. It would seem that the Supt Staff has used this institution of learning as a means of getting power for themselves. The morale of the Edmonds School District is at an all time low. Some want to blame Nick, but remember Marla has been running the district for a long, long time, and you know what? We have allowed this to happen. Marla loves power and she thrives on it. She loves intimidating people and there has been no one in the Edmonds School District to stop her. People say that Nick is at fault. I would ask that you look at who and where Nick gets his information. Marla is the holder and the supplier of all the information in the district. No one, and I mean no one gets information, unless it comes through her. So ask yourself this question: Is Nick getting the truth about the affairs of the Edmonds School District? I would say no. Marla is only going to share what she wants shared.

Now let's face another thing. The School Board is the worst I have ever seen, and Marla loves that, because it allows her to retain power. I would doubt very seriously that Marla likes Nick, but he is in charge as far as the position, but we all know that Marla is in charge. So be very careful when you ask that Nick resign, because your good old school board will appoint Marla to take over the position, until someone is found. This is exactly what Marla wants. People, I beg you to really think about this situation and push towards getting Marla to resign. It might take a petition, but something needs to be done. This is a cancer that is spreading very rapidly with a death rate that is spiraling out of control.

I will say this: There are a lot of us in the district that have been mistreated by Marla, and like Mark I do not want a lawsuit for money, but a lawsuit for justice. Marla needs to be stopped from destroying people because she is totally controlled by the need and greed for power.

So once again I beg of you, please let's get legal help to remove Marla. I am sure that there are a lot of us with documents to support how Marla has been unfair. Can we get them all together and go to the Governor for help in removing Marla. I think if the taxpayers and the governor saw some of the documents that some of us hold from Marla, they would be surprised, and I think that Nick would be even more surprised.

We can make a difference if we join hands and work together to regain the Edmonds School District #15 as an institution of learning that stand proud with it's head held high in respect.

Editorial: Thank you again, to another contributor.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Personal liability for a $50 stipend per session?

Take a look at Board Policy 1215. It would appear that our elected board members assume personal liability "for any expenditures which exceed the approved final budget total". Of course, every one of those terms is open to interpretation by the District's legal team, but it seems like a lot to take on for just $50 a meeting.

What could possibly motivate these people to remain in their seats? If they were truly interested in guiding the District through turbulent waters, they shouldn't be rocking the boat. Of course, one could easily argue that an incompetent board is what made the water turbulent in the first place.

The time for asking meaningful questions has passed long ago. Now that district management knows the board is soft, they can get away with anything - and have been. Just review the long list of operational issues in the summary section of this blog. I haven't even touched on matters relating to actual education and already I have more than enough topics to explore and investigate.

There must be more than $50 a session on the line for these people. Management funnels money to friends and business associates, why wouldn't the board? I know that in years past, a certain board member was more than a little enthusiastic about unloading district property and encouraging district staff to contact his friends in real estate. How he thought that was an appropriate thing to do is beyond comprehension. Of course, there are the Nobles. She wants a new classroom in a new high school and he gets to sit on the board to ensure that it happens. Pat Shields set up Powerful Partners and then ushered it through years of free rent from his seat on the board.

This board is certainly looking to leave a lasting legacy, but it certainly isn't the sort of legacy from which to derive a sense of pride or moral accomplishment.

It would appear the Auditor has a lot to uncover.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Edmonds School District Director position #4 held by Bruce Williams. Although your concerns and information should be shared directly with the School Board I have researched your question and found the following:

RCW 28A.343.350 Residency allows for a school board member in a school district that has director districts remain in their position even if their residency moves out of the original director district but remains within the school district boundaries if "the change in residency occurs after the opening of the regular filing period provided under RCW 29A.24.050 (amended cite), in the year two years after the director was elected to office, the director shall remain in office for the remainder of his or her term of office..."

The regular filing period referred to above was June 4, 2007 through June 8, 2007. If Mr Williams had moved prior to those dates [He did] it would have been the responsibility of the School Board to address the matter of residency.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have further questions or concerns regarding this matter.

Carolyn Diepenbrock
Snohomish County Auditor


Thank you again for your response to the last issue that I brought to your attention. As you may have heard, Dr. Bruce Williams resigned on September 11, 2007. This was in direct response to his relocation within the District and the subsequent violation of School Board policy 1245. Upon further review of documents, it is quite clear that Dr. Williams falsified his candidate application in pursuit of a seat on the Edmonds School Board. I believe this demonstrates an utter and absolute disregard for our election process.

Additionally, it has been brought to my attention that another board member within the Edmonds School District, Mr. Gary Noble, is is direct violation of Edmonds School District policy 1260, in that he serves on the Board of Directors while his wife is a teacher at Lynnwood High School and therefore receives compansation for services rendered to the Edmonds School District. While I readily acknowledge that such a condition may be permissable in other Districts, Edmonds School District Board policy 1260 is quite clear that he is in violation.

