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Mt. Diablo district responds to Diablo View MS teacher arrest

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, December 12th, 2011 at 6:35 pm in Clayton, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Students returning to Diablo View Middle School today were reassured by district officials that support is available to students and staff, as the community digests the news that a teacher has confessed to numerous sex crimes involving a former student.

District officials will meet with parents at 6 p.m. to answer questions and address their concerns about the arrest of science and math teacher Andrew Bruce Cottrell, who was taken into custody Friday.

Besides the parent meeting, here are other ways the district addressed the issue, Superintendent Steven Lawrence said in an e-mail:

“1. We (met) with the staff prior to school to share the below plan and answer questions.

2. We had our crisis team available for students and staff to speak with.

3. Administrators spoke to all of the classes first period and let the students know if they needed support it was available.

4. (Principal) Mrs. (Patti) Bannister went to all of Mr. Cottrell’s classes and spoke with the students.

5. Other Diablo View teachers agreed to cover Mr. Cottrell’s classes during their preparation period for the remainder of the week.

6. Mrs. Bannister is working with science and math department members to ensure appropriate lesson plans are in place.

7. Mrs. Bannister is working with Julie Braun-Martin (assistant superintendent for personnel services) to identify a teacher to be in the classroom following winter break.”

Bannister sent home the following message to parents:

“December 11, 2011

To the Students and Parents ofDiablo View:

No words can express the gamut ofemotions that students, parents and staff at Diablo View have experienced since Friday following the public revelation of the alleged inappropriate behavior of one of our staff members. I believe at this time it is most important that we support our students and also remember those who are suffering tremendously: the victim, the victim’s family, and the accused’s family members. We need to continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

The Diablo View staff is totally committed to supporting our students. In order to support the students in Mr. Cottrell’s six classes, Diablo View teachers will cover the classes for the remainder ofthis week. We will also work with the math and science teachers to ensure that daily lesson plans are created to ensure students continue their academic growth. When students return after winter break we will have a new teacher in place.

While the tragedy of this event cannot be minimized, there are some positive events taking place at school this week. Tuesday morning is the Principal’s List breakfast, Tuesday and Wednesday night are the band concerts, Thursday night is Ms. Brewington’s open house for her seventh graders, and Friday we are having the Clayton Valley Women’s Chorus for an assembly.

This evening at 6 p.m. there will be an informational meeting for parents with staff and district personnel to address any further concerns. The Diablo View community has always been extremely supportive and I know working together we will help our children through this difficult situation.”

On Sunday, Bannister sent out the following recorded message: https://asp.schoolmessenger.com/m/?s=NUBdWk9D4DE

As noted in our online story, PFC President Megan Kommer told me she was satisfied with the district and school’s response, but she was concerned about negative comments being made by parents about the situation.

Are you satisfied with the district’s response?

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  • Doctor J

    Its very telling that Lawrence did not identify a single QUALIFIED grief or crisis counselor that was at the school today. Not a single one. Just administrators. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the administrators, but they are not trained and qualified. So does this “crisis team” have a “crisis plan” ? Where is it ? Personally, I think that’s bogus.

  • Just J

    Dr.J. After tonights meeting I do not feel confident that the administrators could handle any more. They really didn’t answer any questions, could not offer anything on how we can prevent this from happening again, could not answer questions on why this teacher had so many complaints at the school and it was never taken further. I am still pretty upset. Greg Rolen was there and only spoke a bit but it is pretty telling with the Districts attorney is at a parent meeting (he had nothing much to say) Lawrence did say in the beginning that he would be willing to bring in outside of the district “crises counselors” but then retrated that saying he did not agree to that and he would have to check with his staff first.
    I left there feeling that there really is no leadership in the district or the school. Being a leader is more than lip service.

  • Doctor J

    @Just J — Lawrence flip flopped because he was not sincere. Who does he need to check with ? Oh yeah, the Gary. He has a $43 million surplus and he is worried about bringing in a couple of crisis counselors. Please . . . . what happened to “Where Children Come First”.

  • g

    Theresa, you said that Lawrence asked you to stay away from the meeting. I wonder if he made the same request of all the folks from the Pioneer and the Patch–or did you get singled out?

    Rolen giving Lawrence a kick under the table?
    “Volunteering”to hire outside help (aka open mouth-insert foot) might be considered as escalating the severity of actual impact on the rest of the school, and maybe even acknowledgement of some level of negligence.

