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MDUSD Superintendent seeks to hire administrators without board approval

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, June 25th, 2011 at 4:06 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Last last year, Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence asked the board to grant him permission to appoint administrators over the summer, while trustees took their traditional July hiatus.

But trustees denied Lawrence’s request, saying they did not want to relinquish responsibility for hiring district leaders. Instead, they chose to hold special meetings to appoint administrators.

On Tuesday, Lawrence will again ask for permission to enter into contracts with district administrators without board approval.

Here’s his request (from Tuesday’s agenda):

“Currently, we have one elementary school principal position, four Student Services Coordinators, two Necessary Small School administrator positions, Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support, and Director English Learner Services open.

We will follow our current protocol to fill these positions which includes vetting of applicants’ paper work, interviews, reference checking, and background screening. So, that candidates can be selected and under contract prior to August 1, for the above stated positions, it is requested that the Board authorize the Superintendent to enter into contracts with selected candidates.

Any contract offered will follow Board Policy 4351. All candidates will be brought to the August 9th Board meeting to be introduced to the Board.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board expects to appoint an assistant director of adult education, a middle school principal, an elementary school principal and three high school vice principals.

Do you think the board should give Lawrence the permission he seeks?

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28 Responses to “MDUSD Superintendent seeks to hire administrators without board approval”

  1. Flippin' Tired Says:


  2. g Says:

    I wouldn’t have even given him a key to get into the building. I certainly don’t want him having final say on who gets to be around the children.

  3. GLIC Says:

    No way! Tried that last year, didn’t work….Chris Nugent, Mt. Diablo elem. principal. Remember that fiasco.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    The irony of this request cannot be overstated. Lawrence knew that Nugent had a DUI because it was disclosed by Nugent — Lawerence never denied it. Gary presumably was involved in the selection of Nugent since it was his kid’s school and presumably also knew of the DUI — which Gary has never denied. Remember Gary took the lead on getting Nugent to “withdraw” his name. Knowing Gary and his demeanor you can just imagine how that occurred. The public only found out about Nugent because the Board Meeting was broadcast and someone googled his name and his policemug shot appeared. The names of prospective school administrators are kept secret from the public until they are announced at the Board, but the Board members are given their names ahead of time. A year ago, when Lawrence suddenly asked for carte blanche board authority to appoint school administrators in July without Board approval, Gary took the lead in saying that he as a board member was NOT willing to give up one of the board’s “most important” functions, the approval of school administrators. Once again, Lawrence is seeking to bypass the Board’s authority, do the appointment himself, and then just “introduce” the new school administrators. I believe Lawrence just sees the process as a formality. Lets remember that one Board member recently courageously voted AGAINST Lawrence appointing his long time sidekick, Sue Brothers, as principal of CVHS. Who is next that Lawrence wants to appoint and keep secret from the public before its too late ?
    Why does he find himself in this same predictament two years in a row with administrators not having been appointed earlier ? The July hiatus is just tradition. There is no requirement for board meetings not to occur in July.
    I say the Board policy should be to publish the prospective names of the school administrators in the Agenda and give the public a chance to comment before the Board votes.
    Just remember that Nugent’s DUI was no surprise to MDUSD — what was the surprise was that the public found out about it.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    I don’t think the Board can legally take away the public’s right to comment on the hires before they are hired and voted upon by the Board, and that requires a Board hearing.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Already, the public doesn’t have the right to comment on internal transfer appointments.
    I agree it would be beneficial if the candidates’ names were posted on the agenda. At the very least, the names of the schools should be posted.
    However, the district has added one snippet of information that previously wasn’t disclosed: it is now letting the public know what happened to the previous administrator. For example, Tuesday’s agenda item 15.2 states that the incumbent middle school principal is being transferred to another position within the district:
    Using deductive reasoning, we can guess that perhaps this is the Oak Grove Middle School principal appointment. But we won’t know for sure until Tuesday.
    If the district is willing to hint at the identity of the school and incumbent in this way, it’s not clear why the agenda doesn’t just come right out and say which school it is.
    Also, I’ve noticed that the district search engine doesn’t include the lists of certificated retirements and resignations, if you do an advanced search on agenda attachments. So, it’s impossible to look up a name and see whether a person retired, resigned or took a leave of absence.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    The Board ‘hires’ from those “recommended” by the Supt. The Supt does not have legal authority to hire. If you read many of the Board policies supported by the Education Code, you will find the language that Lawrence wants to do away with. Once hired, the Supt can move the chess pieces.

  8. Wait a Minute Says:

    You nailed it Dr. J.

    Lawrence wants cart-blanche to bring in administrators who will be LOYAL TO HIM PERSONALLY!!!

