With a motion passed by the board with a 7-0 vote, the response will be submitted to the District Attorney

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District met at 4:30 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 2, to continue their Jan. 19 meeting, drafting the board’s response to the Grand Jury Report.

Trustees continued to edit language and discuss President Chris Arend’s drafted response to the Grand Jury report.

Some notable points in the Grand Jury Report are related to the Aquatics Complex.

The Grand Jury Report’s Recommendation 13 says: Under the conditions that exist today, the district trustees and administration should determine if the Aquatic Complex is viable.

The board wrote the following response to Recommendation 13:

“Timeframe, scope, parameters of study and discussion of R13: Input of community partners will be part of the update to be provided by May 17, 2021.

Explanation: The Aquatics complex is an ongoing issue. Unfortunately, the PRJUSD has only purchased the stainless steel components currently stored in two shipping containers on the Paso Robles High School site. The steel components are not subject to deterioration in the containers, according to information provided by the manufacturer. No vinyl components or adhesives, or other materials that would degrade in the coming year or two have been delivered. However, the current board recognizes that the current containers cannot remain in place as a permanent monument to a failed project. Therefore, the PRJUSD will continue to investigate whether the Aquatics Complex project is viable.”

Recommendation 14 reads as follows: The PRJUSD should consider the possibility of collaborating with the City of Paso Robles to use purchased equipment to upgrade current municipal swim facilities.

The board’s response to Recommendation 14 is below:

“R14 will not be implemented because it is not warranted or reasonable.

Recommendation R14: PRJUSD has considered the possibility of collaborating with the City of Paso Robles to use the purchased equipment to upgrade current municipal swim facilities. It has been determined that the district stainless steel components are incompatible with the gunite construction of the current municipal swim facilities.”

Recommendation 15 reads: There should be a comprehensive audit and report made available to the public of 4A Foundation funds that were dedicated to the aquatic complex construction.

The board’s response to Recommendation 15 is below:

“Explanation: The 4H Foundation has retained a local bookkeeper to conduct a review. The board expects the results of the review to be delivered to the board by May 11.”

After the board finished making their edits to their response, Trustee Dorian Baker made the following comment to the board and public:

“Over the past two days, I want the board and the public to know that I made a request to review specific items that would be included in a personnel file, such as performance evaluations and job resumes. I have been denied access to this information. I believe that I and the board cannot adequately respond to the Grand Jury’s report without reviewing this information. Being that I have not had an official legal opinion from the district attorney as of yet, I think that I should have access should be referred back to the grand jury and judge Duffy.

This is relevant because we have watered down some of Chris Arend’s original responses based on Mr. Gerhart’s contention that the previous board actively worked with Chris Williams, seeking better and accurate information from him as well as an improvement in his managerial style. I would expect these areas of concern to be reflected in his performance evaluations, and that was what I was wanting to verify. Having been denied such access to this information, which I believe the whole board should be reviewing, I was able to find the minutes from the Dec. 6 meeting, during which Chris Williams rendered his resignation. There president Joan Summers announced that in a closed session, after receiving his 9th consecutive, positive evaluation that met and exceeded standards, our superintendent initiated his resignation. So what that tells me, if there was push back, it didn’t make it to any performance evaluation.”

Baker’s point was throughout reviewing the Grand Jury Report, previous and current trustees have suggested board members did make complaints about previous Superintendent Chris Williams. There should be included with Williams’s personal files if those complaints were made.

Tim Gearhart said, “What he did with the academic development of our kids at that time was significant. I think most of them gave him credit for those and was focusing on not everything in a general way except for the financial section.”

Gearhart’s response refers to why there may not be many if any, complaints filed against Chris Williams.

Trustee Chris Bausch agreed with Baker that Williams documents should be available to the board.

The board motioned to approve their response to the Grand Jury Report. The motion passed unanimously with a 7-0 vote.

Nathan Williams, Dorian Baker, and Chris Arend will be on an editing committee to fine-tune grammar and the format of the board’s response to the Grand Jury Report.

The board motioned to submit the Grand Jury Report and the district’s response to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney.

Trustee Nathan Williams said, “We are not looking for additional things. We are looking to have this addressed. We are not trying to find more names in here. We are addressing this report as it states.”

Bausch said, “[Some] items I thought may warrant additional investigation. Some of them could be evaluated as fraud. Some of them could be interpreted as violating trust laws – there’s a repercussion to those. We are not here are judge and jury.”

The board hopes that sending the report and its response to the District Attorney will give the community and district closure regarding allegations of fraud involving previous Superintendent Chris Williams.
The motion to send the Grand Jury Report and the district’s response to the District Attorney passed with a 6-0 vote.

Gearhart recused himself, seeing it as a conflict of interest since he served on the board during the time the Grand Jury Report refers to.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 4:00 pm.