  • Doctor J

    Lawrence and Rolen just put on a dog and pony show so they can tell the board tonight they met with the parents. Clayton parents, its time to show the Board — once again — who is running this district. All Lawrence did last night was guarantee another Charter petition on the horizon.

  • Wait a minute

    Considering that Gary either implicitly or explicitly threatened other Clayton schools because of the charter I think that is a good point Dr J.

    This whole district reaction only proves that STEVIE LAWRENCE IS NOT AND NEVER WILL BE A LEADER in any sense of the word.

    His “leadership” and management style is NOT student or parent centered, but rather top-down, i.e:
    I and my senior administrators know best and we will go through the motions to involve others but we have already pre-decided what to do and how to do it.

    This is a reflection of his deeply ingrained narcissism, perhaps best reflected by his “solution” to what he percieved as the problem with CVHS. He simply installed his loyal fellow-narcissist Sue Brothers as Principal and considered the problem solved.

    Well, as the charter and this incident proves–he has solved nothing and in fact, only made the problems worse through his incompetent judgement.

  • ANON

    For a wonderfully funny parody about The Garys threats to the other Clayton schools, Google “MDUSD Parody”.

    Whoever the mt diablo jester is should be writing comedy for the late night shows.

  • anon

    I keep waiting for a new one from Mt Diablo Jester, surely they have enough material for part 2, that one has been around for months. I do agree, it is hysterical, and should be an ongoing feature!

  • Wait a second

    It’s too bad the people in this blog are so full of hate for this school district. I have seen facebook postings and verbage in this blog pointing fingers at the district, and the principal, that they should some how be at fault. I have seen postings by parents so concerned for their childrens safety they are outraged. The question is, why would a young girl agree to have sex with this man? What drove that young girl to do this. Yes he made a big mistake, broke the law, but she wasn’t raped. No childs safety was ever in danger, he is not a preditor. He made a really bad choice that will impact his life forever. I even read a statment that if we had the charter this wouldn’t have happened. How stupid are you people? If you want to blame someone, blame the parents of that poor girl for not being there for their child, not the district or the principal.

  • Just J

    WAS: I have to ask how stupid are you? You are pointing fingers at the parents and the girl! The principal had many complaints logged into the office by both parents and students….Ya know what you are not even worth my time.

  • anon

    Just J, stop saying that. There have been no inappropriate behavior complaints against cottrell. You complained about ineffective teaching, isn’t that what you called it last night? If you knew you should be the one with the finger pointed straight to you. It seems to me you had to know and YOU didn’t complain and now you feel guilty. Luckily you got your son moved but if he was that bad or perverted why are we only hearing from you now? Stop the hysteria. If you had complained about inappropriate behavior you would have challenged bannister last night when she said she’s never heard of inappropriate behavior.

  • Theresa Harrington

    An instructional aide who works with special education students at a Lafayette elementary school has been arrested on suspicion of sexual crimes involving a sleeping woman in unincorporated Walnut Creek: http://bit.ly/uI8uWD

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s an update about the Monday meeting from Supt. Steven Lawrence: http://bit.ly/v6D2BQ

  • Wait a Minute

    Got to hand it to WAS#9

    We already knew you tend to be an apologist (for the district), but this is low even by your standards.

    “Not a rape” huh? Well, I guess the DA can’t charge STATUTORY RAPE? “Blame the parents…”?

    REALLY, WAS?

  • ANON

    Was it “Wait a Second” or “Another CV Parent” that had brought up sexual scandals involving a charter school as an argument against the charter a while back? I think this incident here in the district shows that was a stupid argument to make. Someone ought to be eating some crow for that. But, as most people have seen here, the only arguments that charter opponents have been able to come up with are based on fear.

  • Wait a second

    justj 10 The complaints against him were that he was a bad teacher. The union will not allow a teacher to be fired if he is alittle weird. He is a math teacher. Remember this as the charter moves forward with their grandfathered in union teachers. They will never be able to get rid of the bad ones after signing on with the union. They can’t even transfer them to another school. That was one of their biggest blunders.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I don’t believe the charter MOU with the teachers’ union has been negotiated yet. It’s true that teachers who currently work for the school have the right to continue to work there. However, I’m not sure if tenure is promised. Most charter schools have greater control over staffing than traditional public schools.

