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Mt. Diablo district superintendent’s school closure recommendation

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 at 8:50 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Students and parents pack Mt. Diablo school board meeting, urging trustees not to close their schools.

Students and parents pack Mt. Diablo school board meeting, urging trustees not to close their schools.

By Theresa Harrington

In a change from usual procedure, Mt. Diablo school board President Gary Eberhart asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence to wait until after public comments on Tuesday before revealing his school closure recommendation. There was no written staff report and Lawrence’s Powerpoint presentation wasn’t posted online until after the meeting was over.

This left the public in the dark while comments were being made and didn’t give people a chance to express opinions about the new recommendation. Surprisingly, trustees also voiced no opinions about the recommendation.

Here’s what Lawrence proposed:

Close either Wren Avenue or Holbrook elementary in Concord and consolidate Crossroads and the Summit/TLC/Nueva Vista small necessary high school programs on the closed campus.

Close Glenbrook Middle School in Concord and create a special education program with the nonpublic school Seneca on the site. Also, provide office space for Measure C district staff.

Redraw boundary lines around Meadow Homes Elementary, sending some children to other schools so that the district won’t have to spend $91,000 a year busing them as “overflow” students.

According to Lawrence’s Powerpoint presentation, new boundaries for Holbrook, Wren and Glenbrook students have already been drawn:

About 177 Holbrook students would move to Sun Terrace Elementary and about 153 would move to Wren Avenue. Students who attend on transfers would go to their home schools or apply for transfers elsewhere.

The district projected that enrollment at Holbrook would decline from 397 in 2010-11 to 355 in five years. However, I’m not sure if this took into consideration anecdotal reports from local residents regarding an expected influx of Coast Guard families in the neighborhood.

If Wren Avenue closes, about 99 students would move to Holbrook, 133 would move to El Monte, 31 would move to Westwood and 33 would move to Monte Gardens.

The district projected that enrollment at Wren Avenue would increase from 386 this year to 397 in five years, if the school remains open.

If Glenbrook closes, about 243 students would go to El Dorado Middle School, 52 would go to Valley View and 189 would go to Oak Grove.

Glenbrook’s enrollment was projected to decline from 526 in 2010-11 to 478 in five years, if it stays open.

Lawrence did not recommend closing Silverwood Elementary, even though it received the most votes from the advisory committee and was included in both of the most highly recommended school closure scenarios by the committee. He showed that Silverwood’s students could be absorbed into Mountain View, Ayers and Highlands elementary schools, but noted that County Connection buses don’t travel near Silverwood.

He projected Silverwood’s enrollment would grow from 400 to 402 in five years, if it isn’t closed.

Lawrence also showed that 17 new classrooms would need to be built to accommodate Monte Gardens and Sequoia Elementary students at other sites if those schools closed and that three classrooms would need to be constructed at Pleasant Hill Middle School to accommodate Sequoia Middle School students if that campus closed.

He estimated the district would save $100,000 by combining the small necessary high schools on one campus, while also making five classrooms available on the Concord High campus. However, he acknowledged that public transportation for small necessary high school students would be needed (since the district doesn’t bus them). Both the Wren Avenue and Holbrook neighborhoods are served by County Connection buses, he said.

He was unsure whether the district could identify additional nonpublic special education students who could be served on the closed Glenbrook site, but promised to bring that information to the board Feb. 8, when trustees expect to vote on the recommendations.

Lawrence noted that Holbrook, Wren and Glenbrook all offer the CARES after-school program on their campuses. Wren and Holbrook serve 114 students each, while Glenbrook serves 132.

The district will investigate the possibility of transferring students to CARE programs at other sites or transferring the CARE program to sites that don’t have it, he said.

He was unsure whether the district would be able to continue receiving School Improvement Grant funds for Glenbrook Middle School’s “transformation,” if the site closes. The state approved a three-year $1.7 million grant, which was to be disbursed in equal installments of $584,002 per year through 2012-13.

The funds were to be spent according to the district’s application. The district would need to amend its application and receive approval from the state in order to continue receiving funds if the school closes.

Title 1 funds, on the other hand, would follow the students, he said. None of the schools recommended receive QEIA funds.

Do you agree with Lawrence’s recommendation?

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76 Responses to “Mt. Diablo district superintendent’s school closure recommendation”

  1. MGParent Says:

    It sounds like they have the revised recommendation backed up according to the data that was provided. I was actually VERY SURPRISED and disappointed the Board did not express any opinions or questions about the the new recommendation? Are they really saving what they need to save by only closing 2 schools? Are the other scenarios really off the table? I can’t help but question what they are up to next? Families keep on waiting and feeling uneasy not knowing the direction they are headed. Why didn’t the board comment on the recommendation. We are spending alot of time listening to the public comment but what we really should be hearing is the Board talking and discussing. Some of the proposed schools up for closure ere very quiet until after the Jan 19 study session. We all found out in December about the top 3 scenarios. Lets now focus on the facts and what the next steps will be for all the schools that will be affected this next school year.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    The school board has NOT removed any schools from consideration to be closed — it was just the latest recommendation from the Supt with NO COMMENT by the Board. It was a very unusual ploy by Eberhart to change the order of public comment to before the staff report by the Supt. It appeared by the reaction of the Board that they already knew what the unpublished power point said. Something is rotten in Denmark.

