Search This Blog

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Former New York State Insurance Fund Employee Melissa Saren Sues Gov. Hochul For "Retaliatory Termination"

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul

New York State could be seen as the most 'corrupt' in the United States. Newspapers reporting on State business are full of stories about who is secretly taking money for favors, and how whistleblowers get retaliation as their award. The former Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, resigned in light of misconduct charges, and Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor, took his place. Hochul was not elected by the voters of New York State. 

Not everyone would believe that NYS Governor would violate State rules and laws against retaliation , but a former employee of the New York State Insurance Fund says that is what happened when she filed a complaint with the ethics board against an employee who uncovered some shady dealings.


Melissa Saren, (picture above from Linkedin) NYSIF's Chief Compliance Officer and Ethics Officer had the support of her Supervisor at the NYSIF, Mary Beth Woods, (picture below from Linkedin) when she filed her complaint. Days afterward, an aide to Hochul allegedly told Woods to resign, and three weeks later Saren was fired from her 23-year employment at NYSIF without explanation.



In our opinion, both Saren and Woods should get their jobs back with back pay and benefits. Hochul is running for Governor in the next election. She does not need this on her record.

 Betsy Combier

betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog


 Lawsuit: Hochul's office involved in retaliatory firing of ethics officer

by Chris Bragg, Times Union,  May 20, 2022

ALBANY — The ethics officer for a state agency felt a colleague might be improperly steering a contract to a politically connected law firm.

So last September, Melissa Saren filed a complaint with New York’s ethics oversight body. Before doing so, she'd received approval from her supervisor at the New York State Insurance Fund, acting Executive Director Mary Beth Woods.

Three days after the complaint was filed, a top aide to Gov. Kathy Hochul allegedly instructed Woods to resign. Hochul's director of state operations, Kathryn Garcia, allegedly told Woods that her services were “no longer needed.” And less than three weeks later, Saren was fired from her longtime job at the Insurance Fund — also without explanation.

Saren has filed a lawsuit against the state, contending that her “retaliatory termination” was “executed with the knowledge and approval of Gov. Kathleen Hochul’s Executive Chamber." The state Court of Claims lawsuit, filed in mid-March, contends Saren was fired simply for "doing the job that she was hired to" — to report unethical behavior.

The unrest at the obscure state agency played out during the hectic early weeks of Hochul's tenure, which began Aug. 24. Citing the ongoing litigation, the governor's office declined to comment on the allegations or Garcia's alleged involvement.

Saren’s ethics complaint last September contended that Insurance Fund General Attorney Tanisha Edwards may have improperly sought to steer a contract to a Manhattan law firm, Bradford, Edwards & Varlack.

One of the three-person firm's partners, Camille Joseph Varlack, had been a high-ranking attorney in former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office from 2016 to 2019. Edwards had been a former colleague of Varlack’s in Cuomo's counsel's office, serving as assistant counsel for Taxation and Financial Services over the same three-year span. Denver Edwards, another partner in the firm, is not related to Tanisha Edwards.

In Saren’s complaint filed with the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, there was no allegation that Tanisha Edwards would have personally benefited from her former colleague gaining a NYSIF contract. According to state law, however, it's illegal for a state official “to secure unwarranted privileges” for themself or others — though it's rare for the ethics agency to pursue the latter type of case.

JCOPE's general counsel at the time, Monica Stamm, allegedly advised Saren that it was unclear Edwards had violated ethics laws. In addition, until mid-August, Varlack had been the Cuomo-appointed chair of the ethics commission, though she resigned a month before Saren filed the complaint.

As a result, Stamm allegedly advised Saren that it would be “cleaner” if Saren referred her concerns to the state Inspector General’s office instead of JCOPE. Inspector General Lucy Lang — who was appointed by Hochul in October  — has “entirely ignored” the issues raised by Saren over the past seven months, Saren's attorney says. She has also heard nothing from JCOPE.

Lang's office declined to comment. An Insurance Fund spokesman said he could not comment on pending litigation. Woods, Stamm and Tanisha Edwards did not respond to requests for comment.