To the casual observer, this may not seem like a significant transgression, however the Board recently decided to rebuild Lynnwood High School without reasonable justification for doing so. Enrollment is shrinking and student retention continues to be a problem. Given the lack of objectivity in Gary Noble being the husband to an end user of a new high school, his continued occupation of his Board seat is contrary to good sense and impartiality.

Please help me understand this situation from your perspective.

Thank you.

There is much more to this situation than previously reported. Gary Noble and his wife are in direct violation of Board Policy 6810, despite the superintendent's best efforts to disprove Board Policy 1245 with the use of poorly-informed attorneys. This particular situation was specifically called out when Board Policies were developed. The superintendent is now retreating to a position behind RCWs and throwing out the validity of Board Policies all together.

Also, Patrick Shields was the director of Powerful Partners and they have been getting a free ride on rent for more than five years. As a non-profit entity working in support of the District's mission statement, they can receive a reduction in rent - but not a free ride. They signed a use agreement and committed to pay for utilities and other general fund expenditures associated with their use of the administration building. Because of Pat Shields' position on the school board, they have never paid rent, despite the administration being so tight on space for legitimate employees.

These abuses must come to an end. What recourse does a private citizen have when board members do not honor their own policies?

Please help.

As I have stated in previous e-mails this office is not the entity to take action on your complaints. Your complaints need to be directly voiced with the Edmonds School Board or with the Washington State Auditor. Under state law the School Board must conduct their meetings in an open public meeting forum which provides you, a concerned citizen, the audience you are seeking to voice your concerns and allegations. The Edmonds School Board is meeting on October 9, 2007 and October 23, 2007 at District Headquarters located at 20420 68th Ave W, Lynnwood at 6:30pm. The School Board members, interested citizens and perhaps the press will be in attendance. The agenda specifically calls for an open public comment period during which you can bring your concerns forward. As a citizen of the district I would encourage you to participate in the process.

Carolyn Diepenbrock
Snohomish County Auditor

Ms. Armijo,

There is a lot of corruption going on at the Edmonds School District . Bruce Williams did the right thing and resigned when he could no longer deny that he committed election fraud. Gary Noble is violating board policy and Patrick Shields is stealing from the District. How can we expect these people to police themselves? Is there nothing that can be done? I have been told to forward my concerns to the Auditor, but it appears the Auditor isn't interested in correcting problems.

Are you aware of a blog site at The details are there. I find such conduct to be shameful. What, if anything will the Auditor do?

Sadie Armijo forwarded me your concerns as she is no longer the Audit Manager for the Everett office. Thank you for expressing your concerns regarding the Edmonds School District. We will take these into consideration during our next audit of the District. We will let you know of any results we find related to your concerns once the audit is completed.

Thank you,

Christopher J. Kapek, CPA
Audit Manager - Team Everett
Washington State Auditor's Office
3501 Colby Avenue
Suite 100B
Everett, WA 98201
Phone: (425) 257-2137
Fax: (425) 257-2149

When is the next audit?

We do not have a scheduled time to begin the audit yet. Traditionally, the audit concludes and the report is published sometime from March to May. This year’s audit is likely to be in the same timeframe.

Thank you,

Christopher J. Kapek, CPA
Audit Manager - Team Everett
Washington State Auditor's Office

You should take a look at the office space at the ESC being used by non-profits. Powerful Partners has never paid what they have been billed and they call it a donation on their I990. See attached.

Thank you for bringing that issue to our attention. We will include this with your other concerns in our risk assessment for the upcoming audit.

Thank you,

Christopher J. Kapek, CPA
Audit Manager - Team Everett
Washington State Auditor's Office

Editorial: Thank you to the contributor of this entry. It is good to know there are more than a few voices in the wilderness.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Let's work together to make a better District.

There was a time when parents and staff could just visit the Edmonds School District's website and click on a link to get the freshest news about the latest activities in the District. One could characterize such a feature as the promulgation of propaganda, but alas, it is an efficient method of getting those heart-warming stories out to your "adoring" public.

Why not take the time and effort of updating your website with stories, meaningful or otherwise? The District hungers for information and they may become inclined to seek it out on their own. They could stumble upon news that isn't entirely in the District's control or, quite frankly, doesn't maintain the administration's iron grip. People could land at and achieve enlightenment.

I am not opposed to random visitors reading the blog, but in all fairness, people that like easily-digested drivel may appreciate an updated district site. The last entry was more than four months ago and involved the placement of pinwheels.

Of course, times are tough and money is in short supply (both of these topics are covered at length in the blog) but please throw a few silly stories our way. If your budget lacks the capacity or Community Relations lacks the talent, I would be willing to offer a direct link to the blog.