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I recall Lawrence saying at the end of the Jan. 19 study session that he wanted to narrow down the recommendation that would be presented Feb. 8. However, you are correct that the board did not respond, so it’s unclear whether trustees agreed with his recommendation. He did, however, craft it based on their direction after the Jan. 19 meeting.
    It’s possible the board will vote on four scenarios Feb. 8: the first three, plus the superintendent’s recommendation.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    YES! ALL schools are still under consideration. The Board will NOT follow the Supt’s recommendation. The politicing amonst the Board members is intense behind the scenes.

  5. Joe Smith Says:

    Hey guys,

    Dr. J is correct. Word on the street is that we may yet see Option #3 get implemented.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    The silence of C. Hansen and L. Dennler is erie. I worry about the conflicts of interest in Hansen’s employer consulting with MDUSD for their educational and FINANCIAL plans and the subtle pressures from her bosses that Lawrence will excert. I worry about Dennler’s lack of experience on the administrative level — only having been in the classroom. It appears that the delay of the board in addressing this problem will result in a crisis decision, which is almost always not the best result. Chaos is reining as a result of a lack of a Strategic Plan.

  7. Joe Smith Says:

    Here is how I see option #3 getting implemented, we know that Gary and Sherry will stick together as no votes. We have Mayo and Hansen on the other side with probable yes votes. If Mayo and Hansen are able to flip Dennler, there you go Option #3 is implemented, bye-bye choice schools.

  8. Parent Says:

    How about we say bye-bye to Joe Smith…You don’t know what they are going to do…stick to the facts and not what your vote would be. Take your comments to as there is where alot of stupid comments are made.

  9. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    I don’t know that Hansen and Mayo will vote “yes”
    Hansen seemed to be honoring the process and the parents who came to speak not indicating which way she would vote.

    The lack of a strategic plan is making this process painful to watch. I am certain that closing only two schools is a big mistake. The site boundaries in this district are a mess, in fact in 2008 the County Board of Education asked the District to review this issue due to their concern with the current boundaries.

    The Board needs to streamline the District to match current and future enrollment and in doing so they will need to close more schools. That process will require site boundary adjustments. This should all be part of a bigger plan. We should be fighting as hard for the strategic plan as we do for our neighborhood schools. The consequences of them continuing to make decisions without one will be just as devestating in the end.

  10. Anon Says:

    Dr. J,

    Who is Hansen’s employer? Or are you just trying to stir things up again?

  11. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    The Contra Costa County Office of Education.

  12. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    I don’t see the conflict? The Board needs someone like her.

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Before the election, I asked Peggy Marshburn, the County Office of Education spokeswoman, if Hansen’s presence on the board would be considered a conflict of interest. She said the County Office didn’t see any reason why Hansen couldn’t serve on the board. However, there could be votes from which she has to recuse herself, if the County Office of Education is directly involved.
    Regarding the options still on the table, Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh said the board is still considering all three scenarios, along with the superintendent’s recommendation:

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just spoke to Trustee Cheryl Hansen and she reiterated that the board will look at all options Feb. 8, possibly including some that haven’t yet been proposed.
    She said she does not have a conflict of interest due to her work for the Contra Costa County Office Education.
    “My job is about supporting schools,” she said, “not closing them.”

  15. lynda Says:

    Can someone please tell me why three class rooms would need to be built at PHMS when there is vacant classes are already at the property, also most of the students would go back to their neighborhood schools so the burden is spread out evenly instead of just a couple of schools having to make all of the adjustment to accommodate so many kids. Trust me, I was a student at PH high in 1979 when they closed. They divided all of the student between College Park and Ygnacio Valley, it was awful not only for us but also for the students and staff of our new school. Also just a note…… I wonder how much the district can save if they just simply shut down the air conditioners at Sequoia during the summer when no one is there.

  16. Sad mom Says:

    Really? He took Silverwood off the list becasue of no public transportation. The County Connection buses go up and down Clayton road all day. Does he really think we are that stupid??

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    lynda: According to the superintendent’s PowerPoint, 142 Sequoia MS students would return to Pleasant Hill Middle School, which would exceed the capacity. Currently, there is room for 79 additional students on the campus. The other middle schools have space to accommodate the returning students (although some parents have said they wouldn’t send their children to home schools such as Oak Grove or Glenbrook).
    Sad mom: Lawrence’s recommendation didn’t include Silverwood, apparently because bus routes don’t travel as near that campus as they do to Wren Avenue and Holbrook (according to his presentation). However, Silverwood is not “off the list.” Trustees Sherry Whitmarsh and Cheryl Hansen have both said they intend to review all the scenarios on Feb. 8.
    When I asked Lawrence what would be presented Feb. 8, he sent me the following responses in two separate e-mails:
    Thursday: “The Board did not give me any direction to remove or add any options.”
    Today (Friday): “At this time I have not received any formal direction from the Board president.”
    Hopefully, the district will release a comprehensive staff report Feb. 4 laying out the scenarios and any new information that has been gathered in response to trustees’ questions.
    It would also be helpful if the district would post its PowerPoint Presentation before the meeting, so the public can follow along and make informed comments.

