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Live blog of MDUSD Governance Workshop

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, February 4th, 2012 at 9:48 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

During public comment, Walnut Creek parent Linda Loza urged the board to adopt the accountability progress reports — or at least second the motion so trustees can discuss the idea on Monday.

Facilitator outlined CSBA effective governance system:

“I, the trustee – individual’s attitude:

I keep learning and achievement for all students as the primary focus.

I value, support and advocate for public education

I respect differences of perspective and style on the board and among staff, studenrs, parents and the community.

I understand that manner and behavior make a difference.

I keep confidential information confidential.

I commit the time and energy necessary to be an informed and effective leader.

I understand the role and responsibilities of the board.

I understand that authority rests with the board as a whole.

I work hard to build and sustain an effective governance team.”

Video is at\tharrington.

Trustees and superintendent are introducing themselves to each other.

Trustees together have 147 years of direct experience with district and Superintendent Steven Lawrence has 24 years of education experience. Trustees have more experience in community and Lawrence brings “fresh eyes.”

Facilitator told trustees they are elected to represent the people. Employees have accountability. She asked how trustees are held accountable.

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said that happens at election time.

Facilitator said respect includes body language, the way we talk, tone, incorporating other peoples ideas into what we say, and identifying common ground. She stressed the importance of Keeping remarks brief and to the point.

Trustees shared why they ran for elected office:

Whitmarsh: To ensure that our students have the best education possible using the resources available.

Trustee Linday Mayo: To bring a parent voice or parent perspective to the board table and to honor the work that administration, classified and certificated staff do in the district.

Trustee Cheryl Hansen: To ensure that student learning is the primary focus and to ensure that the community has a real voice in guiding our work around student learning.

Lawrence agreed with what others said.

Trustee Gary Eberhart agrees with others and said he wants to motivate students to be there because he didn’t feel that he got that when he was a student in the district.

Trustee Lynne Dennler said that as a teacher in the district, she had always felt that things were very top-down. “I really want to make sure that the voices of the staff are heard. I really enjoyed teaching and wanted to offer my students the best education possible and I want to be sure we continue to do that and not get distracted with fads.”

Trustees shared their greatest wishes for the future:

Eberhart: To help students achieve goals.

Dennler: See that students have a balanced education, including arts and sports, to educate the whole person.

Lawrence: That the state of California makes education a funding priority that is competitive with the national average and creates a plan to get us there.

Hansen: I’d like to talk about what is possible rather than what we don’t have, to improve morale. Focus on what is possible in terms of enhancing resources and focus on the public to help us. Mt. Diablo should not be seen as a victim.

The facilitator admonished Hansen not to editorialize and said it is important for school boards to advocate for more money.

Mayo: Include families and staff around the importance of the work. Stop the blame game that a particular school or district can’t achieve and support programs districtwide. I feel like we’ve lost a sense of family. I undertstand that there are factors. MDUSD does great work, even though we have schools that are high-performing and low-performing.

Whitmarsh: That we would attract and retain highly-qualified staff in all areas.

Dennler: Added that district and staff should embrace changes necessary for students and staff as we move into the future.

After a break, trustees talked about the work of a school board.

Eberhart said it brings the concerns of citizens to the act of governance. But the facilitator pointed out that citizens aren’t all in agreement. They agreed that work is complicated by the structures above the district at a state and local level.

Facilitator said the public has the right to believe that the work is happening at the board table. “Make sure you do you work in the public’s eye,” she said.

Mayo said it’s important to carry integrity from the campaign into the board.

Dennler said she didn’t initially view the board as a team.

Facilitator: Your authority is as a body. She joked that trustees could have a bumper sticker that says: “Board members do it in public.”

She said individual board members do not have authority to fix problems. She said trustees should not step out of their roles and are not represented by legal counsel as individuals.

11:10 a.m. I have to leave and will not be able to cover the rest of the meeting. However, the facilitator said she would write up a draft plan based on the feedback from the board, which she is writing on large sheets of paper.

