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MDUSD superintendent explains principal hire snafu

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 at 7:34 pm in Clayton, Concord, Education, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington

After remaining silent for days regarding allegations that surfaced over the weekend regarding the man he recommended as principal of Mt. Diablo Elementary, Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence issued a written statement within the past hour explaining the hiring procedure used to vet candidates.

Here is the statement in its entirety:

“The district has received questions regarding information discovered about Dr. Nugent, a candidate for one of our principal positions that was filled July 1, 2010. When filling positions in the district, the district follows standard protocols, including exhaustive written applications, oral interviews, credential checks, reference checks and subsequent background checks. In this case, our customary protocols did not discover negative information that was readily available in a simple Internet search. Consequently, the Board of Education was not aware of negative information which was discovered by a board member after the candidate’s appointment. In the future, the district will augment our process with a comprehensive Internet investigation prior to candidate recommendations going to the Board of Education. In light of the latest information, Dr. Nugent has withdrawn his name from consideration for any of the district’s open positions. The district will immediately conduct another search for a principal for Mt. Diablo Elementary and will work closely with that community to find a suitable candidate.
Steven Lawrence, Superintendent
Mt. Diablo Unified School District”

Lawrence did not return my call requesting more information. It is not clear if trustees will be given the names of candidates prior to board meetings in the future, or if they will be given resumes, which some have said they would like.

When I asked Lawrence last month why so many administrators were being moved around, he said decisions were based on retirements, resignations, restructuring and “through conversations with people, looking to see if there’s a match and an opportunity.”
He cited the book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t,” by Jim Collins, saying it talks about “having the right people on the right seat on the bus.”

A parent at the Bancroft meeting told Lawrence that book also recommends involving the people who are being affected in the decisions. Lawrence acknowledged that he could do a better job of that.

When the board approved the swap of principals at Mt. Diablo High and Olympic continuation school, two Mt. Diablo teachers expressed concerns about their staff not being consulted.

At the June 30 meeting with Mt. Diablo Elementary parents, newly appointed assistant superintendent Julie Braun-Martin said elementary principal candidates were interviewed before the district knew there would be an opening at that school. However, she told them they could be included in interviews if the district determined that a second round of interviews was necessary.

Are you satisfied with the district’s new hiring protocol?

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