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Did Calexico Unified School District Need a Lawyer and a Lobbyist?

Joong Kim
Joong Kim

The Calexico Unified School District continues to face hard times due to continuing financial problems. Until recently, the district also faced the possibility of state-imposed penalties in the millions after schools were forced to close in the aftermath of the 2010 Imperial Valley earthquake.

Although the school district’s attorney (Yuri Calderon with the firm GCR, Ltd.) has been working on obtaining a waiver from the state, the district also hired consultant Angelica Tellechea. Calexico board minutes show Tellechea was given a $30,000 contract on January 12.

A February 11 article in the Imperial Valley Press refers to a letter written by Anne Mallory, the superintendent of the Imperial County Office of Education, to Calexico Unified superintendent Richard Fragale. In the letter, Mallory “questioned the ‘need for the district to spend $30,000 for an individual to assist in the waiver-appeal process when the district attorneys were doing that work.’” (Mallory was unavailable for comment.)

In a response to Mallory, Fragale wrote that the attorneys were only able to do a portion of the work and that Tellechea had already saved the district millions: $3.7 million in state penalty waivers were approved in January.

Joong Kim, a Calexico boardmember, said in a February 17 interview that he had voted against hiring a consultant. “We have a major budget crisis. We don’t have the ability to pay for a consultant. I believe the administration should have done this job.”

In the Imperial Valley Press, Tellechea mentioned state senator Denise Ducheny for helping the district obtain the waivers.

Tellechea appears on Ducheny’s Federal Election Commission form for receipts and disbursements. Tellechea donated $699 to Ducheny’s 2010 campaign and was reimbursed $974 for an event that included catering and beverages.

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Joong Kim
Joong Kim

The Calexico Unified School District continues to face hard times due to continuing financial problems. Until recently, the district also faced the possibility of state-imposed penalties in the millions after schools were forced to close in the aftermath of the 2010 Imperial Valley earthquake.

Although the school district’s attorney (Yuri Calderon with the firm GCR, Ltd.) has been working on obtaining a waiver from the state, the district also hired consultant Angelica Tellechea. Calexico board minutes show Tellechea was given a $30,000 contract on January 12.

A February 11 article in the Imperial Valley Press refers to a letter written by Anne Mallory, the superintendent of the Imperial County Office of Education, to Calexico Unified superintendent Richard Fragale. In the letter, Mallory “questioned the ‘need for the district to spend $30,000 for an individual to assist in the waiver-appeal process when the district attorneys were doing that work.’” (Mallory was unavailable for comment.)

In a response to Mallory, Fragale wrote that the attorneys were only able to do a portion of the work and that Tellechea had already saved the district millions: $3.7 million in state penalty waivers were approved in January.

Joong Kim, a Calexico boardmember, said in a February 17 interview that he had voted against hiring a consultant. “We have a major budget crisis. We don’t have the ability to pay for a consultant. I believe the administration should have done this job.”

In the Imperial Valley Press, Tellechea mentioned state senator Denise Ducheny for helping the district obtain the waivers.

Tellechea appears on Ducheny’s Federal Election Commission form for receipts and disbursements. Tellechea donated $699 to Ducheny’s 2010 campaign and was reimbursed $974 for an event that included catering and beverages.

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Comments
13

Corruption abounds everywhere. This reads like a sound bite from Sweetwater.

Feb. 20, 2012

pay to play - it is rampant and it must be stopped.

yuri calderon, calderon being the "c" in GCR. look at the amount of monies that the sweetwater district poured into bonny garcia's pockets (the "G" in GCR) and for what? to spy on the unions, to drag the title IX lawsuit thru the courts for years?

calexico's board is suffering from the same ailment that has infected the sweetwater board/superintendent - it is called lack of common sense regarding their fiduciary responsibilities. their decisions regarding what they spend their, no our monies, on are proof positive that a forensic audit is due - sweetwaters entire financials need to go under the microscope - as do the prop o dollars.

i would highly recommend the tax payers and parents in the calexico area to step up, show up (to their board meetings) and speak up.

much in both of our districts is broken, it is up to us to join forces with our fellow taxpayers in our areas to take control and fix the problems.

