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MDUSD Board President disputes characterization of charter issue

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 at 5:05 pm in Clayton, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I was unable to reach Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence, Board President Gary Eberhart or trustees Sherry Whitmarsh, Linda Mayo or Lynne Dennler before filing my story about the Clayton Valley High School charter effort, which appeared in today’s Times. I also did not speak to any of them before posting my last blog entry, which included interviews with Clayton Mayor David Shuey and Trustee Cheryl Hansen.

Although I don’t normally work on weekends, I came into my office today and found a voicemail from Eberhart, which was left at 6:32 pm. Friday.

He said he had been in meetings earlier and apologized for not being able to call back sooner.

“This is not as it is being portrayed, but that’s typical,” he said. “I’m certainly happy to provide an update of where we’re at and where things are headed. I think I have a pretty good idea of where things are at and where things are headed.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t specify what he felt was not being portrayed accurately. I called him back and left him a voicemail saying that I’m very interested in hearing his side of the story. So far, I haven’t heard back.

I also received an e-mail from Hansen, along with a copy of an e-mail she sent to Lawrence and Eberhart regarding the Nov. 8 board meeting.

Here’s what it said:

“October 21, 2011
TO: Steven Lawrence and Gary Eberhart
FROM: Cheryl Hansen, Trustee
RE: Agenda Item for November 8, 2011 Board Meeting

This is to notify you that I am placing on the November 8th Board meeting agenda an action item as follows:

Meeting: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Category: Business/Action Item
Type: Action

Subject: Final Acceptance of Clayton Valley Charter High School Petition

Summary: Representatives from the district and the charter school committee have held a series of meetings since September 13, 2011 to address the conditions that the Board approved at the September 13 meeting. Final vote to approve or deny based on staff recommendations will be held on November 8, 2011.”

For comparison, here is what Hansen submitted for the Oct. 25 agenda:

“October 11, 2011
TO: Gary Eberhart and Steven Lawrence
FROM: Cheryl Hansen, Trustee
RE: Agenda Item for October 25, 2011 Board Meeting

This is to notify you that I am placing on the October 25th Board meeting agenda an item for discussion/action as follows:

Review, edit, delete, and/or amend the conditions attached to the Clayton Valley High School charter school petition on September 13, 2011.”

In an Oct. 14 e-mail to me, she wrote: “While the majority of the board did not support my motion to rescind, my hope is that the board will at the very least support amending the conditions to expedite this matter.”

OCT. 23 UPDATE: Hansen has sent me another email with an updated version of the item she wants to put on the Nov. 8 agenda, stressing that staff should make a final recommendation on the charter petition at that time.

Here’s the revised agenda item:

“Representatives from the district and the charter school committee have held a series of meetings since Sept. 13 to address the conditions that the Board approved at the Sept. 13 meeting. Prior to Nov. 8, district staff will have completed its final review and be prepared to present their summative recommendations to the Board for approval or denial of the charter petition. Final vote to approve or deny based on staff recommendations will be held on Nov. 8.”

Do you think the board should give the charter a final decision in November, instead of waiting until February, as originally planned?

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  • Wait a Minute

    They should stop breaking the law and be required to give an up or down vote at this Tuesday Oct 25th meeting as legally requested by Trustee Cheryl Hansen.

    Eberhart is clearly trying to tiptoe through this minefield of his own making while Stevie Lawrence once again proved what a bully he is when he intercepted and prevented Cheryl Hansen from attending the Oct 18 meeting between district staff and the charter people.

    Cheryl has every right as do all the Trustees to sit in on meetings as they have a responsibility to govern and they need good information to govern with which Stevie Lawrence will try and slant, spin and twist whenever he can.

    Apparently Stevie Lawrence was infamous for bulling board members up in West Sac too although in doing so he eventually wore out his welcome there. I think we are also past that point here quite frankly.

    In any case, CC Times Columnist Tom Barnidge’s excellent article now makes three unflattering newspaper commentaries against Stevie Lawrence.

    Way to go Stevie Lawrence, as the CC Times article shows you are breaking all the (bad) records in the State on this one.

    Another shameful entry for your history as a “public servant”!

  • g

    I suspect that while trying to put February into the conditions, Gary and Lawrence have found that the laws will prevail.

