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Plentiful principal replacements in Mt. Diablo district

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, June 21st, 2010 at 7:07 pm in Bay Point, Concord, Education, Martinez, Mt. Diablo school district, Pleasant Hill, Theresa Harrington, Walnut Creek.

By Theresa Harrington
All administrators in the Mt. Diablo school district were given pink slips this year, which means they could be replaced or reassigned at will.
Even though the school year has already ended and many principals have made plans with their staffs for the fall, some are being promoted or reassigned. It’s possible some could lose their jobs, although that won’t be clear until all the decisions for replacements have been finalized.
A few resigned, leaving holes the district had to fill. The board expects to vote on the appointment of 25 administrators Tuesday, including the promotion of five principals to district office administrators, the appointment of eight principals and a continuation high school administrator, and the appointment of four vice principals.
Last Tuesday, the board approved a district office restructuring that includes the principal promotions. Here’s a rundown of those:
Delta View Principal Susan Petersen will become Director of Elementary Support.
Riverview Middle School Principal Denise Rugani will become Director of Secondary Support.
Monte Gardens Elementary Principal Patt Hoellwarth, Hidden Valley Elementary Principal Lorie O’Brien and Sequoia Middle School Principal Hellena Postrk are being promoted to administrative positions as coaches who will support local principals.
In addition, the board appointed Bill Morones as principal of Ygnacio Valley High, replacing retiring Carolyn Plath. Morones is a Danville resident with three children who has worked as principal of Florin High in Sacramento for seven months.
But many other principal moves are in the works.
During the June 15 board meeting, Superintendent Steven Lawrence reported that Highlands Elementary Principal Nancy Klinkner has agreed to move to Bel Air, replacing Tom Carman, who retired. He also said Ayers Elementary Principal Nancy Baum has agreed to take Petersen’s former position at Delta View Elementary in Bay Point. Finally, Lawrence said Cynthia Goin, former principal at Strandwood Elementary, is coming back from a leave to become principal at Wren Avenue Elementary, replacing a retiring administrator.
The board will vote on these and other assignments Tuesday, including the appointment of some other district office administrators. Lawrence has already announced that he plans to move Julie Braun Martin, the current director of personnel, to the assistant superintendent position, replacing Gail Isserman, who is retiring. Lawrence has said he plans to move Melinda Hall, the current director of Curriculum and Instruction, into the personnel director position.
The restructuring also calls for Rose Lock, the current assistant superintendent for elementary education, to become the assistant superintendent of a new Student Achievement and School Support Division. Jennifer Sachs, the current assistant director of Curriculum and Instruction, will become assistant director of the new division, since the Curriculum and Instruction division is being eliminated. Carmen Garces, who is currently an administrator who serves socio-economically disadvantaged students and English language learners in the Curriculum and Instruction department will assume a similar position in the new division.
Here’s the list of appointments to be made, with names filled in, if they’ve already been announced:
Ayers Elementary, Concord:
Bel Air Elementary, Bay Point: Nancy Klinkner
Delta View Elementary, Bay Point: Nancy Baum
Hidden Valley Elementary, Martinez:
Mt. Diablo High School, Concord:
Riverview Middle School, Bay Point:
Valle Verde Elementary, Walnut Creek:
Wren Avenue Elementary, Concord: Cynthia Goin
Meadow Homes Elementary program specialist, Concord:
Mt. Diablo High School vice principal, Concord:
Northgate High School vice principal, Walnut Creek:
Olympic Continuation High School administrator, Concord:
Olympic/Alliance high school vice principal, Concord:
Riverview Middle School vice principal, Concord:
Assistant superintendent of personnel services: Julie Braun Martin
Director of Personnel: Melinda Hall
Assistant Superintendent, Student Achievement, Support: Rose Lock
Director, Elementary Support: Susan Petersen
Director, Seconday Support: Denise Rugani
Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support: Jennifer Sachs
Principal Coach and school support: Patt Hoellwarth
Principal Coach and school support: Lorie O’Brien
Principal Coach and school support: Hellena Postrk
Principal Coach and school support: Susan Hukkanen
Administrator, English learners, Student Support: Carmen Graces
The district office reorganization eliminated the position of director of alternative education, currently held by Katie Gaines. It also eliminated five other administrative positions and replaced them with the new Student Achievement positions detailed above.
But there are more vacant principal positions that have not yet been filled. Shore Acres Elementary Principal Kari Rees told me she will be replaced as part of that school’s reform efforts, based on its status as one of the district’s six lowest-achieving schools. The principals who are being promoted to positions as district administrators are also leaving behind vacancies.
In addition, I’ve heard that some other principals may not be returning to their campuses next year.
“In an attempt to find the best match for each school, district staff has gathered input from site staff members and parents,” the district’s staff report for administrative assignments states. “For those positions that we feel we have a match, we will announce the person filling the position; otherwise, we will continue to search for qualified candidates.”
Lawrence told parents at Bancroft Elementary in Walnut Creek last week that he had conducted extensive interviews with staff and parents at Valle Verde Elementary regarding the kind of principal they would like, after Principal Carolyn Kreuscher announced she planned to retire. But Bancroft parents did not understand why he did not ask them if they were willing to give up their principal before he decided to transfer Linda Schuler to Valle Verde.
Lawrence pointed out that the principal would leave sometime, most likely by retiring or transferring to another school. In reconsidering his decision, he said he would evaluate whether the time was right for Schuler to leave now.
In the end, Lawrence reversed his decision, based on the meetings with Bancroft staff and parents. But he said Valle Verde was a larger school with a significant population of special education students and that his goal with all transfers was to create a “win-win” situation for the principal and the school, offering a new opportunity to the administrator.
Lawrence explained that the district had a pool of about nine to 12 candidates that he looked at for Bancroft. One parent suggested that Lawrence place the person he had in mind for Bancroft at Valle Verde instead.
“You considered the needs of Valle Verde,” the parent said. “It’s inexcusable that we were not involved in this process from the beginning. There’s no reason to take this principal to another high-performing school in this district. If (the candidate) is good enough for us, she should be good enough for Valle Verde.”
Parents also wanted to know if Schuler wanted to move or if Lawrence told her to move.
“I more asked her to go, based on my request, than asked her (if she wanted to),” Lawrence said. “We had a talk. If you want to define that as being told, then, yes, (she was told).”
Here are the other vacancies I know about, based on moves or announcements that have already been made:
Highlands Elementary Principal, Concord:
Monte Gardens Elementary Principal, Concord:
Sequioa Middle School, Pleasant Hill:
Shore Acres Elementary Principal, Bay Point:
If your child attends one of these schools, have you been asked what kind of principal you and your children would like? How do you feel about getting a new principal in the fall?

