Board member: School’s reputation is tarnished
Wes Woods II, Staff Writer
Created: 05/24/2011 08:44:06 PM PDT

CLAREMONT – A Claremont Unified school board member has blasted a colleague for harming the school district’s reputation and potentially damaging student achievement.

Mary Caenepeel made the accusations against fellow school board member Steven Llanusa, citing his negative comments about the district’s past superintendents and present interim superintendent.

Two superintendents – Terry Nichols and David Cash – have left the district since June 2009. Nichols and Cash both had issues with Llanusa.

“Unfortunately, our reputation throughout the region and state has been tarnished,” Caenepeel wrote in a letter that was sent out to community members.

Nichols left Claremont Unified in February to accept a position
Llanusa
as superintendent of the Duarte Unified School District. Prior to leaving, Nichols said Llanusa made it very difficult for him to do his job.

Cash accepted a position in June 2009 as the superintendent of the Clovis Unified School District near Fresno. Llanusa and Cash had battled over communication methods.

Llanusa has strongly denied Caenepeel’s accusations and called parts of the letter ridiculous.

He also heavily pushed back against a charge made by Caenepeel that he is harassing interim Superintendent Gloria Johnston.

“One should be careful when using the word `harass’ as … it may have legal ramifications,” Llanusa said.

Caenepeel said Llanusa continues to question and send out numerous emails of concern related to Johnston’s contract that was approved by the board on March 3.

“He has even contacted the California State Teachers Retirement System in an effort to gain personal information about Dr. Johnston and her status as a retiree returning to work,” Caenepeel wrote. “This is an invasion of Dr. Johnston’s privacy and in my opinion, an inappropriate action by a board member.”

Llanusa voted against Johnston’s contract in March. He said he didn’t know if Claremont Unified could afford to pay expenses for workshops where she represents the district.

“Yes, the board approved the contract, although I voted against it,” Llanusa said. “After the contract passed, I signed it. Now I am being derided as flip-flopping or being hypocritical instead of being recognized for upholding the board’s wish to speak with one voice.”

Llanusa said his inquires into CalSTRS are a matter of public record.

Caenepeel said Llanusa has also attacked school board members and implied they do not support transparency and a free flow of information.

“At first, I was surprised to read that I had attacked so many people,” he said. “Then I recalled that a majority of this board considered questions themselves to be a hostile action or attack.”

The school board in December 2008 passed a resolution that Llanusa had to communicate with Cash in person rather than through email or written notes.

The board adopted a protocol in March 2008 of directing Cash not to respond to Llanusa’s emails, telephone or written requests for information. Cash had reported he had spent a significant amount of time responding to lengthy written communications from Llanusa.

Johnston said she approved of Caenepeel writing the letter.

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