Porn, pot and loose money scandals rock Ross Valley School District

RVSD blows through millions  of dollars it doesn't have.

Ross Valley School District went $10 million over its already exorbitant $41 million budget in remodeling district schools. See below.

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-lying-letter

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.

The local newspaper soon reported the following:

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.

Whoops!

Whoops!

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.

shit-happens

RVSD: “Shit happens.”

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.

growth
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!

Finnane pretending this was written months earlier

Finnane pretending this was written months earlier

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White Hill Middle School is built on an old dump site and is surrounded by hazardous waste

Dump at White Hill Middle School

Garbage dump at White Hill Middle School

White Hill Middle School is a risky place to spend much time. Too bad for the children whose parents naively (or stupidly) send them there.

It’s no secret that the back of Oak Manor Canyon was an old dump site. The “cancer cluster” of Marin County and in particular the western part of Fairfax is also well known. Many people also know about the B-17 bomber that crashed on White Hill in 1946, likely carrying nuclear materials for the bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. However, there are many other hazardous elements to consider in the immediate context of White Hill Middle School.

First, let’s briefly discuss the impact of building three railroad tunnels nearby.

Train crossing White Hill Middle School's basketball court.

Train crossing White Hill Middle School’s basketball court.

The Northwestern Pacific Railroad had a line through White Hill. For two years in the early 1870s, and again in 1903-1904, hundreds of Chinese laborers camped just about where the school sits today. All the trash from their encampments was simply burned or buried there. Endless wheelbarrows-full of tunnel-building debris (including chemical and explosives waste) were also just dumped anywhere convenient, mostly on and around the current school campus.

Railroad construction site >> Roy Ranch >> Smith Ranch >> White Hill Middle School.

Trestle (railroad bridge) crossing White Hill Middle School’s current basketball court can be seen in the distance of top picture. Tunnel entered hlllside just west of trestle.

Next, we will look at the Smith brothers’ dump. Once the new tunnel was finished, Thomas Roy built a home just up the valley from White Hill Middle School’s current location. By the 1930s, the Roy family sold the home and surrounding property to the Smith brothers, who ran Marin County’s garbage dumps. The “Roy Ranch” property then became known as the “Smith Ranch.” Plenty of dumping was done on that property over the years, even though it was not one of the Smith brothers’ “official” dumps. (The Smiths also owned another “Smith Ranch” dump north of San Rafael, which is why we have Smith Ranch Road.)

The (former) Fairfax School District bought the 20 acre Smith Ranch site in February 1965 with a plan to build a school at that location. Dumping continued.

September 23, 1965

Marin IJ, September 23, 1965

Even after White Hill School opened in 1968, dumping continued MASSIVELY on the meadow just north of the school (up Glen Drive), as we have seen in the picture at the top of this post.

00-Daily_Independent_Journal_Tue__Aug_13__1974_

Then there is the matter of dumping ordained by local government, and the use of White Hill Middle School property as landfill:

1971: Let’s bury “street sweeping” debris at White Hill Middle School. Move a creek bed while we’re at it.

Marin IJ, September 4, 1971

Marin IJ, September 4, 1971

1974: Let’s allow the nearby luxury tennis condominium development to dump all of their excavated debris, dirt, construction  crap etc. at White Hill Middle School. Note: this was in the Marin IJ on the same day as the article about the White Hill dump site.

Marin IJ, August 13, 1974

Marin IJ, August 13, 1974

What do you suppose we mean by “construction crap”? Especially construction crap that was extremely common in the early ’70s?  We are talking about an 88 acre development with 109 condo housing units, with full dining, tennis, gymnasium and other high-end recreational facilities. How about thousands of paint cans, all with lead paint. How about thousands of used caulking tubes and “guns” with caulk containing cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). How about rampant asbestos and more PCBs from insulation, roofing, floor tiles, and all kinds of other stuff. How about plasterboard (i.e. drywall  or sheetrock), which is broken down in landfill conditions to release the toxic gas hydrogen sulfide. There are MANY other kinds of hazardous or toxic construction waste, in addition to the dirt, tree stumps etc. that were excavated from the Cañon Village Tennis Condominium site.

