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MDUSD administrator responds to questions about principal moves

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, July 9th, 2010 at 7:43 pm in Bay Point, California, Clayton, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Pleasant Hill, Theresa Harrington, Walnut Creek.

By Theresa Harrington
The substantial number of moves by principals and other Mt. Diablo school district administrators during the past few months has prompted one big question in the community: “Why!?!”
Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personnel, have said they were trying to find good matches for schools where principals have retired or have been promoted to new positions.
Today, I spoke with Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and Support, to get more clarification on this process.
She said Lawrence made a Connect Ed phone call message to Mt. Diablo Elementary parents a couple of days ago updating them on the status of their principal search. The message informed parents that interviews were being conducted and explained that the district’s candidate screening procedure now includes Internet searches, she said.
When I asked about the multiple administrative moves, Lock said: “There hasn’t been that many people moving around.”
She said the main reason for the moves is that four elementary principals resigned (Bel Air, Silverwood, Valle Verde and Wren Avenue) and five principals were promoted to positions in her department (Delta View Elem., Hidden Valley Elem., Monte Gardens Elem., Riverview MS, and Sequoia MS).
“We did move a couple of principals who are interested in looking at different assignments,” she added. “It’s not like we’ve been playing musical chairs. Nothing like that at all.”
Lawrence has said the swap of principals between Mt. Diablo High and Olympic continuation high was based on those administrators’ preferences. (Cheryl LeBoef is moving to Olympic and Kate McClatchy is moving to Mt. Diablo High.)
To fill the Bel Air and Delta View positions, Lock said the district needed principals who were experienced. Both Nancy Klinkner (at Highlands Elementary) and Nancy Baum (at Ayers Elementary) had expressed interest in new assignments, Lock said.
Klinker was placed at Bel Air (which has a large English learner population) because she is bilingual. The Bay Point school is one of the district’s lowest achieving campuses and Lock said Klinker was also a good fit because her background had been entirely in Title 1 (low-income) schools (with the exception of last year at Highlands).
The district placed Baum at Delta View to keep the campus moving in the right direction, Lock said.
New principals are also expected at Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton, Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord.
Lock said Mt. Diablo Elementary’s previous Principal Bob Dodson has not yet been reassigned. Shore Acres Principal Kari Rees told me she expects to be replaced as part of that low-achieving school’s reform plan. Glenbrook Principal Jonathan Eagan found another position closer to his home, Braun-Martin told me last week.
Lock said Lawrence won’t attend the upcoming meeting with Sequoia Middle School parents in Pleasant Hill. Instead, she and Braun-Martin will likely ask staff and parents what kind of new principal they would like.
Lawrence normally doesn’t attend parent meetings, Lock said. He attended the Mt. Diablo Elementary meeting because she was off on furlough leave, Lock added.
However, Lawrence attended the Bancroft Elementary meeting with both Braun-Martin and Lock, to respond to parent concerns about his decision to transfer their principal to Valle Verde. He later reversed that decision, based on parents’ concerns.
Lawrence decides who to recommend for specific positions, with input from her, Lock said. She has been more involved in elementary hires than those at middle and high schools, she added. (Lock was previously the assistant superintendent for elementary education and principal of Walnut Acres Elementary in Walnut Creek).
Lock said Curriculum and Instruction division was eliminated — and replaced with her Student Achievment and Support division — to focus more on the demands placed on the principals districtwide, including high expectaitons for student achievement.
“We have to do a better job of supporting all of the schools,” she said. “In the past, the Curriculum and Instruction department supported all of our Program Improvement (low-performing) and Title 1 schools. Others didn’t get same level of support. But, others are also going to be expected to improve.”
Lock also emphasized that principals are hired for the entire district, not necessarily for specific schools.
“We want to make sure they are equally proficient and competent,” she said. “We want to develop them (through coaching and professional development), because we could be moving them around as needed.”
She acknowledged that the district does, however, try to match principals to schools where they would best fit.
“We certainly are sensitive to the needs of each school,” she said. “We do ask for (community) input, to make sure we have the right person.”
No principal should expect to remain at the same school for his or her entire career, she added.
“Principals don’t stay at schools for 20 years,” she said.
Does this explanation ease your mind about moves taking place before school starts?