I invite anyone else who attended the meeting to comment on what else happened.

FEB. 6 UPDATE: Here are video clips of the portion of the meeting I attended.

Facilitator explains the role of the board: (A portion of this is dark because I thought I had turned off the recording, but it was still going.)

CSBA Governance brochure:

Facilitator explains what the workshop will include:

Facilitator talks to trustees about stakeholders and tells them the public has the right to believe that the board is doing its work at the board table:

Trustees introduce themselves to each other, telling about their experience in the district, in education and something the others may not know about them:

Trustees tell each other why they wanted to serve on the board:

Next, trustees talked about their greatest hopes and wishes. Unforunately, I didn’t get Eberhart’s comments on video. Here’s video of Dennler and Lawrence stating their hopes and wishes:

Trustees Cheryl Hansen and Linda Mayo share their greatest wishes, followed by Board President Sherry Whitmarsh: The facilitator asks Hansen not to editorialize, then says she will editorialize.

Trustee Lynne Dennler adds that she would like the district to embrace the changes necessary for students and staff in the future (ie technology):

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

63 Responses to “Live blog of MDUSD Governance Workshop”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Other than the Supt, what district staff are in attendance ?

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Julie Braun-Martin, Rose Lock and a Delta View teacher are also in attendance, along with three district parents. Unfortunately, I have to leave now because of other obligations.

  3. Doctor J Says:

    Linda Mayo’s true stripes showed: she is a rubber stamp to the administration and staff, even when they are wrong. Her commnent: “to honor the work that administration, classified and certificated staff do in the district”. That is the role she thinks a Board member should be.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    Best comment of the day by facilitator: “Board members do it in public.” That directly is opposite of Gary, Sherry, and Linda continued work in secret with staff, failure to report it at the board meetings, and having important votes without questioning staff in public view, and without commenting on why they are making certain important votes. Otherwise, from Theresa’s live streaming, it appeared the facilitor was one of the worst educators I have seen and certainly should not qualify to teach. Her methods and delivery were atrotious. Even Gary needed a diet Coke to stay awake.

  5. Anon Says:

    Mayo wants the district to be a family? No, family are the people you see at Thanksgiving. Whitmarsh’s introduction said the district is a $270 mil business which is more accurate. We are the customers and ready to check out now

  6. Wendy Lack Says:

    “The facilitator admonished Hansen not to editorialize and said it is important for school boards to advocate for more money.”

    This statement by the facilitator puzzles me because:

    1) I don’t interpret it as “editorializing” but, rather, as a stated preference for the Board’s mindset; and

    2) it appears [to me, as a District resident] that the Board places an undue emphasis on money. Thus I’m disappointed that the facilitator’s comment to Hansen stifled discussion of an this aspect of public perception and concern.

    Theresa, thank you for covering this meeting. We are not all available to attend public meetings on Saturdays!

  7. Linda L Says:

    That is exactly what happened and I completely agree with you about the community’s perception. Everyone editorialized and yet only Hansen was admonished for it. Clearly the facilitator had been provided one side of the story before the workshop had even started.

    When Lawrence brought up the topic I immediately thought here we go again. I was happy to hear Cheryl’s wish and shocked to hear the facilitator’s response.

  8. Anon Says:

    The facilitator criticized Hansen for editorializing then went on several times – “and I’m editorializing now”- to do the same thing. This is what we got for $2000? A canned program with a predetermined outcome? What a waste of money!

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I forgot to mention that Bryan Richards was also there at the beginning, but I’m not sure if he may have left early.

  10. g Says:

    Did we not expect the facilitator to smile nicely, and step lightly for our two CSBA Delegates, Gary and Linda? Please. This was nothing more than a contribution to the education machine.

  11. Jim Says:

    In the bizarro world of the MDUSD Board, where Cheryl Hansen is treated is the “odd one”, we can begin to see why it has been so difficult to get a reasonably competent person to run for a seat. We have long passed the tipping point where dysfunction, confusion, and passivity became the new “normal”.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Wendy, unfortunately, I could only stay for two hours, so I’m not able to report on the entire meeting.
    However, I did shoot some video clips and will post those later.