Mind you, there was NO RECYCLING of construction waste going on in the early ’70s, not even here in Marin County. EVERYTHING was either burned at the construction site or thrown into landfills.  Even recycling of household waste in Marin was in its infancy; it was totally optional and you had to actually bring your recyclables once a week to a special location. In this case, the construction company got a sweet deal — they didn’t have to pay landfill fees to dump all their waste. The merely drove it over to White Hill School, threw it on the ground, poured some dirt on top and then bull-dozed that dirt so it was nice and smooth.

1974: And in a SEPARATE matter, two days later — this is not the agreement to allow the tennis condominium developers to poison the land near White Hill Middle School, nor is it in response to the huge “meadow dump” seen in the picture at the top of this post — Fairfax voted to pay someone to cover over another former dump site near White Hill Middle School.

Marin IJ, August 15, 1974

Marin IJ, August 15, 1974

And what became of the horrifying “meadow dump” at White Hill Middle School? The land was owned by a corporation of East Coast financial speculators, which simply paid someone to come dig a big hole, push all the garbage and hazardous materials inside and cover it up.

A Boston-based corporation of millionaire financial speculators said they would clean it up. As cheaply as possible of course.

A Boston-based corporation of millionaire financial speculators said they would clean it up. As cheaply as possible of course.

Schools are often built on or around dump sites, which seems incredibly stupid. As we have seen, dumping continued around White Hill Middle School, long after it opened. Knowing that a school is built on and around a dump, it’s just crazy to send children there. It is also worth noting the occurrence of rare cancers in some White Hill teaching & administrative personnel and in several former students.

Does it seem wise to let children attend a school with such a toxic pedigree? Principal David Finnane and vice principal Whitney Hoyt don’t think it’s a big deal — but then again, they don’t think it’s a big deal to let construction workers mingle with the children, perhaps even offering the kids a dip of chewing tobacco. For that matter, they thought it was fine to have these construction workers working literally on the school campus, coming and going as they pleased among the children while they built White Hill’s new buildings. David Finnane and Whitney Hoyt should be fired. The Ross Valley School District’s Board should resign in disgrace at having allowed the construction insanity of recent years.

White Hill Middle School’s financial shenanigans

Shenanigans

Highly irregular financial escapades

Has anyone ever audited White Hill Middle School and its “Parent Club”? I mean a proper external audit, not the usual rubber-stamp inside job done by someone’s brother-in-law. Anyone looking carefully at the White Hill Parent Club’s “books” would immediately wonder what the hell was going on.

Very shortly after our recent posting about the White Hill Parent Club’s complete non-transparency and its $90,000 “goal” pulled out of a hat (i.e. a figure not based on the accounting of actual needs), Principal David Finnane sent a mass e-mail with two documents that very poorly describe a basis for the $90,000 goal and even more feebly show how the money is to be spent.

The first document purports to show the White Hill Parent Club “Budget for 2014-2015.”

White Hill Parent Club Budget, 2014-2015

White Hill Parent Club Budget, 2014-2015

Oddly, they expected to raise “only” $80,000 in the Fun Run, but somehow this turned to $90,000 during the course of Finnane’s shrill exhortations. But now let’s look at their planned expenses. There are two main types of item: The first are things that should already be covered in Ross Valley School District budgets (e.g. “House and grounds” — probably janitorial service; “Insurance”; “Disaster preparedness”; etc.). The second, with overwhelmingly larger sums reserved, are “black box” items, completely mysterious and very vaguely described. “Staff grants” for $19,000? What is that? On top of the $40,000 planned for “School support”/”teacher grants”? A “Wham expense”? And how do you spend $1,500 on “staff appreciation luncheons,” with another $2,000 for an “adminstrator’s fund” for staff appreciation? Why do the staff even need “appreciation”? They’re grown-ups, and many of them are very well-paid.  Most of these items are highly dubious. Crooked as a bucket of rattlers.

Then we look to the White Hill Parent Club’s “approved” grant applications for this year. The picture doesn’t get any less sketchy — it gets much worse.

