AVUHSD Board gets nothing done, again
LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District’s Board of Education met for the first time in more than a month Thursday night, and it was business as usual for the four-member Board — meaning nothing got done.
The Board voted 2-2, with members Victoria Ruffin and Amanda Parrell dissenting, on the three action items on the special meeting agenda, including a program that would provide people convicted of certain offenses the opportunity to seek rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
The Board is short one member after the Nov. 4 resignation of former Board
President Robert “Bob” Davis.
Board Clerk Jill McGrady announced at the start of the meeting that the Board had to cut its closed session short after attorney Herbert Hayden of the Harris & Associates law firm entered closed session unauthorized and refused to leave.
Hayden presumably attended the meeting at Parrell’s
invitation, although she is not authorized to confer with him or attorney John. W. Harris.
“Since he was not authorized to be here, we had to end our closed session for today,” McGrady said. “We will continue that next week at our next regular meeting.”
McGrady also addressed community concerns about the Board and its lack of officers.
Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo appointed McGrady Board clerk on Dec. 18 after the Board failed to conduct an organizational meeting on Dec. 17, when Ruffin and Parrell failed to show up. Duardo ordered the
Dec.17 meeting after the Board could not agree on a date for the annual organizational meeting as required under state law.
On Monday, all Board members received a letter from Duardo to clarify the officer situation. McGrady asked Superintendent David Vierra to read the letter for the audience.
Ruffin, who participated via teleconference from the Courtyard by Marriott in Oxnard, objected.
“Dr. Vierra this is not information that is on the agenda for the special meeting, and I believe that we’re supposed to be discussing only those items that are on the agenda,” Ruffin said.
Attorney Jay Fernow of the law firm Fagen Friedman & Fulforst, also known as F3, advised Vierra that he could proceed.
The letter, dated Jan. 13, states: “As Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, I have taken a series of actions related to your Board and understand that there were some concerns raised. On (Dec. 13), I was notified that you had failed to conduct your organizational meeting within the timeframe mandated by California Education Code section 35143.
“Because of that failure, I was required to exercise my authority and call your organizational meeting. I did so for (Dec. 17). You again failed to conduct your meeting and elect officers on that date.
“At the time that I designated the meeting date, I expected that the Board would elect its officers. Once it failed to do so, there were no longer any officers as your predecessor officers’ terms had expired. We ascertained that there is no Board bylaw or policy that permits the successor officers to serve beyond the term, and indeed, there is a Board bylaw that expressly limits terms to one year. BB 9100. Again forced to exercise my authority, and in the absence of any officers, I appointed the Board Clerk in accordance with Education
Code section 35038. Under the BB 9123, the Clerk notices and conducts the meeting. She is the sole officer at this time.
“I remain hopeful that your Board will move forward in providing important policy direction and governance for the District, for the benefit of the students.”
McGrady thanked Vierra for reading the letter.
“I hope that puts to rest any questions or confusion or concern that anyone has,” McGrady said. “(Duardo) is our presiding office and she has ruled.”
McGrady then asked for a motion to adjourn to the PINCO meeting. Trustee John Rush motioned, seconded by member Parrell. Since Ruffin participated via teleconference, the Board took a voice vote. McGrady called on Ruffin first.
“No,” Ruffin said.
“You don’t want to go to a PINCO meeting?” McGrady asked.
“No,” Ruffin repeated. Parrell also voted no. “Could I just clarify with both of you that we have to vote for PINCO so we can spend the money for the PINCO so we can get into PINCO?” McGrady said. “You are aware that we are stopping the progress of the school.”
“Are we directing with F3 and they don’t have a PO? It’s the same thing, right?” Parrell answered.
‘And you’re misinterpreting the law,” Ruffin interjected.
McGrady and Rush voted in favor of adjourning to the PINCO meeting. Ruffin and Parrell voted against it. Student trustee Elijah Johnson voted in favor.
PINCO, or the Partners in Nutrition Cooperative, allows its 38 member school districts, including those in the Antelope Valley and Kern and Inyo counties, to pool their resources so that all districts from the largest to the smallest can save money when purchasing food to meet students’ nutritional needs.
More than 60% of PINCO’s membership is comprised of smaller districts. PINCO started in 1989 under the administration of AV Union High School District, which serves as the lead agency.
The PINCO agenda had two items: public comments from the floor, and receive information about the annual audit for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which was good, by the way. The independent auditor provided an unmodified opinion, which is the highest level possible and considered a clean opinion.
Speaker John Currado asked the Board about the split vote to adjourn to the PINCO meeting and how it affects students.
Because the agenda included only public comments and the annual audit, there was no direct impact to students. However, the agenda for the Board’s next meeting on Thursday will have several purchases for food for all of the PINCO member districts.
“I cannot believe this Board is not willing to address food for children,” former AVUHSD trustee Donita Winn said. “This just blows me away. I understand that tonight’s agenda didn’t have the food purchases.”
Winn added that some local PINCO member districts are wondering if they will have food to feed students.
Ruffin and Parrell also voted against a memorandum of understanding with the City of Lancaster and Antelope Valley College for an alternative sentencing program that would give people convicted of certain offenses the opportunity to seek rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
The goal of the memorandum of understanding is for the District, the City of Lancaster and AV College to develop and implement an educational program designed to provide individuals who have been charged with and/or convicted of criminal offenses with the education and skills necessary to become a contributing member of society, according to a description.
Ruffin and Parrell also voted against two provisional internship permits for two special education teachers. The permits allows school districts to fill an immediate staffing need with individuals who are working toward their teaching credential. Teachers who work on a provisional internship permit, also known as a PIP, get paid as a teacher and can earn benefits. Students also benefit from having the same teacher in the classroom rather than different substitute teachers.
The Board voted on both provisional internship permits at the same time.
Ruffin motioned for the provisional internship permits be tabled.
“I would like to table it so that the Board can decide when we are going to have a reorganization so that we can set up Board meetings for the year and be able to appropriately conduct business because this agenda has not been approved by the Board, and that takes a Board majority,” Ruffin said.
(There is no legal requirement for the Board to adopt the agenda because it is not in the Board’s bylaws. Thursday’ agenda did not include an action item for the Board to adopt it.) Parrell seconded Ruffin’s motion. “I think it would be very difficult for our teachers to put it on hold because it seems to me that we need to move forward with it and give them the assistance that they need so they can finish their credentialing,” McGrady said.
The Board voted 2-2 to table the provisional internship permits, with McGrady and Rush dissenting. The Board then voted 2-2 with Ruffin and Parrell dissenting to approve the provisional internship permits.
Ruffin and Parrell previously voted in favor of provisional internship permits last year at the June 17 meeting, for a mathematics teacher and a special education teacher; at the July 25 meeting for a chemistry teacher and a special education teacher; and at the Sept. 12 meeting for two special education teachers.