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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. Doctor J Says:

    I hope someone asks during the SIG presentation, where the Annual Evaluation for Cohort 1 is for the year 2010/2011 that was paid for and a draft delivered several months ago.

  2. g Says:

    With the school board no longer conflicting with City of Concord, Pleasant Hill or Martinez TV live time, I’m sure a very sweet deal could be worked out to get meeting school coverage. Each station uses their inactive time with re-run ad nauseum. Even the unions might be willing to forego a few dollars a month to pay for equipment to have meetings broadcast.

  3. g Says:

    Oh, Stalin is turning off the mic now? Cute!

  4. Doctor J Says:

    @G #3 What ?

  5. g Says:

    A speaker (against the Charter) was running over time, said she would continue since she had been interrupted, so they turned off the mic.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    @TH The internal auditor was approved as well as the audit ?

  7. g Says:

    Once again, John McNorthgate’s tenure has grown. Now he says he’s been there FOUR years. that’s a two year stretch of the truth–he started in Sept 09. I hope he doesn’t ever tutor math.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: For some unknown reason, the video you are seeing was from a previous meeting.
    Dr. J: No, the internal auditor was not approved, just the audit.

  9. g Says:

    15.7 HaHa. I hate to say I told you so. I at least thought it would get a second, but I knew it was never going to fly under this board. They do not want to be accountable, and they can’t afford to have their co-conspirators talk in public.

  10. g Says:

    Thanks Theresa, I wondered why there seemed to be sooo many anti Charter speakers.

  11. Alicia M. Says:

    The reaction, or lack thereof, from the board was pathetic and disappointing with regard to the Accountability Report. I hope that Ms. Hansen will place this motion again on the Board Agenda this November when we have two new board members.

  12. Doctor J Says:

    An expected reaction from Gary, Sherry and Linda, but I just don’t understand what Lynne Dennler envisions her job a TRUSTEE is. Trustee = Accountability.

  13. Wait a minute Says:

    G #9,

    I would say that Hansen’s proposal definetly takes EberMarsh and Mayo way out of their comfort zone if not to complete terror!

    As far as Dennerle I’m thinking she’s the type that always goes with the majority.

  14. Anon Says:

    A do nothing board member, like Denneler, may be worth recalling.

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dennler said very little during the entire meeting. Although she originally ran to be the voice of teachers, she said nothing after the vote of No Confidence report.

    Trustee Gary Eberhart, on the other hand, said he was surprised to learn about the plans to convert MDHS to an all-academy school. He said it was his idea to put the item on the agenda and that he wanted the board to be kept informed about the process.

    Also, Brian Lawrence, who ran for the board and lost in the last election, stayed until the end of the meeting (which lasted until 12:30 a.m.). He called the QEIA problem an unmitigated disaster and asked the board to consider the roles of trustees, administrators and the principal in the problem. He also said the district should put “succession planning” into place (something I have mentioned in my blog that is a priority well-run organizations such as the city of Walnut Creek).

    Lack of continuity in staff knowledge was apparent when Angie Goakey said she didn’t know the district had a policy of purchasing buses with air-conditioning for students in wheelchairs. After Eberhart pointed that out to her, she said she would have never brought forward the proposal to purchase a used wheelchair van without air conditioning, if she had known. It’s unclear why she didn’t read the district’s policies when she was hired — or why no one trained her regarding district policies.

    Also, Alicia Minyen pointed out how rosy staff projections can end up costing the taxpayers millions of dollars, when she explained that the COPS leases paid for with Measure C bond funds were originally projected to be paid for with cost-savings and other revenues. She questioned why those projections ended up being so erroneous and was met with silence.

    During the bus presentation, General Counsel Greg Rolen defended the transportation plan and said savings have been realized. He promised to present a transportation report to the board, but didn’t say when.

  16. Doctor J Says:

    Rolen says there is a “Transportation Plan”. Produce it !

  17. Doctor J Says:

    Special closed session called for tomorrow, Jan 25.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, Hansen asked about the “longterm transportation plan” and he said he would present it in the future. He promised to produce a bus inventory by this morning. “It exists,” he said.