White Hill Parent Club's approved applications for 2014-2015

White Hill Parent Club’s approved applications for 2014-2015

Strangely, there is nothing in there about the “iPads and iPad carts” that Finnane wouldn’t shut up about. The notation “DC” refers to items the school planned to grift from “Donors Choose.”  As we can see, there were numerous highly questionable grants “approved.” For example: Three “Chromebook carts” for a cost of $18,000. What is a Chromebook cart, you may ask? They are special “carts” with electrical connections, used for charging up to 32 laptops at a time. “Chromebook” is a type of laptop computer, and White Hill apparently has 150 of these floating around the school, in addition to numerous other computers. After last year’s Donors Choose shadiness, Finnane wrote the following:

We have received:
120 Chromebooks for general education use in grades 6-8 – increasing the total number of devices on our campus from 30 to 150.

White Hill apparently has 150 Chromebooks at the school, changing hands on an hourly basis among 700 children. Why? Who maintains these machines? How many: a) are still at the school and b) are still working?

Anyway: An expensive Chromebook cart costs less than $2,000. There are plenty of other options ranging from around $500 and up.  Why has the Parent Club granted $18,000 for three of these carts? Fishy as hell!

Mind you, they are already on shaky ground with the “straw donor” routine they run with Donors Choose. The whole point of it is that they get “matching funds” through Donors Choose, and thus obtain a lot of computer & other fancy stuff for half price. What Finnane is actually saying in this expense report is that three Chromebook carts have a value of $36,000 (which is totally false), but the Parent Club will spend just $18,000. In other words: More than $16,000 over what they should spend for three inexpensive Chromebook carts.

There’s lots more crazy stuff in these approved items. More than $2,000 to paint the “6th Conf Room” and put in new carpets? Didn’t the District just spend $17 million on a bunch of shoddy new buildings?  Why wouldn’t new paint and carpet be a District expense? Like most everything else, this seems a very fishy expense.

The $40,640 of approved expenses somewhat corresponds to the budget’s $40,000 for “school support”/”teacher grants.” The whole picture is extremely murky and any reputable accountant would blow the whistle.

David Finnane's contribution is problematic

David Finnane’s contribution is problematic

Bear in mind that Principal Finnane is not even supposed to be involved in the Parent Club’s decision-making; nor is he even supposed to have anything to do with it except in his own personal free time.

The Ross Valley School District’s budget is also extremely fishy ($102,000 last year  for “travel and conferences”?! WTF?!), but that’s a topic for another day.

White Hill Middle School shamelessly pimps out its students

White Hill Middle School pimps out the kids

White Hill Middle School pimps out the kids

Every loving parent instinctively protects his or her children from dangerous situations, and tries to keep them safe from all harm. When children are at school, the school’s obligation is to do the same. White Hill Middle School threw that idea out the window and makes a solid effort to endanger the children by pimping them out online, by name and often with photographs. This is in addition to the psychological harm done by turning them into little salesmen as they desperately attempt to raise money for the school.

White Hill believes that pimping out kids is appropriate

White Hill believes that pimping out kids is appropriate

Life nowadays in suburbia is not actually as simple and safe as we would like it to be. There are a lot of vicious perverts out there who have their eyes on children. It has reached the point that ordinary children’s faces are almost never seen on television or in the media; they are usually “blurred out” to protect them. Because they are children, their names are usually redacted from news articles etc. Most parents who let their children have Facebook and other social media accounts will closely monitor who is able to “see” their child’s name and picture. It’s not even advisable to for children to have their names on the outside of their clothing, as strangers may call out to them by name — and children often trust strangers who know their names. It’s considered common sense nowadays to protect children’s identities and keep their pictures private. Parents have to take an active role every single day in keeping their children safe.

White Hill Middle School takes the opposite stance and enthusiastically exploits the children in its care. Why not make web pages for each child, with their pictures, and use these to raise money for the school?  The kids don’t know any better. In this day and age, the only adults who would think this was a good idea are either really corrupt or really stupid. For its recent “Fun Run” money-raising craze, White Hill teamed up with an outfit called “Scholastic Challenge.” This organization exists to help crooked schools raise money by pimping out children on custom-made web sites. Each child must commit to raising hundreds of dollars. They make a custom web page for the child and for many weeks, every evening after school, he or she hits up all possible relatives and neighbors for donations.

Probably to avoid legal repercussions, White Hill asks the oblivious, foolish parents to actually create the child’s page on the Scholastic Challenge site, rather than create it for them at school. Bizarrely, though, Principal David Finnane exhorts parents to further pimp their child out “far and wide”!