  13. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Jim:
    Masochists only need apply.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just remembered that Jan Tresize, a Clayton resident who ran and lost in the last election, was also there at the beginning. I think she may have left early, but I remember her chatting with some of the trustees during the first break.

  15. Anon Says:

    Wasn’t Jan Tresize the one who withdrew during the tv debate and next morning said just kidding? Heaven help us if she runs again and splits the vote! This year for a change let’s get some seriously good candidates from other areas of the district like Bay Point and North Concord, even Walnut Creek or Pleasant Hill. Get a real parent with kids in the schools from Pleasant Hill. Gerry-n-Shary can retire.

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: Yes, Tresize said during the televised candidate forum that she was so impressed with the other candidates she didn’t feel the need to run after all. Later, she reversed herself. I believe she finished last in the election.
    As I have previously mentioned, I have seen Brian Lawrence (who also ran and lost in the last election) at several board meetings. I believe he lives in Concord and I know he has young children in the district.
    I believe that Jeff Adams (who has run and lost twice) is still active in UMDAF. He lives in Concord and has children in the district. I last saw him at a board meeting when he presented the UMDAF budget proposal.
    Although Trustee Linda Mayo said she represents parents, her children are grown adults. There are many parents with school children in Pleasant Hill who are active in the Pleasant Hill Education Commission.
    Walnut Creek has created a foundation called PEAK and Walnut Creek Schools Together Now. Bay Point has its MAC. Debra Mason, who ran many years ago and lost, is still active in that community.
    Parents who are active on the Parent Advisory Committee, CAC, BAC and BOC may be less likely to run against incumbents, since many of them appear to support the status quo.

  17. Doctor J Says:

    Is CAC agenda for Tuesday evening posted on the Website as required by new Brown Act law ?

  18. Doctor J Says:

    Weekend addition to Board agenda ? I did not previously notice that there was ANOTHER General Counsel evaluation for tonight. Did I miss that or was this a weekend addition [violating the 72 hour Brown Act requirement] ?

  19. Wait a minute Says:

    Another example of pervasive manipulation by the board majority.

    Their selection of this facilitator who ripped into Cheryl Hansen anytime she wanted to talk about the MDUSD leadership’s myriad problems and treated the other board members with kid’s gloves.

    This was probably due to the fact that at the last board retreat that facilitator Kirk Berger stressed openess, honesty, civility and strategic planning for the board. So there was no way that Berger was going to be hired again by this board majority.

    I agree Dr J that these constant “evaluations” of Rolen and Lawrence are probably being used instead to meet in closed session for EberMarsh/Mayo to talk about how they “have to support” these people.

    Because to not do so is bad for the district instead of what they should do which is rip them and fire them for their incompetent, crisis-driven performances. Of course that course of action would be tantamount to admitting failure by themselves!

  20. Anon Says:

    wam, bad for the district? i heard recently some district loyalists think the press has been too negative. i disagree having the opposite viewpoint. the bottom line is the press cant report on myriad problems unless they are true . . .

  21. Doctor J Says:

    The TRUTH sometimes can be negative — so does that mean we should only report on the TRUTH when it is positive ? Not in my mind.

  22. Helll Freezing Over Says:

    When someone states comment / coverage / press are negative, they are trying to deflect and redirect away from the true issue instead of addressing the actual issue itself.

    It would be more beneficial for all involved (including the public who have a right to know about the issue and how it will be addressed)to state the issue is being reviewed, who is reviewing / actioning, and when a response is expected to be provided. Then actually following up and do the hard work of reviewing/researching, responding with an action plan or resolution.

    Heck,that may even be easier than crying about how
    negative the press is …

  23. g Says:

    Interesting the difference between what Fairfield-Suisun District gave their board and public to consider last year and what MDUSD gives us.