NYSIF is a state agency and self-supported carrier of workers compensation and disability insurance; its purpose is to guarantee the availability of those products at the lowest possible cost to state employers. With premiums paid by policyholders, the fund makes substantial investments. As of last October, NYSIF managed about $21 billion in assets.

Beginning in 1986, Saren had a 23-year career at the state attorney general’s office, and according to her lawsuit was given the office’s highest award for “superior service by attorneys” in 2005. She joined the Insurance fund in 2009.

At NYSIF, Saren had dual roles: as its ethics officer and as the head of its Investment Compliance Department. According to the lawsuit, Edwards did not have any oversight of investment compliance in her position.

But last June, Edwards began raising concerns that the Investment Compliance Department was not adhering to a recommendation made during a prior outside review, concerning disclosure of possible conflicts when agency officials managed their personal portfolios.

According to Saren's lawsuit, Woods was asked by the chairman of NYSIF, Kenneth Theobalds, to have an updated outside review done by a Minority and Women-Owned Business — a longstanding priority for Theobalds, who is Black.

Bruce Menken, Saren's attorney in the lawsuit, contends Saren was not threatened by Edwards' implicit criticism of her job performance — Edwards, he noted, was not Saren's supervisor. If she hadn't later filed the ethics complaint against Edwards, Saren could have been accused of being "asleep at the switch" in her role as ethics officer, her attorney told the Times Union.

In late August, Tanisha Edwards had a lunch at the pricey Odeon restaurant in Manhattan with the three partners of Bradford, Edwards & Varlack; the Insurance Fund's deputy counsel, George Tidona, also attended. Everyone present was said to have paid for their own meal.

Afterwards, Tidona allegedly told Edwards that the law firm was “completely unqualified” for the work.

Tidona allegedly then told Saren he was “uncomfortable” with the lunch and follow-up discussions with Edwards, relaying that she had "yelled" at him when he recommended hiring other firms and had insisted on Varlack's. Tidona also allegedly told Saren that the law firm had first been referred to the agency staff by its chairman, Theobalds, who did not respond to a request for comment.

After NYSIF’s head of procurement suggested issuing a public "request for information" as part of the contracting process, Edwards allegedly said that was unnecessary, and wanted to narrow down the search to the Bradford team and two other M/WBE firms.

Edwards allegedly created her own specifications for an investment compliance review, pushing for an outside firm to conduct "full-blown and continuing oversight and management" of investment compliance, rather than the planned limited review. She allegedly tried to unilaterally have the solicitation expedited, have it only sent to the Bradford team and two other firms, and to set up a meeting between NYSIF's chief investment officer and the Bradford firm.

On Sept. 21, Saren submitted the ethics complaint to JCOPE with Woods' assent. The complaint stated that given Edwards’ lack of a formal role in the oversight of investment compliance, the agency was concerned her "aggressive championing" of the Bradford firm may have been an attempt to "improperly direct work to that firm.”

Three days later, Garcia allegedly asked Woods to resign.

As part of her job, Saren had access to internal agency emails — and began seeing exchanges between Edwards and Hochul’s office that suggested Saren was about to be fired.

Edwards allegedly emailed a senior Hochul senior advisor, stating that NYSIF needed to hire an employee for the exact titles Saren held. Edwards then forwarded that email to Julia Kupiec, an ethics counsel to Hochul.

On Oct. 5, Saren wrote to Kupiec, stating that she was “stunned to read that you are planning to fill my position. First, my position is not vacant, and I have not submitted either a resignation or a request for retirement.” She wrote that Edwards had “no authority to terminate my employment” and that “Edwards’ effort to dispose of me, despite my superior record, is purely in retaliation for my recently reporting her misconduct to JCOPE.” Saren attached a copy of the JCOPE complaint.

Kupiec responded that she had “no plans to do anything with respect to your position, nor would I have that authority in any event.” She recommended that if Saren felt she was the victim of retaliation, she should report the matter to the Governor's Office of Employee Relations.

