News

Editorial: No trust in trustees, no unity in Dublin Unified

There is no trust in the trustees and no unification within the Dublin Unified school board. It is once again leaderless and divided at a very precarious moment in time.

The abrupt resignation announcement by Superintendent Dave Marken, Ed.D., last week sent shockwaves of frustration, anger and angst through the community and put into question the future of the district, which is at a crossroads in terms of growth and employee relations.

"If you find yourself in a situation where your bosses don't trust you, and you don't trust your boss, you should no longer work for your boss anymore," Marken said during a very opaque explanation of why he was leaving at the beginning of the board's Zoom meeting on June 23.

Marken was called out of retirement last year to lead the district in hopes of some stability after the equally abrupt departure (a "mutual separation") of his predecessor, Leslie Boozer, who lasted less than three years with the district. In his 14 months at the helm, Marken was able to start the process of turning the district around and instilling "a sense of hope in the community during a difficult time in which the district found itself on the brink," according to a district statement.

During Marken's tenure as superintendent, the district saw voters renew the $96 annual parcel tax under Measure E in May 2019 and pass the $290 million Measure J, a school facilities bond securing much-needed funding for the second phase of a second high school. He had recently presented and initially gained board approval of a plan to reopen the district's schools next academic year amid the pandemic.

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Marken's most recent accomplishment was that DUSD and the Dublin Teachers Association had a tentative agreement that the union was happy with and that fit within the confines of a revised budget.

What exactly precipitated Marken's surprise resignation isn't certain, but the timing suggests he could have been unhappy that the district-initiated tentative agreement with DTA was rejected by the board majority on June 11 -- trustees Dan Cherrier, Gabi Blackman and Catherine Kuo.

Interestingly, the June 16 special meeting agenda and June 23 agenda listed the superintendent's performance evaluation in the closed session. (Even more interestingly, the trio reversed course and endorsed the same teachers' contract proposal this past Tuesday, after Marken's resignation, citing some updated budget news from the state.)

We don't mean to imply that the questions Cherrier, Blackman and Kuo are asking about funding for salary increases are wrong to consider. However, not working to keep a very popular superintendent who was making great strides in rebuilding trust and unity in a district sorely in need of stability, then acting very nonchalant on camera in the aftermath of his resignation, doesn't seem responsible.

The healing and the regaining of trust, confidence and unity that was slowly taking place over the past year blew up in a matter of 10 minutes at the beginning of the board's June 23 open meeting and is now replaced with animosity, distrust and division.

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And the district is without a permanent leader, again, and unstable as it works to navigate educating students amid COVID-19 and the second high school project just getting underway. "Adrift" was the district's own word for the situation last week.

The Board of Trustees itself has been in disarray for the past 18 months. When Boozer walked away from the position in March 2019 (with some DTA members cheering when her exit was announced), the five-member board was down to only three trustees. Longtime trustee Dan Cunningham surprised everyone by resigning that February, only months after being re-elected to his seat, and a citizens' petition to nullify the appointment of a new trustee left the second vacancy.

The divisiveness, politicking and public display of animosity is unlike any other current school board in the Tri-Valley. There is also a clear east-west divide, which is unique to Dublin and applies to the community and to the board.

Unintended consequences of district elections could be at play here. When the DUSD board appointed Nini Natarajan in December 2018 to the Area 4 seat vacated by trustee Joe Giannini two months earlier, the appointment was overturned weeks later under a provision in state law that allows voters to challenge and demand a special election instead.

The petition that challenged the appointment needed to be signed by 1.5% of voters in the election area. In this case, because of districting, only 74 voters from Trustee Area 4 were needed to force a special election. Blackman was elected by fewer than 600 voters to represent Area 4 in the low-turnout June 2019 special election that cost taxpayers around $60,000.

Then there is the parochialism inherent in districting.

