The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Education Desk: May 28, 2014

Teachers Declare “No Confidence” in SCUSD Administration and Board, and Demand Bendis Resign

At a public rally Thursday afternoon, the United Teachers of Santa Clara, declared a vote of “no confidence” in Superintendent Stan Rose and the school board, and demanded that Trustee Ina Bendis resign. A petition from parents with similar demands was presented about a year ago, with no effect.

The teachers’ complaints include what they perceive as a general lack of respect for teachers on the part of the administration and some board members, and that they are cut out of important educational and program decisions.

They also cite continuing antagonistic contract negotiations despite the district’s recent $20 million windfall. “The district is reluctant at the bargaining table to have serious discussions about reducing soaring class sizes, which reach 38 or 39 students at some high schools,” said a May 23 UTSC statement. “Middle school classrooms are often packed with 35 or more students, while the K-3 maximum is 30.”

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Teachers also complain of inappropriate interference and micromanagement from the board – specifically Bendis – that makes it difficult for them to do their jobs.

None of this is new. And that’s what upsets the teachers. They’ve been complaining about the same things ever since last year, when there was an exodus of almost the entire district administration, roughly 15 principals, and over 30 teachers.

Rose, said UTSC President Michael Hickey, “has been there but not there” when it counted. Bendis, he said, “has demonstrated that she’s the poison on the board. Emails that were received through a Freedom of Information Act Request, demonstrated her inability to keep from micromanaging the district.

“It’s apparent she has an agenda for the district and she’s bullying the administration,” he continued. “And the Superintendent doesn’t have the strength stand up to her. Why aren’t they [the administration] getting out to know the district? With the micromanagement from the board, they [the administration] don’t have time. It’s up to the board to set priorities appropriately and push back.”

“The Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent [Tanya Fisher], in my opinion, are not doing their jobs effectively,” said biology teacher Eric Wozadlo.

How has that affected the classroom? “We’re unable to properly schedule classes for next year because Tanya Fisher hasn’t decided if she’s going to pull teachers for special assignments or not.” Regarding Bendis, Wozadlo said, “She’s not allowing decisions to be made.” Later in the meeting that was demonstrated in a lengthy discussion about a job description that Bendis and Trustee Christopher Stampolis said was insufficiently rigorous.

The district’s use of consultants also rankles teachers. “If they [the administration] need to hire consultants to do the work,” said Hickey, “Why aren’t they hiring these professionals?”

SJ Industrial Development Across From Mayne Elementary Draws Fire

At the May 22 meeting, a group of Alviso residents – including Tony Santos of the Alviso Santos family – directed an angry salvo at the SCUSD board and Rose, claiming the district has failed to do anything about a proposed Trammell Crowe industrial development directly across the street from George Mayne Elementary School – allegedly because Alviso is a poor area. The San Jose City Council is expected to give the project the go-ahead at its June 10 meeting.

Alviso is part of the City of San Jose – something residents voted for in the mid-1960s after voting to become part of a Santa Clara Unified school district. One of the consequences is that the San Jose has virtually no incentive to consider development impacts on schools, and SCUSD has no influence over Alviso land use decisions.

Commercial developer Trammell Crow bought the 57-acre Alviso parcel – part of what’s called the North San Jose Golden Triangle because of its proximity to three major highways – from Cisco. The company held community meetings about the project in November 2013.

San Jose’s Master Plan zones the land for industrial/commercial use, and Trammell Crowe apparently intends to put a office and warehousing operations there. The development includes 78 truck bays, with several hundred trucks coming and going daily.

The only concession thus far is an agreement by Trammell Crowe not to have trucks entering or leaving from the school-facing side, a request made by the Alviso Neighborhood Group.

Despite the fact that the site is across the street from a pool, library, daycare center and park, as well as a school, the 2011 Environmental Impact Report found that the previous proposal for a manufacturing operation “will not have a significant adverse effect on the environment.” Since the use was the same, the EIR still holds. An addendum “was prepared and approved by the [SJ] Planning Director on April 23, 2014 and said approval has not been challenged, protested or appealed.”

In fact there has been opposition to an industrial project on the site, even before the Trammell Crowe purchase. The record includes letters and public presentations protesting the development. SCUSD leadership has also, in fact, been quite active “challenging, protesting, and appealing” the industrial use designation and its impact on the elementary school with regard to safety, air quality, and noise.

Former Superintendent Bobbie Plough and Rose wrote the City of San Jose several times expressing district concerns about the appropriateness of an industrial development across the street from a school – first in March 2013, then in January 2014, and most recently on April 22. There was no response. Rose, along with Trustee Jim Canova who represents the Alviso area, and Trustee Andy Ratermann have met with San Jose officials.

Canova says he intends to meet with “every single San Jose Council Member” between now and June 10, as well as with Council Member Kansen Chu, who is running for State Assembly from the district. Canova also intends to present an alternative location for the Trammell Crowe operation, in a completely industrial area that’s “only one exit further on 237.”

Since the item wasn’t on the agenda, several board members took an innovative route around California’s open meeting law – the Brown Act – by speaking as members of the public on the question.

“I think we really need… to hear the messages that come from our employees tonight as well as members of the public,” said Stampolis, who was first at the podium.

“It’s up to the school board and the administrators in the district to really ensure that our superintendent is not seen as a commuter coming from another community simply for work…I think the message we’re hearing…is that we need more visibility from the top. I’m simply putting that on the record….and…ask our leaders to be actively present…and communicate with board members as well.”

That spurred Ratermann to make sure that the record was correct, and he took the podium – again as a member of the public – and reviewed the history of the district’s activity with regard to the project. Trustee Michele Ryan and Bendis, who reported that this was the first they’d heard about the issue, followed Ratermann.

Classified union president Patty Pickard asked that teachers and staff turn out at the June 10 San Jose meeting to protest the proposed development.

For more information visit mastercalendar.sanjoseca.gov or call the SJ City Clerk at 408-535-1260.

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