We should all be seeking the same thing and the blog is actively advocating for the positive changes that are desperately needed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A den of vipers and thieves.

Funny thing about real estate, the government always takes first chair when it comes to collecting on a debt. If you obtain a mortgage and then refuse to pay your taxes, the government can take your home to settle your debt.

Mortgage companies get quite irritated and frequently become panic-stricken and irrational when a federal lien is filed on property they financed. Essentially, the feds take their crack at the asset and the leftovers are used to settle the mortgage.

Now, what happens if an individual gets a check from a school district that does not belong to him? The recipient apparently went through the motions of claiming that he intends to repay the money, it is just a matter of getting the money together.

Is the District actually planning to recover some of the $40,000? Certainly not. This conversation between Arnie Tucker and Marla's deputy has no real substance. It is a dog and pony show - nothing more. The auditors might appreciate seeing letters traded between friends but they were manufactured to maintain the illusion of financial responsibility. The time for financial responsibility is when competitively bidding such a purchase. These silly letters give the false impression that the District is looking out for the public - when in fact it was management's scheme in the first place that resulted in all of this free money for friends.

Mr. Tucker just sold his condo on January 11th, 2008 for $289,950.00. He had one lien against it for $20,000.00 from the Boeing Employee's Credit Union. That would suggest that his net on this property was more than $250,000.00. (Real estate agents normally work for a commission. Maybe Arnie paid his with pianos.)

For a man that claimed he was just trying to get some money together, he certainly wasn't looking very hard. But then, your contractual relationship was with Seattle Piano Gallery and, of course, they don't appear to own this condo.

Editorial: Isn't that a very lovely piano? I wonder where Mr. Tucker bought such a beautiful instrument.

Give them a map and let them find their way.

From: Mark Zandberg
Sent: 01/17/08 6:46 AM
To: Chris Kapek
Subject: Edmonds
Importance: High

Welcome to Edmonds. While you are reviewing the files in the administration building, I would like to encourage you to read about the "Piano Scam" on It describes district administration's attempts to avoid competitive bidding processes and funnel business to a personal friend of management. Arnie Tucker received preferential treatment and access to $76,000 in business and then a gift of $40,000. Mr. Tucker's lawyer sums up the entire scheme in a letter found at

Good luck in your work. There are many people awaiting the outcome of your team's evaluation.

Mark Zandberg

Thank you again for passing on your concerns regarding the District. We will incorporate these concerns into our risk analysis during our planning process.

Thank you,
Christopher J. Kapek, CPA
Audit Manager - Team Everett
Washington State Auditor's Office

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Throughout most of my career I have been applying techniques from Industrial Psychology to help large software development teams improve their productivity and, more importantly, stop making serious mistakes. I am usually called in when there have been a few disasters and the project is in risk of failing. Sometimes it does fail and there is nothing that I, nor anyone else, can do about it. Fortunately, there are also times when process improvement can play a vital role in helping to bring a project to success. Overcoming resistance to change is the first skill that anyone in the process improvement field must understand and learn to use as an effective tool. Read on if the coming year is your time to help bring about effective change, for the better, in your organization.

Please keep those process guys away from me...
I admit that I have really learned to dislike many of my colleagues who are in the profession of applying software process improvement in business settings. Too often I find these folks have no clue as to what really works in the real world. They are too preoccupied with their metrics (used to sell their methodologies) and often have rather light technical backgrounds. In my career I have been happiest when no one wants to listen to my expertise on process improvement and I get to sit in the back, as a systems engineer or SA and tweek Unix kernels (what fun!). But then somebody really screws up a software release and I am back to being in charge of CM and Release Management.

A good rule of thumb, is that the bigger the disaster, the more that the organization will be ready for change. This is not an accident. Kurt Lewin proposed one of the classic models for change back in 1951 which consisted of three simple stages: Unfreeze - Move -Refreeze. Watts Humphrey, among others, talks about this model and most of us have a very hard time applying it in practice. Most of us feel frustrated in organizations that have problems and we may even start to believe that nothing will ever change for the better. That may be true and some organizations, just like in biology, some organisms will die from their own organizational diseases. Yet many more will find the catalyst for making things better. Are you up for being the Change Agent in your company?

The first step is in realizing that everything around you is part of an ecosystem (this is a classic Organizational Development model for understanding what is happening). There are ecosystems in nature that are very complex and also seem destined for extinction. When I am working in a group, I often listen to the "rhythm" around me. I sometimes see managers using intimidation to silence others around them and workers withholding important information because they've learned that knowledge is power. My colleagues will start complaining about how awful an organization is and how impossible it is to get anything done. To me the "rhythm" is my best weapon in understanding how I can add value and bring about lasting change. I view these times as my opportunity to understand the ecosystem and get creative in developing just enough process to help avoid making mistakes.