Just as in state and national politics, school board trustees and city council members have to answer to a small group of people as opposed to the entire constituency. While we would like to believe most local elected officials make decisions and base votes on what they feel is best for the entire community, it's only human to consider how decisions and votes will be viewed by the relatively few people who will re-elect you, or not.

Ironically, Kuo, Blackman and Cherrier, the three trustees who rejected Marken's tentative agreement with DTA -- and showed very little concern about Marken's resignation June 23 -- represent East Dublin, where the second high school will serve.

Trustees Kuo and Blackman and Board President Cherrier had very little to say after Marken's proverbial mic drop, other than Cherrier remarking that the timing is unfortunate and Kuo saying she appreciates her fellow board members.

Trustees Megan Rouse and Amy Miller, on the other hand, let their frustration be known.

"I do not share Trustee Kuo's feelings of appreciation for fellow board members," Rouse said, "although I do appreciate Trustee Miller."

"I am heartbroken," Miller said. "I think this board, when they get some time away and can look back, will recognize the devastation we've brought to this district. I hate even including myself in that because I don't feel I'm a part of it. I don't share your feelings, Catherine (Kuo), about the rest of this board. I'm embarrassed to be part of this board."

"I'm kind of just really sad tonight," she continued, "and concerned about what the future of DUSD looks like."

We share the concern about the future of DUSD expressed by Miller and dozens of letter writers, Town Square posters and social media commenters.

Instability and infighting between a school board and administration -- and amongst board members themselves -- is destructive in so many ways.

We encourage the DUSD trustees to remember the main stakeholders in this (the students) and start working together for the good of the district as a whole. And soon.

As now-former superintendent Marken said, leading a school district is not for the faint of heart; a knowledgeable, experienced, proven leader is needed to right this ship.

Unfortunately, with the current board -- which can graciously be described as a dysfunctional train wreck -- it will be extraordinarily difficult to find someone able to lead DUSD into the future who is actually willing to take it on.

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Editorial: No trust in trustees, no unity in Dublin Unified

by /

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 2, 2020, 3:13 pm

There is no trust in the trustees and no unification within the Dublin Unified school board. It is once again leaderless and divided at a very precarious moment in time.

The abrupt resignation announcement by Superintendent Dave Marken, Ed.D., last week sent shockwaves of frustration, anger and angst through the community and put into question the future of the district, which is at a crossroads in terms of growth and employee relations.

"If you find yourself in a situation where your bosses don't trust you, and you don't trust your boss, you should no longer work for your boss anymore," Marken said during a very opaque explanation of why he was leaving at the beginning of the board's Zoom meeting on June 23.

Marken was called out of retirement last year to lead the district in hopes of some stability after the equally abrupt departure (a "mutual separation") of his predecessor, Leslie Boozer, who lasted less than three years with the district. In his 14 months at the helm, Marken was able to start the process of turning the district around and instilling "a sense of hope in the community during a difficult time in which the district found itself on the brink," according to a district statement.

During Marken's tenure as superintendent, the district saw voters renew the $96 annual parcel tax under Measure E in May 2019 and pass the $290 million Measure J, a school facilities bond securing much-needed funding for the second phase of a second high school. He had recently presented and initially gained board approval of a plan to reopen the district's schools next academic year amid the pandemic.

Marken's most recent accomplishment was that DUSD and the Dublin Teachers Association had a tentative agreement that the union was happy with and that fit within the confines of a revised budget.

What exactly precipitated Marken's surprise resignation isn't certain, but the timing suggests he could have been unhappy that the district-initiated tentative agreement with DTA was rejected by the board majority on June 11 -- trustees Dan Cherrier, Gabi Blackman and Catherine Kuo.

Interestingly, the June 16 special meeting agenda and June 23 agenda listed the superintendent's performance evaluation in the closed session. (Even more interestingly, the trio reversed course and endorsed the same teachers' contract proposal this past Tuesday, after Marken's resignation, citing some updated budget news from the state.)

