By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 at 2:22 pm in Education.
The Mt. Diablo school board voted 4-1 to extend the contracts of Superintendent Steven Lawrence and four top administrators April 23. But district employees and others continue to question that decision.
Trustee Cheryl Hansen voted against the extensions and Trustee Linda Mayo initially moved to exclude General Counsel Greg Rolen’s contract. Hansen seconded that motion, which was defeated.
At Monday’s board meeting, Brian Lawrence (who is no relation to the superintendent) blasted the board for failing to discuss the superintendent’s job performance before extending his contract. (Actually, Hansen did speak about her impressions of the superintendent’s job performance last month. But, no other trustee did.)
Here’s what Brian Lawrence, who has announced his candidacy for the board in November, had to say:
“Good evening, I’m Brian Lawrence. I’d like to take a moment to thank the Board Members for their service. It is an often thankless job and I believe each of you does it because of good intentions. However, good intentions cannot mask atrocious decisions.
This board conducted itself in a baffling and unsavory manner four weeks ago in the contract extensions of the superintendent and select senior staff members. Members of the Board stated that there was urgency in passing the extensions. Ms. Mayo argued that new board members would be incapable of making such an important decision. It would take years before they would be able to assess the Superintendent. I disagree with Ms. Mayo. To paraphrase Mobb Deep, since hip hop is so rarely injected into these board meetings, there is no such thing as halfway board members.
Returning to the contract extension — not a single moment was spent discussing the performance of the superintendent and his team. Not a single moment. Two members of the public came and gave their personal reasons for why the contracts should be extended. But this board, which has spent hours pontificating on the most inane matters, did not spend a single moment to share how it viewed the performance of the Superintendent and his team. Six weeks ago, I asked this board what were the primary metrics it used to judge the superintendent and how was the district performing against those. I received no response. That is a disservice to the superintendent as well as to the entire district.
On the same night that this Board shattered a promise to people who voted for Measure C by unilaterally raising taxes, it made a million dollar contract commitment to the Superintendent and his team. What is the District getting in return? How does this benefit students? What accomplishments, what benchmarks can we expect to see before the contracts end?
Too often this board refrains from sharing information with the public under the guise that it would violate the Brown Act. I’d encourage the Board members to read or reread the Brown Act — it was passed to provide the public with more information, not to be used as a means of justifying ignoring the public. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that ‘Sunlight is a wonderful disinfectant.’ This board is sorely in need of more sunlight. We can do better.”
As a recap, here are video clips from the contract extension discussions:
Part 1, which includes the first part of Mike Langley’s public comments: http://qik.com/video/50366185
Part 2 of Langley’s comments: http://youtu.be/N7spEphw9K0
Teacher Debbi LaDue speaks against extensions (part 1): http://youtu.be/grqfHLxYCfQ
Part 2 of LaDue’s comments: http://youtu.be/JkQT9i_v1Ew
Ron Hansen speaks against contract extensions: http://youtu.be/7Uiu3q0blBk
Anita Johnson speaks against the contract extensions: http://youtu.be/-l-YNf2bSd0
John Parker speaks against the contract extensions, or suggests a one-year extension: http://youtu.be/CFk5KR0xYbI
Northgate parent Dana Morris speaks in favor of the superintendent’s contract extension: http://youtu.be/auSBRgJunzA
District employee Isabel Lara expressed disappointment that Mildred Browne’s contract was not being recommended for extension: http://youtu.be/cFeY4avSRus
Kevin Hennessy, President of UMDAF, speaks in support of Lawrence’s contract extension: http://youtu.be/L3tFTznvBNQ
MDHS teacher Dan Reynolds speaks against contract extensions: http://youtu.be/WWaGumA8tUw
Board candidate Ernie DeTrinidad speaks against the contract extensions or recommends a one-year extension: http://youtu.be/PB-bN5kQKLQ
CST rep Debbie Hickey speaks against the contract extensions: http://youtu.be/o4EJ2uqYUFE