Engineering the process
As a process engineer it is my job to define the tasks, roles and responsibilities and a set of tests to confirm compliance with the agreed upon process that is implemented to improve efficiency and/or avoid mistakes. Frederick Taylor did this with his time and motion studies in developing his Scientific Management. This work and the many subsequent studies have inspired me throughout my career as a "process guy" working in software engineering. Instead of looking at the efficiency of handling a shovel, I look for ways to avoid mistakes when a release of complex software is about to be deployed that will potentially move millions of dollars around the world. In one of my jobs I got to use these skills to help get the software into production that was used on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. In one incident, the wrong version of a shell script literally stopped the world economy for one hour when the New York Stock Exchange crashed. Our source code management process was so strong that we found the source of the error in five minutes flat (the bug was still online) and prevented another disaster from occurring. We had a good process with excellent forensics. We knew exactly what was supposed to be online and when an SA accidentally overwrote the wrong scripts we were able to quickly respond and resolve the situation. We had a solid and repeatable process in place.

Don't be fooled by the labels...
Whether you are plowing through the SEI's CMMi, ISO 9000-3 or getting your green belt in six sigma, all of these methodologies have a lot of extra steps that are not always practical in the real world. The Agile folks, with their XP evangelists, are no better in that they take a "one size fits all" approach to many of their practices. My view is to develop "just enough process to get the job done and avoid mistakes." I will study all of the process models and, shamelessly steal their best practices, and apply the best of them to each of my unique situations. I will often not recommend that the same practices be used across an entire organization. Some groups have problems and need more structures in areas where others do not. Too much process seems silly to those who have to follow the steps day in and day out and frankly I can't blame them. A good process model addresses issues that are relevant to the organization and seem fair. Over the coming year we will be working to discuss more aspects of overcoming resistance to change and I hope that you will write to me to share your best practices and greatest challenges. It's the beginning of the calendar year and a perfect time to start improving your own software development process.

Where do you begin?
The first step is in identifying your goals and objectives. Solving problems that your company does not really have is frankly a waste of time. Creating consensus and realizing that understanding your own quirky corporate "ecosystem" is absolutely a key part of your job. Listening for the "rhythm" of your organization will provide you with some excellent tools as you define just enough process to help your organization avoid mistakes and become more efficient. Welcome to "just in time process improvement"!

Bob Aiello is a Senior Editor for CM Crossroads and an Associate Director at a major financial services firm in NYC, where he has company wide responsibility for Software Configuration and Release Management best practices. Bob is on the Steering Committee of the NYC Software Process Improvement Network (CitySPIN), where he is also the chair of the CM SIG which meets in Midtown NYC. Mr. Aiello has a Masters in Industrial Psychology from NYU and a BS in Computer Science from Hofstra University.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Is this a high level of collaboration and communication?

During the fall of 2006, the new principal began the year in an open and friendly manner. Although I had been promised by Tam that the new principal would be informed of the events that lead to the investigation it did not happen. When I met briefly with her, she told me she had chosen not to be informed. (I found this particularly troubling as Tam had asked me to move forward. I expected him to keep his word and he did not.) At the meeting with the principal I requested additional computer training. She said that it would be provided. I am always ready to begin anew, so the first 4-6weeks went well.

Civil: (adj) Adhearing to the norms of polite society; not deficient in common courtesy.

My academic team was working on a new classroom based assessment (CBA) with minimal time together. Both of my colleagues coached sports after school so our weekly 6th period plan was cut short. When we reached our scheduled start date for library research, no one else was ready to start. Consequently, I started the project without a guide (the finalized rubric) to show the students. I eventually used my own roughed-out rubric to correct the CBA because my class finished before the others. This lead to two unpleasant events.

First, I went to talk to the principal (the vp was present); I tried to explain to her that our team was having difficulties with the CBA for lack of time together; the department chair had failed to complete the rubric. I was trying to request problem solving, but instead was demeaned. She told, me in a nasty tone, to do my own work, that he did his own work and I should take my own notes. It was not up to him to do my work. (I did not bother pointing out that I had offered to complete the rubric for the group and was turned down. Or that both of these coaches were wearing many “hats” and working extremely hard. This was not a matter of finding anyone at fault, it was a matter of scheduling sufficient time together to accomplish what she had requested.) I pointed out that the rubric is supposed to be identical for all students, that historical laws/guidelines are written down so there can be no question as to what is expected. I felt attacked. I left realizing that the beginning of the year had been a sham; that the new principal was behaving in the same bullying manner as the previous one. It is troubling that we teach problem solving and teamwork techniques to our students, yet our administrators do not model and use these skills.