  18. Tired of Waiting Says:

    Theresa, it is interesting how not one person made a comment on the Jan 25th meeting after Lawrence’s “recommendation”. They were all over it on the Jan 19th meeting discussing different options and at this last meeting…not one word. It is clear that the board members are considering 4 options or maybe even others which leads us to believe they still don’t have any clear direction which way they are going. What surprises will we have on Feb 8th. And from my emails responses from the board all say they didn’t remove a certain option because the other 2 that were not on board didn’t say anything about it…I think it would’ve taken just one board memeber to recommend it again perhaps? Everyone was so quiet and that meeting didn’t sit well with me. Who knows what to expect at this point.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Board President Gary Eberhart says in his most recent blog post that he hopes to make a school closure decision Feb. 8, but he doesn’t want to limit trustees to options that have been presented thus far:

  20. Doctor J Says:

    Its pretty clear that the Board has no confidence in Lawrence’s recommendations. Lawrence has no real support from his Asst. Supt’s. We need a new broom that sweeps clean. The real problem is that the old board extended the contracts of the Asst. Supt’s and gave Lawrence no discretion to hire his own second layer — they knew his prior performance at West Sac was lackluster. We need a fresh start.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe Trustees Linda Mayo and Dick Allen voted against extending the contracts because they wanted Lawrence to be able to choose his staff. They also voted against the raises for the general counsel, chief financial officer and three others that were pushed through before Lawrence came on board.
    It’s clear that the public is agitated by the board’s failure to follow expected protocol regarding board meetings.
    Most public agencies follow this standard procedure:
    1. Agenda is released at least 72 hours before meeting WITH written staff report outlining recommendation, as well as background information that led to the recommendation and other possible options.
    2. Powerpoint is attached to online agenda BEFORE meeting begins.
    3. Staff presents report and recommendation during meeting
    4. Elected officials ask clarifying questions of staff regarding report and recommendation, as well as other options.
    5. Public comments on options, including recommendation
    6. Elected officials deliberate and give direction to staff and/or vote on recommendation or other options.
    If the board is considering other options that haven’t yet been presented to the public, the district should inform the public about those options — as well as the rationale for them — in a written staff report that is released with the agenda.
    Surprising the public with new options at the meeting would not give people ample time to study the information and respond with informed comments.

  22. Joe Smith Says:

    Not following the rules of public meetings is nothing new for this board.

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, Willie Mims, a well-respected rep of the NAACP from Pittsburg, also became frustrated when he asked questions about some later agenda items and was told by Eberhart that staff would respond if he sent an e-mail.
    Mims said that raising a question in a public meeting is usually sufficient to prompt elected officials to direct staff to respond. He said it shouldn’t be necessary to follow up with an e-mail.
    I have seen many elected officials, such as Walnut Creek City Council members, direct staff to respond to public questions raised during meetings.
    Also, Trustee Cheryl Hansen asked why the Schreder and Associates contract was on the consent calendar (once again, without naming the contractor on the agenda). She said such contracts should be listed on the Business/Action portion of the agenda (and Rolen has previously told me the name of the contractor should be listed on the agenda as a matter of routine).
    Once again, Eberhart abstained without explanation.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    Eberhart is employed by the Shreder family, isn’t he ? In 15 years, Eberhart has never completed his School Board training course, but he sure loved getting the district to pay for his solar training. I thought board members where required by law to announce their conflicts of interest, leave the room, and not even be present for the discussions. We need a watchdog public interest firm to take on this kind of shenanigans. And the Gang of Five raises while they are laying off teachers and staff. I don’t know why the union put up with it.

  25. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr. J, re: your comment on January 31st, 2011 at 10:10 am:
    Dr. Lawrence certainly has put his own leadership team and administrative structure in place. In addition to the changes in Superintendent’s Council, noted below, he eliminated the Curriculum and Instruction Department, transferring most of its staff to school principalships, and created the Student Achievement and School Support Department, transferring in two site principals to be directors and other site principals to provide direct support to schools. He also recommended budget cuts that eliminated some administrative positions (e.g. Director of Curriculum, Director of Classified Personnel) and he has made decisions to keep, let go, and appoint a number of school principals.

    Your implication that he has not been allowed to make changes–with the full support of the Eberhart-Strange-Whitmarsh majority, by the way–is not accurate. Eberhart and Whitmarsh promised change when they campaigned two years ago, and change has definitely been occurring.