Please send your child’s personal page out far and wide and help us reach our goal. All you need to do is copy the URL at the top of your child’s fundraising page and paste it into an email to your friends and family. Get to work today and help your child qualify for the big drawing this coming Tuesday!

Can you imagine the pressure these kids are under, being forced to raise money for their school? If they fail to raise enough money for Principal Finnane’s standards, they are shamed and made to feel like failures. And this is far from the only sales work White Hill’s children forced to do. We will discuss the magazine subscription drive in a later article.

Pimping of children at White Hill occurs on several levels. In fact, the daily presence at school of each child is a factor in “how much money White Hill gets.” When they are absent, White Hill loses money. Most kids at White Hill get top grades because the school wants to keep its phony (real estate industry-driven) “distinguished school” ranking. The children are merely pawns in a game to keep the District’s wheels greased and keep these abusive and bored school administrators and “teachers” in business. More about this, too, in a later article.

White Hill Middle School Principal David Finnane and Vice Principal Whitney Hoyt should be ashamed of themselves for pimping out the kids in this way. Are they really so stupid that they think it’s quite normal and fine to exploit 12-14 year old children online with their names and faces open to the scrutiny of predators? Or is it that they just don’t give a shit. The parents of White Hill students with these web pages should also wake the hell up.

White Hill Middle School’s unethical scamming

Last year's haul of computer equipment at White Hill

A small portion of last year’s haul of computer equipment at White Hill

You would think that a person in a position of community “leadership” — the Principal of the local “middle school,” supervising the education/programming of more than 600 children in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades — would want to set a good example of honesty, fair play and straightforward financial accountability. You would think that such a person might have a lick of common sense in his bald noggin to prevent him not only from wheeling and dealing with tens of thousands of dollars in under-the-table cash, and using “straw donors” to puff up a financial portfolio, but also to dampen and tone down his irrational public exuberance about these highly questionable activities.

You would be disappointed in your expectations, as we are talking about David Finnane.

We have previously seen Finnane’s outrageous “Fun Run” fundraising, which supposedly raked in over $90,000.  It turns out that this money was intended to buy “iPad” computer gadgets for the school.

Here is Finnane’s latest demand for even more cash.  Emphases are in the original. After the message, we will provide some important analysis of it, so keep reading.

From: David Finnane dfinnane@rossvalleyschools.org
Date: October 23, 2014 at 3:27:46 PM PDT
To: David Finnane dfinnane@rossvalleyschools.org
Subject: iPads for White Hill – No Cost To You!
Reply-To: dfinnane@rossvalleyschools.org

Dear 2014-2015 White Hill Families,

Now that our Fun Run is complete and we had such great success we are going to be submitting some Donor’s Choose grant requests with the goal of continuing to support our programming here at White Hill. We utilized Donor’s Choose last year for 5 different grants in order extensively supplement our classroom equipment and devices – both of which are tied directly to first class instruction and learning.

To that end, we just had another Donor’s Choose Project funded and are prepared to add 10 iPads and an iPad cart to our campus in early November pending your assistance! These iPads will be used in our 7th grade math classes with the goal of piloting them this fall and increasing the number as the year moves forward.

Mrs. Marrero just submitted this project to Donor’s Choose, an organization that supports schools, and part of the Donor’s Choose package is that they match all $100.00 donations with their own $100.00 donation – but only during the first 7 days that the projects are open! So…we must get this done by this Sunday! The matching grant opportunity will end soon and we will be leaving free money on the table!

A couple of quick points:

You can only donate $100.00 in order to get the $100.00 matching grant. You can’t donate $500.00 and get $500.00 in matching funds. The maximum is $100.00.

You can donate using the same credit card but different login email addresses and still qualify for the $100.00 matching grant. For instance, I could donate using my work and personal email addresses (by setting up two accounts) and the same credit card. I would donate $100.00 through each email address, use the same credit card, my total donation would be $200.00, and Donor’s Choose would match my donation with their own $200.00 donation. $400.00 total and it takes 10 minutes maximum.

Anyone can donate – you, your friends, your parents, your neighbors. Your kids can also donate. You can set them up with an account, enter in your credit card number, and bingo! $100.00 donated and matched with another $100.00.

