There was so much mystery around the abrupt departure of Dublin Unified School District superintendent Leslie Boozer in March that our staff immediately started seeking answers. It was truly suspect after the abrupt resignation March 1 of school board trustee Dan Cunningham, who campaigned for and won the seat only months earlier.
Unable to get answers, we filed a California Public Records Act request April 5, days after the "mutual separation" between Boozer and DUSD, for documents including Boozer's separation agreement and Cunningham's resignation letter and any correspondence between district staff and representatives, the Dublin Teachers Association and board trustees in reference to complaints filed formally, and anything that referenced Boozer's employment status between Sept. 1, 2018, and April 5, 2019.
Pieces started to trickle in slowly. We received Cunningham's letter and Boozer's employment contract and separation agreement on April 15, followed by a request for additional time and to further hone our request -- which we agreed to in part.
Then, on Oct. 2, we received a list of district administrators and the superintendent's cabinet members from 2014-2019.
The last piece -- complaints and responses in particular -- was what we thought would finally shed light on what had happened.
On Oct. 31, almost seven months after our initial request, we received three documents from the district's outside law firm, Lozano Smith.
It's difficult to believe that it took that long to find three documents. It's easier to believe it took that long to figure out how to hide a multitude of other documents via one of the plethora of exceptions to disclosure, such as attorney-client privilege or "confidential student information."
Otherwise, if what we were given is truly the reason Boozer and the district abruptly parted ways, leaving the district leaderless and her with almost a half a million taxpayer dollars, it is because of a book donation.
"A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo" by Jill Twiss, an LGBTQ-themed parody of a book by Vice President Mike Pence's family about their real-life pet, was donated as a library book by Roberta Kreitz, then-president of the Dublin Teachers Association. The book details the same-sex romance between Marlon Bundo and another rabbit named Wesley, written to mock the vice president's anti-LGBTQ views.
Apparently Kreitz was miffed that the bunny book wasn't automatically placed on the library shelves, citing the students' rights under the California FAIR Act and a nondiscrimination policy. She submitted a formal complaint Feb. 11.
The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act compels the inclusion of the political, economic and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into educational textbooks and the social studies curricula in California public schools.
Boozer responded to Kreitz's complaint Feb. 21, by citing another board policy that addresses the appropriateness of instructional materials. When a parent, guardian, staff member or district resident makes a complaint about instructional material, the superintendent and/or a committee will review the material and make a decision.
These documents leave us with the impression that the teachers' union president was trying to antagonize Boozer by donating books that she had to have known some parents -- particularly elementary school parents -- would object to having available, then filing a formal complaint with the board when they weren't made available.
Is the timing of the formal complaint -- amid tense labor negotiations, and weeks before Boozer's departure -- just a coincidence?
Equally as coincidental is the timing of the termination of Lisa Gonzales, assistant superintendent of educational services, who later filed a lawsuit against the district, Boozer and others, claiming retaliation, discrimination and defamation among the reasons she is demanding a jury trial.
Nothing about this lawsuit or the many "whistleblower" complaints filed with Boozer by Gonzales were included in the documents we received. And, because organizations no longer have to list documents they are withholding and the reason when responding to a records request, we don't even know if they were found and withheld, let alone why.
Some of the myriad of whistleblower complaints fell outside our request timeframe; but the actual termination on Oct. 18, 2018 and the filing of the claim for damages March 5 did.
Another interesting coincidence was that Cunningham is mentioned in the civil complaint. Gonzales had emailed Cunningham several times about concerns she had about the performance of a colleague, assistant superintendent of human resources Mark McCoy, and Boozer's lack of holding McCoy accountable. She requested a special investigation of McCoy by the board.
Our records request left us with no answers; our discovery of Gonzales' complaint leaves us with more questions. We will report on the lawsuit, which was amended Nov. 15 to remove Boozer as a defendant.
And we will file another public records request.