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MDUSD Superintendent and Assistant Supt. answer budget questions

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, March 7th, 2011 at 7:27 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The Mt. Diablo school board will look at some budget cuts and layoffs Tuesday that have raised questions in the community.

Here are a few questions I e-mailed to Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personel services, to get a better idea of what the board will be looking at:


Q: Why are 33.55 music teachers proposed to be laid-off? I only see 14 music teachers listed in proposed cuts. How many music teachers are there in the district?

A: This is the proposed negotiated reduction in 1st-5th prep time. Currently, we offer 1st-5th teacher prep time by utilizing PE teachers, music teachers and librarians. If the Board approves this reduction we must notice teachers by March 15, 201

Q: Are you recommending any of the non-negotiated cuts?

A: Since last year we have recommended a cap on benefits, proration of benefits based on working seven hours a day, and furlough days.

Q: If the taxes make it onto the ballot and pass, how much would you have to cut? Would you be able to rescind all cuts?

A: If the Governor’s proposed tax extensions pass we must still budget a reduction of $18.38 per ADA as well as class size reduction. This would be a reduction of approximately $2 million and would allow us to rescind the majority of the cuts and layoff notices. Layoff notices based on enrollment reductions and teachers not returning from leaves of absence would not be rescinded.

Q: How are the union negotiations coming along?

A: We have reached a principal difference of opinion with our classified associations and will be proceeding to fact-finding. We are continuing to work diligently with our teacher’s union and are optimistic we can reach a mutually beneficial resolution.

Q: According to the budget, it looks like you really only need to cut $8.8 million from the 2011-12 budget to achieve the $350 per student loss. Are you going to shoot for that as a minimum?

A: In order to certify positive we must have a balanced budget through the 2012-13 school year not just the 2011-12. The goal of the 2nd Interim is to certify positive.



Q: Why are 33.55 music teachers proposed to be laid-off? I only see 14 music teachers listed in proposed cuts. How many music teachers are there in the district?

Q: How are the union negotiations coming along?


“Dear Ms. Harrington:

There will continue to be district support for the secondary instrumental and vocal music programs. However, there will be some music positions eliminated or reduced in scope due to declining student enrollment or the fact that the school purchased additional music teacher time out of categorical funds and those funds will not be available next year. We also have music teachers who were laid off in our district last year that have the right to return to a position in 2011-2012.

Finally, there will also be a review at the next board meeting of the possibility of eliminating the preparation teachers (music, library or PE) at the elementary level. For all these reasons it was necessary to list that music teachers may receive a March 15th notice.

If the Board determines that it does not wish to eliminate the elementary preparation program, then the personnel office will either reduce the numbers of letters which need to be sent out on March 15th or it will rescind notices by early April.

– Julie Braun Martin, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services”


I also asked two union reps how negotiations were coming along. Here’s what they said in voicemail messages this afternoon:


“I think that if the state, if they pass the June election, that many of these draconian problems will not have to be instituted. It’s a shame that we have to fire people before we end up rehiring them.

As far as negotiations, I am guardedly optimisitc that our last offer — which is going to be briefed to the board I believe on Tuesday — may be able to help both sides come to a good conclusion. But I won’t know that ’til I get the board’s reaction. And of course I won’t get the board’s reaction ‘tll they get that in closed session.”


Regarding proposed reductions to secretarial staff:

“I have over 54 people that it’s going to affect and it is really upsetting. I would really like to know how this district thinks they’re going to run when they cut, because there’s no way they’ll be able to run this district.

And it seems funny how they always cut classified, but they still gave those raises (to five employees) and they still have retirees on contract. So, they find money when they want it.”


Although Trustee Cheryl Hansen asked Braun-Martin for a list of retirees working in the district, it doesn’t appear in the agenda packet.

I have also heard from Holbrook Elementary teachers and parents who say they plan to ask the board to rescind its decision to close their school.

