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Live blog of Jan. 23 MDUSD board meeting

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, January 23rd, 2012 at 7:54 pm in Education.

Here is a link to the agenda:

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said the board will continue its closed session after the meeting to evaluate the general counsel.


Adopted except 9.15, 9.17, 9.19 and 9.28 (which were pulled): Passed 5-0

9.19 regarding sale of bonds.
Alicia Minyen, who is a member of the Bond Oversight Committee, said she hopes the district will oversee the risks and make report to the public regarding the yields and make sure the net present value savings is realized over time.

9.17: Willie Mims questioned the new grading system.

9.28 Willie Mims raised questions about contract with Alpha! Innovation through Education to provide supplemental tutorial services to eligible students at nine Title I schools.

9.15: MOU with Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and the Mt. Diablo CARES After School Program. Trustee Linda Mayo pulled this item to highlight the partnership, which Stephanie Roberts described.

Superintendent Lawrence said the bond sales are saving taxpayers money.
Trustees unanimously approved each of the above items.

7:45 p.m.: High school student reps are reporting on activities at their schools.


1.Joseph Partansky: Said citizens can pull items from the consent calendar. He also referenced the “Tax on California Oil and Natural Gas: Revenues to Education” initiative, which is being proposed for the November election.

2. Clayton Councilman David Shuey: Asked the board to create a subcommittee composed of city council members and the superintendent that would meet regularly.

3. Joe Medrano, vice mayor of Clayon: Said the council wants to start the healing process after the charter and asked General Counsel Greg Rolen to call the Clayton attorney regarding the Clayton gym billing.

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said Rolen has called the attorney back.

4. Janet Fitzpatrick: Asked for CST hours to be restored, so the district can restore employees’ trust.

5. Debbie Roberts: Expressed concerns about transportation budget cuts on behalf of M&O bus drivers. Said Deb Cooksey said dist is looking at replacing door-to-door service with cluster pickup points. Asked the district to use reserves to serve the students.

6. Dawn Bennett: Parent who also works for the district asked the district to expand busing for general ed students.

7. Willie Mims: Asked board to appeal County Board approval of CVHS charter.

8. Alicia Minyen: Said district has illegally used bond premiums to pay for bond issuance costs and asked district to investigate and return $3.4 million to taxpayers.

13.1 Dist orgs

1. Annie Nolen: On behalf of CSEA, complained that the district is trampling on their contract.

2. Debbie Hickey: Asked district to restore cuts to CST union members.

14.0 Superintendent’s Report
Lisa Boje reported on School Improvement Grants.

15.1 Coordinator, SS 6-8: Board unanimously appointed Cheri Scripter

15.2 Coordinator, SS 9-12 for Olympic HS: Board unanimously appointed Cheri Scripter to this too.

15.3: Coord. SS 9-12: MDHS: Jarrod Bordi: Board unanimously approved.

15.4 Extended year summer program admins: Board unanimously approved several administrative appts, as outlined in agenda report.

15.5 Purchase of used buses
Board unanimously agreed to purchase six 42-passenger buses.
General Counsel Greg Rolen promised to bring a transportation plan to the board.

Linda Mayo moved to purchase wheelchair van according to agenda item 15.5.
Trustee Gary Eberhart moved to table the motion. The board approved this motion 4-1.

15.6 Audit
Alicia Minyen urged board to hire an internal auditor, as recommended by Christy White.
Approved unanimously.

15.7 Board accountability report
Alicia Minyen outlined how the district failed to realize savings on previous lease agreements and urged the board to approve an accountability progress report, so the district could update the public on meeting projected goals.
Cheryl Hansen moved approval of the accountability progress report.
There was no second.

15.8 English learner master plan
9:45 p.m.: Jeanie Duarte-Armas is presenting the plan.
Four people spoke in favor of the plan.
Several meetings will be held for input on the plan, including one from 9:30-11:30 a..m. Thursday and one from 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1. The public is invited to both of these meetings.

Trustees praised the plan and the process.

15.9 Budget Update
10:14 p.m. CFO Bryan Richards is presenting the budget.
If the governor’s tax proposal doesn’t pass, the district would lose about $370 per student.
Gary Eberhart said $370 per student is roughly $12 million in MDUSD.
Richards said the Powerpoint is on the ESB website.

Board agreed to extend meeting to 12:30 a.m.

15.10 CVHS attendance area
Felicia Stuckey-Smith recommended creating a gray area and allowing parents to choose preferred schools, which would be assigned based on class seniority and available space. Trustees agreed to vote on this recommendation in February.

