Letters to the Editor
Board president’s tactics questioned
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The Community Voice:
At a recent candidates forum, Marc Orloff, President of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District Board of Trustees, launched a vicious smear campaign of unsubstantiated claims against fellow Trustee Leff Brown.
His attacks have rightly backfired. Parents, teachers and even another school board member, Ed Gilardi, have publicly repudiated Mr. Orloff’s disgraceful tactics. After endorsing Mr. Orloff in 2010, local teachers have chosen not to endorse him again. Rather, along with Mr. Gilardi, they have endorsed Leff Brown for school board.
Mr. Orloff has not only spread false statements about Leff Brown, but more tellingly, he has made unsubstantiated claims about his own record on the school board. A recent ad in the Community Voice (Oct. 10, 2014) refutes his claims point by point. Mr. Orloff reminds me of the story of the rooster who believes that his crowing causes the sun to rise.
School board trustees are supposed to be educational leaders and role models in our community. When they resort to unethical tactics to get elected, as Mr. Orloff has done, they come across as bullies, not leaders. We have tried to make our schools “No Bullying Zones,” and Mr. Orloff is not helping. I plan to follow the advice of our local teachers and Trustee Gilardi by rejecting the smear tactics of Marc Orloff, and voting for Leff Brown.
As a parent of a student in a CRPUSD school, I call on Mr. Orloff to resign. His negative campaign tactics, which began with the candidate’s forum, now include his condoning of a recent campaign mailer that was the epitome of low-road politics.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Orloff denies involvement with this outrageous mailer while enjoying its benefits. Yet, a simple comparison of video of the candidate’s forum (CRPUSD.org, Candidates Forum Live Streamed) and the mailer reveals they were cut from the same cloth. Our students deserve a school board president who brings respect and integrity rather than shame to our community.
Barich outspoken but cares about Cotati
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The Community Voice:
I've known Mr. George Barich almost as long as I've lived in Cotati. In that time, I've seen him around town and at city council meetings.
The only thing on his mind is the welfare and financial health of his city. Everything Mr. Barich does seems to revolve around fixing what's broken. Yes, he is out spoken but never before his facts are in order. He truly cares about this town at his own expense. He is a leader ...he actually cares.
District can’t afford Brown’s leadership
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The Community Voice:
Our children cannot afford a return to the Leff Brown days of school closures, teacher layoffs and reckless financial spending. Mr. Brown voted to close Richard Crane Elementary in 2002, and in 2008 he voted to close Gold Ridge and La Fiesta Elementary Schools. He voted to close Mountain Shadows Middle School in 2010.
Every time Mr. Brown voted to close another school or cancel another program, many parents voted with their feet and took their children and their $5,000 (plus) in annual budget funds to schools outside our district. By 2010, more than 800 students and $4 million had transferred out of our district. And what did Mr. Brown do then? He voted to make it more difficult to transfer out of our district.
How else did Mr. Brown vote? Year after year he voted to lay off dozens of teachers causing massive economic instability and harming instruction in classrooms. Many teachers were laid off multiple times, hired back and then bounced around the district. No thought was given to quality educational continuity for students. Mr. Brown’s poor financial decisions were so bad the district was assigned a fiscal advisor and there was talk about a state takeover.
Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District has not laid off a single teacher since Marc Orloff and Andrew Longmire were elected and a new superintendent, Dr. Robert Haley, was hired. Since a new majority, including Jennifer Wiltermood, was seated on the board two schools were re-opened, a year-round track was started, sports for all students was reinstated, Technology High School was expanded and now for the first time since the 1990s, enrollment is going up in the district not down. Families returned to our schools because they were made to feel wanted and welcomed. One of those families was Tracy Farrell's. She's running for the board because she does not want her children to be in a district that returns to the era of closing schools and cutting teacher jobs.
Board leadership is critical to maintaining the positive direction of the school district. Commitment is required, a commitment that Mr. Brown doesn't demonstrate. He often misses meetings and when he is there he is often on his cell phone watching sporting events or sending and receiving texts. Even though he should have understood his methodology of cutting and closing didn't work, he either didn't show up for crucial votes to take the district in a new direction or he showed up and voted no. He voted no to going green, a program saving the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, he voted no to the Technology High School expansion, and he didn't show up when the Board of Trustees voted to open University Elementary at La Fiesta and Technology Middle School.
I care deeply about Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District. I'm from this community, I grew up here and my husband and I are raising our children here. I have been an active parent volunteer since 2005 when our first child enrolled in school. Since then I’ve watched first-hand as Mr. Brown ran a wrecking ball through this district.
Two dedicated leaders emerged and helped save this school district from state takeover, Marc Orloff and Andrew Longmire. I voted for them in 2010 and I'm doing so again with just as much passion. They deserve to be reelected and be joined by Tracy Farrell so that we can once and for all put the Mr. Brown approach of closing schools and laying off teachers behind us and give our kids the schools they need and deserve. It's our duty to them.
Anti-Brown flyer disturbs reader
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The Community Voice:
Serving on the school board of our local district is not only an honor but also a serious responsibility. That responsibility includes recognizing and respecting the differences of perspectives and style of board members.