    McHenry Council:
    Associate Superintendent, Educational Services (Young)
    Asst. Supt, Admin. Services (Nicoll)
    Asst. Supt, Personnel Services (Isserman)
    Asst. Supt, Elementary Education (Lock)
    Asst. Supt, Student Services/Special Education (Browne)
    General Counsel (Rolen)

    Lawrence Council:
    Asst. Supt, Admin Services (Pedersen until his retirement; position then eliminated with services transferred to General Counsel, new CFO)
    Asst. Supt Personnel Services (Braun Martin)
    Asst. Supt, Student Achievement/School Support (Lock)
    Asst. Supt, Student Services/Special Ed (Browne)
    General Counsel (Rolen)
    Chief Financial Officer (Richards)

  26. Doctor J Says:

    Sue, first Rolen is supposed to report to the Board not to Lawrence — remember that Grand Jury report ? I guess the Board now runs bussing and maintenaince, eh ? If Lawrence wants to be judged by “his team” so be it. I was trying to give him a break. The musical chairs between C&I and SASS has been an interesting shuffle. Lawrence takes a failing curriculum department and moves them to principalships in the schools while taking successful principals out of the schools ? The only thing I see so far is controversy, including from the Board, on the amount of time students are assessment tested, the increased costs of bubbling forms, and the high costs of this department when you add in all the higher paid SASS staff salaries, additional staff being hired, high costs of “consultants”, enormous costs of substitutes during the assessments and training, and push back from successful teachers that don’t want to be a “one size fits all”. Lawrence sold it as a $50,000 savings — when the dust clears, it will have cost the district an extra $100,000 or more. Don’t trust Lawrence’s estimates: use ACTUAL figures. Lawrence’s salary and bonus for the first year — $250,000 plus $75,000. I wonder if he came home on Friday afternoon from Monterey, or spent an extra night on the district ?

  27. mdusd mom Says:

    Joan Buchanan, who took the San Ramon school district from teacher strikes to excellent labor relations, said it’s absolutely crucial that the superintendent and board work together seamlessly. Sue’s analysis may be correct, but the public does not see them working in synch. The public sees school board members too often shoot from the hip at board meetings, in the press and on TV news. We only hope that behind scenes the board is completely focused on saving the budget and is directing the superintendent to come up with the information necessary to close schools on schedule, and this information will be distributed as Theresa said prior to the Feb. 8 meeting.

    Everyone should be concerned that a high school class was cancelled mid-year because during the first semester enrollment fell below 22. We need them to work on reducing class sizes and everything else that makes a difference to each student. We need them to work together to resolve union negotiations, clarify the leadership balance between superintendent and board, and develop a strategic plan! The district still needs a parcel tax and needs to develop voter confidence.

  28. Wait a Minute Says:

    Dr J,

    If the Board President is working for a company with fat consulting contracts with the MDUSD then there is absolutely a conflict of interest if he chooses to stay in the room, much less vote (routine consent vote or otherwise)!

    I will repeat my advice given earlier. A Contra Costa Grand Jury request for investigation should be made so they can put people under oath and peel back the layers of this onion. They will then issue a public report with their findings. A win-win for ethics and democracy.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Eberhart doesn’t work for Schreder and Associates. He works for a the son of Jack Schreder, Seward Schreder.
    Jack Schreder owns Schreder and Associates. Seward Schreder owns Seward L. Schreder Construction, Inc., which hired Eberhart.
    Both firms contributed to the Measure C campaign.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    Maybe the Fair Political Practices Commission should investigate ? Like father, like son. Unsure if there is an actual conflict of interest, but it sure looks bad.

  31. Sue Berg Says:

    Mdusd Mom, I did not intend to offer an “analysis” of the Board-Superintendent relationship as, being retired now, I do know how they interact. I was simply taking issue with Dr. J’s statement that the Board “…gave Lawrence no discretion to hire his own second layer.” The Superintendent has made numerous and significant changes in this first year of his tenure, as most leaders taking on a new assignment do. The “fresh start” Dr. J calls for began more than a year ago. MDUSD looks quite different today than it did after the 2008 election that Gary and Sherry won by promising “change.”

    Dr. J, I would argue that Dr. Lawrence’s changing C&I to SASS reflects a difference in education philosophy, not a “failing curriculum department.” As I’ve heard, Dr. Lawrence believes district-level administrators must have experience as school principals in order to provide effective support to the schools. Some former C&I staff had been principals, and they remain in the SASS department. Others came to C&I as veteran and respected classroom teachers who provided advice, training and support to teachers, both in their subject area and in instructional practices. That Dr. Lawrence appointed each of these former teachers to a school principalship as part of the change from C&I to SASS says a good deal about their educational expertise.

    A look at the California accountability measure, the API, shows some amazing academic achievement in district schools over the past 10 years, especially in some considered low-performing (Cambridge, Ygnacio Valley, and Shore Acres Elementary; Glenbrook and Riverview Middle; Mt. Diablo High, to name a few). C&I staff should get some credit for such successes. They worked directly with those and all other district schools to bring about positive change. One former C&I director is now Superintendent of Pittsburg Unified; the other is now director of curriculum in Livermore USD.

    There is and always has been need for change in MDUSD, as in any organization, to accommodate changing times, needs, and political forces that enact new regulations. I saw some wonderful work during my time in the district and find a need to respond when that work is criticized or presented inaccurately. I accept that the Board decided two years ago to “go in a different direction,” as the saying goes. Comments now, pro and con, need to focus on how the current leadership, practically and philosophically, is laying out and following that direction.

    Bottom line, as an educator I respect used to ask, “What is in the best interests of the students?”