Second, I again requested additional technical training and the principal gave me a terse answer. She told me to contact one of the two tech trainers in the building and do it after school or during planning (which we did not share.) Do it yourself. I did not contact the lead tech person as he left immediately after school because his wife was seriously ill. I let it go. In November or early December there was a staff meeting where the new three-tier technology guide was introduced. The principal introduced it by assuring the staff that nobody was expected to be in the second or third tier this year. She then asked us to take a few minutes to skim the document and mark anything in the first column we had used. After a few minutes she began by praising a new technology practice used by Mike Kendrick. She asked him to explain the project, which he did.

Then she asked for volunteers to tell what technology they had employed. I raised my hand but she called on a new staff teacher who mentioned an item from the first tier. She spoke encouraging words to the woman. She asked for more volunteers, but no one raised their hand, so she called on me. I began with the first column and noted about half of the items. In the second column I noted about 1/3 of the items, and in the third column I pointed out about 1/3 of the items. I was explaining what we did and the tech advisor broke in, “That’s right. You’ve done a lot of that during your National History Day research.”

Actually, while much was done during research, much was also done during other class projects. When I finished she said nothing to me, did not look at me or acknowledge my presence. She turned away from me to a table and picked up some papers saying, “Now for the next item on the agenda . . .” She had a choice to admire and encourage but instead she chose to ignore me, a form of shunning and certainly not a model courtesy for staff or children.

The other troubling incident occurred on a non-student day. To make the training “more fun”, we were going to do an activity. The principal had brought a toy to school. She had placed a target at the front of the room and asked the vp to model how the toy GUN work. He looked extremely uncomfortable. However, after a couple of mishaps he did shoot the dart onto the target. She asked several people to described their goals, then shoot the target. The point was “reaching your goals.” So in a school where we had removed all weapons from the drama department when we put up signs at the entrances about a gun free zone, the principal provides a different model. I found this disturbing.

When I retired and left the school in December of ’06 it was not the school I knew and loved. Although I had gone out of my way to email the principal before school began concerning hall management strategies we had been using, it became obvious that there were few teachers in the halls. I opened my doors in the morning to children who were uncomfortable in that atmosphere. Years of systematically developing rapport with students, applying respectful corrections to discourteous and off-task students, looking to administration for support, guidance and inspiration had disappeared. In place there is a top down, punitive attitude. And hounds pestering, bothering and attacking their hard working colleagues.

Harass 1. to disturb persistently; torment as with troubles or cares; bothercontinually; torment as with troubles or cares; pester, persecute. 2. to trouble by repeated attacks, incursions, etc., as in war or hostilities; harry; raid. MF harasser Equivalent to hare, interjection to urge hunting dogs on.

Editorial: Thank you for sharing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Please keep your comments clean and constructive.

The golden rule is best interpreted as saying: "Treat others only in ways that you're willing to be treated in the same exact situation." To apply it, you'd imagine yourself in the exact place of the other person on the receiving end of the action. If you act in a given way toward another, and yet are unwilling to be treated that way in the same circumstances, then you violate the rule.

To apply the golden rule adequately, we need knowledge and imagination. We need to know what effect our actions have on the lives of others. And we need to be able to imagine ourselves, vividly and accurately, in the other person's place on the receiving end of the action. With knowledge, imagination, and the golden rule, we can progress far in our moral thinking.

The golden rule is best seen as a consistency principle. It doesn't replace regular moral norms. It isn't an infallible guide on which actions are right or wrong; it doesn't give all the answers. It only prescribes consistency - that we not have our actions (toward another) be out of harmony with our desires (toward a reversed situation action). It tests our moral coherence. If we violate the golden rule, then we're violating the spirit of fairness and concern that lie at the heart of morality.

The golden rule, with roots in a wide range of world cultures, is well suited to be a standard to which different cultures could appeal in resolving conflicts. As the world becomes more and more a single interacting global community, the need for such a common standard is becoming more urgent.

Essentially, as I understand this rule, we should use language and terminology that best suits the situation and people we are describing. If I decided to scam taxpayers, I would fully expect and anticipate opposition from anyone and everyone that might be aware of my scam. I would not expect people to express their displeasure in my conduct with profanity or personal insults. I would anticipate people thinking or concluding that I was evil and unfit for public service. I would expect people to theorize how a corrupt public servant became so terribly corrupt.

It is important to make the distinction that not every evil person is evil all of the time. Sometimes they fall asleep and dream about evil things without actually putting the evil action into effect until the next day. To combat evil whenever and wherever we encounter it, we need to engage in a comprehensive evaluation of the conduct and be deliberate in our assessment. We cannot root out corrupt officials by keeping quiet or accepting things as the status quo. If they commit the crime, they should expect to do some time.

I cannot stress enough that our comments must meet an acceptable threshold. It is entirely understandable that many readers of this blog are irritated and feeling desperate for change in management. We have witnessed corruption for far too long and seek to end its nasty reign as soon as humanly possible. Change will happen but we need not stoop to the level so frequently utilized by district administration.

