Columns
August 23, 2017
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Jud Snyder
Up & down on our local education ladder
August 17, 2017

WE GET A MODEST COLLECTION of letters addressed to this weekly newspaper and we try to print as many as we can except for unsigned notes, profane-laced rants and bundled samples of computer-printed petitions. We also permit unsigned letters, but we must have names and addresses for our own file and we will not print the name. 

In our July 28 edition, we set aside a space for a long letter from Chrissa Gillies from Rohnert Park. I have no idea who Chrissa Gillies is but it’s obvious Ms. or Mr. Gillies of RP did a lot of research to write it. We will print excerpts in no particular order and let readers form their own conclusions. Here are the excerpts.

“As it is, our tax money is being spent I feel we have a responsibility to speak out on issues that affect us all. Since our own Superintendent (Dr. Robert Haley) has been here for about six years, the legal fees in this school district have soared to a total of over a million dollars.

“This is a fact. School board members from the St.  Helena School District in Napa County have said in public and on the record, that this was part of the reason this board said they were unhappy with his performance.

“Here in the Cotati-RP district, Tim Nonn’s case was only one of several union (RP-Cotati Educators Association is the teacher’s union) where contract terms were repeatedly violated. The superintendent’s position seems to be winning at all costs and litigating against anyone who files a complaint. Anyone who says they don’t know why litigation fees are so high is either being disingenuous or flat out lying. I have spent hours poring over the budget, and asking questions of the superintendent and the district’s CFO. I can tell you for a fact there is wasteful spending that is occurring. 

“Why are independent contractors being hired that should be employees to be hired? Why were hours cut to food service workers, so that they did not have to pay them tax benefits? 

At the recent board meeting we were told that the school district expects to be operating under a $600,000 deficit by 2019. The district was told student population will be down by 100 students and we have all these elementary schools not even close to capacity.

Add to this, by a 3-2 vote the superintendent gets a 3-2 percent raise in pay with board members Wiltermood, Farrell and Orloff voting yes and Tim Nonn and Leffler Brown voting against.

“The school board’s job is to oversee the superintendent’s performance. This, after six years of no raises for teachers’ union and yet raises for administrators and staff, another example of screwed-up administration for our schools. I say baloney!”

 

THERE’S A LOT MORE TO the Gilles letter but the point is obvious. Tim Nonn is legally blind and needs help in reading documents, yet he won the most school board votes in the 2016 election and should be board chairman soon. 

Leff Brown has been a school board member for at least a decade or more and has seen close to six superintendents relying on his background for insider information.

There’s a lot of talent in this Nonn-Brown combination and if it gains two more candidates who agree with them in the 2018 election we could see a new slant to school board and superintendent relations next year.

 

IN ASSEMBLING THIS STORY, I tried to get a comment from Dr. Haley but he refused to talk to me and had one of his aides read me a statement outlining his position. It was speedily read by someone named Cristina (I think, no last name given). I asked her to read it again but slower. It didn’t help much for it’s written in pure school district-speak, a very close imitation of city hall-speak where a translator is needed so it can be read by an average newspaper reader.

I remember going through this earlier, close to six months ago when I wangled a one-on-one talk with Dr. Haley. I did this, felt good and came back to the VOICE office with two pages of notes. I read them once and then once again and faced my computer screen.

Three minutes of this and I tore up my notes and Dr. Haley’s notes disappeared quietly into the wastebasket. Not a word appeared in print.

There’s still a lot to say about the Tim Nonn case which is quite bizarre and involves civil rights legislation and a translator to untangle the knots. No, not me, I’m only an op-ed columnist, not a reporter.