    A lack of transparency was apparent last night when the SIG report was slipped in under the Superintendent’s Report and the recommendation regarding what to do with CVHS students who don’t want to attend the charter was made without any written staff report. Board President Sherry Whitmarsh appeared surprised when there were no speakers for that item. But, it’s hard to comment on a secret recommendation. That was in direct contradiction to the email Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent me yesterday, which promised that there would be no recommendation and that staff would merely seek board input. Hopefully, Felicia Stuckey-Smith will write out her recommendation in a staff report before the board votes on it next month. The practice of presenting recommendations in PowerPoint presentations that are not available to the public before the meeting effectively eliminates the public from the discussion.

    Dr. J: I believe Board President Sherry Whitmarsh announced there would be a special meeting regarding negotiations.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    Why didn’t Rolen as Director of Transportation and Gen Counsel know that the Wheelchair Van W/O Air Cond violated Board Policy ? What happened with his evaluation ? Since the agenda item did not specify whether any of these buses had or had not A/C, how did Gary find out the Van did not ?

  20. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence caught between his email representation yesterday that turned out to be opposite of staff’s recommendation: sure makes him look either like an idiot or a liar, and it seems to be happening with increasing frequency. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing or maybe it is purposeful.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Eberhart asked. It’s unclear why Rolen didn’t know. But, as the head of the department and general counsel, it would clearly be his jurisdiction.
    At the beginning of the meeting, Whitmarsh said the board would continue Rolen’s evaluation during closed session after the regular meeting. But, I don’t know if they ended up doing that, since the meeting ended so late (I don’t think they did).

    Regarding Lawrence’s email, his failure to reveal that a recommendation would be made hurts his credibility, as well as the district’s. It also damages public trust.

  22. Doctor J Says:

    Rolen ought to spend less time in Small Claims court and more time inventing the “Transportation Plan”.

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Goakey admitted that students are in jeopardy of being left stranded due to a bus shortage.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    Goakey, McDaniel and Rolen should realize that leaving children stranded due to known bus shortages could be charged as “Child Endangerment”. California Penal Code 273a punishes acts of child endangerment where a child is placed in a dangerous situation without taking steps to protect the child, even when the child suffers no actual injury.

    Next time Greg, it might not be Small Claims Court you are Summoned to. Going to represent yourself again ?

  25. Jim Says:

    re 15:10 — If I were Lawrence and committed to seeing CVCHS fail as a charter, so that I could bring it back under district control and get that blot off my resume, I would do everything possible to encourage families in the CVHS area to send their kids to other MDUSD high schools. If that meant filling up the Northgate parking lot with portables, so be it.

    Maybe that was the basis of John McMorris’s concern all along. He’s smart enough to recognize that a district like MDUSD will never give up a charter fight, if there’s any desperate measures left to try. Lawrence may say he is waiting for direction from the board, but really, except for Hansen, is there anyone on the board who would oppose such a plan?

  26. Doctor J Says:

    So what did Lawrence say the MDHS “no confidence” resolution “process” is ? Has he personally, as the direct supervisor of Kate McClatchy, met with the Teachers to hear the complaints ? If not, does he plan to ? When ?

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: He said Doris Avalos and Julie Braun-Martin were leading the process, which I’ll describe in a separate blog post. He kept using the word “we,” implying that he was involved. However, I’m not sure that he actually is involved.

    Jim: That wasn’t the recommendation. However, it is likely that Northgate could be filled to capacity with transfers. Lawrence said Northgate and Concord high schools were “contiguous,” but didn’t have enough capacity for all CVHS students. YVHS, on the other hand, does have capacity, he said.

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    One bright spot during the meeting was the presentation of the draft English learner master plan, which was widely praised:

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In looking more closely at the motion regarding the wheelchair van, it looks like the direction to purchase wheelchair vans with air conditioning was characterized as as “board directive,” instead of a board policy:

    Perhaps that’s why Goakey wasn’t aware of it. Are board directives posted somewhere for easy employee and public reference?

    Also, the staff report starts off by stating: “The Transportation Department (‘Department’) has been formulating a long-term plan to address our aging fleet.” This is the plan that Hansen was asking for.

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, I have posted an update to my blog post regarding the PH Ed Commission meeting tomorrow:

    The Pleasant Hill PIO pointed out the commission released a statement about the charter in December and said the Northgate rep has been invited to speak about quarterly feeder pattern meetings.

