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MDUSD trustees differ on approach to county charter vote

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 at 7:14 pm in Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The Contra Costa County Office of Education staff is recommending that its Board of Education approve the Clayton Valley High charter tomorrow.

But Mt. Diablo district board president Sherry Whitmarsh and Trustee Gary Eberhart — who both voted to deny the charter in November — are taking different approaches to the county vote.

Whitmarsh said she plans to oppose the charter, while Eberhart said he’s willing to concede that the county board will likely approve it.

“I am going to speak against the staff recommendation,” Whitmarsh told me.

She said there are three points she wants to make: (1) regarding the financial viability of the charter, (2) special education, and (3) the Mt. Diablo school district’s potential loss of funding.

“Even though this year the governor has not done the trigger cuts as bad as we thought they would be, next year it could be up to $350 per student,” she said.

In addition, she said the legislative analyst said today that the governor may have overstated the amount of income that could be raised through taxes, which could impact next year’s budget.

Secondly, Whitmarsh said she would like the charter to take responsibility for all special education students in the school’s attendance area, to reduce the district’s costs.

Third, Whitmarsh said the charter could cost the district more than $3 million.

“So 6 percent (of students) will be getting the money versus 94 percent (that wouldn’t),” she said.

Eberhart, on the other hand, said he does not plan to speak against the charter.

“I would be shocked it the county board didn’t approve the recommendation of staff,” he said. “I just think that they probably rely on their staff to provide them the information necessary and their staff has come to the conclusion that — based on some financial forecasts and the like — that they feel the charter should be granted. I just don’t know on what basis someone on the board would stand up and say their staff didn’t do the analysis correctly.”

Instead of fighting the charter, Eberhart said he wants to help the students affected.

“The time for me to talk about whether or not the charter should be approved or denied is kind of passed,” he said. “It’s time to talk now about how students are going to be supported.”

Do you think the county board will approve the charter?

FEB. 1 UPDATE: Here is a link to the minutes of the meeting, in which the county board unanimously approved the CVHS charter petition with conditions: http://www.cccoe.k12.ca.us/supe/12mtgs/m120111.pdf

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  • Theresa Harrington

    Just J: I have sent an email to Superintendent Lawrence asking if the Friday meeting is public, but he hasn’t responded. I have also asked about the Jan. 30 “plan” to be unveiled at MDHS. Again, no response.

  • Doctor J

    Tom Barnidge’s editorial analysis was too kind and way too shallow. The narcissism of Lawrence and certain board members fueled by irrationaland vindictive tactics designed to be obstructionist and create divisiveness within the district did nothing to promote the educational objectives of public education and showed pure contempt for the teenagers of Mount and the dedicated faculty of Mount. Eberhart who had demanded the toughest opposition to the charter at all costs, pulled out at the last minute to leave Lawrence holding the bag and left his board supporter new Board President Sherry Whitmarsh to hang in the wind and embarrass herself before the entire County BOE. Eberhart was no where to be seen.
    Soon Lawrence will mark his second anniversary as Supt of MDUSD. For two years, Lawrence has ignored the needs of students, faculty and administrators in the district, while instead blessing the pet projects of certain board members. At first there was no communication with the taxpayers, and then the communication was foisted upon him by an unhappy board. The last newsletter was absurd — no news at all and completely missed the point of two employees accused of improper relations with minors. Trustee Lynne Dennler asked him to investigate why there are so many schools unhappy in the district — his shallow reply: last spring we talked to CVHS and decided to make a change in leadership — he hired his old sidekick, Sue Brothers, who had just had her duties as Asst Supt in the tiny Washington USD “reassigned” to . . . well, as far as we can tell, nothing. In her prior two districts she has ruled with an iron fist and she and Lawrence were known as “Stue” for ruling in synch. So Barnidge was right to some extent — when the charter organizers spoke up, why wasn’t Lawrence asking “why” instead of how can we destroy their movement. At Lawrence’s behest, Deb Cooksey dreamed up 56 onerous conditions, instead of Lawrence meeting with the organizers and figuring out how to fix the problems that lead to the unhappiness. While Lawrence fixated on destroying the charter movement, he ignored what was happening, or better said, not happening at Mount. He had ample written and verbal warnings. Mount has lost over $5 million in QEIA grant money. He refused to sign the General Waiver document admitting to incompetence and ignorance as the excuses why he as the immediate supervisor over Principal McClatchy, didn’t get the problem fixed when it first surfaced in Oct 2010. Instead he had Asst Supt Rose Lock sign it. But written job descriptions and org charts already pointed to him as the “immediate superior” of the principal and yet there has been no sighting of him at Mount. But he was too busy playing silly games with the CV charter, while Mount burned. Hiring a Supt with no track record of success whose sole experience as Supt was from a tiny district and his prior district was small too, was clearly an irrational act by a board that wanted to micromanage an inexperienced Supt being overpaid to kiss the ring of the School Board President. Lawrence has continually opposed the efforts to have a Strategic Plan against which his record can be measured. And then, time after time, Lawrence’s name seems to be front and center with almost every “gate” scandal in the district. Its time for a change — its time for a new Supt.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s the link to Barnidge’s column: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_19771104

