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Live blog of April 23, 2012 MDUSD board meeting

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, April 23rd, 2012 at 8:47 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Board President did not report any votes regarding the litigation out of closed session.

Public Comment:

1. Pete Torney: alt ed foundation art and wine fundraiser 2-5 p.m. May 6 at Lakeview room in Heather Farm Park. Info is at Cost is $35 in advance or $45 at the door.

2. Debbie LaDue: Referred to CC Times story about Walnut Creek School District raises. “I hope this district takes guidance from its neighboring district and values the contributions of its non-management employees.”

3. Stephanie Perry, Mother of Horizon alternative education student: I heard the program is going to be moved to YVHS. It’s better for my daughter to be on a smaller campus where all the teachers are accessible to all the students. It’s a very calm atmosphere. The reason we left Clayton Valley was because she didn’t want to be on a big campus. Please reconsider and leave Horizon where it is.

4. Jo Ann Semas, Grandmother of Prospect alternative high student: I became aware that Prospect is going to be moving to YVHS. I request that the board do further study and reconsider and allow Prospect school to stay where it is. I’ve taken my grandson to YVHS for summer school and the congestion was horrendous. I can imagine that bringing Horzon and Prospect there is going to make it worse.

5. Carolyn Accatino, library media teacher at Meadow Homes Elem. I would like to publicly acknowledge the parents, teachers and students here tonight. We’re here of course to hear of the English learner plan, but also to give the community and board a vision of how much we care about our community. We are poised for success next year. Everything is ready and we have too many beloved students to do this. We ask you to consider boundary changes so we can best serve our students. We look forward to the Wednesday night meeting with the superintendent and Rose Lock. Please don’t shove us under the rug. Please remember us.

6. Odessa LaFrancois: NAACP: Thanks for coming to our banquet. Maybe next year, MDUSD students will be receiving scholarships, not just Brentwood students.

7. Corie Irving: daughter attends Sun Terrace Elem. I have a huge problem with the communication with our principal and what has happened with our first grade class. Since January, our teacher in first grade has been on maternity leave. We’ve had 13 substitute teachers with no communication to the parents. I’m a passionate parent when it comes to my daughter’s education. We’re going over STAR testing. My daughter is not at grade level where she needs to be. I feel this is a major concern. I don’t feel she is being taught appropriately. I got a call from Susan Peterson on April 14. After that, I got a call from the school about four days later to have a meeting. The primary teacher went out in Janaary. Why did it take three months for me to get communication from the principal? What’s the district’s policy on notifying parents when you’re going to have 13 different substitutes? Where’s the protocol? I’m concerned about security at the school. We’re on Port Chicago Highway…

8. Katherine Friedman: Parent at Sun Terrace Elementary. My son is in the same class as Corey’s. When the first substitute left, I expressed my concern to Mrs. Jacobs. I expressed my concern several times and was brushed off. It wasn’t until I submitted a letter to the district that I got a letter from Mrs. Jacobs. My son is no longer progressing. The school year is almost out (tearfully) and my son is struggling and my class is struggling. For me to hear that staff are afraid to speak up, it’s not okay. When I came in here, all these parents are greeting each other. That’s what our school needs, a fun environment back.

9. Yasmine, Pres. of DELAC and mother of kindergartner at Hidden Valley Elem. who is bilingual and also a preschooler. Thanks to the board at the fact we finally have a master plan for English language learners. I remember what it was like to not have an EL plan. I understand how traumatic it can be for a student to not have the support practices in place. By choice my children are bilingual. I want them to be able to function on multiple levels. I want to express how excited I am to have this EL master plan, which is decades overdue. I hope it will be implemented. I’ve been looking for a bilingual program for my children and if the Meadow Homes program is eliminated it would be devastating. I want my son to speak English and Spanish fluently, so I urge you to support the EL master plan.

