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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 Nugent has withdrawn his name from consideration for any of the district’s open positions.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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  • Doctor J

    Oh what a crock . . . Nugent was hired days before the Wednesday meeting with the parents. Just ask the right people. They knew. When will the lies stop and the truth be told ? Nugentgate is getting bigger by the hour !

  • Nobody

    Theresa, did he just issue this statement to you. HE HAS STILL NOT given one word of an explanation or apology to the MDE community directly. And if not for this here, they’d still not have heard anything.

    Word is they are conducting more interviews TOMORROW and have asked MDE to provide 2 parent reps. Again last minute and rushed. Why? What is wrong with the district people, have they learned nothing ?

  • Tired Parent

    I understand the need to have principals in place by early August. I also understand that now is the time to be slow and deliberate in the choosing of principals, so that this kind of screw-up never happens again. For a board that promised clarity and transparency, they are anything but.

  • changepls

    When does this madness stop? Steve Lawrence needs to resign immediately. He has singled handed turned MDUSD upside down with all the changes with principals at schools and the new positions at the district. The Board members need to rescind all pay raises for all appointments that have been made in the past 6 months. Schools are being violated with dangerous cuts to secretaries and instructional assistants that will affect the safety of our children. I think the State should come in and investigate the district, the superintendent, and the school members immediately. As parents, we need to make the district stop this massacre of our schools and employees. Now he hired a man with such a questionable background, there is no excuse that is acceptable. It is time for the Superintendent to submit his resignation immediately!

  • Doctor J

    Get the picket signs out for Lawrence to resign. He’s a disgrace. He can’t even tell the truth in his statement: it was not discovered by a board member — it was discovered on the claycord blog ! Rumor is Julie is getting out of Dodge — the heat in the kitchen is too hot.

  • tharrington

    I received the press release by FAX a little after 6:30 p.m. yesterday and by e-mail at 7:58 p.m. yesterday. I was told the district was having computer problems, which was slowing down e-mail.
    I would assume the district would post the message on its website and send out an e-mail to parents, similar to the e-mail sent about a possible state takeover. At the very least, it would make sense for the district to send it to Mt. Diablo Elementary parents.
    The district posted its last “press release” about laying off employees the day after the board meeting it was meant to inform people about. So, maybe this press release will show up sometime today or tomorrow on the district website.
    Regarding the “rush,” Lawrence told board members he wanted to make sure he could hire good candidates in July, to give them time to resign from their current positions before school starts.
    Lawrence also told me last week that he didn’t believe the district had begun interviewing candidates for middle school principal positions yet.
    Also, Lawrence told me he has the authority to transfer principals from one school to another without board approval. This is why the board never voted to approve Nancy Baum as principal of Delta View Elementary or Nancy Klinkner as principal of Bel Air Elementary. (They were already principals at Ayers and Highlands elementary schools, respectively.) Instead, Lawrence announced the moves during the “Superintendent’s Report” portion of a meeting.

  • Doctor J

    Parents, teachers, and staff will not rest until Lawrence is gone ! If the Board is reading the blogs, they will know they must take action to axe Lawrence and save this district ! They bet on the wrong horse.

  • Realia

    Prospective MDUSD teachers are fingerprinted (at the teacher’s expense); prospective administrators are not even Googled. SNAFU says it all; as I recall from “Catch-22,” it stands for what should be the district’s motto: situation normal all ___ up.

  • Kathleen Byle

    I am very diappointed that there are not more questions raised about the fact that district office personnel are being placed in schools with what seems to be little thought to their experience or capabilities and excellent principals are being “promoted” to the district office to replace the curriculum and instruction department. Doesn’t this sound a bit odd? Parents should be very concerned as to what experience as principals these “administrators” have. What is all this juggling supposed to do for students. Parents aren’t happy with the district as it stands, now there will be even more upset as they see their childrens’ education being handled in such a haphazard way. Supposedly educational decisions must be made by sound research and data driven decisions. What I currently see is a random bouncing of positions with no really information as to how placements were made.
    Is there any answer to that question of how placements were decided or were principals pink-slipped in order to force positions upon them? No one has been willing to touch that loaded question.
    Also with laid off admins, why is the district hiring from outside rather than promote from Lawrence’s former district?

  • Nobody

    Dr. J… I get you are passionate about this. But who are you? I mean, I know I’m a nobody.. but anyone who really knows me knows I’ve very involved “in real life” too… are you?

  • Doctor J

    I am passionate about kids learning and being successful, including my own children. I am “involved” and wish to wear the mask of Doctor J, much like the Lone Ranger, to work for truth and justice. Sounds corny, but I believe it. Gary E. blogged with me a couple of weeks ago, and offered to debate me any place, any time, so I chose this forum and he chickened out. He only wants to unmask me because I believe him to be vindictive. I have exposed the Board’s hypocrisy in giving raises to the Gang of Five last November, while increasing class sizes, laying off teachers and staff, and spending money frivilously. I have to laugh because some of his supporters have erroneously tagged some of the annon posts on the parents mdusd blog as coming from me — they have a 100% failure rate. LOL. There is a certain amount of parnoia coming from that camp, because I have lots of friends in high places and my sources are pretty darn accurate. The paranoia is a lot like the Nixon camp during Watergate which caused the breakins. They can’t control the truth but they can control the spin.