We don't mean to imply that the questions Cherrier, Blackman and Kuo are asking about funding for salary increases are wrong to consider. However, not working to keep a very popular superintendent who was making great strides in rebuilding trust and unity in a district sorely in need of stability, then acting very nonchalant on camera in the aftermath of his resignation, doesn't seem responsible.

The healing and the regaining of trust, confidence and unity that was slowly taking place over the past year blew up in a matter of 10 minutes at the beginning of the board's June 23 open meeting and is now replaced with animosity, distrust and division.

And the district is without a permanent leader, again, and unstable as it works to navigate educating students amid COVID-19 and the second high school project just getting underway. "Adrift" was the district's own word for the situation last week.

The Board of Trustees itself has been in disarray for the past 18 months. When Boozer walked away from the position in March 2019 (with some DTA members cheering when her exit was announced), the five-member board was down to only three trustees. Longtime trustee Dan Cunningham surprised everyone by resigning that February, only months after being re-elected to his seat, and a citizens' petition to nullify the appointment of a new trustee left the second vacancy.

The divisiveness, politicking and public display of animosity is unlike any other current school board in the Tri-Valley. There is also a clear east-west divide, which is unique to Dublin and applies to the community and to the board.

Unintended consequences of district elections could be at play here. When the DUSD board appointed Nini Natarajan in December 2018 to the Area 4 seat vacated by trustee Joe Giannini two months earlier, the appointment was overturned weeks later under a provision in state law that allows voters to challenge and demand a special election instead.

The petition that challenged the appointment needed to be signed by 1.5% of voters in the election area. In this case, because of districting, only 74 voters from Trustee Area 4 were needed to force a special election. Blackman was elected by fewer than 600 voters to represent Area 4 in the low-turnout June 2019 special election that cost taxpayers around $60,000.

Then there is the parochialism inherent in districting.

Just as in state and national politics, school board trustees and city council members have to answer to a small group of people as opposed to the entire constituency. While we would like to believe most local elected officials make decisions and base votes on what they feel is best for the entire community, it's only human to consider how decisions and votes will be viewed by the relatively few people who will re-elect you, or not.

Ironically, Kuo, Blackman and Cherrier, the three trustees who rejected Marken's tentative agreement with DTA -- and showed very little concern about Marken's resignation June 23 -- represent East Dublin, where the second high school will serve.

Trustees Kuo and Blackman and Board President Cherrier had very little to say after Marken's proverbial mic drop, other than Cherrier remarking that the timing is unfortunate and Kuo saying she appreciates her fellow board members.

Trustees Megan Rouse and Amy Miller, on the other hand, let their frustration be known.

"I do not share Trustee Kuo's feelings of appreciation for fellow board members," Rouse said, "although I do appreciate Trustee Miller."

"I am heartbroken," Miller said. "I think this board, when they get some time away and can look back, will recognize the devastation we've brought to this district. I hate even including myself in that because I don't feel I'm a part of it. I don't share your feelings, Catherine (Kuo), about the rest of this board. I'm embarrassed to be part of this board."

"I'm kind of just really sad tonight," she continued, "and concerned about what the future of DUSD looks like."

We share the concern about the future of DUSD expressed by Miller and dozens of letter writers, Town Square posters and social media commenters.

Instability and infighting between a school board and administration -- and amongst board members themselves -- is destructive in so many ways.

We encourage the DUSD trustees to remember the main stakeholders in this (the students) and start working together for the good of the district as a whole. And soon.

As now-former superintendent Marken said, leading a school district is not for the faint of heart; a knowledgeable, experienced, proven leader is needed to right this ship.

Unfortunately, with the current board -- which can graciously be described as a dysfunctional train wreck -- it will be extraordinarily difficult to find someone able to lead DUSD into the future who is actually willing to take it on.

