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MDUSD superintendent and top administrator contract extensions revisited

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:

Part 2 of Langley’s comments:

Teacher Debbi LaDue speaks against extensions (part 1):

Part 2 of LaDue’s comments:

Ron Hansen speaks against contract extensions:

Anita Johnson speaks against the contract extensions:

John Parker speaks against the contract extensions, or suggests a one-year extension:

Northgate parent Dana Morris speaks in favor of the superintendent’s contract extension:

District employee Isabel Lara expressed disappointment that Mildred Browne’s contract was not being recommended for extension:

Kevin Hennessy, President of UMDAF, speaks in support of Lawrence’s contract extension:

MDHS teacher Dan Reynolds speaks against contract extensions:

Board candidate Ernie DeTrinidad speaks against the contract extensions or recommends a one-year extension:

CST rep Debbie Hickey speaks against the contract extensions:

Willie Mims speaks against contract extensions and asks why Mildred Browne’s contract is not being recommended for extension:

Part 1 of board discussion:

Part 2 of discussion, in which Hansen says she has seen a lack of leadership from superintendent:

Part 3 of discussion, in which Hansen questions why one administrator was left off recommendation:

Part 4 of discussion, in which Trustee Gary Eberhart defends the idea of extending the contracts:

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:

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:

Hansen email:

“…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?

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23 Responses to “MDUSD superintendent and top administrator contract extensions revisited”

  1. g Says:

    That Superintendent Lawrence’s initial contract does not specifically require many of these goals already is ludicrous. What was that board thinking? Some of that board had been around for many many years, and still hold the reigns, and apparently have either 1) learned nothing about the leadership necessary for excellent public education, or 2) were just looking for a “yes” man that would be easy to control while they fed their own political Ego and wrangled $25+K out of the dwindling coffers for themselves.

    What do I think will happen about Cheryl’s request? Nothing. Unless you call banging your head on a stone wall something other that what it really is.

  2. vindex Says:

    Greg Rolen’s contract should not have been approved. I agree with Mayo and Hansen. By any reasonable measure, he has been an complete failure. On the Transportation issues alone he should be fired. Shame on Eberhart, Dennler, and Whitmarsh

  3. Wait a Minute Says:

    I agree Vindex, it is essential that Greg Rolen be removed from the MDUSD.

    Like you say, just on his incompetence in running transportation after his $27,000 RAISE TO TAKE OVER TRANSPORTATION. Its just to bad we couldn’t get our money back.

    This because of his constant unethical actions like pushing for 400% increases in the compensation for his lover Marisol Padilla, owner of the translating company “awarded” the contract (Now slated to go to $99,990.000 or put another way only $10.00 short of SIX FIGURES) for district tranlations. Nice way to supplement your household income Greg!

    It is clear that Rolen is deeply involved in all the scandals that are constantly swirling the district closer and closer to the final flush and he must be held accountable and removed along with the others responsible here.

    Lets hope that Trustee Dennler joins with Trustee Hansen and Trustee Mayo hopefully in opposing EberMarsh and bring true positive change to the MDUSD ASAP.

    I think it is also essential that 2 new Trustees are elected to continue and further the changes that MUST START AT THE TOP.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence promised in writing a year ago on May 22, 2011: “Twice monthly updates will be written to parents and district staff via email and posted on the web that focus on: Board Agenda updates, updates around progress on district goals and objectives, updates around Measure C, and updates around school programs. If requested, parents and community members can pick up a hard copy of the updates at their local school’s main office.” From LEA Addendum, p. 6.
    I think the Times should do a poll on how the public feels Lawrence is keeping his promises — In the meantime, do you think he kept this simple promise ?

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Does the Title I school parent survey allow parents to weigh in on the superintendent’s job performance?

  6. Doctor J Says:

    @TH: No. I previously posted a link which is also available on most of the Title I school websites. You can click through the questions without filling it out. No surprise, but I have heard they are getting a very poor response. I would just guess there are about 6-8000 students in the schools being surveyed, and I heard that less than 500 surveys were completed, with less than a week to go, and a three day weekend too.

