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Mt. Diablo school board may extend top administrator contracts Monday

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, April 20th, 2012 at 6:01 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo school board President Sherry Whitmarsh is pushing on Monday to renew contracts through June, 2015 for Superintendent Steven Lawrence; Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support; Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent of Personnel Services; Bryan Richards, Chief Financial Officer; and General Counsel Greg Rolen.

Each of their contracts is set to expire in June 2013. Trustee Cheryl Hansen has repeatedly asked to place an item on the agenda that would delay contract extensions for the superintendent and other top officials until after the November election, so new trustees could play a role in selecting district leaders.

Whitmarsh said she did not place Hansen’s item on the agenda previously because she told board members in closed session that she was waiting for a “milestone” to pass. Hansen was so frustrated by Whitmarsh’s failure to place her item on the agenda that she called for a Point of Order on the matter earlier this month.

At the same meeting, Hansen called for another Point of Order protesting Whitmarsh’s decision to appoint trustees to committees via email, instead of during a public board meeting, which she said violated board bylaws.

Hansen has also often butted heads with Trustee Gary Eberhart, who has accused her of failing to follow board protocol. Hansen, on the other hand, has said Eberhart and Whitmarsh aren’t playing by the rules.

Since Hansen was elected along with Trustee Lynne Dennler two years ago, trustees have held two facilitated retreats to try to get along better. On Monday, a new bylaw is being introduced that would allow the board to censure trustees who fail to serve according to high ethical standards.

“In order to be able to enforce conformance to its ethical policies,” the draft bylaw states, “the Board of Education must have a procedure by which it can censure its own members for violations of its policies or bylaws of the Board of Education.”

In addition, the board will consider holding six “public input and informational meetings” focused on the strategic plan, Bay Point school planning, and Measure C bond construction projects, planning and concerns. Originally, Hansen suggested less structured meetings where the public could give feedback to the superintendent and board about their job performance.

Hansen has also suggested reducing benefits for trustees to the employee-only rate, instead of having the district foot the bill for trustees’ families. District staff is recommending against this budget-cutting measure.

Mike Langley, president of the Mt. Diablo district teachers’ union, said he is shocked by Whitmarsh’ proposal to renew the contracts 14 months before they are set to expire. Usually, such proposals are presented for information first, before coming back at a later meeting for a vote.

In this case, however, Whitmarsh is springing the contract extensions on the public just days before seeking a final vote that could have a major impact on the direction of the district for the next three years. Langley said the November statewide election could also greatly affect district budgets and might force some to shorten the school year.

“Do we really want a locked-in remuneration for the leadership to be set at a quarter of a million dollars a year?” he said.

Three potential candidates have already stepped forward to challenge the incumbents in November: Brian Lawrence, Debra Mason and Ernesto DeTrinidad. Brian Lawrence said the new board should decide whether to extend current contracts.

Do you think the current board should extend the contracts Monday?

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45 Responses to “Mt. Diablo school board may extend top administrator contracts Monday”

  1. Jim Says:

    Whitmarsh’s proposal is simply astonishing. You think you’ve seen every possible abuse of power from this crowd, and then something like this comes along. It’s like were suddenly living in Venezuela.

  2. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Hell. No.

    They’d better cap their health benefits. If it’s good enough for the rank & file, it’s good enough for the board.

  3. MoMx3 Says:

    When is this going to end?!?!? This makes me physically sick. I am so ashamed I voted for Gary and Sherry in the last election. Is this going to be rubber stamped on Monday?

  4. Fly on the Wall Says:

    If this gets approved, then would current misdirected admins. (Mcclatchy, et. al) remain in their positions?

  5. Anon Says:

    Either the board majority will pass this extension and lose all remaining public trust if there is any left, or perhaps Sherry placed this on the agenda to distract from the other shocking agenda items, the bond sale and the censure. The censure is an obvious power grab by the board president who is monopolizing the agenda in the worst way. She is using the Brown Act which is intended to open doors to the public, instead to slam the door shut and throw away the key. This censure is directed at Cheryl who selflessly works on the strategic plan and on student achievement. These controversial agenda items have nothing to do with the board’s most important mission, student achievement. I am ashamed for Sherry and I wish she would resign.

