The November election was historic for Morgan Hill—the first council members to be elected from districts rather than by all city voters. The council members not only have new sets of constituents but also represent the rich diversity of our city and our state—a diversity...
The Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Trustees’ decision to withdraw a parcel tax proposal for the November ballot rather than share a piece of the pie with two local charter schools revealed much about the long-seething relationship between the district and the charter schools.Cutting through the political gamesmanship, where cordial public greetings and interactions mask true sentiments, it is safe to say the school district and charter school officials genuinely distrust one another. It doesn’t take any inside information to draw that conclusion.At a June 19 meeting, where a 5-1 vote reversed an earlier decision and prevented a $1.5 million-per-year parcel tax from going before voters, Board President Tom Arnett said “irreconcilable differences” keep the district and charter brass from agreeing on just about anything.Unfortunately, Arnett, who sits on the board until the end of the month but whose children were in the charter school pipeline until recently, was correct in his assessment. Using a parcel tax proposal to repair years of bad blood was a pipe dream of some well-intended trustees.All sides—the school district, Charter School of Morgan Hill and Voices College-bound Language Academy—are to blame in this one, and they all miss out on valuable funds that could have helped better educate students, improve facilities and limit looming budget cuts to staff and programs.The MHUSD trustees also should be included in the blame since the decision was ultimately theirs to make. Board Vice President Mary Patterson, one of three trustees to change her vote from one meeting to the next, spoke to this, admirably falling on the sword by blaming herself and the entire school board for failing to procure a final parcel tax resolution for the Nov. 6 ballot.But from the district’s “I’m taking my ball and going home” approach to both charter schools’ laissez-faire, noncommittal maneuvering in the days that followed the initial May 15 vote (later overturned), the $75 five-year parcel tax measure never stood a chance. Whether it would have passed, with or without charter inclusion, will never be known.Board members and officials left the door open for developing a future shared parcel tax measure, but it remains a longshot at best considering the parties involved. A memorandum of understanding is necessary, as Assistant Superintendent Kirsten Perez said, before any tax revenues can be adequately shared and allocated. That seems unlikely considering that the district and Charter School of Morgan Hill (the district is the local charter’s authorizer) have yet to come to terms on an MOU based on their five-year pact.This, along with the mutually distrustful relationship between MHUSD and Voices, shows that because of “irreconcilable differences” between the district and charter schools, they should develop their own separate parcel tax proposals. That is where the district was headed in May, and represents a good “new” starting point.
Greg Sellers, of the three candidates for mayor of Morgan Hill, understands best the new role for the mayor in our new system of district representation. The new mayor will be the only elected city-wide representative on the City Council after the Nov. 6 election,...
In two decades as the county’s sheriff, Laurie Smith’s legacy includes both accomplishments and mistakes, and as she runs for a sixth four-year term, her challengers have sought to direct attention to the latter.
The Morgan Hill Unified School District might have saved $8.25 million and prevented the lifelong traumatization of at least three young girls if district leadership had enforced its own training procedures on how to identify and report child molesters like John Loyd, who showed a clear pattern of “grooming” some of his fifth grade students for abuse.The signs of Loyd’s favoritism toward his victims—a common trait of sexual abuse predators—were clear, and spanned years before the Paradise Valley Elementary School teacher was busted by police in 2015.An investigation by attorneys for the families of three girls—who recently settled with the district just before their lawsuit went before a jury—found that Loyd routinely played favorites with female students. He would offer them candy in exchange for hugs, and slipped them candy bars under their desks.At least two students who, luckily, did not become victims of Loyd, complained to their parents that their teacher gave this special treatment only to girls. The parents in turn complained of this behavior to both Loyd and the school principal. There is no record of these complaints in Loyd’s personnel file. No action was taken against the teacher.These and similar complaints go as far back as 2009, or three principals ago at Paradise Valley, according to the initial lawsuit.The disregard for common-sense precautions intended to keep kids safe on campus was apparently systemic while Loyd was molesting his victims. Shortly after his arrest, he told police that he was instructed by his supervisor at Paradise Elementary to work on his class’ student newspaper—the Room Nine Times—during recess and lunchtime, according to the lawsuit. This allowed him to be in his room alone with individual children on a regular basis. Somehow, he was even permitted to cover his windows with paper copies