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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.

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