  6. Alicia Says:

    No, it would be entirely improper. Ms. Whitmarsh, please explain why you and the Board have the authority to extend contracts that are not subject to explicit extensions at this moment and time, and that are the responsibility of the next elected Board. What other decisions do you plan on making on behalf of the next board before your term is up? Any action made by the current board that is the responsibility of the next board should be invalidated. To avoid this improper use of power, these contracts should be amended to include reasonable renewal dates, and prescribe a fair renewal process.

  7. Mdusd Employee Says:

    NO extensions….typical Gary/Sherry. They commit the district to financial obligations when neither one will be on the board. Certainly Dennler and Hansen will not vote for extensions and Mayo opposed them previously. Mayo is the swing vote and might determine whether or not there is a recall vote along with the regular board elections in November.

    Health Benefits for Board members – None. As long as there are employees in the district without any, no board member should have them.

    “In order to enforce conformance to its ethical policies” – We were unaware that Gary/Sherry had any ethical principles.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FOTW: Since MDHS Principal Kate McClatchy reports directly to Superintendent Steven Lawrence, he has the discretion to retain her in her current position. And since his contract doesn’t expire until June 30, 2013, he can retain her in that position for at least another year, even if the contract extension isn’t approved on Monday.
    Momx3: Will this be rubber-stamped? Good question. As MDUSD Employee pointed out, Trustee Linda Mayo previously voted against extending the contracts of top administrators (and the nearly $30,000 raise for General Counsel Greg Rolen), saying she thought the new superintendent should be able to choose his staff. So, it will be interesting to see if she believes the same principle would apply to a potential new board in November.
    It’s hard to guess how Trustee Lynne Dennler will vote on this, since she has not been outspoken about top district officials. However, she was critical of the district’s failure to enter into constructive dialogue with CVHS staff before and during the charter debate and she suggested that a committee be formed to help deal with dissatisfaction at other sites (before the MDHS vote of No Confidence occurrred). Superintendent Lawrence and his staff never pursued this idea.
    As I have previously pointed out, Whitmarsh is not seeking to extend the contract of Mildred Browne, assistant superintendent for special education and student services.
    It will be interesting to see if anyone from the public (or unions) speaks about the contract extensions on Monday. If no one publicly objects, it would be easier for the board to rubber-stamp it, saying there was no opposition.

  9. anon Says:

    This is so absurd….is Whitmarsh being blackmailed? Lawrence and Rolen must know too much.

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: Another item that could be considered shocking is the Williams Quarterly Report buried in the Consent Calendar (item 9.14), which details two Williams Act complaints filed against the district for failing to provide adequately maintained or accessible restroom facilities at CPHS and MDHS.
    Although these conditions have been present in the past, no one has taken the dramatic step to file such complaints. The fact that people are now willing to file these complaints shows that some people may not trust the district to remedy such problems without pressure from the county and state.

  11. anon Says:

    Theresa…burying the Williams Act complaints is shocking. What is else is Whitmarsh hiding? She is out of order! What a disgrace!

  12. g Says:

    Sherry, do not listen to anyone that would play you as the fool to do what he, himself would not attempt.

    You cannot legislate away another elected official’s 1st amendment rights. Nor can you legislate a requirement that everyone must either agree or keep quiet. It is silly of you to try to do so.

    In 65 years as a unified district, no board has felt the need for a censure clause in their bylaws. What is your particular problem? Since before you were even born there have been many-many contentious people and issues on previous boards.

    Until the last several years those board majorities still managed to rank education and the health of the district above self-righteousness.

    Whether you want to stay on the board or leave, trust me; both your insecurity and animus are showing, and they are not your friend.

  13. vindex Says:

    Absolutely not. Rose Lock is the only admin. that “Might” deserve an extension. The others records speak for themselves. I applaud you Ms. Hansen. Do not grow weary in your fight.

  14. Seriously... Says:

    @1 – Jim – Considering the proposed board bylaw amendment to address censuring of board members…I’m feeling like we are in North Korea, rather than Venezula.