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19 Responses to “Plentiful principal replacements in Mt. Diablo district”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Not once has Lawrence ever said these “principal musical chairs” is in the “best interests of the children”. Seems like there is lots of protectionism going on within the district staff to protect weak principals. That just perpetrates weak schools.

  2. Realia Says:

    Remember a few years ago when the governor referred to school districts shifting around the lemons? Though he meant teachers, at MDUSD it means weak administrators or the whims of the new superintendent, who seems to think he can make arbitrary decisions without input from any affected parties. This game isn’t over; wait for more shuffling of the Titanic’s defective deck chairs in the near future. Rumors are flying around the district, because that’s what happens in the absence of transparency and common sense. And they say it’s all for the sake of the children. As a district teacher, I can tell you that’s often the last consideration in such decision making.

  3. Teacher Says:

    Theresa, come on. Do you think district staff has the time to go around and ask parents what type of principal they would like? What a waste of time. All parents want basically the same thing: an involved principal who they see on campus daily. They want a principal who keeps the school safe with strong discipline and insists on high student achievement holding teachers accountable. They want an accessible and responsive person who will quickly address their concerns.

  4. Teacher Says:

    Dr. J. what weak principals are you talking about? The movement of principals has been either because they retired or because they have been promoted to a district position. Susan Peterson has totally turned around Delta View to a top performing school and getting earning a Distinguished Schools Award and that is why she is being promoted. I assume that is the case for the other principals as well.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    @Teacher: With six habitually underperforming schools this year, and potentially another 7 next year, that would tell me that perhaps there is a weak principal or two among them — otherwise why would they be habitually underperforming for years, especially in light of the massive gains you cite at Delta View. Just like in professional sports, if the coach can’t turn around a team, he gets the boot. Its not always that he isn’t a good coach, but sometimes he is just not a good fit. The same can be true for principals. As for your comment to Theresa, Dr. L is the one who shot himself in the foot and said he made a mistake in not consulting with the parents before transfering the principal last week. Then he meets with the parents and 3 hours later after a closed session with the Board, reverses himself. Now parents at every school are going to expect to have input with the Supt. before their principal is transfered. I don’t think that is good policy, but apparently the Board loves to micromanage.

  6. tharrington Says:

    I don’t know if district staff has the time to go to schools to ask what kind of principals they would like. But I do know that parents get upset when they aren’t asked.
    Also, Lawrence said that asking parents is part of the process the district is using to make appointments. He told Bancroft parents that he had intended to ask them what they wanted in a new principal, but he hadn’t done that yet.
    Lawrence said he hoped to match parents’ and students’ needs with principals’ strengths. He said he transferred Klinkner to Bel Air because she is bilingual and that make her a good fit in the Bay Point community.
    “I want all of my parents to fight me for their principals as much as you have,” he told Bancroft parents.

  7. tharrington Says:

    What do you think is driving the decision-making? How would you suggest the district could be more transparent?

  8. Nobody Says:

    Theresa, Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton is not on your list and we have lost our principal. They have given us only 1 day notice of a meeting tomorrow at 5pm (wednesday) to discuss wtih Rose Lock what we want to see I guess.