    We get an Agenda stating that they will pay $2,000. for (somebody) from CSBA to facilitate a Governance workshop by coming here to read to them what is already easily and readily available to read from the internet.

    FSUSD, was asked to consider a contract with Kirk Berger (also from CSBA)of $3,150.00, to a) facilitate each of their quarterly evaluations and b) the annual Superintendent evaluation, c) combined with attaining board consensus–including working with minority members desires. For this, Kirk Berger was required to provide a detailed “proposal”, as well as his resume’, and it is all published.

  24. g Says:

    Sorry, here’s the link:

  25. Doctor J Says:

    G — how about a link ?

  26. Doctor J Says:

    The public got ripped off by Gary, Sherry and Linda not staying with Kirk Berger. That kind of process seems worth the $3150. Saturday’s session was a farce.

  27. g Says:

    The agreement with MDUSD stated that in the week prior to the meeting, the facilitator would call each member to interview them. She obviously had already been told that Hansen was frequently an oppositionist who did not want a facilitator at all. So, to protect the funding for the “money machine” that CSBA is, the facilitator was prepared to put her down.

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It would also help if the superintendent would return my calls. It’s difficult to give the district administration’s side of the story if they don’t respond.
    So far, neither McClatchy nor Lawrence has responded to my questions about the all-academy plan at MDHS, which McClatchy requested in writing and which Lawrence tried to deflect to McClatchy.
    Also, I will post video that corroborates my reporting regarding the workshop.

  29. g Says:

    Theresa; A blank stare, followed by some expletives deleted, followed by another blank stare is a form of response.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#28, Often the reporting appears to be “negative” because the District refuses to answer your questions or give its side of the response. One can only assume that is because they have nothing positive to say. All they want to do is delay your story. When they don’t respond to you in a timely manner, they have nothing to complain about.

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have been speaking with Jeanne Duarte-Armas about coming to observe a pilot EL class and presentation she will give at a school.
    She wrote to me in an email: “I don’t think there is opposition to having you attend the presentation for more information for an article.”
    Opposition from whom, I wonder?

  32. Doctor J Says:

    Who ? The chain of command: Rose Lock, Steven Lawrence, Gary Eberhart, Sherry Whitmarsh, and Linda Mayo. Theresa, which one of these administrators/trustees frequently returns your calls ? As I recall, the last time Rose Lock finally returned one of your many calls, she feigned lack of knowledge on matters she should have clearly known. I believe there is a clear pattern of avoiding the truth becoming public, avoiding answering press questions, and concealing the administrative failures. Think about it. After Lawrence arrived and formed SASS, why did Jen Sachs and Denise Rugani, along with others, abandon ship so quickly ?

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Rose Lock is very busy and usually returns my calls, unless she believes someone else is responsible for whatever I’m calling about. This was the case with QEIA, for which she passed me onto Lorie O’Brien.
    I don’t believe that Steven Lawrence has returned a call of mine in months. He usually follows up with an email, asking for questions in writing.
    Gary Eberhart, Sherry Whitmarsh and Linda Mayo all return my calls. Trustees Cheryl Hansen and Lynne Dennler are more difficult to reach, since Hansen is often in meetings during the day and Dennler doesn’t use a cell phone (or hasn’t given me her cell phone number, if she does). Mayo is also difficult to reach because she doesn’t use a cell phone.

  34. Doctor J Says:

    Well, I guess you can ask each of them why Duarte-Armas would make the comment about “no opposition” ?

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It would be simpler to just ask her.

  36. Anon Says:

    I find this whole process ironic. Does Gary Eberhart remember how he and Mr. Strange would conduct themselves as minority Board Members in 2008?

    Didn’t they publicly speak poorly of the then Board majority?

    Didn’t they conduct themselves at Board meetings in a manner that would be considered inappropriate?

    Didn’t they publicly, at a Board meeting, call for the firing of the Superintendent against the wishes of the Board majority?

    Didn’t they hold community meetings to pusuade the community to turn against the Board majority in the 2008 election?

    Didn’t they manipulate public perception by ranting about the Superintendent and Board majority on a very public blog (or two)?

