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Candidate filing period for Nov. 6 election opens July 16

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 at 10:57 pm in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district.

The filing period for local candidates planning to run for open seats in the Nov. 6 election opens July 16 and closes Aug. 10, unless an incumbent fails to file for re-election. In that case, the deadline is automatically extended to Aug. 15, according to political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen, who has compiled a long list of open seats in local agencies.

Here’s an excerpt of her list, which includes school board openings in Contra Costa and Alameda counties:

Contra Costa:

Acalanes Union High School District (two seats)
Antioch Unified School District (three seats)
Brentwood Union School District (two seats)
Byron Union School District (two seats)
Canyon Elementary School District (two seats)
Contra Costa County Board of Education (two seats)
Contra Costa Community College District (two seats, wards 2 and 5)
Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (one seat, Ward 7)
John Swett Unified School District (two seats)
Knightsen School District (three seats)
Lafayette School District (two seats)
Liberty Union High School District (two seats)
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (two seats)
Martinez Unified School District (three seats)
Moraga School District (two seats)
Mt. Diablo Unified School District (two seats)
Oakley Union Elementary School District (two seats)
Orinda Union School District (two seats)
Pittsburg Unified School District (three seats)
San Ramon Valley Unified School district (two seats)
Walnut Creek School District (two seats)
West Contra Costa Unified School District (two seats)

Alameda County:

Alameda Unified School District (three seats)
Castro Valley Unified School District (three seats)
Dublin Unified School District (three seats)
Fremont Unified School District (three seats)
Hayward Unified School District (three seats)
Livermore Unified School District (two seats)
Mount House Elementary (one seat)
New Haven Unified School District (three seats)
Newark Unified School District (three seats)
Pleasanton Unified School District (three seats)
San Leandro Unified School district (three seats)
San Lorenzo Unified School District (four seats)
Sunol Glen Unified School district (1 seat)

In the Mt. Diablo district, incumbents Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh have not yet publicly announced whether they intend to seek re-election. The teachers’ union has endorsed challengers Brian Lawrence and Attila Gabor. District residents Ernie DeTrinidad and Debra Mason have also told me they intend to run.

What are you looking for in a candidate?

AUG. 22 UPDATE: I have received a phone call from Mt. Diablo teachers’ union President Guy Moore informing me that MDEA has endorsed retired College Park HS Principal Barbara Oaks, now that Attila Gabor has pulled out of the race due to health concerns.

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  • g

    Can’t speak for other districts. Whitmarsh was “carried” to her seat in 2008 by Eberhart and MDEA funds. Eberhart also was well supported by MDEA and Local 1, but also got a hefty percentage of his funding from the outside unions for the plumbers, carpenters, engineers and electricians who no doubt counted on his recommendations for jobs.

    I’m looking for a candidate this year that makes no job/benefit or rhetorical mumbo-jumbo promises in exchange for campaign donations that will “buy” him a seat with taxpayer paid benefits in exchange for sitting on a “voluntary” school board;
    someone who ends up beholden to no one but the “students and taxpayers”.

    That being said, so far, I’m still looking….

  • Anon

    G-have you looked at Debra Mason?

  • Hell Freezing Over

    So we all need a reminder – in regards to Trustee candidates in any district race, but in particular MDUSD:

    1. When and how did trustees start getting full Med/Dental/Vision coverage for themselves and immediate family members? ( in addition to the small yearly stipend and reimbursements for milage/other coats for board meetings/prep )

    2. When and how did trustees start getting cell phones & coverage, laptops & internet service (not just reimbursement if used for district business) as a board member perk?

    3. Who are the new candidates and how do we find information NOW on their reasons for running? (3 months from filing deadline to election is really a very small amount of time for learning about and forming a decision on voting selection)

    Contra Costa County has 47 seats open x full MDV, cell/Internet costs (not sure how many members on each board in total).

    Alameda County has 35 seats open x full MDV, cell/Internet costs (not sure how many members on each board in total).

    Are any of the current trustees or those jumping in the candidate pools willing to forego the MDV costs, cell/Internet perks and put the $$$ back into the pot to spend on students?

