What Happened at Beechwood School?

An emergency parent meeting was called at Beechwood school last night to explain that a teacher had been placed on administrative leave and that the police department was conducting an investigation into…well, something they’re not allowed to tell us about. The Chief was adamant that there was no evidence that a crime was committed or that any students were involved, which makes you wonder what he’s “investigating” in the first place.

It’s interesting to watch Superintendent Hovey and interim Police Chief Hughes struggle with a new-found interest in transparency, releasing only enough information to scare people about what the teacher might have done. Parents in the room didn’t seem to appreciate the lack of detail. One mother even came to tears trying to figure out if anything had happened to her own child (25 minutes in).

An attentive resident brought us this video of the meeting:

UPDATE: School Board Trustee Chris Thompson posted this comment addressing the question of what the board currently knows about the investigation:

I do not mind being held accountable. For clarity’s sake, I have NOT been briefed on any aspect of this story beyond the information which has been made publicly available in the meeting posted here. I have made it clear to Dr. Hovey that I believe that fact is inhibiting my ability to do my job as a trustee. Dr. Hovey informed me that he had been advised by the district’s law firm as to what information he could and could not give to the board members. He did confirm that he knows more than we do. As the law firm’s primary role is to limit the districts liability, there is no surprise there. Unfortunately, my role is to be 1/5th of an independently elected body whose job it is to ensure that our district does the right and smart thing, and I cannot very well do that if I am “managed” by the district’s lawyer. I believe that the theory is that if the board members are informed of the details of the investigation prior to the conclusion of the investigation that our impartiality will be brought into question if any decisions need to be made by the board as a result of the investigation. I don’t buy it. The people elected us to oversee this government entity and the entity itself is preventing us from knowing the details of what is going on within our own walls. At the risk of sounding self-important, I thought we were in charge.

Having said that, I would not personally use the phrase cover-up at this point. I will not quietly sit by uninformed for any extended length of time. This situation is three days old and we are talking about an elementary school. The individual who is the focus of whatever it is we are investigating has been administratively removed from the classroom and we are being told that there is zero evidence of any direct impact to children. My first step is really what I am doing here. Making it known publicly that I think it is a mistake to withhold the details of the investigation from the board.

Ostensibly, the board would be able to offer some comfort to the community…or some guidance to management about we believe we should proceed. I have no idea if I even agree that there should be an investigation.

As a final comment, I want make it clear that I believe it is exceedingly likely that both Mitch Hovey and Dan Hughes are doing what they believe to be best for the children and the community. I also believe that it is my job to review all of the knowable circumstances in order to determine whether I concur with Dr. Hovey’s actions. I have no way of doing that now.

Chris Thompson


It’s a good thing that FFFF is recording the board meetings of the Fullerton School District. I just found out that Superintendent Mitch Hovey orders the district’s own audio recordings to be destroyed 30 days after each meeting.

How’s that for transparency and accountability?

Anyway, here’s the video from last night’s meeting. All of the recordings are available under the FSD Videos tab above.

Scroll ahead 45 minutes and listen to the union spokesperson pat a few fellow teachers on the back for using one of their valuable weekends to attend a conference at a hotel on educational topics, including… retirement benefits!

How selfless.

Addiction, Hovey and Consequences

Could the real reason that Fullerton School District superintendent Herr Doktor Mitch Hovey told his IT guy to deny FSD network access to our blog was because some of the district employees were addicted to our humble little blog and spending way too much of our (tax payers) dime/time blogging and not working?

Well, that sure seems plausible. And it’s true that we have been a lot less than enthusiastic about some of the goings on at District HQ, from the bogus laptop scam to the Board’s congenital rubber stamping. Oh, and yeah, the Pam Keller Collaborative swindle. That probably stirred up some resentment among the rank and file.

Yet, instead of telling the employees to knock off the blogging  and getting back to work, it appears that the good doctor simply denied them access to our blog. And only our blog. I’m sure those same employees are still surfing the internet; it’s sort of like an addiction, and as with most addicts when they give up one addiction they replace it with another.