    And to think that Cheryl Hansen has the nerve to ask for accountability, or more time to study an issue to make a better decision, or an opportunity to hear from a room full of people who want to be heard on an issue that affects their chaildren and their neighborhood BEFORE the Board makes a decision.

    She must be the worst Board member ever. I can completely see why we need to hire facilitators so that she can begin to behave more like the rest of the Board.


  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: The facilitator made the point that the board’s work is to be done by the entire board in the boardroom — not out in the community or in other private settings. She said the public has the right to expect the board to do its business in public.
    I regret that I was not able to stay to the end of the meeting, so I don’t know what substantive norms, policies and/or procedures trustees may have agreed to. However, it’s my understanding that these will be brought back as a draft board handbook, which the board may adopt in the future.
    I, too, recall very contentious meetings in the past.

  38. g Says:

    Theresa; while email may not be as direct as telephone, and admittedly, it gives them time to plan responses rather than speak off the top of their head, it does put them on the spot for whatever their response may be.

    I have found Hansen to be very responsive to emails, and Lawrence, while short and to-the-point, also responds.

    Now, a bit off point—Back in the MDUSD minutes of 10-10-06 (when minutes were actually worth reading) there was talk of the City of Concord perhaps developing a “State of the Schools” committee. Pleasant Hill and Bay Point are putting Concord to shame in this regard.

    To this issue, the only response I have ever received from Concord pretty much just said “we work with the school district when we need to, but we have no influence with them”.

    May I suggest some research in that regard, and an article from you? Maybe they will get interested.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Also, the city of Walnut Creek has a Youth Council, which includes students from all middle and high schools in the city. As I have previously mentioned, the Walnut Creek City Council also holds annual joint meetings with the Walnut Creek School Board. It has invited the MDUSD to participate in joint meetings, but has been rebuffed in the past.
    The Concord City Council did approve a truancy law, which was supported by the school district. I understand the city was also involved in discussions regarding the district’s Equity policy and its transportation plan for displaced Glenbrook and Holbrook students.
    In addition, the city entered into a joint use agreement with fields by El Dorado MS, I believe.

  40. g Says:

    Actually, I thought it was the school district that asked Concord for that truancy law and to foot all of the expenses of it? As to school closures, I believe there was a discussion–not reported out by either board in very much detail–but I was led to believe the crux of the discussion was street crossings and crosswalk expenses to the city. Equity–not so much. As to actual education issues and City involvement–NONE.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister supported the CVHS charter, but the entire council did not take a position on it.

  42. Doctor J Says:

    More surprises ! New addition to the Agenda TODAY ! Item 14.2 Powerpoint. I can’t believe how blatantly Lawrence as Board secretary violates the Brown Act meeting after meeting. 72 Hours means 72 hours.

  43. Anon Says:

    @#6 – If the facilitator suggested the board should advocate for more money…did she draw boundaries with respect to how much of their time the Board should focus on advocating for more money and to what degree? I also think the Board, as evidenced by 2010 Measure C and the solar project, that the Board will do anything, even if unethical, immoral, and/or illegal, to raise more money at the expense of their Community.

  44. g Says:

    Dr. J: I think the funniest thing on tonight’s Agenda is Item 9.5 requesting a PIP approval that (see their attachment) is dated for the 2008-2009 school year. Smallhoover, Braun-Martin, Lawrence–$400K worth of employee Efficiency!

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: I’m guessing that’s a typo: Still, if no one on the board questions it, I wonder if that means she’s not approved for the 11-12 school year.

    Dr. J: If the district would clearly identify the Powerpoint as an addendum, there would be no problem. I appreciate the fact that they uploaded if before the meeting, so people can print it out and follow along — or even fill out a speaker card to ask questions. It’s preferable to posting it after the meeting is over.

    Anon: The facilitator certainly did not suggest that any board member to anything illegal or unethical. I’m sorry it’s taking me longer than anticipated to post the video, but I do have it and will try to post it shortly.

