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Superintendent to report on Clayton Valley charter Tuesday

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.

Thank you,

Joe”

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?

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  • g

    This is a scandal that needs to be widely publicized, and called to the attention of County and State ED Department officials. Eberhart has really overstepped his bounds in a most egregious way.

    On a side note, maybe he is rethinking the way he schemed and lied and teamed up with Whitmarsh to overthrow the last Board majority.

    On the campaign trail he said: “This election is about our future. Do we want politicians in office who represent special interests, or do we want to elect a community leader that will represent our values and our neighborhoods? It’s time for us to stand up and say enough! Your vote in this election will make a difference. I’m running to represent you on the Board of Supervisors and to change the direction of our county for the better. I’d appreciate your vote.”

  • g

    Theresa, any idea who would have been at that meeting Tuesday with the authority or even the chutzpah to tell a Board member to “leave–or else”?

  • Wow!

    Great reporting Theresa! This should be on the front page. Seriously, tell your editors to get this on the front page. Keep the pressure on our government officials. This behavior by Eberhardt is unacceptable and the people need to know. I smell a Pulitzer.

  • Theresa Harrington

    My understanding is that Deb Cooksey, Rose Lock, Bryan Richards and Julie Braun-Martin have been representing the district at the meeting.
    Hansen said she was “waylaid” by the superintendent on her way to the meeting. She said she decided not to go to the meeting because she would have arrived late, after Lawrence’s interception, and she didn’t want to disrupt the meeting.
    At a board retreat, a consultant told trustees that no board member has more power than any other board member. The president helps set the agenda, but the superintendent reports to all board members, he said.
    In many cities, the elected officials rotate the position of “mayor” (if all council members are elected equally, instead of in a separate mayoral election). The school board could do this too, but instead it has chosen to allow Eberhart to retain the position of President (or the vice president position) since he was re-elected, I believe.

  • g

    And when the rhetoric I referenced above failed him in his bid to leave the School District and move on to County Supv., who was it who in 2008 said:

    –”Customer service. I envision a school district that treats students, parents, and the community as customers and a district that has as one of its top goals, providing excellent customer service. That is not happening as evidenced by the many unhappy parents and students in our district. Do you think that the parents in Walnut Creek would have ever started a petition to transfer schools out of our district if we were addressing their needs? We must change the culture of our district. Our parents are not our adversaries; they are our partners in our goal of providing a world class education to our students and their children”.

    –”Communications. We must begin to communicate in an open and honest way with our parents and our community. We must make every effort to ensure that we are providing the public with all of the information that they request. The Superintendent must provide whatever information Board members request. Information is currently being hidden from Board members and from the public and that must stop. As a Board member, I have had to file a public records request to get records that are available to the public. I literally had to threaten to take the Board to Superior Court to seek relief unless they provided me with the information that I requested. How can I be expected to do my job as a Board member if the Superintendent and the Board are going to conspire to withhold information from me.”

  • Doctor J

    Board Trustee Cheryl Hansen needs to lawyer up on the District’s dollar and sue Lawrence and Eberhart for conspiracy and get a court order against them prior to Tuesday’s meeting. Refusing to put her item on the agenda as an action item must violate some law. I cannot believe that Linda Mayo condones the childish behavior of Lawrence and Eberhart by refusing to speak out. Linda, if you don’t speak out against the atrocities, you condone them.

  • Wendy Lack

    Provocative commentary in today’s WSJ on evaluating teacher performance:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204485304576641123767006518.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

  • Charter new course

    The County Board of Education recently revised their bylaws and discussed whether a Trustee could go to the County Counsel directly, for example if there was a dispute with the County Superintendent. Is this in the MDUSD bylaws? Trustee Hansen should have access to government counsel as she is representing US.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The district’s general counsel, Greg Rolen, reports directly to the board.
    He previously reported to former Superintendent Gary McHenry, but the board changed this reporting structure when some trustees became unhappy with McHenry’s leadership.
    Hansen told me she intended to discuss the agenda issue with Deb Cooksey, since she was meeting with her anyway regarding the charter meeting.

  • Doctor J

    The silence today is deafening, after yesterday’s declaration of war. I suspect there are lawyers working this weekend — Monday morning at the courthouse should be an interesting one. Reminds me a little of the classic movie “High Noon”, this time Gary Cooper playing the role of Cheryl Hansen. Eberhart really stepped in his own “sh$t” this time, and Lawrence bet on the wrong horse. Can’t wait to see that smirk wiped off their faces by a Judge.

