It’s always sunny where? Calif. school official works from home in Philly | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Psychologist Daniel Lee has a critical job for the California Dept. of Education. He works from his home in Philadelphia — possibly violating residency requirements

December 14, 2021 7:18 am

It’s always sunny, where? Downtown Los Angeles at night (Image c.susanne2688 –

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Some among you may be old enough to remember the moment the beloved sitcom “Laverne & Shirley” jumped the proverbial shark. It came at the start of the series’ sixth season in 1980 when the show’s titular characters took Frank and Edna up on their invitation to go west and help them run their new restaurant.

Now, imagine for a moment, if you will, that while accepting an invite to run their pals’ restaurant, Laverne  and Shirley decide that this herculean and labor-intensive task could best have been done from their home base in Milwaukee, and decide not to move after all.

It’s a recipe for sitcom disaster. But it is, nonetheless, precisely what the state of California has agreed to in its relationship with its first superintendent of equity, Daniel Lee, a Philadelphia-based psychologist and life coach who has not only kept his day job, but who also believes he can best serve the taxpayers of the Golden State by continuing to live in Pennsylvania.

As Politico reportsLee, who’s also a member of the New Jersey Psychological Association’s executive board, has been pulling triple duty in his Golden State gig since July 2020. Once funded by a foundation, but now paid for by the taxpayers, Lee’s job calls for him to improve the success of students of color, Politico reported.

As Politico further reports, Lee’s position now pays up to $179,832, and his 18-page resume does not include any prior experience in California or any relationships with school districts in the state. In a sign of our pandemic-y times, Lee voted in Philadelphia as recently as the Nov. 2 elections and owns a home there, Politico reported, citing local records.

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As you might expect, Lee’s hiring and his location issues have left some California education advocates questioning whether they’re getting the best bang for their buck — particularly since it also appears to be a violation of residency requirements.

“There are a number of people in California very well qualified in our universities and educational institutions who could do this work,” Carl Pinkston, director of the Black Parallel School Board in Sacramento, told Politico.

“Irrespective of who it is, to have someone from out of state who is not familiar with California’s dynamics and politics and challenges come in and attempt to do this work only furthers the fundamental problem, which is that the California Department of Education fails to adequately monitor schools for inequities and push for enforcement,” Pinkston told Politico.

So how’d he get the gig? It’s the most Philly thing of all.

As Politico reports, Lee has been pals with current California state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond for more than two decades. They worked alongside each other as social workers, and Lee was in Thurmond’s wedding party. Both attended Temple University at the same time, but did not meet until they began working together, Politico reported.

Thurmond defended the hiring to Politico, calling Lee “somebody that I wanted to hire for a long time but he lived out of state. The pandemic opened the door for me to hire someone who is top of his class.”

Thurmond told Politico that he was unaware of any residency requirement for state workers. And he said he could not recall if others were identified for the job.

“The fact that we have known each other for 30 years … if he’s doing great quality work, what difference does it make how long we’ve known each other?” Thurmond told Politico.

Lee declined Politico’s request for comments both by phone and when a Politico reporter visited him at his Philadelphia business last month.

A spokesperson for California’s Government Operations Agency, which handles human resources issues, told Politico that “state employment is for California residents unless the job requires a different location.”

The state is “working to provide clarity in the state telework policy to ensure it is clear that teleworking does not change the definition of state employment,” the spokesperson, Amy Palmer, told Politico.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Returning to Harrisburg on Monday for the last session week of the year, Republicans in the Pennsylvania state Senate approved legislation prohibiting a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for K-12 students, Marley Parish reports.

Heeding the concerns of GOP lawmakers, a Republican-controlled state House panel on Monday took a pass on vote on a citizen-drawn map of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts, Stephen Caruso reports.

Acting state Health Secretary Allison Beam will leave her job at year’s endMarley Parish also reports.

State Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia, and a member of his staff have tested positive for COVID-19, Cassie Miller reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAPcontinued its statewide listening tour in Crawford County on Monday, holding a roundtable with more than a dozen stakeholders to tackle the increase in overdose deaths in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cassie Miller has the story.