    Charters must be approved or denied within an outside window of 90 days. Except…!

    The Charter Organizers foolishly tried to “play nice” beginning in June when they gave away all the days of June-July at the Board’s request (because there was no planned July meeting). So, the first open presentation and hearing was August 9, and that seems to have started a new 90 day clock. Sept, Oct, Nov 8–thumbs up or down!!!

    Trying to delay till Feb was cute, but based on correspondence, I have never thought the County or State would sit back and allow a 90 day law to be stretched out for 8 months.

    My question now is– Will Lawrence or Rolen or Eberhart ever admit if there was legal opinion injected from outside the District?

    There must be someone who would tell if they intervened, since it would be (hopefully) public record.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is a story for the Times about the dispute between Hansen and Eberhart: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_19183879?nclick_check=1

  • Doctor J

    A School Board Trustee has the absolute right to attend any school or district meeting or function without limitation. Part of the duty of a school board member is to supervise the administration of the district.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Eberhart characterized the meeting as “negotiations.”
    He said board members normally do not sit in on negotiations and that the entire board would need to decide whether to allow one or more members to do so.

  • Just J

    He said they normally don’t sit in but the real question is….Is it a law? and was the Charter meeting a negotiation? Wasn’t it Hansen that requested meeting or study session?

  • Theresa Harrington

    I believe the charter committee requested the meeting to go over the conditions.
    Hansen doesn’t believe it was a negotiation, so she disagrees with Eberhart’s characterization.

  • Doctor J

    It doesn’t matter what kind of meeting it was. A Board trustee cannot be limited either in attending meetings or reviewing any document, email or other communication. Eberjart under his own argument had no right to direct the Supt to prohibit Hansen from attending. If Cheryl Hansen didn’t believe either side as to what was going on in the joint meetings, she is entitled to attend, observe, and make her own judgments.

  • Doctor J

    Tomorrow night at the Board meeting, be sure to pass Congratulations to Trustees Eberhart, Whitmarsh and Mayo who have just scored a “hat trick” by MDUSD “achieving” Program Improvement Status in ALL THREE TITLES: I, II and III. Here is the letter to be sent out by the Superintendent for newly acquired Title 1 Status. : http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ti/documents/leapi.doc
    Don’t break your arms patting yourself on the back. Title III – six years; Titile II = Three Years; Title 1 = First Year. Parents reading that letter will be really pleased you have accomplished so much for our students. It might even increase the CVCHS attendence. Parents might even want to get involved in the committees setting the corrective policies, since you are now required to let those parents in the secret meetings. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ti/leapiyrs.asp
    BTW, I guess Lawrence missed yesterdays deadline for sending out the letter to parents — too busy opposing the charter. Hope you all got the sacrasm of “achieving Program Improvement” for having some of the worst schools in the state with no improvement year after year. And a small minority of people wonder why some want out of the failing MDUSD. Oh, and don’t forget to congratulate them also on all schools not having textbooks for all children — who is the captain of this ship.

  • g

    Do the troupe at Dent just makes up the rules as they go while their legal counsel does nothing more than take turns playing Charlie and Mortimer.

    Although this (one of my favorite sites) comes out of Florida; Sunshine Law is Sunshine Law, and there are almost never legal disagreements once precedent is set.

    I direct Eberhart and Counsel Cooksey directly to Part 9, and suggest you get someone to read it to you very slowly.

    I’m pretty sure, the day you gave authority to your “staff Committee” to, on the Board’s behalf, bargain, make decisions, make changes, or agreements to alter findings on the Charter application, you opened them up to Sunshine Law as they, in effect, spoke “as the Board”.

    Anyway, since when are negotiations for anything other than “some” Personnel privacy and Real Estate sensitivity issues allowed to be Secret?

    Evidence has shown that once someone disagrees with her “opinion”, you can expect nothing short of a cat fight out of Cooksey. Her Ego is right up there on a par with Eberhart’s, but comes to us with even more baggage.

    Rolen has built up a lot of baggage. He also has a whole lot more to lose both personally and financially if he gets caught with his hand any further down that twisted misinformation drain-hole called Dent.