  32. Doctor J Says:

    Sue, you forget that MDUSD has six of worst schools in California — “persistently underperforming schools” – a total of ten in “Program Improvement” and the District is on the verge of being named a Program Improvement district. If C&I was doing its job, that would not have happened. The study I previously cited said underperforming schools should be closed. Instead the recommendation is to close high performing schools. MDUSD has the highest percentage of “persistently underperforming schools” in the region. While you may look at the rose petals, there are more thorns than petals on this rose. Its the thorns that hurt.

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Also, state and federal school closure reforms require students from closed campuses to be sent to “higher-performing” schools.
    The Mt. Diablo school closure advisory committee, on the other hand, has recommended some scenarios that would send students to lower-performing schools.

  34. Doctor J Says:

    Excellent point Theresa — that’s why the staff advisor for the SCC — an Assistant Supt — really failed to assist this committee. She is a short timer in this district — nice lady, but poor administrator. Is it any wonder that at the last minute that the Supt hastily put together his power point with a new recommendation that also was not well thought out ? Management by crisis — and not very good at that either.

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Interestingly, the district’s school closure criteria didn’t spell out whether the goal of looking at academic performance was to send students to higher-performing schools. The criteria merely stated: “Academic performance including API scores and API growth of all school sites considered for closure will serve as a criterion in the consolidation/closure process.”
    The criteria for facilities, on the other hand, were spelled out much more clearly: “School sites considered for closure will be evaluated on the basis of the percentage of students which would be relocated/consolidated to sites with improved (relative to closed site) facility conditions (eg. moving from a site with no air conditioning to a site with classroom air conditioning).”
    Which do you think is more important to students and parents? Some Silverwood parents I’ve spoken to said they would rather keep their children at the campus, even though it doesn’t have air conditioning, than close the high-performing school.
    Also, the committee and Lawrence’s recommendation would send nearly 190 Glenbrook students to Oak Grove, a lower-performing school with only marginally better facilities.

  36. Doctor J Says:

    The most interesting development is the outside hiring of the personnel director — that was on the board agenda a few months ago and suddenly withdrawn [an inside candidate]. The new director comes from Carolina with a background in Sacramento. Most significantly she has curriculum background. Since Lawrence doesn’t have the money or the vacancy to hire his old Lt. Sue Brothers from West Sac, he has brought in this new person who will wait her time until there is an Asst Supt vacancy — Lawrence is very unhappy with the SASS department, including the high costs, and also the stagnant English Language program.
    So now we have one year with Lawrence. Has there been any significant improvement in the academics ? Too much solar and not enough academics. BTW, isn’t the Air Conditioning a part of measure C ?

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, air conditioning is part of Measure C. So, Silverwood would be getting it soon anyway. That is, unless the board decides to divert Measure C funding to a Bay Point High School. Lawrence said some air conditioning might need to be delayed or scrapped if the board makes a new high school a priority. However, he wasn’t sure the district could legally shift the funds, since the voter information said Measure C would be used for rehabilitation of facilities, not new construction.
    By the way, Trustee Lynne Dennler told me before the election that she was very dissatisfied with the district’s English language learner program as a teacher. It will be interesting to see if she brings new ideas to the table.

  38. Doctor J Says:

    OMG, another shell game. Use Measure C for a new high school ? Please. ELL has been a disaster for years. MDUSD has a horrible record. So why hasn’t there been a personnel change there ? Protectionism.

  39. Linda Says:

    The two of you are depressing me.

    I came across a study regarding moving students to new schools when schools close. The research supports that moving student to higher performing schools mitigates the negative effects of moving in general. Moving students to lower performing schools does not.

    Couldn’t you agrue that building a new high school in Bay Point would be covered in the “replacing school facilities” language in the ballot statement?

    “To support quality education and safety for local students, and reduce impacts of State budget cuts by improving science, career and technical education facilities; upgrading classroom instructional technology; repairing leaky roofs; improving safety; maximizing energy efficiency including adding solar panels and modern air conditioning; and repairing, replacing, equipping or modernizing other school facilities; shall Mt. Diablo Unified School District issue $348,000,000 of bonds at legal interest rates, with independent citizen oversight, audits, and no money for administrator salaries.”

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Lawrence said he would investigate that. The board directed him to study the issue. He said Jan. 19 that he would report back in a month or two.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    What gets me worked up is “no money for administrator salaries” and yet Pete Pedersen has a whole staff being paid by Measure C money. I know Pete “retired” and was rehired — but clearly he is an administrator. Measure C says nothing about building new facilities. I would think that taxpayer groups would have a feeding frenzy with MDUSD if they tried to build a new high school. Frankly, I am surprised that Pete’s “C” salary hasn’t been shark bait already.

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Pedersen seems to have such a solid reputation that no one questions his recommendations.
    I think he is now considered a “consultant” instead of an “administrator.”

  43. Doctor J Says:

    Pete is a great person, a great worker, and very loyal. But you can’t have an office and staff at the District and be considered a “consultant”.

  44. Joe Smith Says:

    Theresa, Dr. J.,

    What you both have not come to terms with is the fact that this board doesn’t give a rats ass about public meeting rules, the students, not wasting money, etc.

    They care only about their individual political legacies. They should clearly be investigated by a grand jury.

