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MDUSD board appoints administrators, approves union contracts

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, June 18th, 2012 at 7:56 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

In one of the shortest Mt. Diablo school board meetings in recent history, trustees on Monday appointed four administrators, approved union contracts and other personnel changes.

The meeting ended so quickly that I missed it entirely, showing up just as Superintendent Steven Lawrence was leaving. Luckily, “citizen” Mike Langley and MDEA President Guy Moore were still lingering in the board room, so they filled me on what happened, along with Rose Lock and Julie Braun-Martin.

There were at least two speakers during public comment, including Langley and Clayton Valley High teacher Kipp Penovich.

Here are Langley’s comments, which he provided to me in writing:

“Madam President, members of the Board, Superintendent Lawrence, Staff, members of the Public, my name is Michael Langley and I appear this evening as a concerned citizen. The decision to ratify the contracts before you is a good first step. It is understood by most that subsequent actions may need to be held in abeyance until the results of the November ballot initiatives are certain. If the governor’s initiative passes there will be a temptation by MDUSD to continue a path that I believe damages the real education of our students. I speak out against the concepts that more layers of consultants, the proliferation of coaches and the tyranny of technocrats are needed to make incremental gains in test scores. If you look forward, you will see the disintegration of the myth that data testing is a reliable tool that brings benefits in proportion to cost in resources: monetary, lost instructional time and the human interaction that are the real engines of learning.

When it is time to rebuild and re-budget, consider the human resources that actually have the greatest impact on our students. Return classroom time to the educational assistants so they can help individualize student support. Return hours to the site clerical staff, so that they can function. Return administrative support to the sites that struggle with a single administrator. Release the teachers from the straitjacket of top down directives and embrace the art of good teaching.

How can you afford this? Remove any layer that does not support classroom instruction in a clean, safe and modern environment. For almost ten years the district has been chasing the mirage of improvementby edict. Yet, the measures of improvement you have embraced are flawed and it was inevitable that the district become Program Improvement. Quality people will stay, and you will attract more, if you respect the human resources that are slipping away from you.”

I will try to contact Penovich to see if he would be willing to provide me with his comments, or to paraphrase them for me. Langley said that Penovich asked for a districtwide discipline policy. Penovich has resigned from the district and will continue working at the charter.

I believe the union contracts were approved as presented, but I’ll double-check that tomorrow.

Here are the appointments:

Administrator, School Support: Marie Schirmer, current principal of Cambridge Elementary

Elementary principals:

Charla Hernandez, of Brentwood
Jon Pierce, of Oakland
David Ramirez, current El Dorado MS vice principal

No school assignments were made, said Braun-Martin, because the district is still matching people with schools.

The board also approved the creation of a new vice principal position at Oak Grove Middle School, to be funded with a School Improvement Grant.

So, here is a rundown of the elementary principals appointed so far:

Lianne Cismowski (former MDHS vp)
Kristin Martin-Meyer from Hayward as an Elementary
Charla Hernandez, of Brentwood
Jon Pierce, of Oakland
David Ramirez, (former El Dorado MS vice principal)

Here are elementary openings due to retirements, resignations or reassignments:

Delta View
Pleasant Hill
Shadelands special education
Valle Verde

So, the district still needs to recruit some more. In addition, it now needs to fill vice principal positions at El Dorado and Oak Grove middle schools and a principal position at Ygnacio Valley High.

Are you satisfied with the appointments thus far?

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112 Responses to “MDUSD board appoints administrators, approves union contracts”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Compare salaries: Charla Hernandez [from Brentwood, avg. Elem Princ salary: $110,540] replaces Sherry Brauer [Base Salary: $84,338]; Other long time MDUSD principals leaving: Nancy Baum [Delta View Base $92,335]; Jennifer Voris [Pleasant Hill Base $91,382] and more recent addition Gretchen Jacobs, awaiting “reassignment” from nearly a two year stint at Sun Terrace [Base $89,981] I keep asking this question, why would Charla Hernandez want to leave Brentwood when there is such a salary discrepency with MDUSD ???