If you donated when we did our previous projects, you can likely donate again.   At some point the SPARK code will no longer work because there is a limit to how many times SPARK will match funds with the same donor but we are not certain what the limit is. Very important: Please do not continue with your donation if the system tells you that it can’t match your donation. We only want to do this with donors who can have their donations matched. If your donation can not be matched then please log off the site and we’ll get others to donate who can have their donations matched.

Here is what we are hoping you can do by this coming Saturday. Please – this would be so huge for our school. Follow these 8 simple steps – it really only takes 10-15 minutes maximum!

  1. Go to this link: http://www.donorschoose.org/project/screencasting-in-mathematics/1402331/?rf=email-system-2014-10-proposal_approve-teacher_1676782&challengeid=340119&utm_source=dc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=proposal_approve
  2. Once you click on the link, you will go to a page named Screencasting in Mathematics. Once on this page, go to the right upper corner, type in $100.00 and hit “Give”.
  3. After you hit “Give” it will take you to a page where you will review your cart. It is very important at this point that you click on “optional 15% donation” in the upper right hand corner of the page and change that amount to “0”. Then hit “Save”. If you don’t click on this menu item and change the percent donation to 0 you will not be donating 100% of the money to our projects at White Hill. Do not miss this step!
  4. After you click on “Save” you will want to click on “Proceed to Checkout”. If you have a Donor’s Choose Account you will sign in. If you don’t you will click on “Proceed” under “First Time” and set up an account. It will then prompt you to set up a user name and a password.
  5. You will then come to a very important part – the matching funds. Click on the box that says “Promo or Gift Code” and write in SPARK. This is a key step as it will allow us to make an extra $100.00 for all $100.00 donations submitted. Do not miss this step! You must enter SPARK at this point or your donation will not be matched by Donor’s Choose! After you enter SPARK, please be sure to click on “Apply” so that the matching funds request goes through.

Also, make sure when you are setting up your account that you de-select the questions about your birthday, thank you cards, etc. That stuff just adds more work for you and for our teachers!

  1. At the bottom of this page after you have entered your log in info. or set up an account and entered SPARK in the Promo or Gift Code box and clicked on “Apply” (this step is crucial), you will hit “Place This Donation”. You can then either de-select the “tell Mrs. Marrero” button or not. After you are done you hit “Proceed”.
  2. You will then go to a page that asks you if you want to donate to Donor’s Choose on a monthly basis. Check “No Thanks” (or whatever you want to check) and then you will be done! A receipt will be emailed to you for each $100.00 donation you make with confirmation that you also had a matching gift of 100.00 from Donor’s Choose.
  3. What’s the cost to you? Nothing! Please forward me the receipt/s that Donor’s Choose emails to you and I will get a check mailed to you within 10 days. We will pay you or anyone you know back whatever you donate out of our parent club funds. The parent club has set aside money just for these kind of projects and we want to reimburse you right away. Just forward me your confirmation email from Donor’s Choose and I will get you paid back!

So, here’s the deal – If we can get (35) $100.00 donations by early next week we will be shipped $7,000.00 in technology devices and equipment in early November. 50% off! Seriously, we can’t afford to pass up this opportunity.

Thanks so much. Let me know if you have any questions – I am standing by to help! Just remember to make the donation to Donor’s Choose be 0% in the first step and make sure you enter SPARK for the matching funds.

Can you spare 10 minutes now? Do you know others who can help?

If you can help us here you will have made a significant difference for our school.

Thank you!

David

David Finnane
Principal
White Hill Middle School

As he did last year, Finnane is trying to organize a scheme to get a bunch of fancy computer equipment for very cheap. In running this scheme, he asks parents to participate in some financial escapades that resemble a money-laundering operation. He also takes advantage of an organization that was not designed to help wealthy communities obtain luxury computer gadgets for their over-privileged classrooms.

First, let’s talk for a moment about “Donors Choose.” We don’t trust this organization for several reasons (which we won’t get much into now), but it does have its good points. At its best, this is an organization that helps people with extra money to donate that money to schools in high poverty areas, to help them with basic supplies. For example, this kindergarten class in Oklahoma needs chairs that will fit such small kids. This elementary school class in Georgia needs composition books and large sheets of paper so the kids can write stories. Basic stuff. People who feel generous can donate some money and before long, the Oklahoma kids will have chairs and the Georgia kids will be writing stories.

