School board respectfully disagrees with grand jury report
The 2012 grand jury findings regarding student safety blasted Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) and Plumas County Office of Education (PCOE) boards of education for their failure to conduct and consider safety-related issues.
In a collective response to the report, the board (five residents from the county’s five districts are elected and serve four-year terms on both boards) “respectfully disagreed” with the two primary areas of concern of the Plumas County grand jury report: student safety and hiring practices in regards to the superintendent position.
“A safe, nurturing environment is necessary for learning,” Board Policy (BP) 100(a) clearly states, according to the response.
It further states: “The board routinely takes actions to safeguard our students and has implemented a wide spectrum of policies governing student safety, and the safety of our students was a primary concern in the recent decisions on school closure and consolidation.”
The governing board’s response said the grand jury findings were inaccurate and based on Education Code applicable to the acquisition or purchase of schools or school sites.
The board had been charged with consideration of the closure and consolidation of the Pioneer and Quincy elementary school campuses.
The school board’s response continued: “The board considered all aspects of student safety including traffic, noise, hazardous materials and commercial operations in proximity to both Pioneer and Quincy elementary schools.”
In addition to these safety considerations, the boards said the quality reports issued by the 7-11 committees (which the grand jury praised) were of immeasurable help in making a decision.
Those reports singled out Quincy El as being the site more conducive to student safety.
The board defended its decision to not conduct further safety studies (another finding of the grand jury), which would have incurred considerable expense that, it said, the district can ill afford.
Finally, in regard to student safety, the board refuted the grand jury’s conclusion, “that student safety went unaddressed in the PUSD response to the 2010-2011 report, and that the board response was not timely submitted.”
The school board said school safety was addressed in reports submitted Aug. 25 and Sept. 14, 2011, well within the specified time frame.
The grand jury’s other major concern was regarding hiring practices.
The board begins its response to these findings: “Although it is not entirely clear from the language used in the 2012 grand jury report, the grand jury appears to be raising concerns about the hiring of the former superintendent (Glenn Harris).”
The school board’s response noted that only one current member was involved in that hiring process.
The board disagreed with finding F6: “to the extent that it implies that no pre-employment background check was performed.”
“The board’s understanding is that the hiring firm, CBSA, did conduct all necessary checks, and the fact that the grand jury found no evidence of that doesn’t mean the background checks weren’t conducted.”
Confidentiality guidelines prohibit such information from being disclosed to the public the governing board’s response said.
Those same confidentiality guidelines prohibited the school board from responding to finding F7, regarding evidence of background checks the response said.
The board respectfully disagreed with findings F8 and F9, which found the board had “no policy in place requiring the vetting of information and holding of permanent records by the PUSD/PCOE” and “no existing policies for hiring a superintendent.”
PUSD/PCOE’s response cites BP 2120, which specifically addresses the selection of a new superintendent and mandates verification of qualifications through reference checks.
It also cites BP 4112.5 and 4312.5, which govern criminal background checks and BP 3580 and 4112.6, which govern retention of the documents referenced in those findings.
In response to the grand jury’s commentary regarding lack of cooperation from district personnel and board members and the necessity of sending out formal subpoenas to compel those individuals to appear before the jury, the school board said it is unfair and unprofessional to imply any wrongdoing.
The response says the necessity for formal subpoenas was for said individuals to be excused from work without penalty or loss of pay and that is the proper procedure and should not be regarded as a lack of cooperation.
Regarding additional matters, the board “was surprised to read the amount of specific detail revealed in the grand jury report regarding comments given by specific people called to testify before the grand jury.”
“Penal Code §929 specifically prohibits the grand jury’s release of information that may lead to the identity of any person providing information to the grand jury.”
The governing board “respectfully asks the grand jury to exercise caution and prudence in any future investigations with respect to the release of information that may lead to identification of individuals who appeared before the grand jury.”
The response concludes with thanks to the grand jury and an assurance that “PUSD and PCOE will strive to use this critique as a tool for continuing to improve services we provide and to further enhance a safe and healthy atmosphere for our students and staff.”
To read the full response in, go to pcoe.k12.ca.us and look under public information updates.