On Oct. 8 — a Friday — Woods formally resigned as acting executive director, allegedly at Garcia's prompting. Four days later, shortly after NYSIF reopened from a long weekend, the agency’s deputy executive director Joseph Mullen called Saren, identified himself as the fund's new acting executive director, and told her he had been “directed” to inform her that her services were no longer needed. Mullen later provided Saren with a letter simply stating the same.

“At no time did Mullen or anyone employed by, affiliated with or representing NYSIF tell Saren why her long-tenured employment was abruptly ended,” Menken contends in the lawsuit.

In an interview, Denver Edwards said there was no connection between his law firm and Tanisha Edwards, besides Varlack and Tanisha Edwards being former colleagues in Cuomo’s office. He added that the law firm has no relationship with Theobalds, the NYSIF chairman.

“I don’t know why they took an interest in our firm,” Denver Edwards said.

When the Bradford firm launched in late 2020, it was widely publicized that “three very talented, experienced African-American professionals had taken a risk in starting a new business at the height of the pandemic."

“There are leaders of organizations that have made supplier diversity a very, very important thing for their companies,” Denver Edwards said. “There was nothing abnormal, under those circumstances, in having a meeting with an agency that routinely hires third-party law firms.”

He said the firm was especially qualified in investment compliance. Denver Edwards previously worked at U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division.

After Saren's ethics complaint, momentum for retaining Bradford Edwards stalled; the law firm never bid on the NYSIF contract.

In late October, NYSIF enlisted Jackson Lewis, a national employment law firm, to investigate Saren’s allegations about Tanisha Edwards. (In 2020, Jackson Lewis had won contract worth up to $700,000 to provide NYSIF with legal services over five years.) 

In mid-February, Jackson Lewis told Saren her complaint was “not corroborated” and “not substantiated." Jackson Lewis declined to release any further findings to her. NYSIF would not provide a copy of any investigation report to the Times Union, either.

The same month, Edwards resigned from her nine-year appointment as NYSIF’s general attorney to take a job at the New York City Council speaker's office.

In March, NYSIF offered to reinstate Saren to a position as associate counsel with the same pay, but did not offer a return to her prior position. Saren declined the offer.

Her lawsuit is seeking $700,000 for back pay and other alleged lost benefits, as well as full reinstatement to her prior position. In late April, Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which is representing the state agency, denied Saren’s claims in a court filing.

Chris Bragg is a political and investigative reporter for the Capitol bureau and contributor to Capitol Confidential. You can reach him at cbragg@timesunion.com or 518-454-5303.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Hunter and Joe Biden's Partnership in Business Dealings on the Wrong Side of the Track

 

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and Hunter played golf with Burisma board member Devon Archer in the Hamptons in 2014
FOX News/Tucker Carlson Tonight

Here’s a dozen times Joe Biden played a role in son Hunter’s business dealings

President Biden and the White House have repeatedly denied that he and Hunter Biden ever discussed the first son’s controversial overseas business dealings — yet there are at least a dozen times when Joe Biden had to know what his son was doing.

1. Joe “recommends”

The latest example emerged Wednesday, when it was revealed that Hunter Biden got his dad to write a recommendation letter to Brown University for the son of a powerful Chinese business associate, Jonathan Li.

“Jonathan, Hunter asked me to send you a copy of the recommendation letter that he asked his father to write on behalf of Christopher for Brown University,” Hunter Biden’s then-business partner, Eric Schwerin, wrote to Li on Feb. 18, 2017, in an email first revealed by Fox News.

Schwerin told Li the “original” was being shipped by FedEx to university president Christina Paxson “directly at Brown.”

After the White House refused to say whether the first son remained a part-owner after resigning from the board in 2019, Hunter Biden’s lawyer finally told the New York Times that Hunter “no longer holds any interest, ­directly or indirectly, in either BHR or Skaneateles.”

2. The other kid, too

Hunter Biden also arranged for his dad to write a letter to Georgetown University — Hunter’s alma mater — on behalf of Li’s daughter, but neither child got into the elite institutions, The Post understands.

During Wednesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said, “I have no confirmation of any recommendation letter the president wrote — when he was a private citizen, by the way, and not serving in public ­office.”

3. Joe’s “hopes”

Hunter Biden acknowledged in a 2019 New Yorker magazine article that he and his dad once discussed Hunter’s job on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, which paid him as much as $83,333 a month when Joe Biden was vice president under President Barack ­Obama.

“Dad said, ‘I hope you know what you are doing,’ and I said, ‘I do,’ ” he recalled.

4. Air Force 2 trip

 In December 2013, Hunter and his daughter Finnegan Biden traveled to China on Air Force Two with then-Vice President Joe Biden during an official, six-day trip to Asia. Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials — and was also introduced to Li by his son in the lobby of the hotel where the American delegation was staying.

Afterward, Hunter Biden sat with Li for what both sides claimed was a social meeting, with Hunter Biden telling The New Yorker, “How do I go to Beijing, halfway around the world, and not see them for a cup of ­coffee?”

5. Half his salary?

In a 2019 text message to his daughter Naomi, Hunter Biden bitterly wrote, “I hope you all can do what I did and pay for everything for this entire family for 30 years.” He added, “It’s ­really hard. But don’t worry, ­unlike Pop [Joe], I won’t make you give me half your salary.”

Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Ron Klain was revealed this week to have hit up Hunter Biden for help raising $20,000 for the foundation that maintains the vice president’s official residence.

6. Meet the partners

As vice president, Joe Biden met with Hunter Biden business partner Devon Archer in April 2014, around the same time that Archer joined the Burisma board and shortly before Hunter Biden did so, according to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

A photo that surfaced more than five years later reportedly shows Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Archer posing with golf clubs on a course in the Hamptons in August 2014.

In February, Archer was sentenced to one year and one day in prison in an unrelated bond fraud scheme that targeted the impoverished Oglala Sioux tribe of American Indians.

7. Meet the Ukrainians

Vadym Pozharskyi, a Burisma exec and adviser to its board, sent Hunter Biden an April 17, 2015, email that said, “Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure.”

8. Meet the Kazakhs

One day earlier, Joe Biden attended a dinner at Washington, DC’s Cafe Milano with some of his son’s business associates from Ukraine, Russia and ­Kazakhstan.

An unverified photo apparently shows the Bidens posing between two of the guests who attended that night, Kazakhstani banking oligarch Kenes “Kenges” Rakishev and Karim Massimov, a former prime minister of Kazakhstan.

In January, Massimov was arrested in a plot to overthrow the former Soviet republic’s government, following his ouster as head of its counterintelligence and anti-terrorism agency.

9. Meet Bobulinski

 Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski revealed in October 2020 that he spoke with Joe Biden in May 2017 after being introduced by Hunter, who reportedly described Bobulinski as “the one who’s helping us with the business we’re doing with the Chinese.”

According to Bobulinski — who has identified Joe Biden as “the big guy” with a 10 percent share in a planned deal with CEFC China Energy — the former vice president told him, “Keep an eye on my son and brother and look out for my family.”

Bobulinksi also said he later asked Joe’s brother James Biden about the possibility that Joe would run for president in 2020. “He looks at me and kind of chuckles and says, ‘Plausible deniability,’ ” Bobulinski said.

10. Getting an office 

 Emails show that in September 2017, Hunter Biden asked for a new sign and additional keys to an office he was renting in Washington, DC’s House of Sweden office building, which is home to the Swedish Embassy.

The sign was to say, “The Biden Foundation and Hudson West (CEFC-US)” and the keys were for his father, stepmother Jill Biden, uncle James Biden and a Chinese executive named Gongwen Dong.

The building manager wrote back, “We are very excited and honored to welcome your new colleagues!” but a spokeswoman for the Swedish agency that oversees the property told the Washington Post that the sign was never changed and the keys were not picked up.

11. Meet the Mexicans

In 2015, then-Vice President Joe Biden hosted a group of his son’s Mexican business associates at the vice president’s official residence and posed for a photo with Hunter Biden and a group of possible business partners, including Mexican billionaires Carlos Slim and Miguel Alemán Velasco.

