Vallejo School District’s Unethical Conduct


Ethicalego (Kenneth Brooks) discusses current events from a critical thinking perspective rarely expressed elsewhere


By Kenneth Brooks

Vallejo City Unified School District (from now on “District”) employees engaged a policy of deception and false statements in response to public record requests to prevent me from inspecting public records promptly at its headquarters according to law. They claimed falsely the School Board retained and authorized DWK attorneys to speak for the District regarding my record requests. They set a charge of $234.16 that I must pay for a copy of a public record that was about 14 times greater than legal costs of duplication.

 

I made an August 22, 2011 public record request to see records of the District’s August 2011 training of staff and teachers how to deal with students of color. It prompted the following series of contradictory and untruthful responses by the District with correspondence from DWK attorneys to me also addressed to Bishop and Shackelford.

 

Superintendent Bishop and Manager of Public Record Requests Shackelford asserted the District displayed all records of the August 2011 on its website. (District’s  false assertion #1) In a September 7, 2011 teleconference, Bishop admitted she had videotaped records of the training after I expressed doubt about the denial. (District assertion #2 that reversed assertion #1)

 

Bishop asked me to delay inspection of the videotapes until she completed the CD production copies for her advisory group. I agreed, although the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) required that she make the request in writing for a delay of no more than 14 days. My September 27, 2011 email telling the District to comply with the CPRA after 20 days passed.

 

DWK attorney’s October 4, 2011 email asserted the District did not have records of the August 2011 training it had not already provided to me. (School District assertion #3 contradicting assertion #2) I responded with a recital of Bishop’s September 7, 2011 remarks.

 

DWK attorney’s October 27, 2011 email, “[T]he videotape of the training has been compiled and copied. The reproduction cost is $234.16. Please advise if your are willing to pay the fee. (School District assertion #4 contradicting assertion #3) I disagreed that I must pay costs to inspect a public record.

 

DWK attorney’s emails of October 31, 2011 and November 01, 2011, “If you would like to have the compilation, the $234.16 in reproduction cost must first be paid to the District. If you would instead, like to view the source tapes and/or the compilation at the District Office, you may do so by appointment, free of charge. (District’s assertion #5 contradicting assertion #4)

 

In a November 2, 2011 email, I made a November 3, 2011 appointment to see only the source videotapes. School District employees did not deliver them. I asked Shackelford about the missing videotapes and she directed me to leave the District’s office and wait for the attorneys to contact me. DWK responded November 4, 2011, “[T]he CD you were given an opportunity to view yesterday include all the source material from the training.” (New School District assertion #6 contradicting assertion #5)

 

I questioned the authority of DWK to speak for the District regarding my public record request in an October 31, 2011 correspondence to Superintendent Bishop, Shackelford, and DWK.

 

DWK attorneys November 1, 2011 response, “I can assure you that our office has been retained to represent the District with regard to your Public Record Act requests and that we are authorized by the District Board and Dr. Bishop to speak on the District’s behalf in this  matter.” (School District false assertion of DWK’s authority #1)

 

I asked in a February 15, 2012 record request, “[T]o see the public records in the District’s files of the contract or document designating or authorizing DWK law firm to act as the District’s public records agent for making responses to public records request submitted by Kenneth Brooks.”

 

DWK attorney’s February 24, 2012 response, “As you know, DWK is legal counsel to the District. Its authority to act as the District’s agent stems from, and is dictated by, its agreement for professional services with the District. If this is what you are referring to with regard to the term public records agent please let me know and the District will provide you with a copy of that agreement.” (School District deceptive assertion of authority #2 contradicting assertion of authority #1)

 

The red herring fallacy in logic is one of relevance whereby someone with goals to deceive responds to a subject different from and not relevant to the subject discussed. The first sentence of DWK’s response identifies its duty as independent contractor to act as the District’s legal counsel based on the Agreement for Professional Services made May 2011. This subject is different from the subject of my February 15, 2012 record request. The agreement for professional services would task DWK to advise the superintendent if the law exempted a record from disclosure. It did not authorize DWK at the rate of $211 to $255 per hour to communicate information or copies or records that by law I had the right to receive directly from employees of the District at its headquarters.

