"The Rug" -- Where Lamorinda Sweeps Its Secrets

Your editor puts on his Kevlar and asks: "What's Lamorinda so dang afraid of?"


UPDATED: 4 p.m. Thursday, with reference to comment on this story linking to MCC apology letter and reversal of decision to ban Ms. Cunnane.


In our relatively short time with you Patch has learned much about the community we live in and hopefully serve.

As "Big City" as our successes make us feel at times, we realize our collective hamlet is still, essentially "small town" America, a fabric of close, interwoven relationships and ties tethered to an "everyone knows everyone else's business" mentality.

This has been good for us, with neighbors calling us with tips about their neighbor kid's prize-winning science project, shots of their raindrop-laden daffodils, and the local coyote on the prowl. It has also been very bad -- with people in the community deciding that discussion of our ills, no matter how common to other areas of similar size and makeup, is to be swept under a very lumpy rug.

We have seen this expressed in many ways. Angry emails. Midnight telephone calls. Comments on Patch, even an angry, drive-by lecture of our resident Tranquil Gardener by a red-faced man who mistook him for me.

What is it that has provoked this sort of vehemence, to have city officials refuse to provide basic public information, to have those who do speak up censored and banned? And why is the desire to sweep away our secrets so deep-seated? We have our suspicions but can only guess that choosing to discuss a sweeping problem with Ocycontin abuse, a localized burglary spree, or the insidious acts of predatory teachers has somehow threatened our self-image as a progressive, safe, exclusive enclave.

This Stepfordian utopia is far from the truth, of course, as it is in most small towns. But it is how we deal with our blemishes that marks us as a community, and whether or not we are truly progressive or merely deep in our own self-delusion.

And right now, in my heartfelt opinion, we are missing the mark by a wide margin and doing ourselves a disservice in the process. For not only are we succumbing to the dark urges to cover up and obfuscate and stall, we have hoisted the red flag and announced to one and all that we have things to hide and that those who speak out can expect retaliation.

We have seen this manifest in many ways while pursuing stories for Lamorinda Patch, but the approach came to a head this week with the news that a former Joaquin Moraga student pursued and molested by two teachers -- one of whom committed suicide with the second eventually going to prison for her crimes -- had been banned from attending a swim clinic held at the Moraga Country Club.

That former student and now swimming coach, Kristen Cunnane, had not intended to address the issue of her abuse at the clinic, but had thought she had been invited to give an inspirational address to young swimmers at her "home pool." Instead, in an apparent gesture of support for retiring principal Bill Walters and after some behind-the-scenes lobbying by parents eager for what was described to Patch as the maintenance of a "united front" against those seeking to discredit the local school district -- Cunnane was advised to stay home.

Patch Update: The MCC Board has reversed its decision not to allow Cunnane to appear at the club and issued a letter of apology.

Our own sentiments aside, at least one member of the MCC Board also questioned its motives for banning Cunnane, and judging by the hailstorm of letters, emails and calls we're getting at Patch -- the community at large is also asking the question: Why?

A show of support for a popular local educator? A desire to stay out of the public limelight? Or just a desire not to raise the dirty little secret, to keep it all on the down low and "just between us?"

We've seen and heard it all before in Lamorinda, unfortunately. Some have accused us of stirring the pot, of daring to discuss an issue we would think would be of interest to people who own homes here, who keep prescription drugs in their cabinets, whose children go to school here. And while we have been reassured by thousands of you who have asked for more sunlight, more transparency, and more discussion of the issues at hand, we have also been advised in no uncertain terms that some here feel the Stepfordian utopia is not to be upset in any way.

And that, gentle readers, is just plain wrong.