    If this board allows this you will see more of the like of Nugent and Sue Brothers. Anti-teacher, anti-union like-minded narcissists who will support Stevie’s every move. Is there a board majority stupid enough to do this? If they do then they will own whatever happens.

    G is also right. Lawrence and many of his cronies shouldn’t even be around children. It was Lawrence who said at one of his West Sacramento district’s Admin meeting something about “shooting children”!!!

    This guy is a sleazeball and there is loads of evidence to prove it such as his trying to sneak the criminal Nugent in and accepting multiple gratuities from Chevron while holding secret meetings with them to discuss a no-bid contract for the largest school solar project in the US. Makes me wonder if Stevie didn’t also get a fill-up-for-free card from Chevron for his efforts on their behalf.

    These are the reasons that Lawrence had an editorial about him right here in the CC Times blasting his complete lack of ethics and apparently remorse regarding Chevron-Gate.

    Come on people, he is without a doubt the worst Superintendent in Northern California as evidenced by his sleaze and the fact that his district is the first one in NorCal to have a school convert out as a charter.

    Now that the MDUSD has been completely run into the ground by this guy you have to wonder what else could possibly go wrong? Give him the power to do what he wants and you will find out real quickly what that is.

  9. anon Says:

    Just keep talking amongst yourselves and don’t bother to contact that board or superintendent to try to accomplish anything. No one will speak out at the meeting, no one will make any effort to get involved. This site has turned from one of valuable information to a site where about 6 people talk to each other. Very effective!!! And before you ask why I don’t do something; they are talking about VP’s not principals. It’s just not a big deal to me or anyone that I know. The principal is the position that’s most critical at a site as far as administration goes.

  10. g Says:

    Yes, anon, and those “other” very informative sites that you held so highly–you know, GaryShari? Where have they gone? Oh, I know. They’re out changing their shorts!

  11. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon #9 Suggest you read the Board policies which following the Ed Code only give the Supt power to “recommend” and the Board only has the power to “hire”.

  12. Doctor J Says:

    @Wait A Minute #8 Any predictions on who Lawrence might hire at MDUSD ?

  13. lbs Says:

    theresa, im confused. on june 14, the board appove to hire a construction mgr. assitant for measure C, but now on the district website there is a opening for a project mgr. assitant?? is this the same job?? because it sure is not the same pay.??

  14. Doctor J Says:

    Classic MDUSD Bait n’ Switch: Board approves position on June 14 for $82k, and job is now advertised at $83k to $101k. And the Supt and administration cannot understand why the taxpayers have lost trust in MDUSD.

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: According to the superintendent’s staff report, he wants the authority to hire one elementary school principal , two Necessary Small School administrators, a Director of English Learner Services, an Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support, and four Student Services Coordinators.
    None of the openings he seeks to fill over the summer are for vice principals.
    Small necessary high school administrators are essentially the principals of those sites.
    The director of English Learner Services will be a key position, given the district’s failure to meet state requirements for improvement with these students.
    The assistant director of categoricals and school support is also a key position, since SASS is responsible for driving improvement districtwide.
    Also, student services coordinators in this district have traditionally been promoted to vice principals and some eventually to principals. Therefore, those appointed to these positions could be destined for higher level leadership roles in the future. Their importance at each school has intensified since some vice principals were cut last year.

  16. Doctor J Says:

    Yes Theresa, but there is NO LIMIT on the authority he wants — he could do much more by moving some people around and making other openings and there is NO LIMIT on how many years this would last. He could even appoint Sue Brothers to a key district position since the Charter application now looks like a cinch to pass.

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At the Measure C Oversight Committee meeting, Pete Pedersen promised transparency regarding the Measure C management team.
    He presented a list of team members during a PowerPoint presentation, which he promised to post on the Measure C website after the meeting.
    As far as I can tell, it still isn’t posted.
    It’s possible that the “Assistant Program Manager” is a different position that had already been approved: The salary is listed as $83,835-$101,898.
    The board on June 14 approved an “Assistant Construction Manager” position at a salary of $82,928.
    I have submitted a Public Records Act request seeking salary and benefits information for the entire Measure C administrative team.
    Here is the list that Pedersen presented at the Oversight Committee meeting.
    Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t include salaries, or show what percentage of each person’s salary is charged to Measure C.
    As you can see, it lists Tim Cody and Mitchell Stark as Assistant Project Program Mangers.
    Michael Fox: supervisor sr trades
    Tim Cody: Asst. Project Program Manager
    Linda Carter: Secretary 11.5 months
    Pete Pedersen: Post-retirement contract – admin
    Engelberto Balba: network technician
    Michael Huff: Area manager
    David Hart: Area manager
    John Williams: Assist Buiding and Grounds manager
    Marcelino Fabie: Project Coordinator
    Ross Johnson: Network Technician II
    Len Isenbarger: Area manager
    Keagan Mize: autocad
    Richard Jackson: Supervisor Trades (just hired as assistant construction manager II)
    Brad Hunter: Construction manager I
    Mitchell Stark: assist project program manger
    Substitutes: Various clerical
    Pedersen said the district had spent $443,000 to date on the team, including “all fractional positions” and seven full-time positions.

