MUSD board president chastises public on comments

On May 8 the Monrovia Unified School District Board of Trustees met to discuss, among other things, the results of a survey taken in regard to the search for a Superintendent for the District. Although the Board is not supposed to enter into a discussion with the public after the comments portions, the Board President, Chris Rich, after thanking the members of the public for attending the meeting, seemed to scold them for failing to contact him privately in advance of the meeting.
There were actually three meetings of the Board that evening. The first was a closed session at which the Board discussed personnel issues including the performance reviews of the superintendent and other district administrators, collective bargaining with the Monrovia Teachers Association and “Appointment/Employment – Superintendent.” Per the Government Code, such matters are discussed in closed sessions.
The second meeting was a Special Board Study Session held to review the results of the survey conducted by Education Leadership Services (ELS). The survey was conducted to gain input from the community staff and parents regarding the requirements for the superintendent of schools. The firm had received more than 200 responses to the written survey and had also conducted some interviews. At the study session the Board reviewed the results of the surveys and interviews. From this the board created a list of the desiderata for the position. Unfortunately, the study sessions of the board are not broadcast by Community Media of the Foothills (KGEM) and so the report of the search firm is not available. When contacted members of the District Staff said they were not aware of any written report submitted by the firm.
The final meeting was the regular open meeting of the Board. It was at this meeting that the Public Comments were made. According to Pam Fitzpatrick, who was one of those who spoke during the “Public Comment”, Kris Mariconda, who is the administrative assistant to the superintendent and acts as the secretary to the Board, advised those who wished to speak to the issue of the selection of the superintendent, that the correct time to do so was during this comment period.
Several people spoke including Fitzpatrick. She spoke in favor of making the appointment of Dr. Debbie Collins permanent. Collins was appointed Superintendent on March 27 after a vacancy was created when Dr. Linda Wagner was hired by the Anaheim City School District. At the same meeting, the Board also allocated $23,000 to hire a consulting firm, ELS, to search for a superintendent.
Since that time there has been criticism of the Board for spending money to search for a candidate, when Collins had already been appointed to the position. There has also been widespread support for Collins’ appointment to be made permanent and for the search to be discontinued.
Fitzpatrick presented the Board with a petition supporting Collins saying “I represent a group of people who strongly believe that the ideal candidate for the permanent position of superintendent of Schools is a person who is sitting right over there and her name is Dr. Debbie Collins.”
Another petition was created on line by Larry Spicer, who a member of the Monrovia City Council and is also the parent of a student in Monrovia Schools. This petition was also presented to the Board during the Public Comment section buy Debbie Elliot Pinzer.
A third petition was presented by Ryan Menlove who identified himself as a 39-year resident of the community(admitting that was also his age). He said that the petition he presented had been signed principally by teachers, but had also been signed by other district employees and parents. He felt the district should have a superintendent who was “not using this position just as a stepping stone.”
Debbie Elliot Pinzer has also supported the position of hiring from within pointing out that Don Montgomery, who had been elevated from within the district had served for many years as had Dr. Louise Taylor who had also been an in-house appointment. She stated that Wagner had been brought in from outside the district after a search and had stayed only 3 years (actually it had been 3½ years – ed).
Bob True also spoke in favor of appointing Collins, saying, “We have a good team. I urge you to consider keeping that team together. ” True was referring to the appointment of Collins as Superintendent, Darvin Jackson as Assistant Superintendent, Kirk McGinnis to replace Jackson as principal at Monrovia High School and Scott Iler wsa appointed Dean. He concluded by saying “Let the team keep playing.”
After all these comments Rich responded to the public comments by first saying “Public Comment is not a time for us to have a discussion. It is unfortunate. It would be nice for us to be able to do that.”
He went on to thank everyone for their attendance, their comments and their time. He then added (verbatim) “What we are allowed to do for public comment is to clarify a few things or to ask for clarification and I want to make it known and let you know for sure that this board does not take lightly this process about which you are discussing this evening.
“I also appreciate all those who spent time putting together a petition and all those people who signed the petitions, but I want to put one thing to you to consider. My cell phone number and my email address are on the district website. Many of you know me personally. Most of you who are here this evening rarely show up at a board meeting to find out what is going on. As I look out in this room, but I can guarantee I can tell you all one thing right now: Not one of you here this evening sought me. No one called me. No one emailed me. No one stopped me on the street to ask my opinion and I know what’s going on. So I’ll just put that to you to think about.”
Following the meeting many people have been speculating about the meaning of Rich’s words. Fitzpatrick said she was upset and confused by Rich’s comments and sent an email to the board to that effect. The following is the text of that letter:
Hi Kris,
Rather than look up all the individual Board members’ email addresses, or, as Mr. Rich apparently wishes, call each of them individually and share my thoughts, will you please see that each of them gets a copy of this email?
Regarding the Board meeting last night, 5/8/13: I was literally dumbfounded at President Rich’s comments after the public comment period. I am personally so conscious of the Board’s authority in the selection of the next MUSD Superintendent, and was trying so hard to communicate that deep respect for both the Board and the process as I made my presentation last night (and so were the others that spoke), that I was literally shocked when we were all berated by Mr. Rich.
To suggest that we all should have called him personally on his cell phone to “discuss the matter” is to suggest that public meetings are only a formality. And I think “the process” says that he should not be discussing personnel matters in private, anyway. I thought we were past those days…… And to point to the audience and tell us that he hasn’t seen our faces at previous meetings (and therefore, I guess, we have no right to come forward on this subject), is incredibly insulting.
I’m really sorry this happened. Mr. Rich may in fact “know what’s going on” ———- and I’m glad somebody does! ——- but that’s just not the way to work with the public.
My take on this was that if we had called him privately, he would have filled us in on what was really going on. Is there something going on outside the board meetings?
I do not have a clue what is going on. I do not understand what he was saying.
s/Pam Fitzpatrick/

-Story by Susan Motander

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