10. Louis Acevedo: Father of six children, all who have attended Sun Terrace Elem. In this last year or so, since we’ve had the new principal, I feel she covers up a lot of issues. My son was injured and nobody notified me. A week later, he had a bloody nose and nobody notified me. My kids feel like they’re bullied by her. Nobody wants to speak up because they feel like they’re going to be terminated. My son looks like he’s in fear when he’s around her. It seems like there’s a communication problem and there’s a secuirity issue. It’s just a lot of issues. My neighbor who picks up my children has the same concerns as well. (applause from audience).

11. Karen Gamez, parent of Sun Terrace Elem. students. Three children, two are in sun terrace. When other people ask about ms. Jacobs, they feel they can’t speak to her. They are afraid. I have had numerous conversations with her, I have emailed ms. Lcok regarding safety, I have spoken with ms. Jacobs, brushing it off, goes into other subjects. Latin speaking parents feel inferior to her. Many others feel they will lose their jobs. That is ridiculous that we cannot communicate with our princpal. It has come to the point that I have to email the school board. I feel my children are no longer safe. I have a friend who is thinking of transferring their son. I’m feeling the same way, but I can’t transfer them. She told me she has hired five people (for security). I have yet to see these five people. Those are my main things, safety and communication, like every other parent.

(Note: I ran out of time and was unable to blog the entire meeting. I will post an update with more information as time permits.)

Board agreed to raise tax rate on 2002 and 2010 Measure C bonds and voted 4-1 to extend contracts for superintendent and four top administrators.

APRIL 25 UPDATE: Here are my notes from the rest of the public comments:

12. Dan Roll, student services, Sun Terrace: Listening to parent’s’ concerns tonigtht, I’’m hearing communication, security and wanting to have a feeling of support from Principal Gretchen Jacobs. I wanted to come here tonight to communicate to you guys, that based on conversations I’’ve had with Gretchn Jacobs, I believe she is listening to these concerns and is working on ways to resolve all these. Because of my nature, I spend more time than anyone else watching Gretchen at work and I have watched her working very, very hard at that school. I believe that she cares a great deal about what happens at that school.

13. Mary (didn’t catch last name): Please reconsider your decision to reocate CIS from PHMS to YVHS. This has literally been a lifesaver for him. If you really want to do what’’s best for the kids, keep the program as it is. It’’s working. If you really want to serve all kids, please keep this program as it is. At the very least, please make sure if it is moved that the programs receive the space they need.

14. Willie Mims, regarding concerns raised by parents at Sun Terrace: It would seem to me that there are some laws against harassment, intimidation, and bullying. There are state laws, so actually it’’s a crime for someone not to handle it. I would encourage the parents to file a civil rights complaint against the principal. I have also come to talk about something that maybe you’’ve not heard about: The California Judicial Report card and the UCLA Civil Rights project. In the California dist report card, they graded 500 of the largest districts in California. You got an overall grade for improvement — a D. For performance of students of color, you got a D. Performance of low-income studs, a D. Improvement grade of C. Improvement of low-income students, C. In terms of closing the achievement gap between African Americans and whites, F. Achievement gap between Latinos and whites, F. So, what this report card is saying is that you are failing to educate two specific subgroups. It is a crime, because you are bound by law to educate every student that you have in this district and you already know that yourself, that you have failed to do that. On the Civil Rights project report card, it’’s entitled: “Suspended Education.” There was a huge disproportionate number of African American students who were suspended across this state. Why? (Time buzzer rings.) I’’ll stop, but I’’ll come back and finish my report at the next meeting (wild applause).

15. John Ferrante: I got an email today about an event called “Turn on the Sun,” from the Mt. Diablo school district for an event Thursday, May 1st, 1 p.m. at Northgate High School. Members of CUES, who got Measure C on the ballot, a lot of them work. (Also mentioned the Measure C oversight committee.)– I found out about it Friday in the paper. Not at the bond oversight committee meeting the night before. We’ve have had communication problems in this district since Bob Baum. I have been complaining for year after year to get it fixed. It still isn’’t fixed.