  9. tharrington Says:

    The district has not announced that Mt. Diablo Elementary would be getting a new principal. I won’t be able to attend the meeting, because I’ll be on vacation. I’ll try to follow up with Lock. I would also appreciate it if anyone from the school would be willing to speak “on the record” about the meeting. If so, please e-mail me at
    Here are the appointments that were made tonight:
    Principals: Spoogmai Habibi at Ayers Elementary in Concord, Cynthia Goin at Wren Avenue Elementary in Concord, Rhys Miller at Valle Verde Elementary in Walnut Creek, Sandy Bruketta at Hidden Valley Elementary in Martinez, Christine Huajardo as principal of Riverview Middle School in Bay Point and Kate McClatchy as principal of Mt. Diablo High School in Concord.
    Administrators: The board appointed Cheryl LeBoef, who has worked as principal of Mt. Diablo High for the past year, as administrator of Olympic continuation high school. McClatchy has been the administrator at Olympic High for about three years.
    “As we go through and fill other positions, we will have to have some special board meetings,” Superintendent Steven Lawrence said.
    Two Mt. Diablo High School teachers voiced concerns about the administrative shuffle taking place during the summer, saying their staff was given no notice of the changes. Lawrence said the swap was brought about by the administrators.
    Ian Ainsworth will be vice principal of Riverview Middle School and Lianne Cisnowski will be vice principal at Mt. Diablo High. Katie Gaines will be vice principal at Olympic.
    Diane Sargent will be a site-based program specialist at Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord and Linda Hayes will be a vice principal at Northgate High in Walnut Creek.
    Do you think school staffs and parents are being given ample input into these decisions?

  10. Ladymar Says:

    20+ years ago, principals were assigned and reassigned as they have been this summer. With new superintendents, the process became more transparent where there was input from the school community and school staff. All school administrators in past years have received layoff notices so that is not new. We are back to the principal reshuffle game where you get a potluck principal. Many years ago, when our school was going through a difficult time with an incompetent principal, a friend of mine said, “Principals come and go, but the teachers stay put to serve their students.” I have found this to be true. We will deal with this reshuffle game as we have in the past.

  11. Tired Parent Says:

    Funny how Curriculum and Instruction was being eliminated, but all the people who work there landed “new” jobs in the district. What a load of crap. The district saves its own and the school sites take the brunt of the cuts.

  12. Linda Says:

    I believe the decision making is being driven in this instance the same way it is driven for everything that is done in MDUSD… purely reactive. At this point that is simply a guess on my part. Until this Superintendent decides to communicate with the community we will be left to guess.
    Back to my same question that I will continue to ask, how can these decisions be made without strategic planning?
    As for transparency, how about some clear, honest, and regular communication.

  13. Doctor J Says:

    @Nobody and Theresa; how did the meeting go ? Did they reveal why Mt. D Elem was not on the list ? Doesn’t a Board Member have a child at the school ? Remember GE’s refusal to deny a rumor in the blog ? 🙂

  14. tharrington Says:

    I was unable to attend the meeting and am on vacation, so I haven’t heard how the meeting went.
    However, Gail Isserman, assistant superintendent for personnel, said last week that she couldn’t tell me which schools are getting new principals because she wasn’t sure which administrators had told their communities they wouldn’t be returning. The district hasn’t released a full list of schools receiving new principals.
    Instead, the district appears to be releasing the information just before new principals are appointed.
    I believe Gary Eberhart’s daughter attends Mt. Diablo Elementary. Paul Strange’s children attend Highlands Elementary and Sherry Whitmarsh’s children attend Oak Grove Middle School and Ygnacio Valley High.
    Linda Mayo’s children attended Pleasant Hill schools, I believe. And I think Dick Allen’s children attended Concord schools.

  15. Jennifer Says:

    Our school had a one day notice to attend a meeting to talk with MS. Lock about the needs of our school and what we wanted in a principal. I think the notice during the summer is terrible and was not able to attend because of the short notice. I think the district is making some poor decisions. If I could afford to send my chidren to private school, I would!

  16. Nobody Says:

    Mt. Diablo Elem was scheduled a second meeting due to the last minute notice. Only about 10 people showed. So another meeting is being held tomorrow night Weds 6/30). Will be very curious if they appoint a principal for MDE on Thurs, as won’t it be pretty clear the opinions weren’t needed and they were just being patronizing?

  17. tharrington Says:

    What time is the MDE meeting?

  18. Nancy Gerber Says:

    Parents at Valley View Middle School were notified by robo-call that the principal there is leaving, and supposedly Ian Ainsworth is being appointed as an interim (our second in a year). I can’t find anything about this on the district website though. Do you know why is Valley View not on any of the lists of schools without principals? Apparently the previous principal resigned at the end of June so you’d think it would be.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Superintendent Steven Lawrence announced at the June 28, 2011 meeeting that the Valley View MS principal had resigned. The board unanimously gave Lawrence permission to appoint a new principal without its approval, along with several other administrators:
    I don’t know why the district isn’t posting information about administrative appointments on its website. However, I am trying to post information on my blog as I find out about it.

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