Letters for the week of December 18-24, 2002 

Express defames with huge, ugly drawings; big kudos, little quibbles; and the stiffness of the board.

Here's my letter, but I won't be sending my photo
The Express has become a master of Defamation by Portrait. Joan Kowal is only the latest ("Wayward Unified," December 4). The huge drawing couldn't be uglier. You've done it many times. I remember Ron Dellums in a huge, ugly, doctored photo.
Betsy Wood, Berkeley

My wife became a target after I became a critic
I just wanted to compliment and thank you for the most comprehensive, accurate and even-handed article our community has ever seen regarding our troubles in HUSD ("Wayward Unified," December 4). It is gratifying to see professional work. Clearly, you did substantial research and also offered some insightful observations as well. Nothing is perfect, however, so I offer a couple of "quibbles."

The paragraph where you mention that my wife, "perhaps not coincidentally," is the choir bookkeeper only bothers me insofar as it appears to give the impression that I appeared on the scene after, or as a result of, the public investigation into the Mt. Eden ASB accounts. As I indicated, I actually called for Kowal's resignation months earlier, before anyone had any idea that Mt. Eden would be an issue. In fact, I called for the board to replace the superintendent well before I or anyone knew who Art Kratka was, and certainly before he disclosed that the superintendent was trying to get rid of John Davini and investigate the choir.

My other quibble, or question, is whether you meant to imply in your last paragraph that we parent critics had something to gain or some motive other than our children's interests when you say this "spectacle" only served the "interests of adults." Indeed, I am very angry at the possible choice of either paying off Kowal, or leaving her here, which I firmly believe has cost us and will cost us even more -- not only financially, but in a fractioned, dysfunctional school district. If the board would take quick action to put Kowal on administrative leave, we might save the cost of the nonfinancial management audit of the district. Of course, any buyout assumes that we do not have, or will not find, "cause" for her termination.

Again, thanks for a job well done. I only wish someone of your caliber was providing the daily coverage.
Jeffrey Cook, Hayward

If their hands were clean, their books would be open
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Ms. Platoni for her demonstration of professionalism, unwavering persistence, and proficient investigative work that she obviously conducted, which resulted in the most accurate portrayal of the current turmoil surrounding the Hayward Unified School District since it began.

I would just like to point out a logical conclusion, which might or might not have been drawn by readers, that merits attention. The Hayward community would not be in this state of turmoil if one or two or both of the following situations had occurred at the June 19, 2002 regular board meeting.

The first and most obvious step toward a resolution could have come in the form of a simple direction given by the board to Superintendent Kowal, instructing her to merely provide accurate and timely answers to the community's questions. This did not happen, and still has not happened. The Board risked NO THREAT of any Brown Act, HUSD board policy, or Education Code violation, had it done this. This gesture of integrity could have easily taken a lot of steam out of the train that the Hayward community was riding on, of which the board actually constructed, piece by piece, each time it silently positioned itself.

The board's refusal, unwillingness, or incompetence to direct Kowal and her staff to provide pragmatic answers to direct questions has only served to insult and antagonize this community. The lack of board leadership in this matter has been the biggest source of coal for this steam engine. If board members want to know where the parents and community are getting the inspiration for endurance, they need look no further than themselves. Their message to us, whether they realize it, or not, has been that they feel no obligation whatsoever to be accountable to the taxpaying citizens of Hayward, and parents of HUSD students.

The second method of resolution could have easily been provided by the superintendent herself. At any time, she could have created a forum that would have allowed her to provide answers, encourage meaningful school-to-community conversations, and provide her the opportunity to respond to people in a way that board meetings won't allow.

The attempt by Parents United of Hayward to either dispel rumors, or reveal the truth about a steadily growing number of allegations related to questionable financial expenditures, perceived cronyism, and unethical managerial practices executed by Joan Kowal (among others), was a failure. We approached our Board of Education, feeling confident that presenting our concerns to this group would result in its "doing the right thing" and ensuring that answers would be provided. It was very clear that something was definitely amiss when PU had to resort to submitting a formal "Public Information Act" request.

The question still remains. If everything in HUSD has been done by the book and with integrity, why won't Superintendent Kowal provide community members with the information they have requested for months?
Holly Souza, Hayward

Editor's note
The school board voted to end Kowal's contract last week. See 7 Days

Seeking a scribe fa shiggady
The Express is looking for a hip-hop columnist, who must be well-versed (pun intended) in the form and its history, especially its long and glorious history in the East Bay. We are seeking an opinionated person who is creative, who knows that there is more than one way to approach a story, and who isn't afraid to take an unpopular stand on an issue if it's warranted. You also must be a good writer, but that doesn't mean that you must have tons of experience. We are interested in the right person, period. Please send some samples of your work and three local column ideas, preferably via e-mail to katy.stclair@eastbayexpress.com or by regular mail to Katy St. Clair, Music Editor, East Bay Express, 1335 Stanford Ave., Emeryville, CA 94608.


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