Judge halts challenge language to school district bond


A judge with the Santa Clara County Superior Court has stopped a local man's legal action against Mountain View's elementary- and middle-school district, an official with the district said.

On Monday, April 2, Judge Kevin McKenney denied Steve Nelson's application for an order shortening time for filing as well as his motion for the issuance of a writ of mandate, said Craig Goldman, superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District.

Nelson sought to force the Mountain View Whisman School District to change the language of the supporting literature for Measure G -- a $198 million parcel tax-supported bond for improving schools set to appear on the June 5 ballot. According to Nelson, the district was trying to scare the public into supporting the measure by overstating the risk of asbestos and lead at district schools.

He had no comment on the denial of his challenge.

In an email to the Voice, Goldman wrote: "Judge Kevin McKenney denied the application and motion on the following grounds:

"1) Application is untimely.

2) Respondents (District) have presented evidence countering the petitioner's (Steve Nelson's) belief.

3) Petitioner's belief is an inadequate basis for a writ."

Goldman later emailed a copy of the judge's notes on the legal action.

The district-drafted argument in favor of Measure G, submitted to the county's registrar of voters and set to appear in voter guides, states that the $198 million bond is needed to make improvements and upgrades to schools and facilities throughout the district for various reasons -- including to make schools "safe from asbestos, lead and other hazards."

Nelson's maintained that the inclusion of those two words -- "lead" and "asbestos" -- was intended to "purposefully mislead" the public. He claims that the school board has greatly exaggerated the risk posed by asbestos and lead paint in older school buildings as a scare tactic aimed at garnering voter support.

Goldman denied all of Nelson's accusations, and said district lawyers made their case to the court and McKenney put a stop to Nelson's legal action.

Measure G, should it pass, will be supported by area home owners who would pay up to $30 per $100,000 of assessed property value. It requires a yes vote of 55 percent to pass. It would come on top of Measure C, the eight-year, $3 million voter-approved parcel tax that went into effect in 2009. Depending on parcel size, property owners are assessed anywhere from nearly $150 to over $1,000 a year under Measure C.

For his part, Nelson said he was never opposed to the school district getting that money. Nor was he against the taxpayers footing the bill. Nelson insists he only felt the community needed to be more involved in the process of deciding how the money would be spent.

For one, Nelson complained that the district never put together a "7-11 committee" -- a board composed of local citizens who would review the districts plans and ensure that the money generated from the bond measure was earmarked for projects the community agreed with. Though the district is not required to assemble such a committee before asking voters for a parcel tax, Nelson said, "it is best practices."

However, Goldman said it seemed that Nelson simply wanted to throw a wrench in the spokes of the process for some other reason. Goldman noted that Nelson had attacked the bond measure using other rhetoric before abandoning it to settle on the "lead and asbestos" argument.

"Mr. Nelson has let us know that he's willing to do anything to deny our students access to safe efficient and modern facilities," Goldman said. "This latest action demonstrates his willingness to file a frivolous lawsuit in order to impede the district's ability to renovate and upgrade student classrooms and facilities."

Goldman noted that fighting the lawsuit cost the district many hours of administrative and clerical time -- gathering documents, hiring a law firm and having discussions with attorneys.

In defense of his legal action, Nelson said, "I always advocate for schools, but it matters for me how the money is spent. ... "(This is) an OK bond. But we really need a great bond."


Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 2, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Very frustrating! Goldman needs to go. Why doesn't he suggest we fund the effort out of the multi-million dollar retirement packages he and other administrators will receive?

VOTE NO!!! Our schools are well funded, but horribly mismanaged.

Like this comment
Posted by Watchdog
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Apr 3, 2012 at 6:08 am

And don't forget the top two assistant superintendents will retire this year with golden packages (3-4 million each) courtesy of the tax-payers. And one will be back in the fall double dipping because she is too valuable to lose.

Like this comment
Posted by tommy_g
a resident of Willowgate
on Apr 3, 2012 at 9:22 am

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment]

the Judge was correct in his findings, and Goldman is the best in the Business.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment]

Like this comment
Posted by Nelson for School Board
a resident of Gemello
on Apr 3, 2012 at 11:42 am

Steve Nelson should run for school board. Then we'd see how the voters feel about this type of thing.