  2. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#44 Pierce to Fair Oaks. By my new count that is TEN Elem Schools with new principals, more than 1/3 of the total ! 5 new appointees, 1 reassigned, and 4 vacancies [Pleasant Hill, Valle Verde, Woodside, Shadelands, with Gretchen Jacobs “available” for reassignment. MDUSD Musical Chairs is alive and well. What happened to Jennifer Vargas at Westwood ?

  3. anon Says:

    Vargas is going to Sunrise/Shadelands

  4. Irene Caban Says:

    I am real shocked to hear that Mrs. Jacobs from Sun Terrace Elementary has “supposibly” taken on another position within the district according to Rose Lock. Im having such a hard time processing all that since the last time I spoke with Gretchen she had no intentions of leaving. Not at her free will. I just don’t get it after all her hard work making amends for all that was wrong and everything seems to be heading in the right direction the district decides to relocate her. Sun Terrace has been through alot recently and we are finally at a good place where everyone seemed to be at peace and now the district will be ripping all that apart by removing Jacobs to bring in a new person. Real smart move ….. this smells like a Steve Lawrence move. Well it stinks and not a very educated move. I think someones brain went on summer vacation along with our kids. The least you could have done was hired Mrs Birnbaum for the position. Hello she has applied for it how many times….dah. It would be the most educated decision to make being that shes done this before and she did an awesome job. But hey what do I know im not a board member who should know what their doing thats why they get raises while teachers get pink slips and who works harder. Go fiqure

  5. Sun Terrace Says:

    Sun Terrace is looking forward to better days. Thanks to all that spoke up and supported Sun Terrace.

  6. Irene Caban Says:

    I think we need to do a major overhaul with our board members. We will keep Cheryl Hansen and maybe Dennler and the rest can go. When making decisions do you guys really put your thought into it or is it only about the dollar? And whatever happened to the district motto “Where kids come first” more like where my wallet comes first and our kids last. What you should have done was send Mrs Jacobs to Mt Diablo High I think she would be awesome there, send McClatchy back to Berkeley or home with Lawrence(great pair), Give Sun Terrace Leanne Cismowski cause she gets stuff done and we know her and Meyers to Cambridge etc. Really you should take lessons from Hansen cause she makes sure she see things from every angle from the inside out and so on. Thats why she knows what she talking about.

  7. Seriously... Says:

    @50 Dr. J…How certain are you that Pleasant Hill Elementary will get Gretchen Jacoobs. PHE is already on the decline.

  8. anon Says:

    The board is not responsible for where the principals end up. That is on Lawrence, Lock, and Braun-Martin. Not sure, but they may be the new Larry, Moe and Curly.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    @Seriously#57 Just speculating. What other “assignment” could Jacobs have landed in the district ? An SASS assignment with her track record ?

  10. blahblah Says:

    Things were coming around at Sun Terrace and now a new principal is coming in. So we start all over again. Too bad. And Dr J you seriously need to get a life.

  11. Nonnie Says:

    Any news about the three schools without principals?

  12. Doctor J Says:

    @Nonnie. They are still advertising for Elementary Principals, which means in the first two postings earlier this year, including the second one in April, they did not get enough qualified candidates to fill all of the vacancies.

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Nonnie: At the last board meeting, trustees voted 3-2 to give the superintendent the authority to fill those positions over the summer without board approval:

    Eberhart and Hansen voted against this, saying they didn’t want to relinquish their authority over new hires.

  14. Nonnie Says:

    Thanks for the update Dr. J and TH. I’m just frustrated with the process with summer being her and the seemingly lack of qualified applicants.