  45. Doctor J Says:

    Joe, I have hope that Cheryl will stand up. Not sure Lynne has the backbone to do it but maybe. Linda is a pleaser — she wants everyone to be happy. Sherry is a conflicted Christian. She knows what happened in Buttercupgate but won’t acknowledge it. Gary and Steve hold it over her head. If she would come clean, they would go down.

  46. ANON1 Says:


    Have you or Dr. J checked out Eberhart’s background for conflicts of interest specifically as they apply to his relationship with the Schreders, both father and son? Given his obsessive advocacy of solar energy i.e the $65 million dollar fiasco soon to be visited upon the residents of the MDUSD,and his business connections within the solar field, one certainly should raise questions over conflicts of interest.

    As Deep Throat expressed, “Follow the money”. Follow the campaign contributions from the Schreders to both the Measure C campaign and, perhaps, the Eberhart campaign of 2008. How did Eberhart go from a Director of Construction of DBO in June 2009 ( his last date of recorded employment) to Vice President of Solar Business Development at SLS (Seward L. Schreder) Construction beginning July 2010. All this with a certificate attesting to his completing a course in Solar Energy from UC which was paid for by the taxpayers of MDUSD.

    In his own words, “In my own role as VP of Solar Business Development, I am responsible for identifying school districts that would benefit from the energy services that we provide. Once identified, our organization will determine if there are methodologies available to reduce general fund expenditures currently paying for utility usage. Where appropriate, we will propose, plan, and construct necessary infrastructure to reduce or eliminate utility payments, thus freeing up general fund dollars that school districts need so desperately to fund student programs.”

    Sounds like comments he made in advocating Measure C and in promoting solar energy for the MDUSD, doesn’t it?

    Wait, it gets better.

    He continues, ” This position is truly perfect for me. I am able to couple my desire to improve public education and student achievement with my expert knowledge of solar photovoltaic systems and construction processes. When I work with clients, the fact that I have found my calling comes through in the service that I provide.”

    Eberhart also has identified himself as,”Chair of facilities and real estate subcommittee which oversees the expenditure of $348m worth of construction bonds. Review production schedules to ensure that school construction projects are on time and on budget. Currently under construction of the largest solar photovoltaic system at a kindergarten through 12th grade school district in the Nation(sic).”

    Want to lay any money on how Eberhart presents that last piece of information to potential clients? He is the “Chair” which “oversees the expenditure of $348m” of the “largest solar photovoltaic system” of a ” school district in the Nation(sic).” Very Important Person, Very Important Project. He’s The Man.

    This seems to be the behavior of someone who could be using their political position for personal gain.

    Wait a Minute is right. We need to have a Grand Jury investigation that would put an end to these shady practices and return public confidence to the district.

  47. mdusd mom Says:

    They can get a legal interpretation whether Measure C can be used for a new Bay Point high school. The Measure C sales pitch to voters was specifically to repair existing facilities, and the Measure C amount was determined by the repairs needed. For a new school site, they should look for other sources such as developer fees or another bond measure, or reopen Pacifica HS.

    There are successful combined middle-and-high school campuses in Calfornia: Costa Mesa has more than 50% Hispanic and Latino and about 70% socioeconomically disadvantaged students, but the high school’s 2009 base API is 735, 2009 Statewide Rank of 6, and 2009 Similar Schools rank of 8. The school web site shows a Mission and Purpose and Vision, and has a video of the campus “Beautification Process” with a new middle school entrance.

    If they push this through and redirect Measure C funds, FORGET voter confidence, and FORGET ever passing a parcel tax. In the meantime, our students are crammed in like sardines, and actual classes are being cancelled mid-year!

  48. Doctor J Says:

    Rolen will give them whatever interpretation they want — he is part of the Gang of 5 bought by the board. He controls $600,000 of discretionary legal funds. It will take a public interest law firm like Pacific Legal Foundation to stop this crap.

  49. Wait a Minute Says:

    Lets not forget that Sherry is or was also employed by Chevron at the same time they were schmoozing/bribing Lawrence in an attempt to get an enormous no-bid contract for the MDUSD Solar Project!

    When you couple this with Gary’s obvious if not legal conflict of interests with his employer you know have 3 key leaders (including Lawrence) in documented unethical positions and basically running this district into the ground (with some help of course from Rolen and other elites).

    I hope for the sake of the children and taxpayers of the MDUSD that Joe Smith or another resident makes that Grand Jury request ASAP.

  50. Wait a Minute Says:

    Lets not forget that Sherry is or was also employed by Chevron at the same time they were schmoozing/bribing Lawrence in an attempt to get an enormous no-bid contract for the MDUSD Solar Project!

    When you couple this with Gary’s obvious if not legal conflict of interests with his employer you now have 3 key leaders (including Lawrence) in documented unethical positions and basically running this district into the ground (with some help of course from Rolen and other elites).

    I hope for the sake of the children and taxpayers of the MDUSD that Joe Smith or another resident makes that Grand Jury request ASAP.

  51. Doctor J Says:

    ANON1: If you are correct, drop the dime. Only a governmental agency can get to the servers that store the emails that would sink the ship.

  52. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At Parent Advisory Council meeting just now, when asked if board would vote on school closures Tuesday and if staff report outlining recommendations would be released Friday, Lawrence said: “I don’t know because I haven’t received direction from the board president and vice president.”

