Ross Valley School District (RVSD) is in full damage-control mode after being hit with multiple disastrous allegations in the course of one week:
May 12: A part-time instructional aide and recess supervisor at White Hill Middle School is arrested for asking a 14 year old male student to smoke marijuana with him. According to police, the man took the boy in his car and together they drove to the man’s home in Mill Valley, 11 miles away. At his home, they smoked pot and played video games. About a month later, at the school, police say the man made lewd remarks to the boy and made sexually-suggestive gestures.
The boy complained to the school about the man a few months ago. The police interviewed everyone involved in February. RVSD put the man on administrative leave. The police took their time in building their case. Inexplicably, despite the sexual allegations again the man, RVSD let him come back to work at another RVSD school. On May 12, Superintendent Rick Bagley wrote this lying letter to parents:
Bagley knew very well what the specifics were, and what were likely to be the charges against the man. Why else did they put him on administrative leave in February? After a little while, when he hadn’t been arrested, RVSD figured that it had all blown over and they let him come back to work. The man apparently is a talented athlete and his mother works for RVSD.
May 14: White Hill Middle School teacher accidentally projects a pornographic movie from his personal computer to a classroom screen. Three days later, Principal David Finnane wrote the following to parents, suggesting that perhaps some sort of student prank was involved:
We are gathering as many facts as we can to piece together what exactly happened, when, how, and who was responsible.
A Marin County middle school teacher is on leave amid claims that pornographic images were projected on a classroom screen while students were present.
The incident allegedly occurred on Thursday at White Hill Middle School in Fairfax. According to a police report, the teacher was on a classroom lunch break and using his personal laptop computer while 13 students were working on a project.
The computer was connected by an Apple TV unit to a projection screen in the class. At some point the pornographic images popped up on the screen, according to the police report.
Once the teacher realized the porn was being displayed, he quickly shut it off. The school administration received reports from students about the alleged incident.
The principal of White Hill Middle School contacted the Fairfax Police Department while the Ross Valley School District launched its own investigation.
Police found no evidence of a crime, but police Chief Christopher Morin said the department could revisit the matter depending on what the school investigation determines.
Although the teacher was not arrested, because the police “found no evidence of crime,” he was put on administrative leave by the school. Apparently, if the school decides they really want to get rid of the teacher, the cops will arrest him after all. The teacher was apparently quite popular among students, though he does have a background in low-budget film-making.
May 19: Independent researchers discover that RVSD spent nearly $10 million that they don’t have. In reviewing the RVSD Board meeting agenda from May 5, a couple of weeks earlier, researchers notice an interesting agenda item, buried among some other things.
The innocuously-titled item, “Staff Report of Status on Bond Measure “A” Facilities Project,” turns out to be RVSD’s acknowledgement of their rather astonishing financial mismanagement.
It seems that they have over-spent their budget by nearly $10 million dollars. In addition to the $41 million 2010 Measure A Bond boondoggle, committing RVSD taxpayers to decades of debt, RVSD somehow expected to receive another $9 million from the State of California. So, they spent $22 million on White Hill Middle School instead of the budgeted $14 million; this doesn’t include the still-unbuilt multi-million dollar gymnasium. They spent non-existent money on some other stuff too. Now, RVSD wants to ask the voters for more money:
It should be noted that, in addition to Measure “A” resources of $41 million, the District anticipated receiving over $9 million in funds from the State’s bond program. In fact the District has received $290,887 from this program, which at this point has been depleted of its resources making it highly unlikely the District will ever receive any additional State funds. The last time California voters approved a State-wide bond was in 2005. The next time a bond could be put to the voters is 2016.
Although the tone of the above paragraph suggests that the “anticipated” $9 million from the state was a done deal, and that RVSD was somehow wronged, the actual text of Measure A makes clear that if the State money didn’t come through, some things wouldn’t get done:
The allocation of bond proceeds will be affected by the District’s receipt of State matching funds and the final costs of each project. In the absence of State matching funds, which the District will aggressively pursue to reduce the District’s share of the costs of the projects, the District will not be able to complete some of the projects listed above.
However, even without final assurance of the extra $9 million, RVSD spent the money anyway! Now they’re deep in the hole.
The $41 million from Measure A was supposed to be plenty to fix up the schools! But RVSD insisted on paying top dollar for everything and wanted fancy (more expensive) stuff like “pervious concrete.” RVSD Chief Business Officer Midge Hoffman’s presentation to the Board reveals the District’s total lack of accountability.
At the moment, the news media has not yet picked up on RVSD’s massive financial bumbling, but we expect to see something soon.
All of this news is very bad for RVSD, in large part because in order to pay off the first $41 million over the next few decades, they are COUNTING on the assessed value of tax-paying homes in the district increasing by 5% each year.
Because home-owners over age 62 don’t have to pay this bond-repayment tax, RVSD and their partners in the local real estate industry are desperate to sell homes to young families, who will pay this tax for decades and whose children will fill RVSD’s schools. If (contrary to RVSD’s Measure A propaganda) the school populations decline, this looks bad for them. If an aging population doesn’t pay this tax, RVSD’s bond repayment will default.
The real estate industry, of course, is interested in making money. Young families won’t buy houses in districts with bad schools. RVSD and the real estate industry are thus extremely keen to keep young families interested in moving to Fairfax and San Anselmo! If families knew what was really going on in RVSD schools, and in RVSD’s mismanagement, they wouldn’t want to move here. (This is also why “grade inflation” is rampant at White Hill Middle School — nearly every kid gets top grades, because it makes the school seem like it’s doing a great job. Few if any children ever receive an “average” C grade.)
So how do we know that RVSD is in damage-control mode? One way we can tell is through the following example: On May 21, looking for the most recent online mentions of White Hill Middle School, we found that just 23 hours earlier, White Hill Principal David Finnane had posted a letter on the school’s web site that goes describes how wonderful White Middle School really is. The problem: this letter was supposedly written at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year! Clearly, RVSD is trying to put some counter-spin propaganda on the recent disastrous news!