Then you have scoundrels like Finnane and his cronies in California’s wealthiest county attempting to get a bunch of iPad “hand-held” computers, a luxury item they clearly don’t need. All of these kids have computers at home, and usually several computers. Many already have their own iPads. In addition to the likelihood that these machines at school will be broken or stolen, or will simply “freeze” and break down or run out of storage space, children sharing them will exchange germs and catch colds & flu from each other. iPads are an excellent breeding ground for (biological) viruses and bacteria. Want to get sick? Share a computer or a telephone with several people. Cell phones and computer keyboards can have 200 times more pathogens on them than a toilet seat.

Last year, in addition to nearly 200 other laptop computers, White Hill grifted several “3-D printers” through Donors Choose so that children could learn how to make various things.  Why the need to make various objects with a printer? There is no need.  Children (and especially those inclined to mechanics and engineering) should learn to make things with their hands. The fanatical desire of Finnane and White Hill teachers to obtain 3-D printers, iPads and other gadgets is just technology fetishism, which is usually just a manifestation of unacknowledged and unresolved sexual fetishism.

Apple Computer inventor Steve Jobs did not allow his children to use iPads, fearing that their natural creativity would be stifled.

Another side note about iPads: “iPads for students” is currently the big fad in mainstream (government school) education. Yet there is chaos and controversy everywhere they try to do this.

Question: who is servicing & maintaining & inventorying all these iPads, laptops, 3-D printers, and numerous other new machines at White Hill? In addition to the few they actually need to run the school. No-one?

One aspect of Donors Choose that we despise is that they help schools like White Hill to pimp out the children. (We will have another article soon about White Hill’s persistent pimping of its pupils.)

Give over $50 and you’ll also receive hand-written thank-yous from the students.

Although Finnane suggests that parents “de-select” the option for thank you notes and birthday cards, the suggestion is buried among dozens of other procedural instructions and will likely be missed. Also, non-parent donors will undoubtedly tick the box every time. So White Hill’s students will be required to send out hand-written thank you notes and birthday cards, presumably (consistent with White Hill pimping practice) with full names and even pictures. These will be sent not only to various wealthy parents of school chums, but also to random strangers who kicked in $50.01 out of their own bizarre inclinations. Very nice.

Next, let’s look at what Finnane is asking parents to do.

  • He is asking them to break the rules set out by Donors Choose, creating multiple spurious e-mail accounts in order to maximize “donations.”
  • He says that these “donations” will promptly be re-paid to the parents out of White Hill Parent Club funds. Thus, he is essentially asking them to serve as “straw donors.”
  • He says that parents should say “no” to setting up ongoing donations to Donors Choose (i.e., he is willing to exploit the Donors Choose apparatus but he doesn’t want to divert parent money to other places).

What is the White Hill Parent Club? How does it get money? To whom is it accountable? Where are its budgets? Who is in charge of it?

The White Hill Parent Club has apparently been around for a while, though they have failed to maintain their nonprofit registration status with the State of California:

Delinquent status of White Hill Parent Club

Delinquent status of White Hill Parent Club

Even so, they have continued to file their annual nonprofit tax returns with the State. Through their 2012 tax return, we learned that the White Hill Parent Club had more than $40,000 net cash in hand at the beginning of 2012. They then had more than $61,000 in 2012 net revenue. They paid out more than $78,000 in “grants” allegedly benefiting White Hill in 2012.  This left them with more than $23,000 net cash at the end of 2012.

How do they come up with so much dough? Supposedly, through the various “Fun Runs” and other activities that are subject to Finnane’s constantly putting the bite on everyone. Hard to believe. But the inevitable next questions are these:  Why is White Hill running this “club” separately from the activities of Ross Valley School District’s own “Yes Foundation,” which should be leading these efforts? Why doesn’t the District have any oversight of the White Hill Parent Club? Who makes decisions for the Parent Club? Apart from its tax returns, where are its budgets and a detailed accounting of its receipts and expenditures?

Will they admit the straw donor stuff on the 2013 and 2014 returns?

