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Heaton named to Las Lomitas school board

Original post made on Oct 4, 2013

Christine Marie Heaton, a high school teacher who has two children in the Las Lomitas School District, has been appointed to fill the seat on the Las Lomitas school board vacated by the August resignation of Ann Jaquith.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 4, 2013, 7:48 AM

Comments (25)

Posted by Surprised, a resident of La Entrada School
on Oct 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I'm surprised it is legal to have a teachers union member be on a school board. One of the main jobs of a school board is to negotiate compensation with the union. While Ms. Heaton is a teacher in another district, it seems obvious where her sympathies will lie.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I'm surprised it is legal to have a teachers union member be on a school board."

It is legal - just as it was legal for a union to spend $85,000 to get one person elected to the Fire Board in 2011.

What should not be legal is for persons who are members of a union or who owe their election to union support to then vote on a contract which rewards those unions.

But sadly even that is legal.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the law:

"School District Governing Board Member
Any person, regardless of sex, who is 18 years of age or older, a citizen of the state, a resident of the school district, a registered voter, and who is not disqualified by the Constitution or laws of the state from holding a civil office, is eligible to be elected or appointed a member of a governing board of a school district without further qualifications. An employee of a school district may not be sworn into office as an elected or appointed member of that school district's governing board unless and until he or she resigns as an employee. If the employee does not resign, the employment will automatically terminate upon being sworn into office.
Education Code § 35107"


Posted by Donna, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Regardless of your concern over legalities, if you took the time to get to know candidates for the school board, you might understand that, first and foremost, Christy Heaton is a district parent and member of our community. Do you honestly think her motivations for being a LLESD board member are so that she can manipulate the board during negotiations with the local teachers union? Her sympathies lie with district parents over the education of all of OUR children. I actually attended all of the candidate interviews and think that the board did a terrific job of choosing the right candidate for the right reasons.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I agree that Heaton is a superb candidate and will bring a great deal of experience to the board. I would also hope that she will recuse herself from any board actions involving a union or an affiliate of a union of which she is a member.


Posted by Think About It, a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Oct 7, 2013 at 6:59 am

I think the call to recuse over any union related vote is a little over the top. I presume the recusal would be based on some sort of perceived conflict of interest. I suppose the reasoning is Heaton would somehow benefit financially from voting "pro-union".

Let's examine that notion. How would Heaton benefit personally from a vote in favor or against a Las Lomitas teacher's contract? She's not employed by the District. Whatever dues might be paid by a LL teacher union members to a state or national union party would have minimal influence or financial impact to her.

Is the conflict that she's sympathetic to teacher union members? Is that sufficient to recuse? Peter Carpenter is clearly NOT sympathetic to the Fire Union. Is that bias cause for him to recuse from any and all union related votes?

Further, since Heaton lives in the district and has children attending the schools, I would think her motivations would be centered on maximizing the value of her real property and education for her children. That motivation would include getting the best possible teachers and administrators for the best price.

We make people jump through some pretty high hoops for "serving" including completing the Fair Political Practices Commission's Form 700. Has anyone looked at this form? How would the average person feel about publicly disclosing their income, stocks, property, and gifts? My guess is most would (and do) walk away.

So, then, why would he set the bar even higher that what the FPPC already enacts ... for some perceived conflict of interest which apparently is only in the minds of some "pure government" zealots?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 7, 2013 at 8:10 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest."
Gov. Code Section 87100

Trust is local government is based on the assumption that elected officials are acting solely on behalf of the citizens who elected them and not attempting to instead benefit either themselves or their family members. An elected official who is a member of a union has to make, or request the FPPC to make for them, a difficult decision when asked to vote on a union contract if their is any organizational relationship between the elected union member and the union which will benefit from the elected union member's vote.

