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SCHOOL HEADLINES: Livermore teachers, WCCSD civility and more Mt D

By Jackie Burrell
Friday, October 3rd, 2008 at 12:02 pm in politics, Schools.

School signSummer’s over and it’s time to bring back the Friday “school headline” wrap-up. And we’ll kick things off with Livermore, where teacher contract negotiations hit impasse – a legal phrase that summons state mediators – last January. Now it appears mediation has failed as well, and the mediator has called for a 3-man panel to recommend a settlement, the last phase before a strike can be called. It sounds scarier than it is – it’s not uncommon for a district to tiptoe up to the precipice like this, only to find renewed enthusiasm for their own quiet negotiating. We’ll hope that happens here.

It’s been quiet in West Contra Costa… unusually so. Times reporter Kim Wetzel notes that school board meetings have been running short, controversial topics have evaporated, there’s little talk of the teachers’ contract, which ran out in June, and a general air of unprecedented civility has settled over the district. (We’re trying to imagining feisty board member Charles Ramsey, known for his short fuse, holding doors and saying, “No, please – after you!” But hmmm…) Everyone’s so focused on the impending parcel tax election, says Wetzel, they’re all getting along.

By the way, El Cerrito’s fantastic music program is hosting a cool brunch benefit at Berkeley’s Downtown restaurant on Oct. 12. Live music includes talented student musicians and the Mo’Fone jazz trio, and the event will help send students to the Reno Jazz Festival and on a SoCal tour.

We talked about Mt. Diablo’s IRS problems earlier this week, but there’s still considerable controversy brewing over last year’s discovery that superintendent Gary McHenry had paid the law firm of Miller Brown and Dannis more than $5 million in legal fees without board approval. The issue was not whether the $5 mil was for legitimate expenses, but that state law mandates that the taxpayers’ elected representatives – the board – approve large expenditures of taxpayer money. And there was no approval sought. Now, the investigation is over, a letter of reprimand was placed in McHenry’s file, and the district has settled with Miller Brown and Dannis. The law firm will pay the district $56,011 for charges billed between 1999 and 2008.

Does it sound like there’s more to the story? Trustee Gary Eberhart thinks so. So here are links if you’d like to go explore. Click here for Eberhart and fellow trustee Paul Strange’s incensed take on the affair. Click here for McHenry’s take on what happened,, here for the independent investigator’s report, and here for the settlement with Miller Brown and Dannis.

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