Comments

Dublin Mike
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 9:31 am
Dublin Mike, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 9:31 am
Like this comment

I too wondered if electing by district rather than cite-wide was 1) a good idea forced on us, and 2) if district elections played a part in the current situation. East vs. West?


Vijay
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:42 am
Vijay, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:42 am
22 people like this

Looks like the editors seem to follow Fox News a lot. Good try spinning it sideways and accuse the three board members of who are actually doing due diligence and doing their job.
Fact: Gabi got 70% of the votes compared to Nini’s who received 30%. Check it out at acgov. Good try spinning the numbers here.

Amy Miller is free to resign if she finds the other three trustees embarrassing. It’s actually embarrassing to residents and parents of Dublin to see a bully like Amy Miller warm the seat for a long time with no accountability. I suppose DUSD is the only place she can do that.

Pleasanton weekly: You should be ashamed of yourself for all the spin in this article without the correct facts. Sounds like you are just another sleazy tabloid in the making.


Dublin Resident
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:59 am
Dublin Resident, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:59 am
18 people like this

Did the Editorial Board do any research/analysis on this piece ? I understand editorial reflects the views of editors and and this one is written with pure biased motive. In this age and day, a bit of research on social media's like nextdoor and facebook can reflect the true sentiments of the Dublin citizens. Your editorial board just lost all respect with a hit piece like this.


Jane Smith
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 12:02 pm
Jane Smith, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 12:02 pm
14 people like this

What is sad that board members who have been on the school board for a long time have shown no accountability for their actions. They exhibit rude behavior at board meetings and somehow think it is acceptable. Most parents and community at large are very dissatisfied with Trustees Miller and Rouse. There should be a way to get them off the board and start fresh with trustees who actually care about the district.


Parent
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 1:40 pm
Parent, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 1:40 pm
18 people like this

Looks like they just picked and published it from what was written by a Rouse/Miller team member. Probably because of the long weekend rush, I assume editors may not have got time to review and add a bit of objectiveness to even call this a editorial material.


Mike
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 2:35 pm
Mike, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 2:35 pm
2 people like this

From various sources at the DO, Marken's departure was the result of a scathing review given to him by 3 of 5 board members. Given that he almost singlehandedly rescued the district and had the widespread approval of staff and the community, the only logical explanation for a harsh review was that he had a backbone and the board didn't like it. It feels like Trump trying to purge dissenters from his organization! It's a shame that 3 board members with an opinion that ran counter to the vast majority of Dubliners couldn't handle someone that was more liked and respected than them. Pushing Marken out has resulted in a hot mess and it was 100% unnecessary. The east side of town wanted people on the board to clean up the mess they thought the board was and they have only made it worse.
In a perfect world, we'd get rid of the two extreme elements of the board (Blackman and Miller) and then hope the city was smart enough to elect people that were not so polarizing.


Robert
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 4:30 pm
Robert, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 4:30 pm
14 people like this

I have (had) been a fan of Pleasanton weekly. Well not anymore now because apparently they publish things without checking facts. Now I don't know how many past stories I have believed to be true were actually incorrect.

I know this is one. I know it is incorrect because the 3 NEW DUSD trustees are elected and trusted and loved by vast majority of Dubliners since they are the ones fixing up the mess left by old gang of trustees (2 of them are still sitting in at the board) and the previous superintendent, including Dr. Marken who's always really bias.

If a leader doesn't want to be held accountable for his or her action maybe then it's time for him to go. Good riddance. Dublin can be better off without him/her and the whole old gang of trustees and their cronies. Time to really clean house and shake them up!


David K
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 4:40 pm
David K, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 4:40 pm
15 people like this

This editorial really badly written and it is blatantly wrong. Pleasanton Weekly apparently didn't check their facts or were bought by some people supporting the old gang in DUSD corrupted system. The 3 trustees Cherrier, Blackman and Kuo are the heros for Dublin parents and students! I really wish Pleasanton Weekly editors check things first before publishing something like a lip service or you guys should just find a different place to work. We don't need fake news of our neighboring cities.


