“Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants.” – Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1913)
By Alex Welling
February 6, 2024 (El Cajon) -- On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Cajon Valley Union School District’s controversial special meeting to approve former Board President Tamara Otero’s $60,000 golden parachute, current Board President Jim Miller undercut the will of the people again.
Cajon Valley is no stranger to violating its bylaws and California’s signature open meetings law, the Brown Act. Over the years, lawsuits have been threatened and filed; however, no violation has been as overt as what happened at Tuesday’s special meeting. Board President Miller called for a last-minute, improperly noticed meeting at an inconvenient time to force through more than 500 Board Policy updates.
These policies are critical as they define the roles and responsibilities of the Board and its only employee, Superintendent David Miyashiro. They're also extremely controversial in the case of Cajon Valley.
Typically, school districts task parent advisory committees to review and recommend updates to existing policies, but not at Cajon Valley. The Superintendent and his staff unilaterally made updates to the policies with no meaningful input from the community.
For months, President Miller has been trying to force approval of these updates at regular meetings but faced stiff opposition from parents and community members who had legitimate concerns about proposed policy changes and simply wanted a voice in the process. Some concerning changes discovered by the community buried in the nearly 1,400-page document removed some whistleblower protections, eliminated the right of the public to know the Superintendent’s annual performance goals and removed annual inspections of ventilation systems. Despite these concerns and similar to the Otero contract, he bypassed the Board majority and community and scheduled a last-minute Special Meeting on a Tuesday at 10 a.m.
But why a special meeting and not a regular meeting?
According to the Brown Act and Board bylaws, a regular meeting requires 72 hours’ advanced notice be posted online and at the District office. This means the Board would have had to post a meeting notice at the latest on the preceding Friday, providing ample time for parents and community members to learn of the meeting and make arrangements to attend. A special meeting, on the other hand, only requires 24 hours’ notice, which allows less time to learn of the meeting and less time to prepare.
That said, the Board did not fulfill the requirements of the Brown Act or the Board bylaws, which requires the notice be placed both online, which it was, and posted at the District office, which it wasn’t, 24 hours in advance. When confronted, President Miller argued the Board was in “substantial compliance” with the Brown Act and Board Bylaws and could move forward.
Having served on a city ethics committee, I can assure you there is no such thing as substantial compliance when the words, “The notice shall…” are included in the Bylaws. “Shall,” means, mandatory, not optional or at the discretion of the President.
So now I ask why the urgency? The policies were out-of-date, yes, but were in compliance with applicable law. Were there poison pills included? Were there additional changes President Miller would prefer the public didn’t know about until it’s too late?
Unfortunately, time will tell.
In the face of these concerning actions by Board President Miller and the questionable handling of crucial policies at Cajon Valley, it’s clear that the need for new leadership is imperative. The repeated disregard for transparency, the rush to pass significant policy changes without proper community input, and the apparent evasion of noticing requirements are not indicative of responsible governance.
The citizens of Cajon Valley deserve leaders who prioritize open communication, respect due process, and uphold the principles of fiduciary responsibility. It is time for the community to shine a light on the need for change in leadership, ensuring that the path forward is one guided by integrity, collaboration, and a genuine commitment to the well-being of the students and families of Cajon Valley. It is time for the community to demand transparency and accountability from their school board.
Alex Welling is a lifelong resident of El Cajon and Chula Vista and a Candidate for Cajon Valley Union School District Board of Trustees Area 5. He is an award-winning public outreach/communications professional and currently serves as a Public Information Officer for Wildfire, Emergency Response, and Operations at San Diego Gas & Electric. Welling has two children with another on the way. His eldest will be attending Cajon Valley in the Fall. The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.