The complete list of potential cuts is at

Do you agree with Lawrence’s goal to certify “positive,” by making deep cuts through 2013?

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30 Responses to “MDUSD Superintendent and Assistant Supt. answer budget questions”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Typically evasive answers by Lawrence & Co. Lawrence demands the questions in writing and then doesn’t answer the questions — neither does Braun-Martin. Note that Local 1 hasn’t forgot the Gang of Five raises. Furlough days hurt the lower paid employees most — because its a higher percentage of their take home pay.

  2. Billy Bob Says:

    This board could gain a lot of good will by rescinding the gang of five raises. Basically those raises were the definition of the “good ole boy network”.

  3. 4Students Says:

    Doctor J beat me to it. “How many music teachers are there in the district?” – both answers were evasive.
    The district must cut but they must acknowledge what they are doing. This is only 4 days notice and so cavalier. Music programs take years to establish, and with seniority and involuntary transfers, our high schools stand to lose some important band teachers who have organized marching band, jazz band and other award-winning programs. Even if only 14 positions are cut and a music teacher with seniority is transferred to the high school, then these program likely will die.
    The district should take a moment of silence.

  4. vindex Says:

    Great reporting. I always find you fair and informed. Lots of issues. I agree with the classified response. The district finds money when they want to. Follow the amount of raises Mr. Rolen has received in the last three years. Appalling.

  5. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    Holbrook Parents,
    Are you looking into the Parent Trigger law? With the support of the teachers you could pursue conversion to a charter under the standard law. Proposition 39 which brought us the 55% threshhold on bond measures also provides charter schools with the opportunity to utilize district property. This may be your silver lining.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    @Another MDUSD Mom, Sorry but couldn’t resist a comment to ‘complete’ your analogy to the “Parent Trigger” law . . . suggest your last line be “silver bullet”. 🙂 Apparently there are some emergency regulations posted on the website that should guide the Holbrook parents if they choose this course of action. Finding a charter sponsor probably needs to be the first course of action and then that charter sponsor should have the resources of a national charter organization who can provide guidance as to the legal procedures that need to be followed. I offer no opinion at this time as to what course of action the Holbrook parents should take — frankly it all could change at the drop of a hat. I am generally a public educaion supporter, but recognize there are times when citizens who feel the government is not meeting their needs must take extraordinary steps. That being said, I am on record as saying MDUSD needs to close 6-8 schools for economic reasons, not just two, but the methodology used by this board and the Supt has been irresponsible. I support Cheryl Hansen’s methodology as stated on her webpage: If done right, closing schools can be much less traumatic and dramatic than it has been made by a reactionary Board and unprepared Supt.

  7. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    Doctor J,
    I stand corrected – silver bullet. LOL
    One reminder, charter schools ARE public schools.
    There are great charter operaters out there who have been incredibly successful. Holbrook, look into KIPP and Green Dot.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    Let’s keep ALL options open — send out 3750 pink slips including the Supt, Asst. Supts and all Dent employees. Let’s put everyone in the same boat. No exceptions.


  9. Clay Says:

    To Another Mom,

    Isn’t the trigger law for failing schools? Holbrook is not failing, infact,their scores are higher than the schools that will be receiving their children.

  10. Jim Says:

    To qualify for a Parent Trigger petition, the school must be in Year 3 (or longer) of Program Improvement. According to the Parent Revolution website, MDUSD has no schools eligible for Parent Trigger:

    Parent Trigger lets parents choose a conversion to a charter, or one of the other 3 options for outlined for persistently failing schools (turnaround, transformation, or closure).

    That said, any school — even a high-performing schools — where more than 50% of the teachers want to convert, can convert to an independent charter. In this case, teachers have more flexibility to get out from under a dysfunctional district than parents do.