  • Theresa Harrington

    HFO: It will be interesting to compare all the responses to the grand jury report regarding benefits. Although many school boards have placed the grand jury report on their agendas for public discussion, it’s my understanding that General Counsel Greg Rolen may draft a response for MDUSD without any public discussion at the board level.
    Responses are due July 22nd.

  • Doctor J

    And who pray tell gave Greg Rolen the authority to draft a “Board response” without an open meeting discussion or otherwise comply with the Brown Act ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    I received the following information from Trustee Cheryl Hansen in an email:

    “My effort to place the elimination of health benefits on this agenda was in direct alignment with the Grand Jury’s recommendations. My first attempt to reduce the cost of health benefits for Board members didn’t even get to a vote since I couldn’t get a second or a discussion.
    Greg Rolen is in the process of writing a response to the Grand Jury which I believe is due July 22.”

    I will try to find out who authorized him to respond on behalf of the board, without a public discussion.

  • g

    HFO: Very good questions. Anon: I suspect her “area of interest” is too narrow for a district of this size.

  • Doctor J

    Isn’t there a rule I recall from the prior elections that if an incumbent does NOT file by a particular date, that the filing period is extended for non-incumbents ?

  • Doctor J

    @G, maybe we need to print a list, like they did with Prop 8, of the NAMES of the campaign donors to Sherry and Gary from the last election. Might be enlightening.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: Yes, as stated in this blog post, the deadline is automatically extended to Aug. 15 if an incumbent does not file by Aug. 10.

  • g

    Dr. J @9: They got the majority of their election donations (over $6K each) from MDEA, who, it would now appear, is declaring that it learned its lesson. They floated monies back and forth between each other. Whitmarsh still has a little bit left in her war chest, while Eberhart appears to be broke (really and figuratively).

    Maybe she’ll donate the rest of her funds to him so he can write off the family’s “campaign” dinners on donated money again.

    Then of course there was all of the building trades donations that he got from union locals in Hayward, Oakland, Sacramento, etc.–you know, those people in places that really care about our kids and what goes on in our school district, ha-ha.

    No way to see if he paid them back with work or not.

  • anon

    For all people who will be voting in the MDUSD election, I hope you will remember this slogan in deciding who you vote for-

    ANYBODY BUT GARY OR SHERRY!!!!!!

  • Anon

    @Anon12-Right on but with one caveat. With many declared candidates and they could split the vote. Four years ago Gary and Sherry campaigned as a ticket. Two years ago there was a group of candidates and thus the only incumbent Mayo was reelected. To defeat an incumbent there needs to be an active campaign throughout the district to educate the voters and promote a ticket.

  • Anon

    I say don’t vote for anyone MDEA has backed! From what I hear Brian Lawrence is friends with Eberhart and Strange (Probably Whitmarsh too) We need to be wise here and not have people who are looking out for MDEA and the District officials. We need people who will look out for the kids and the public.

  • Michael Langley

    Just a note to the people who keep referring to what MDEA did in the past to support board candidates. The elected leadership of MDEA has changed twice since the last time the membership supported anyone in the race for seats on the board. During the last cycle, the representatives from our sites supported the recommendation to remain neutral. This was in spite of having one of our own former members as a candidate. We made it clear that we are not looking for promises of gain from the people we interviewed. We only asked that communication be kept open with all stakeholders, including MDEA. The district unions do not want to control the board, we merely wish to be heard as part of the process. Any observer of board meetings should understand the frustration of standing before the board for three minutes with the feeling that the minds are already frozen and the “public comment” is only fro show.

    Before our last interview panel, we had requests from community members and another bargaining unit to observe the candidates responses, which we honored. We selected the two candidates that we believed had the tools to keep the district financially afloat and an understanding of the educational process that promoted two way communications from “classroom” to Dent Center instead of the current system. By “classroom” we mean input from all employees. For example, how many bus drivers are asked for input concerning route efficiency before others make decisions? We are not asking that bus drivers, teachers and custodians make policy. We are asking that their expertise be solicited before game changing decisions are made.