 

Superintendent Bishop’s letter of May 21, 2013 said,  “In his February 24, 2012 correspondence to you, Mr. Gould explained that there wasn’t a document specifically authorizing DWK to represent the District in this matter, rather that there was an agreement between DWK and the District authorizing DWK to more generally provide legal services as required.” (District’s assertion #3 that retracts DWK false assertion of authority #1) Nevertheless, she continued the red herring diversion by referring to the non-relevant agreement for professional services.

 

Bishop added, If you were not satisfied that DWK was authorized to represent the District, then the DWK invoices with references to your CPRA matters and cancelled District checks for payment . . . should have sufficiently answered that question for you. (District’s false assertion #4 of DWK’s authority) Contrary to Bishop’s assertion, those paid invoices are only evidence she misspent the District’s money without proper authority since she previously admitted the School Board did not retain DWK for this purpose.

 

I filed a Writ Petition of Mandate in Superior Court September 10, 2013 for an order to compel School District to deliver the videotapes and other records for my inspection. The District filed this sworn declaration of Alana Shackelford,  “[W]e received the DVD from the person who recorded the training. We offered Mr. Brooks the choice of receiving a copy of the DVD (in exchange for production-related costs) or coming to the District’s office to view the DVD. Mr. Brooks chose to come to the office to view the DVD, which he did on November 3, 2011.”(Shackelford’s false declaration #1 disproved by DWK emails of October 31 and November 1, 2011 and Brooks email November 2, 2011disprove   )

 

Shackelford continues,  “Mr. Brooks refers to “source tapes” from the August 22, 2011, training. I do not know why he keeps implying that the District has other “source tapes he was not provided when he came to the District on November 3, 2013. (Shackelford false assertion #2)  Shackelford’s next remark, contradicts the previous remark, “Although the District’s attorneys referred to videotapes in their letters to Mr. Brooks.” (Shackelford’s assertion #3 contradicting her false assertion #2 about the videotapes)

 

Shackelford’s declaration the District received the DVD from the videographer affirms the District had not incurred $234.16 cost of compiling the videotapes onto the CD that it set as costs I must pay for a copy of the CD. The CPRA sets direct costs of duplication as the amount a government agency may charge for the copy of a public record. Direct costs of duplicating the CD should amount to no more than $15.00. The District or Solano District Attorney should charge those employees with fraud as it would charge me if I knowingly claimed reimbursement from government of costs 14 times greater the actual costs I incurred.

 

There were other occasions of Superintendent Bishop’s perverse application of authority. On May 15, 2013, I asked District for a response to my April 29, 2013 record request that was five days past the time required by law. Instead, Superintendent Bishop directed me to leave the District’s office and wait for a letter response. Four months later, I included this record request in the Writ Petition when the District still had not responded to it.

 

The District’s October 4, 2013 correspondence blamed me because Superintendent Bishop had not responded to my April 29, 2013 record request before I filed the Writ Petition. It said, “You failed to notify the District of this oversight even though Dr. Bishop represented in her May 21.2013, correspondence that “all responsive and unprivileged documents . . . have been produced. This response shows that Superintendent Bishop’s compliance with law is so arbitrary that she confuses herself and office staff members about the truth and about compliance standards. Nevertheless, they are persistent in shifting blame. Probably, they believe I owed Bishop another opportunity to demean me.

 

Respect for truthfulness and open-mindedness are personal traits required for learning, for proficient reasoning and for academic institutions tasked to assist students’ learning.  Vallejo School District administrators’ conduct models an opposite philosophy of deception and authoritarianism. Vallejo School Board and city residents can move to correct this deficiency or remain passive and endure the result. Our children deserve corrective action.

 

 Note: All opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.



'Vallejo School District’s Unethical Conduct' have 25 comments

  1. August 14, 2014 @ 2:57 pm Ravi Shankar

    THAT is extremely troubling — at first, it seems like a “he said, she said” story. Obviously, reading the entire narration, it appears that Kenneth Brooks (I do not know him yet) makes a lot of sense, presenting factual responses taken from legal documents ?

    “…..Respect for truthfulness and open-mindedness are personal traits required for learning, for proficient reasoning and for academic institutions tasked to assist students’ learning.

    Vallejo School District administrators’ conduct models an opposite philosophy of deception and authoritarianism.

    Vallejo School Board and city residents can move to correct this deficiency or remain passive and endure the result. Our children deserve corrective action….”

    If we are not embracing and honoring the above, as a community who cares for its children’s education, we have serious trouble, contradiction and moral decay in our town ! Let us throw the bums out–the corrupt ones, out of office NOW and bring in people with decency, ethical responsibility and uncompromising moral obligation to serve the Vallejo community right.