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  • http://www.misterwriter.info MisterWriter

    Sounds like the usual PC explanation. A principal should stay around as long as that person fulfills a worthwhile function at the school site as determined by staff and parents. There have been many WORTHLESS principals that should have been canned years ago, and many fantastic principals that need to have recognition for the the roles they have created. One such principal is Linda Schuler who had the support or parents and staff to stay at Bancroft after being assigned to Valle Verde.

    And what does Ms. Lock do exactly? These days, PC answers only go a short distance….

  • Realia

    “Lawrence has said the swap of principals between Mt. Diablo High and Olympic continuation high was based on those administrators’ preferences. (Cheryl LeBoef is moving to Olympic and Kate McClatchy is moving to Mt. Diablo High.)”

    This is a straight-up lie. Kate McClatchy was “promoted” from Olympic because she continually forced VPs to resign, had multiple complaints made against her by teachers (Gail Isserman and Mildred Browne conducted one-on-one interviews with the Alliance program staff so they could air their concerns), and the teachers conducted a no-confidence vote in which only two teachers voted that they had confidence in McClatchy’s leadership of the school (the vote results had not been forwarded to the district, but surely McClatchy or someone got wind of it). MDUSD will do anything to protect incompetent administrators – because if they fire any of them it gives credence to complaints made and offers affected parties evidence on which to sue the district.

  • Realia

    Here are some questions that might be asked of the superintendent, as well as Braun-Martin, regarding this situation:
    1. How big was the applicant pool for the position (or administrators in general)?
    2. What are the details on the selection process.
    3. Who was involved in the selection process?
    4. Why aren’t administrators required to provide results of a criminal background check before the hiring is finalized, as it is for teachers?
    5. How and why was Nugent selected as the candidate?
    6. Did the superintendent and Nugent already know each other in any way? If so, was this disclosed to anyone? If so, how did that impact the selection process? If so, shouldn’t Lawrence have recused himself from the selection process?

    The devil really may be in these details.

  • sroofc

    These statements are more jibberish from the school district “yes” people. As a teacher in the district we have been called in on 3 occasions, to freely give up our time, to state what we’d “like” in a principal. All 3 times, the person chosen (who was most likely assigned before we even met) has not fit the request in any way. It seems like a principal for elementary school should have a elementary background. Never works for us! The district calls in parents and teachers, because that is their policy, knowing all the while that they will choose whoever THEY want to fill the position. Mt. Diablo is really just looking for “yes” people. They don’t want people who think out of the box, or look to see what other districts are doing…just say yes! They make a mockery of teachers, parents, and students, but apparently that isn’t their focus anyway!