  15. Doctor J Says:

    @Nonnie#64 Your frustration is well taken — who wants to be a Principal in MDUSD ? Non-title I schools like Delta View have over 700 students and no vice-principal. You have a dictator superintendent with a Board run by Eberhart’s micromanaging. You have SASS trying to make every school a “cookie cutter” with Board math, Board language, and test, test, test, test. Then look at the salaries: I quoted in some previous posts in the last week or so about the average Elementary principal salary in Brentwood being about $114,000 and seasoned retiring principals like Nancy Baum with a base salary of $92,000. When you combine horrible working conditions with poor salary schedule, you end up with the Gretchen Jacobs’ finding refuge in MDUSD. Its the same reason Eberhart laments that MDUSD gets too few Supt applicants compared to other districts: he just can’t realize he is part of that problem. Its sad for the students. Lawrence promised at the end of last year community/parent newletters from him TWICE A MONTH. It was a repeat promise from 2010. He doesn’t keep his promises.

  16. lc Says:

    Doctor J,

    You seem to have a personal vendetta against Gretchen Jacobs.

  17. lc Says:

    I think the phrase “seemingly lack of qualified applicants” is interesting. There are many qualified people within our district who are not being given a chance to show how experience and knowledge in this district could be an asset.

  18. Doctor J Says:

    Another principal opening — and this one wasn’t authorized by the Board to be filled prior to the Aug 13 Board meeting.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    @lc#66 Your choice of words is much too harsh — based on her track record in other schools and districts, and nearly two years at Sun Terrace, I don’t think she is a good fit to be an Elementary Principal. But that’s my opinion.

  20. g Says:

    Dr. J: “External only” and Riverview promised? Interesting indeed.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    There is an internal posting too. I just selected one.

  22. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Help me understand why would it state External Only?

    Then you say there is an internal one? Both for the same position?

  23. Doctor J Says:

    @#72 You can see them from the district website — there are two different processes since internal candidates are already “known”.

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It will be interesting to see if the superintendent attempts to fill this position without board approval. I believe he attempted to fill another position last year that wasn’t on the list approved by the board.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    lc: When you say people within the district “are not being given a chance to show how experience and knowledge in this district could be an asset,” do you mean they are applying and not being hired, or aren’t being given the training necessary to advance?
    Certainly some are being given a chance to advance, such as Bill Morones, Lianne Cismowski and David Ramirez.

  26. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#74 Better print the page of the agenda that shows the motion to ONLY approve the positions on the attachment [print that too] because it is likely to get modified to meet his needs based on past performance. So what happened to Christine Huajardo ?

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Good question. A google search brings up her new principal’s message from 2010:

    Regarding ONLY appointing those positions, I recall it said that last year too, but I believe another appointment was made anyway.

  28. ST Says:

    Gretchen Jacobs has been assigned to the CARES After School Program. She will partner with Terry. The two of them already have tention as Jacobs treated the CARES staff at Sun Terrace badly. It will be interesting to see how well they work together.

  29. lc Says:

    Christine is going to San Ramon.

  30. lc Says:

    Theresa: I’m saying they are applying and not being hired. I agree a few have been hired, but there are more out of district hires than within our district.

    Dr. J. My words may have been a bit harsh and I know others share “your opinion.”

  31. Doctor J Says:

    Published June 27, 2012

  32. Flippin Tired Says:

    SRVUSD: Principal at Live Oak is Nadine Rosenzweig – wasn’t she an administrator in MDUSD? I know the vice principal at Coyote Creek was a teacher here. How many other great staff members have we lost to SRVUSD?

  33. anonadad Says:

    @Flippin Tired #81: we’ll continue to lose administrators and teachers to SRVUSD and other districts because this superintendent, eberhart, and rolen have no respect for any employee in MDUSD; they’re only about their own agendas (no pun intended). I would challenge all three of them to put in just 2 consecutive hours a month as a school secretary, office manager, teacher, custodian or site principal each month and experience the overwhelming expectations in each of these positions. With site principals leaving in droves, is this not a direct reflection on the lack of leadership from lawrence and his two cronies? The strength of MDUSD has always been its commitment to respecting ALL employees. The morale in this district has never been lower. And one of the reasons there is an exodus of site principals is that they happen to care about the employees with whom they work. The results of the API scores for 2012 will be very telling; when morale is down, scores go down.