20+ year Dublin/Pleasanton Resident
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 4:42 pm
20+ year Dublin/Pleasanton Resident, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 4:42 pm
19 people like this

Pleasanton Weekly- FAIL in reporting.
Marken was in fact NOT appreciated by all- only by a handful of teacher union members and some parents. He chose to resign when COVID hit- and had threatened to quit at 3 previous meetings. He couldn't take the heat, was hoping for an easy year. He did the same while he served as superintendent in Newark. He "resigned" when the going got tough. For $350k per year, one would expect a better work ethic. Trustees Amy Miller and Megan Rouse are an embarrassment to the seats they occupy. If Miller is so ashamed to be part of the DUSD board- then resign! Pleasanton Weekly. Shame on you for this write up. You don't know what's going on in Dublin at all.


David K
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 5:19 pm
David K, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 5:19 pm
Like this comment

I realize my statement was wrong. I have no right to say "Cherrier, Blackman and Kuo are the heros for Dublin parents and students." I do not, in fact, know if this is true because I do not know the majority of Dublin families or students. Such a fool am I!
I can say, they are the heroes of my echo chamber.


20+ year Dublin/Pleasanton Resident
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 5:25 pm
20+ year Dublin/Pleasanton Resident, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 5:25 pm
Like this comment

I too am wrong. I don't know enough people in Dublin to make these statements and certainly can't speak for the majority of Dublin citizens or teachers. Like the three trustees I support, I sometimes feel threatened when my reality is questioned, and rather than reflect, I simply lash out. It's this type of reaction that probably resulted in the district losing such a loved and respected superintendent.
My bad.


PW editors are Jokers
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 5:38 pm
PW editors are Jokers, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 5:38 pm
5 people like this

You shall rephrase your title: No trust in trustees (Rouse and Miller), no unity in Dublin Unified


Dublin 20-yr Resident
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 6:29 pm
Dublin 20-yr Resident, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 6:29 pm
16 people like this

It is sad how little these particular editors know about what is really going on. This is obviously written to make it sound very negative about two brand new trustees, as well as a third trustee who is also less than 4 years elected. Many residents trust that the district will find a way to focus on all our students.


Dublin Veteran
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 8:29 pm
Dublin Veteran, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 8:29 pm
14 people like this

Times are not good for business like this but hopefully editors did not take donation from anyone to publish this article. Or was the strategy to publish a click bait fake opinion article to get more clicks and traffic.


Give Power Back TK the Residents
California Reflections
on Jul 3, 2020 at 9:36 pm
Give Power Back TK the Residents, California Reflections
on Jul 3, 2020 at 9:36 pm
8 people like this

Trustee Megan Rouse’s Dad was Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Manager in 2016.

All you need to know about nepotism and where the money backing her entry into politics came from- that’s right, check out the WikiLeaks leaked emails of her dad asking his Washington cronies to “donate” to her campaign. Now we have Washington DC money influencing Dublin Schools.


David K
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 10:12 pm
David K, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 10:12 pm
14 people like this

It's unbelievable that someone posted as me!
The first one was me. The second one above apologizing as me must've been posted by some old trustee gang (maybe spouse?) who have nothing better to do than posting fake impostor comment just like their change org petition full of fake signatures.
What a joke. Sign of losing IMO.
This is the real David K. The fake David K probably thinks I'm related to Kuo, no I'm not.. and I'm not sorry. Cherrier, Blackman and Kuo bring accountability in DUSD and they're well loved and elected by vast majority of Dubliners.

Pleasanton Weekly - are you looking for lawsuit?


Mary-Anne
Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 10:56 pm
Mary-Anne, Dublin
on Jul 3, 2020 at 10:56 pm
13 people like this

This is a joke. Pleasanton Weekly - is this the best you can do to get yourself more hits? Just amazing how lower and dumber this publication has become over the year, and now this? How much are they paying you?