  15. Fly on the Wall Says:

    Why was a vice principal at MDHS allowed to go on a vacation that began before spring break and extended into the week after? Perhaps Mcclatchy should lead by example. If she doesn’t want students and their families taking off during school time to go to Mexico, perhaps she should tell her staff that too.

  16. Anon Says:

    You guys are giving Sherry way to much credit. She is not smart enough to do this on her own. Frankly neither is Gary. Greg and Stevie are behind this and they need to go.

    As for medical for the Board I don’t have a problem with single but I have a HUGE problem with covering their family’s.

    Are they trying to make the district go bankrupt?

  17. Please Says:

    read the documents before criticizing.

    @G – The censure procedure clearly states that the process cannot be used for speech under 1st amendment rights “no matter how distasteful.” It does deal with the closed session confidentiality issues. Did this come from CSBA? Will Theresa ask?

    @Anon Says: that is what the motion calls for – capping health benefits at the Kaiser Single Pay level. if they want to cover their families, they will need to pay.

    As to the contracts: board must take action on Supt no later than Jan 31, 2013. The others in February. That is a fast decision for any new board member. It would be their second full board meeting. It does take some time to learn the job. It makes more sense to extend for one year and then let the board take action next year at this time. What would happen if there is no extension? These folks will look for work elsewhere or retire. You may say good riddance! I am not a fan of this team. However, who will want to apply to MDUSD right now with the uncertainty of a board election? Someone pretty desperate…

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please: It’s unclear where the proposed bylaw came from, but I will ask.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    Where do I find the “final” English Learner Plan being presented for review by the Board ?

  20. g Says:

    Please: The good thing about the Censure clause is that it can be used by any board member to Censure the Chair.

    Demeter’s Manual notes, “It is a reprimand, aimed at reformation of the person and prevention of further offending acts.”[3] While there are many possible grounds for censuring members of an organization, such as embezzlement, absenteeism, drunkenness, and so on, DEM notes that the grounds for censuring a presiding officer are more limited:[6]

    Serious grounds for censure against presiding officers (presidents, chairmen, etc.) are, in general: arrogation or assumption by the presiding officer of dictatorial powers – powers not conferred upon him by law – by which he harasses, embarrasses and humiliates members; or, specifically: (1) he refuses to recognize members entitled to the floor; (2) he refuses to accept and to put canonical motions to vote; (3) he refuses to entertain appropriate appeals from his decision; (4) he ignores proper points of order; (5) he disobeys the bylaws and the rules of order; (6) he disobeys the assembly’s will and substitutes his own; (7) he denies to members the proper exercise of their constitutional or parliamentary rights. (lifted from wiki)

    As to Board insurance–while the motion suggests capping at single pay, the Staff recommendation is to maintain what they have today–and we know this motion will die on the vine!

  21. Doctor J Says:

    @G, doesn’t it take “two or three” Board members, but 4 are prohibited from moving for censure ?

  22. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#8 I am worried that with Linda Mayo’s recent significant memory lapses on board policies and practices, that she may have forgot how she voted in November 2009 against the Gang of Five raises and contract extensions, which the minutes identify her reasons. I wish she would take a clue from Lady Volunteers Coach Pat Summitt before it gets any worse.

  23. Mdusd Employee Says:

    @Please and @G

    Two outgoing board members should never force a new board majority into contracts they may or may not want and put the taxpayers at risk for buying out individuals who have demonstrated they are incompetent to do the job required of them? In January you will still have three board members who have had ample opportunity to evaluate the work of the superintendent and two new members who probably ran for office because they had seen enough of the superintendent. The superintendent, general counsel, and CFO are big boys, they can deal with it. And no one says they can’t seek employment elsewhere.

    G. – Your information about the grounds for censure fits Gary and Sherry like tailored suits. Good research.

  24. Sue Berg Says:

    It looks as if a censure component has been added to an existing MDUSD Board By-Law (9005, “Governance Standards”) that has long been the foundation for Board member roles and behavior. If such a component is necessary, it should be proposed as a Revision or as an Administrative Rule to 9005 rather than a new policy, thus avoiding the confusion of having two similar policies. (If Board members and staff do not know that the introductory language in the new policy already exists in such an important one as 9005, there is more to worry about than poor behavior.)