Willie Mims speaks against contract extensions and asks why Mildred Browne’s contract is not being recommended for extension: http://youtu.be/EDeJYPDHaPw
Part 1 of board discussion: http://youtu.be/dtrOb64TfrA
Part 2 of discussion, in which Hansen says she has seen a lack of leadership from superintendent: http://youtu.be/lIKGtkkq4no
Part 3 of discussion, in which Hansen questions why one administrator was left off recommendation: http://youtu.be/oFQ57up5mZo
Part 4 of discussion, in which Trustee Gary Eberhart defends the idea of extending the contracts: http://youtu.be/T5e3rsrW_l8
Part 5 of discussion, in which Eberhart explains the rationale for extending the contracts for one year and Trustee Linda Mayo moves to remove General Counsel’s contract from those being extended and votes are taken: http://youtu.be/V47h1OQQYKI
Hansen recently e-mailed me some suggested criteria by which she would like to evaluate the superintendent. With her permission, I am posting her email and suggestions below:
Here is her email, along with the goals she intends to propose:
“…Surprisingly, the superintendent’s goals have not been revised or updated since he was first hired in 2010. Boards and superintendents need to operate from current goals that certainly include some goals linked to student achievement, a focus that is noticeably missing from Dr. Lawrence’s goals.
In order to address this problem, I’ve attached a draft of goals that I wrote and will propose.
In addition to regularly updated goals, this board also needs to implement a more meaningful superintendent’s evaluation process, one which holds him accountable for results and informs the public. To address this problem, I’m planning to propose the following:
1. For each of his goals, the superintendent will develop an action plan which includes specific leadership he will provide and steps he will take to meet each goal.
2. The superintendent will report his progress to the Board on a regular basis (e.g., at least once per month).
3. Twice a year, during his formal evaluations, the superintendent will present a comprehensive written and verbal progress report, including relevant data and analysis of that data as evidence of accomplishments as well as identified areas for improvement and future actions to increase his performance.
4. Twice a year as a follow-up to these formal evaluations, the superintendent will also deliver a written and verbal “State of the District” report to the general public based upon his goals and action plans.
As always, I think we must do better as a Board to inform the public and hold ourselves and the superintendent accountable.
Hansen’s suggested Superintendent’s Goals 2012-2013
“Target Area 1: Student Achievement
Goal 1: At least 50% of MDUSD students, including underperforming subgroups,will achieve at the proficient or advanced level in Reading/LA and mathematics and the percentage of students achieving proficient and advanced in each group/sub-group will increase at least 7% in R/LA and math annually thereafter.
Goal 2: Achieve a graduation rate of 90% or higher (2011 graduation rate = 79.5%).
Goal 3: Ensure that all MDUSD schools achieve a similar schools ranking of 6 or higher, placing them in one of the top 5 deciles.
Target Area 2: Curricular and Instructional Innovations and Rigor
Goal 4: Continuously research, select, modify, and implement innovative, effective instructional practices and curriculum.
Goal 5: Restore and support rigorous graduation requirements and provide more flexible opportunities for high school students to accelerate (e.g., community college partnerships).
Target Area 3: Strategic Plan
Goal 6: Take leadership in promoting, adopting, implementing, and evaluating a district strategic plan.
Target Area 4: Communication
Goal 7: Define and implement a comprehensive, inclusive, responsive district-wide communication plan for internal and external communication in order to promote the district as a professional, responsive, and well-managed organization dedicated to student achievement.
Goal 8: Communicate the budget in a way that is user-friendly, comprehensible, unbiased, and accurate to both employees and the general public.
Goal 9: Ensure that bond money is expended with planning, fidelity,
transparency, and accountability so that all stakeholders are confident that the remainder of the money is well-spent to support student learning.”
Hansen said in a follow-up email that the board is still in discussion and will continue on May 29 with the superintendent in closed session.
What is your reaction to the board’s decision to extend the contracts for one year and Hansen’s suggested superintendent goals?