Poway Unified board member ‘frustrated’ with peers

By Emily Sorensen

Kimberley Beatty says her first five months on the Poway Unified School District board have been riddled with unexpected frustrations and obstacles due to what she called the “culture of conformity.”

“It hurts to be treated like I’m not a good person because I’m trying to do what is the right thing,” said Beatty. “I wasn’t expected to be treated that way.”

Kimberley Beatty

Beatty was one on three candidates, and the only challenger, running in the November election. She was the top vote getter, collecting nearly 39 percent of the ballots cast. Incumbent Andy Patapow was re-elected to the school board while 14-year member and president Linda Vanderveen was ousted. Beatty is a Sabre Springs resident, an attorney and a longtime PTA legislative advocate.

Entering the board during the public backlash against the $1 billion capital appreciation bonds was an immediate source of tension, according to Beatty. “It created tension as soon as I came in,” said Beatty. “I wanted to come in and start repairing [the damage the CABs caused].”

On Tuesday, board president Marc Davis acknowledged that there was general tension on the school board. “You know, there is some tension. I think that is to be expected,” said Davis, adding, “being on a school board is like being in an arranged marriage with five different people.” Davis also said, “Kimberley has brought a new passion to the board for statewide advocacy of educational issues and a desire for greater transparency in all we do. This is great.”

As soon as she was elected, Beatty said she faced the expectation from her fellow board members that she would side with them and present a unified front to the public.

“The board was, ‘You’re either with us or against us,’” said Beatty. “They wanted me to come to their defense (over the CABs) and be like-minded that they did the right thing.”

Beatty said she encountered a “culture of conformity” in the board that is considered a tradition. “The board speaks as one voice,” said Beatty. “There are certain traditional things. It’s important [to the board] to project itself as a unified board. It’s important to project a positive image, that the board speaks as one.”

Beatty said her unwillingness to conform to Poway board traditions has led to further tension. “I didn’t anticipate backlash that was orders of magnitude greater than my actions in response [to not conforming],” said Beatty. “It’s very stressful.”

Davis on Tuesday replied, “The board absolutely tries to reach unanimous decisions on major issues within the district. We don’t, however, do this through pressuring conformance, but through rigorous debate and honest discussion.”

Also causing initial resentment, according to Beatty, was her refusal to apologize to the board for mailers sent out on her behalf by PUSD classified employees, denouncing the board’s actions regarding the CABs. “There was anger and resentment over the mailers,” said Beatty, who refused to apologize for something she wasn’t involved in.

Davis said that there was some anger toward Beatty over the mailers during the school board elections last November, but nothing since. “We have been working together closely for six months now,” said Davis. “To my knowledge, no one on the board has raised this issue with her since the election.”

Tensions simmered below the surface, Beatty said, until the investigative report on the board’s conduct during the CABs was released in January.

“It was my opportunity to learn,” said Beatty. “I wanted to find out who in the financial team was looking out for the district’s interests, who has fiduciary responsibility.” According to Beatty, the investigator, Robert Price from ESI International, Inc., was not well prepared to answer her questions, despite having them for two weeks ahead of the Feb. 4 board meeting. “I didn’t get the information I wanted,” said Beatty.

Beatty said she found that an independent report on the board’s conduct during the CABs, put together by a private committee headed by former board member Jeff Mangum, to be more informative. “There’s no question that Mangum did a better job than [ESI International, Inc.],” said Beatty. “I felt that there were areas of expertise [in the Mangum report] that the [report by ESI International, Inc.] was lacking. There were some financial and legal questions that [Price] didn’t answer correctly.”

Beatty said she was left without the answers she was looking for after the questioning of Price. “I didn’t learn what I wanted, as to who was looking out for district interests. It looked as if no one was,” said Beatty.

Beatty said the tension of her non-conformity continues, surfacing at the April 22 board meeting, where she cast a dissenting nay vote against a bond measure. After receiving what she termed a “document dump” of over 1,000 pages of legal and financial documents three days before the meeting, Beatty said she felt unprepared to vote through the new bond measure for School 39, the soon-to-be-built K-8 school. “If it’s something I don’t agree with, and I don’t have adequate information, I won’t approve it,” said Beatty.

