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MDUSD contract extensions, bylaws and Points of Order

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, April 23rd, 2012 at 7:03 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo district resident Polly Bradbury forwarded me an email exchange between herself and Trustees Gary Eberhart and Linda Mayo regarding the proposed contract extensions on tonight’s agenda, which she has given me permission to post in my blog.

The first post is Bradbury’s email to the board, followed by responses from Eberhart and Mayo:

From: Polly Bradbury
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 2:36 PM
Subject: vote to extend contracts

“I urge to hold off on the vote to extend the contracts for the administrators whose contracts are not yet expiring. I see no reason for you to do this other than to avoid the possibility that a new board member may not vote the way you want them to. Furthermore, when the time is right to vote on contract extension I strongly feel that NO INCREASE IN SALARY IS APPROPRIATE. In this difficult financial time with teacher layoffs and budget disasters, the absolute worst move you could make is giving administrators who make 140k and more a raise. Consider the wrath that you will bear and remember you were elected by the people.
Sincerely,
Polly Bradbury”

Response from Trustee Gary Eberhart, which was forwarded to me by Bradbury:

“Greetings,

Thank you for the e-mail. There are no raises contained in the contract extensions which are on the Board agenda this evening. Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents typically look for new positions during the Summer months when they are uncertain of their standing with their district. If we do not extend these contracts, we will instead have to immediately begin work on conducting a Superintendent search and a search for the other Assistant Superintendent positions. So if the rationale for not extending the contracts is to save that decision for a future Board, wouldn’t it be even more drastic for this Board to have to search for and hire a new Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents this Summer? These are challenging times and will not be any easier if this Board begins to abdicate our responsibilities. That would certainly be a dereliction of duty.

Sincerely,
Gary Eberhart”

Response from Trustee Linda Mayo, which was forwarded to me by Bradbury:

“Dear Ms. Bradbury:

I’ve read your email regarding this item and understand your position as stated.

A newly elected board member will only have hearsay information regarding the performance of individuals, rather than working with these individuals and informing themselves personally about the entire district operations. Individuals who provide governance training indicate it takes a year even two for trustees to understand the complicated issues. Qualified applicants are not readily available and because of controversies, over the years not attributed to these individuals, few qualified applicants will apply to MDUSD. Based on previous applications we’ll have applicants about ready to retire or applicants who have little experience.

Increased compensation for four individuals is based on a longevity clause as a percentage payable in the fourth year. 2012 is an anniversary year for that clause, these contracts don’t conclude until June 30 so it would be a breach of contract to not fund the longevity. All our labor groups have longevity clauses in order to encourage staff to remain in the district including teachers which is known as step and column. The superintendent’s contract also has a an increase factor which is and has been zero because the administrators have received no increase.

That being said, I am still determining my position. Thank you for writing to me.

Sincerely,
Linda Mayo”

I also received an email from Trustee Cheryl Hansen, with a copy of an email she sent to Board President Sherry Whitmarsh regarding three items to be placed on the May 7 agenda, which have not been placed on previous agendas, as she requested.

The items are:
1) Her request to postpone extending contracts for the superintendent and other top administrators;
2) Her request that board appointments be made by the governing board, according to board bylaw 9140; and
3) Her request that the board continue its discussions regarding graduation requirements.

In a previous interview, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh told me she did not put Hansen’s agenda item regarding the contracts on an agenda because she was waiting for a “milestone” — which had been discussed during a closed session regarding the superintendent’s evaluation — to pass.

“When I brought that up (during closed session), she did not say anything,” Whitmarsh said of Hansen. “My undersgtanding was that Dr. Lawrence was talking to her about that. In the closed session — it was all board members in person — and we had talked about how contracts would be handled. It was not meant to go on the agenda until the milestone that I said would be hit.”

Whitmarsh also responded to Hansen’s concerns about the committee assignments, saying they had been done the same way every year (via email).

“Every year I’ve been on the board, they have always been done this way,” she said. “This has always been the way the board assignments have been made. She didn’t make any claim when I was asking for board assignments last year or this year.”

Whitmarsh said bylaws state that the creation of committees is by the board, but not committee assignments. She also said that Trustee Linda Mayo assured her that this was the way assignments had been previously made.

“It says the board creates committees,” Whitmarsh said. “It doesn’t say ‘committee assignments.”

But Hansen disagrees.

“Per Board Bylaw 9140, the Governing Board appoints members to serve as its representatives on district or advisory committees,” she wrote in an email. “Board Bylaw 9140 also states that, ‘when making such appointments, the Board shall clearly specify, on a case-bycase basis, what authority and responsibilities are involved. Board representatives shall not grant district support or endorsement for any activity without prior Board approval.’ The Governing Board has not appointed members to serve as committee representatives nor specified authority and responsibilities involved as required by Board Bylaws.”

Despite claims by Whitmarsh and Mayo that committee assignments have always been made by email, Hansen found several agendas and minutes from previous meetings that showed committee assignments were made at public meetings and were agendized.

Hansen also said she was surprised that Whitmarsh was claiming she couldn’t put the contracts on an agenda until a milestone had been reached, since that was never reported out of closed session.

Here are two video clips regarding Hansens’ Points of Order raised March 27:

First clip: http://youtu.be/zg99-QxcnUo

Here is the second clip, in which Whitmarsh refuses to rule on the Point of Order, saying it would be a Brown Act violation: http://youtu.be/T7JVTpDYO_E

Although Superintendent Steven Lawrence said he would meet with Hansen and General Counsel Greg Rolen regarding her Points of Order, Hansen’s email to me today indicates that she is still unclear about why her items have not been placed on the agenda.

Whitmarsh said the Point of Order was “out of order” and Eberhart said it would be a misdemeanor to discuss the items, since they weren’t on the agenda. Hansen, on the other hand, says a Point of Order is not an agendized item. She requested that the items be placed on the April 23rd agenda.

Despite her request, her items do not appear on tonight’s agenda.

Do you think Hansen’s items should have appeared on tonight’s agenda?

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  • Theresa Harrington

    At Monday’s meeting, Hansen volunteered to donate her stipend to help fund the televising of board meetings. Perhaps that will mean she won’t be able to donate to UMDAF anymore, if the board takes her up on her offer.

    Regarding what most parents do, I haven’t seen a Northgate Bronco’s Athletic Booster sticker on Lawrence’s red truck. Maybe his wife’s car has one.