  • Theresa Harrington

    How some districts are collaborating with charters, instead of fighting them: http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/print/csr_docs/hfr_commentary.htm

  • Theresa Harrington

    Parents: If your child will turn 5 between Nov. 2 and Dec. 1, I would like to talk to you about the governor’s plan to eliminate funding for Transitional Kindergarten in the fall. Please call me at 925-945-4764.

  • g

    Theresa @204; Excellent article on the pros and cons of district/charter collaboration. Thank you.

    Paul Hill may have said it best: “In cities where the district doesn’t embrace the portfolio model, charter leaders will need to guard their independence, but join district leaders in looking for arrangements that improve children’s opportunities.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have just received an email response from Superintendent Lawrence to my questions regarding the charter. He said the district is continuing to research several waiver options and that the meeting with Pleasant Hill parents is not a public meeting.

    “A group of parents from various schools in the PHS feeder pattern asked if I would meet with them,” he wrote. ” I said yes and set up the meeting. There is no set agenda for the meeting.”

    He said the district will need to wait to see the governor’s trailer bills before it will be able to estimate how the new “weighted” funding model could change the financial impact of the charter.

  • g

    “A group of parents…” I would imagine that would be the highly funded and well placed Pleasant Hill Education Foundation, and the Pleasant Hill Elementary School Foundation. They really need their own City Charter District. If anyone could pull that off it would be Pleasant Hill.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Pleasant Hill tried to secede from the district many years ago, but was unsuccessful.

  • g

    Many of those parents have moved over, and let the next-gen take the helm. Back then citizens were maybe more inclined to “ask” for things to go their way. This gen is more apt to take a firm stand for what they want their kids’ futures to look like. If they look out farther than the next couple of years, they will go for it again.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Also, some members of the Contra Costa County Board of Education have changed since the Walnut Creek attempt to secede was denied.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I see the district paid more than $600,000 to the Fortune School of Ed in December, along with more than $32,000 to Matt Juhl-Darlington:
    http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/7883fcd8-9f6b-4805-ac83-987160c62415.pdf

    Also, the long-awaited audit has arrived: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=4915&mtgId=336

  • g

    …and a board member there is a decision maker here…as I mentioned the other day.

    Maybe I should be charging for my fortune telling skills ;)

  • Theresa Harrington

    District to look at new boundaries for students who don’t want to attend CVCHS on Monday: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=4913&mtgId=336

    Here’s the link to the complete agenda: http://bit.ly/ydV22F

  • g

    I see the District had to pay back $83,996.96 in what they describe as “all other Federal money” for Glenbrook. I haven’t seen it yet, but that sounds like it was just “part” of what they had to pay back.

  • Doctor J

    @212&213 So does Julie Braun-Martin list her position as Director of Fortune School on her FPPC Form 700 ? Does her district position as Asst. Supt of Personnel constitute a conflict of interest in doing business with Fortune School ? BP 2310 might be violated by the large amount of this transaction which is within her area of supervision as an Assistant Supt.

  • g

    A copy of that Fortune contract would be helpful. That’s what I call alottabucks in one throw. How many teacher interns and for how long and at what schools? Coding spreads the expense out to the entire district.

    This is just one of those examples of why the district can’t pinpoint what actual school expenses really are. Every school pays a percentage to Central Services, but every school doesn’t benefit.

  • Doctor J

    The Board minutes approving the contract in Nov 2010 have disappeared ! According to the Agenda Julie Braun Martin approved the agenda item, and there is no disclosure on the Agenda of her conflict of interest as a Director of Fortune School.

  • Theresa Harrington
  • Doctor J

    The Fortune/MDUSD agreement, as I read it, does NOT provide any payment to Fortune, let alone over $600,000 for year 11/12. It appears that the only fund it could have come out of was General Fund as outlined in the first page summary. More egregious is that Fortune School wrote the agreement with Julie Braun Martin, Asst. Supt., signing for the District when in fact she was also a director of Fortune School. I don’t think it passes the smell test, it doesn’t pass the District’s conflict of interest provisions, it doesn’t seem to pass the FPPC rules, and who knows what state laws it may violate. An immediate investigation should be conducted, and full disclosure made to the public. If there was a similar payment in 10/11, it would put into question the entire audit for which approval is being sought.