Andrew L. June 12, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Ed, McGruff has already stated several times what could have been generally known at the time of the bail hearing. How did the two teachers you know, who were colleagues of Correa, not have any inkling? It does not make sense. Put another way, why didn't _more_ people, teacher and otherwise, not support Correa at that time if, as you an others intimate, next to nothing about Correa was known after her case was brought to trial? Could it be that they knew the things McGruff has said? Could it be they realized the state didn't fabricate those 23 counts out of thin air? And once those teachers' heads were dragged out of the sand, what did they have to say for themselves? Gang up on me if you wish, but read what long-time contributor Moribund Dave has written. In essence, that's all I'm saying.
Ed June 12, 2012 at 11:46 PM
MD, where did you get this interpretation of "3rd choice/ just a misunderstanding"? It is not even remotely contained in any of my postings. That said, I think you had a relevant point though buried in your miscasting of my opinions: "there is no middle ground on a rape issue". I agree whole heartedly... burn rapists and pedophiles at the stake at RLP during off leash hours. I would though submit, like most people who are fond of our judicial system, that the teachers who supported a colleague during the judicial process are not villainous fiends to be fired.
Ed June 12, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Sorry Andrew, didn't mean to gang up on you or anyone else. Thanks for the spirited debate; I do appreciate your perspective.
2nd Generation Moraga June 12, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Fritz, I haven't seen any comments to the contrary of your statement above. This debate is limited to the actions of a) Teachers who showed up in support at a public hearing b) the CURRENT school board, and c) the CURRENT superintendent. Every comment I've seen has condemned the rapist.
J.D. O'Connor (Editor) June 12, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Guys -- we seem to have reached a stalemate here. Shall I suspend commentary so you can all move on to other things? Remember, a letter to the editor is always an outlet for any position you care to take.
Ed June 12, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Ok, agreed, Congo. I know you said this was your last point, but I need to ask: who in the nearly 120 posts above nitpicked the rights of the pedophile/ rapist?
MYRNA lARSEN June 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM
I have a question for Ed. If your daughter age 13 was repeatedly raped by her junior high school teacher and during a court session 20 teachers/administrators stood up in court and had their names read to the judge in support of Correa, would you be okey with them continuing to teach your daughter?s I'm not saying I want them fired, I just want you to tell me what you think if you were the victim's family.
2nd Generation Moraga June 13, 2012 at 12:06 AM
1) I don't see anyone ganging up on anyone else. 2) McGruff is not the arbiter of fact and truth in this case. He has no more insight into what people knew or didn't know than anyone else. 3) Now you are saying that the 20 teachers who showed up at the hearing aren't a lot of teachers? NOBODY knows what those who supported Correa knew at the time they made their decision to support her. I still haven't seen ONE explanation of what the possible gain in publicly supporting a child rapist was for these teachers IF they knew she was guilty. Because I can't find any rational or reasonable gain for these individuals, I chose to believe they simply did not know that she was guilty.
J.D. O'Connor (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Sooooo... I guess we're rolling on? At what point are we merely lashing the stove in horse? Or do you think this is still a viable dialogue?
2nd Generation Moraga June 13, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Not sure the relevance to this subject Fritz. The MCC debacle was one person making decisions he shouldn't have made. Within 24 hours of those decisions becoming public, they were reversed. Opposite of circling the wagons, the MCC Board members very publicly rejected the President's decision, prompting a public apology.
Mack Sennet June 13, 2012 at 12:17 AM
It should be closed.
2nd Generation Moraga June 13, 2012 at 12:17 AM
It's your message board - however if the discussion continues to evolve, why kill it?
Jon Chambers June 13, 2012 at 12:17 AM
I'll add that I went to Kristen's presentation yesterday evening with my wife and two boys. She did an incredible job talking to the kids about swimming, hard work, persistence, and overcoming adversity. Nothing controversial or negative--exactly what was expected from such an inspirational survivor. My boys got in the pool afterwards to practice their backstroke starts. Also, kudos to the media for staying away and letting the kids enjoy a great event.
2nd Generation Moraga June 13, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Alright - maybe the dead horse is being proverbially beaten...
J.D. O'Connor (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Folks -- This thread will remain open for another few hours so all interested parties can make their last comment and then we're shutting 'er down. If you care to address any of the issues discussed here remember you are free to open a dialogue with a letter to the editor. Cheers.
Ed June 13, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Well put, 2GM.
Ed June 13, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Viable dialogue may have left the building it seems. Good discussion though.