12. Quid but no quo?

In 2016, emails indicate that Hunter Biden messaged Velasco’s son from Air Force Two, which was en route to Mexico for an official visit. Hunter complained to the younger Velasco that he hadn’t received reciprocal business favors after “I have brought every single person you have ever asked me to bring to the F’ing White House and the Vice President’s house and the inauguration.”

See:

The Hunter Biden Scandal



San Diego California Principal Michelle Irwin Cuts Honors Classes in the Name of 'Equity'


Parents are outraged not only at the "dumbing down" of the curriculum at Patrick Henry High School, but also at the lack of notice from the school to parents that this would be implemented. Irwin will not meet with parents and made this decision without any consent from the community and stakeholders.

Betsy Combier
Editor, National Public Voice
betsy.combier@gmail.com


Patrick Henry High School cuts honors courses in the name of ‘equity’

April 13, 2022, KUSI Newsroom

 SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego’s largest high school, Patrick Henry High School, has cut some honors courses without informing the student’s parents.

As expected, parents are outraged and worry the lack of honors courses will hurt students' chances of getting accepted to prestigious universities.

The principal, Michelle Irwin, claims she made the decision in the name of “equity.” Irwin also said cutting the honors courses would remove the stigma from non-honors classes and “eliminate racial disparities in honors enrollment.”

In an email thread obtained by KUSI News, Irwin told concerned parents the entire district has been embracing and promoting “inclusive environments.”

KUSI reached out to Irwin for comment on her decision, but we have not heard back.

KUSI News obtained an email thread between a concerned parent of a Patrick Henry student, Principal Michelle Irwin, and Erin Richardson, Superintendent of Area 6 High Schools for the San Diego Unified School District.

The entire thread is below (First email is at the bottom):

On Fri, Mar 25, 2022 at 11:44 AM Richison Erin <erichison@sandi.net> wrote:

Dear Ms. OXXXXX,

Thank you for reaching out and inquiring about some of the course changes at our high schools. I understand the concerns you have as you look forward to the success of your student(s). I hope this email will explain some of the reasoning behind those changes. We have scheduled some upcoming opportunities for parents to have their concerns addressed personally by academic leaders.

Our commitment as a district is to ensure that all students will graduate with the skills, motivation, curiosity and resilience to succeed in their choice of college and career in order to lead and participate in the society of tomorrow. Providing all students with access to a broad and challenging curriculum is one of the ways we work towards this goal.

Our schools help prepare students by offering classes that both contain the necessary rigor to maintain their academic growth and provide the necessary credit opportunities for those who plan to attend a four-year university.

Rigor

Providing the most rigorous course of study with AP and Community College, with Honors courses if AP and Community college are not offered, to our students allows for them to be more competitive post-graduation in college, university and the workforce. Rigorous and advanced options continue to be offered in all our high schools: honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and college courses. If your student wishes to take a course with increased academic rigor, they will have that opportunity.

Credit

Students also continue to enjoy the opportunity to take weighted courses like AP and Community College Courses as well as several Honors courses. While colleges, universities, and workforce partners recognize AP, IB and college courses as being more challenging than entry-level courses and therefore worthy of weighted credit, this is not true for the courses with the word “advanced” in their title..

College Readiness

We strongly believe the changes we’ve recommended will benefit all students by more accurately reflecting both the rigor and credit opportunities provided by courses to help students prepare for both college and career. However, it is equally important to us that all parents feel they have had the opportunity to discuss these issues fully and share their perspectives. For that reason, we are organizing an opportunity this spring for parents and the community to learn more about what college and career readiness means as a graduate of San Diego Unified. We look forward to parents talking directly with some of our educational partners at the university and college level, along with our workforce partners, so you may hear directly how these proposed curriculum changes will positively impact our students after graduation.

