By Michael Hernandez
THOUSAND OAKS—The Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) trustees selected Cindy Goldberg as Board President, Jenny Fitzgerald as Vice President and Bill Gorback as Clerk during it re-organization meeting Tuesday and also authorized Conejo Schools Foundation to solicit donations and raise funds from November thru June, 2020 in a 3-1 vote. Objecting was board member Sandee Everett. Goldberg, the new board president recused herself from the vote.
“I’m appalled that you passed over Sandee Everett—a seasoned veteran—to be the new board president. I also look forward to the resignation of Cindy Goldberg as Conejo Schools Foundation president so she can serve (CVUSD) without a conflict of interest,” California Parents Alliance President Tim Cooley stated during public comments following the board re-organization vote. “I thank Ms. Everett for her service this past year and even though overlooked, she has been clear and consistent and represented common sense.”
“We have had an illegally charged summer school tuition for the past 14 years,” said former board candidate Amy Chen during public comments prior to the board vote to authorize the Conejo Schools Foundation to solicit donations and raise funds from November 2019 through June 2020. Also, speaking against the board action during public comments was Cathy Carlson who requested that the school district board not authorize the foundation “without looking at its financials” and also questioned how Goldberg could remain as “head of the Conejo Schools Foundation and head of the Conejo Valley Unified School District.”
Board trustee Sandee Everett read from Assembly Bill 1575 referring to 49011 which states: “ a pupil enrolled in a public school shall not be required to pay a pupil fee for participation in an educational activity” and states that “a fee waiver policy shall not make a pupil fee permissible” and “a school district or school shall not offer course credit or privileges related to educational activities in exchange for money or donations of goods or services.”
According to Everett, “Many parents have been charged different fees called donations to participate. Should a foundation collect fees at all? It is our responsibility to hold our fundraising organization accountable to the law. These fees are not legal. A reasonable efforts needs to be made to reimburse these fees.”
Supt. Mark McLaughlin charged Everett with a number of false accusations after Vice President Jenny Fitzgerald (who was presiding over the board after Goldberg recused herself from this discussion) asked for clarification of whether the Conejo Schools Foundation was acting as an authorized booster or an independent non-profit entity. Board member Betsy Connolly followed these comments by stating that the Conejo Schools Foundation has “not received public money nor is it bound by AB 1575.”
During the school board budget work session (prior to the regular board meeting) a report was presented recommending that the district drop its remedial summer school program and possibly replacing it with a charter school program in order to save $300,000 along with four other budget cutbacks that could save the district another $250,000. (Editor’s Note: To find out more go to: https://www.citizensjournal.us/cvusd-budget-committee-recommends-dropping-its-remedial-summer-school-program-replace-it-with-charter-school-program/
Later in the evening, Everett would question the district’s payment of $26,000 to the Conejo Schools Foundation for their costs in conducting the all-district music festival—which is a partnership with the City of Thousand Oaks, the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the school district and the foundation—at the 1,800 seat Fred Kavli Theater. “The Conejo Schools Foundation should be fundraising for the district. Money should flow out of the CSF to the CVUSD. Why is money going the opposite way?”
The 10-day music festival costs $100,000 to pay for the facility and $150,000 to pay production costs with ticket sales not covering the entire costs. The motion to pay the Conejo Schools Foundation passed 3-1 with Everett opposing and Goldberg recusing herself for the vote.
In other board action:
- Five inclusion heroes were honored;
- Christine Wells shared about a Lego league robotics club with three teams formed at EARTHS Magnet Elementary School in Newbury Park;
- Approved School Year Calendars for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022;
- Approved several amendments to board policy and administrative regulations concerning grades, evaluation of student achievement, graduation requirements, graduation ceremonies and activities, dual enrollment in high school and college classes and heard about a new board policy and administrative regulation concerning migrant education.
- Discussion focused on how to avoid violation of the Brown Act—originally passed in 1953 which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. At issue was a letter dated Nov. 18th from Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney Chuck Hughes say that the CVUSD had violated the Ralph M. Brown Act during its board retreat on August 28th of this year—making it the second school district violation in the past two years.
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].