Tarnished district
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 2:23 am
Tarnished district, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 2:23 am
Like this comment

The Pleasanton Weekly should try to do a public records request to figure out the performance evaluations for the three trustees who banded together to oust Marken.

He had a two year contract to come out of retirement to try to get things back on track. Too bad the three trustees banded together and for some unknown reason, picked this critical time to force him out.

Too bad that this means no decent superintendent would ever consider coming to Dublin. After all, who in their right mind would apply?

What a monumental disappointment that these trustees focused their hard work and putting interests in ousting the superintendent rather than focusing on students and parents.


Dick C
West of Foothill
on Jul 4, 2020 at 11:45 am
Dick C, West of Foothill
on Jul 4, 2020 at 11:45 am
14 people like this

LOL... ROFL! What a joke PW! I'm a Ptown resident for a long time. Never seen PW came to this low. My daughter and her family live and she teaches in Dublin. She mentioned to us the district isn't healthy. The district isn't healthy because of the long time trustee members and their "friends" including the superintendent who's apparently very biased even towards staff.
Good if he ran away from his duties. He'd be fired if he's running something in a company.


Dublin Parent
Dublin
on Jul 5, 2020 at 8:25 pm
Dublin Parent, Dublin
on Jul 5, 2020 at 8:25 pm
4 people like this

This is a hit piece by Trustees Rouse and Miller. Pleasanton Weekly, your school district is looking at furloughs. The three trustees whom you are questioning wanted to wait for state budget before making a decision on teacher's raise. When we are in the middle of pandemic and a lot of people are losing jobs, taking paycuts etc. that is the bare minimum thing to do. But alas, you just seemed to be aligned with the power holders and scratching their backs.


Tarnished district
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 12:38 am
Tarnished district, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 12:38 am
Like this comment

Seems like letter writer after letter writer of parents and employees condemning the three trustees that resulted in the ouster of Marken seemed to use their real names Web Link

However none of the posters supporting these three trustees seem to have used their real names in posting their support of these three trustees who have yet again plunged DUSD in a state of chaos and uncertainty.

I believe the letters posted at the bottom Web Link more accurately reflect the community's thoughts about the latest fiasco. At least they signed their real names and positions.


Dublin Resident
Dublin
on Jul 6, 2020 at 7:30 am
Dublin Resident, Dublin
on Jul 6, 2020 at 7:30 am
6 people like this

@Tarnished district

Lets be clear here. The web link article you referred cherry picked letters from Dublin school administration folks that suit the article's agenda and now you are spinning it as "accurately reflect the community's thoughts". Do you really think they would have dared to publish the differing opinions from Dublin citizens in the same article.

Sadly this is the case where the name "onedublin.org" (weblink hosting site) stands out as misnomer and should have be renamed as "onesideofdublin.org".


Frustrated Dubliner
Dublin
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:15 am
Frustrated Dubliner, Dublin
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:15 am
4 people like this

@Tarnished district

How very generous of you to suggest parents give their real names when expressing their displeasure with DUSD. May work well in districts where there is no mafia running the school district. You seem to be in love with the old guard and an insider. I am sure you remember the time, an entrenched Trustee illegally released the names, addresses and personal details of people who signed a special election petition to the media. Sure, I will write my real name here so you and your cronies can go after my kids with the people you are in cahoots with in the DTA. Rest assured, we shall speak with our ballot and we shall rid Dublin, I mean the entirety of Dublin from your corrupt hands. And West Dublin readers, do not buy the horse shit these political hacks are selling you telling you they are looking out for your kids. Keeping all sides dumb is the plan here and unless we fight back TOGETHER, we will wind up failing our kids. November cannot some soon enough! Oh, and great name taking accountability for tarnishing my district and proving my point for me, that in all your righteousness, you didn't dare name yourself, what a shame!


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