Sincerely,

Erin

Erin Richison, Ed.D.
Area 6 Superintendent, High Schools
San Diego Unified School District
4100 Normal St.
San Diego, CA 92103
erichison@sandi.net<mailto:erichison@sandi.net>
(619) 581-0883

[SDUSD Primary]

________________________________
From: XXXX>
Sent: Wednesday, March 2, 2022 5:48 PM
To: Richison Erin
Subject: Fwd: Elimination of Honors Classes

Hello –
I am hoping you can help provide some additional information about what is going on at Henry. Parents are incredibly frustrated at what appears to be a unilateral decision by Ms. Irwin. We know that teachers are angry and unsupportive of these class eliminations. Are the classes made available completely at the discretion of the principal? If we want our children to be able to take the honors classes she is eliminating, are we supposed to just pull our kids out of the school?
The communication on this and other changes have been abysmal and you now have parents who are normally incredibly supportive of the school and the teachers feeling utterly disregarded. I appreciate any context or advice you can provide. I would hate to have to pull my kids out of their neighborhood school.
Thank you,
XXXX

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Irwin Michelle <mirwin1@sandi.net<mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net>>
Date: Wed, Mar 2, 2022 at 4:59 PM
Subject: Re: Elimination of Honors Classes
To: XXXXX
CC: Richison Erin <erichison@sandi.net<mailto:erichison@sandi.net>>

Dear Mrs. XXXX,

Thank you for your email.

1.  We had discussions about possible changes in our School Governance Team and then at our articulation meetings held last month. If there are additional changes in the future, I will send information via SchoolMessenger. Thank you for your feedback.
*   All students are required to take two years of PE in grades 9 and 10. This is one of our district expectations. While this does create a wrinkle for some students in our pathways such as Engineering, we have several options for our students. I have recommended students and parents to work directly with our Engineering Counselor, Ms. Labe to review our options.

*   There is no reason to stratify our college prep courses that are unweighted in 9th and 10th grade English as the curriculum is not different in classes such as Advanced Physics/Biology and Seminar English.

2.  As a district, we have embraced and are promoting inclusive environments. I cannot speak about other high schools however I can assure you at Henry, we are creating an inclusive welcoming environment where all students will to grow and thrive.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

Most sincerely,
Michelle
—–
Michelle Irwin
Principal
Patrick Henry High School
6702 Wandermere Drive
San Diego, CA 92120
858.988.2700 ext. 3021
619.229.0370 fax
mirwin1@sandi.net<mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net><mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net<mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net>>
https://patrickhenryhs.net/

Privileged and Confidential: Information contained in this e-mail is confidential and is to be treated as privileged and confidential. It is intended only for the use of the addressee. If you are not the addressee or the person responsible for delivering it to the person to whom it is addressed, you may not copy, forward or deliver this to anyone else. If you received this e-mail by mistake, please delete it and notify me immediately. Thank you.

From: XXXXX
Date: Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 2:57 PM
To: Local Admin <mirwin1@sandi.net<mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net>>
Cc: Richison Erin <erichison@sandi.net<mailto:erichison@sandi.net>>
Subject: RE: Elimination of Honors Classes

Dear Mrs. Irwin –

Thank you for the reply. I understand that you are responding to numerous concerns and complaints about this decision. I have serious concerns about this course of action, which I share below. First, I had two questions in my original email that were not addressed in your response —

1) Was there a communication to parents letting them know about this decision? If not, why not? You said I have incorrect information. In fact, I have zero information from the school, and am only learning of the changes because from other parents.  I’m happy to share correct information, but with no context, it is difficult to do that.

Also related, why did we not receive any communication when you decided to eliminate Advanced Physics and the Seminar program for English? I’m only learning just now that those were pulled. I have a student who would have been in the Seminar program, so certainly feel a communication to impacted parents was warranted. I am disheartened at the lack of transparency or proactive communications to parents when you are making significant decisions that will change and/or potentially negatively impact our student’s competitiveness in college admissions. At a minimum, you should have been proactive and shared your rationale ahead of rolling out changes rather than waiting for parents to hear about it and ask questions. I was also discouraged to hear that declined to sit down with parents to discuss changes like this one, the change to the grading policy, new changes impacting students in the Engineering program, etc. I hope you reconsider and offer parents a forum to understand the changes, and also to understand their options.