Feb. 20, 2012

More and more it seems consultants are draining our school districts, and as anniej points out, we taxpayers/parents must step up and demand that it stop, and those school board members that don't listen to their "public consultants" should be removed from office. We need more representatives like Mr. Kim.

Feb. 20, 2012

joepublic: "those school board members that don't listen to their 'public consultants' should be removed from office" - amen to that Sir.

Mr. Kim should be applauded by each and every taxpayer in his district. it takes a person of integrity to stand up and speak of what is right.

the RECALL effort in the sweetwater district will definitely send the clear message NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL. when, NOT IF mccann, cartmill, and ricasa are recalled and when a new independent superintendent is brought in - then and only then we will be able to set things right.

i am hearing many that attended the hilltop meeting are contacting the RECALL effort offering to sign and help gather the additional signatures that will be needed. more and more are expressing their frustration with what they saw that evening - ricasa attempting to present a case for financial payment of her legal fees - john mccann's flagrant intimidation of speakers with his use of his little camera.

our community will set a precedent with the recall, NO MORE CORRUPTION - if you as a board member are not looking to serve the students and taxpayers - DON'T BOTHER RUNNING!

Feb. 21, 2012

Calexico Unified is on a tailspin in trying to "outdo" Sweetwater. The latest? Hold a meeting for the purpose of informing the public, but then restrict its attendees to a had selected group of "movers and shakers." When ten teachers show up to hear the meeting's proceedings... They are asked to leave:

(abridged due to space - see link for the full story)

http://www.ivpressonline.com/news/ivp-calexico-unified-solvency-committee-to-look-at-budget-from-zero-up-20120217,0,4326583.story Calexico Unified solvency committee to look at budget from 'zero up'

By CHELCEY ADAMI Staff Writer

1:08 a.m. PST, February 17, 2012

Some committee members brought up specific questions such as a breakdown of attorney and consultant fees or what the potential closing of a school would do, and they were provided with specifics by district staff.

Calexico Unified Superintendent Richard Fragale encouraged committee members to e-mail the district with more specific questions for next time and it will provide a breakdown of all attorney fees over the last 10 years before the next meeting.

The committee is made up of two school board members, the superintendent and some staff to answer questions, two members of each union, two city council members, three levels of principals, school site representatives, parents and community members.

The committee meetings are not considered open to the public.

The meeting got off to a slightly rocky start when Calexico Unified board member Joong Kim came to the meeting and was asked to leave since there were already the two appointed board members there. This also occurred at the first meeting.

When the committee was formed, Calexico Unified Board President Ruth Duarte appointed board member Norma Aguilar and herself to be the two board representatives. Having more than two board members at the meeting violates law.

While Councilman Bill Hodge was in attendance with Romero and Councilwoman Maritza Hurtado, the city attorney said if the three didn’t sit together and discuss city business, it would be permissible.

A handful of Associated Calexico Teachers members also tried to come but were also asked to leave.

Duarte said the committee was designed “not to lopside to any one area.”

The committee will meet again Feb. 27.

Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or [email protected]

Feb. 21, 2012

There is no record of this committee ever being formed in the board's minutes.

Board President Ruth Duarte is VERY arrogant (along with her majority).

Feb. 21, 2012

desertwaverat: i am picturing the 'antagonists' of sweetwater going to dinner in calexico - then afterwards ATTENDING ONE OF THESE BOARD MEETINGS -

oh my, what a thought!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feb. 22, 2012

So, the one trustee who takes HIS job seriously (rather than abdicate all of the board's power to consultants, lawyers, and attorneys) is holding his own open meeting, where the entire public is welcome to come and speak.