  • Doctor J

    @TH #9, When there is a legal dipsute between two Trustees, Rolen cannot take sides or offer legal advice since he represents the Board as a whole. The Grand Jury already has decided that Rolen is the Board’s attorney, not the Supt.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, but Rolen should be able to interpret board policy.
    Hansen said she referred to board policies in her letter to Eberhart regarding the parameters of his authority.

  • Just J

    So I really didn’t pay attention with the whole mc Henry thing but, I do remember someone saying be careful what you wish for. Is the grass really greener on the other side?

    I do hope that ms. Hansen wins over these guys who have absolutely no respect for the community.

  • MDUSD Insider

    The information being passed around is that multiple lawsuits will be initiated on Monday morning.

    Sounds like Rolen is going to be a busy bee for the next bit of time. Given past history he’ll probably be farming all the legal work out.

  • Charter new course

    What are MDUSD bylaws for picking the board president? Can Gary be removed? Can Cheryl be selected for the next year?

  • Theresa Harrington

    I believe the board normally reorganizes annually in December, after the November election.
    As I recall, any board member can nominate any trustee for president. Another trustee must second the motion and a majority of trustees must approve the nomination.
    I don’t know if there’s a process for removing a sitting president before his or term is up.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have posted a new blog entry that includes a message from Board President Gary Eberhart and Trustee Cheryl Hansen’s request for a final charter vote on Nov. 8: http://bit.ly/qnxJnj.
    In addition, Times columnist Tom Barnidge has weighed in on the issue: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_19172480

  • Doctor J

    @Insider #14 Its just possible that Rolen will be party in the lawsuit and need his own lawyer since it appears he has been playing both ends against the middle. Lets see, 5 Board members, one Supt, and General Counsel time $300 per hour, that means each hour they stand in court, the district will be paying out $2100, plus their out of court time. Hmmmmmm. Gary sure has a funny way of flexing those biceps. And Lawrence can’t be too concerned about how much money will be taken away from all the other schools as a result of the Board President’s misconduct that Lawrence became an active participant in. Perhaps they just should schedule a special board meeting for next Friday night and get it done. What a simple solution. Well, I guess the court could always order it, but why spend $20,000 to get a court order when reasonable minds can just make a decision. Gary’s idea of Nov 8 is just a sucker punch — the next meeting after that is Dec 13 and the next one after that is in January. Gary & his co-conspirators have already discussed the delay of the November 8 meeting.

  • MDUSD Insider

    I am also hearing in my circles that there is a plan already being discussed to delay taking a vote at the November 8 meeting.

    Beware Charter school supporters. My basic advise: don’t think for a second Gary and Stevie aren’t going to fight this to the end.

  • Anthony Chippero

    TH: “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?”

    No I do not agree with the district. Especially if board member Hansen feels they have enough info to proceed with a vote. Hopefully things get resolved by the Nov. 8th meeting. Kudos to Cheryl Hansen for being so up front and honest. It was refreshing to hear her speak at the last board meeting and now to hear her still speaking out.

  • Wait a Minute

    Any “plans being discussed” by board members would be yet another Brown Act law violation.

    I do hope for the sake of the proper functioning of our democracy that the Grand Jury is going to subpoena and put under oath for testimony all the people involved here.

  • Just J

    Gary, Sherry and Steve are bad for our kids. There are a few more that need to go as well. How dare Gary tell Lawrence that if any Board member attends the meeting they will delay. I think Ms. Hansen is Awesome for standing up for what is right. I wish Gary and stevie would get jail time or at least fired!

  • Anon

    Just J,

    Recall for Gary and Sherry will be filed on Monday. I suspect there replacements will act with the remaining board and fire Lawrence.

  • Doctor J

    Deb Cooksey, Rose Lock, Bryan Richards and Julie Braun-Martin will soon be put under oath individually about what they were told about keeping Cheryl Hansen out of the meeting, and who told them. Sherry Whitmarsh and Gary Eberhart will have to answer similar questions. Same old Watergate questions: who knew what and when did they know it? At risk for Deborah Cooksey is her law license, at risk for Steven Lawrence, Rose Lock and Julie Braun-Martin is their Administrative and Teaching Credentials, and Bryan Richards has his CPA license at stake. All Gary and Sherry have to lose is their District health benefits. And of course, if criminal charges are pursued, there is always criminal penalties. If the truth is not told, perjury and obtstruction of justice are serious charges. If this escalates to a federal investigation on the SIG grants, Katy bar the door. I again pleade to the public: LET’S GET TO THE TRUTH !

  • Dan

    I fully suspect this story to go viral when it gets going. Will be fun to see Eberhart answering questions to Anderson Cooper on CNN in front of the Dent center.

    That is something I will never erase from the DVR.

  • Charter new course

    Anon, who will be their replacements?