  11. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Mt. Diablo has 10 schools in Year 3 or longer of Program Improvement, according to the CDE:
    “Bel Air Elementary”,”In PI”,”2005-2006″,”Year 5″,”Year 5;”
    “Cambridge Elementary”,”In PI”,”2003-2004″,”Year 5″,”Year 5;”
    “Fair Oaks Elementary”,”In PI”,”2005-2006″,”Year 5″,”Year 5;”
    “Glenbrook Middle”,”In PI”,”2003-2004″,”Year 5″,”Year 5;”
    “Meadow Homes Elementary”,”In PI”,”2003-2004″,”Year 5″,”Year 5;”
    “Oak Grove Middle”,”In PI”,”2004-2005″,”Year 5″,”Year 5;”
    “Rio Vista Elementary”,”In PI”,”2003-2004″,”Year 5″,”Year 5.”
    “Riverview Middle”,”In PI”,”2003-2004″,”Year 5″,”Year 5″
    “Shore Acres Elementary”,”In PI”,”2004-2005″,”Year 5″,”Year 5;”
    “Ygnacio Valley Elementary”,”In PI”,”2004-2005″,”Year 5″,”Year 5;”
    List is at

  12. Linda Says:

    I have to believe that there are teachers at many high performing schools who would be ready to get on board a charter conversion given the right circumstances.
    It has happened in LA, San Diego, Campbell, and Granada Hills.

  13. Doctor J Says:

    Ten schools in Program Improvement, Year 5. Put that on your resume long time board members.

  14. Jim Says:

    Thanks, Theresa, for the updated information. The Parent Revolution list sounded too good to be true, and must be way out of date. And I want to second Linda’s observation that there must be teachers who would vote to leave MDUSD as well. (High schools get an extra advantage beyond leaving all of the bureacracy behind. They get funded at the full state “high school” rate, rather than at a lower blended rate. (That’s one of the reasons Acalances gets such a high per pupil funding rate: it’s all high schools.)

    Here is an interesting research study from December on how seldom failing schools ever improve:

    The authors from the Fordham Institute found that in a sample of over 2,000 schools across 10 states, 80% of district schools identified as “failing” from 2003-04 through 2008-09 had not been closed, turned around, or otherwise improved. (Less than 2% of the schools actually made significant gains.) Failing charters had a better record, but not by a whole lot. (The difference with charters was that any charter parent could choose not to send their child there anymore, while many parents don’t have the option to leave their neighborhood school.) California was one of the states studied, and you can see our results in the pdf of the report.

  15. Doctor J Says:

    Gary, how is your ban on overnight travel working ? How many district employees spent last night and tonight at five stars in SF ? A dozen ? How is your ban on site administrators attending meetings off campus during school hours working ? I guess the test will be to see what happens with Lawrence’s K-Adult meeting next week, eh ? At what point does it become insubornidation ?

  16. 4Students Says:

    So teachers can vote to convert to charter? Sure seems like a good alternative to save music and librarians, and even bring back athletics!

  17. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    I would say that it sounds like a good idea for Holbrook and Glenbrook. I would not waste my time asking the district to recind their decision. I would pursue a charter operator to come in and open a neighborhood school. Holbrook and Glenbrook may actually find this situation works in their favor.

  18. Doctor J Says:

    The leadership tug-of-war between Gary and Lawrence is reaching the brink. Gary announces on Tuesday at the Board meeting (1) no overnight travel effective immediately and (2) site administrators are not to leave campus to attend administrator meetings during school [not a new policy but one long ignored]. Even as we speak there are about a dozen district employees staying at 5 star hotels in SF for a conference instead of riding BART back and forth. Next week there is a K-Adult Superintendent’s meeting taking all site administrators off campus from 7:30 am on. Lawrence refuses to change the meeting. When does Lawrence become insubordinate ? What will Gary do ? Who has the most cards in their hand ? Chevorngate, Buttercupgate, Nugentgate . . . . Who will blink first ?