    It’s disappointing that a group of adults responsible for overseeing the education of children find themselves unable to engage in adult-level discourse and need to have an actual discipline plan for themselves. Then again, a lot of us might have appreciated such a plan three years ago when Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange were railing against fellow Board members and district staff on their blog and at meetings both public and confidential.

  25. Doctor J Says:

    The proposed by-law is a cut and paste of the CSBA School Board governance standards PLUS a non-recommended “Censure” policy which applies to the total school board. Lets remember that the Supt is a member of the school board as the Secretary even though he is not allowed to vote — and this by-law would allow the school board to CENSURE the SUPT too ! Its a two edged sword.

  26. Please Says:

    @Mdusd Employee

    I predict it will be either a 3-2 or 4-1 to extend the contracts for 3 years and will cause a buyout if a new board majority is elected. If I am wrong and the board votes with Cheryl to hold off on any extension, I predict the staff will be looking elsewhere. I am not worried about them. I am worried about the timing of any replacement and which board would be on hand to do it. Worst case scenario is the Supt. leaving in the next few months and this board going ahead with a search. What kind of candidate would they get? A year extension slows this down and gives the new board firing and hiring responsibility.

  27. Doctor J Says:

    Another “quality” legal research job [high sarcasim] by Greg Rolen ! @SueBerg – You hit the nail on the head with By-law 9005 and beat me to it ! Also, take a look at By-law 9400 which already provides a Board self evaluation process. Sue your quote is priceless: “If Board members and staff do not know that the introductory language in the new policy already exists in such an important one as 9005, there is more to worry about than poor behavior.” Gary on the Board for 17 years plus, Linda Mayo for 15 years [they both voted for these by-laws], Greg Rolen, the legal beagle for the District, and last but not least — a Supt that signed off on this agenda item, when he has refused multiple times to sign off on Cheryl Hansen’s agenda items. I guess NONE of these people have read the By-laws recently — ALL of which had been approved and blessed by CSBA. Ignorance is no excuse.

  28. Doctor J Says:

    @Please#26. This happened before with McHenry — you just get an interim Supt until the new Board feels comfortable. In fact, they might look at retired Supt Michele Lawrence, formerly of Berkeley, who was interim in West Sacramento after Steven Lawrence came to MDUSD. She cleaned up the fiascos there in short order, allowing the new Supt. to promptly send Sue Brothers packing to follow her star — Steven Lawrence. And if you need another example, they did it in the district in Sacramento where Lawrence did not get the job — they had an interim Supt [who after a national search they ended up hiring] and they got to “try him out”.

  29. Mdusd Employee Says:

    How would Lawrence, Richards, and Rolen leaving now be a loss? No buyouts and you can start moving towards a positive recovery in the district immediately.

    It will come down to Linda Mayo on Monday.

    Sue Berg – welcome back. You personally witnessed the Gary and Paul shows back when. Tell us your opinion of their term on the board and how they worked with the board majority. Would censure have been appropriate for them?

  30. Doctor J Says:

    Enquiring minds want to know. Steven Lawrence is the author of the proposed bylaw — if he even knows its his job to draft it ! BB 9312 “When the need for a new bylaw or modification of an existing bylaw is recognized, the Superintendent or designee shall draft a new or modified bylaw for consideration by the Board.”

  31. Doctor J Says:

    One huge fact UNDISCLOSED: What are the CURRENT salaries of the Big5 ? All we know is what their salaries were in 2010 BEFORE the secret payraises. Theresa, we don’t yet have access to the 2011 Salary database — please can you give us the 2011 data ?

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Spiral-bound versions of the “final” EL Master Plan will be presented to the board. This should also be posted online, but there is no indication that it will be.
    As Willie Mims has pointed out in the past, a public review copy should be made available at the meeting.
    I also understand there will be a PowerPoint. Hopefully, the district will post the PowerPoint before the meeting.
    Regarding the 2011 salaries and benefits of the superintendent and others whose contracts are being proposed for extension — yes, I will post that info separately, along with the benefits paid to trustees.
    For comparison purposes, I may also post salary information for other top-paid administrators, as well.

  33. g Says:

    Theresa, I understand Pete Pedersen very recently gave copies of his Measure C personnel list to the BOC. Those salaries are not listed with District personnel records.