Andrew L. June 13, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Why are people bringing up the "Moraga Rumor Mill"? By the time the State filed charges, things were waaaaaaaaaaaaaay past the rumor stage. Not to mention that the rumors about Witters and Correa were true.
Andrew L. June 13, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Thank you, sir. My final note is that as a parent, I benefit from awareness of this situation and hopefully the school board's resolve to address it. I benefit from knowing which teachers insisted on publicly supporting Correa so I can avoid having them teach my children. I benefit also, unfortunately, from learning that many fellow Moragans lack empathy, from the MCC leadership to certain commenters here. Thank you Fritz, Moribund Dave, and McGruff for your understanding and blessed common sense.
Jose June 13, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Agreed that we are arguing in circles now. One last comment. We have had several contributors refer to Correa as a "monster" now in their posts (not a term I would have chosen, but I digress). No one knew better than Mrs. Cunnane what an awful, deceitful, and manipulative person Correa was, and yet she had to endure the knowledge that some of her former teachers vouched for the character of this predator in court. The victim keeps getting kicked and kicked. One of Sandusky's victims just testified that he reported sexual abuse to a counselor. The response was that Mr. Sandusky wouldn't do any such terrible thing. It might just as well be Moraga School District. Nothing has changed?
Jose June 13, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Oops!. That was supposed to be: Nothing has changed. A statement not a question.
Ed June 13, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Andrew, as a local parent I too am concerned. When things get waaaaaaay past the rumor stage (yet well before the process stage) we must act as responsible parents and teachers. I imagine there were many responsible parents acting when the following well known rape was waaaaaay past the rumor stage as well (and are real proud of themselves): http://abcnews.go.com/US/football-star-exonerated-rape-conviction-press-charges-accuser/story?id=16438059
Ed June 13, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Andrew, your concern over people's empathy is perhaps misused emotion. I safely assume most of the posters here have, had or will have children progressing through the MSD and further assume all want nothing but the best for our collective offspring. To vilify incredible teachers like the current JM teachers in question by their association is not in the best interest of the community or the education of our kids. Have faith, and thanks for the discourse.
Andrew L. June 13, 2012 at 03:45 AM
"Andrew, your concern over people's empathy is perhaps misused emotion." I safely assume most of the posters here have, had or will have children progressing through the MSD and further assume all want nothing but the best for our collective offspring. To vilify incredible teachers like the current JM teachers in question by their association is not in the best interest of the community or the education of our kids. Have faith, and thanks for the discourse." That is incredibly patronizing. Because your friendship with the teachers in question leads you to describe them as "incredible", you presume you know better than I what is in the best interests of the community or my children's education. A perfect example of the arrogant attitude of entitlement of many in this community.
2nd Generation Moraga June 13, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Fritz, you of all people should understand the danger of sterotyping an entire group based on the actions of a few. Every group/town has its bores, take some advice and simply stay away from them. Life is too short. Regarding the actions of Walters - he should have been prosecuted 15 years ago. The statute of limitations has expired so it is a moot point.
Ed June 13, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Andrew, I am neither arrogant or entitled. I am not friends with the teachers in question. I have experienced their teaching and positive influence on a first hand basis; by any measure they are "incredible" at their profession. Though I do not profess to be an expert like some here in the comment stream, I have closely followed the Cunane case since it was a 2 inch column in the CoCo Times until page 1 this week. Does this entitle me to know best for the community? No. But it does entitle to me an informed opinion. And you?
Ed June 13, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Excuse me: "But it does entitle ME TO an informed opinion. And you?"
Jose June 13, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Ed, I know you were trying to be conciliatory with a final comment, but "incredible" JM teachers? Many are dedicated, some are good, some are incompetent, most are average or above average, teaching a mediocre curriculum. My kids and I endured a combined 6 years there. I have no memory of "incredible" there.
Jose June 13, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Unless you meant "too extraordinary and improbable to be believed", merriam-webster. I, for one, am in disbelief.
J.D. O'Connor (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 06:38 AM
Folks -- I'm shutting down this thread. You may be interested in a Patch Video just posted to the "top" of the site, with a formal response from the teachers who turned out "in support" of their colleague. Thanks for your participation.


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