The Chronicle (July14th), reported on five San Francisco school board members and four Principals that recently enjoyed an unannounced, free trip to China, paid for by the Chinese Government. I understand about 400 US Educators were invited on this trip. In the article, the SF school board members said it was not in violation of the Brown Act, because it was a "junket", purely recreational, no business discussed.
I'm told Marilyn Cook, Associate Superintendent from PAUSD, as well as Becki Cohn-Vargas and Ruth Malen (former principal at Duveneck), went on this trip as well. I'm not sure if there were any others from PAUSD.
PAUSD is in the middle of a very heated debate, and pending VOTE by the School Board, on whether to start a very controversial Mandarin Chinese immersion program. The proposal is heavily backed by Chinese special interests (as evidenced by the letters of support attached to the proposal.) It sounds like San Francisco is also on the threshold of a similar vote on their Mandarin Chinese immersion program.
When Washington officials take free "junkets" or other free gifts from Special Interest Groups, it's a huge scandal. Why is it OK for our PAUSD officials to partake in expensive free trips from special interests, on the threshold of this big decision? It's unseemly that employees involved in influencing a decision and/or providing critical feasibility inputs should be accepting a free trip at this critical time in the process. On the other hand, if this was a fact finding trip for the feasibility study, how unbiased can a fact finding trip be that is funded and delivered by one of the interested parties? This raises further questions as to the impartiality with which the district is conducting the Mandarin Chinese immersion decision making process.
This should not have been allowed, especially by high level district officials that will be influential in the PAUSD Mandarin Chinese immersion decision making process. The board promised the community an unbiased feasibility study. Anyone in PAUSD who accepted a free trip should be completely disallowed from participating any further in that process. At the very least, the purpose, the attendees, the trip events, meetings and results/findings of the trip, as well as how the information gathered will be used in the process, should be reported publicly ASAP.
This seems improper to me.