  • changepls

    Doctor J keep up the good work. You have a lot of supporters. No one would continue these forums if they were not concerned and passionate about the innocent students of this district.

  • tharrington

    Lawrence and Braun-Martin have said decisions were made based on conversations with people about how best to match administrators to schools and create win-win opportunities. However, very little specific information has been given to the community about how these “matches” were determined. The only example I’ve heard is that Nancy Klinkner was transferred to Bel Air because she speaks Spanish.

  • http://mdusdvoice.wordpress.com Linda

    Kathleen,
    I would also like to know WHY they are doing all this shuffling. Is there a purpose? How will it improve the education MDUSD provides my children?

  • Doctor J

    Perhaps Lawrence and Braun-Martin aren’t really making those decisions and have passed them off to the Asst. Supt ? Perhaps she should be asked school by school.

  • Realia

    “Lawrence and Braun-Martin have said decisions were made based on conversations with people about how best to match administrators to schools and create win-win opportunities.” Just who, where, when, and why are these conversations occurring in the first place? It’s all just musical chairs – read all the reassignments for confirmation.

  • Kathleen

    I have just gotten an phone call generated from Rose Locke for a parent meeting at Sequoia Middle to discuss the principal’s position at that site on the 23rd of July. It seems Dr.J may have some correct information. This meeting may be just a response to the Nugent issue. Hopefully, the district will listen to input and not ignore the parents’ voices.

    my last blog had an error. I would prefer hiring from within rather that from outside.

  • tharrington

    I heard the teacher meeting is at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday, July 14, followed by a parent meeting at 6 p.m.

  • Doctor J

    Nugentgate isn’t over until the truth comes out !

  • Nobody

    Doctor J, what truth would that be? You’re starting to sound like a broken record.

  • Doctor J

    Lawrence knew about the DUI and failed to disclose it to the Board.

  • changepls

    If this is true, then the Superintendent intentionally put the safety of the Mt. Diablo Elementary students in danger. The ball is in the school board’s court. Are they going to put up with this deliberate disregard for their authority? We all have to ask, what else is being withheld from the school board and the community? This is so disturbing!

  • sroofc

    MDUSD needs to be flushed out and new people installed. This principal shuffling will slow down the already sllloooow district processes even further. Especially when people are being placed into elementary schools w/ only middle and high school experience and vice versa. We don’t have time or energy to “teach” principals about our sites. We need to hit the decks running when school starts to be able to do all that we are required to do. MDUSD is too large, inbred, and imploding! When Rose Lock states that principals don’t stay @ sites for 20 yrs. she seems to overlook the fact that knowledge of a staff, parent, and student community help, not hinder a school Teachers who have been in one grade for a time are also looked at as in “precarious” positions because they’re stale. As one who got moved last year, a grade level change completely throws off the balance. So instead of constantly refining what I do to be have better delivery, lessons… I’ll spend 3-4 years trying to learn the curriculum to even know what it is I’m supposed to teach. Of course there are stale teachers, but moving them to grade levels doesn’t help that. If I get stale, I’ll know to request a move for myself. There are bad teachers just like in every field. Let those folks go and let the rest do their jobs!

  • Kathleen

    I have more concerns about the new superintendent than I do about the personnel. I believe the meeting at SMS and other sites to “get our input” is to keep us happy. I don’t agree we should “flush mdusd” but it’s clear the new guy is not afraid to do what he wants and not be too concerned what parents think.

  • Wait a minute

    Mr. Lawrence is NOT a leader in any sense of the word. He almost completely destroyed his last District (WUSD) with many of the same antics. He (and his team) kept themselves busy running out the strongest leaders at the schools and concentrated power and money at the district office. His assistant superintendent of Ed services whom he brought over from his last district(Roseville), Sue Brothers alone had full-time 3 administrators at $140,000 each, 6 “teachers on special assignment” and 3 secretaries with well over one million in salaries/benefits in her empire and this in a smallish district. The results were a less then impressive 4 straight years of Program Improvement with almost no gains under his ‘leadership”!

  • Doctor J

    @Waitaminute.. Intersting statements. How can they be verified ?

  • Wait a Minute

    Can you give me your email Dr. J?

  • Doctor J

    you can send me a private email by using the CC Times Personal Contact Page. You need to click on my name under an article comment, as opposed to an On Assignment article, and it will email to me.
    Doctor J

  • Rene

    Sounds like an instant replay of the decisions he made in Washington Unified. He moved all our principals around too. Maybe it is the only thing he knows. We are greatful you have him now. Perhaps your board members should have investigated him also.

  • Linda

    Rene,
    We were told he was loved by the people to whom the Board spoke. Are you a parent in the WUSD? Did he communicate regularly? Did he engage stakeholders? Did he ever implement a strategic plan? Did he follow up with his goals and objectives? Did he include his goals and objectives in the budget process? Would you consider him a visionary? Was he a good leader? Did he inspire leadership from those in his organization? Did he work well with the board? Most importantly… did he put the needs of the students first? Thanks

  • Doctor J

    Rene, did his goals/objectives approach result in student achievement progress ? Looking at the STAR results, it doesn’t appear so — in fact regression.