  • Wait a minute

    Multiple Grand Jury complaints are needed immediately on this.

    Go to this link and dowloand the Complaint Form:

    http://www.cc-courts.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewpage&pageid=4186#matters

    I recomend filling it out by asking for an investigation regarding a probable conflict of interest with the expenditure of large amounts of public funds out and send it in.

    Attach any district agendas contracts, etc between the MDUSD and Fortune.

    Also include a print out of the Fortune Board of Directors listing MDUSD’s Asst Supt Julie Braun-Martin as a Director of the company that she is then doing business with in her official capacity as an MDUSD senior administrator.

  • g

    Maybe, out of the generous hearts of those footsie players at Dent (they know who they are), it was decided (somewhat spitefully) that since the district is rich in hoarded reserves right now, gained off the backs of those who couldn’t fight back; and before someone starts waving placards and suggests we give it to our students or our teachers or our janitors, we should just play benefactor to our high-tea friends and simply donate almost 2/3 of a million dollar$ and call it a match to Fortune’s student teacher stipend (or some such bull).

  • Wait a minute

    Here is the link showing Braun-Martin as a “Director” of the Fortune “School”:

    http://www.fortuneschool.us/leadership/board_of_directors.aspx

  • Theresa Harrington

    And here is information about the company’s name change: http://www.fortuneschool.us/main/news.aspx

  • Doctor J

    Don’t forget the Fair Political Practices Commission who has teeth for enforcement ! http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.php?id=498

  • Doctor J

    Would love to see the “invoice” from Fortune that MDUSD paid the $600,000 plus on ! Who signed the check ? A check that size should have raised the eyebrows of everyone !
    Has anyone gone to Dent to review Julie Braun Martin’s FPPC Form 700 for disclosure of her relationship with Fortune ?

  • Doctor J

    I hope Cheryl Hansen or any member of the public pulls the warrant list from the Consent Calendar and questions the expenditure, and requests the Board not approve it until full disclosure of ALL of the documents are made.

  • Theresa Harrington

    At the last board meeting, Hansen said she pulled an item from the consent calendar based on questions she received from the public (most likely via phone or email).

  • Doctor J

    Theresa, have you requested any information on this item from Richards or anyone else ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have requested a copy of the contract and invoice associated with that payment from Bryan Richards.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is the emailed response I received from Richards:

    “Fortune School of Education (formerly Project Pipeline) has a grant from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to provide the alternative certification for intern teachers program. An LEA in the State has to serve as their Fiscal Agent for processing the CTC grant funds. We have served as the fiscal agent for the grant for many years. The transaction you refer to below is the pass through of their grant funds from the State CTC. It is not a contracted services payment.”

  • g

    Please advise Mr. Richards that if he would simply update his own Budget & Fiscal Services Chart of Accounts website, much of which has not been updated since 2002, school site budgets not updated since 2003 and none of which has been updated since 2005, perhaps we could avoid these conflicts.

    Exactly what are all of the Program Codes 09xx? There are no 09s listed on the site.

  • Doctor J

    @231 — Was there ever Board approval ? And it still begs the question if JBM has ever disclosed her directorship on her Form 700 for FPPC.

  • g

    Dr. J, they embedded the 11/17 minutes in the Agenda for 1/11/11. It was all part of a Consent Agenda, so no discussion, 5 up, no down.

  • g

    And, it makes little difference whether JBM is an unpaid director. This district still hires, pays going teacher rate, and completes the training for what may be a very disproportionate number of students from the Fortune program.

    There are a lot of teaching schools and programs out there from which to choose intern candidates, and she should not be encouraged to play some sort of “sorority sister” hiring game.

  • Doctor J

    @TH #231 Did Richards provide you with ANY documentation on Fortune Schools like the current grant, the agreement between Fortune & MDUSD to serve as the LEA, or Board authorization ? I still don’t think the arrangement meets the MDUSD conflict of interest code, and failure to disclose the relationship in the FPPC Form 700 is problematic.