    Reply

    • August 14, 2014 @ 4:27 pm Salty Dog

      Thank you, Kenneth for this update to prior VIB discussion. You nailed it.

      You can bet on it ,that the Board was kept appraised, in camera, of the pesky inquisitive citizen seeking clarification.

      There is an ethic of responsibility (to organization AND community) in school board governance that the incumbent members appear to be oblivious to. The gum chewing Bishop and the incumbents need to be gone.

      Reply

  2. August 14, 2014 @ 3:49 pm Wharf rat

    @ Kenneth
    Did you ever recieve the DVD’s at a legal rate of reinbursment ? and if so what was the content ? they had plenty of time to edit/erase .. How many catch 22’s can they throw at one person ??.

    Reply

    • August 14, 2014 @ 5:09 pm Salty Dog

      Tape1: How to deal with students of color……$235.00

      Tape2: How to deal with color challenged students….$9.95

      Buy both and get Tape 3,absolutely free.

      Tape 3: Bonus tape:Gun chewing etiquette in meetings
      Autocratic rule basics “The rules rule”
      Yo,if ain’t broke don’t be fixin it,bro
      Getting the most out of legal counsel

      Reply

    • August 15, 2014 @ 8:36 pm Robert Schusssel

      When I tried to obtain a DVD copy of a School Board Meeting I was charged $15. I protested by speaking at the School Board meeting and informed them that they were not in compliance with the Public Records Act which only allows copying costs to be charged.
      I also informed them that other school districts in Solano County charge a minimal a fee. In fact Fairfield does not charge if you bring in a clean disk and $1.50 (to recover the cost of a disk) if you don’t have a disk.
      After that the District backed down and gave me the videos free on a thumb drive I supplied.

      Reply

  3. August 14, 2014 @ 8:13 pm Vallejo mum

    But Dr. Bishop is doing such a great job.

    Reply

  4. August 15, 2014 @ 8:01 am Billy Goat

    What is the district trying to hide, and why?

    It simply should not take so long to produce public documents.

    I think the administration forgets that it is a PUBLIC agency.

    Disgraceful!

    Reply

  5. August 15, 2014 @ 8:49 am Bong Hit

    I’m not sure why Kenneth was seeking documents related to students of color. Where there promises made by the district that a program was underway study and document how to deal with students of color? Is Kenneth confusing the court mandated program to address the bullying issue? The only formal program undertaken with video training materials in the last few years that the public was made aware of is the bullying study.

    Don’t fail to see the forest on account of the trees. The VCUSD needs an extensive upgrade in the IT department. Dr. Bishop and Dr. Shackleford may not intend to delay of ignore public records requests. It is far more likely that disorganized record keeping, incomplete or non existent digital archive systems make it virtually impossible to find digital assets.

    There’s more than a bit of irony here. We all know that children today must get a good education and lots of exposure to digital technology. In the case of the VCUSD and the students in Vallejo, the educational institution responsible for digital training is absolutely dysfunctional and in digital disarray.

    Reply

    • August 15, 2014 @ 1:48 pm Ethicalken

      If you read my article you would see the School District did not dispute they conducted this type training. They only disputed which records of the training they would allow me to inspect. I attended similar training by the District about ten years ago at the invitation of teachers that perceived it racists. They knew from my articles as a columnist that I deplored the idea of treating students or anyone as a racial stereotype. I found the training highly demeaning of white-labeled teachers and black-labeled students. I requested to inspect the videotape records of the August 2011 training to be sure my experiences from the District’s prior training of a similar name did not bias my opinion of the training Superintendent Bishop conducted.

      Reply

      • August 16, 2014 @ 8:35 am Bong Hit

        I see. I wasn’t aware of the “students of color” training. Well in my opinion, the entire “social justice” and “restorative justice” movement is toxic for poor black kids. The world is moving so fast, technology and job skills are changing faster than most university educated professionals can keep up with. When we read about layoffs in silicon valley, many people may not realize that American workers are being let go in favor of H1B visa workers who are also university educated. In many cases these foreign workers have masters degrees and PhD’s. They come with their own faults and weaknesses but they are respectful and know how to conduct themselves in a business environment.