2) Is this happening at other high schools in the district, or just at Henry? If this approach is superior, why is it not widespread?

In terms of the policy itself, I believe that this approach will greaten the academic divide at the school, and put unnecessary pressure on higher achieving students. My junior opted to take Honors Chem this year because he was already taking AP US History class and didn’t need the added stress of a second AP class. Eliminating the option for students to take a weighted, more accelerated class and forcing them to take on more AP classes does not seem to provide the well-balanced course offering — rather, it seems like the opposite.

I would also like to understand the “stigma of non-weighted course.” My kids take a mixture of accelerated and general classes and neither are aware of a stigma. Can you help us understand that stigma and how eliminating honors classes alleviates that?

Again, rather than having to answer these questions through individual emails, I hope parents will be given the courtesy of a dialogue with you so we can make the right choices about our children’s educations.

Thank you –

XXXXX

From: Irwin Michelle <mirwin1@sandi.net<mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net>>

Sent: Tuesday, March 1, 2022 5:07 PM

To: XXXXXX

Subject: Re: Elimination of Honors Classes

Dear XXXXXX,

Thank you for reaching out to me. After many conversations with key partners in education including SGT, I have decided to align our 11th grade courses with those that currently exist in 10th and 12th grade. This includes eliminating legacy English and history honors courses which are only offered in the 11th grade. (There are no Honors course offerings in 9th, 10th or 12th grades.) Next year, we will offer American Literature / AP Literature and US History / AP US History. There is very little difference in the curriculum between Honors/Regular so there is no reason to have two classes of the same curriculum. These adjustments will:

*   Create more balanced heterogeneously grouped classes;

*   Eliminate the stigma of non-weighted courses;

*   Provide a well-balanced course offering for all students.

The alignment of our 11th grade humanities course offerings to our other grade levels will provide a rigorous educational experience for all students at Henry because we believe opportunity should always precede student achievement. We will continue offer Honors courses in Pre-Calculus, Computer Science, Spanish 7-8, just to name a few, because there isn’t an AP or weighted equivalent. And, of course, we will offer a variety of Mesa College Courses that allow students to earn college and high school credits with a weighted GPA. So, the information you received that all Honors courses are eliminated is inaccurate.

Hope this information is helpful.

Most sincerely,

Michelle

Michelle Irwin

Principal

Patrick Henry High School

6702 Wandermere Drive

San Diego, CA 92120

858.988.2700 ext. 3021

619.229.0370 fax

mirwin1@sandi.net<mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net><mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net<mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net>>

https://patrickhenryhs.net/

Privileged and Confidential: Information contained in this e-mail is confidential and is to be treated as privileged and confidential. It is intended only for the use of the addressee. If you are not the addressee or the person responsible for delivering it to the person to whom it is addressed, you may not copy, forward or deliver this to anyone else. If you received this e-mail by mistake, please delete it and notify me immediately. Thank you.

From: XXXXXXXXX

Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2022 at 10:18 AM

To: Local Admin <mirwin1@sandi.net<mailto:mirwin1@sandi.net>>

Subject: Elimination of Honors Classes

Hello – I’ve heard rumors that Henry is going to eliminate Honors classes, and I have a few questions.

First, is that correct? Was there a communication to parents? Is this for Henry only or is it a SDUSD decision?

I am hearing that parents and teachers are upset and concerned – but was surprised that this hasn’t been explained ahead of students selecting classes.

I’d appreciate any clarity or context you can provide.

Thank you –

XXXXXX

Parents outraged at Patrick Henry cutting honors classes

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Managing Workplace Safety Obligations During COVID

 


How to Manage Changing COVID-19 Workplace Safety Obligations

Employers may be tempted to lift their pandemic-related safety requirements as federal and state authorities ease masking and other COVID-19 rules. But employers should note that they have ongoing obligations to protect the health and safety of their workers.

"It's a lot to keep up with," said Marissa Mastroianni, an attorney with Cole Schotz in Hackensack, N.J. She recommended that HR professionals speak with a trusted employment attorney to ensure their policies are up-to-date.

