The latest twist in the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) Board saga comes straight from the runner-up for the school board’s empty seat…
According to a public records request made by Chia-Ling Kong — the runner-up in the highly controversial August 13 appointment to the school board’s open seat — Kong came in first on both of the board’s scoring rubrics.
This refutes the board’s initial claim that Kong and her now-seated opponent, Hai Minh Ngo, were tied on both metrics.
The alleged tie prompted Board Vice President Hong Lien to request her scores be changed in order to break the stalemate between Kong and Ngo — a stalemate that public records show never actually happened.
The public records request also revealed the tally of Superintendent Cheryl Jordan, who compiled all four board members’ scorecards. Jordan’s tally showed numerous errors, the most serious of which failed to give Kong another first place vote, thus landing Kong in second place.
“It’s a relief to finally get this info,” said Kong about the scorecards.
Had the scores been tallied correctly, Kong would have placed first and would have decisively won across both rubrics.
Although the results of both rubrics were nonbinding and, according to the board, only to be used as “tools,” the rubrics were considered among board members as significant measures in deciding who would be appointed to the vacated seat.
A seat that in all likelihood — had the scores been added correctly — would have gone to Kong.
“These are just tools,” Kong said of the rubrics, “But their decision must be based on these tools. It can’t if the tools are misguided.”
One of the two rubrics gave candidates a possible score of one to five, with five being the highest, across a series of eight questions, for a total of 40 possible points.
The other rubric, a point-tally system, was introduced by the superintendent through a members-only memo on August 11, two days before the meeting to fill the seat. This particular rubric had previously never been used by the board for an appointment.
“These were basic tally marks and they couldn’t even get it right,” said Kong. “I don’t know if it was done intentionally or not, but it definitely influenced the outcome.”
Since Ngo was appointed to the seat in August, the board has maintained he received more first-place votes than Kong.
But according to the documents released in the public records request, it was indeed Kong, not Ngo, who received more first-place votes — three compared to Ngo’s two. The results incorrectly tallied by Jordan show that Ngo received three first-place votes compared to Kong’s two.
Lien’s public and controversial score change in order to break the tie is also detailed in the documents, which show that even with the score change, Kong was still ahead on the scorecards.
The district initially claimed that even after Lien changed her score, Kong and Ngo were still in a dead heat.
The documents from the request were compiled in a flyer which was distributed at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Chris Norwood, the board president, has denied any wrongdoing by the board in the process, stating his choice of Minh over Kong was due to Minh’s greater long-term commitment to the board — and Norwood’s interest in breaking the tie.
The school board has come under fire for its controversial appointment process. Several residents flooded public comment at meetings in recent weeks, saying the vote was rigged against Kong, and that actions taken by the board resulted in a spoiled vote, with some residents going as far to say that the process was “rigged.”
In response, several community members have filed a petition for a special election to fill the seat now held by Ngo, which is now awaiting certification by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, the body that administers elections in Milpitas.
Meanwhile, Norwood announced Wednesday the MUSD Board of Governance would open an investigation into how the voting process was carried out. According to a statement published by Norwood, the board has been in contact with county authorities to determine the “best course of action.”
Wrote Norwood, “We want to thank everyone for being actively involved and request that we remain respectful with an open mind as we work through this together as a Board, District and Community.”
Kong has been openly critical of the appointment process, including the amount of access to video recordings of the meetings.
“It makes it difficult for the community to engage and be able to track certain decisions,” said Kong about the lack of video recordings.
Outside of public television, most recordings of meetings can only be watched at the superintendent’s office, and recordings are only kept for three months. If citizens want a personal recording of a meeting, they have to pay for a DVD copy.
The district released the video of the August 13 meeting a week after the proceedings took place, after growing pressure from the community.
According to Norwood, the board is planning a public meeting about the matter in response to the public records release.
As for Kong, she is willing to accept a diplomatic solution — one which she says should finally “heal the division in the community.”
“This credibility, this trust needs to be restored with proper investigation,” said Kong. “The school [board] has to acknowledge its mistake and be held accountable.”
The Beat tried to reach Superintendent Jordan for comment, but received no reply.
Featured photo on top shows documentation created of scorecards, which was handed out by Chia-Ling Kong and others during the September 24 school board meeting.
This article has been updated.