    Over the last eight years, there have been three MDEA Presidents and four MDEA Vice Presidents. Each brought their own experience as professional educators. Each suggested innovations to improve the education of our students. Each worked, at differing degrees of success, to improve communication with administration at all levels. It is convenient for some to dismiss the endorsement from the collective representatives of teachers, librarians, nurses, speech pathologists and others who make up the Mt. Diablo Education Association. By painting MDEA as a separate entity from the ever-changing population that it actually represents, one can then ascribe any motives and actions one wishes, without having to deal with facts.

    Attlia Gabor and Brian Lawrence were recommended by the approximately one hundred representatives of the MDEA members in June, simply for the reason that they were judged best to bring civility, openness and strong leadership to a school board that has appeared to be more dysfunctional with each passing month.

  • g

    Mr. Langley: I suspect that MDEA’s decision to “choose two” from a slate of two seems a bit suspect to us. I think it was a bit too early in the game to do that.

  • Doctor J

    @MikeL#15 The turmoil in the churning of the leadership of MDEA as you describe it has decreased MDEA’s effectiveness as a voice of the teachers. I hope the MDEA finds solidarity.

  • Theresa Harrington

    g: Based on my discussions with Langley, MDEA interviewed four candidates and selected two. Langley told me they also asked Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and Trustee Gary Eberhart if they wanted to participate, but received no response.

  • g

    But so far, at least as far as I can see, only Lawrence and DeTrinidad have even “officially” thrown their hat in the ring.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, Lawrence and DeTrinidad have publicly announced their campaigns.
    That’s why I don’t quite understand why you said MDEA chose two from a field of two.
    They chose Attila Gabor – who had not officially announced – over DeTrinidad, who had announced.
    They also interviewed Mason.

    FYI, when I googled Gabor, I found that he has served on the Bay Point MAC: http://ebaydemo.org/ElectedOffcialListingCCC.pdf

  • g

    You’re correct. I should have clarified that they chose two, from what is apparently an ‘internal’ slate of two. How/why would MDEA even want to show their cards so early in the game?

    I guess my objections come from not liking the idea that people seem to have approached the unions (first) to ‘test the waters’.

  • Theresa Harrington

    While it’s true that Gabor sought the union’s endorsement, it’s my understanding that the other candidates were approached by the union to be included in the interview panel – not the other way around.

  • Doctor J

    Theresa, please outline the costs of running for school board: filing fees, voter pamphlet expenses, etc. I think many MDUSD Board hopefuls will be shocked. And as far as the MDEA, what happens if another more qualified candidate decides to run ? Will MDEA under “new leadership” change its endorsements ?

  • Michael Langley

    @ Dr. J #17 Change in union leadership is not turmoil. It is a case of qualified members leaving the classroom on a temporary basis to serve the membership as a whole. Mr. Noce could have stayed, but wanted to return to teaching. The current Vice President only left the sites she worked to help facilitate the transition between me and Mr. Moore. Some locals have term limits to allow rotation of educators in leadership positions. MDEA does not have that in its by-laws, as it is sometimes difficult to convince excellent teachers like Guy Moore and Anita Johnson to leave their vocation working directly with students for the task of union leadership. Many of our leaders continue to work for better education upon return to sites.
    Unless we stop to look at individuals and abandon the broad brush of stereotypes, communication and cooperation will be difficult to achieve. Without which, the goal of improving the district and its delivery of a sound education is more elusive than ever.
    @ G # 16 To endorse later than June would require us to hold an interview panel in August, inform the Representatives on September 10th of the recommendation, and have a vote on October 1st. This is because we have to get input from each of our sites and all of our members. The process would be too late, especially with the number of voters who vote by mail.
    If anyone in the community showed interest that they wanted to run for the school board, we invited them. We also asked our membership if they knew of anybody interested. This process was ongoing. However, we were easy to contact and those who had a desire could have approached us at any time. The endorsement was the result of an open process and no back room deals were struck.I suggest for the next cycle, interested parties should contact Guy Moore.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: The voter pamphlet statement costs $2,430, according to the board’s agenda report: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/882b9b1c-8389-44ed-b8b6-42279972a90b.pdf

    However, this is not required to run. Lynne Dennler did not submit a ballot statement, yet still won.

