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Commentary by Ken Pfalzgraf
| Monday, Apr 13, 2015

KenPfalzgrafI am an Acton resident and Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District school board observer. My last piece (here) looked into the compensation package and responsibilities of the AADUSD superintendent in comparison to his regional peers. With the enrollment in the superintendent’s own schools falling off and with an ever-increasing portion of the budget being dedicated to legal fees associated to the myriad of charter schools that the district is sponsoring all over the place, I wondered just what direction the superintendent is being given from the school board to earn his keep.

 

Typically, the governing boards of public agencies conduct an annual priority exercise that sets the agency’s direction and focus for staff. Through this process, the agency’s constituents are given an opportunity to participate in the development of the agency’s goals, to be informed of what to expect from the agency for the foreseeable future and, most importantly, to have a means of rating the effectiveness of board members at election time.

Short of a priority exercise, a school board’s direction for the future can typically be found in the performance goals the board gives its superintendent in the superintendent’s employment contract.

Since the Acton-Agua Dulce school board does not conduct a priority exercise or share its goals for the year with the public, I decided to ask for the superintendent’s employment contract. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? By virtue of school board policy 4300 (read it here), the superintendent’s employment contract “shall be available to the public upon request.”

As you’ll see in the letter below, it is clear that the four and a half AADUSD school board members have put the superintendent’s performance goals, and thus the guidance of the district, behind a firewall of attorneys paid with funds intended to educate students.

What is in the AADUSD superintendent’s contract and performance goals that is so secretive that the school board feels the need to lawyer up and violate its own board policies to keep the public from knowing?

Lots of riddles; I’ve got one myself.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Fran Pavley. Fran Pavley who? Fran Pavley SB 739.

By the way, if you’re thinking about taking an appointment to the AADUSD board to replace the absentee member without having to be voted in through a typical election process, use care. The baggage you take on might not be good if you’re thinking about flying to Washington, D.C., anytime soon.

Anyway, here’s my third attempt to get information regarding the AADUSD superintendent’s employment contract from the school board:

 

Ken Pfalzgraf

(Street Address)

Acton, CA 93510

(661) xxx-xxxx

March 13, 2015

 

Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District Board of Trustees

Ed Porter, President

Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District

32248 Crown Valley Road

Acton, CA 93510

 

RE: Third request for AADUSD superintendent employment contract information

 

Dear AADUSD Board of Trustees,

By virtue of the responses from attorneys representing AADUSD, I assume that you are aware that I submitted a records request regarding AADUSD administrative team compensation information to the AADUSD board president on March 2, 2014. That request included the following:

“The employment contract(s) for the AADUSD Superintendent, beginning with the initial employment contract that was awarded when the employee was appointed Interim Superintendent and each subsequent employment contract thereafter to include any and all modifications and addendums and the most recent contract.”

AADUSD chose to group this request with an unrelated March 9, 2015 request for information regarding contracts for the demolition and clearance work at the Vasquez High School site. To be clear, I would assume that the superintendent’s employment contract with the board is the one document, above all, that should be most easily located at the district office. Yet, in AADUSD’s March 13, 2015 untimely response to this request, penned by the superintendent himself, AADUSD unnecessarily prolonged providing the superintendent’s employment contract with the following irrelevant justification:

“The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;

“The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request; and

“The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein.”

On March 26, 2015, AADUSD counsel provided the first response to my request for the superintendent’s employment contract with the following statement and attached documents:

“The District has determined that it possesses disclosable public records responsive, at least in part, to this request. The District has attached responsive documents to this correspondence. The District now considers this request complete.” (F3-Ayden).

1. AGREEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT OF DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT-June 24, 2010 (link)

2. AGREEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT OF DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT-January 24, 2013 (link)

On March 28, 2015, with respect to my request for the superintendent’s employment contract, I advised AADUSD that the district’s response of March 26, 2015 was incorrect and incomplete, specifically because:

1. “Addendums for the agreement dated “24th day of June, 2010” are missing. Specifically, addendums B (1) and B (2) for section “2. Salary” are missing from the AADUSD response of March 26, 2015”.

2. “Addendums for the agreement dated January 24, 2013 are missing from the AADUSD response of March 26, 2015. On page one (1) of that document (“AGREEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT OF DISTRICT SUPERITENDENT”), under part two (2) “Salary” find the following in section “C”:

“The parties agree that each year of this agreement, on or before November 1st, the Superintendent and board president will propose five (5) merit/performance incentive goals which, upon completion, the Superintendent shall receive a merit/performance incentive in the amount of three thousand dollars ($3,000), not to exceed a total of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000), payable on the achievement of each goal. The Superintendent’s merit/performance incentive goals will be subject to Board approval. An addendum identifying the five (5) merit/performance incentive goals will be attached to this agreement each year and incorporated herein.”

