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MDUSD board to discuss budget, school safety, bullying and other issues tonight

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, June 25th, 2012 at 7:01 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The Mt. Diablo school board meeting tonight is likely to last much longer than the last meeting, which was over in about half-an-hour.

Here are highlights from the first part of the agenda (which is normally not discussed):

CLOSED SESSION:

Item 4.5: Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint related to six certificated employees (info only): http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5579&mtgId=345

CONSENT CALENDAR:

Item 9.3 Certificated personnel actions: Includes some teachers having workloads reduced, along with temporary teachers being rehired, including two at Oak Grove MS: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/04af1852-a7df-4eca-9eb9-71da746f1a3e.pdf

Item 9.12 North Coast reps for MDUSD schools does not include CVCHS (since it will be a charter) and lists Steven Brady as the Northgate vp rep:
http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/a7f12994-b270-4012-98f3-eeb84f2ba481.pdf

Brady was appointed as a vp of YVHS, where he worked this year: http://yvhs-mdusd-ca.schoolloop.com/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1309422182233

It looks like he may be another superintendent “reassignment,” but it’s unclear who he’s replacing: http://northgatehighschool.net/Staff/Administration/tabid/119/Default.aspx

Item 9.31 authorizes the superintendent to enter into contracts over the summer without board approval: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5544&mtgId=345
Interestingly, one attachment has been clearly updated since the agenda was posted, with the original attachment still available for comparison. It looks like the district may be implementing a new policy to make revisions transparent! :)

Item 9.33 Disposal of library books from closed schools: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5561&mtgId=345

9.36 New board policy and administrative regulation prohibiting use of cell phones: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5568&mtgId=345
(The BOC may be interested in this, since it was specifically discussing at its meeting, wondering if such a policy existed.)

9.38 Measure C high school projects lists for MDHS and alternative schools: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5594&mtgId=345

9.39 Cost of issuance for Measure C bonds: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/com/print_item.aspx?itemId=5608

Do you think the board should authorize the superintendent to approve contracts without its approval over the summer?

8:40 pm UPDATE: LIVE BLOG OF MEETING:

I arrived a bit late, during discussion of items pulled from consent calendar for discussion. They were:

10.1 (item #16): Food and nutrition

10.2 (item #30): Approval of contract with Lincoln Pools

10.3 (item #31): Authorization to award summer contracts
(I arrived during this discussion): passed 5-0

10.4 (item #38): Measure C High School Project Plan: MDHS and alt. ed.
Passed 5-0.

10.5 (item 39): Confirming costs of sale respecting issuance of MDUSD GO bonds, 2010 election, 2012 Series E
Hansen asked about use of bond premium to pay costs of issuance.
Superintendent Lawrence said staff had given the board a thorough analysis of the Poway letter (sent by Attorney General’s office to Poway Dist.) He said it’s a common practice.
Hansen said she pulled this from consent because there continues to be that question.
Eberhart said the board received “extremely definitive assessments of the process we’re using.” He said it’s an important issue and it’s important for the public to know that the district is operating appropriately.
Passed 4-1; Hansen against.

After the meeting, I asked Greg Rolen for a copy of the letter referenced by Lawrence and Eberhart. He said he wasn’t sure he needed to give it to me because it could be attorney-client privilege. I pointed out to him that the district is assuring the public that it’s perfectly fine to use bond premium to pay issuance costs, without actually telling the public the basis for that decision. Furthermore, the board specifically relied on this legal analysis in making its decision to approve the expenditure. I’ll be speaking to our company attorney about this. When the bond counsel spoke to the BOC, she said she and other attorneys didn’t know what the Poway letter meant. If they now have a better understanding of it, the public deserves to know what it is.

10.6 (item #41): Joint use lease agreement between MDUSD and Anova Center for Ed:
Hansen questioned the plan and pointed out that the revenues were minimal.
Lawrence said the district would receive about $84,000-$94,000 in rent, plus would reap solar benefits and Pawar Transportation savings.
Rolen said Anova pays 95-cents a square foot now and the district got them up to $1.50.
Lawrence said Anova approached the district. He said Measure C staff will be on the Holbrook site for 5-6 years, but after that, the district could see if anyone wants to rent the whole site. He also said the district is holding onto the property for when Concord develops the Naval Weapons Station property.
Eberhart said the deal is better for district students and makes better use of the facilities.
“To say that there has been no planning is void of reality,” he said, “so I would encourage people to look at the planning that has been done.”
Hansen asked: “Where is that plan?”
Passed 5-0.