  • g
  • Doctor J

    Tomorrow night at the Board meeting, be sure to pass Congratulations to Trustees Eberhart, Whitmarsh and Mayo who have just scored a “hat trick” by MDUSD “achieving” Program Improvement Status in ALL THREE TITLES: I, II and III. Here is the letter to be sent out by the Superintendent for newly acquired Title 1 Status. : http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ti/documents/leapi.doc
    Don’t break your arms patting yourself on the back. Title III – six years; Titile II = Three Years; Title 1 = First Year. Parents reading that letter will be really pleased you have accomplished so much for our students. It might even increase the CVCHS attendence. Parents might even want to get involved in the committees setting the corrective policies, since you are now required to let those parents in the secret meetings. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ti/leapiyrs.asp
    BTW, I guess Lawrence missed yesterdays deadline for sending out the letter to parents — too busy opposing the charter. Hope you all got the sacrasm of “achieving Program Improvement” for having some of the worst schools in the state with no improvement year after year. And a small minority of people wonder why some want out of the failing MDUSD. Oh, and don’t forget to congratulate them also on all schools not having textbooks for all children — who is the captain of this ship.

  • Doctor J

    @G, thanks for the heads up on the background. Google provides a wealth of information to sort out.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a new blog post that includes interviews with Board President Gary Eberhart, Trustee Cheryl Hansen and Clayton Mayor David Shuey about the charter debate: http://bit.ly/u5FDfz

  • Concerned Parent

    The risks inherent in this charter conversion are so high that I hope the MDUSD Board sticks to its original timeline and that the charter petitioners put alot more effort into writing a well thought out and detailed plan for CVCHS.

    This is an existing, functioning school, educating almost 1900 students. If it fails due to lack of planning, it will be a disaster for CVCHS’s students and employees, as well as the students and employees in the rest of the MDUSD. Unlike a small startup such as the Flex Academy, that can merely announce it’s going to put off opening for a year and there are no consequences, once final approval is given to CVCHS, it will be impossible to stop the process, no matter now badly it goes. MDUSD will not be able to step in and rescue the school.

    I wish the charter petitioners would stop trying to rush the process and put more effort into really thinking through what they want to accomplish and how they plan to do it. Once they’ve done that, then they should present it to MSUSD for approval. It’s more important to get it done right than to get it done quickly. Why are they in such a hurry?

    Take a look at the charter application criteria of large school districts, such those in Los Angeles and San Diego, that have approved many charter petitions. After reading the CVCHS petition and looking at what’s done in other districts, it’s clear that the CVCHS petition didn’t begin to meet the standards required. The CVCHS steering committee and its lawyers are attempting to spin this to make it appear as if MDUSD’s requirements are way beyond the law. But keep in mind that it’s a lawyer’s job to advance his clients’ arguments. That doesn’t mean they’re right.

    If you look at what’s being done in other districts you’ll see that the real problem lay with the charter petition itself. MDUSD was doing exactly what other districts – who have reviewed and approved hundreds of petitions – are required to do. They aren’t being any pickier than other districts that have reviewed and approved many charter petitions. The charter supporters failed to understand both the level of review that is legally required and the level of effort that they needed to put into the petition.

    I also worry about the lack of expertise in school management and finance that is evident in both the steering committee and the governing board. As an example, one steering committee member who has also been elected to the governing board has publicly stated that the charter documents turned in to MDUSD are just a draft and the steering committee does not expect the governing board to be bound by them. This is the same argument (its just a draft so it doesn’t matter) that was put forth after it was discoverd that the two parent representatives on the governing board were appointed rather than elected. (That has since been changed.) After doing a bit of research, I have found that any material revisions to the charter will require the approval of MDUSD. It is not just a draft that can be changed or ignored at will.

  • Wait a Minute

    The risks inherent in Sue Brothers masquerading again as another parent on the blogs so she can try and undermine the charter is also quite high here.

    West Sac people have looked at the “Concerned Parent” blog posts and state that it is almost certainly Sue’s propaganda and writing style.

    She is smart in an evil way and loves to use her knowledge of public education to construct elaborate arguments in her favor or against proposals she disagrees with. In other words, a manipulative evil genius basically.

    The West Sac people wanted me to remind Sue that she played the same crap games in West Sac and think about where that got her in the end.

    There are plenty of other public servants that are just as smart as her and unlike her, ethical good people.

  • Anon

    #15,

    Hi Sue, How is it going? Where will you be working next year?