16. Ashtyn Friday: I am a student, obviously, because my notes are on my smart phone. (Opposed Horizons alternative ed move to YVHS.) I’’ve been able to succeed so much more. The main reason that I’’ve heard of that we are going there is to get out of our high schools. We’’re at a middle school. The majority of us are not messing with little kids. (Said the location is convenient.) Our teachers can convene a meeting and fix things like that. You put us in six different rooms. We created a community through our food program, because I want to be a chef. We’’re going to a college. I’’ve made friends through that and if you separate it and get it where it’’s so discombobulated, maybe it (won’t) work. W’e’re like the gem of the district, not something you can throw away. Our building was built for Horizons. What are you going to do with it? We don’t want to be with a bunch of other high schoolers, who are like: ‘Why are you here?’ We want to do our work and get out of there. So I strongly suggest that you rethink this whole thing about moving us. It’’s not like you’’ve gotten a whole bunch of complaints, so please reconsider.

Trustee Gary Eberhart: In light of some of the comments this evening, request that the superintendent get back to the Board of Education with an update of what’’s going on at Sun Terrace.

Trustee Cheryl Hansen: I would like to speak to the alternative education issue that is happening at Pleasant Hill Middle School. I don’’t recall having any conversation about this, so I’’d like to have some conversation. I don’’t know the genesis. I would like us to give some consideration and have some conversation about the process to inform staff and students who’’ve seemed equally surprised when I talked to them. It sounds like it’’s at the end of the school year.
I think we have time to get the information and give it some time and planning.

Please note that the above notes are not an exact transcript of comments, but are taken from my notes as people were speaking. I was in the lobby during public comment and was unable to videotape the comments.

APRIL 26 UPDATE: Here is a link to the meeting audio:

Do you think the board is responsive to community concerns?

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

219 Responses to “Live blog of April 23, 2012 MDUSD board meeting”

  1. MoMx3 Says:

    Unfortunately, doesn’t it seem that Dennler is still over her head? She’s not doing “us” any favors by staying. Or is her silence something more sinister, like she doesn’t care?

  2. Doctor J Says:

    @Flippin #147 & Other Posts. I thought my response #25 in MDUSD Contract Extensions subject was a sufficient response to your repeated questions. I do not reveal my sources, and infrequently they may be wrong. However, you have not countered the post with any facts and sources to the contrary. If you have better information, please post it — which you have not — and then we can challenge the accuracy of your post and its sources.

  3. Flippin Tired Says:

    “Doctor” J, I don’t have any sources…but apparently you do. That’s why I asked where you got your numbers. You don’t have to get defensive – unless you have something to be defensive about?

  4. Doctor J Says:

    @G#149 Did Sherry conduct the interview process according to the Supt’s contract ? Sec. 4 requires it to occur on Dec 15 or within 2 weeks. Its now the end of April. The evaluation “shall include” both objective and subjective items and “shall include” “a written evaluation and assessment of the performance of any specific goals and objectives which have been established by the Board.” That would be none other than the District Goals and Objectives suggested by Lawrence himself. Lets see, an API gain of “one point” got him a one year extension on his contract. What if he gets a 10 point gain, will he get a 10 year extension ? Here are the Board established, suggested by Lawrence, Goals and Objective. How do you rate him on these Goals and Objectives 27 months into the job ? I give him a D- . You be the judge. Here they are:

  5. Wait a Minute Says:

    Hey Flippen,

    We are still waiting for you to tell us what Rolen’s relationship is with the highly paid district-contracted interpreter?

  6. Alicia Says:

    @140- Theresa…for some reason I could not post a comment to Borenstein’s article at this link. I had to post my Facebook comment at the Mercury News website.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    Trustee Linda Mayo said she promised her neighbors, friends, and everyone she talked to about Meas C 2010 that their tax rate would not exceed $60 per $100 valuation and that’s why she voted against the bond increase last Monday. It struck me last night as I listened to her explanation again — why had she promised that ? Linda has never been a dishonest person — she only promised that because because her fellow Trustees, Supt, and other Meas C organizers had also promised that — and assured her it was the truth. Now it seems that everyone who made those promises except Trustee Linda Mayo is backing off the “promises” of the $60 “cap”. And now the resolution will allow the purchase of “new land”. OMG, how did that slip in ?