  • g

    Mr. Langley, thanks for your explanation. I don’t believe I implied that there might be back room deals made, although someone in the thick of decision making might read inference into my statements.

    I am aware that you have retired, and have personally thanked you for your excellent years of service, and do so here again.

    Of course it is a long-standing policy for MDEA members to support candidates, just as they do bond measures. I have no fault with that.

    My feeling is, however, that if they find the task too daunting–too inconvenient for members to wait at least until “election season”, and feel they must decide to start influencing elections a full six weeks or more before official candidate filing dates even arrive, perhaps they might want to rethink strategy.

    If that membership wants to effect influence on the voters, without appearing to be underhanded about it, perhaps they could be persuaded to put out a more timely effort, rather than give ‘their’ chosen candidates a financial and emotional running start.

  • Susan Berg

    Theresa, I seem to recall your reporting that MDEA/CTA-backed candidates Eberhart and Whitmarsh had upwards of $100,000 to spend on their 2008 Board campaigns while the other two candidates, April Treece and Jeff Adams, with no union backing, had about $15,000-$20,000 each, raised solely through grassroots efforts. Also, unions provide more than funds to candidates they endorse; they also have highly effective phone banks.

    Mike Langley, #15: Your comment that “Over the last eight years, there have been three MDEA Presidents and four MDEA Vice Presidents,” implies that the union”s leadership changes frequently. Your predecessor as president, Mike Noce, served for most of the time you reference, 2002-2009 as I recall. Your CTA executive director, Mark York, has served MDEA for about 10 years now. Membership on the MDEA Board and FRA has been fairly stable as well. I’m happy to hear that members with new ideas and experiences have joined the leadership team during your tenure as president. Based on my own experience in the MDUSD Supt’s Office from 2000-09, that is good news.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Sue, I don’t have the figures at my fingertips, but that sounds about right. As you know, the Whitmarsh-Eberhart ticket was also anti-Treece, with the goal of ousting Treece to change the board majority. Eberhart and Whitmarsh were closely aligned with Trustee Paul Strange.
    When Eberhart was re-elected and Whitmarsh replaced Treece, they became part of the board majority with Paul Strange and ousted former Superintendent Gary McHenry.
    Mayo, who became part of the minority, was re-elected two years later without strong opposition in a wide field of candidates. Now, she often joins with Whitmarsh and Eberhart in majority votes that tend to be aligned with Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s recommendations.
    Dennler, who was discouraged when MDEA failed to back her candidacy two years ago, also tends to go along with the majority on most issues.
    Hansen has appeared to be on her own in many of her attempts to effect changes and is sometimes faced with open hostility from other board members.
    It will be interesting to see if Whitmarsh and Eberhart seek re-election. The district could be at a crossroads.

  • g
  • g

    And… if you want to compare which companies are getting all the jobs in the district, follow the CUES committee from 2007 early preparations for what became Measure D, right through its name changes and right down to Measure C financing, try:

    http://64.166.146.18/listimages.asp?orgid=1394&currentpage=1&txtName=community+united&chkPartial=on&searchtype=1&yearid=All&ballot_id=All&district_id=All&jurisdiction_id=All&electtype_id=All&election_id=All&form_id=All&startdate=&enddate=&firstenter=0&nextbutton=0&backpage=searchresult.asp&checkforyearrange=0&yearrange=

  • Theresa Harrington

    Board to hold a closed session meeting Monday to discuss superintendent’s evaluation and two possible lawsuits: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_agendaview.aspx?mtgId=368

  • Doctor J

    Funny isn’t how Lawrence wanted “carte blanche” to appoint administrators without advance Board approval during July, yet two years in a row July “closed sessions” have been scheduled for the “Superintendent’s Evaluation”. Why not just schedule a regular meeting, approve administrative appointments, and conduct regular business ? Perhaps there still aren’t enough Elementary Principals in the candidate pool to fill ALL of the vacancies ? Or is it the Gretchen Jacobs appoint that raised the hackles of no email Eberhart and Whitmarsh ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Hansen and Eberhart wanted to meet in July to approve appointments. It was Whitmarsh, Mayo and Dennler who authorized the superintendent to hire administrators without board approval.