Will they admit the straw donor stuff on the 2013 and 2014 returns?

We don’t know whether the Parent Club had these Donors Choose shenanigans in 2012. We do know they had them in 2013 and 2014. It will be fascinating to see whether the Parent Club will lie on its 2013 tax return in regard to its “grantees.” On the 2012 return, they specify that White Hill Middle School was the only grantee. They also specify that no benefits were “paid to or for members.” How are they going to account for all these temporary donations that are quickly reimbursed? Pretend it never happened? Ummm… That’s illegal you know.

Every few years, a new set of moms serve as the Parent Club’s “officers.” It’s currently Amy Saavedra and Aggie Favolaro. Although he isn’t named in the tax return, it’s clear that through his tremendous exertions, David Finnane is secretly the Parent Club’s top banana.  Because he also runs the school, his contributions (including financial contributions) to the Parent Club pose a problem in regard to conflict of interest:

David Finnane's contribution is problematic

David Finnane’s contribution is problematic

White Hill Middle School seems to cultivate a culture in which shady dealings and fast & loose financial management are the norm!

Hazardous situation for kids at White Hill Middle School

It’s shocking how blatantly White Hill Middle School shows its lack of concern for the health and safety of its students, much less for the California Educational Code, California Health & Safety Code and various state and federal laws. Yesterday morning (Saturday 18 October) at 10:30 am, we observed a variety of hazardous materials casually left out in the open beside a school building. Notably, there were cans of paint and paint thinner, other cans of chemical solvents, various tools & hoses and an air compressor/paint sprayer. Bizarrely, there was even a container of “Copenhagen” chewing tobacco.

Paint and toxic chemicals etc. at White Hill Middle School

Partial view of paint, chemicals, power tools and tobacco products beside a classroom at White Hill Middle School, 18 October 2014

In addition to writing about this particular incident we’re going to provide some history and context to suggest that this sort of thing has been fairly normal at White Hill for at least several years.

Fixing things they messed up the first time around

Fixing things they messed up the first time around

As you can see in this picture, White Hill is having some workers repair and paint a bunch of stuff they apparently did wrong the first time (in late 2013) when they slapped together these new buildings.

It was Saturday, you may say. Children weren’t expected at school. Just leave these guys alone and let them work. Right?

However, there were no workers at the school yesterday. This means that they were working at the school on the day before, Friday 17 October, and probably on other days last week. School was in session last week. The workers toiled and sprayed as more than 600 students wandered in their midst (and likely in the mist of their paint spray).

Chewing tobacco used by workers during school hours at White Hill Middle School

Chewing tobacco used by workers during school hours at White Hill Middle School

In addition, the workers evidently enjoyed some chewing tobacco (also known as “chaw” or “dip”). The children must have been intrigued by this exotic modality of tobacco use (uncommon in this part of California). As everyone should know, use of any tobacco product on a California school campus is against the California Health & Safety Code and against school district policy.  Schools receiving state funds for being “tobacco-free” (as do schools in Ross Valley School District) are required to enforce these laws, codes and policies. Contrary to state requirements for schools receiving “tobacco-free” funding, White Hill does not feature signs placed prominently to remind people that “Tobacco use is prohibited.” Somehow this glaring omission comes as no surprise.

Chewing tobacco at White Hill Middle School

Chewing tobacco at White Hill Middle School

But this is just another example of a longstanding larger problem. As we have mentioned previously, the Ross Valley School District went $41 million into debt in order to build lots of new classrooms at several schools in anticipation of (non-existent) hordes of additional kids (as predicted by high-paid consultants — more about this boondoggle in a future post). At White Hill, construction workers mingled casually with 6th-8th graders for a couple of years while they put together $17 million worth of shoddy buildings (now already starting to fall apart). State law dictates that public schools require construction contractors’ personnel to obtain criminal history background checks before working on school grounds. Did this happen with the swarms of workers from the many kinds of contractors putting up those new buildings at White Hill? Doubtful in the extreme. More likely they faked up excuses using the three possible exemptions for such workers:

  1. The installation of a physical barrier at the worksite to limit contact with pupils.
  2. Continual supervision and monitoring of all employees of the entity by an employee of the entity whom the DOJ has ascertained has not been convicted of a violent or serious felony.
  3. Surveillance of employees of the entity by school personnel.

