PUSD board apologetic, defiant about CABs

By Emily Sorensen

School board members were both apologetic and defiant at Monday night’s special meeting.

The meeting, which presented the independently investigated report commissioned by the board in August of 2012, featured ESI International, Inc., investigator Robert Price, who worked on the report, answering the board’s questions about the report and its findings.

Former board member Jeff Mangum and his committee presented copies of his own investigative report to the board, saying the consensus was that the board was not fully informed during the bond negotiations and sale, and should have independent advisers in the future. (See related story).

Board members also gave personal statements regarding the bond issue, taking responsibility for their actions but remaining firm that they issued the bonds for the right reasons, to modernize older schools in the district in order to give all district students an equal education.

“I take full responsibility for the decisions I made while sitting on this school board, including the Proposition C, Series B bonds. I’m not going to skirt that,” said board vice president Todd Gutschow. Gutschow also defended those same decisions, saying that he believed that the district and the board acted appropriately by ensuring the modernization of the 24 schools that were remodeled using bond funds. “People want to live in Poway because of the schools,” said Gutschow.

Gutschow also said, however, that the terms of the Series B bonds, often referred to as capital appreciation bonds, or CABs, disappointed him, and that while the investigative report validated that the board did not act illegally, he said that with the benefit of hindsight, “we should have asked more questions, and probed deeper.”

Board clerk Penny Rantfle, echoing Gutschow’s claims of responsibility for her decisions, said that she stood by her decisions to improve PUSD schools. “That’s not to say we couldn’t have done better,” said Rantfle. “Things will be done differently in the future.”

Board member Andy Patapow said he was “delighted we had this conversation with the people here,” and was looking forward to getting back to the business of addressing what was needed for the kids in the district. “We made the best possible choice we could at the time with the information we had,” said Patapow. “Let’s move forward.”

Marc Davis, who recently took over as board president, commented on the board’s lack of communication on the bond issue, saying it had been a legal decision spurred on by threats issued to board members and the district. He announced that the board would no longer need to keep quiet, thanks to the release of the report clearing them of any illegal action. “After today, the board is free to speak, without legal worry, to everyone,” said Davis. Davis also said that in hindsight, he wished they had chosen “a different path in communicating with the public. We chose incorrectly to be relatively quiet, and the vacuum of information caused people to believe we were doing something illicit.”

In looking to the future, Davis said he was “looking forward to turning the page on this matter,” and said that in hindsight, he would have still made the same choice, as he doesn’t think the voters would have approved a tax increase, and the board was right to modernize the schools.

Davis also said the board will develop protocols and procedures of the highest degree, and will give more information during future issues.

Superintendent John Collins took responsibility for the report, saying it was a result of threats against the district, that challenged the legality of the practices of the bond issuance. “The report was not about right or wrong,” said Collins, who said he was the one to commission the report because “no one else stepped up to pay for [it].”

Collins said he appreciated Mangum’s report and efforts, and that he thought the board made the right decision in the end. “Hindsight is 20/20,” said Collins, who stressed the importance of everyone in the district receiving equal educations in equal facilities as the reason behind the modernization.

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Posted by Emily Sorensen on Feb 6 2013. Filed under Local News, Poway. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Comments for “PUSD board apologetic, defiant about CABs”

  1. Tom Yarnall

    ", but remaining firm that they issued the bonds for the right reasons, to modernize older schools in the district in order to give all district students an equal education."
    If it is not too soon, I would like to know if there has been any significant improvement in test scores after the modernization was finished . It would, also be interesting to know if the students in the more modern schools were performing significantly better than those in the "run down" schools before modernization.
    What did the Board expect would be the return on the $1B investment? Was there a specific learning objective besides just making the place look better?
    I suspect Lord Kelvin was, once again, correct when he said "if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it." I will add, if you can;t measure it, you can't manage it.

  2. Clariece

    Spot on Tom.

  3. AKM

    Truly, these CYA self-assessments are meaningless.

    The board failed to be responsible fiduciaries.

    I feel confident that Poway voters with hold these people accountable by tossing them out of office at the first opportunity…or not voting them back in office as was the case with Jeff Mangum.

    Excuse-making does not excuse. The whole bunch is unfit to serve.

  4. Babs

    I recently got a traffic ticket for not stopping when a temporary sign indicated, "Prepare to Stop."

    Standing next to the yellow sign were three police officers chatting among themselves – none of whom hailed traffic to stop or to go – I slowly went on by only to be pulled over and given a failure to stop traffic ticket.

    After going to court twice I eventually confronted the officer with these two questions: “Did you indicate that I should stop?” “Was there a stop sign?” – the questions were answered truthfully. The case was dismissed. The law is clear. Preparing to stop is not the same as being told to stop and I was found to have exercised proper respect for the law.

    Mangum, et al on the PUSD, board were, for years, and continue to be ignorant and dismissive of the moral law of being good stewards of what is valid and proper. They too will have the case dismissed if hauled into court – nothing illegal was done. What they are guilty of is that they did not exercise the due diligence in doing the job to which they were elected. In most environments, that is grounds for firing.

  5. Melissa

    We were considering a house within Poway school district but due to this issue are definitely having second thoughts.

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