JUNE 26 UPDATE: Here is the link to video of the bond cost of issuance discussion: http://qik.com/video/52274799

Here is my story about the meeting: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_20942427/mt-diablo-school-board-approves-2012-13-budget

Since I didn’t finish the live blog, here is a synopsis of the rest of the meeting (please note that video clips are posted at http://qik.com/tharrington and will be posted later at http://www.youtube.com/tunedtotheresa):

PUBLIC COMMENT:

Three people spoke about a composting program at Sequoia Elementary in Pleasant Hill, which they would like to serve as a model for other schools. One said Pleasant Hill Middle School’s Earth Club is “disenfranchised” because the school has resisted composting and sustainability efforts there. It spends more money on waste disposal than any other Pleasant Hill school. Superintendent Steven Lawrence promised to bring this back as an agenda item.

No district communications.

CAC Annual Report: Dorothy Weissenberger delivered the annual report, including references to disproportionality and the FCMAT reports. She said the CAC is very concerned about cuts to special ed and reminded the board of its legal obligation to provide a free and appropriate education. She said the group would hold a planning meeting in August.

Superintendent’s Report: Lawrence invited Jeff Adams of UMDAF to speak. Adams presented the district with a check for $250,000 as a contribution toward athletics.

Lawrence also praised SASS for offering several courses to teachers and said more will be offered in August.

Board unanimously appointed Lisa Caswell as program specialist, categorical programs, to work at Oak Grove MS.

Board unanimously apppointed Ann Tirrell as program specialist, ed tech.

Board unanimously agreed to reinstate database admin. position.

Board unanimously adopted 2012-13 budget, but Mayo said she regretted the reductions to Delta View bus service.

Board unanimously adopted resolution regarding maintenance of fiscal solvency.

Board voted 4-1 to approve school site safety plans. Eberhart opposed, saying there didn’t seem to be any consistency from school to school.

Board unanimously approved items 15.8 through 15.11.

Board voted 3-2 to approve 21012-13 nonpublic school and agency master contract. Mayo and Hansen voted against. Mayo was concerned about abandoning collaborative in contract language. She also mentioned school class size discrepancy.

Board unanimously approved items 15.13 through 15.20.

Board voted 3-2 to authorize superintendent to enter into new administrator contracts over summer without board approval. Eberhart and Hansen voted against, saying they didn’t want to relinquish the board’s authority to approve appointments.

The remaining items were presented for information only. There were no board reports, due to lack of time.

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  • Theresa Harrington

    Regarding the cost of issuance document provided to trustees cited by Lawrence and Eberhart, Jon Isom just told me he was not asked to provide anything to the board regarding that and he did not attend the meeting.

  • g

    Am I not understanding this correctly? 1) Did Isom, or did he not, do an analysis of the Poway Letter? 2) If Isom did not, then who did? 3) If he did not, then exactly how could he think a copy of such a document might be construed as “attorney/client” privilege?

    Also, I am very disheartened by comments being edited, for no more apparent reason than just because some slippery guy complains about them.

  • g

    Sorry: How could Rolen consider it an “attorney/client” privelege? Unless it was Rolen himself who did the analysis…?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Isom said he did not do an analysis of the Poway letter for the cost of issuance resolution approved by the board. It’s unclear who did, but it would appear it may have been the bond counsel, since Greg Rolen claimed it might fall under “attorney-client privilege.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    As noted in my previous post, it could be the bond counsel.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Greg Rolen has denied my PRA, saying it is a legal analysis provided by the bond counsel to the Board of Education and is exempt from disclosure. I have forwarded his response to our attorney to see if she agrees with his legal rationale.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#106 Was the legal opinion actually given to the Board ? Didn’t the Board, Lawrence or someone disclose the substance of the legal opinion in the public meeting — if so wouldn’t that have destroyed its “confidentiality” ?

  • Wait a Minute

    HUGE COVERUP HERE!!!

    Theresa, this is a smoking gun. The way these so-called “leaders” are operating here is criminal and they must be exposed for what they are.

    Rolen can pretend to be President Nixon all he wants but if the CCC Times pursues the story to its end then Rolen, EberMarsh, Lawrence, etc will be toast.

    Go for it Theresa!

  • Theresa Harrington

    Rolen specifically stated in his denial letter: “The request seeks a legal analysis provided by bond counsel to the Board of Education.”

    Lawrence and Eberhart alluded to the substance of the legal opinion without actually revealing what it was. Basically, they said that many other districts are using bond premium to pay cost of issuance and the attorney general hasn’t prosecuted anyone for it. But, they DIDN’T reveal the basis of their opinion that it was legal, despite the attorney general’s admonition to the Poway District that it was illegal.