  53. Tired of Waiting Says:

    Yes, i have gotten that same response from his emails. What is going one??

  54. Doctor J Says:

    @Theresa. LOL. Lawrence has become the puppet of Eberhart and Whitmarsh. Makes me want to take some Syrup of ipecac. Rose Locke has got them in a hell of a pickle with how she handled the committee. What a disaster. I predict she will “retire”.

  55. mdusd mom Says:

    Doctor J where you at the PAC meeting? I find your comments very offensive and even worse is that you are a MDUSD employee. When are you retiring or resigning? This would be in the best interest of our children.

  56. Doctor J Says:

    @Mdusdmom I am sorry you are offended by my opinions backed by facts. I stand by my opinions that school consoldidation should have been worked on a year ago. It is clear that this hasty and incomplete process has only brought rancor on the district. My only interest is to provide quality education to the children. But I really believe the truth must be told. As the good book says, “The truth will make you free”. Lawrence should not be receiving “direction” but should be providing “direction” to the Board. He has it bass ackwards.

  57. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Lawrence did provide direction when he said Jan. 19 that he wanted to narrow down the scenarios to one recommendation that would be presented Feb. 8.
    He also provided direction when he unveiled his recommendations on Jan. 25.
    The thing that’s confusing the public is that the board hasn’t publicly responded to his recommendations.
    Three trustees attended the Parent Advisory Council meeting: Sherry Whitmarsh, Linda Mayo and Cheryl Hansen. Yet, the meeting wasn’t publicly noticed as a board meeting. I don’t believe the agendas are posted online.
    Neither Hansen nor Mayo commented regarding the school closure questions. Whitmarsh smiled and said, “Yes, he’s waiting for direction from the president and vice president.” (She is the vice president.)
    This lack of information less than a week from the board meeting is causing frustration in the community.
    Glenbrook parents plan to march from their school to the district office tomorrow afternoon, protesting the recommendations to close their schools.

  58. Doctor J Says:

    Cheryl is right that MDUSD needs to do it right and do it once. Doing it right means closing about 6 schools, not two. Lawrence sets up the committee, lets his Asst Supt handle it, and when it comes out flawed, he is trying to dodge the flack from the community. The silence from the Board is deafening. He just had his one year anniversary. Has he done anything right ? Hmmmmm. Lets reflect: Buttercupgate, Nugentgate, Chevrongate, and now Closuregate. No, I don’t blame him for the Gang of Five — that was before his time — Gary gets credit for that snafu.

  59. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr. J,
    In terms of who provides direction to whom, you are referencing the CSBA model, which Gary and Paul have publicly disputed. (In fact, Paul said he did not take and Gary said he did not complete the CSBA Masters in Governance program because they don’t support the CSBA model.) In that model, the Board sets the direction for the district by adopting a number of goals: e.g. improve technology, provide safe and effective learning environments, involve the community, meet state and federal standards. The superintendent is then responsible for coming up with and recommending to the Board specific strategies to meet those goals via budget management, new and revamped programs, staffing, duties, etc.

    Paul and Gary believe the Board should provide not just goals but the actual strategies for the Superintendent to implement, a more hands-on approach from the Board. They brought that philosophy to MDUSD when they took over the district leadership two years ago. They have often spoken and written about their philosophy: The Board provides specific directions; the Superintendent oversees the district operations to implement them.

    Superintendent Lawrence was hired under this philosophy. Hence, his statement that he is waiting for direction from the Board president and vice president. You may not like it or agree with it, but Gary and Paul have been very clear about their belief in it. Paul may be gone, but Gary, as either Board President or Vice President for the last three years, has been practicing what he preaches.

  60. Doctor J Says:

    You’re right Sue. Gary’s philosophy for the last 15 years has led to these accomplishments by MDUSD: SIX of the worst schools in the state of California; one third of the total of “persistently underpeforming schools” in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties [worse than Oakland and Berkley]; TEN “program improvement schools”; the district on the verge of being named as a “Program Improvement” district. Heck, even the Oakland Raiders have more accomplishments than that. Anytime you want to be Gary’s apologist, feel free. Gary’s record speaks for itself. Which one of us is dumber than a rock ?

  61. Theresa Harrington Says:

    A Glenbrook parent I spoke to yesterday compared Eberhart to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, saying he’s “out of touch” with people in his neighborhood.
    He complained that his neighborhood is not represented on the board and said he wan’t confident in the enrollment projections for that area since “nearly every fifth house is in foreclosure.” If there is a massive turnover in that area, more new families could move in, he said.
    He also told me the district pays to bus some Glenbrook students on transfers to Sequoia Middle School. If the district closes Glenbrook, it could avoid some of those costs, although I would imagine that students whose home schools would be changed to Oak Grove would still want to transfer to higher-performing schools.
    If Sequoia is closed, Glenbrook students who now transfer there would likely choose another higher-performing school to attend.

  62. Wait a Minute Says:

    Lets also not forget that Gary used MDUSD money (which he did NOT reimburse) to take a “Solar Class”. He then used that training and obviously also leveraged his MDUSD status to become a VP of a company/family that markets itself to schools and other public agencies.