"There's a lot of interplay between federal and local law, and decision-makers need help to wade through all the text and information that's coming out, seemingly on a weekly basis," she noted.

Lisa Koblin, an attorney with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Philadelphia, said employers should stay alert and flexible. "While most state and local government agencies are rolling back [many] COVID-19 workplace safety rules, we know from the last two years that these rollbacks are subject to change at any time."

Employers should prepare a transition plan that allows adequate time to communicate changes with employees and implement new policies, Koblin said. She suggested that employers create fallback rules and guidelines in case heightened safety precautions must be reinstated.

Responding to Changes

Some states dropped their masking and social-distancing rules after COVID-19 vaccinations became widely accessible in 2021. Other states introduced stringent safety requirements during spikes in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta and omicron variants. But even states with strict mandates are starting to roll back their directives.

Additionally, the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allows many communities to ease their indoor masking requirements.

What does this mean for employers and their workplace masking rules? "This is a contentious issue and partially depends on your company culture," said Jessica Daley, an attorney with Newmeyer Dillion in Newport Beach, Calif. "At a minimum you need to abide by the rules applicable to each specific location. However, if you think your company culture would be better served by a stricter requirement than what the state or local rules require, then that is a discretionary call you can make."

Some employees may feel safer with a masking requirement even if their state does not require it, Daley noted. Other employees might resist workplace requirements that are more stringent than the applicable rules. 

An employer's requirements may depend on the nature of the worksite and the likelihood of COVID-19 exposure, said Katie Erno, an attorney with Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C. For example, lifting mask requirements may be less risky if the worksite is in an area where COVID-19 cases are dropping and employees primarily work in offices and cubicles that are spaced at least 6 feet apart.

However, if COVID-19 cases are rising in the area and employees are in a manufacturing setting where physical distancing is not possible, it would be prudent to continue to require masks, Erno said. 

When making decisions regarding mask requirements, employers should also review applicable guidance from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or their state OSHA plan, which may have heightened safety rules.

Although OSHA rescinded its vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers, the Occupational Safety and Health Act's general duty clause still requires workplaces to be free from known hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.

"Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job, and OSHA has comprehensive COVID-19 guidance to help them uphold their obligation," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

Handling Conflicting Rules

"The job of a multistate employer is much more difficult these days," Mastroianni observed. Some states prohibit employers from requiring proof of vaccination, while others mandate vaccination for at least some jobs.

"Given the variants between state laws, it's almost impossible to have a companywide COVID protocol on vaccination policies," she explained.

Erno noted that employers can't always take the "lowest-common-denominator approach" by creating one multistate policy that incorporates the strictest rules. "This is particularly true when it comes to employee vaccine mandates," she said. For example, an employer with worksites in New York City and Florida cannot have a single vaccination policy that complies with the laws of both jurisdictions. New York City requires private employers to mandate vaccination, with exceptions only for those who cannot be vaccinated for religious or medical reasons. 

Florida law, however, prohibits private-employer vaccine mandates unless the employer offers very specific exceptions that go beyond religious and medical objections.

Thus, multistate employers must carefully track state and local requirements and restrictions when creating and updating COVID-19 policies, Erno explained.

Employers that still decide to issue a policy for all worksites should be prepared to make adjustments or exceptions for employees working in any state that has outlawed vaccine mandates or other COVID-19-related practices that are otherwise required by the global policy, Koblin said.

"Employers who operate in-person worksites in multiple states should continue to identify a point person or group of people who are responsible for tracking critical changes to COVID-related safety rules required for each workplace," she added. The point person should provide periodic updates to the employer's leadership team and work with experienced employment counsel to keep the employer informed of any new safety rules.

Mastroianni recommended that the designated person check the CDC, OSHA and state health department websites for new guidelines and rules on a daily or weekly basis.

Employers should continue to provide updates. "It is important to communicate frequently with employees about changes and make clear that the workplace safety rules are evolving based on state and local requirements," Erno noted.