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a link to the SIG report:

  32. Doctor J Says:

    @#28 While the EL Master Plan draft is much better than the “no plan” currently in effect, there are some fatal ommissions. 1. No reference to the developing “Strategic Plan” — instead all references to Lawrence’s failed Goals & Objectives. 2. No estimates of cost implementation for the major changes without which it is impossible to determine if this plan is even do-able — just vague references to current funding programs that are being supplanted by the Gov’s current budget proposal. 3. In limited funding times like we are currently in, there needs to be some priorities established about phased in implementation with actual cost estimates and recommendations for the order of phases. 4. I found insufficient linkage between the May 2011 Norm Gold Report identified deficiencies and corrective action for those deficiencies. It is refreshing to see a plan developed by ACTUAL inclusion of many stakeholders. Kind of reminds me how a Strategic Plan is supposed to be developed — not the way the Goals & Objectives were developed.

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Unfortunately, the district has not posted the EL Master Plan Powerpoint:

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    To clarify, here’s what Lawrence wrote to me yesterday about the CVHS boundary presentation:

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

    Perhaps he doesn’t view a staff recommendation as a formal proposal:

  35. Doctor J Says:

    If Gary’s reference to a “board directive” for handicap van air conditioning was publicly discussed in a prior board meeting, I could find no mention of it in any of the recorded minutes of Board meetings by searching the electronic board minutes. Its kind of like his directive requiring Board approval on overnight and long distance travel that is now being completely ignored by staff. Its just a sound bite for his re-election campaign.

  36. Theresa Harrington Says:

    There was never a board directive banning overnight travel. Eberhart suggested it, but it was never approved by the board.

  37. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #36 I said it was “his [Gary’s] directive” — and at a subsequent Board meeting, administrators did seek Board approval for overnight travel. Next month is the annual extravaganza to Monterey for the Asilomar Conference — how many are we sending for how many nights and at what cost ? Irrelevant since it will be paid with categorical funds ? Gary didn’t think so last year — he said categorical funds were better used in the classroom.

  38. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Staff is not bound by directives given by individual board members. However, staff is required to follow board-adopted policies.

    Many years ago, when I was covering Concord, a city administrator tried to force a business owner to do something based on a “Mayoral Directive.” When I questioned this so-called directive, the city attorney said there was no such thing.

  39. Doctor J Says:

    I posted this on March 16, 2011:
    Fourth, I agree with Gary that travel, airplane trips, hotels and restaurants bought with categorical money can better be spent in the classroom. Lawrence only identified $14,000 of general fund money when
    we know from other reports that the total has been as high as over $500,000 — that’s a lot of categorical money.

    @TH — “required” ??? Brings us right back to “accountability”. Its taxpayer money, whether it comes from the district, the state or the federal government. I don’t think its an onerous requirement that all overnight, all airplane, and all long distance travel be submitted for Board approval on the consent agenda with estimates of total costs and sources of funding. The state imposed a travel ban — why shouldn’t MDUSD do the same ? Then lets talk about a cell phone reimbursement ban too like Gov. Brown imposed.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district has not followed the state’s lead in banning unnecessary travel or in requiring travel to be board-approved. It would certainly improve accountability and transparency if it were brought before the board.

    But, it would be hard for the district to claim — as it did in its audit response — that it is faced with “severe fiscal constraints,” if it is spending thousands of dollars sending administrators to conferences.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    It doesn’t take a Board directive — it just takes a Supt directive to require overnight, airplane or long-distance travel to have prior Board approval. Just like Gov. Brown showed leadership in his travel ban and cell phone ban, Lawrence could have shown the same leadership — but he didn’t. When the Supt didn’t act, the Board should have. After last year’s multi-night Mildred Browne Sacramento extravaganza boondoggle at the Marriott where the entourage learned how to solve disproportionality — it didn’t work since the district made the list again — there seems to be a more relaxed attitude as schools are trying to find ways of spending millions of dollars of grant money. They figure as long as they keep it under the radar, there are no restrictions. Taxpayers expect accountability for every tax dollar, whether it is local, state or federal.

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, followed the governor’s lead and banned nonessential travel in his department. But, he doesn’t have the authority to require school districts to use the same fiscal restraint. Perhaps if the County Office of Education recommended it, the district would follow such a guideline.

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The auditor found the district out of compliance with federal programs for failing to complete payroll certifications. An internal auditor, which Christy White recommended, likely could have helped to prevent such an oversight.