Please keep your comments clean and constructive. It would also be helpful to be careful when submitting comments as a recent change in the Blogger format has led to some comments being lost in transmission. If you have something lengthy to contribute, please just email it directly to and I will do what I can to post it with haste.

Editorial: The golden rule information was found on line at this web address.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

District management needs to lose weight.

That's right. I know everyone was already thinking it, but I had to write it on the blog. District management needs to lose weight. A lot of it. The organization (I use the term very loosely here) has been getting very heavy in the middle and could stand to drop some dead weight - in 200 pound increments.

With his new pair of crutches, a certain facilities director would be the first to go. Professionally hobbling along on public assistance (yes, I said it) and honing his only talent - delegating to each of his shiny new crutches. When his armpits tire, he retreats to his soon-to-be-reconfigured tall box by the window. Those residing in the shadows have my sympathy.

You see, the position of Facilities Operations Director was created because the Executive Director of Business and Operations couldn't manage the Director of Maintenance. There was a lot of dysfunction for a lot of years. When the Director of Planning, Property, Risk, Safety, Custodial and Emergency Services resigned, there was an opportunity to shift this responsibility to someone new. Perhaps a new person with a new title: Director of Planning, Property, Risk, Safety, Custodial, Emergency Services and Maintenance - or just Director of Facilities Operations for short.

Unfortunately for the taxpayer, the Director of Maintenance retired and since this new position had already been created, another cog in middle management became swollen and bloated. Ideally, the District should eliminate the Facilities Operations position and shift the Custodial Manager and Maintenance Manager positions back to the Executive Director of Business and Operations for reporting.

There cannot be any real benefit to having custodial and maintenance issues translated by the Director of Facilities Operations for the comprehension of the Executive Director of Business and Operations, unless something happened during the transition to Assistant Superintendent. How that happened has always been a mystery for the rest of us.

In facilities management, it isn't uncommon to have superintendents and assistant superintendents. These are people that normally look after the management of buildings. But in the academic world, an assistant superintendent should have some sort of academic qualification. An advanced degree perhaps? I wonder how Ellen, Sue, Tony and Ken feel about their new academic counterparts. I used to think it might require a few extra years of schooling to carry so prestigious a title. Apparently, they hand such titles out like candy.

In any case, the taxpayer is footing the bill for such middle managers. Changing titles to justify creeping salaries doesn't have anyone fooled. When companies lack the money to enrich their friends immediately, they frequently use the budget rut to fluff titles and when the money comes back they look around and ask, "How is the Chief Assistant Superintendent of Life and Liberty earning less than $200,000 a year?" Especially when they might spend 30 times that amount on what could be described as a protracted date.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Societies can be sunk by the weight of buried ugliness.

Soil compression is an interesting thing. When you have a piece of property, full of rotting debris and loosely packed materials, you might just want to accumulate a very large pile of dirt to help compact the soil. That is exactly what is going on at the new administration site.

Under that very large pile of dirt is what remains of an active landfill from the 60s and 70s and all of the debris that was shoved into that hole when they built Interstate 5. Sure, to the casual observer it may just look like dirt, but the weight of all that soil will compress the dirt in the vicinity and possibly discourage future subsidence.

The correct (and rather expensive) approach would be to excavate the area and export the debris. But if you did that and hit the inevitable patch of contaminated materials, you would have to pack up your crew and roll out a team of environmental consultants. A flurry of monitoring and significant delays in construction would lead to additional cost to the project - and further evidence of poor decisions by district management.

So the "solution" selected by our public servants is to bury the problem with the power of compressed dirt. It sounds like the same approach they take in dealing with disgruntled staff - bury them under a pile of waste and hope the intense pressure silences them forever.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Legal advice can be helpful if you decide to take it.

The server at Perkins Coie happened upon the two stories below. Maybe Perkins didn't know that the board wanted the new administration site and asked Marla to negotiate. It stands to reason that if Perkins told Marla directly, that they didn't believe the District should buy the contaminated site, maybe they are seeking to understand how the District decided to buy it anyway.

I see a legal argument developing here. If Marla was told by consultants, co-workers, appraisers and legal counsel to not buy the site and then the school board told her to move forward with the purchase, what is she supposed to do?

So, the board has to accept full responsibility for buying a contaminated landfill and they have to accept that they sent one of their minions into a negotiation that couldn't end well. But the end game is that district voters are even more convinced of something they already suspected - the board is full of dim-witted imbeciles - and Marla gets to save face and assign responsibility everywhere else.

There you have it. Congratulations.

The only down side is that everyone already knows that most boards are full of uninformed know-nothings and that they rely heavily on the advice and guidance of staff that should know a little something about what they are paid to do. Clearly, Marla must have forgotten to tell the board that everyone was opposed to the purchase.