By the way, recently the Calexico Unified School District ceased the practice of including parent concerns in the minutes of their board meetings. If a parent speaks at a meeting, only their name is recorded - ZERO content.

http://www.ivpressonline.com/news/ivp-board-member-to-hear-community-20120220,0,3086053.story

Board member to hear community

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Joong Kim

Calexico Unified School District board trustee Joong Kim will have an open meeting at 6 p.m. today in Camarena Memorial Library. (CHELCEY ADAMI FILE PHOTO)

By CHELCEY ADAMI Staff Writer

11:53 p.m. PST, February 20, 2012 CALEXICO — Calexico Unified School District board member Joong Kim will hold a meeting tonight to hear thoughts and field questions from the community.

The open meeting at the Camarena Memorial Library targets Calexico Unified parents and concerned residents.

“They want to talk, so I want to listen to them,” Kim said. “It’s not a political move. I want to listen to those who support me. It’s an open meeting, open book.”

It is the first time for him to hold a meeting like this. Kim said many people in the community have expressed concerns to him that they couldn’t speak freely at district meetings.

“I want people to ask me what is going on, because we have lots of issues and can have a chance to talk,” he said. “The people who support me, they are my boss. … I want to listen to what they want.”

Kim underscored that anyone can attend the meeting and he expects a large turnout.

There has been some controversy surrounding Kim in recent weeks.

Calexico Unified School board members voted to censure Kim in January based on what was described as “inappropriate” and “disruptive” behavior, which Kim said was a “distraction from the real work.”

Kim has also expressed disagreement about not being able to attend a district committee in recent weeks since he is not one of the board representatives appointed to it.

However, Kim said that the meeting tonight was unrelated.

“I’m not calling a secret meeting. I’m calling an open meeting. … I want to hear from the people,” he said. “I’m not the district, just Joong Kim wanting to listen to them and their concerns for the district’s benefit.”

Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or [email protected]

If you go

What Open meeting with Joong Kim

Where Camarena Memorial Library in Calexico

When 6 p.m. today

Feb. 21, 2012

As I was reading through Calexico Unified board meeting minutes I noticed a pattern in the voting. For example, Kim made the motion to terminate GCR's service but it died for lack of a second. Many other motions had 4-1 votes, Kim being the dissenting vote.

This pattern is similar to the previous Southwestern board, where Nick Aguilar was often the lone dissenting vote.

In Sweetwater the lone dissenting vote recently has often been cast by board member Lopez.

Feb. 21, 2012

Susan, you are right. Mr. Kim's independent voice has been marginalized (at best) by the District establishment. Sometimes it seems as if the rest of the board is conducting business away from the board room (either open or closed session). When they are called on matters, such as those listed above, they direct staff to "attack" to their critics. Sadly, this is business as usual in Calexico Unified School District.

There is some hope with two school board seats up for election in November, 2012.

Feb. 21, 2012

desertwaverat: if i may be so bold to ask, where is the community in all of this? while there is much work to be done the sweetwater community has shown that 'power of the people' still exists. the community is what drove 'the gandara' (previous superintendent) out of the south bay and into the arms of the district attorney. now they are organizing to recall 3 board members while they call for the search for a new superintendent to begin.

hopefully those parents who are concerned will stay involved and bring about change.

Mr. Kim should be applauded for his efforts.

it took sweetwater parents/activists over two years to bring about change. they gathered their information and met with the FBI and DA -

Feb. 22, 2012

Thank you Susan for your reporting. The article from our local newspaper says according to our Imperial County Superintendent that the "attorneys" are working on the Waiver appeal. That is correct because through Public Records request I received the legal firm's invoices totaling over $26,000. Their work/invoices on the Waiver appeal covered the period of 6 months. Then the Board approves a "lobbyist" at $30,000 for one month does not make sense financially. The County Superintendent wants the advance repaid since it was issued without Board approval. The next Calexico Board meeting agenda for Thursday is posted and there is no mention of her correspondence to the Board.

Feb. 22, 2012

document the Brown Act violations and go forward to report them. while there is little, if any, enforcement - if you are able to gather enough information - with the help of insiders wanting to clean house - consider asking for a meeting with the DA - or perhaps contact the FBI.

Feb. 22, 2012

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