Collaboration, transparency, and strategically aligning resources to support student outcomes are several of the key ingredients to LCMSD’s success. This partnership starts with you and expands across our learning community. We are community-funded schools, meaning that our property taxes, parcel taxes, SPARK Foundation funds, and PTA/O monies directly support our schools. Each component plays a vital role in the educational experience students engage in each and every day.
Recently, you received an email from SPARK and most likely have seen the Marin IJ article. As was noted in both publications, the District was notified of the concerns raised by the two Neil Cummins parents. After reviewing their concerns, I made the administrative determination to deny their request for an investigation of SPARK’s operations and an audit of each of the last five years. My review, in collaboration with the District’s legal counsel, found no evidence of fraud or illegal wrongdoing. The District handles all concerns with the utmost seriousness and if there were even a hint of fraud or illegal activity, the District would fully pursue the matter.
I commend SPARK for amending their IRS filings and committing to a change in their accounting firm. Additionally, I appreciate SPARK co-hosting a coffee chat with me on September 15, 2023, regarding the budget, as well as the annual report they provided to the Board of Trustees on September 13, 2023. A sign of a healthy organization is one that can accept feedback, reflect, and adjust to further evolve its practices. I have firsthand seen the time, energy, and commitment that SPARK, primarily run by volunteers, has dedicated to increasing parent participation and raising funds for our incredible student programs.
In reading the Marin IJ article, you might have noticed a separate issue that the District has been facing since June. Following my administrative decision citing no merit to the alleged claims, one of the parents issued numerous California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests. As a high-functioning school district, we are deeply committed to transparency and dutifully responding to CPRAs. With that, I’ve received community questions regarding the time and expense the District has incurred from the numerous CPRA requests this parent has submitted. As noted in the IJ, to date the District has spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees as well as nearly 100 staff hours. As a steward of public funds with a charge from our community to continually advance our District, I have asked the requester to narrow their scope to allow me to more efficiently provide what they are looking for. Unfortunately, the requests have not been altered; therefore, I will continue to work on fulfilling these CPRAs within the scope of the law. I anticipate it will take many months to complete and continue to cost the District thousands of dollars that come from programs to support our students and schools.
This type of disruption to District and SPARK operations slows District progress for all. Additionally, it can result in a barrier to fundraising, which could ultimately lead to a reduction of student programs and a teacher layoff. As this story has unfolded, you have reached out to SPARK and you have reached out to me with support and confidence in the response to these claims. This support, coupled with your donations to SPARK will ensure our programs stay intact for our students.
How we work together signals the strength of our learning community. Historically, our District has been one that serves as an exemplar for collaboration, thus resulting in award-winning schools (one measure of high student achievement). We ask parents and community members to be partners with our school district. A fundraising group such as the SPARK Foundation is an example of a community partnership that provides significant art, music, wellness, and STEM programming for students. How we engage with one another in these community/school relationships fosters productive partnerships that enhance the District.
Your support in SPARK is essential for our art, music, wellness, and STEM programs to continue. Thank you in advance for your commitment to these programs, your dedication to working together, and your patience as we’ve addressed their claims and continue to respond to their voluminous CPRA requests. We encourage all families to participate in SPARK; here is the link for annual giving.