Like this comment
Posted by @ Nick
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Apr 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm

You need only to look at how the other school districts are fairing during these tough economic times to realize what a good job Craig Goldman is doing.

It is so so easy to sit there and say the money is being mis-managed, but it is simply untrue. He is has worked hard and it what our students are getting that students in other districts are not! And, what our teachers are getting. They have not yet had any days off without pay, as many other districts are currently doing consistently. And, that is proof that our money (albeit less than some districts of which I speak)is being well managed.

About these "golden packages" I cannot speak. I do not have any information about that.

Like this comment
Posted by @Nelson for School Board
a resident of Whisman Station
on Apr 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Certainly all your intervening in every school PTA meeting and neighborhood meeting has made you SO popular. Oh, I am certain you will win

Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Ugh.. when is it enough? We weren't even 2 years into the last bond measure (Measure C) and the district started asking for more money.

Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm

@Nick -- the "golden packages" are posted publicly -- here are a few:
Web Link

Some are receiving pensions ~$140k/year, which is worth $3-4M as Watchdog points out. And these numbers are growing significantly every year with each retirement.

It's hypocrisy for Goldman to lash out at Steve Nelson in saying that he doesn't support our children, when Goldman supports millions going to each administrator in retirement pay (that otherwise could have gone to improving our schools).

Goldman is like those homeless beggars that prop up a sick dog to try to get people to donate -- and yet spend the money on themselves, and are actually motivated to keep the dog looking sickly since that pushes people to donate.

If he had prioritized school improvements over pensions -- and now asked for tax increases to fund the multimillion dollar pensions -- would anyone vote for it? No.

Like this comment
Posted by Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Nick - why don't you find out the facts before you blast off your negative comments. Goldman has no control over the retirement packages. How they are calculated is controlled at the state level - not at the local level!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Nick does have a point. Goldman has already approved raises and bonuses for district office administrators. One will retire and come back to double dip. Goldman is already in line for a raise, not the teachers. This is the same old scam as before. Look at the board meeting minutes. Ex-superintendent Ghsyels girlfriend is one of the highest paid principals in the district although with the least amount of time in as a principal. The schools were just remodeled ten years ago, while few taxpayers homes were. This is just another fleecing.

Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm

And those administrators who retired a few years back retired at salaries higher than their last salaries. That was orchestrated within the district office and approved by the board at the local level. Dwell on that and then ask yourself if you should be taxed more.

Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 4, 2012 at 9:20 am

I tried over 2 years to get the Trustees to get 'high standard' community input. I also tried to get this spending plan delayed - by getting 2 Trustees to vote "present" on the bond vote. I am not overly impressed by Goldman's work as CFO with the architects, or his commitment to what the Department of Education considers "best practice" in community input. I think the community needs to keep him on a short leash (tight citizen pre-taxation priorities). There is only 42% bond funds for his $423M SFIP. The question is not pensions, but, Craig, when are you coming back for THE NEXT $200 M?

Like this comment
Posted by William
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

"deny our students access to safe efficient and modern facilities"

Who would be so stingy and selfish?

Our tears fall for the doomed children now suffering in dangerous and antiquated facilities. And for all the teachers who have to go to work 180 days per year. And for the tax payer relentlessly drained by veracious, self serving bureaucrats.

Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 7, 2012 at 11:13 am

All this discussion over this local bond measure, Steve Nelson, and Craig Goldman is missing the forest for the trees. A quick analysis of the low per capita spending per student in California, in conjunction with the relatively low per capita spending per student in the United States is the real, big picture issue and problem.

Web Link

The fact is that our current priorities don't support us continuing to be the superpower of the world. Education is what develops the people who in turn drives the innovation that supports a thriving economy that in turn supports every else that a country needs to stay on top.

Those who continue to blame inefficiency and corruption in the administrative branch of education may indeed have a point, but its a moot point, because their strategy for addressing it that only makes the situation worse: withhold funding....let'm starve.

To be sure, money is not the sole solution to fixing all the endemic problems we have with our educational system, but neither is turning our backs on it and walking away.

Like this comment
Posted by Marlene
a resident of Whisman Station
on May 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Any figures on what percentage of students in the district are from (property) taxpaying homeowner families, and what percentage of taxpaying homeowner families send their kids to MVWSD schools? And what percentage of district residents with school age kids send their kids to private schools (broken down by homeowners vs. renters or both)?

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