  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, here’s a story about how Oakland is handling school closures, which mentions MDUSD: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_19172350?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com

  • Doctor J

    Blogs are unusually quiet — lawyers must be working.

  • Anon

    Anon 23, seriously? Are you going to file a recall petition? All this talk of legal this and that, but we all know nothing will actually happen to this jokers. They’ve been getting away with this stuff for years!

  • Doctor J

    @Anon #23 Hope you are up to it. http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/recall.pdf
    Its not easy.

  • g

    What’s the difference between the person that got elected and the person that tries to recall them?

    The person trying the recall has to tell the truth!

  • vindex

    Ms. Hansen.. Thank you for being so honest. This is the only way to build public trust. What do we expect from Mr. Eberhart? This is the man who LIED about having a college degree when running for office. When we found out he LIED, we put him back into office anyway. We reap what we sow. Time to sweep out the mess

  • Charter new course

    Dr J 30,
    Not that hard. A few days in front of Clayton Safeway should do it.

  • Anon

    Charter New Course: I think you may be wrong about that. There are many that aren’t going to go that far. Myself included. First of all, we have half the people (or more) not paying any attention at all. Another quarter (or more) that know the family and will not put their name to that, another bunch that attend the school they attend who won’t say/do anything. So what do you have? The most outspoken charter group, which equates to a couple dozen. Sorry, not going to be a recall. As much as I don’t agree with how they/the district are handling this issue, I also don’t agree throwing the baby out with the bathwater is the right idea either.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I covered the city of Clayton when a group of residents tried to recall then-Councilman Pete Laurence in part because of his support for a downtown gas station. Although the group succeeded in getting enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot, a majority of voters did not agree to recall Laurence.
    An MDUSD recall election would include voters from throughout the entire district, including Bay Point, parts of Pittsburg, Concord, Clayton, Pleasant Hill and portions of Martinez and Walnut Creek.

  • Wait a Minute

    I think a recall campaign would be successful that brought to the voting public’s attention that since the beginning of his “public service”, Gary Eberhart has lied to the public and acquired a record of not only no real achievement but instead constant scandal and crisis.

  • Doctor J

    What are the dates for him filing for reelection ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Board President Gary Eberhart’s term expires in 2012. I believe he would need to file for re-election during the summer of 2012.
    Both Eberhart and Whitmarsh were elected as a slate heavily backed by the MDEA teachers’ union, which was dissatisfied with former Superintendent Gary McHenry and the then-board majority, which included April Treece (who was defeated), Linda Mayo and Dick Allen.
    Allen has since retired and Mayo was re-elected. Lynne Dennler and Cheryl Hansen were elected last year, filling the seats of Allen and Paul Strange, who also stepped down.

  • Just J

    I didn’t vote for Gary or Sherry because they were backed so heavy by MDEA. People we all need to start paying attention! This is what happens when you do what someone wants you to do without looking into the matter yourself.

  • anon

    Recall? Brilliant!!! Did you look at the timelines associated with the recall? Do you understand the cost for a special election? Do you really think that Whitmarsh and Eberhart are going to run again? So you are willing to take more than $100,000 from the students of our schools just to recall two board members who are going to be off the board in a year anyway? Aren’t Clayton residents trying to take enough away from the district? Self-centered and selfish. That’s all I can think of.

  • Anon

    People love to puff themselves up on these anonymous blogs. That’s ok. But a recall is not going to happen, as I said before, people are all talk and nothing will really happen. But also, as someone said, we have a year left – vote them out if they run again. I’m pretty sure Gary E will not be running again, frankly he’d have to have his head examined if he did. I doubt Sherry will either as I believe she would attest to the fact that her term has been brutal and I have to imagine has had an enormous impact on her personal life as well. The people who should be on the board won’t run due to the ugliness of politics, and the fact the people who should run should have young kids themselves with vested interests in the schools. This is an all encompassing position. With 3 retirement age types remaining, we will desperately need people with kids to run for the open slots. Clayton , in case anyone has never noticed, had already pretty well checked out of school board crap long ago . So hopefully it will be someone from Walnut Creek or Bay Point to run.

  • Anon

    Anon #41,

    You are correct about people puffing themselves up on anonymous blogs. You are also correct that a recall will probably not happen.

    You are mistaken about Gary and Sherry though. Gary is an egomaniac he thrives on power (or perceived power), he will run until the people force him out.

    Sherry is simply Gary’s lapdog. She will do whatever he says. He is likely to tell her to run again so that they can continue with their plans to destroy the district.