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Another MDUSD Mom: If parents and teachers trigger the charter, perhaps they could form a K-8 school.
    Jim: It will be very interesting to see whether the SIG money results in significant improvement at the four schools that received the grants (Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shore Acres elementary schools and Glenbrook Middle School).
    Dr. J: Since the board hasn’t voted on the proposed cuts, they are not currently in effect. Board President Gary Eberhart proposed that no travel and no daytime meetings for principals be added to the proposed cut list and studied by staff. He cannot unilaterally impose these things. Even if the board agrees to them, they wouldn’t go into effect until July 1, as part of the 2011-12 budget (unless trustees request that they be implemented sooner). However, since Eberhart has asked how much is being spent on travel, Lawrence should publicly report about the trips you say are occurring, as part of a 2010-11 “actuals” report of dollars spent and encumbered.

  20. Doctor J Says:

    Nothing better to impress voters considering a tax extension than irresponsible frenzied spending, especially where the voters already believe there is a lack of trust.

  21. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    I understand what you are saying about needing to vote and Gary not being able to dictate policy but I could swear he said no travel effective immediately. Am I wrong?

  22. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, I even think your original story acknowledged the new policy — did you modify your story ? If so, why ?

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    During the budget discussion, Gary Eberhart said: “Board members are asking for items to be placed on this list so the superintendent can look into them and educate us on what we’re asking for.”
    Regarding travel, he said: “I would like a freeze on all travel in this district. I realize a lot of that is from grants. We can do this a year at a time. I don’t know how much that amounts to, but I think it sends a message to the community that we’re serious about reductions that we’re making.”
    When he was questioned about what type of travel he was referring to, he said: “Travel by getting on a plane and staying overnight somewhere.”
    He said that grant money should be spent on “kids in classrooms.”
    Dr. J: My story always said that trustees “suggested” cuts. They can’t impose them without a vote:
    Of course, travel to San Francisco doesn’t involve “getting on a plane,” but it’s unclear whether Eberhart envisioned people would stay overnight in San Francisco. Clearly, it still sends a message about how committed the district is to cutting costs, even if it isn’t a board-adopted policy.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, I think he was talking about two kinds of travel: (1) getting on a plane and (2) staying overnight. It is possible to fly down to LA and back in the same day without spending the night. Just as it is possible to catch BART to SF and spend the night at a hotel. I understood Gary to mean both types of travel. I doubt that he meant you had to both fly and stay in a hotel. His first sentence “freeze on all travel in this district.”

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, you’re probably right. I got the impression he wanted to discontinue overnight stays at hotels, but wasn’t trying to stop people from driving to one-day conferences or meetings.

  26. Doctor J Says:

    Not that I can speak for Gary, but I don’t think Gary was trying to restrict driving within district boundaries or to events nearby such as Pleasanton or Fairfield. Even, for example a meeting in Sacramento is a day trip — up and back the same day. However, I think some administrators in the past have made it an overnight. The recent budget meeting is a good example. No need to stay overnight within a 100 miles — get up early.

  27. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    Thanks for the clarification Theresa.

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just heard MDEA has reached a tentative agreement that saved jobs. Details to follow.

  29. Doctor J Says:

    Supt adds ANOTHER new Administrator in SASS despite his promises on May 11 that the new Dept would save both costs and be smaller than C&I — see agenda for March 15, item 14.1.

  30. Wait a Minute Says:

    Dr J,

    So just to prove how broke they are they are want to hire another full-time administrator for the Dent Center!

    This is a classic move by a bureaucratic-centered (and highly narcisisstic) organizational “leadership” culture.

    Raises and additional positions for the select and priviledged “leadership” and cuts for those who actually do the real work.

    What great “leaders” huh! These are NOT student-centered “leaders”.

    I see the future in education. As is already happening in the most dysfunctional district in CA (LA Unified).

    Individual schools breaking away by converting to independant charters and keeping their ADA in their schools and classrooms. This instead of letting these out of touch and outdated district bureaucracies squander 40% of the money and deliver garbage flawed decisions from their flawed “leadership”.

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