“I asked for a 14-day continuance to study the material, and separate council for the board,” said Beatty. “The response was that everyone else seemed comfortable [voting yes]. I was made to feel as if [her wanting more time] were my own shortcomings.”

Davis said that he personally had spent the weekend reading, and taken Monday off from work to further review the documents in preparation for the April 22 board meeting.

“Recognizing the hundreds of pages of documents that needed to be reviewed, each board member has to set their own study schedule in order to be ready to vote.” Davis added, “if new information or problems arise with a board agenda item, votes can be tabled or postponed, but simply postponing a vote because one member needs more study time on an issue is not an option.”

A two-page letter from McFarlin and Anderson, LLP, included in the document dump Beatty received was a catalyst for her nay vote. “The letter said the board could not rely on lawyers and advisors to make informed decisions, and will be legally liable for decisions made,” said Beatty. “This just seemed like a wake-up call.

McFarlin and Anderson are lawyers hired as disclosure counsel for bond issuances and are part of the district’s financial team.

“I may be perceived as a troublemaker,” said Beatty. “I really try to be what you see is what you get. I believe that it’s the right thing to do, to be honest and forthright.”

Beatty said she has also been trying to get more training on bond issues and the legal issues surrounding the board’s decisions. “I’ve been on the board for five months,” said Beatty. “I should have been trained on this stuff. There are serious legal ramifications personally, and district wide. I don’t know why we haven’t been thoroughly trained on these issues.”

With three-and-a-half years to go in her position, Beatty said she would continue being the dissenting vote, and didn’t see much opportunity for change until the November 2014 elections. “I’m not going to change,” said Beatty. Instead, Beatty said she is focusing on the positives, and her work improving things in the district, including trying to craft policies to improve mental health services in the district for students, and trying to reinstate public transport, especially for those going to district schools in the city of San Diego. “I’m really excited about pursuing those [issues],” said Beatty.

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Posted by Emily Sorensen on May 1 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.

34 Comments for “Poway Unified board member ‘frustrated’ with peers”

  1. Pete

    Excellent! That group needs a “squeaky wheel.”

  2. Mr Snrub

    "After receiving what she termed a “document dump” of over 1,000 pages of legal and financial documents three days before the meeting…."

    QUESTIONS: How long before the meeting did she request the documents? How far in advance was the vote scheduled? Did "they" wait until the last minute to deliver the documents, or did she wait until the last minute to request them?

    • HoneyBadger

      The documents are never requested as they are delivered to the board member prior to the meeting. Your inference that some how she was lacking in ambition or lazy in tackling the task seems typical of someone who would be likely to support the lemming-like qualities of the other board members. And allowing only a weekend to review over a 1,000 pages is a ridiculous request and designed to hide. Marc Davis states he took the weekend off and Monday to review. That is NOT enough to review financial documents and a financial planner one would think he would understand the devil is in the details on the financing. The new requirement that the Board be legally responsible for the financing errors and/or ommissions demands that it not be pushed on the agenda but rescheduled.

      • Mr Snrub

        The documents are never requested? According to whom? That's not in the article.

        I didn't imply anything, I was stating that there were not enough FACTS to support an opinion either way. It's possible that the other board members are negligent in reviewing their documents. It's also possible that Ms Beatty is not up to the job. 1000 pages can be a lot or not so much, depending on what's on the pages.

  3. sd_mom

    Don't change a thing, Kimberley – we need you! There are plenty of parents who are grateful to finally have someone like you on the Board. Thank you for your educated, independent review of the issues that our District is faced with. Agree or disagree, I know you are taking a thoughtful and measured look at things and will vote accordingly. How sad that the "veterans" on the board find your independence and credibility so distasteful.

  4. Merrilee

    Hang in there! I am so proud of you for voting your heart AND your mind. Everything will change next year. I'm positive of that. I'm also very sad that it is so necessary.

  5. Tom Yarnall

    With Kimberly Beatty, .the "holier than though" attitude of the school board has hit a bump in the road(pot hole if you live in San Diego) It will be interesting to see if incumbents Gutschow and Davis bother to run next year.