  8. Doctor J Says:

    CUES members were told to promise voters the $60 cap. This was one of the PP slides shown to CUES members to teach them how to promote Meas C: “Description of the Measure: As you may know, a $250 million bond measure was approved by voters in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District in 2002 to continue school facility improvements. This new bond would allow the district to continue school upgrades and renovations while homeowners continue to pay the same tax rate they approved in 2002, with no increase. Approving this measure would renew the voter-approved annual homeowner tax rate of $59 per $100,000 of assessed value annually.”
    Theresa reported on July 27, 2010 that Eberhart was in favor of going back to the voters to see if they wanted to pay more for a shorter time: “Eberhart told me today that he would be willing to go back to the voters and ask them if they would prefer to pay a higher rate for a shorter amount of time to lower the overall cost. “Does the public approve of what we’ve done?” he said. “If the voters want us to go back and change it, if that’s possible legally, I’m willing to do that.” ‘ Eberhart now apparently had a change of heart about going back to the voters — flip, flop once again. Gary is the ultimate chameleon. Thanks Theresa for the great quotes so relevant two years later.

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, two years ago, the district gave the impression that it couldn’t legally change the bond structure without going back to the voters.
    Now, it has determined that it can.
    Although the board has said in its draft strategic plan that it wants to build public trust, it doesn’t appear to have a clear strategy for doing that.

  10. Mdusd Employee Says:

    Sherry didn’t want “to build public trust” in the strategic plan….Now we know why

  11. Doctor J Says:

    Feel free to add “gates” to the list or suggest alternative names. Not in any order except for the first one.

  12. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    RetributionGate – when Gary said on his very own blog that he would make the CVCHS feeder pattern “pay” if the charter were approved.

  13. Anon Says:


  14. Doctor J Says:

    No PAC Agenda posted 72 hours in advance – Brown Act violation once again. No consequences to MDUSD in CC County. Why ?

  15. Doctor J Says:

    Report Card Time: How’s Lawrence doing on his “Annual Cycle of Inquiry for Goals and Objectives” that he had the Board adopt ? Ouch. For Jan, Feb, and March, not a single item was done. Today is the last day in April, and I don’t think he can get anything done today. So why did he get a year extension on his contract ?

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Again this morning, there is a four-man crew from Taber Construction painting the solar carports at Northgate HS.
    Meanwhile, inside, students are attempting to “Conquer the STAR!”

  17. SunPower Protester Says:

    There isn’t enough paint in the world to cover up my signs for the event. SunPower PR is not going to be happy and Gary is really going to be ticked.

    Should be a fun afternoon for all.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    According to Pete Pedersen, the carport painting at Northgate is not related to the solar event tomorrow.

    Here’s what he told me in an email regarding the painting and the carport repairs scheduled at Concord HS:

    “Multiple carports and multiple sites are getting follow-up painting as part of the work identified in the project punch lists. I am unaware of any painting being done for the May 1st event.

    We are still working with the vendor’s insurance company on the Concord High School damage. That should be resolved and the repairs completed within the next couple of weeks.”

  19. Wait a Minute Says:

    A coincidence, REALLY!!!

    Good old Pete, he knows where his bread is buttered.

  20. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Oh Pete,

    He thinks we all fell off the turnip truck.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    With the contract extension for the Big5, two categories of employees will leave the District: those who jump ship and those who are forced to walk the plank. Can’t wait to hear who is first.

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    There are many people wondering what will happen with Sun Terrace Principal Gretchen Jacobs.
    I’ve had calls from four more people wanting to talk to me about problems at that school, which one person says have been apparent since the day she got there.

  23. Doctor J Says:

    Again, I ask the unanswered question, Who in SASS was Gretchen Jacobs coach who should have known of these issues and been “coaching” her ? Why isn’t SASS performing the primary function that Lawrence formed it to accomplish: successful former principals coaching current principals.