        What good does it do to shield poor black kids from the reality of the world today? No company is going to hire disrespectful, slang talking, illiterate white or black people. Period. The young poor children in Vallejo have all the raw materials they need to succeed but they are being lied to by adults that want to make themselves FEEL good by injecting excuses into school policy. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. These at risk black children need honesty and strict discipline. All of the serial troublemakers need to be segregated and moved into a reform campus but this can’t happen with progressive democrats in charge.

        Reply

    • Monica

      August 15, 2014 @ 10:17 pm Monica

      Dr. Bishop is doing an excellent job retooling a terribly dysfunctional district. I wish that the Grand Jury would investigate why there were no legal actions taken against Peterson, Verder-Aliga, Wilson, and the other crooks who created the school bankruptcy. $60 million dollars gone , and no one is prosecuted?

      Our schools are improving, albeit slowly, by the kind of personnel changes that should have been done in 2004. I admire Dr. Bishop’s integrity and courage in doing what must be done. Will all people be pleased by all of her actions or decisions? Undoubtedly not. Have there been incidents when individuals were offended? Undoubtedly so. However, the necessary moves are being made to change the course of the crippled ship that is VCUSD.

      Reply

      • August 15, 2014 @ 11:35 pm Salty Dog

        If it were only a crippled ship. Unfortunately, more like a beached and abandoned hulk. Beached on the shoals of self interest and abandoned by wary parents, disillusioned professionals and a public more interested in politics than in the mechanics and characteristics of educational flotation.

        She needs a new Captain who understands transformational tides and a crew with the knowledge and wisdom to parbucle to deeper waters.

        Reply

      • August 23, 2014 @ 6:58 am Jennifer

        If there has been any measureable “improvement” it is because she is only allowing the facts that she wants to flaunt & hiding the rest. No more of my money to a district that is not safe enough to send my kids too. Absolutely not. And this ridiculous new trend in America that attempts to deflect blame as in “check out what these corrupt people did before” is an idiotic cop out. This inept, racist woman needs to go before I will even consider voting for anything like this measure again.

        Reply

  6. August 15, 2014 @ 9:12 am Bong Hit

    It’s clear to me that few people realize the connection between lax enforcement of deportment and civil behavior in public schools and the plight of the African American community at large. Behavior is a continuum, learned and practiced throughout a child and young adults life. Here in Vallejo public schools it has become standard practice to excuse bad behavior. It’s not just a Vallejo issue, you can see excuses being made for abhorrent and criminal behavior all across the country.

    Take Ferguson MO as an example. African Americans have been horribly conditioned to believe they are entitled to act out. Any perceived slight can trigger violence. The young man that was shot must have thought it was perfectly justifiable to disregard police commands and struggle with a police officer for his gun. That particular young man apparently is a prime suspect in a strong arm robbery that had just occurred minutes before which was what prompted the call to police.

    We need a radical change in how we raise the poor African Americans in this country. The highest expectations of civil behavior and citizenship must be enforced first. After that the scholastic learning can proceed.

    Reply

  7. August 15, 2014 @ 2:17 pm Ethicalken

    The existence of African Americans as a cultural group is a myth of American racism. Some of us are dark-brown descendants of people American society kidnapped, enslaved and after the Civil War systematically brutalized and excluded from protection of law. The worse of this behavior continued into the late 20th century. Therefore, your assessment that behavior is a continuum indicts American society more than it does the two percent of undisciplined people you label African American. I know much of this history by living it. I was born in 1937 and attended racially segregated schools from grades K-6. Nevertheless, no matter I experienced much racial discrimination during my life, unlike you I never bought into the white-man evil/black-man good or the reverse racist hypothesis, because life experience does not support it.

    Reply

  8. August 15, 2014 @ 4:32 pm wharf rat

    what we have here is a para-normal education system , haunted by the ghosts of what could be …
    to extrapolate skin color with our poor performing public school system is a big cop out , in fact other nations mainly populated by people of color out-perform our students in most subjects especially in math and science … and keep in mind the african slave trade was not practised by my ancestors , in fact many of those enslaved and transported to other countries were sold wholesale by their ethnic contemporaries .. slavery continues to this day and most of it is not done by white people .. the skin color crutch is just plain worn out , time to move on i am not responcible and bear no guilt ,, all races are equally racist , this is a common denominator , in fact evidence of a kinda wharped equality …

    Reply

    • August 15, 2014 @ 5:58 pm Salty Dog

      But crucially, in public egalitarian education, all races are equal. How to “deal” with “people of color” is indeed insulting to students, teachers, administrators,parents and the public. Little wonder there was reluctance to let light shine.