Rebuttals to these excuses:

  • While there was a sort of “barrier” between the existing buildings and the new construction, it was made of plastic ribbon and it was usually down anyway, as workers came and went to their trucks etc. Moreover, the workers’ bosses had their own portable office buildings right there on school grounds with the kids. They came and went as they pleased.
  • “Continual” means “never ceasing.” There were far too many workers wandering around for this to have been feasible.
  • No, the school personnel weren’t maintaining surveillance on the construction workers, unless it was lust-related.
Some paint thinner left out for kids to find at White Hill Middle School

Some paint thinner left out for kids to find (and maybe huff) at White Hill Middle School, 18 October 2014

Our rebuttals to the exemptions are validated by the very fact that some workers were painting the school on Friday while kids streamed around them. There was no barrier. Obviously no “approved persons” (i.e, proven non-criminals) or White Hill personnel were watching them because they left all their paints & chemicals & tools & tobacco products outside over the weekend, intending a fresh start on Monday morning. Clearly, endangering children is business as usual for White Hill Middle School.

In addition to the strong possibility that some of these construction workers wandering among the children had criminal histories, White Hill Middle School didn’t think it was a big deal for the kids to be exposed to many months of construction noise, dust clouds, asphalt fumes, exhaust from idling trucks and other hazardous fumes, etc.  As you will easily imagine, there are many provisions in law designed to protect children from these dangers. All were ignored by White Hill Middle School.

Anyway: You can see how recklessly and stupidly White Hill Middle School is being managed. Principal David Finnane and Vice Principal Whitney Hoyt should not be permitted to work with children or in any setting where children’s health and safety are potentially at risk.

There are so many things wrong with White Hill Middle School

White Hill Middle School, Fairfax, California. Ross Valley School District

White Hill Middle School, Fairfax, California

It’s hard to know where to begin in describing the many unethical, foolish and mean-spirited actions performed as “standard operating procedure” by White Hill Middle School’s top administrators and many of its teaching staff. Thanks to the crass glad-handing “leadership” of Principal David Finnane, White Hill’s “culture of incompetence” is so pervasive that the objective observer must wonder, “how on earth are these people still working in a school?”  White Hill’s broken-down ethical bankruptcy reflects that of the Ross Valley School District overall.

It’s too bad for the kids: Their oblivious, over-privileged parents (most of whom came from other parts of the country — very few are local to Marin County or even the Bay Area) are blindly content to believe that everything at White Hill is just wonderful and that their kids are geniuses. It never occurs to these parents to investigate what actually happens every day at White Hill. The school serves them mainly as an all-day babysitting service, a chance to offload their often-obnoxious 12-14 year old offspring.

We have already observed the incredibly inappropriate fundraising frenzies of Principal Finnane. We will likely see many more. Just a few of the other things we will cover in future posts:

Examples:

  • Use of “straw donors” in fundraising, and other kinds of off-the-books financial hocus-pocus
  • Serving unhealthy, cholesterol-laden food (doughnuts) to children
  • Punishing children by forcing them to stay indoors during the lunch break (while the other children eat and play outside)
  • Punishing children by forcing them to clean up the school restrooms and other parts of the campus
  • Much more

Also:

  • Rampant grade inflation in order to maintain status as a “California Distinguished School” (sic)
  • Collusion between the school & District and local real estate leaders
  • Allowing construction workers to walk through the school campus and even have offices on the campus without conducting criminal history background checks on these construction workers (as is required to be done)
  • Allowing construction workers to pour asphalt on parking lots, creating hazardous air emissions in the middle of the day on school days, when more than 600 children would be subjected to these fumes
  • Maintaining a filthy campus, with trash and debris not removed from various parts of the campus for many months
  • Suicides, attempted suicides, pregnancies, assaults, bike thefts etc.
  • Much more

As we suggest above, the Ross Valley School District as a whole also conducts its business in a highly irregular manner, not least of which is its outrageous use of high-paid consultants to manipulate public opinion in regard to the $41 million “Measure A” boondoggle, and also to tell them things that later turn out to be wildly incorrect. We will also look closely in future posts at the District’s activities.