In today’s edition of Helping the Helpers, our friends at the Uniontown Herald-Standard highlight the efforts of the Greene County Humane Society.

Students at a Philadelphia charter school impacted by gun violence staged a silent protest, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Michael Coard, of the Philadelphia Tribune, would like you to celebrate the 11th anniversary of Philadelphia’s slavery memorial on Wednesday. And America’s crisis of political violence has reached the emergency stageQuentin Young, the editor of our sibling site, Colorado Newsline, writes.

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Philadelphia will require vaccinations for anywhere food is served indoors, the Inquirer reports.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is clashing with local governments over how to spend the state’s $1 billion settlement with the opioid industry, the Post-Gazette reports.

PennLive runs down how local school districts are handling the end of the K-12 mask mandate.

LancasterOnline profiles the Lancaster County teacher named the state’s 2021 educator of the year.

Nearly four dozen current and former York County jail prisoners have filed a federal class action lawsuit against a controversial contractor, alleging its policies created an atmosphere of terror, the York Daily Record reports.

In an appearance before a legislative panel, physicians claimed to state lawmakers that alternative COVID-19 treatments have been suppressed in favor of profits — critics say it’s a distraction away from the importance of getting people vaccinated, the Morning Call reports.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney joined a summit of NEPA mayors in Wilkes-Barre on Monday, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Black people are three times as likely to be rejected for a mortgage in Philadelphia, PlanPhilly reports, citing newly released data.

Hospitals across the state are filled with mostly unvaccinated patientsWITF-FM reports.

GoErie explains how a state tax credit program helps Erie-area businesses and nonprofits.

The state House has signed off on legislation establishing a statewide broadband authority, the Observer-Reporter reports.

Amid some bombshell revelations, the Jan. 6 committee has recommended that former Trump White House official Mark Meadows be held in contempt of Congress, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The House comes in at 11 a.m., Senate convenes at 1 p.m.
9 a.m., Capitol Steps:  Rally for driver’s licenses for the undocumented.
9 a.m., 515 Irvis: House Education Committee, Subcommittee on Special Education
9:30 a.m., 205 Ryan: House  Finance Committee
10 a.m., Media Center: Reps. Steve MalagariJennifer O’Mara, and others hold a newser on insurance coverage for infertility treatments
10:30 am., 8E-A East Wing: Senate State Government Committee
11 a.m., 8E-B, East Wing: Senate Health & Human Services Committee
11:30 a.m., Main Rotunda: Wreaths Across America event
11:45 a.m., Capitol Steps: Education funding rally
1:30 p.m., Capitol Steps: Anti-vax rally. Freedom, etc.
1:30 p.m., Main Rotunda: Young people rally for juvenile justice reform
Call of the Chair: House Appropriations Committee
6 p.m., Capitol Steps: Sandy Hook memorial vigil

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Rob Mercuri
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Morgan Cephas
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Ann Flood
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Kristine Howard
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Chris Gebhard
8 am.: Breakfast for Rep. Ben Sanchez
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Frank Burns
11:30 a.m: Luncheon for Sen. John Gordner
5:30m p.m.: Reception for Rep. Matt Bradford
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out an absolutely eye-watering $25,250. 

Gov. Tom Wolf does an 8:07 a.m. interview with KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh this morning.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to Allegheny Court Judge Bruce Beemer, who celebrates today. Congratulations, and wield that gavel carefully.

Heavy Rotation
That Cure advertisement above has me all nostalgic for the band’s ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me,’ era. Sure, everyone loves ‘Just Like Heaven.’ But here’s my favorite tune from the record: The much quieter ‘Catch.’ Listen closely, and you can hear a million Goth hearts breaking.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The underperforming Vancouver Canucks are looking to veteran hockey executive Jim Rutherford to overhaul the culture at the long-running franchise that has never hoisted the Stanley Cup (via

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.