    • Eva

      Is that a sarcastic remark "holier than though" attitude? To me, they were forthright statements, if you don't have all the information you need to evaluate a decision, an important decision at that, I would ask for more time too. 1,000 pages legal document with three days to do it in, a weeken at that. Well, that's dedication. Why doesn't the school board have an all nighter study team? That would be fun, but could be boooaaarrring with that group. Yes, I'm being sarcastic.

  6. Kevin McNamara

    The truth is that the current school board are political flotsam. There's one thing to be considered a lame duck but a dead duck is completely different. You can't possibly grasp the complexity of the bonds by reading a report once over the weekend. The school board voted to approve the sale of additional BBB- bonds. These are as close to junk bonds as you can get. I've been involved as a strong supporter of the District since 1985 both politically and financially. Not anymore. The Board has destroyed the trust within the district. The first thing Collins and the Board should have done was apologize for their lack of openness and trust in the community. The second would be to put together a readable report othat explains the financial future of the District. Frankly I'm stunned that Collins still has a job. But remember what mark Twain said "God made idiots then he made school boards."

  7. HoneyBadger

    No, Kevin, the first thing the Board should have done is fired the Superintendent.

  8. Geri

    I am afraid I can already see a dismal future for PUSD and its potential demise as a first-rate school district. Unfortunately, there are not enough people around who remember what happened the last time we had board members who were anti-PUSD.

    I predict that because of public anger over the bonds, the unforgiving public won't care that PUSD still has a stellar ACADEMIC reputation. Instead, they will throw the academic baby out with the bond bathwater, remove a majority of the current board members in the next election (if they even care enough to take the abuse and run again), and cripple the district with a new group of one-issue (i.e., the bonds) board members with no experience and a political agenda. Deja vu — the early 1990's all over again. People with a grudge against the district will be on the board, the education of our children as the primary goal will be forgotten, and the district will once again grind to a halt. The pocketbook rules and our children will suffer.

    • SteveSarviel

      That "stellar ACADEMIC reputation" is about to change dramatically. PLEASE take some time to become informed about Common Core State Standards, the FEDERALLY crafted scheme to make equal outcome a reality for all, including PUSD. Watch the Board Members carefully to see how they respond to this fundamental change to education and effective surrender of local control over what children are taught.

    • Babs

      Apparently the definition of PUSD having a “stellar” academic reputation is defined as NOT considering the October 2012 report on the Academic Performance Index (API). That report shows that out of the 25 elementary schools in PUSD, thirteen (13) had LOWER API scores in the year 2012 than those of the year 2011.

      With those sort of statistics the questions become:

      1.Why is Collins still around?
      2.What exactly did the huge debt do to change the API?
      3.How can Geri justify the absurd comment of this being “stellar” performance?

      Predictions are easy to make no matter how fallacious.

  9. Geri

    Also, I am concerned that as well-intentioned as Beatty might be, she is over her head. I have heard her speak on several different occasions, and it is often difficult to figure out what in the heck she is trying to say. Her communication skills are lacking and much of the tension between her and the other board members could be related to her confusing lack of ability to effectively communicate.

  10. Alan

    I assume Merrilee, who commented above, is Poway's former city councilmember. If so, she no longer lives in this state and has done enough damage to our school district for her own self-righteous, politically motivated reasons (although she kids herself into thinking otherwise).

    She is just as guilty for the bond mess. She endorsed it and actually publicly ridiculed those who did not support it at the time, which shows that she would have voted for the PUSD bonds if she had been on the board too. Then she hypocritically led the charge to publicly eviscerate the board members who voted for it and made sure the district would be dragged through the mud for a long time to come.

      • Sparky

        Really Andrew? You think Merrilee is guilty of the bond mess? Do you actually research stuff or do you just echo negative comments? Many in this community endorsed the bonds because they thought they were doing the right thing. The push for new schools over better programs was intense. However, due to the Board's intentional lack of transparency on how CAB's worked and the length of time of the individual CAB's. That has nothing to do with Merrilee and everything to do with the Board and the Superintendent.