I recently received an election flyer from the Committee to Defeat Leff Brown. From what I read, it appears the committee is basing their criticism of Trustee Brown on half-truths. The decisions mentioned in the flyer occurred several years ago. During those years the school district was facing declining enrollment, declining funds from the state and Sonoma State University did not have space for expansion of Technology High School.
The fiscal picture is much better now. Regardless of all that, Leff Brown has served the Cotati and Rohnert Park School district for a long time. He knows the issues, asks good questions, votes his mind and conscience and does what is in the best interest for all of the kids in the district.
Leff Brown is an enlightened and responsible board member and he will get my vote.
Reader grows tired of Barich bashing
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The Community Voice:
The “Bash Barich” vendetta currently being waged by the clique of high school-fixated post-adolescents presuming to speak for Cotati has become truly tiresome.
Yet another letter has appeared in The Community Voice, this time from Carmichael Diegel, pushing the same “nobody likes you,” “you’re a joke,” and “how about moving away?” blather that has fouled the letters page for a couple of years now. As usual, it makes no mention of the issues, and limits itself instead to cheap, ad hominem attacks on a former city councilman seeking office anew.
The letter is entitled, “Reader has advice for George Barich.” Well, here’s my advice for Carmichael Diegel and others of comparable temperament and too much time on their hands:
If popularity is more important to you than addressing the issues on their own merits, perhaps you should throw your own hat into the ring. You could run for prom queen. Maybe the Voice will even give you a deal on advertising.
Board members can’t stand dissenting voter
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The Community Voice:
It was distressing to read in the October 3, 2014 edition of The Community Voice that candidates Marc Orloff, Andrew Longmire and Tracy Farrell felt the need to go on the attack against Leff Brown because he dared to offer a dissenting voice and a dissenting vote because he may have felt that an action being undertaken by the superintendent or the board majority was not in the best interests of students and teachers.
It was also distressing to learn that Mr. Orloff falsely attacked Mr. Brown about his attendance at a San Francisco Giants spring training game without doing his homework as to the reason why Mr. Brown may have missed a Board of Trustees meeting. As was pointed out in the article written by Dave Williams, the San Francisco Giants were honoring Mr. Brown’s wife, Janice Brown, for her humanitarian work, and specifically for her work with Project Graduation.
One can only hope that the attacks on Mr. Brown are not a prelude to offensive robo-calls where the person or persons instigating the attacks can use a loophole in current campaign laws to hide their identity. It should not be forgotten that during the 2012 campaign, supporters of our current superintendent and board president waged a robo-call campaign against the other “dissenter” on the Board of Trustees to ensure that it had a solid voting majority for the past two years.
The citizens of Rohnert Park should also be concerned with the lack of transparency involving the very generous pay raises for the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, and the chief business officer that were orchestrated by Board President Marc Orloff and his allies. On June 24, the Board of Trustees voted to extend the contract of the superintendent and to give him a 20 percent raise that increased his salary of $145,000 to $175,000 per year. The assistant superintendent received a 17 percent raise that increased her salary from $115,000 to $135,000 per year. The board also gave the chief business officer a 13 percent raise that increased her salary from $115,000 to $130,000 per year.
Following this vote, it was posted on the district website that the proposed raises were discussed during the regular June 10 Board of Trustees meeting. This claim was false as evidenced by both the Board of Trustees Agenda and the minutes for the June 10 Board of Trustees meeting that can also be found on the district’s website. On the June 10, Board of Trustees Closed Session Agenda, the superintendent’s evaluation was listed as a topic of discussion, but when the trustees returned to begin the regular session, Board President Orloff reported that no action was taken during closed session. So the question that has never been fully answered is, how and when was the decision made to offer such generous raises to the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, and chief business officer that were approved at the June 24 Board of Trustees meeting three weeks after the public was asked to approve the bond initiative? The board president and the superintendent also need to explain why they did not disclose the actual dollar amount of the salary increases to the public that the district’s top three administrators received until sometime in July when the contracts for the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, and the chief business officer were posted on the district’s website.
It is up to the citizens of Rohnert Park and Cotati to decide who is best qualified to lead our district to ensure that our schools are properly staffed and supported, and that our students and teachers do not have to work with outdated textbooks that are held together with duct tape. The description of current conditions by Ms. Linnea Leroux in her letter to the editor should set off alarm bells for every voter. Students and teachers need to be empowered to do their very best, and this can only occur if the leadership in our district provides every available dollar to support our classrooms and not on outside consultants or the newest educational fad that looks good on an administrator's resume.
Rohnert Park’s fine the way it is now
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The Community Voice:
What is the matter with Rohnert Park staying a sleepy little bedroom community. I’m retired. I like peace, quiet and convenience.
I love it that I can travel no more than two miles to get to whatever store or service I need. Lure Trader Joe’s into Rohnert Park, and I’ll never have to leave town.
We don’t need to imitate other cities that have been around for a century. Why can’t we be satisfied with what we have and what we are…a good place to live.