15.11 Strategic plan
Board will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22. Comments can be submitted to principals and most recent draft is online.

15.12 Public input and informational meetings for board and supt
Cheryl Hansen urged the board and superintendent to hold three meetings in the next two months: in Bay Point, Concord and Walnut Creek. Trustee Gary Eberhart said he preferred to send a couple of board members and the superintendent to every school in the district over a period of two years. Trustees expect to vote on the idea next month.

15.13 MDHS update
Superintendent Lawrence reported on the process and several teachers spoke out against Principal Kate McClatchy’s leadership. Trustee Gary Eberhart said he wanted the board to be kept informed about the process.

15.14 Involuntary transfer to Olympic Continuation High School
Mike Langley cautioned the board to think about the consequences on the existing students at Olympic and Willie Mims agreed with him.

JAN. 25 UPDATE: Here is a link to audio of the meeting:

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85 Responses to “Live blog of Jan. 23 MDUSD board meeting”

  1. Wait a minute Says:

    I stand corrected, thanks for explaining the terminology Alicia.

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The link to audio for the meeting has been removed from the district website:

    However, the district has added the English Learner Master Plan PowerPoint to its online agenda:

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have posted a blog item about the draft English Learner Master Plan:

    The public can weigh on tomorrow morning and Feb. 1 or anytime online until 3 p.m. Feb. 10.

  4. Alicia M. Says:

    @51 – No problem. It is confusing terminology, especially when “qualified” can mean competent.

  5. g Says:

    and “unqualified” can mean you just “barely slipped by” being found criminally at fault for misrepresenting the use of Federal and State funds.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Linda Mayo asked if there was any penalty for the district’s failure to properly fill out the federal payroll forms, other than the embarrassment the district was now facing. Bryan Richards said he didn’t think so, since most of the forms had been completed since the district received the audit finding. However, he said the district needs to stay on top of that in the future.

    At another point in the meeting, Hansen said the district frequently appears to be reactive, desperately trying to put out fires.

    The SASS Dept. is stressing, “first, best instruction” for teachers, so they don’t have to reteach lessons because they didn’t do it right the first time. That same principle could be applied to the business side of the district: first, best management and operations practices would prevent the kinds of hasty reactions seen in the case of QEIA, the purchase of used buses and last-minute payroll form completion.

    The public could reasonably ask: what else may be slipping through the cracks that could become a major issue in the future?

  7. g Says:

    It would be good to know the value and cost of the buses that are no longer usable. Scrap metal prices are very high right now.

    Have they licensed and insured vehicles that are not road worthy? There are at least a hundred buses sitting there. Just how many of them are unusable? Why aren’t they being scrapped to boost funds to buy new buses?

    Oops–Has the district “refinanced” unusable vehicles?

    Why didn’t anyone on the board ask these simple questions?

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Hansen asked for a complete listing of the bus inventory and Rolen said he would get it to her by the next morning. I’m not sure if it included values.

    However, Rolen said some calculations were complicated and difficult to figure out. As previously mentioned, he promised to present a long-term transportation plan (but didn’t say when). Superintendent Steven Lawrence said the district might need more information about whether the governor’s proposed transportation cuts will be implemented, before the district could complete such a report.

  9. g Says:

    They recently applied for a BAAQMD Grant to buy some new Natural Gas buses and vans. In order to qualify, as I recall they had to promise to “replace” dirty diesel buses. That, plus the request/purchase of the 19 new buses last year would, one would think, have been dependent on having a pretty good idea of exactly what the viable fleet is.

    They are required by law to get in compliance with the On-Road Heavy-Duty Truck and Bus Compliance by 1/31, but reporting has been extended to March.

    Since the district is soooo good at sayint “I didn’t know that, nobody ‘invited’ me to read the regulations”, and then begging for forgiveness— maybe we can suggest that whomever might be reading this (we know you are…) check it out:

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, if you’re interested in following CCT journalists on Twitter, here’s a handy website that lists reporters, along with most talked about stories of the day and recent tweets:

  11. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an inspiring look at how a Nevada district with the state’s Superintendent of the Year is using its SIG to turnaround a school:

  12. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, thanks for the inspiration of Nevada — they are doing some wonderful work. By Constitution, each school district in NV is by County. For example, Las Vegas, Clark County, has the fifth largest school district in the nation. Nevada has some “on line” charter schools that have enrolled more than 4,000 sutdents — rural, wiz kids who are bored with school, kids who hate school, and the whole spectrum. There is an opportunity for all; California could learn a lot from its eastern neighbor.

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I was recently contacted by someone from CA Virtual Academy, who said there are many online students in the East Bay. Also, a teacher in Orinda works for the company, instructing students online and during weekly in-person meetings.

