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So much to cover, so little time!

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, October 8th, 2010 at 12:29 pm in Education.

By Theresa Harrington

I’ve been so busy covering the state Superintendent of Public Instruction race and running from one meeting to another that I haven’t had time to sit down and blog about everything that’s going on.

But, there are plenty of things I’m working on that I’ll write about shortly. Here are the meetings I’ve attended in the past week, that I’ll blog about in more detail soon (and likely write Times stories about, as well):

Sept. 30 Mt. Diablo school closure committee meeting: lots of interesting data was shared. You can find it online at: Some people have complained that this information is difficult to find online. But Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for student achievement and school support, said the district website home page wouldn’t support a link.

Oct. 4: Mt. Diablo district’s special education Community Advisory Committee board candidate’s forum. All seven candidates participated, including Jan Trezise, who says she is indeed running, despite an impulsive announcement she made during the CCTV forum, saying she was so pleased with her opponents that she would drop out of the race. She’ll also participate in the Oct. 20 debate at Pleasant Hill City Hall.

Oct. 4: Mt. Diablo special education Community Advisory Committee meeting: Although the district has made headway in filling vacant teacher and assistant positions, some parents are still concerned about the quality of education their children are receiving. The district’s special education court-ordered Consent Decree expires in November and some worry that the district will slide back into non-compliance with state, federal and consent-decree mandates, due to budget cuts.

Oct. 5: Visited Project Lead the Way engineering academy class at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord. It’s a very exciting program funded by Chevron, which prepares students for college and high-tech careers.

Oct. 5: Mt. Diablo board special meeting regarding strategic planning. The board received a PowerPoint presentation about the process, which you can see here: Although Superintendent Steven Lawrence reminded the board that the district has a lot on its plate already, trustees Paul Strange, Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh said they believe the community wants a long-term plan created through community consensus. Discussions are expected to begin December, after newly elected board members are seated.

Oct. 6: Contra Costa County Board of Education meeting to review application by K12 Flex Academy charter school to locate in the Mt. Diablo district. Very surprisingly, no Mt. Diablo district representative showed up to defend the board’s unanimous decision to deny the application, which the school is appealing. When county board members spotted Mt. Diablo trustee Linda Mayo in the audience, they asked if she wanted to speak. She declined, shaking her head, while taking copious notes regarding the questions and answers. The board will vote on the appeal Oct. 20 — the same night as the Mt. Diablo board candidate forum in Pleasant Hill City Hall. Not sure how I’m going to manage to cover both!

Oct. 7: Wrote story today about the United Mount Diablo Athletic Foundation’s 5K run on Sunday. Also, don’t miss our Pigskin Sports Geek’s video. Sadly, run organizers say they haven’t had as many signups or sponsorships as hoped and they worry the community has become complacent about the district’s decision to stop funding sports. Yet, if the foundation doesn’t raise $1.2 million again this year, all bets are off for the future of after-school athletics. Here’s a message from Northgate High Principal John McMorris encouraging the community to get out and join the fun:
Find out more here:

Oct. 8: State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate debate was postponed due to participation of state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, in late-night Legislative budget discussions Thursday. A new date for a forum with Torlakson and retired school Superintendent Larry Aceves will be announced soon.

Also, I’ve heard the Mt. Diablo school district’s special education busing program is still having problems.

To get more frequent updates about what’s going on in education, you can follow me on Twitter. You can also find Mt. Diablo district trustees Gary Eberhart, Paul Strange and Sherry Whitmarsh on Twitter, although they haven’t tweeted much yet. Board candidates Jeff Adams and Brian Lawrence are tweeting also.

Do you think Twitter is an effective way for board members and candidates to communicate with the community?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

8 Responses to “So much to cover, so little time!”

  1. I Give Up - Says:

    When is it not a good time to do
    strategic planning?
    Strategic planning is not advisable when …
     A district is in crisis and needs an immediate remedy.
     The organization lacks the resources or commitment of
    key decision makers to produce a good plan.
     Implementation is unlikely.

    This slide says it all! We have a Superintendent who is too busy for strategic planning…


  2. Doctor J Says:

    The Board hired a Supt who doesn’t want the accountability of a Strategic Plan — he just wants to placate the parents by a newsletter. When they hired him, they knew it. Only they can hold his feet to the fire ! The Board brought this on themselves by delay, delay, delay.