    Do you have a copy of that? Does it indicate their salaries and benefit schedules?

  34. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#32 How is the public supposed to comment on the “final” EL Plan — and how do we compare it with prior drafts ? Thanks in advance in posting the salary information; it will be particularly interesting to compare the two Asst. Supts. who are earning the “same” in 2010, and if they still are — dum, de, dum, dummmmmm. Just the facts ma’m.

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: I spoke to Jeanne Duarte-Armas about this on Friday and she said the superintendent’s revisions were relatively minor. She said the board won’t be approving the final plan Monday. Instead, the EL Task Force has agreed that more parent input is needed, so it will pilot the plan in the fall and bring it back for final board approval in November or December. Duarte-Armas said she is very proud of the work that has been done on the plan so far and she considers it to be her legacy to the district. Because of that, she said she wants it to be done right and done well.
    g: I am not aware of a “very recent” personnel list to the BOC. However, Measure C staff do show up in the 2011 salary data provided to the Times by the district and one of those employees is near the top in total compensation (including benefits). I will post that data shortly.

  36. g Says:

    Thank you Theresa. From the Dec 2011 minutes: “Pete handed out an informational packet about Measure C staffing that had been requested by the committee. He described what was in the report, emphasizing the fact that it was a ‘ matrix’ organization and how all members report to any or all of the Asst. Project Managers (Tim Cody, Mitchell Stark and Kenya Chatman) at any given time, that the tasks would change as projects change and that it is a very fluid process. Any questions can be directed to Pete”

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: I will have to see if I received a copy of that. Per the information provided by the district, Tim Cody ranked #11 in terms of total compensation in 2011 at $152,138.75 (including benefits). Mitchell Stark was #33 with $130,195.88.

  38. Doctor J Says:

    Oh goodie, will we get the “Top 50” or everyone over $100,000 ? Its kind of like waiting for Santa Claus. 🙂

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For now, I’m just comparing the very top-paid admins, which include the supt, general counsel, CFO, assistant supts and assistant general counsel. I am also comparing the trustees.

  40. g Says:

    One could be led to believe it’s more about the bricks and mortar than the morterboard.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Total cost to extend contracts for five top administrators would exceed $1 million a year:
    It looks like Trustees Gary Eberhart and Linda Mayo currently receive benefits in excess of the single employee rate.
    The only other administrators currently earning similar salaries and benefits to the five being recommended for renewal are Mildred Browne and Deb Cooksey.

  42. g Says:

    “Earning” is in the eye of the beholder :~)

  43. Wait a minute Says:


    I go away for a 3 day weekend to the mountains to get away from the 4/20 stupidity in The City and this exponentially greater stupidity happens.

    Maybe they thought everyone would be partying so much that they could just slip his by on a 4/20 Friday for a Monday vote?

    Its like the Mafia took over and are running a criminal enterprise for fun and profit!

    I guess Eberhart has given up all hope of being re-elected because his slim chances will evaporate after he and Sherry saddle the district with 3 more years of these LOSERS who make the Italian captain of the cruise ship look good after he ran his ship onto the rocks and then abandoned ship and left his charges onboard to sink and die.

    By the way, Stevie Lawrence has a precedence for doing this in West Sac when he convinced their board to give Sue Bothers and their HR hatchet-man asst supes early contract extensions in Stevie’s last meeting there before coming to MDUSD to wreak his havoc here.

    I’m sure Stevie is desperate for this extension and that is why he and Rolen are pulling out all the stops because the word on the street in the Dpt of Ed is that Stevie is virtually un-employable in Ca and would probably have to go out of state to even get another job.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    @WAM#43; I forgot about the Sue Bros. contract extension in West Sac — which is why the new Supt had to have her “reassigned” to no duties, wasn’t that to an office that didn’t have a telephone ? I was reading Lawrence’s contract — the “buyout” would be a little expensive, but cheaper than a new board leaving him in charge. Read the evaluation section — twice a year. What’s with the semi-monthly evaluations ?

  45. Please Says:

    Note that MDEA is picketing the contract extensions this evening. I expect that they will also speak to this issue.

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