  11. Joe St. Lucas

    "A two-page letter from McFarlin and Anderson, LLP, included in the document dump Beatty received was a catalyst for her nay vote. “The letter said the board could not rely on lawyers and advisors to make informed decisions, and will be legally liable for decisions made,” What would happen to the board if they made a bad legal decision, would their houses get sold at auction to pay for the mistakes? No. Would their Lexus get repo'd? No. Their children sold into slavery to pay for the debts? Nope. Can't rely on lawyers? Gosh, who would have guessed that? Give 1000 pages to untrained people and they can make better decisions than lawyers and advisors? Wow. This is all just a giant CYA from the LLP that seems as worthless as the rest of the school board. Can't we schedule an election for THIS november instead of a year from now?

  12. Martha

    Geri, I don't know which Kimberley Beatty YOU have heard speak, but my experience with Kimberley over the past several years as a community organizer is one of superior intellect, unassailable character and true commitment to public service. Her passion and her brain power sometimes makes her communicate in a rush — but I for one rely upon her analysis of educational policy questions at the local AND state level, earned through her active leadership in PTA at all levels from school site to State legislative advocacy. Why do you think she was the top vote-getter in the last Board Election?

    • Geri

      Beatty was the top vote getter because the public was mad at the incumbents for the bonds, and she was the only nonincumbent candidate running. Never a good enough reason to elect someone who may end up being worse than the people you are mad at. Couple that with new, one-issue board members next election and we have disaster in the works.

    • Guest

      "Community organizer" …oh no, say it ain't so!! Not a very good track record with the one in the White House.

  13. Jennifer

    The document "dump" that Ms. Beatty refers contained less information and reading material than the previous bond sale the District finance team members presented at their December Board meeting. It is my understanding that Board members had less time to review their documents for that bond sale. Ms. Beatty approved that bond sale. The District has been selling special tax revenue bonds (not to be confused with voter approved GO bonds) for over 15 years and has not change the format or the presentation of their documents. Only the numbers change.

    Was issuing CABs at the end of a 10 year building program that heinous? They were the last issuance of a total of 5 issuances with a payback ratio of 4.2:1 excluding all of the "free" funds the District kicked into the program. Adding those reduces the paybakc ratio to 2.9:1 Would the community preferred to pay $360/$100,000 a year than the $55/$100,000 a year that they are now paying to have 24 modernized schools? Maybe the SFID residents would like to move to the CFD areas where they pay $7,000+ a year for their new schools.

  14. Jennifer

    Special one-on-one training for the new Board member? I don't recall that Ms. Beatty was appointed to her position. I recall that she "ran" for public office. So, is it her responsibility or the District's responsibility to "train" her for a position she was not appointed to? Why does she need that? As the Board meetings I have attended, she reports out repeatedly direct quotes from articles and discussions she has had with "experts" in the related fields she is addressing… It seems as though she is doing quite well in accessing her out "experts" to disallow everything the other Board members and Cabinet recommend. Her comment "I'm not going to change" speaks to demand for everyone else to focus on HER agenda. That is NOT, in my perspective, being a TEAM player.

    She continually tries to focus on a single agenda item – mental health/special education privileges. Why is that? Is it a personal goal or a Board goal?

  15. Jennifer

    I have been in this community for over 40 years and, as Geri stated previously, I remember the hate and discontent when we had previous Board members who has a single focus. It was brutal but the District had a strong management team like they have now and they survived. The community finally realized that the District could deteroriate and the value of their homes would go down in flames if people stopped moving into the community for the stellar education.

    Get over it Board Member Beatty and focus on what you were elected for… 35,000+ students in the district and their future. Work with the other Board members and stop trying to throw them under the bus!

  16. William

    For the first time in over 20 years we have a board member who cares more about her side of the district than the district as a whole. Beatty said she is "trying to reinstate public transport, especially for those going to district schools in the city of San Diego" where she lives. So the Poway side of the district is chopped liver?

    There is a reason PUSD charges for bussing our students now. The state does not give any money for bussing and if the district pays for it the money comes out of the general fund, meaning it comes out of the budget for the classroom. That would be money paid for some kids to ride the bus at the expense of all the kids in the classroom.