    FYI, I have submitted a PRA to Greg Rolen asking for all the materials provided by Alicia Minyen to him at the Monday board meeting (substantiating her allegations), detailed soft costs for the 2010 Measure C bond and a copy of the bus inventory he said he would provide to Trustee Cheryl Hansen.

  14. g Says:

    More relevant than a fleet inventory would be proof that they have spent funds in line with the allocation requests. Anyone can count over 100 buses/vans parked on the lot.

    In Oct 2009 they said they had 50 vehicles that needed to be retrofitted for clean air standards, and 50% of those had to be done by 1/1/12, and the rest over the next two years.

    They got a grant from BAAQMD for $478,272. to do 25 vehicles in 2009.

    Did they, in fact, retrofit those 25 buses?

    Then last year they did finance 19 new buses from a company in Columbus, OH. The records are online.

    Then in June, 2011 they requested a grant from BAAQMD to purchase another 15ea. 78-passenger buses at a cost of $199.9K each through a company in Sacramento. They were given enough funds to buy 10 such buses.

    Did they, in fact, buy those 10 new buses?

    Now they ask to buy somebody else’s troubles with “used” buses? Where? What school district can afford to sell good usable buses?

    Are they buying rather than repairing the fleet to meet those 1/1/12 mandates from BAAQMD?

  15. Doctor J Says:

    A Public Records Act request to BAAQMD would go a long way to peeling the onion and then comparing with the MDUSD records to see what really happened.

  16. g Says:

    Lisa V. has a good article that just came up. It seems Cheryl Hansen isn’t the only public official that thinks ALL government agencies should have their toes held to the fire under the proposed “Government Performance and Accountability Act”

  17. g Says:

    Here’s a link:

  18. Doctor J Says:

    Is MDUSD next for a voting rights lawsuit ?

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just spoke to Board President Sherry Whitmarsh, who told me trustees did not go back into closed session after Monday’s public meeting, because it was so late.
    She said the board expects to hold a special closed session meeting Feb. 2 or 7 (she didn’t have her calendar in front of her) to discuss General Counsel Greg Rolen’s evaluation.

  20. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon #14. I now concur with you — action should be taken to get the recall peitition moving against Lynne Dennler so that there will be 3 vacant seats on the board during the November election. Frankly, her resignation would be preferrable as it would save the district a boatload of money.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It will be interesting to see how Dennler interacts with other board members at the Feb. 4 retreat. Last year, she asked very basic questions about the Brown Act and how a board operates. After a year in elected office, it is unclear how comfortable or confident she is in her position.

    She has made some strong statements during her tenure:
    – After the board agreed to close Glenbrook MS, she advocated for the district to provide busing to displaced students.
    – After the MDUSD CVHS charter vote, she advocated for a committee to look into problems at schools.

    She did not comment on Trustee Cheryl Hansen’s idea of holding meetings to allow the public to give feedback to trustees and the superintendent on their job performance. That is up for a vote on Feb. 6.

    And perhaps she will weigh in on Transitional Kindergarten. She seems most comfortable discussing things that impact elementary teachers, since that is where he experience lies.

  22. g Says:

    and yet, after advocating for a committee to look into problems at schools, Dennler dummied up on the issue of progress and accountability last week.

    She gives every appearance of someone who sat quietly throughout her teaching years and did just what she was told to do; never did her own research on anything, and never looked an issue directly in the face.

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Don’t be deceived by Dennler’s quiet demeanor on the board. In speaking to her privately, I’ve found her to be very strong-willed and opinionated about things that affect teachers at school sites.
    In particular, she said she wished her principal had given her valuable feedback about how she could improve, based on classroom evaluations. Although principals are supposed to be instructional leaders under the SASS model, some may not have the expertise themselves to be able to “coach” teachers to be better instructors.
    Dennler was also critical of the district’s English learner program and the push toward mandatory Curriculum Associates testing.
    She said she ran because she felt the board and district administrators were out of touch with classroom teachers.
    During the board’s strategic planning session, she agreed with Trustee Gary Eberhart that the district should improve its discipline policies and complained about a student in her class who threw a chair.
    It will be interesting to hear her reactions to the English Learner Master Plan, when it comes to the board, as well as to the evolving strategic plan.
    It’s unclear why she doesn’t speak more during board meetings.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    I believe that Dennler has been misguided by Mayo into believing she should not read blogs and should not voice her opinions at Board Meetings. Apparently they have become inseparable twins in visiting school sites always accompanied by Rose Lock.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Now that Eberhart has insisted that the board take oversight of the district’s response to the MDHS vote of No Confidence, it will be interesting to see if Dennler joins him in asking tough questions about who decided to transform the school to an all-academy model and who was involved in the planning.
    Teachers at MDHS say they are rising up against top-down management. Dennler recognizes that research-based initiatives, such as academies, can be effective. But, she also told me that she and another teacher spent hours developing their own curriculum and tests based on state standards, which were tailored to their students. But when she tried to share their work with others, she was told that it wasn’t “research-based.” This was very frustrating to her, because it appeared that her own in-the-classroom experience wasn’t valued as much as something that could be validated by a researcher.
    Similarly, teachers at MDHS know that academies have great potential. But, they feel their in-the-classroom observations about potential problems with the model are being ignored.