  • Doctor J

    Looks like MDUSD is much more than just a “pass through” on the grant — they appear to be partners with Fortune Schools on the grant. http://www.ctc.ca.gov/educator-prep/coa-agendas/2010-11/2010-11-item-06.pdf

  • Doctor J

    How much, if any, has MDUSD charged Pipeline/Fortune School according to Paragraph 3 of the agreement last modified in 2009 ? What is MDUSD’s liability, as a co-applicant, if Fortune misuses the grant ? http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/9c7adcb1-977d-48e1-8cb1-97bdb7310cbe.pdf

  • g

    Very interesting reading about Pipeline/Fortune over at the blog Mirabilis HubPages: this one for instance:

    Local School Rep 13 months ago

    I came across these blogs and I am a Principal w/a local school district in Contra Costa County. Our District use to hire at least 35-50 interns from Pipeline each year. This year we hired just two. Pipeline used have the edge on the intern market, but with new leadership and turning out poor quality interns(teachers), our school district is not hiring Pipeline students at all. I have seven former Pipeline students who have gone thru the program and every single teacher that works for me will not recommend this program to anyone. All of teachers have complained that they have very poor instructors, actually one of the Fortune’s kids teaches Credential courses and this person only has a BA degree in marketing, no Credentials at all. The other Fortune kid is the NEW CEO and this person has no Credentials at all or never taught public/private school. How can you produce quality educators when your instructors don’t have a Credential or never have taught in a public school? How can you run a Intern program or open charter schools when your CEO has never taught or lacks a public school credentials? How can you close the achievement gap when your entire motive is to make money??? In all reality we need to call our local government and stop state funding to this intern program.

  • Theresa Harrington

    No, Richards didn’t provide any backup. But, I could ask for it.

  • Doctor J

    Rolen is such a hypocrite in attacking at $1k small claims judgment but exposing the district to over a half million in liability by co-partnering on a grant with a small potatoes company and not requiring insurance or payment for MDUSD services or assurances of compliance.

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    Doctor J,

    Rolen isn’t a hypocrite, in my opinion he is performing a quid pro quo event for JBM. The real question is what does JBM have on Rolen that would convince him to do something like that?

  • frustrated

    When does Dr. J ever get any work done?

  • Theresa Harrington

    The Pleasant Hill Education/Advisory Commission plans to discuss the CVHS charter and Northgate HS at 7 p.m. Wednesday: http://bit.ly/y10qGl.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have heard an unconfirmed rumor that the district may consider allowing students who don’t want to go to the charter to attend Northgate HS.
    Unfortunately, however, the district’s agenda report doesn’t state what its recommendation is regarding school boundaries: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=4913&mtgId=336
    If the district is serious about improving accountability and transparency, it should include its boundary plan in the agenda packet, instead of unveiling it as a surprise at the meeting. At the board retreat last year, some trustees said they don’t want surprises at board meetings.
    UPDATE TO THIS COMMENT: I have learned that this rumor is speculation, based on the superintendent’s comments at the County Board meeting, in which he said that Northgate and Concord HS were the closest high schools. Actually, I believe YVHS is just as close as Northgate and has more available space.

  • g

    Theresa, I would predict that they will decide to “look at” hiring Jack Schreder to do yet another study. Then next meeting they will be presented with a contract that staff has already signed.

    In Dec, 2010 you reported: “According to Richards, the district has spent $305333 with the firm (Jack Schreder) since 2001″.

    Now, we’ve spent nearly half that amount again in just one year! As I mentioned in another thread, Schreder got a contract in May for $14,500. to take up to TWO YEARS to study realignment for just Meadow Homes and Delta View. (He was able to do a complete school closure study in just a couple of months!!!!)

    Jack Schreder has been paid $119,138.96 in the past 12 months. The only “study/report” of what those funds were for (roughly $70K) that I have seen was his School Closure Study. He has received payments for one thing or another in 9 of the last 12 months. Besides the Closure Study, what was the other $50K for and where are the reports?

  • g

    Theresa, Your remarks at 244 and 245 and the Agenda for PHEF tie together in an interesting way. Can we maybe presume that there has been a “private meeting” at Northgate much like the “private meeting” last week at College Park?

    It seems a discussion of “Attendance Boundaries” at Northgate are premature, at best, if no previous discussions have taken place with district officials.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I’m not sure we can assume anything. But, it’s interesting that the PH group wants to hear about Northgate HS.
    It’s also quite possible that members of the PH group attended the superintendent meeting last week.

  • Doctor J

    Has anyone spilled the beans on the last Friday’s meeting with Lawrence ? Or did I miss it ? As far as the Jack Schreder reports, has anyone done a public records request for both: all the invoices from Schreder and all the reports or correspondence, including electronic reports and emails from Jan 1, 2010 to the present ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Superintendent Steven Lawrence has assured me in an email that the rumor about plans to send students who don’t want to attend CVCHS to Northgate was not accurate.

    “No formal proposal is being made tonight,” he wrote. “We are looking for direction from the board prior to bringing anything formal forward.”