    • FutballBeenBeddyGud

      You mean like the huge amounts paid to the football program (over $6 million). That's a program that benefits only a few…. But then apparently they get a free bus ride to games. It's all in how you look at priorities. Free buses for qualfied students may actually be a legal mandate. Since the school districts are obligated to provide an education to our children. The district is not obligated to teach football.

  17. Carol

    Kudos and Amen to Geri, Al, Jennifer and William. I am terrified for PUSD’s future and not because of how much we pay on the bonds. Voter shortsightedness may do us in.

  18. SteveSarviel

    Let's count on the public paying close attention to what ALL board members do and say. Let us also not ignore the actions of the extremely highly paid superintendent who has his job at the pleasure of the board members we elect. This should be a strong consideration when evaluating board members. In other words, board members are indirectly the ones accountable for the future actions of the Superintendent.

    Many of us will be here to remind the voters of board members action and inaction come election time. Each and every board member must be held accountable for our childrens' education and for how they spend OUR money. None of them should be exempt from this accountability.

    All parents should be watchful over each and every board member's (and Superintendent) position on Common Core State Standards which all current evidence suggests will have some serious BAD consequences in terms of finance, loss of privacy and loss of local control over education.

    I personally so far, have found Board Member Beatty's demonstrated "hawkishness" with regard to budgetary matters uniquely refreshing and am glad to see it happening. Sometimes a lone voice is correct. Other times, they may not be. The best voters can do is to attend meetings, ask questions and find out if the board members are responsive to them and their concerns. If not, tell your neighbors and acquaintances and take action on election day. Become informed about what is being done with regards to your child's education. Once you lose control of that it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to get it back.

  19. Clariece

    Jennifer – "a strong management team" is that what you call the micro-management, lemming-like style of the current board and superintendent? Here's how it works. The lashing out at Merrilee Boyack and Kimberly Beatty are sour grapes. The current "management" style of block voting does not produce better results. What it has produced is an insular school board. Change is ok people. And in this case change is necessary and good. Questions are good. Admonishing a Board member to keep her questions to herself or ask them privately is bad. Do I think Ms. Beatty is the next best thing to sliced bread, nope. But I appreciate her efforts at breaking an unhealthy gridlock of opinion and thought that has been the past experience. And honey you can stop with the 4 to 1 payoff. You're drinking the koolaid again. These bonds are expensive and we are in debt to the tune of $1.2 billion (actually $2.3 billion but why split hairs at this point). This will not be a single focus board (single minded lockstep possibly by some). Right now everyone is still very focused on the bonds in an effort to understand and prevent this from ever happening again. It has also opened our eyes to other unhealthy habits of the board that have created an environment of overall distrust.

  20. HoneyBadger

    Alan – complaining about Merrilee being a catalyst for the Board backlash (and whether or not she is a current or past resident) – she was one of many, many voices and taking a cheap shot at her is well, a cheap shot. As far as supporting the bonds there were many who voted and pushed for the bonds because they were assured "it's for the kids " and full disclosure by the Board of how it intended to finance the bonds was never clear. Creative financing rarely is and this deal pushed ethical and legal boundaries. We’ll have pretty schools but no money for essential programs. Pretty schools do not translate into higher test scores.

  21. Diane

    i appreciate the opened minded critical thinking that Kimberley Beatty contributes to PUSD, as well as her history of commitment to quality education for all students.

  22. Kristin Elias

    Keep up the good work Kiimberley! Seems pretty obvious that many of the board members are accustomed to going along with the district without any question. I am glad that someone is finally questioning the way things are done. Maybe we could have been spared the awful bond debacle had someone asked questions earlier. No more rubber stamping these as they cross your desk. This board has been on auto pilot. Thank you, Kimberley for doing exactly what you said you would do.

  23. anniejfromsuhsd

    As a frustrated taxpayer in the South Bay, where felony indictments seem to have become a badge of honor I am inspired to see a brave school board member who understands the definition of integrity.

    It is time for communities to get off their duff attend a few board meetings and let their voices be heard – our children's education monies are NOT your private cookie jar. These meetings will need to be attended IN MASS, press coverage both local and national. We could, right here in the counties of San Diego, start the tidal wave that will bring about positive change

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