  • tharrington

    At the Bancroft meeting, Lawrence said the pool included nine to 12 candidates. He said school parents and staffs were asked what kinds of skill sets they would like in a principal.
    Based on the appointments made, the openings remaining and the one appointment that was reversed, here are the 12 candidates who appear to have been in the pool:
    Sandy Bruketta (C&I)
    Vicki Eversole (C&I)
    Spoogmai Habibi (C&I)
    Rhys Miller (C&I)
    Diane Sargent (C&I)
    Nancy Baum (former Ayers principal)
    Cynthia Goin (former Strandwood Elem. principal, returning from leave)
    Nancy Klinkner (former Highlands principal)
    Linda Schuler (Bancroft principal)
    Christopher Nugent (from Elk Grove)
    Bob Dodson (former Mt. Diablo Elem. principal)
    Kari Rees (Shore Acres Elem. principal)
    Now, the district is interviewing a second round of applicants. Parents and staffs have been invited to have representatives on the interview committees.
    Lock said she has input into the decision, but that Lawrence makes the recommendation and the board makes the final decision.
    According to Lawrence’s written statement, the process includes: “exhaustive written applications, oral interviews, credential checks, reference checks and subsequent background checks.”
    I will attempt to get more information regarding these to find out if criminal history is included. Nugent was convicted of DUI, but was not prosecuted for the security breach and was not convicted of resisting arrest.
    When I asked the Williamson County school district spokesperson in Tennessee whether a DUI would preclude a person from working in that district, she said it would be looked at on a case by case basis. Nugent continued to work for that district after the DUI conviction and he worked for the Elk Grove district with it on his record.
    I don’t know if the Mt. Diablo district automatically excludes candidates who have DUI convictions. Also, I don’t know if Nugent disclosed the DUI on his application or if it turned up in his background check (it would seem that it should have).
    Lawrence did not specify which “negative information” he was referring to in his statement, so it’s unclear whether the district knew about the DUI.
    Based on Lawrence’s recommendation of Nugent, it seemed he was hired because of his previous administrative experience. Perhaps this incident will prompt Lawrence to give trustees and the public more detailed information regarding his reasons for recommending applicants in the future.
    I will also try to find out if Lawrence knew Nugent. He didn’t mention knowing him when he recommended him.
    But, it’s quite common for superintendents to recommend candidates with whom they are familiar, so I don’t think he would be required to recuse himself. However, the candidate would need to go through the same process as other applicants.
    Lawrence has promised to “augment our process with a comprehensive Internet investigation prior to candidate recommendations going to the Board of Education” in the future.

  • tharrington

    When the board approved the creation of the Student Achievement and School Support division, Lawrence included short paragraph descriptions for all of the positions except assistant superintendent. Trustee Linda Mayo has asked for more complete job descriptions for all of the new positions, which Lawrence promised to provide later.
    Here’s what he wrote about the department:
    “The current Curriculum and Instruction team has done an admirable job to support our schools through the implementation of State Standards and Federal and State Accountability systems. As the expectations and demands increase on all our schools, we need instructional leaders who have successfully moved schools forward to help support and coach other principals and school staffs. In a recent West Ed report Effective Principals for California Schools: Building a Coherent Leadership Development System, they substantiated the research of Daniel Sparks when he found: ‘You cannot change
    behavior, change practice in organizations, without large-scale coaching by people who know the content, who know how to do it, and who know how to help people learn…You need someone
    working with you to model, to give feedback, to assist in the actual trying of the new practice, to support in the ongoing habituation of the new practice.’”
    Lock will oversee this coaching of district staff, specifically principals.

  • Doctor J

    So the Supt says he wants instructional leaders “who have successfully moved schools forward to help support and coach other principals” . . . So how many of these new people in the new division have actually done that ?? Who are they ??

  • Doctor J

    Nugentgate unanswered questions two weeks later: Who knew what and when did they know it ? If the “proper proceedures” had been followed, the Board would not be upset with the Supt — but since the Board is furious with the Supt, the proper procedures must not have been followed. Or more likely, the Supt had knowledge of Nugent’s background and either disclosed it to just one or two of the Board members or none of them. If none of them had the knowledge, they would come out and say that, but they haven’t. Only a couple of them came out and said they didn’t know. So that leads one to believe that those Board members who had actual knowledge of Nugent’s background have gone “dark” and will not appear again or answer questions about it until it has been “forgotten”.
    So lets see the document where Nugent allegedly withdraws his application — was there quiet money paid to Nugent ? Why else would Nugent withdraw ? He knows he told the Supt about his past.

  • MDUSD Parent

    Doctor J.

    Your request to #7 was posted by Ms. Herrington
    Director, Elementary Support: Susan Petersen (former Delta View Elem. principal)
    Director, Seconday Support: Denise Rugani (former Riverview MS principal)
    Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support: Jennifer Sachs (former assist. dir. of Curriculum & Instruction) – prior Woodside principal
    Principal Coach and school support: Patt Hoellwarth (former Monte Gardens Elem. principal)
    Principal Coach and school support: Lorie O’Brien (former Hidden Valley Elem. principal)
    Principal Coach and school support: Hellena Postrk (former Sequoia MS principal)

  • tharrington

    The answers to some of these questions are in my most recent blog post: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2010/07/15/more-mt-diablo-principal-interviews-are-underway/