I take it back. There isn't an argument that protects Marla from the responsibility of sharing the advice of expensive consultants, appraisers and legal counsel.

01:37:13 PM More from the District's legal team.
01:37:13 PM Board wanted site. Marla just negotiated.

01:37:13 PM (

A system of checks and balances.

The District celebrates.

Not to blow our horn, but wouldn't it be a hoot to be nominated for all of the great things that the blog is doing on a daily basis? A newly emerging system of checks and balances. Every great form of government has such a system. Isn't it worth celebrating?

When something stinks - we say so. When board members "modernize" - we point it out. When the superintendent lies to cover a friend's arse - we draw attention to it. When questionable land transactions are pieced together without regard for public funds - we write about it. When administrators are gifted huge raises (Oops, I meant "given") - we cover it.

Just look through the long list of great stories of the past and imagine the board refusing to acknowledge the impact of the blog.

Of course, don't use your own name. You would just be declaring your loyalty to the blog and may be subject to harassment, discrimination and eventual termination.
9003 Olympic View Drive
Edmonds, Washington 98026

Editorial: Please do not send cash or checks.

Things I Learned During This Process

I have learned very valuable lessons from reading your blog, but perhaps you might want to do a separate entry called "Things I Learned During This Process." You could include the various lessons that ALL of us at the ESC can learn.

Lessons like:
1. Your email is not your email. Even when you print out an email of praise from a supervisor, that paper is not yours to keep. It is district property and must be returned.

2. You may keep NO personal files, copies of resumes, images, sounds, songs, or ideas on your district computer. Nothing. No screen savers of your kids, no images of your significant other, nothing. If you do, you are misusing district resources. ESD employees are to immediately purge their laptops of anything personal.

3. After your leave the district's employment, you are still subject to their whims. You may not work for other agencies whose interests may conflict with the district, nor can you take any lessons learned or information processed with you when you go. The ESD will determine who you can work for, even after they terminate your employment.

4. All administrators at ESD are evil, with the exception of Ken Limon, who is, I believe, the only administrator NOT mentioned on the blog so far.

5. If your boss' name is Marla or Manny, quit now. It won't end well.

6. If you download porn onto a district computer, watch it during the day. No one will find it.

Editorial: Thank you to this contributor. Without a name I can't forward your residuals when I sell the movie rights. By the way, Ken Limon was apparently involved in further targeting staff that were forced into early retirement and bullied by administrators. He signed the no trespass order against these contributors. He, of course, is welcome to draft a rebuttal and I will be happy to have it ripped apart on the blog.

Mr. Sulu, reverse course. Warp factor eight.

To all ESC employees:

After a re-evaluation of the plans for the key audit, the scheduled audit for Monday and Tuesday Jan 14th and 15th has been changed. In order to facilitate a more expedient audit, we will not be asking employees to meet in the ESC lobby. Instead, please be prepared to present your keys, as we come to each of you beginning Monday January 14th and through the week, in order to update our records. This will better provide the time necessary for each employee. In addition, we have had several employees bring in many old keys, and we want to encourage everyone to do this- let’s make a fresh start for the New Year!

Thank you for you flexibility and cooperation.

I have a question. What would happen if I somehow found a complete set of records of all ESC staff and the keys they possess? Would the District accuse me of stealing these records? Would the District claim that these records belong to the District and I had no right to retain them? What if I said that I actually never possessed them but buried them on a publicly accessible server in case hard drives were struck by lightning. You know, in case Marla walked by my former desk and God tried to strike her down with a bolt from above.

Of course, the District should have found a complete database of such records when they poured through my former hard drive. Everything is there already. All a person would have to do is print up the list and then verify that the keys are still with the same people. In fact, as I mentioned before, there is a hard copy in the vault. It's the room that seems to be left unlocked and open from time to time.

Just trying to be helpful.

Writer's strike causes ten day hiatus.

Many of you have been writing in to the blog expressing concern about the lack of entries from January 1 until January 10, 2008. In fact, some of you went so far as to suggest the District shut us down. Just how that would happen, I cannot imagine. Have you been reading the blog? Can you imagine a scenario that involves the District's legal team pulling the plug on our public forum? This blog is an instrument for change and though the District may be opposed to change, they cannot stop a force for good.

The short hiatus was due to a small disagreement with my writing staff. They caught wind of all of the money that can be made in residual payments when this blog is eventually launched into syndication. They wanted a piece of the action and demanded to have their issues addressed under threat of a strike. I tried to convince them that the blog is not driven by money and that I would never relinquish control to corporate fat cats seeking to control the movie rights. My writers didn't believe me and staged a short walk out.

Fortunately, I know my writers. I know they love the smell of Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the morning and cannot resist the call of freshly-brewed All City Coffee. It was only a matter of time before they had to get back to writing.