  34. Doctor J Says:

    @Anonadad, very well said and so true. The exploitation of the “workers” is outrageous. I am surprised the unions haven’t stood their ground more.

  35. Irene Caban Says:

    I need to step in on behalf of Gretchen Jacobs being that everyone seem to be bashing her. I worked with her on site council, the advisory committee and on a daily basis. She was a great principal at Sun Terrace and has gotten our school several grants which is GREAT! Thanks to Gretchen my monday mornings are no longer a battlefield for my family. My 2nd grader was being bullied and come mondays would throw the biggiest fits and I mean fits. Now let me say one that about this child of mine when he wants to argue theres no other way out of it except his way….even if he is wrong he will argue period. So my mondays we all dreaded. This went on for several months until I could not take no more so I spoke to Mrs Jacobs. By the end of that day my child was loving school again. Whatever she did worked and I owe her big time. Once you make the time to know her shes not a bad person. She has a big heart and really means well. Her people skill sucked but once confronted about that she worked on it and did a great job. Once confronted with all of the issues that everyone had with her she made all the effort to correct it and I want to say she did it. Thats why I was shocked to hear that she was being replaced. Im gonna miss her and I wish her the best.

  36. Doctor J Says:

    @Irene#84 I’m not saying she’s a bad person, but when you look at the fiascos at the school — numbers of subs in 1st grade, lack of direction, etc. one doesn’t see the leadership required of a principal, and her tenure at Sun Terrace mirrors her prior track record in other schools and districts. Were parents given any input by Lawrence into who the new principal would be ? Do we have “confirmation” on Jacobs new assignment ?

  37. Doctor J Says:

    @Irene#84, I should add that Jacobs may be a victim of the smoke and mirrors of SASS that they have assigned “successful” former principals to be the “coaches” of current principals. If that is the case, the SASS coach for Jacobs, Susan Hukkanen [wife of former Asst. Supt. in MDUSD Roger Bylund] , failed to alert her superior, Rose Lock, about the problems at Sun Terrace, and left the children hanging without good instructional support.

  38. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FT: Yes, Rosenzweig was a very well-respected principal at Valley View MS in Pleasant Hill. Also, Jonathan Eagan, former principal of Glenbrook MS, is an elementary principal in the Martinez district.

    lc: Are you referring to teachers who are seeking promotions? Do you think the elimination of elementary vice principals could play into this? If those positions still existed, they would provide an opportunity for teachers to step up gradually into administration, under the guidance of a principal (which is what happens at middle and high schools).
    Perhaps that’s why the district is tapping middle school vice principals to become elementary principals.
    If you are referring to teachers, do you think they are ready to take on all the duties of an elementary principal without ever holding any other administrative position?

  39. lc Says:

    TH: I DO believe that if we had VPs in our district at the elementary level that many more in district people would be hired for those positions and gain experience working with a principal. At some sites, there are teachers-in-charge; and teachers who in a variety of ways help and support principals, gaining a lot of experience just not in an official capacity.

    Since our district does not have those positions, and they now have the SASS departments, it seems some of those teachers should get a chance at the princpal job with support from a SASS coach.

    It is frustrating for teachers who have been at sites for a long time, have assisted in a wide variety of areas; have the respect of the staff and parents, to see people from out of district who we really know very little about, come in and take those positions.

    As Irene mentioned in a former posting, there was a person like that at ST. Someone also asked if the district people came out to the new schools getting principals to ask what they were looking for. Often times, they already have candidates in mind and listen, but to not hear, what the school community truly wants. This happened at ST and has happened at other schools as well.This is not an easy process and I understand that.

    Regarding vice principals, there should be vice principals at all elementary schools. There is a need for this at EVERY school. Many of the complaints regarding discipline would be lessened if there was more support at each site. .