So I have to wonder what we are being replaced with. Youtube, OC Weekly personal ads, Hulu?

And I also have to wonder who is next on the censorship hit parade.



The other day I used a super secret password to utilize the Fullerton School District’s wireless network, for no particular reason. While connected, I tried to access some of my favorite and least favorite local blogs and news sites. Here’s what I discovered from behind the FSD firewall:

LiberalOC blog – allowed
Red County blog – allowed
Voice of OC blog – allowed
Orange Juice Blog – allowed
OC Register blogs – allowed
Fullerton Observer – allowed
Friends for Fullerton’s Future – BLOCKED

It appears that Friends for Fullerton’s Future has been singularly snuffed from teacher and staff access at the Fullerton School District. Now why wouldn’t the administration want anyone to read our blog?

Maybe they didn’t appreciate our cold look at the ramifications of heavy child-Internet immersion back in 2009. Or maybe they were offended by our unraveling of the Fullerton Collaborative conflict-o-sphere. What if they were upset about blogger Chris Thompson’s spectacular ascension to the Fullerton School Board?

"War is a game that is played with a smile."

Whatever the reason, things are starting to look pretty political over at the Superintendent’s office. OK we get it, Doctor Hovey.

A Little Posturing for a Parcel Tax in Fullerton?

This video is from the South Pasadena School District.  Fullerton School District Superintendent Mitch Hovey felt that this was a good enough example of how a school district could “send a message to Sacramento” to present it at the FSD School Board meeting the other night.  Enjoy the manipulation of children by the same mindless fools who put our current legislature in office.  You should have seen the FSD employees and most of the board members smiling and bopping their heads to the music.

Incidentally, South Pasadena passed a $120/year parcel tax last year.  

What Does Pam Keller Do All Day?

For most people the idea of being one’s own boss is an alluring if somewhat daunting proposition. With the freedom and self-responsibility come the risks – of freedom and self-responsibility.

So imagine the pleasant prospect of being your own boss, answering to nobody, and at the same time enjoying the safety of a government job with a regular paycheck and pretty good benefits. This is what Fullerton City Council woman Pam Keller gets by being the Executive Director of the Fullerton Collaborative and remaining an employee of the Fullerton School District. The people who print out her paychecks have no idea how she’s spending her time. She doesn’t answer to them. And the Collaborative Board seems to have shown very little interest in her doings, possibly because she’s actually in charge. Pretty sweet gig if you can get it.

Pam Keller - Teacher on Special Assignment

The memorandum of understanding between the Collaborative and the school district lists a series of vague directives to be accomplished by the Executive Director through the school year. The two most specific of Pam’s duties are “assist schools to link with community partners for support services” and “increase awareness of schools regarding community services”.

So essentially her job is to communicate with schools. What does that entail? Fire off a couple of emails, make a phone call every once in a while? No, that would only consume a few minutes per day. There must be more to this $51,000-per-year job.

If we give her the benefit of the doubt, it’s likely that the achievement of these goals requires Pam to spend most of her workday meeting with teachers and parents, visiting schools and attending parent/teacher meetings.

Is that what she does? How much time does she spend with teachers and parents? What are her work hours? Since she really is only accountable to herself, does anyone else know?

Regular teachers must answer to parents, principals and ultimately the Superintendent. Who does a “teacher on special assignment”, funded by an outside organization, answer to? Does Superintendent Mitch Hovey appraise her performance? Could he take appropriate action if he didn’t think she was performing well? He certainly has no incentive to question her since the Collaborative pays her salary regardless.

Ultimately, we expect that the Fullerton School District will have to answer this question: Does the perverse nature of FSD’s employee arrangement with the Fullerton Collaborative cause harm to the public by diluting accountability and hiding conflicts of interest?

Oops! Is it Really All That Difficult?

Sharon Quirk-Silva
Pam Keller










Hey who is in charge over there at City Hall? Doesn’t anybody have a clue?