Sorry for the lapse in coverage and thank you for your continued support and words of encouragement.

Mark Zandberg
Executive Director of Blog Content Development

Editorial: Seriously, because I cannot lie to you, I was caught up in a few investigations and strategic planning that took up a lot of my time. There was also a couple of days of the sniffles and I didn't want to drip on my keyboard.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

District seeking documents from former employee.

I received this from opposing counsel last week. Let me know if you want to discuss.

Though the District doesn't know what documents I have, this one I kept because it was a friendly letter from Marla, which is a very rare thing to obtain. I put it in my references file, along with a few other friendly letters that you have in my file there.

I am not a public agency and not obligated to reveal or provide documents that were sent to me. Do they want my pay stubs? Holiday cards sent from others? Just what limits would be placed on this request.

They have all of my email stored on their servers. They are welcome to dig through them and use what they like.

Opposing counsel emailed me to follow up on the District's request for return of docs. I told counsel to be more specific about what the District thought you possessed and what it wanted back. I told them, though, that I'd ask you to return the one specific letter referenced in its request (the friendly letter from Marla). Would you mind mailing to me, and I will forward to oppo counsel.

Here is that email message.

Bend over, my brother's a proctologist.

I have received email and calls to the tip line about how Marla felt she was qualified to run the operations side of the District, because her brothers were in construction. My eyebrows still pop upward when I hear or read such a justification for her position.

Having reviewed her resume, I am a little bewildered as to why she didn't include her brother's professions among her qualifications. It certainly wouldn't have hurt her chances of getting hired at the District. By now we all know it isn't a matter of what you know, but who you know. Or, apparently what your brother's might know.

I am wondering if these brothers in construction had more influence over current district management than I may have originally surmised. Perhaps little Marla had to evolve into a cunning, manipulative scheme artist to survive in her household. Maybe it is through a honed set of skills in deception that led to a life of duping the public for personal enrichment. Maybe there is a deeper problem here that would require the involvement of mental health practitioners.

With all due respect, the recent piano scam has revealed a number of things;

1. It is possible for a con artist to lose track of their scheme. While it is clear that Marla sought to enrich someone with whom she had developed a personal relationship, she back-peddled when things started to feel uncomfortable. By throwing $39,000.00 at her new friend, she had hoped to avoid the consequences of poor choices.

2. While I originally thought that Arnie Tucker was just looking for a one time gift of public funds and befriended Marla in an effort to secure a hand out, I have since backed away from that concept. I think Arnie was interested in the long game. I think he was interested in dining at the District's expense for years and years. I suspect that Arnie was looking to have these lease schemes rolled out every year.

3. Manny's involvement seems like every bit of the character people have been claiming that he is. When an unsavory aroma wafts from Marla's direction, Manny stands at the ready to fan the fumes and make excuses. He is loyal and knows who butters his bread. Clearly a patsy. A fall guy.

4. Tam was a bit of a surprise. I am quite convinced that he was swimming with sharks and probably got in over his head. No doubt there was an opportunity to provide pianos to school kids and I suspect Tam was interested in the outcome. He was probably fixated on the outcome and deferred any qualms about process to Marla. After all, if the head of business and operations claims there is nothing immoral about the piano scam, why would a music man step in the way?

5. The board remains every bit of the cast of clowns they have always been. Far more impressed with the seats they sit in than any sense of obligation to perform their assigned tasks to the best of their abilities. I remain convinced that each of these "bored" members have out-lived their recommended shelf life and they need to step aside and make room for people who hold public servants accountable. We need people on the board that are not afraid to speak up or ask real questions. At this stage, it would be far better to have a board of crazed lunatics than five useless do-nothings. Perhaps people might start showing up at meetings to watch the excitement.

6. The superintendent, like his five puppet masters, doesn't understand the financial impact of rushing forward with bad ideas. He continues to cook up new and interesting ways to present himself to the public while our district is consumed with fire from his kitchen. Sure, we can talk about how students can improve their academic performance by throwing a few dollars at new programs, but wouldn't it be more prudent to prevent the millions and millions of dollars from being handed out to Marla's friends?

Still disgusted.

Editorial: Is it a violation of attorney client privilege if I reveal that Brian Harding thinks Jerry Lutz of Perkins Coie is an as#hole?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Blog celebrates 200th entry.

Some months ago, an avid reader commented that he would consider the blog a success if it ever posted it's 100th entry. Not that we are overly-fixated on so arbitrary a benchmark, but we have now posted our 200th entry and continue to look forward to the next many years of constructively engaging the District in its many, many questionable decisions and misinterpretation of board policies. While it is sad to see these short-sighted and self-serving people in public education, it remains our hope that they may one day seek to be more responsible. Preferably somewhere else.