  18. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    Anon #9
    I am going to say this AGAIN! You do not know if any one of us speak to Board members, the Superintendent, or if we attend meetings, sit on committees, or volunteer at our school sites. You only assume we don’t. Do you know what happens when you oppose the actions taken by this District? Do you really believe they have any interest in taking your questions? When they do, do you think you get straight answers? Do you think once you oppose this District using your name, you would ever have an opportunity to sit on a District committee? Don’t you think it is odd that over the last several months of Mr. Eberhart’s blog everyone loved him? Do you know that I wrote to him at least twice and my questions and comments were not posted? You have to choose – either you work from the inside to make a change or from an informed position outside. I have tried both and THIS IS getting involved.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Lawrence’s request appears to be limited to the positions listed in the staff report.
    It states: “So, that candidates can be selected and under contract prior to August 1, for the above stated positions, it is requested that the Board authorize the Superintendent to enter into contracts with selected candidates.”
    It doesn’t ask for authority to fill any other administrative openings that may occur over the summer.

  20. g Says:

    Haven’t gotten a head count yet (seems to be secret), but my estimate is Pedersen will have a core staff of around a dozen, and ALL will be titled “managers and assistant managers”, all sucking off well over $80K each from the public trough year after year. The number won’t get smaller as time goes by. The longer they get by with it the larger the empire of desk jockeys will become.

    Our grandkids will still be paying off their salaries long after Pedersen and crew are long gone.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At the Oversight Committee meeting, Pedersen said he estimated the internal team would cost less than hiring an outside construction manager such as Vanir 3D.
    He lauded the people he hired, saying they could switch between solar, HVAC and high school improvement projects. He was convinced that his plan would give the district more bang for its bucks.

  22. g Says:

    My post seems to have crossed with Theresa’s. The numbers are close. I just can’t figure out what all the “managers” will manage. Isn’t SunPower doing all the construction work? In the future won’t the District Bid out all of the “other” projects? For that kind of pay it seems what Pedersen should get is maybe two hard working assistants, an auditor and a secretary. I would like to see a job description of a few of the “good buddies”.

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Last September, the board approved Pedersen’s request to create a Measure C Program Management Team comprised of three assistant program manager/project managers, one secretary and one project coordinator:
    This spreadsheet shows a total cost of $10.9 million for a 12-person staff including three assistant program mamangers, three construction managers, three construction manager II positions, a project coordinator and two secretaries. It doesn’t appear to include Pedersen’s salary and benefits:
    Last August, the board approved the following Assistant Program Manager/Project Manager job description:

  24. lbs Says:

    board meeting nov 17 2010, item 14.5 is the breakdown of percentage of measure c pay for all staff, at that time.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is the link to the Nov. 17 modifications to the Measure C staff submitted to the board:
    Interestingly, there are no approved minutes from this meeting posted on the district’s website:

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    lbs: Pedersen has confirmed that the Assistant Program Manager job posting is for one of the three that were approved by the Board last fall.
    “We had only filled two of the three positions and are now recruiting for the third,” he said in an e-mail.

  27. Margaret Powell Says:

    Wasn’t it just last that the board found themselves having to “undo” a hasty appointment made by the superintendent? I seem to remember them seeing they didn’t want to rubber-stamp appointments. Now they are giving him the authority to make appointments without their input. Do we never learn?

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Margaret: Yes, the appointment you are referencing is the appointment of Chris Nugent as principal of Mt. Diablo Elementary last year, described by Dr. J above. I also blogged about it last year:
    You are correct that last year, Board President Gary Eberhart was adamant that he didn’t want to relinquish the board’s responsibility for hiring administrators. This year, however, the board unanimously approved the superintendent’s request to appoint eight administrators over the summer.
    Last year, Lawrence’s request was more general. In this year’s request, he named the specific positions he wanted to fill. However, the board will have no authority to override his appointments.
    Also, two of the positions weren’t named on the original agenda. Therefore, the public wasn’t properly noticed that the board would be voting to grant Lawrence authority to fill them. These were the recently vacated Principal of Valley View Elementary position and one high school vice principal position, which was pulled from the June 28 agenda.

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