  26. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#75 Eberhart can’t “insist” on anything, especially that the Board take oversight of a teacher driven vote of “No Confidence”. Have you forgot the quote from Jan 24 by that nationally respected Education reporter: “Staff is not bound by directives given by individual board members. However, staff is required to follow board-adopted policies.” Is there a Board adopted policy ?

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I don’t think there’s a board policy regarding votes of No Confidence. Regarding the plans being developed, Eberhart said he would need to look at board policies to see if the all-academy plan would need board approval. Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said she didn’t think it did, since in her opinion, it is like changing to a block schedule, which can be done without board approval. However, Whitmarsh agreed that such a change should be collaboratively agreed-on by site staff and parents.
    Eberhart said he wants to understand how the planning process has unfolded. It remains to be seen whether that process will be publicly revealed during a board meeting. Questions I sent to Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Principal Kate McClatchy about the process have not been answered.

  28. Doctor J Says:

    @#77 When McClatchy was appointed Principal on June 22, 2010 at the Board Meeting, there was a specific question directed to the Board, which Eberhart and the Board ignored. The minutes state: “Dan Reynolds, English teacher at Mt. Diablo High, expressed concern that administrative changes were made at the school during the summer without input from staff. He asked the Board how the principal swap will affect the restructure plan as he would like to offer his input and help. ” Why did the Board not question Lawrence at that time about the “restructure plan” ? Now the Board wants to go back and “unring the bell” ?

  29. Doctor J Says:

    Will someone please tell Gary, Sherry and Linda that the Board unanimously approved the MDHS Academy Plan on January 12, 2010. “•Continue to successfully operate three California Partnership Academy funded Academies and two Academies that do not receive funds to provide students with opportunities and course work to prepare them for college and career readiness.” I guess that it would be really important for the Board to read the agenda items before voting on them, instead of just rubber stamping them.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    Also, Gary, Sherry and Linda further approved the MDHS Academy plan by ALSO voting unanimously in 2011 and 2012 to approve the “Single Plans for Student Achievement”, which referenced the Academy program. And lets not forget the unanimous Board approval of the QEIA Grant which referenced the Academy plans, PLUS the recent approval of QEIA appeal. Board members are really expected to read the Agenda and attachments before voting on these proposals. Lets not forget that Linda has visited the campus and seen it in action.

  31. g Says:

    Theresa @ 73; Dennler’s strong opinions are worthless without the where-with-all to have the courage of her own convictions when it is time to speak publicly and vote those convictions, even when it is going against the board majority.

    She does seem to be likable, but we need a very well rounded board member who is more than just a one trick pony looking out for grammar school teachers’ interests.

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Just because someone visits the campus doesn’t mean they know what the future plans are. I also spoke to former board member April Treece, who works closely with two of the MDHS academies in her work for the Contra Costa Council’s Economic Workforce Partnership. Yet, she said she was not aware there was a plan to convert the school to “wall-to-wall” academies.
    However, you make good points about references to the academies in board-approved documents. It’s clear that board members know there are academies on the campus. The question is whether they knew there was a plan to completely convert the campus to all academies.
    Also, I think at least one parent has spoken against this plan during public comment in the past.
    Here is my story about the controversy:

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have completed a blog post about the plan to convert MDHS to all academies, which includes video from the Jan. 23 meeting:
    The possible loss of QEIA funding is also discussed by some commenters.

  34. Doctor J Says:

    What action was reported out of the Jan 25 Special Board meeting ?

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The superintendent’s secretary told me she wasn’t aware of any report out and that it would likely be delivered at the Feb. 6 meeting. Mike Langley told me the district has agreed to another day of negotiations Feb. 9:

    On another note, Trustee Gary Eberhart says the city-district committee suggested by Clayton Vice Mayor Joe Medrano and Councilman David Shuey is not necessary:

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