    As I have previously stated, the bond underwriters were there to answer questions, but no one asked any. So, the public was left in the dark.

    This is why I requested the document in the first place. I told Rolen that the board is expecting the public to believe that trustees have definitive proof that the district is acting within the law without disclosing what the proof is. This obviously flies in the face of transparency.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Peter Scheer said the bond counsel and underwriters appear to have a conflict of interest, since they are being paid with the bond premium. I will see what he thinks about the district’s refusal to reveal the basis for their advice to the district.

  • g

    It would seem that under the “narrow” meaning of the Brown Act that:

    1) If a majority of the Board was presented with a written copy of this “advisory” document as a means of recommendation for how they might/should vote, that “advisory” must be made public BY THE BOARD, since it could well be construed as a “serial meeting”.

    2) If only a minority of the Board (Gary) was presented with the “advisory”, even if it was only an “oral advisory”, but the information was then verbally (or in writing) passed on to the rest, or majority, of the board, to garner a decision on how to vote–that would also be considered a serial meeting, and must be made public.

    3) Perhaps everyone involved needs to be reminded that the law of attorney-client privilege actually “belongs to the client”, and not the attorney. It is NOT Rolen’s place to claim the privilege–it is up to the client to claim that privilege!

    4) It is the job of the Board, by vote, as a UNIFIED SINGLE BODY, to decide if something is privileged or not.

    Under a more “broad” meaning of the Brown Act, such an advisory could only be construed to be privileged, if public knowledge of the content of the advisory might have some effect on the outcome of either existing or potential litigation.

    Perhaps Rolen is aware of some existing or potential litigation that (also) has not been publicly disclosed?

  • Anon

    My two cents is this is not “attorney-client privilege” which protects statements by THE CLIENT, but rather would be “attorney work product doctrine” which protects THE ATTORNEY’S research for litigation. Attorney work product is not a privilege and doesn’t seem to apply anyway. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attorney–client_privilege

  • Theresa Harrington

    Rolen also threw in that the document is “…protected by the attorney work product privilege, and other judicial privileges including, but not limited to the deliberative process privilege.”

    But, as you state, the document was not prepared for litigation, since no one has sued the district. Therefore, according to our attorney, that privilege cannot be invoked.

  • g

    Rolen is proving he is a dolt! A) Work Product protections are based on rule–and are not “Privileges”. Work Product rules speak directly only to cases involving known litigation.

    B) Deliberative Process Privilege–are you kidding? This equals protecting the public from itself!

    We aren’t asking why we went to war for Pete’s sake (pun intended)—we just want to know what advise was given to OUR elected officials that encouraged them to vote to break Prop 39 Bond financing laws.

    This is beginning to look like some back-woods school district.

  • Theresa Harrington

    g: The main reasons for denying the request were exemption under Gov. Code Sec. 6254(b) and (c), along with the claim that it was a “confidential communication between the district and its attorneys pursuant to Evidence Code Sec. 954.”

  • g

    Gov. Code Sec. 6254. (b) and (c):

    (b) Records pertaining to pending litigation to which the public agency is a party, or to claims made pursuant to Division 3.6
    (commencing with Section 810), until the pending litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled.

    (c) Personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

    And he claims Evidence Code 954????

    Ask him what he has to say about Evidence Code 956.

    Evidence Code 956:
    There is no privilege under this article if the services of the lawyer were sought or obtained to enable or aid anyone to commit
    or plan to commit a crime or a fraud.

    (as in crime and fraud under the Bond Financing Laws of the State of California!)

  • Theresa Harrington

    g: Thanks for the interesting analysis. I’ll see what our lawyer says.

  • Doctor J

    Bottom line Theresa is that Rolen, Lawrence and Eberhart are running circles around the Times. Do you think the New York Times would have ever published the Pentagon Papers if they had put up with this kind of ‘caca’ ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    No one is running circles around us. Our attorney is very busy and she didn’t have a chance to look at Rolen’s response today, but she told me over the phone that if the document was distributed to the entire board, there are only a few exemptions that could apply. I told her Rolen admitted in his response that it was distributed to the entire board.

    FYI, our lawyers also pressured the CDE to release raw graduation and dropout rate data early so we could post it online. They originally wanted to wait two weeks to release it.

