"It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is" - Bill Clinton

The report I requested regarding the class size waiver request was presented tonight.

I asked Mrs. Kakish directly, "When did you begin monitoring maximum class size?" She said she started at the beginning of the year. I asked her how that was possible when she had told me, and the board, after the year had started, that there was no maximum class size. She explained that there was no "board policy" about maximum class size and that was what she was referring to when she told me there were no class size maximums. This reminds me of Bill Clinton's quote, "It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is".

Next, I asked Mrs. Kakish to explain how monitoring the wrong targets throughout the year and then using the wrong value in the spreadsheet can be considered a spreadsheet formula error. "Isn't it a clerical, human error?", I asked. She agreed it was a clerical error and told me she had never said it was a spreadsheet formula error. I told her to check the record and she re-iterated that she had never said it was a formula error.

Following is my transcription of what was said at the board meeting on July 27th. You can listen for yourself. Here is the link to the audio minutes: http://www.beaumontusd.k12.ca.us/board/minutes/MINUTES_07_27_10.mp3

The conversation begins right about the 2 hour mark. These are the statements dealing directly with the formula error. I didn't include every comment, just those regarding formula errors, but these words are exact quotes and are in chronological order.

Mr. Orozco: It went to the cabinet without catching the mistake.

Mrs. Kakish: If you have a spreadsheet error, cabinet doesn't review the actual formulas in the spreadsheet.

Mr. Orozco: Did we go back and fix the formula?

Mrs. Kakish: We did and we actually put in a mechanism...

Mrs. Kakish: The spreadsheet was there to monitor the average... and we relied on that spreadsheet to let us know when that's happening...and it didn't happen because the average was higher in that formula then what should have been there.

Dr. Latham: We were monitoring and if we had a correct formula, we would have been closer.

Mrs. Kakish: Well I can't guarantee formula errors won't happen, I'm not going to go on record that all our formulas are right. We changed it back to 31 and it will now be monitored by a supervisor up to the formulas level.

I know this all may seem petty to some and as Mr. Sanchez said tonight, "Somebody just made a mistake".  I agree it was probably an honest mistake. The mistake is Mrs. Kakish's. She either did not know the correct targets or she didn't adequately review the mechanism for monitoring them. To deflect responsibility for her inadequate management of this situation, she provides an explanation that doesn't fit the facts. When she is asked to verify her story and explain why her story doesn't fit the facts, she splits hairs about her originally denying a maximum class size limit existed and then she lies about what she told the board to get their approval for the waiver to fix her mess. After all this, she will not guarantee us this won't happen again.

It is a manager's responsibility to oversee reporting by her department, especially when an error may result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties. It is inexcusable for the assistant superintendent to make up a story that shifts her responsibility for poor direction and leadership to one of her staff members. The facts back up my claim. The problem was not a data entry error, it was the failure of Mrs. Kakish to establish the correct targets and her failure to even look at the accurate reports her staff was providing her. Mrs. Kakish told us last night that the person who committed the "data entry error" is very upset. She shoudn't be, as far as I can tell, she did nothing wrong. 

The last straw came when I asked Mrs. Kakish, "If the waiver is not accepted by the state and we are assessed the penalty, how much will the district save by eliminating class size reduction for kindergarten?" She said it would be about $80,000. I asked her, "We may have saved $80,000 and stuffed 600 kindergartners in to crowded classes? Her response, "you might look it at that way".