At their September 15, 2009 meeting, the Fullerton City Council deliberated over whether or not the Fullerton School District could get a two-year pass making annual payments on a $1,320,000 loan the District had received from the Redevelopment Agency for the renovation of Maple School nine years ago.

Without debating the merits of the proposal, we note that the suspension of payments was approved 5-0 by the City Council.

But wait! Both Sharon Quirk-Silva and Pam Keller are employees of the School District, and have no business voting on issues, especially financial issues, in which their employer is involved. If ever there were a case for recusal, this was it. At the meeting Mitch Hovey the Superintendent of the Fullerton School District was in the audience. Imagine that! You’re voting to defer over $50K in loan payments to the operation you work for and your boss is sitting in the front row! Hmmm. No bueno!

 We can’t imagine why it didn’t occur to either Keller or Quirk-Silva that there was an evident conflict of interest involved. Perhaps it never occurred to them because they see the District as some sort of charity, and doing favors for charities can’t possibly undermine the fiduciary responsibility that they have to the City of Fullerton. It’s all about the children, after all. But we merely speculate. Who really knows why they voted?

And even more baffling is why Richard Jones, the City Attorney failed to bring up this problem. Attorney Jones is paid, and paid a lot, to keep these meetings on the up and up, and keep his charges out of trouble, in loco parentis, as it were. Hmmm.

And finally we reserve a separate post for the performance by Mayor Don Bankhead, who really outdid himself on this item

The FSD Laptop Program: Breaking it Down


“To be effective in the 21st century, the Fullerton School District believes that students must be able to develop innovative products and processes using technology, construct knowledge and demonstrate creative thinking.”

Mitch Hovey, Ed.D.

Our previous posts on FSDs Laptop Program have generated a wide array of commentary, some of which has been a bit off the mark relative to the specific posts. So we thought a general recap of problematic issues might be timely at this juncture.

  • Parents were being coerced into participating in the program
  • The laptops are way too expensive
  • Laptops are being lost and or stolen
  • FSD claimed the laptops were secure
  • The value of laptops in education is overrated

If anybody wishes to add items or to dispute them – fire away!

Hilda Sugarman Puts Her Lafite Where Her Mouth Is…

can we get that in a box...
can we get that with a screw cap?

We have to say this for FSD Trustee Hilda Sugarman. She puts her Premier Cru on the line for what she believes in. And what she believes is that her elementary school kids need laptops to be properly educated.

Mrs. Sugarman is one of the masterminds of the FSD laptop program that has given us (and the ACLU) such heartburn. Perhaps not coincidentally, she is also the President of the Fullerton Excellence in Education Foundation (or at least was as late as 2008); the pupose of the foundation, per its website is to support the technology/laptop education in the FSD, etc.

We have heard on the grapevine that the Foundation has pledged $120,000 to the district program over the next two years, which is fortunate since the program seems to be in the hole for at least that much in unanticipated costs in this year’s budget. Seems some folks don’t want to pick up the tab for pricey laptops.

But on to the the bibulations!

well, it's for a good cause, i guess...
well, it's for a good cause, I guess...but remember kids, just say no!

This evening, the Foundation holds an “exclusive” wine auction over at the Arboretum. Lots of locals are involved and it looks like many of Sugarman’s in-laws are event sponsors; and, again we give kudos to Hilda for doing a little intrafamily arm twisting.

We’re sure a good time will be had by all, and that everybody goes home feeling downright philanthropic. But let’s hope that at least some of the attendees come to reflect upon FSD Superintendant Mitch Hovey’s blithering baloney on the FEEF website:

“To be effective in the 21st century, the Fullerton School District believes that students must be able to develop innovative products and processes using technology, construct knowledge and demonstrate creative thinking.”

what did that funny man say?
what did that funny man just say?

We really have no idea what this statement means, but in any case it seems to imply a pretty tall order for an eight-year old. We here at FFFF are somewhat old fashioned, and think that its the job of our elementary schools to teach kids how to read, write, and do some ‘rithmatic; and maybe along the way learn to think a little bit for themselves. Mitch, please consider scaling back your goals for success to something comprehendable, reasonable and measurable.