While serving as a Planning Commissioner for 4 1/2 years and as a Fire Board Director for over 9 years I frequently recused myself from decisions involving anyone from whom I had received compensation and from anyone whom my wife had received compensation if those sources of compensation had ANY business with ANY entity located in the geographical area covered by the commission or board. In one case I was recused from voting on another board member's expense reimbursements because he and I shared a common investment. And I voluntarily recused myself from all purchasing decisions regarding computers because my wife was serving on the board of Intel.

To serve the public well one must do so without allowing the slightest hint of a conflict of interest.


Posted by Donna, a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Oct 7, 2013 at 9:28 am

I would love to know why my comments on Christy Heaton were deleted since I did not post anything that was a personal attack on anyone or any thing.

I attended the school board meetings where candidates for the open position were interviewed. I believe Christy Heaton made clear her motivations for being on the school board. ... because she's a parent of children in the district and wants the best education available for them AND she's an involved community member. She's not there as a representative of the teachers union and serving their interests regardless of what you may think. I think her education background will provide a huge asset to the board.

Why is it any time there's a union involved assumptions are immediately made that it's a we vs. they situation? Of course there's always two side to any negotiation, but the teachers in our district are part of our community and want the same ultimate benefit of the best possible education for our students. As parents who expect the best, our families contribute more per student to our district education foundation than other local districts do and that is used, in part, to pay our teachers well and to provide for positions that would have been eliminated if we just relied on state and federal funding.

There's no financial gain for Christy Heaton being a member of the LLESD school board. The payoff is an exceptional education for her own children and others in the community.

Editor's note: Your comments may have been deleted for using more than one "user name" in a thread: Donna and Think About It.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 7, 2013 at 9:49 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Donna - the issue is 'is there a perception of conflict of interest"? If such a perception exists then the elected official would be wise to recuse herself to avoid diminishing the public's trust in government. A union member voting on a contract for a union which is affiliated with her union could well create a perception of a conflict of interest.

To remove any doubt Heaton could provide all of the details of her union membership and the district's union and ask the FPPC to issue a ruling.

"Under Government Code Section 83114(b) and Commission regulations, any individual or entity (or their authorized representative) may request formal written advice from the Commission staff concerning their duties under the Political Reform Act. The request must be in writing, provide specified information about the requestor, and contain sufficient information on which the Commission staff can do a complete legal analysis. If the request meets these criteria, the Commission must provide the formal written advice within 21 working days."

Having a conflict of interest and duly recognizing it in no way diminishes an elected officials ability to serve but rather enhances the quality of that service.


Posted by Surprised, a resident of La Entrada School
on Oct 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Donna - I think it is naive to believe that anyone can set aside the natural sympathies they would have for members of the same union, no matter what their stated intention may be.

As for "Why is it any time there's a union involved assumptions are immediately made that it's a we vs. they situation?" I think Albert Shanker (president of United Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers from 1964 to 1997) said it best when he said "When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."

Let's not kid ourselves. The teachers union's job is to represent the best interests of teachers. Period.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 7, 2013 at 7:14 pm

"Let's not kid ourselves. The teachers union's job is to represent the best interests of teachers. Period."

Bingo

Substitute "firefighters" for "teachers" and you have the philosophy of the firefighters union.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Folks, can't this thread be left to its subject matter?


Posted by Dawn, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 8, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Its disappointing to think I might live in a community where a certified, practicing teacher is thought to be a poor candidate for a school board - the body tasked with running a school district based on such a stereotype.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dawn - Please read all of the posted comments. NOBODY has questioned Heaton's professional qualifications. The concern is with the inherent conflict of being a member of a union over which the board on which she is serving has oversight and compensation responsibilities.


Posted by Supporter, a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I think those that attended the interviews were able to see that Christy Heaton is an involved parent and community member who stood out above the others in many ways. Yes, she is a teacher also, but that is not her main qualification for this position. Boards that are supposed to represent the community need to have members on it from many backgrounds and professions. Being a teacher does and should not qualify or disqualify her. Contract negotiations are a small part of the relationship between teachers and the district or teachers and board members. I think Christy will bring valuable thought and insight to this board because of who she is, not just because of how she earns her living.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 9, 2013 at 8:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Contract negotiations are a small part of the relationship between teachers and the district or teachers and board members."