  • g

    My guess is they want to discuss the YV field lights in private, so they’re sticking it under “Anticipated” litigation.

    According to the First Ammendment Coalition, if you want to call closed session you must follow Govt Code 54956.9(B), which states:

    “Facts and circumstances, including, but not limited to, an accident, disaster, incident, or transactional occurrence that might result in litigation against the agency and that are known to a potential plaintiff or plaintiffs, which facts or circumstances shall be publicly stated on the agenda or announced.”

    Repeat…”which facts or circumstances shall be publicly stated on the agenda or announced.”

    They must state more that just “anticipated litigation”, and give the public the chance to comment on the specific item. Right?

  • Doctor J

    Has someone filed a “claim” against the district that is the “anticipated” litigation ? Aren’t the “claims” public records ? Here we go with another PRA. How interesting to get copies of all public records of “claims” filed in the last 18 months and try to match them up with the plethora of “anticipated” litigation.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Please note that I have posted a separate blog with the Monday agenda, so readers can comment on the meeting there: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2012/07/13/mdusd-board-to-hold-special-closed-session-meeting-monday-regarding-superintendents-evaluation-and-possible-litigation/

  • g

    Dr J: The FAC indicates there is some difference between “anticipated” and “pending”. Under Pending, a case has been filed in court and at least one of the parties is aware of it.

    Under Anticipated, the district simply expects that someone MAY have a good reason to file.

    As I read it, in both cases the district must give at least a brief description of the issue, either on the Agenda or verbally before they go into closed session. The agenda should also state “conference with legal council to…”.

    http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/cacode/GOV/1/5/d2/1/9/s54954.5

    In Nov. 2010, Californians Aware sent a “warning” letter to the School Boards Association (and others) stating:

    “Agendizing/announcing closed sessions for anticipated litigation – subdivision (b) of Gov’t Code § 54956.9.
    Prior to a closed session for pending litigation, the Brown Act requires the authorizing subdivision to be stated on the
    agenda or announced. For subdivision (b), the “existing facts and circumstances” must appear on the agenda or be
    announced prior to the closed session, which would allow interested members of the public to comment on these
    before the legislative body holds its private discussion with legal counsel. (Subparagraphs (B)-(E) of §
    54956.9(b)(3).) Here, only one exception to this announcement requirement is offered by subparagraph (A), when
    the facts and circumstances are not yet known to potential plaintiffs. We have found subparagraph (A) circumstances
    to apply very, very rarely. However, agencies seldom make any facts-and-circumstances announcement and often
    fail to designate the subdivision authorizing the closed session. (e.g., The Brown Act, Open Meetings for Local
    Legislative Bodies, Cal. Attorney General, pages 23-24; McKee v. Chino Valley USD (2005) SBSC Case No.
    RCV079704.)”

    Considering we pay good money for the CSBA membership dues for Eberhart/Mayo, we can only hope that the School Boards Association shared that warning with their members.

  • Sue Berg

    G, #34: The Brown Act (CA Govt Code 54950-54963) does allow a Board to meet with counsel in closed session and discuss some types of “pending litigation” without revealing details to the public.

    Section 54956.9 of the Code states: “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent a legislative body of a local agency, based on advice of its legal counsel, from holding a closed session to confer with, or receive advice from, its legal counsel regarding pending litigation when discussion in open session concerning those matters would prejudice the position of the local agency in the litigation.”

    The paragraph you cite [54956.9(b)(3)(B)] is one of six (A to F) different criteria regulating the disclosure of pending litigation. Yours is specific to one of the following events: “an accident, disaster, incident, or transactional occurrence.”

