Letter from Dan White

This is an open letter from Simi Valley School Board Trustee Dan White published several hours ago:

I personally want to thank all of the teachers who have signed up to support our mission for better leadership in Simi Valley Schools. Given the circumstances you face as an SVUSD employee, I am deeply moved by your commitment to support a new direction that goes against what your labor representatives are instructing you to do.

While teaching is already a tough enough job, it takes a great deal of courage to stand up to the people who purport to be representing your best interests. While you have pledged your support to build a better education system, many of your peers are afraid of retribution from the very leadership that says they are here to protect you. It is very disappointing to see how many teachers have said to me that they are afraid of their union.

As we begin this effort to change Simi Valley public schools for the better, I thought it would be helpful to provide some background information regarding the role of the SEA leadership during the past year.

Last year, the SEA interview committee came together to choose who they would endorse as their school board candidates. To the surprise of most on the SEA interview committee, the interviews were only set up to select one candidate. The other two positions were selected by SEA leadership well before the first meeting of the interview committee.

So while Collins, Sandland, and myself were all endorsed by the SEA, I was the only candidate selected by the teachers. Collins and Sandland were selected by President Dayle Gillick and CTA Rep Ginny Jannotto.

During my interview, I was up-front with the committee in explaining that we needed better leadership in our school district. I cited declining enrollment, and mismanagement of funds, and a lack of strategy. Early on in the process, it was very clear that essentially all of the mid-level and senior SEA leaders believed that
we were in desperate need of better leadership.

Over time, I learned the sad truth about the union endorsements for Collins and Sandland. While Ginny and Dayle do not believe these two are qualified, they still decided to endorse them because they didn’t know anyone else and as incumbents they were both the path of least resistance and also “known quantities”.

Between December and August, I have enjoyed my interactions with Dayle and Ginny. Like me, Dayle is a math major, and Ginny was a math teacher. I still believe we share the same vision for a better SVUSD. We feel strongly that that SVUSD needs new leadership.

In February, all SEA members were asked to give input on what they thought of our current Superintendent. The SEA presented a scathing indictment of Scroggin. One slide was titled “The District Created this Mess” calling the budget crisis “Outrageous and Inexcusable!”. The presentation went on with “The District needs
to Get Their Act Together and Fast.” The SEA pointed out that “Simi Lost 160 Teachers in the Last 5 Years”. “Simi lost 2,000 Students in 5 Years”. The SEA asked “Where is the district urgency to save students?”

Over 80% of the SEA members approved a vote of “No Confidence” for Dr. Scroggin. Clearly, the vast majority of SEA members agreed with their senior leaders, and they were frustrated with Dr. Scroggin.

In February, I asked Board President Collins to take action so that we could select a new Superintendent. Despite my request which was applauded by hundreds of SEA and CSEA members, Collins and Sandland ignored your voice and heaped unwavering praise on Scroggin.

On August 28th, I met with Dayle and Ginny in my office to tell them that I was launching a an effort to recall Sandland and Collins. There, I showed them the recall petitions and I explained my reasoning for launching a recall. They asked several questions and we had a lengthy discussion lasting more than two hours regarding leadership. I explained that I felt it was critical that SVUSD had smart board members. In that meeting and in several meetings before, Ginny and Dayle expressed their frustrations to me regarding Collins’ and Sandland’s inability understand important issues.

On Tuesday of last week, word of the recall reached the public. That afternoon, Dayle sent a letter to her lieutenants in the SEA. “It has just come to my attention today that Dan White intends to launch a recall effort.” As I read the fabricated nonsense in her letter, I could see that someone had gotten to Dayle. Despite everything she believes, someone told her she needed to oppose the recall.

Why?

Let me share a bit of public information with you: Dayle is the President of the Simi Educators Association and serves as a “TOSA” or “Teacher on Special Assignment”. Each pay period, her salary is paid by the district. Once a year, the district invoices the SEA for 50% of her costs. Some have argued that the 50% paid by the district is a “gift of public funds” to the union. This discussion came up earlier this year. At one point, the district invoiced the SEA for several years reimbursements at 100% on a retroactive basis. This triggered an intense debate between the SEA and the SVUSD. If Dr. Scroggin teamed up with three board members who wanted to eliminate the TOSA position, then in 10 minutes or less, Dayle would no longer be a TOSA. What would she do then? Go back into the classroom? Which teacher would be laid off when she reported for duty?

Therefore, supporting the recall would likely adversely affect Dayle Gillick’s personal movements, freedom, and/or personal finances.

Likewise, the SEA supporting the recall could trigger a retroactive invoice to the local chapter of the SEA.

And that may be two big reasons why the SEA is telling you — before they hear your opinion via the Rep Council meeting on Wednesday — that they “cannot support a recall.” They don’t care what your opinion is — they have already decided. This was yet another example of a recurring theme around here: It is called a “Conflict of Interest”.

At the upcoming regular board meeting on October 8th, Dr. Scroggin’s contract extension will be on the agenda. The four other board members have signaled that they are willing to approve the contract extension.

Your SEA leaders are taking the side that wants more years of Scroggin’s leadership.

I am taking the same side that you did in February when 80% of your members said “No more Scroggin.”

I didn’t change my position. I am just following through on what I said when I started this whole thing: “Change Begins with Leadership”

But your SEA leadership has flip-flopped on this one.

When SEA wants more of the same leadership that has led to 160 teacher layoffs in 5 years, it is worth asking the question: Is SEA representing your interests ?

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