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have heard unofficially that her coach was Susan Hukkanen. However, I have not been able to confirm that yet.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is my story about the EL Master Plan:

  26. Doctor J Says:

    So where do we find the Lawrence “watered down” version ? Can you provide us the link ? At one time, there were versions on the District web-site but they seem to have disappeared.

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a link to information regarding another Measure C project: lighting at YVHS:
    The district is accepting comments on the proposal through May 29th.

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Only the draft as of January 23 is online:
    Although Duarte-Armas promised that the final draft would be posted online, I don’t see it anywhere. I assumed it would be posted with the agenda item.

  29. Doctor J Says:

    We need the “current version” so we can do a comparison. I have downloaded the Jan 23 version. Why can’t they post the Lawrence tinkered version ? Is someone afraid of the TRUTH ?

  30. Doctor J Says:

    Gotta keep YVHS happy — remember the “teacher trigger” !

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have a copy of the final version dated March 26, 2012 (after the task force was done with it, but before Lawrence changed it).
    Maria Panameno-Bailey said language was changed in table 2-8 (Middle and High School Newcomer Program Components) on page 37. The final task force version says immigrant students with less than two years in the US whose CELDT scores are Level 1 (Beginning) or Level 2 (Early Intermediate) would receive: “Primary language (L1) and primary language literacy support as needed.”
    She said that Lawrence’s version changed “as needed” to “when available.”
    She said a Feb. 25, 2000 opinion by then-Attorney General Bill Lockyear said a district cannot deny a parent a waiver from the requirement that all students be instructed in English on the grounds that the district has no alternative program.
    “Primary language and primary language literacy support is fundamental and crucial for English language learners and must be available as needed and not ‘when available,’ as Dr. Lawrence has stated,” she said.
    To request primary language instruction, a parent much fill out a waiver from English language instruction.

    Regarding YVHS: There are some neighbors who are very unhappy with this project and have vowed never to vote for another MDUSD construction bond measure because of it.

  32. g Says:

    It’s called a Measure C project, but so far money for the LSA study ($13,000) has come from Prop 55. Shuffle the funds enough, and we can’t figure true costs of projects.

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Still, it can’t be built until the district responds to the comments.

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Regarding Sun Terrace: the calls keep coming….

  35. g Says:

    That’s not to say that the District pays any attention at all to what the people have to say about anything.

    They’ve done the planning, the CEQA negative declaration, the engineering. Its paid for–it’s a done deal.

    Anyway, the neighbors should be glad the kids are on the fields instead of hanging around at the 7-11. The neighbors should be at the games supporting their local kids activities.

    Go to the games–be part of the noise–enjoy the lights–buy a hot dog–remember when you were 16!

  36. g Says:

    As for Sun Terrace, recent history would suggest that about 2 years is her max staying power. Maybe the parents just need to hold out for a couple more months.

    She came back north hoping for an Asst. Superintendent position and when that fell through at Mountain View Whisman in under two years, we got her. Her two years here are about up.

    And speaking of who might be her SASS coach, how does Hukkanen manage to do that job here and live all the way up in Paradise? That’s what I call a commute!

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The Taber Construction crews have finished painting the carports at Northgate and were hauling heavy equipment away from campus this morning. A large swath of parking lot in front of the school is cordoned off with yellow tape, but there are no signs alerting the Northgate community about why.
    However, business news wires are announcing that SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ:SPWR) and the district are celebrating the completion of 40 SunPower solar projects today. I didn’t receive this press release, even though I called the Sun Power PR rep and requested to be added to her distribution list after I found out about the press invitation that wasn’t sent to me earlier. Yet, international news outlets have the wire alert, which says US solar company SunPower’s project will save California schools $220 million.

  38. Anon Says:

    TH#181 re:YVHS
    There are neighbors who are angry about the project at YVHS, there are neighbors angry about the lights and bleachers at NHS, there are neighbors angry about a proposed shopping center at YV and Oak Grove…
    That is just what happens any time someone tries to build anything… ironically all three projects are good for our community.