    The paragraph above yours [54956.9(b)(3)(A)] allows for the confidentiality you object to: “Facts and circumstances that might result in litigation against the local agency but which the local agency believes are not yet known to a potential plaintiff or plaintiffs, which facts and circumstances need not be disclosed.”

    I agree that it can be frustrating not to know what the school board is discussing behind closed doors, but some of those confidential discussions are legally allowed, not always for the benefit of the board but also, often, for that of the individuals (staff, students, parents) involved in the issue.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Based on what Sue wrote, it’s possible the board could be discussing the “thorough analysis” of the Poway letter cited by Lawrence, along with the “definitive assessments” that Eberhart claimed proved the district acted within the law by paying its bond cost of issuance with bond premium.

    Trustee Cheryl Hansen said in an email that she did not receive any such documentation. If she didn’t receive it, it’s possible some other trustees may have also been wondering what Lawrence and Eberhart were talking about.

    Here’s what Hansen wrote:

    “I don’t know what documentation about the Poway letter Steven and Gary were referencing when they made their statements at the June 25 Board meeting. To refresh my memory, I listened to the recording of that meeting and realized that I should have followed up with questions about their statements at that time. I certainly will follow up now to obtain whatever documentation they were referencing.”

    She said she based her questions and statements during the meeting on the agenda item summary, the March 2012 Measure C Audit Report, the Poway letter, and the bond counsel’s March 12 comments about the letter, which Hansen described as essentially “just a summary and disclaimer of the letter.”

  • g

    Theresa: Hopefully, when Ms Hansen receives her copy of the “alleged” legal analysis, she will share it with you, so you can share it with us. Having been referenced in a public meeting, it can not be protected by any kind of attorney-client privilege. (You were checking on that with your legal team?)

    I don’t think this could fall under Sue’s reference to the “A” clause, since that clause is just for those plaintiffs who aren’t yet aware that a law may have been broken, and we are certainly “aware” that just because ‘a lot of districts break the law, doesn’t make it OK for our district to do it.

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    This stinks to high heaven. Eberhart is hiding something big. The Nixonian nature the THE GARY is outstanding.

    Theresa – are you Woodward or Bernstein? Both?

  • Theresa Harrington

    The Lafayette School Board adopted a five-year strategic plan on June 21: http://lafsd-ca.schoolloop.com/file/1269552622196/1125708308010544457.pdf
    The Lafayette superintendent also just sent out a July newsletter.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Todd Groves has announced he will run for a seat on the WCCUSD board: https://www.facebook.com/toddgrovesforschools

  • g

    So far, we still just show the two announced runners for MDUSD board.

    On another note: Eberhart hasn’t filed the required Semi Annual Recipient Committee Campaign Form 460 since Dec, 2010 (which showed a balance in the account). I’d say he’s about three forms behind…. I wonder what the FPPC would think about that.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The Democratic Party of Contra Costa County will hold a Central Committee meeting tonight in Martinez, where new officers will be elected: http://contracostadems.org/

  • Hell Freezing Over

    So today is July 30 – Who has officially filed as a candidate for MDUSD?

    Time is running short …

  • Theresa Harrington

    As of today, the four announced challengers have taken out nomination papers, but none is fully qualified for the ballot yet.

    The intended candidates so far are: Brian Lawrence, Ernesto DeTrinidad, Debra Mason and Attila Gabor.

    Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and Trustee Gary Eberhart still have not taken out nomination papers.

    Here is the election website link: http://bit.ly/cPrzo2
    You can see updates by clicking on “Semi-Official List of Candidates.”

  • Doctor J

    Prediction: Eberhart will make a last minute filing in an effort to try and narrow the field. Whitmarsh will not file, and hope that no one else files so she can have a Board nomination to fill the vacancy with . . . you guessed it, Paul Strange. If someone else files, then you will see Lynne Dennler resign her seat, and Eberhart, Whitmarsh and Mayo will vote to fill her seat with Paul Strange.

  • Anon

    I am aware of a very large committee that stands ready to run a full blown “No on Gary and Sherry” campaign, if they mistakenly decide to file.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    I can’t find any live links to Paul Strange’s business/law firm. Is he even still around?