      Reply

    • August 23, 2014 @ 6:51 am Jennifer

      Well said. I think you thoroughly articulated what a lot of us are thinking. The politically correct crowd will scream you down if you attempt to say it out loud though. The biggest losers in this equation are the children who are told they are oppressed victims because of their skin color. What a horrible thing to do to a kid who may already have the cards stacked against him/her because of their home life & upbringing. It is a crime as far as I am concerned.

      Reply

  9. Silas Barnabe

    August 17, 2014 @ 11:59 am Silas Barnabe

    The most recent dishonesty emanating from the remote district office is the marketing for a $239 million dollar school bond.

    http://solanocoe.edublogs.org/category/school-board-vallejo-city-unified/
    The document states that “Measure E provides funds to renovate and upgrade classrooms, libraries and computer labs. Funds will replace aging roofs, upgrade electrical systems, replace old heating, cooling and ventilation systems with energy-efficient systems and increase the ability of students and teachers to use classroom computers and technology.”

    In 1997 when the last bond was passed to replace technology, roofs, and infrastructure the board financed it over a 30 year period. Now just over half way through the payment terms they want to replace “aging infrastructure”. This means that if this bond passes we will be paying for outdated aging infrastructure for 11 years while at the same time paying this bond off for 30 more years. Something stinks on Mare Island!

    Reply

  10. August 18, 2014 @ 5:15 pm Concerned Citizen of Vallejo

    Before passing judgment on whether the bond is needed I challenge you to take a walk around any of the school sites in town. Visit the classrooms, ask to see the technology available, ask how to improve site safety, talk to the students, teachers and administrators there. If you then determine that the upgrades are essential, elect three new board members that will hold themselves to a high degree of accountability and truly support the oversight committee to make sure the money is allocated properly if/when the bond passes.

    Reply

    • August 23, 2014 @ 6:43 am Jennifer

      Absolutely not. I will not hand over one more of my hard earned dollars to this corrupt school district. You must be joking.

      Reply

    • August 23, 2014 @ 10:03 am no way

      The issue of the bond measure is not whether there are aging facilities, or a need for capital. We know both are true.

      The questions are more:
      1) What happened to the last bond measure that we’re still paying for?
      2) How *exactly* does the School District plan to spend the moony? I went to a presentation that numbered 40 slides — and in those 40 slides, the specifics of past & future investments were not clear. The guy giving the slides literally pointed to a 4″ binder if someone wanted details. WTF?
      3) Who would be spending the money? The Board and the District have already proved themselves incompetent with respect to fiscal management. Unless there’s a new Board and better management, no way. Unfortunately, the bond election is simultaneous with the Board election, so we can’t guarantee there would be new trustees for the Bond.
      4) Why did they go for such a large amount ($239k) that requires a 66% approval rating? They could have gone for a lower amount ($90k) that would have been easier to pass (51 or 55% ). I think this reflects that the District and Board are seriously out of touch with the community.
      5) Why is it, that with the community begging the School Board for accessible meetings at an accessible time, the Monarchs dismiss the public until they want a quarter-billion dollar bond measure? Prior to this, they stay sequestered in the Palace. Wow, they want lots of money, *now* they find their way off the island!

      I’m not sure how to fix the School District, or if it even can be fixed. The best solution would be to start over than to try to straighten out an incompetent, nepotistic district.

      Reply

      • August 23, 2014 @ 1:56 pm Vallejo Mom

        Now that there are many of us who oppose the bond measure, what and how do we campaign against it and educate voters not to be fooled? If I lived in Benicia, I would not mind, at least they are accountable.

        Reply

      • August 25, 2014 @ 2:04 pm WatchingEye

        Which is why I’m voting NO to arrogance, secrecy and the “Dr.” behind the curtain. ‘Wilson, Ubalde and Doctors, OH MY!’

        Reply

  11. August 23, 2014 @ 6:41 am Jennifer

    Arrogant corruption. Another cog in the wheel in our travels toward becoming the West Coast Detroit. Why is she still here? She should at least be on admin leave as these various indiscretions are brought to light. She is continuing to pollute our already failing school district. The culture of Vallejo continues to be based on crime, blight, corruption, ignorance & incompetence. But let’s all ignore that & freak about “militarizing” our police department. I really don’t want to live here anymore. This is pathetic people.

    Reply


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