Tim Ritter must go. Immediately.
Ritter’s term as superintendent has been memorable only for multiple public scandals, financial improprieties, public investigation by the state of California, hypocrisy, and open hostility toward those who dare criticize him. He is an enormous liability to the Temecula Valley Unified School District.
Six months ago, the school board election was more than a message. It was a demand. Remarkably, board members who were elected two decades earlier were forcibly removed by the people to whom they reported; the people whose taxes paid their wages and benefits. As the school year is coming to an end, the board must take a look at what a 2015-16 school year will look like should Ritter remain in the corner office, and there are simply no good scenarios.
The current situation is not tenable, and Ritter is sadly reduced to coaxing loyalists from Great Oak High School, where he is the former principal, to act as his cheering section at school board meetings. It’s also worth noting that Great Oak High School is the only TVUSD high school that was declared off-limits from the now-discredited sting, Operation Glass House, which Ritter personally authorized. Because of Tim Ritter’s inability to face criticism from the public, he has pathetically turned the school board meetings into a bizarre mash-up of the Jerry Springer Show and the Mickey Mouse Club.
This bodes very, very badly for a school district that has become a national symbol of shame.
Below is a list of Ritter’s misdeeds and actions related to these misdeeds. And we must point out that this list only includes items of which are public knowledge at this time. There is much more that will come to light in the coming months, and it is our belief that, as more is revealed, the current school board will not want to be anywhere near Timothy Ritter.
According to published reports, Ritter’s adult daughter, Lindsey Ritter, “was charged (with) grand theft. On January 17, 2012 Miss Ritter was sentenced without going to trial for … felony reduced to a misdemeanor. Sentencing included the repayment of $18,676 worth of restitution to the San Diego court system and probation.”
Ritter authorizes Operation Glass House, which placed undercover police officers on three TVUSD high school campuses. Great Oak High School, where Ritter had served as principal, is the only TVUSD high school protected from Operation Glass House.
Voters approve Measure Y, giving permission for TVUSD, under Ritter’s direction, to spend up to $165 million for various projects.
Police raid three TVUSD campuses, as part of Operation Glass House, arresting 22 students, 9 who are in special education, including our son, Jesse Snodgrass, who has autism. Great Oak High School, where Ritter had served as principal, is the only TVUSD high school given special protection from Operation Glass House.
Ritter receives gifts from Stone & Youngberg LLC, an investment banking company who was fined for its involvement in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Ritter doesn’t disclose these gifts, even though the law requires him to do so. Stone & Youngberg is then hired by TVUSD to handle the sale of $40 million in Measure Y general obligation bonds. Stone & Youngberg LLC receives a 1.1 percent fee as underwriter…nearly half a million dollars.
A criminal judge throws out the criminal charges against Jesse Snodgrass. Despite this, TVUSD decides to move forward with his expulsion. We file for a due process hearing to stop the expulsion.
March 8, 2013
Judge Marian S. Tulley issues a scathing decision against TVUSD, ordering Jesse’s immediate return to school.
March 13, 2013
48 hours before Jesse’s return to school, Ritter and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services Jodi McClay attend a 7:00 a.m. emergency school board session behind closed doors, during which the decision is made to file an appeal of Judge Tulley’s ruling, which ultimately ends up wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars. The remedy sought in the appeal was to expel Jesse. However, the appeal process is such that it would not have even been heard by a judge until well after Jesse’s graduation, making the appeal moot.
Members of the Temecula City Council receive a strongly worded letter from an attorney representing TVUSD. At issue was a regularly scheduled event by a special education parent support group which would give free advice to parents. The organizers, who were independent of the city council, want parents to be able to speak freely without TVUSD administrators listening in to their conversations.
The letter said Superintendent Tim Ritter had asked City Manager Aaron Adams if district officials could participate in the event and was told they could not. Sutherland urged city officials to reverse their decision “such that further legal action will be unnecessary.”
The city did not respond to the letter and the May 29 event went on as planned. Adams said that any member of the public, including district officials, were welcome to attend.
Julia Rogoff, the director and founder of Lilly’s House, said district officials did attend the May workshop, but it was awkward because there was nothing for them to do. Their presence made some of the parents uncomfortable, she said.
“They felt like they were being watched,” she said.
Ritter consistently refuses to publicly answer questions from parents over the undercover operation, dismissing them as “the autism group, and the IEP group.” In August of 2013, we organized a public forum, which was demanded in a petition that obtained 7,670 signatures. We sent courteous invitations to Ritter, every member of the school board, plus other TVUSD administrators. We offered them an equal block of time to discuss any topic of their choice. We did not hear any response until the day before the hearing though, in a personal email from Ritter, a portion of which is reprinted below.