    Here is White’s recommendation, followed by the district’s response:

    “Finding #2010‐1: Internal Audit and Audit Committee (30000)

    Finding: The internal audit function in the District does not appear to have been effectively organized in the past and was eliminated during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009.  However, in a large district, these functions are an important part of the internal control structure, if properly organized and staffed appropriately.  The internal auditor should report to a Board approved committee and/or the Superintendent thus providing independence from the business functions. Areas of internal audit focus would typically include: compliance monitoring, audits of high fraud risks, special financial audits and performance audits.

    Recommendation: We recommend that the District consider reviving and restructuring the internal audit function to effectively monitor compliance and internal controls.

    Current Status:  The District has elected to not fill the internal audit position at this time due to severe fiscal constraints.”

    Such a position could likely also help monitor QEIA grant compliance.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    A year ago, while the District had amassed an undisclosed $43 million reserve in FY 09/10, and was maintaining that undisclosed reserve in FY 10/11, Eberhart and Lawrence were seeking “cost cutting” proposals from the public, most of which fell on deaf ears because those “in the know” really knew they had more than sufficient reserves and were just pulling a ruse on the public. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    In April 2011 State Supt. Torlakson with pressure from the Governor, cut out the Disneyland celebration for Distinguished Schools relieving districts of spending “scarce funds” to send administrators to the Disneyland celebration.

    Theresa’s post of April 29, 2011: Although Mt. Diablo school board President Gary Eberhart has suggested that the district eliminate overnight travel to cut costs, the superintendent has not recommended such a budget reduction. Instead, the idea has been added to a list of potential reductions to be considered in the future.
    Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson are taking decisive actions to eliminate such costs, due to the budget crisis.
    Following the governor’s lead, Torlakson issued a letter to district and county superintendents and charter school administrators today (Friday) canceling the May 2011 School Recognition Awards Ceremony at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.
    . . . “This difficult but necessary step will result not only in significant savings, but will also relieve districts of making an equally difficult decision whether to spend scarce funds to allow school staff to attend,” Torlakson wrote.

    Gov. Brown and Supt. Torlakson took decisive action, but Board President Eberhart and Supt. Lawrence did not. Just like the song . . . and so the story goes.

  45. Doctor J Says:

    The Auditor issued an “unqualified” for the Financial Statements because of finding “significant deficiencies” and “non-compliance material to the financial statements”. Shameful for a district that had a $43 Million budget excess.

  46. Anon Says:

    A standing O for the Times headline MT. DIABLO SCHOOLS-BOARD REJECTS PLAN TO IMPROVE TRANSPARENCY and AFTER MOTION IS MADE, IT STALLS FOR LACK OF ANYONE TO SECOND IT. This morning the Bay Area knows what’s going on . . .

  47. Doctor J Says:

    The TRUTH is being told . . . . .finally.

  48. Wait a minute Says:

    Having an UNQUALIFIED by their auditor on the Financial Statements is also very telling and completely unacceptable in the accounting world.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have just posted an update with a link to audio of the meeting:

  50. Alicia M. Says:

    Actually, an Unqualified opinion is positive and what is strived to be achieved. Unqualified opinions mean there the auditor found, based on their testing, no material misstatements in the finacial statements prepared by management. Qualified opinions are negative and are given by an auditor for various reasons, including that generally accepted accounting standards were not followed. Christy White mentioned there are no financial adjustments, however I believe the payroll audit was qualified because certain aspects of federal guidelines were not followed. Christy White did cite internal control deficiencies, but apparantely these weaknesses in internal controls did not warrant a qualified opinion pertaining to the financial statements.

  51. Wait a minute Says:

    I stand corrected, thanks for explaining the terminology Alicia.

  52. 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:

  53. 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.

  54. Alicia M. Says:

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

  55. 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.

  56. 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?

  57. 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?

  58. 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.

  59. 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:

  60. 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:

  61. 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:

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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?

  65. 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.

  66. 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”

  67. g Says:

    Here’s a link:

  68. Doctor J Says:

    Is MDUSD next for a voting rights lawsuit ?

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. 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.

  72. 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.

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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 ?

  77. 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.

  78. 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” ?

  79. 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.

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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:

  83. 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.

  84. Doctor J Says:

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

  85. 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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