  • g

    In the Watergate Case that Dr. J references, Justice Stewart in New York Times v. United States, while encouraging the press to do even more to aid The People in their pursuit of the truth, states:
    “The only effective restraint upon executive policy and power… may lie in an
    enlightened citizenry—in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can protect the values of a democratic government.”

    Perhaps he borrowed that from one of our founding fathers, James Madison, who said: “In a republic, the people are the ultimate sovereigns; they depend for their information on the press, which must therefore be free to “canvass the merits and measures of public men.”

    Those statements of opinion should not be taken lightly.

    —–

    There may be a “few exemptions”? Except for some ongoing “litigation”, or security of privacy for “personnel”, I can find no other possible exemption.

    —–

    I refer frequently to Florida’s Sunshine Law opinions, simply because those Sunshine Laws are just as valid in CA as our Brown Act Laws, and the Florida opinions are generally far superior to, and easier to find and to understand, than most opinions written by our CA Attorney General.

    I offer the following “school board/superintendent/attorney-client privilege” case as an example:

    http://www.myfloridalegal.com/ago.nsf/Opinions/BA424F66B626E94785256513005FEC8F

  • g

    Sorry Dr. J: I meant to say (LIKE the case that you referenced) but over-wrote on my own notes. ;) I do know the difference between the two!

  • Theresa Harrington

    MDUSD approved “The Hunger Games,” along with four other books as core and extended high school literature: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5519&mtgId=345

  • Theresa Harrington

    It looks as though the YVHS field lighting project may have hit a snag. It was pulled from the list of contracts the board authorized the superintendent to enter into: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5544&mtgId=345

    However, Superintendent Steven Lawrence told trustees he didn’t think it was necessary for a public announcement to be made explaining why the agenda attachment was changed, as Trustee Cheryl Hansen suggested in her proposed changes to agenda notifications.

    Although one YVHS resident said he was told there would be a special board meeting July 18 to approve the lighting project, Mitchell Stark told me he is not aware of such a meeting. He said General Counsel Greg Rolen has gotten involved in the project.

  • Anon

    So happy to see that MDUSD approved The Hunger Games for High school. My kids read them in 5th grade. Most 5th graders i know have also read them. Some of the other books my son read in 6th and 7th grade. I should add that he had a very good understanding of what the books were really about. The social issues and government.
    Wonder if middle school kids will get the reading counts credit for reading them now?

  • g

    Theresa, perhaps they should also pull Item 13? They can’t inspect something they don’t build—well, I suppose this group could…!

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, I thought it was odd that that was left on and that it didn’t specify a school.

    I just spoke to a YVHS neighbor who said he found out on June 25 that the board expected to give the superintendent approval that night to enter into a contract for the project. Then, it was abruptly pulled from the agenda. He also said no residents who submitted comments on the environmental study have received responses, which are required.

    The district is certainly handling this differently than it did the Northgate project. For that, the board held at special meeting at Northgate, complete with a presentation of the project and ample opportunity for public comments.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s the response I got from Pete Pedersen in an email regarding the YVHS stadium lighting environmental report:

    “We are still reviewing the project scope and hope to have a meeting with the neighbors soon.

    Any environmental report, along with the comments and responses must be placed on a public agenda, posted in compliance with Brown Act requirements and must be acted upon by the Board. Individuals or groups/entities who submit comments are not provided personal responses. Rather, the responses are incorporated into the final, posted document. There is no ‘deadline’ associated with this process.”

  • Doctor J

    Based on Pedersen’s comments, Rolen’s late involvment, the sudden unexplained pulling of the project from the agenda, it would appear the neighbor’s lawyered up, Lawrence then coward out, especially with his fair haired future Asst. Supt. being the new principal, afraid of a public humiliation . . . .once again.

  • Theresa Harrington

    It definitely appears that the neighbors are making more waves than the district may have initially anticipated.
    I was told by a resident that he met with Sue Brothers on June 25, the day of the board meeting, and that she told him she would like to have an independent analysis of the lighting and sound impacts.
    He said the neighbors want the sound and lighting mitigated and that Brothers seemed receptive to working with them to resolve their concerns.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#129 The operative word is “seemed” — Sue Brothers is an accomplished placater with no record of follow up, especially where she doesn’t make the decision. Of course she can say “she would like” because she doesn’t make the decision. Can the neighbors “pin down” Lawrence to the same statement ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Based on my conversations with neighbors, I don’t believe Lawrence has spoken to them.
    They said Sherry Whitmarsh and Pete Pedersen have met with them.

  • Doctor J

    I wonder why King Lawrence has chosen not to meet with the serfs ? Instead, he sends his minions, Sue Brothers and Pete.