Dear Mr. Snodgrass
The District is dedicated to the success of all of its students and is interested in participating in forums that promote quality educational programs and services within the District, as well as a mutual understanding between District staff/administration, parents and students about them. The forum you have created and advertised does not appear to be designed for that purpose, or likely to promote better educational programs and mutual understandings between stakeholders. The information provided to the District, including your email below, suggests the forum is designed to criticize the District and chastise administration with inaccurate information, and create further division and disputes. Also, the issues to be addressed are already being addressed in another, more appropriate forum for disputes like this. For all these reasons, the District is declining your invitation to participate in this forum.
According to published reports, Ritter’s adult daughter, Lindsey, is hired by TVUSD as a receptionist in the TVUSD administration building, where Timothy Ritter’s office is located.
We file a lawsuit, on Jesse’s behalf, against TVUSD.
The California Department of Education (CDE) initiates a formal investigation of the Temecula Valley Unified School District’s Special Education department. The investigation is initiated just months after the CDE issues a notice of non-compliance with corrective actions against TVUSD related to the suspension and attempted expulsion of Jesse Snodgrass.
Rolling Stone magazine publishes an expose on Operation Glass House titled, “The Entrapment of Jesse Snodgrass“.
The Los Angeles Times publishes an Op-Ed titled, “Drug enforcement gone wrong“, which is critical of Operation Glass House.
According to published reports, Ritter’s adult daughter, Lindsey, is promoted to the position of Instructional Services Assessment Secretary, receiving a salary of approx $50K per year, plus benefits.
VICE releases a documentary about Operation Glass house titled, “The War on Kids“. Weeks later, it is posted on YouTube, receiving 1 million views in less than three weeks.
Ritter is fined by the State of California Fair Political Practices Commission as part of a large-scale investigation that finds he did not disclose the gifts he received from Stone & Youngberg LLC, the underwriter of the $40 million Measure Y general obligation bonds.
November 4, 2015
Three of the five member TVUSD board members are up for re-election, including two members who were first elected more than two decades earlier. All three incumbents are replaced with the candidates we publicly endorsed.
November 18, 2015
Just two weeks after election night, the school board holds its final meeting with the three lame duck members. A piece of business they unanimously approve is a (roughly) one million dollar contract extension for Tim Ritter, even though nearly two years remained on his contract, along with contract extensions for his two assistant superintendents, Jodi McClay and Lori Ordway-Peck. The combined compensation packages approved on that night total nearly two and a half million dollars, paid by the same citizens who voted the board members out of office.
Ritter receives the results of the California Department of Education’s (CDE) year-long investigation into TVUSD’s special education department. The explosive report finds multiple violations by TVUSD, including financial improprieties, altering documents, and that, after high school life, 92% of TVUSD’s special education students did not go on to higher education, some other post-secondary education or training program, or employment at any level.
In total, the CDE assesses 226 corrective actions against TVUSD.
A very large group of parents begin organized protests against Ritter, school board president Allen Pulsipher, and school board member Kristi Rutz-Robbins over the controversial removal of middle school principal Karen Hayes.
Changes are proposed to a TVUSD governing document that had not been revised for 15 years. The changes would amount to something of a gag-order on the board members, while authorizing Ritter and Pulsipher to speak on their behalf.
In the document, paragraph #1 currently reads as follows:
The Governing Board recognizes the rights of Board members to freely express their views and encourages open discussion of issues during the Board meeting. The Board believes that all Board members have a responsibility to express themselves, whether in agreement or disagreement with the other Board members, in ways that support the Board’s ability to govern the District.
If the proposed changes are accepted, it would be changed to read as follows:
The Governing Board recognizes the responsibility of Board members in their role as community leaders to participate in public discourse on matters of civic or community interest, including those involving the district, and their right to freely express their personal views. However, to ensure communication of a consistent, unified message regarding district issues, Board members are expected to respect the authority of the Board to choose its representatives to communicate its positions and to abide by established protocols.
All public statements authorized to be made on behalf of the Board shall be made by the Board president or, if appropriate, by the Superintendent or other designated representative.
School board president Allen Pulsipher quietly attempts to leave his position by applying for a vacant seat on the Temecula City Council. Temecula’s city council members reject Pulsipher against a backdrop of Anti-Pulsipher demonstrators in attendance.
Timothy Ritter becomes embroiled in a major scandal known as Rittergate.
According to (Craig) Johns, the district became in breech of its own policies by hiring Lindsey Jean Ritter, daughter of TVUSD SuperintendentTimothy Ritter, during a board meeting held on October 1, 2013.
Johns went on to say that through the investigation the group discovered Lindsey Ritter has convictions including a “plea of guilty, nolo contendere (no contest) and/or a finding of guilty by a judge or a jury.”
“Court records confirm that Lindsey Ritter was charged with penal code 487 1-3,” Johns said. “Pertaining to one of two felonies with which she was charged which is grand theft. On January 17, 2012 Miss Ritter was sentenced without going to trial for … felony reduced to a misdemeanor. Sentencing included the repayment of $18,676 worth of restitution to the San Diego court system and probation. We believe this condition was overlooked because of Mr. Ritter’s influence over this board, and more specifically, Board President Allen Pulsipher.”