After six months of research, thousands of pages of documentation and more than $130,000 in legal expenses, the Contra Costa County Office of Education's investigation into the operational practices of Clayton Valley Charter High School had a public airing last week. It's safe to say no one on either side of the polarized debate came away happy.
Those who wanted Executive Director David Linzey branded as unfit and the school's governing board defrocked learned that no laws were found to have been broken. Those who had mistaken CVCHS leaders for Snow White instead were told that, yes, there are transparency issues and behavioral patterns in need of correction.
Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata summarized it best: "Some people are asking for revocation. Other people are saying there's nothing wrong at all. I do believe the truth is in the middle between the two."
Sakata commissioned the investigation, conducted by the Dannis, Woliver, Kelley law firm, after receiving what she called "a tremendous number of complaints" from community members. ("Well into the hundreds," spokesman Terry Koehne said.) Among them were claims that Linzey exerted undue influence over board decisions; school funds were improperly used; meetings were held in violation of the Brown Act; Linzey's wife was improperly awarded $106,750 for 168 days' work as a guidance counselor.
DWK said that more than a dozen such allegations, which it classified as "key issues," indicated an urgent need for action, ranging from policy revisions to training sessions.
Where CVCHS supporters took issue -- loudly, by the way -- is that none of these allegations was proved. Investigators accepted them as "not false" because the school had no documentation to prove otherwise. Their recommendations for corrective action seemed to boil down to this: If so many members of the community think bad things are going on, the school needs to be transparent enough to prove that they're not.
No one on Clayton Valley's side took it that way, especially Linzey, who long has portrayed himself as blameless and laments the "daily attacks, personal smears and unfounded allegations" he has endured. Granted, he has taken his share of shots, but blameless is a little much to swallow.
He closed his appearance before the county board of education by blasting the 42-page report as "not an investigation but a condemnation."
That put him on the opposite side of the fence from Sakata, who lauded the extensiveness of the investigation. She said the recommendations, policies and training that the report asked of the school were "not unreasonable by any means."
Board members seemed to agree. Daniel Gomes said he and his colleagues' past inattention to complaints about CVCHS was partly responsible for the divisiveness that exists: "We should have done something about this. We need to do something about this, and we're going to."
Mike Maxwell, in whose district the school resides, said he would be making frequent visits to the campus. "I'll tell you, there will be oversight," he said.
Board President Pamela Mirabella went a step further: "It's about time we have a conversation to resolve some of the issues, especially the fiscal part. I believe a forensic audit should be done."
There weren't any winners or losers. But maybe there's some hope for progress.
Contact Tom Barnidge at email@example.com.