State Finds District that Entrapped Our Son Misappropriated Special Needs Kids’ Money

TVUSD punished again for financial improprieties

A year-long investigation by the Department of (CDE) into the ’s (TVUSD) special department found a multitude of violations – click here to read the full CDE report (323 pages) –  including the following examples of improper use of funds designated for TVUSD’s special education students:

  • 40 school district staff members, who were not assigned to teach Special Education students, received a portion of their salaries from special education funds during the 2013-2014 school year.
  • A Temecula charter school to which TVUSD was required to provide Special Education funds received only 54.3% of the funds during the 2013-2014 school year.

In total, the CDE issued 226 corrective actions and has given TVUSD a deadline of April 15, 2015 to provide evidence that all corrective actions have been completed, including repayment of the misappropriated funds.

This is the second time in three months that the State of California has handed down punishments to TVUSD for financial improprieties. Last Fall, Superintendent Timothy Ritter was fined by the State of California Fair Political Practices Commission as part of a large-scale investigation that found he did not disclose gifts he received from Stone & Youngberg LLC, an investment banking company who was fined for its involvement in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Stone & Youngberg were eventually hired by TVUSD to underwrite $40 million worth of Measure Y general obligation bonds.

TVUSD’s misuse of Special Education funds occurred immediately after TVUSD took financial decision making responsibility out of the hands of Riverside County, and into their own, putting them in control of tens of millions of dollars.

This change had one more implication,  and it’s a big one. It allowed TVUSD to become its own regulatory watchdog. Fox, meet henhouse.

In a special meeting Friday morning, the governing board of the Temecula Valley Unified School District approved a Special Education Local Plan Area that will allow local administrators to directly oversee the programs it offers its special education students.

“Better service for our kids,” said Kimberly Velez, the district’s special education director. “I think that’s the driving force behind all of this — really looking at our population of our kids and making the best decision based on our population with our money.”

Lori Ordway-Peck

The decision to depart Riverside County’s SELPA to start one specifically designed for Temecula’s needs comes with an annual budget that calls for $38.9 million in 2013-14 — which includes about $25.1 million in state and federal money — for about 3,500 special needs students in one of the county’s largest districts. That cost is about $800,000 more than what the district paid last year, said Lori Ordway-Peck, assistant superintendent of business support services.

“When a district becomes large enough, it begins to have its own unique needs that aren’t usually addressed well within the larger pool of districts that … form a SELPA,” Lori Ordway-Peck said. “That’s really what it comes down to. … When you’re part of a pool of 22 or 23 districts, you can imagine the politics of 22 districts getting together and deciding what programs get funded and what don’t.”

San Diego Union Tribune, March 29, 2013

A history of abuse

TVUSD administrators already have a tenuous relationship with Temecula’s special needs , a dysfunctional relationship of mistrust that finally exploded on December 11, 2012, when police were allowed to come into classrooms in three high schools, handcuffing, arresting, and incarcerating 22 children, 9 who were special education students. Of course, one of those children was our son Jesse, and the incident sparked a national outrage.

The CDE findings raise numerous serious questions regarding the use of taxpayers’ money. For starters, if the special education funds supplanted portions of 40 non-special ed employee salaries, where did the supplanted funds go? And if TVUSD only gave the identified charter school 54% of the required taxpayer funds, what happened to the other 46%?

The 323 page CDE report, which can be read and/or downloaded in its entirety at this link, paints a picture of out-of-control school administrators who treated their own special needs children as little more than ATMs, while routinely failing to provide them with many basic services, and in multiple instances adding student assessments to IEP documents days after parents reviewed and signed them.

Where does the responsibility fall?

Jodi McClay

TVUSD’s 2013-2014 SELPA governing document defines responsible parties, and the problems found by the CDE point squarely to failures by Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services Jodi McClay, and Director – Special Education (SELPA) Kimberly Velez. But on a higher level view, McClay and Velez ultimately report to Superintendent Timothy Ritter, who reports to the Board of Education.

And the Board of Education is designated for ultimate responsibility to ensure compliance. In November, 2014, three of five school board members were up for reelection, and the voters replaced all three members with the three candidates we publicly endorsed. So while the violations occurred under the old board, the current board has the authority to respond as needed.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and there’s no shortage of smoke here, in a way that’s eerily reminiscent of the genesis of the Bell City Council scandal.

The responsibilities of the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services Jodi McClay:

The Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services is responsible for monitoring on an annual basis the appropriate use of all funds allocated for special education programs. Final determination and action regarding the appropriate use of special education funds shall be made through the Annual Budget Plan process.Funds allocated for special education programs shall be used for services and placement for students with , in order to provide them with a FAPE. Federal funds under Part B of IDEA may be used for the following activities:

  1. For the costs of special education and related services and supplementary aids
    and services provided in a general education class or other education-related
    setting to a child with a in accordance with the IEP for the child, even if
    one or more nondisabled children benefit from these services.
  2. To develop and implement a fully integrated and coordinated services system.

The responsibilities of the Kimberly Velez, Director – Special Education (SELPA):

  • Develop the annual budget and service plan
  • Allocate resources, monitor the use of state, federal and local funds for special
    education programs
  • Develop policies, procedures and guidelines for the implementation of state and
    federal statute special education requirements
  • Coordinate the development and implementation of the special education
    program and student outcomes, and the annual accountability procedures.
  • Serve as liaison to the Community Advisory Committee
  • Monitor compliance with state and federal laws
  • Prepare and submit any and all State waiver requests that are needed to allow
    for the provision of appropriate programs and services to students with
    disabilities within the SELPA
  • Prepare and submit all program and fiscal reports for the SELPA and manage
    CASEMIS data system to comply with all state requirements
  • Ensure the provision of services of students with disabilities in charter schools
    and other alternative programs
  • Assume oversight for the implementation, revisions of all Interagency
    Agreements, and memorandums of Understanding operated by the District

2 comments for “State Finds District that Entrapped Our Son Misappropriated Special Needs Kids’ Money

  1. April 13, 2015 at 12:24 am

    Does this have anything to do with the recently fired principal?

    • Tara
      April 15, 2015 at 9:25 am

      No, this all happened long before Mrs. Hayes was let go. The only way they’re related is that TVUSD Superintendent Tim Ritter is the poor decision maker in all these instances.

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