  46. g Says:

    Theresa; Let’s hope it is a typo. Otherwise, it looks like Ms. Kolstad is in her third year of teaching special ed at Northgate without being able to pass her MM tests.

  47. Anon Says:

    I recently learned that the State Franchise Tax Board will not allow property owners to deduct Mello Roos taxes, parcel taxes, and other fees that are listed on their property tax bill. Beginning in 2012, the State tax form will be amended to require you to list the amount of your total tax bill, and separately, the amounts that are not tax deductible. This is not good news for schools seeking parcel taxes. Further, our $67 flat tax for Mello Roos to MDSUSD is not tax deductible.

    Instead of the Board focusing on raising more money, I’d like them to focus on our current funding and ensuring we get a “bang for our buck”!

  48. Anon Says:

    Theresa #37.
    I agree that the facilitator made the point about how to act in public. I am questioning Mr. Eberhart’s dislike of how Ms. Hansen comports herself with respect to her Board position and how in-step he seemed to be with what the facilitator was saying. It just seems a bit hypocritical. Quite frankly I think Ms. Hansen has shown a great deal of composure given her treatment by the other Board members (Dennler excluded).

  49. Anon Says:

    Anon #47
    Good Luck with that.

  50. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In the video showing how the facilitator reacted to each board member’s response to the “greatest wishes” question, you can see the tense dynamics in the room.
    So far, I have posted links to the Qik videos, which are mostly dominated by the facilitator. I have to upload the Flip videos to YouTube before I can post the links and will do that later.

  51. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have just posted the video of the trustees sharing their wishes, along with the facilitator’s responses.

  52. Anon Says:

    Theresa thank you. The truth will out.

  53. Anon Says:

    A MDEA officer said last year that one of the the worst mistakes MDEA ever made was supporting Gary Eberhart and
    Sherry Whitmarsh in the 2008 board election.He described Eberhart as someone you shook hands with and then counted your fingers before washing your hand. He said that neither Eberhart nor Whitmarsh would get MDEA support if they chose to run again.

  54. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Unfortunately, my last video is longer than 10 minutes and I didn’t realize that exceeds the YouTube limit, so I can’t upload it right now. I’ll see if I can shorten it tomorrow.

  55. g Says:

    I’m pretty sure KVHS did not broadcast the last couple of regular meetings. Does anyone know if they will tonight?

  56. g Says:

    All these complaints about lack of open/working restrooms at Mount, and yet on down the Agenda comes the completely zero issue Williams report on facility maintenance.

  57. Doctor J Says:

    @G, remember the female student that spoke, I think at last meeting, about how she was about to prepare a Williams complaint about the restrooms.

  58. Theresa Harrington Says:

    That student said she was about to file a Williams complaint about no teacher in her French class, not the inadequate access to restrooms.

  59. g Says:

    Since this Williams report is for last quarter, maybe we can impress on Mount and others the importance of filing complaints now, and in a timely manner. If they only complain at board meetings, they will accomplish nothing. They must put issues in writing and send them out of, and above the district for any assistance and for a permanent record.

  60. g Says:

    Ah, yes. 14.10–putting that $100K price tag on it was the deciding factor so far. In other words, they will have to report on very very little each month, since they break all those contracts and purchases down into smaller bits and pieces and bring them back for multiple amended cost increases.

    At least they are willing to actually consider some accountability.

  61. Doctor J Says:

    1st Amend Coalition sues for emails. We all know the roadblocks that the District has put up in responding to many Public Record Requests. Finally the FAC took action in seeking emails against the City of Sacramento and one of its committees. Now if we could just get the FAC to do the same in MDUSD, perhaps the coverups would stop.

  62. Doctor J Says:

    Compare Strategic Plans; Which do you like better ? :

    Mt. Diablo USD:

    San Juan USD:

  63. Doctor J Says:

    Homepage of MDUSD: “The Board of Education invites the community to attend and provide input regarding teh Strategic Plan.” Input #1 Use spell check. :-)

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