By virtue of AADUSD board policy 4300, the superintendent’s employment contract “shall be available to the public upon request.” These attachments are, by the terms of the AADUSD board employment contract with the superintendent, an integral part and “attachment” of and to the superintendent’s contract which, again, “shall be available to the public upon request” by virtue of the terms of AADUSD board policy 4300 (link). This information was not provided in the March 26, 2015 AADUSD response to the records request of March 2, 2015.”

On April 3, 2015, AADUSD district counsel responded to my second request for:

“The “addendum identifying the five (5) merit/performance incentive goals” attached to the “AGREEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT OF DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT” commencing with the contract for January 24, 2013 and the “five (5) merit/performance incentive goals” for each year thereafter to include the current set of “five (5) merit/performance incentive goals.”

With the following comment:

“The District does not possess responsive, non-privileged records responsive to your request. As noted, employee personnel files, including evaluations, are exempt from disclosure under the PRA. (See e.g. , Gov. Code §§sections 6254 (c) and 6255; California Constitution, Article I, section I.; Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. v Superior Court, supra.) (F3-Ayden).

Be advised that the district’s response of April 3, 2015 is irrelevant, inappropriate and thus, still incomplete. To be clear, at no time have I requested the superintendent’s annual evaluation, performance review or bonus report, nor am I doing that at this time.

Now, be advised that I will again for the third time, request the “addendum identifying the five (5) merit/performance incentive goals” attached to the “AGREEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT OF DISTRICT SUPERITENDENT” commencing with the contract for January 24, 2013 and the “five (5) merit/performance incentive goals” for each year thereafter to include the current set of “five (5) merit/performance incentive goals.” In addition, I will remind the district that the annual merit/performance incentive goals for the superintendent’s employment contract of June 24, 2010, by virtue of being embedded into pages one(1) and two (2) of that document , are inherently available for “public review”. Therefore, along with AADUSD board policy 4300 that makes the superintendent’s employment contract “available to the public upon request,” the board’s past practice of making the annual merit/performance incentive goals for the June 24, 2010 sets precedence that the same shall be provided with respect to the superintendent’s employment agreement of January 24, 2013 and each year thereafter, to include the current contract.

In closing, I find the time, effort and legal fees being given to the withholding of this information, which the public is legally entitled to by virtue of the district’s own board policy, alarming. Furthermore, in that the board does not conduct an annual priority exercise and that the board does not issue an annual statement of focus, direction or intent for the district’s constituents to consider or lend input to, the merit/performance incentive goals included in the superintendent’s employment contract are the best indicator of the board’s intention of guidance of the district into the future. When this information is withheld from the public, who are ultimately the heritors of the decisions this board makes, and driven behind a firewall of attorneys and into the hands of four and a half board members, constituent right to transparency of process in a publicly funded agency has been breached. I now more fully understand the concern of the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team’s (FCMAT) regarding “Inadequate community participation and communication” on page six of oversight agency Los Angeles County Office of Education’s (LACOE) requested report on the condition of the AADUSD issued just seven short months ago (link).

Be assured that, until I receive the information I am entitle to by virtue of AADUSD board policy, I will continue to file a steady stream of public record requests for, once again:

“The “addendum identifying the five (5) merit/performance incentive goals” attached to the “AGREEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT OF DISTRICT SUPERITENDENT” commencing with the contract for January 24, 2013 and the “five (5) merit/performance incentive goals” for each year thereafter to include the current set of “five (5) merit/performance incentive goals.”

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. Hopefully this third time will be the charm.

Sincerely,

Ken Pfalzgraf

CC: Dr. Arturo Delgado – Los Angeles County Office of Education Superintendent Press

Comment On This Story
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3 Comments

  1. M Sanchez says:

    We citizens appreciate your efforts, Ken.

    • Ken Pfalzgraf says:

      Thank you M. Sanchez. While my opinions may differ from some others, or even all others, given that AADUSD is the sponsor of K-6 AEA campuses which hold students from both the Acton Agua Dulce area and Santa Clarita Valley, I believe constituent of both areas have the right to know where things are headed in the future. It seems 4 board members, an absentee board member and a flock of attorneys are steering the bus and we are all blindfolded just waiting to see where this will go.

      I’ll post a link to the 3rd records request form letter so anyone that wants to spend 49 cents can get a rejection letter too. If enough of us get together and request this information:

      “The “addendum identifying the five (5) merit/performance incentive goals” attached to the “AGREEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT OF DISTRICT SUPERITENDENT” commencing with the contract for January 24, 2013 and the “five (5) merit/performance incentive goals” for each year thereafter to include the current set of “five (5) merit/performance incentive goals.”

      maybe the law firm will give us a cut of the action they get sending us all rejection notices. We can turn around and give that money back to the teachers so they can buy crayons or something. ;0)

  2. Ken Pfalzgraf says:

    Here’s a link to the form letter. Fill in the bolded parts, waste 49 cents and see what you get:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/9bd1ysx4248yuem/AADUSD%20super%20contract%20records%20request.docx?dl=0

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