If that is the case then Heaton would be wise to formally recuse herself from any such discussions as soon as she is sworn in.

As noted above I agree that Heaton is a superb candidate and will bring a great deal of experience to the board.


Posted by Supporter, a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 9, 2013 at 4:48 pm

If that is the case then Heaton would be wise to formally recuse herself from any such discussions as soon as she is sworn in.

On the contrary, I think she will bring good insight that is quite needed on this board full of attorneys, economists and business people who are making educational decisions.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Supporter - pay attention.
I stated that I would also hope that she will recuse herself from any board actions involving a union or an affiliate of a union of which she is a member. She would and should be able to provide her impressive expertise to all other issues.


Posted by Educator, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Oct 10, 2013 at 9:40 am

Educator is a registered user.

Christy Heaton is an educator, and as such brings tremendous and diverse experience to the Las Lomitas Elementary School District board. It is not at all unusual to have a teacher from outside a school district elected to school boards. She is a resident and parent in the district and has every right to serve the students of the LLESD. Christy should ignore on-line posts from those suggesting she recuse herself and instead discuss the situation with County Counsel who will give expert, informed, and appropriate advice.

Let's give Christy and her board members the opportunity to focus on the students in the district, instead of the adults outside the district.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"discuss the situation with County Counsel who will give expert, informed, and appropriate advice."

Wrong - the only source of actionable advice is, as noted above, the FPPC.

To remove any doubt Heaton could provide all of the details of her union membership and the district's union and ask the FPPC to issue a ruling.

"Under Government Code Section 83114(b) and Commission regulations, any individual or entity (or their authorized representative) may request formal written advice from the Commission staff concerning their duties under the Political Reform Act. The request must be in writing, provide specified information about the requestor, and contain sufficient information on which the Commission staff can do a complete legal analysis. If the request meets these criteria, the Commission must provide the formal written advice within 21 working days."

Having a conflict of interest and duly recognizing it in no way diminishes an elected officials ability to serve but rather enhances the quality of that service.


Posted by Educator, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Oct 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Educator is a registered user.

Peter,

What I said is that she should ignore online lawyers who have no affiliation with the District, and talk with County Counsel, who will advise her of the appropriate steps to take.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I am not a lawyer but a citizen who is very concerned about the loss of public trust in government - much of which stems from conflicts of interest by elected officials. I have been in elected office and I know exactly what is expected of elected officials - both legally and ethically (and the two are not the same). Once Heaton participates in a decision involving the union it will to be too late for her to ask the question 'should I have recused myself?".

" talk with County Counsel, who will advise her of the appropriate steps to take."

The County Counsel is the wrong place to seek advice on this matter; the FPPC is the ONLY designated agency to provide definitive advice.

Please read what has been posted.

"Under Government Code Section 83114(b) and Commission regulations, any individual or entity (or their authorized representative) may request formal written advice from the Commission staff concerning their duties under the Political Reform Act. The request must be in writing, provide specified information about the requestor, and contain sufficient information on which the Commission staff can do a complete legal analysis. If the request meets these criteria, the Commission must provide the formal written advice within 21 working days."


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Peter Carpenter wrote: "And I voluntarily recused myself from all purchasing decisions regarding computers because my wife was serving on the board of Intel."

Really? That recusal seems extreme and unnecessary. It's not like they were purchasing a cardboard box full of Intel processors. Aren't you missing the forest for the trees here?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

No, my voting on such matters was questioned by a member of the public and I then recused myself because once public trust is lost is very difficult to regain. Erring on the side of caution on matter of conflict of interest is in the public interest.


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Peter, fair enough. Thanks for the explanation.


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