By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 at 12:15 am in Education.
After my last blog post regarding Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s Friday e-mail stating that the board wouldn’t discuss the charter petition Tuesday, the district released the agenda with the item showing up under the “Superintendent’s Report.”
Here’s what it says:
“There has been good progress on the collaborative work being done between the CVCHS organizers and MDUSD staff. Unfortunately materials were still coming into the District as late as October 20, 2011 and our staff did not have an adequate opportunity to provide the necessary analysis prior to the October 25, 2011 Board meeting. We believe that our analysis can be completed prior to November 8, 2011.”
Before the agenda was released, I spoke to Clayton Mayor David Shuey and Trustee Cheryl Hansen about the superintendent’s initial message that the item wouldn’t be on Tuesday’s agenda. I also received a copy of an e-mail response to the superintendent’s initial message from Clayton Councilman Joe Medrano.
Calls to Lawrence and the other board members were not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
Here’s the e-mail Medrano sent:
FROM: Joe Medrano
TO: David T. Shuey, Neil McChesney, Steven Lawrence, Gary Eberhart, Cheryl Hansen, Linda Mayo, Lynne Dennler
SUBJECT: District response to Mayor Shuey on request to place charter approval/denial on agenda for October 25
“Dear Dr. Lawrence and Mr. Eberhart,
I am very disappointed in your decision not to have the charter on the agenda for the October 25th meeting. The charter committee has worked in good faith with the district in getting the 56 conditions met or waived by the district in order for the board to make a final decision on Tuesday October 25, 2011.
I felt your last board meeting was very productive and promising. I was pleased to see Board Member Hansen have the opportunity to speak her views on the charter and impressed by the courage that Board Member Hansen and Dennier took in changing their position on the approval with conditions, as it was not their intent for the conditions to be a way to delay the charter from being approved. Even though Board Member Mayo voted against rescinding the approval with conditions I believe she would like to see this move forward as quickly as possible as well.
It appears the only remaining issue is in regards to a disagreement over financial projections. You have the final numbers from the charter. If you disagree then you must deny the petition. If you agree then you must approve the charter. Either way there is no need for you to continue to delay this process any longer.
Board member Dennier acknowledged publicly at the last board meeting that the board and district have failed our schools and she does not want to see this trend continue. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Board Member Dennier to admit that publicly and I applaud her to want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem by keeping things status quo.
On behalf of the citizens and community of Clayton I strongly urge you to reconsider your position and I urge the other board members to contact you to have this item placed on the agenda. We implemented the ‘Do The Right Thing’ program in Clayton and CVHS to teach and remind our children of core values. How are they to believe and learn these values when those in power like yourselves are unwilling to lead by good example in following these values yourself.
Please do the right thing and put this decision on your agenda for Tuesday night 10/25/11.
Shuey told me he didn’t think Lawrence had the authority to reject the charter item, since it had been requested by a board member. Instead, he speculated that Board President Gary Eberhart may have made the initial call not to include it on the agenda.
“If a board member requested it, which happened, I don’t think that Lawrence has the power in and of himself to do that,” Shuey said. “So I would have to assume based upon my understanding of agenda items that this decision was made with the approval of the board president.”
Shuey said he and other charter supporters might again speak to the board during public comment, if the item wasn’t placed on the agenda. I’m not sure if they can speak on the Superintendent’s Report.
He reiterated the committee’s desire to get a final approval or denial as soon as possible and said committee members would need to decide whether to attempt to appeal to the county.
Hansen said she was on her way to meet with Deb Cooksey for a briefing about the meeting between district staff and the charter committee that took place Tuesday.
Although Lawrence hadn’t sent Hansen a copy of his Friday e-mail, she said Eberhart called her Thursday to tell her he wouldn’t be putting the charter item on Tuesday’s agenda.
“I sent him a very direct letter demanding that the item be put on the Tuesday agenda,” she said. “So, we have a lot going on behind the scenes right now that’s very bad. I’ve gone through the appropriate steps to get it in place. This is not a request. This is a demand that my item be placed on the agenda for Oct. 25 and I’ve had no response.”
When I asked how Hansen felt about this, she didn’t mince words.
“I’m outraged and it’s unacceptable,” she said. “On Oct. 11, I said we cannot have these kinds of obstructionist tactics. We really need to have open, honest dialogue and behaviors. I’m absolutely outraged over the lack of respect that I think we’re showing to the public.”
I also asked why Hansen hadn’t attended the Tuesday meeting.
“I had a voicemail from Dr. Lawrence, which said that Gary Eberhart had followed up with him to say that if any board member were to attend this charter school meeting, that we would be asked to leave, and if the board member did not leave, that it would be postponed until after Oct. 25,” Hansen said.
Hansen said she did not believe Eberhart had the authority to prevent her from attending the meeting.
“The board president does nothing more than run a meeting and sit with the superintendent and compose the agenda,” she said. “So, this all goes beyond the authority of a board president.”
When I asked what recourse she has, Hansen said it was important to make the public aware of what was going on.
“I don’t think the pubic expects this kind of behavior,” she said. “I think it’s our responsibility to be open and honest in our dealings with each other and with the public. We are public officials. Things should not be squelched and obstructed. As far as I’m concerned, everything we do should be out in the open. But, a lot goes on behind the scenes that’s unacceptable. I don’t think this is building public trust. It’s actually fairly scandalous.”
I mentioned that the board seemed to think it was important to build public trust, when it held its recent strategic planning meeting.
“If we don’t act in a trustful manner,” Hansen said, “we’re not going to keep any public trust.”
Do you agree with the district’s decision to place the Clayton Valley charter on Tuesday’s agenda under the Superintendent’s Report, without a vote?