  7. Flippin Tired Says:

    My school sent home the flyer, sent a robocall, advertised that it can be taken at our school at open house in the computer lab, and will send a reminder flyer and robocall. Shall we also go door to door and help parents complete the survey? You cannot make apathetic people participate, no matter what you do.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district could post something about it on its home page.

  9. Flippin Tired Says:

    Only the Title 1 schools are being polled. If other parents or schools participate, it will skew the results. Is two weeks really not enough time, “Doctor” J? Seriously, how long should we give people to participate? Hell, it’s hard to get parents involved in six years of elementary school and seven years of secondary school. Some will care, some will never care.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    Another factor is that perhaps some site administrators aren’t too happy about being polled by the district, all due by June 1. Perhaps it would be considered in next year’s assignments ?

  11. Flippin Tired Says:

    I don’t think a poll matters. The district and board will do what they want, logic and facts be damned. They closed Holbrook, despite stellar gains in STAR scores, and lost an outstanding administrator who was admired and effective. We’re living in Wonderland. I would not be surprised to see a rabbit with a pocket watch running by.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The board will hold a special closed session meeting Tuesday to continue discussing the superintendent’s evaluation:
    Before trustees go into closed session, the public may comment on the superintendent’s job performance and evaluation.

  13. Doctor J Says:

    There have been so many sessions of evaluation of Lawrence — didn’t this current evaluation start in December ? And its still going ? It sure gives the impression that the discussion goes way beyond the stated purpose and thus becomes a Brown Act violation: evaluation of the Supt., especially when they give him a contract extension with automatic raises and step increases in the middle of the evaluation and it continues.

  14. g Says:

    And, to quote “I can’t think when I’m sitting down Sherry”:

    “We extended his contract tonight because we completed his evaluation tonight”.

  15. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    What a joke.

    Chevron Sherry and The Gary at it again.


  16. Anon Says:

    Why is UMDAF speaking in favor of a contract extension? As an independent non-profit group, why would they choose a side on this issue, when the outcome of the Superintendent’s raise will not have any effect on their organization? Conflict of Interest comes to my mind…

    UMDAF is losing my support if they continue to get into MDUSD politics. You are there to ensure atheltics continue in our District, not support raises for administrators or any other District politics.

    Stop the nonsense now.

  17. anon** Says:

    @ flippin tired #11: I agree that the public has become apathetic; but, is this because of the dismal economy and the current budget cuts? I think this Supt., certain Board Members, and counsel members are taking advantage of this imposed apathy. I just read an article (by T. Harrington) that contained pictures of dozens of employees from every union who were protesting the extensions of the BIG5 and their disgust with more drastic cuts that affect every union member (which in turn affects every student). My point is that because of folks hanging on by a thread due to the current economy, I really don’t believe that they’re apathetic; so, those working for this district in a union should SHOUT even louder to represent all constituents. If I were in a union in this district right now, I’d have flippin banners stating: “don’t you dare cut us again”. It was great to see all of the unions coming together to take a stand on their disgust of the BIG5’s contract extensions. My suggestion is: next time all unions gather is to get the media there and that all unit members carry the same sign: “they’re getting richer, we’re getting poorer, and students are losing”. I don’t have a clever slogan regarding the disgust that my neighbors have shared with me about Rolen; but the question that all of us ask is: “what does he do?” “why is his salary and his girlfriend’s salary being raised when we’re going through budget cuts?”, and, unfortunately, I don’t have the answer.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Interesting story unfolding in Des Moines, where a superintendent stepped down after admitting she had an affair with someone whom she met at a school function:

  19. Doctor J Says:

    Actually I think it was for exchanging romantic emails with her lover on the school district email system that described the affair. If such emails existed on the MDUSD email server, would they actually be produced under the Public Records Act or just withheld ?

  20. Theresa Harrington Says:

    By law, they should be produced.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#20 – Yes, they should, but how do you know they have been — unless of course, you already have copies from another source.

  22. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    What sort of improper romantic relationship would be occuring in the halls of MDUSD?

    How do you translate that?

  23. Amazed Says:

    Marisol Padilla is Rolen’s fiance, and they live together. For her to have a direct contract with the District influenced by Mr. Rolen, from which he receives a direct financial benefit, is in violation of Government Code section 1090.

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