  3. tharrington Says:

    Trustee Gary Eberhart said he didn’t want the planning process to include meetings where people write suggestions on large sheets of paper, but don’t integrate them into the final plan.
    Trustee Dick Allen said the district already has several different plans, such as a technology plan. He was curious how a strategic plan would integrate these existing plans and said he doesn’t want a new plan to just sit on a shelf and collect dust.
    The consultant passed out strategic plans from other districts, which she said looked a lot like the goals and objectives already adopted by the board.
    It will be interesting to see if the strategic plan ends up mirroring the goals and objectives drafted by Lawrence and his staff.

  4. Linda Says:

    I was unable to attend the first strategic planning meeting. Is there a date set for a second meeting? Who was the consultant and did she point out that while the plans may be similar to the G&Os, the G&Os do not include stakeholder input… meaning no stakeholder buy-in?

    While I am a huge believer in strategic planning and think it is a travesty to have an organization with a $250,000,000 +/- budget and no strategic plan, I really doubt strategic planning will be successful under this leadership.

    I wrote about a school district last June who had an incredible strategic plan. That plan was incredible because it was comprehensive, it was collaborative, it was communicated, and it was implemented. It has been woven into the district’s budget decisions each year since its inception. The Superintendent speaks of the plan as if it is the basis for everything or at least every decision.

    Here is an excerpt from their strategic plan page:
    “Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, we believe ‘Intelligence plus character…is the goal of true education.’ That’s why character development of our students is a critical component of this plan.”
    The plan includes strategies designed to boost student achievement, increase family and community involvement, improve district service, increase the teacher retention rate and improve school safety and discipline.

    Our new G&Os don’t address character, they show no innovation, they miss key issues facing our district such as equity and diversity, and they lack inspiration… who reading this believes in the G&Os? Who is inspired by the G&Os? Who believes they will make one iota of difference? Teachers? Parents? Students?

    I encourage anyone interested in strategic planning to go to the Guilford County Schools website. Read about their strategic plan. Look around the site and see how it is incorporated. Look at the Superintendent’s “Entry Plan” and then compare that to these past 8 months.

  5. Wait a Minute Says:

    The problem is you have a very unethical CEO in Lawrence with considerable evidence that proves this already and much more on the way.

    He is also extremely vindictive and a bullying to any managers that have viewpoints different then his as evident by his choices for management promotion and hiring (the incompetent Martin-Braun and the attempted (end-around of the board)and hire of Lawrence’s buddy the criminal Nugent. All in all, Lawrence is a guy that should be at someplace like Enron or Chevron rather then in charge of kids.

    Couple this with some significant ethical lapses with certain board members as the recent solar scandals show and you have a large organization basically adrift and in serious crisis.

    Since this board hired Lawrence, they apparently feel compelled to protect him since replacing him would also cast their judgment for hiring him in the first place as, shall we say, suspect.

    Hopefully a Grand Jury will be convened to investigate some of the more blatant conflicts of interest and scandals and once they start peeling back the layers of this onion who knows what else they will find.

    Another possible solution will be that new board members not beholden will force Lawrence out and start a legitimate rebuilding process that will take the MDUSD beyond crisis-driven reaction. Putting in a quality leadership team would would go a long ways towards undoing the damage as they lead a pro-active and honest restructuring with of course a strategic plan that all stake-holders were a part of instead of the deeply flawed G&Os currently in place.

  6. tharrington Says:

    Linda, no new date for strategic planning was set. The board talked about having a retreat in January to discuss it. But Trustee Linda Mayo said trustees should probably discuss it separate from the retreat, possibly in December. It was unclear if there would be a special meeting called.
    I received the name of the consultant, but can’t access it right now, because our email isn’t working. I’ll post it when our email is back up.
    Please see my new post on strategic planning, which goes into detail about the discussion.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    Linda, congrats on the Silver Anniversary and we missed you. 🙂 We need specific commitments from the candidates as to TRUE Strategic Planning with ALL stakeholder input. The delay is designed to eliminate rational input by Dick Allen. Unfortunately, his input is a day late and a dollar short. This so called consultant is as phoney as a three dollar bill — geez, what rock did Lawrence find her under ?

  8. tharrington Says:

    The consultant is Catherine Dickson Schwarzbach Ed.D.
    From a google search, I see that Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s former district (Washington USD) entered into a contract with her in 2007 for “facilitation and writing assessment services” (agenda item 21):
    Here’s her listing from
    1953 BARRY LANE
    (530) 626-5854

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