  • The Observer

    @ Anon 40
    Actually, it would cost the taxpayers of the district almost nothing if Gary were just to resign tomorrow and save the North Concord community he betrayed, the Westwood community he was happy to betray, and the CV charter community he was about to betray, the time, effort, and money to evict from office someone who has been the poster child for manipulation, intimidation, misinformation, obstruction, and self-aggrandizement.

    It makes no sense for Eberhart and Whitmarsh to run again in 2012 as the inevitable outcome would only serve as a public humiliation to them. Both have become irrelevant in a district in which the parent and employee population no longer accept being given the mushroom treatment – kept in the dark and fed manure.

    Over the 17 years Eberhart has been on the board, but more specifically, the years when he, Strange, and Whitmarsh formed the most toxic majority the board has ever produced, Eberhart developed the singular self delusional pathology that he had become the district; in his own mind he saw himself as The One who spoke for “his” board, decided for “his” board, directed “his” superintendent and staff, and dispensed favors and punishments in “his” district. Now, at the end, he has become a self parody and in thinking himself so grand has showed us how small he is.

    “We need fundamental change in our district and that will not happen until we change the Board majority.” – Gary Eberhart, Board Candidate Statement, 2008.

    Gary, with that last statement you stumbled on the truth, a truth much more powerful and necessary today.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Although General Counsel Greg Rolen has promised to report to the board about transportation issues, no report appears on the Tuesday agenda.
    However, the board may increase its contracts with Pawar Transportation and AA Med Trans by a total of $683,602 on the consent calendar: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=4605&mtgId=310
    The staff report doesn’t mention whether there will be a future report to the board about transportation issues.

  • Number Eight

    Assuming this is for special education? With this $683,602 increase, how much is being saved, if any, compared to using the County bus service which was cancelled “to save money”?

  • Wait a minute

    So,
    another broken promise by one of the MDUSD’s so-called “leaders”?

    I take this to mean that Rolen did NOT take responsibility for the chaos that is Special Education Transportation under HIS WATCH!

    Once again, no accountability for the priveledged few while the district is literally falling apart.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, it’s for special education. It’s difficult to say, since there is not an “apples to apples” comparison.
    However, the district spent a little over $2 million in 2010-11 to pay for transportation for 196 students, including about $1 million for 113 students transported by Durham. The average cost was $10,403 per student.
    For 2011-12, the district expects to spend nearly $1.8 million to transport 144 students, at an average cost of $12,427.30 per student.
    So, the district is spending about $2,024 more per student in 2011-12, or about $291,483 more for 144 students, on average.
    It’s unclear, though, whether the 113 students previously transported by Durham are included in the 144 students now being transported by outside vendors. And if so, it’s unclear to which outside vendors they were assigned.
    It looks like a total of 61 students were added to the outside vendors, based on the Transportation Cost Analysis attached to the staff report.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The board also expects to vote on the Psychologists’ Union contract Tuesday: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=4591&mtgId=310
    Psychologists will agree to the same percentage of work year reduction negotiated between the district and the MDEA teachers’ union.
    Now, every union except for MDEA has agreed to a new contract.

  • Doctor J

    Hiding a $683,000 cost overrun in the Consent Calendar ? And then doing a so called “cost analysis” which apparently does not include this year’s District’s own costs for “taking over transportation” and spending nearly the same amount as last year PLUS still running its own busses. Just another “bait and switch” shell game. Nice to see Jeff McDaniel’s signature on there — guess he is back from his sudden leave. I hope one of the Board members pulls this from the consent calendar. My guess is that when the dust settles, there won’t be any cost savings, especially when you add in all of the extra staff at the District office PLUS overtime at the sites waiting for the busses to show up. This plan is probably already being executed without Board approval for the expenses.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Also on Tuesday, the board plans to hold a public hearing regarding Sufficiency of Textbooks and Instructional Materials for 2011-12: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=4590&mtgId=310
    The resolutions states the district “has not provided each pupil with sufficient textbooks and instructional materials aligned to the academic content standards and consistent with the cycles and content of the curriculum frameworks and the percentage of pupils who lack sufficient textbooks and instructional materials, reasons for the shortage and remedy to rectify the shortage at all schools are reported in the attachments following this resolution.”
    However, there is no attachment.
    The resolution also states that notice of the meeting was posted 10 days in advance and that “the governing board encouraged participation by parents, teachers, members of the community, and bargaining unit leaders in the public hearing.”
    In addition, the resolution states that “information provided at the public hearing and to the governing board at the public meeting detailed the extent to which textbooks and instructional materials were provided to all students, including English language learners.”
    Finally, it states: “the district will do everything in its power to assure all insufficiencies are rectified by the end of October 2011.”
    Are some schools still missing textbooks or instructional materials?