of the Room Nine Times, preventing anyone from being able to see inside.Even back in 2004, when Loyd was teaching at Nordstrom Elementary, he made inappropriate sexual remarks and contact with a girl in his class toward whom he allegedly showed so much favoritism that other students called her a “teacher’s pet.”If the district had followed its own Child Abuse Reporting Procedures—first approved by trustees in 2004 and updated in 2012—perhaps these patterns of abuse would not have continued in Loyd’s classroom for so long. This policy requires the district leadership to enact an “age-appropriate and culturally sensitive child abuse prevention curriculum” for students.No such programs seems to have been implemented, despite the district’s claims to the contrary.The abuse cited in the criminal charges against Loyd—for which he is now serving a 40-year prison term—occurred from 2012 to 2014. This was during a transition in the district’s top staff position and changes in the elected seven-member board of trustees. Wes Smith left MHUSD as superintendent in 2013. The board of trustees immediately named Betando his interim replacement, then hired him full-time in 2014 with a $225,000 annual salary.Before that, Betando served as MHUSD’s Human Resources director starting in 2012, about the time the board updated its child abuse reporting procedures.The district is not admitting it is at fault by settling with three of Loyd’s victims.But the fact that the district agreed to pay the victims $8.25 million just as the lawsuit was scheduled to be argued in front of a jury “speaks volumes,” as attorney Robert Allard told Times reporter Scott Forstner.The girls’ parents have said an even more important aspect of the settlement is MHUSD agreed to implement a predator identification training program for all staff members and students.Hopefully, MHUSD will take this requirement seriously as well as launch an independent investigation into the lapses. The superintendent should have implemented the board’s policy, and the board, as overseers responsible for the safety of the community’s children, should have been diligent about holding the superintendent responsible at annual reviews.
South County Court Commissioner Gregory Saldivar, who by most
Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar disappeared from our town on March 16, 2012. She was 15 at the time and a sophomore at Sobrato High School. Her alleged killer, Antolin Garcia Torres, 22, was arrested more than one year ago and he still has not entered a plea.
With all the money that’s spent in our county on flood prevention and control, it’s reasonable to expect that there would be some good plans to prevent a Katrina-style urban flood. Judging by what occurred to residents in neighborhoods to the north—in a modern city of a million people—it’s safe to conclude that local communities are not well prepared for large-scale natural disasters.The Anderson and Coyote reservoirs overtook their floodgates and water engulfed residents along the Coyote Creek, including neighborhoods just a few blocks from city hall in downtown San Jose. The interconnectedness between South Valley watersheds and nearby population centers is a fact of our modern existence. However, the information flow between water district officials and municipal emergency officials show a confused series of events, infused with misinformation and a failure to properly warn residents in affected areas.The Anderson Dam was known to be in an unsafe, overfilled state for more than two weeks prior to this week’s disaster. And although routine public announcements were issued, no effort was made to educate residents in the danger zones how to prepare for a sudden onslaught of contaminated water at their doorsteps.The botched warning systems strongly suggest that in a larger disaster—such as a seismically-triggered dam break on the fault line beneath Anderson Reservoir—the results, needless to say, would be catastrophic.The Coyote Creek flooding suggests the City of Morgan Hill might need to update its disaster evacuation plan. Morgan Hill City Manager Steve Rymer said at a recent council meeting that such a plan relies heavily on directing people out of town via U.S. 101, which is a Catch 22. The freeway was impassable for much of Tuesday, when the Coyote Canal breached under the pressure of historic creek flows and pouring rain that submerged all northbound travel lanes until the water district could repair the canal.How can a freeway located along a flood zone protected by aging facilities be relied on as a passage to safety in the event of a catastrophic, citywide deluge that might prompt widespread evacuations?As for alternate routes, all major mountain passes (Highways 129, 152 and 17) out of South County to higher ground have been closed at various times in recent days due to the rain. Many residents would be trapped on the valley floor under such conditions.Another problem is that the reservoir’s outlet pipes are too small to prevent the reservoir from reaching unsafe levels that could trigger an earthquake or, as occurred on Tuesday, a flood of population centers.We need to fix the dam, its oversight and the communication systems to get the word out. The decaying infrastructure must be modernized and the scandal-plagued district needs to rid itself of conflicts of interest, such as no-bid sweetheart multi-million dollar contracts to consultancy firms owned by spouses of district officials. Public trust is essential. Transparency, credibility and competence are minimum requirements for a public agency.