  • Wait a Minute

    So first WAS tried to tell us it wasn’t rape and instead blames the girls parents.

    And now WAS wants to blame the Union and the Charter for Cottrell’s actions?

    So WAS, not only are you pro apologist for the district and their terrible leaders, now you are anti charter, union and teachers!

    You wouldn’t happen to be a buddy of Gary would you?

  • Just J

    I have been having parents tell me everyday that they complained about him looking down their daughters tops and at their butts. I only repeat what people tell me direct. I tend to think these parents are telling the truth rather than believe the school.
    parents have been complaining about his teaching ability for at least 6 years. From what I understand from the article here “bad” teachers can be fired. If the admins are to lazy to file a complaint then I suppose having thousands of kids uneducated is their fault.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, it is possible to fire a teacher (or strongly encourage him or her to resign under the threat of being fired), but it often takes a lot of work and a lot of time.
    I received paperwork regarding one such instance that involved numerous student and parent complaints, meetings with the principal and district office administrators — all heavily documented via emails, memos, etc.
    I also know of an instance where a parent filed a Uniform Complaint with the district, after feeling the school was not taking the situation seriously enough. If parents are truly concerned, but they feel the principal is unresponsive, they can go higher up the chain of command.
    Flirtatious behavior between students and teachers may not be as uncommon as people would like to believe. I know of one teacher in another district several years ago who received unsolicited romantic notes from a student and reported the situation to the principal.
    At another school a few years ago, a parent told me a male teacher made inappropriate comments about her daughter and tended to favor female students. A student at the school told me a teacher once sat on a student’s lap.
    One of the MDHS teachers also talked about a student making flirtatious comments and touching a teacher’s rear end. She felt the student was not disciplined appropriately.
    I don’t know if teachers receive training about what is and is not acceptable behavior, or if the district just trusts them to act appropriately. I also don’t know if the district teaches students what is and is not sexual harassment.

  • Just J

    I would also like to add how many Great teachers we have at DVMS. We sould not think we have a bad school because of a mintake(s) and for what this very sick person did. We have some that are unpopular with kids because of to much homework or personality differences but I have never heard of anyone saying things or acting “creepy” about the other teachers. There is a difference between many complaints year after year and a few from an angry student because of a grade. All complaints should be looked into but both sides should be heard.
    I have only heard one teacher say that kids lie so don’t believe them if they something about their teacher. That teacher is now in jail.

    I have a great deal of repect for the other teachers that I have come in contact with and my child thinks his teachers are cool and awesome!

    I am not willing to settle for a teacher who does not teach. If WAS wants to have his children in a class with a teacher who won’t teach then I guess he has that right. We need to all get real and stop settleing for the status quo. we all want what is best. I am sure most teachers want the same but the sad truth is some are burnt out. We need to find a way to recharge them or they need to go.

  • NitWit

    Almost impossible to get a teacher fired, w/ all due respect Theresa. I’ve dealt with a situation that went all the way up the chain of command. It resulted in the teacher being transferred to another school.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I’m sure it depends on the circumstances.
    In the instance I’m citing, the teacher’s personal problems were interfering with the teacher’s ability to be effective in the classroom. Still, the complaints spanned two school years and the teacher was given numerous opportunities to try to resolve the issues, before administrators made it clear there would be no more leniency, for the sake of students.
    In that case, several teachers and students were expressing concerns. If only one parent complains, I’m not sure if the district would pursue it so aggressively.
    I also know of another case where parents pulled their child out of a school, after complaining about the teacher. More than a year later, the teacher resigned. In that instance, the parents felt that the principal did not take their complaints seriously enough and that the school climate was not conducive to learning.

  • Marie

    My 4 children went to Mt Diablo Elementary School…
    At the end of my daughter’s 8 grade we had a meeting with the school staff… At the end of the meeting, I, along with my daughter…complained about Mr. Cottrell… My daughter told the staff that Mr. Cottrell would fondle him self in front of all students in class…
    The staff response was…that they have heard ”rumors” of this kind about Mr. Cottrell…but that they could do nothing without evidence, and that it’s very difficult to fire a teacher just on ”hear say”….
    So for the school staff to say at the time of his arrest that they were SHOCKED about Mt. Cottrell’s doings, is total BS!!!!!!… THEY KNEW for years and years!!!!!
    My daughter is a Sophmore right now…so how long has this been going on???