    G., I agree – go to the games, support your local school, celebrate those kids who are participating, and build a community.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: Yes, apparently Concord HS did a good job of building community support for its lighting project. I reported on a nice community outreach program by the school that involved athletes visiting elderly residents of a senior care facility next door. Those residents — some of whom played football in their younger days — have become some of the teams’ biggest fans and regularly attend games.
    Although there are some YVHS neighbors worried about noise and lights, others are concerned about rowdy teens parking on their streets and trashing their neighborhood. If everyone treats each other with respect, there are less likely to be long-lasting hard feelings.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just received the SunPower news release.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    The banty rooster is beating his chest.

  42. Doctor J Says:

    Apparently the affected Sun Terrace students are so far behind they might have to be “held back” but that would be a very politically unpopular decision based on the failure of SASS to properly supervise the Principal and school. Ironically it comes just a week after the Big5 contract extensions. So what now ? Looks like Lawrence and Lock are sending in the calvary to the rescue, but here we are in May and no one even knows where these students are academically. Only Rose Lock can really be held accountable since she took over direct supervision of the SASS coaches and has direct supervision of the Elementary Principals. Lock evaluated Gretchen Jacobs in her first year as principal and obviously recommended Jacobs continue this year. Clearly whoever the SASS coach for Jacobs is, not enough time was being spent with her. @G#186, I believe that SH lives “locally” weekdays in the Benicia or Albany area and spends weekends with her superintendent husband in Butte County — either way, the SASS job is time demanding, and the weekly commutes must be quite taxing physically and emotionally. Plus, it wouldn’t surprise me if she has felt “passed over” a couple of times for a directorship in SASS.

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Some people to whom I’ve spoken said they had expected that the principal would not be invited back this year.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#193 – The Sun Terrace situation should NOT have been a surprise to SASS, Rose Lock, or the SASS principal coach — and NO ACTION was taken until parents complained to the Board. SASS has had the data from the 3 Benchmark “testings” throughout the year. I am told that it shows that in some grade levels at Sun Terrace, several of the classes are 20 to 30 points behind the district average for those same grade levels in other schools — there is no way that can be made up in a month. SASS has had the data, and taken no action. As everyone is now learning the complaints about Sun Terrace have been going on all year, and communicated to the school and district, but NO ACTION was being taken. Once again, the only thing that seems to get the attention of Steven Lawrence is when parents stand up at the Board Meeting, one after another, and make specific complaints that were not heeded when made to district personnel. That shows a real lack of leadership, a failure of proper supervision all up and down the chain of command, and is so very consistent with the culture of MDUSD to sweep problems under the rug and then make lame excuses when the floor caves in. How is Rose Lock going to fire Gretchen Jacobs this year, when last year Lock gave her a very favorable evaluation after her first year ?
    What was the rush to approve the Big5 contract extensions — just this kind of failures of leadership up and down the heirarchy.
    Who is going to reform the cover-up culture of MDUSD leadership ?

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have heard that some complaints arose last year.

  46. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Martinez school board has appointed MDUSD Sunrise special ed. school Principal Janelle Eyet as its new Director of Special Education, effective July 1

  47. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    @ 192 – Doctor J

    How many affected kids/families?

    An entire class of how many kids will be held back?

    That’s simply outrageous … this district can’t come up with another option to correct their incompentence?

    wow … i’m stunned… just when I think this district can’t shock me anymore.

  48. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    isnt Sun Terrace one of the schools the affected Holbrook kids/families had to move to after the school closure? wonder how many of these kids are from Holbrook.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I’ve heard that out of three first grade classes, two are being taught by substitutes and one teacher is trying to plan lessons and oversee testing for all three. Because of this, her classes are also often being taught by subs, I’m told.
    In addition, I’ve heard that a fourth-grade class is being taught by a long-term sub and that one longtime noontime supervisor was fired and another left due to anxiety attacks and depression caused by the stress of working at the school.

  50. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    So … is anyone getting pictures / reports from the NG SunPower shindig?

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