  40. brenda aaron Says:

    #87: This exactly what happened at Sun Terrace with Ms. Jacobs, she is a GOOD PERSON with a caring heart, but POOR people and leadership skills, and a very dominant personality, she does not display a kind and gentle spirit. More of a bootcamp approach.

    I hold accountable the persons who made the decision to place her at Sun Terrace, for she has a track record and somehow, someone thought that she would be a good match for this school enviroment. WRONG!

    #85: The time and effort that you are spending on an ADULT who knows BETTER and does not do BETTER is the example that I am talking about. You have greater compassion for an ADULT who is being held accountable to the parents that she SERVES, than the children who are suppose to being TAUGHT.

    WE lead by example, you would expell or suspend a child for bad behavior. You would talk to the child and parents to correct the behavior…
    It was her RESPONSIBILITY to adddress the concerns of both staff and parents, she is not a CHILD!

    Keep making excuses for ADULT BEHAVIOR, but can’t tolerate inappropriate behavior from CHILDREN!

    Hopefully she will make the necessary changes in her professional life and learn that she is not to DICTATE,Dictatorship is out. Democracy is in. that she too makes mistakes and errors, be open to correction, change and growth happen about the same rate. MOVE FORWARD!
    Who counsels the Staff? Looks like another project for MR WOGAN.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Unlike MDUSD, the Antioch district has made school counselors a funding priority:

  42. Been Down That Road.... Says:

    Interestingly, the new CVCHS has also made school counselors a priority. In fact, they have now hired a full-time psychologist, TWO full-time counselors who will actually be able to advise the students on course placements and choices, college prep and career advice, and a Dean of Students who will have primary responsibility for the discipline on campus (along with an in-house suspension instead of sending students home for a “mini-vacation”). All of these positions will work with the Director of Students Services. Additionally, there is a Director of Operations and Special Education and a Director of Curriculum and Instruction. These three Director positions are reporting directly to the Executive Director, Dave Linzey. None of that sounds like “business as usual” over there…I predict a very interesting year.

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I wonder how the new CVCHS team would handle the incident described by Kipp Penovich.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    How many weeks does it take Julie Braun-Martin to “in the process of confirming her [Gretchen Jacobs] assignment” ? Gretchen Jacobs contract expired June 30, has it been renewed for another year ?

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a link to the video of Trustee Cheryl Hansen explaining why she believes it’s important to be transparent regarding revisions to agenda documents, including the bond resolution, followed by Board President Sherry Whitmarsh stating that she didn’t receive a single email about that:

  46. Curious Says:

    Do administrators have to receive a pink slip like teachers do if the district does not want to rehire them?

  47. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Now that the $150 million in bonds has been sold and the cost of issuance has been paid, it looks like the district’s projections related to property assessments that will pay for the bonds may have been too rosy, which could boost the cost above the promised $89 per $100,000 in assessed value.

    Property tax information released by Gus Kramer today shows that property taxes for 2012-13 will drop by the following percentages in MDUSD cities:
    Clayton – 4.06
    Concord – 4.62
    Martinez – 1.52
    Pittsburg – 0.90
    Pleasant Hill – 2.34
    Walnut Creek – 0.74.

    MDUSD’s “plan of finance” for the bonds showed a projected drop of 1.19 percent in 2012, flat assessments in 2013, 2 percent growth in 2014-15, then 4 percent annual growth from 2016-2040.

  48. curious Says:

    Where did the admin staff of Clayton Valley High School go?

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Sue Brothers is the new principal of Ygnacio Valley HS and Jose Espinoza is a new vp there:
    I don’t know where the rest of the former CVHS administrative staff has gone.

    I have also heard that a math teacher went to Concord High and a drama teacher went to Northgate HS. The former Northgate HS drama teacher will teach English next year, she recently announced.

    The YVHS website appears to have a new look. The school is seeking suggestions from the community about how to make the campus safer:

  50. Doctor J Says:

    The YVHS new website says “Posted by Sue Brothers 6/7/2012”

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