    This is what is wrong in America now. You have self-serving people in positions of power abusing their status and power for their own personal gain.

    They also tend to hire and support ethically challenged people (i.e–Lawrence) and the whole rotten process becomes self-perpetuating!

  63. Doctor J Says:

    @WaitaMinute — Yeah, Gary professes to be an “expert” in everything. But as near as I can tell, in his year with Seward L. Schreder Construction, Inc. they have no solar construction projects underway. “success” is not a term that has ever been associated with Gary. Has anyone checked his Form 700 ?

  64. Wait a Minute Says:

    Do something about it.

    Google Contra Count Civil Grand Jury. Contra Costa County Superior Courts website has a page called “About the Grand Jury” with a link called “Bringing Matters to the Attention of the Grand Jury”.

    Te more people that fill out a complaint about these abuses, the faster it will get investigated and stop.

  65. Alma (MGParent) Says:

    Theresa, what time is Glenbrook marching tomorrow?

  66. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Glenbrook parents and students plan to meet around 2:15 p.m. Friday, then begin marching down Olivera Road to the district office.

  67. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Mary Caldwell, Glenbrook’s PTA president, just told me she expects the march to begin around 2:30 p.m.
    She said many Latino parents weren’t aware of what was going on at the school board meetings because the district doesn’t distribute its agenda information in Spanish.
    The march will give the entire community a chance to participate, Caldwell said.
    “It’s just to show the kind of support that the other schools have had,” she said. “It’s just showing one more sign of force that we’re united together and committed to keeping it open.”

  68. Mary Caldwell Says:

    In addition there was someone one at the community meeting the other night from the Coast Guard who stated we should expect 400+ new families in the near future. Coast Guard children typically attend Holbrook and then Glenbrook.

  69. mdusd mom Says:

    More than one person is using “mdusd mom” – apologies to anyone who is confused by this

  70. Sue Berg Says:

    Doctor J Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 1:25 pm
    Dr. J, I am not trying to be an apologist for Gary. He can and does speak for himself. I was simply pointing out that he introduced a new leadership model two years ago in which the Board, or at least the Board officers who set the Board meeting agendas, provide more specific direction to the Superintendent than Board Policy 1140 calls for. That policy, under “Responsibilities of the Governing Board,” states,”The Board’s prime functions are the formation of policies and judgment of results.”

    Some posters, including you, were upset when Superintendent Lawrence said he was waiting for direction from the Board president and vice president in regard to which school closure options the Board will consider, and when. His comment is in keeping with the current Board-Superintendent relationship. As a Board officer for the past two years Gary has played a major role in providing direction to the Superintendent.

    I’m not offering an opinion, just noting that the Board-Superintendent relationship is different, based on your comments, than you think it is. If you think I’m “dumber than a rock” for pointing this out, so be it.

  71. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue. Of course Gary’s micromanagement style exceeds the “prime functions” of Board Policy 1140 and it is very clear that he and Paul were and are very controlling in their relationship with the Supt. That’s why I believe that when Nugentgate happened, not only did Lawrence know about the DUI prior to the appointment, but so did Paul and/or Gary. Remember, Nugent was to be Principal at Gary’s school. Would Gary have been involved in Nugent’s selection — duh. Sue, I have never doubted your intelligence nor wit.

  72. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, I just found out the Tuesday board meeting will be held in the Mt. Diablo HS gym to accommodate a large crowd. No word yet on whether a staff report outlining school closure scenarios/recommendations will be released with the agenda this afternoon.

  73. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Agenda has been posted
    The board may bring up new ideas and/or vote to eliminate or move forward with previous recommendations. If trustees decide to move forward with a new idea (no new ideas are outlined in the staff report), they would not vote Feb. 8. Instead, they would bring back the new recommendation for a vote at a subsequent meeting.

  74. Doctor J Says:

    OMG, another “consultant” contract $82,250 @$1375 per day !! Through May 31 only ! She is a “performance strategist” to work with the two directors of SASS. I thought Lawrence hired the best of the best to work in SASS. See Sue Berg comment #31. This is item 13.9 on the Agenda. But wait, don’t miss item 13.2 on the Agenda. SASS is also hiring a new “Administrator of Coordinated School Support” but it doesn’t list the fiscal impact. If he or she is an experienced principal with years of service, presumably the salary would be in the neighborhood of $120,000 plus benefits — but at least that is for a full years work, not just four months. What happened to the alleged $50,000 savings, which I don’t really believe was there in the first place. I hope the Board puts its foot down — it is really an insult to every child of all the schools being considered for closure, an insult to every parent and an insult to every taxpayer. This one tops the Gang of Five raises, and that is a pretty hard feat to do.

  75. Wait a Minute Says:

    Its hard to argue to the taxpayers you need more money when you hire a “consultant” at $1,375 per day!

    I wonder what preexisting relationship this Lynn Carlisle (working out of her home in Davis, CA) may have with Lawrence and friends? Come to think of it. I wonder what her qualifications are as a google search shows nothing apparent of her company or “skills”.

  76. Doctor J Says:

    @ Wait SASS has hired TWO part time consultants in the last six months for a total of $183,550 — Why ? Lawrence said in May that SASS would cost less and would employ less people. Another shell game.

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