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MDUSD board to hold special closed session meeting Monday regarding superintendent’s evaluation and possible litigation

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, July 13th, 2012 at 11:42 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Last month, the Mt. Diablo school district trustees voted 3-2 to authorize Superintendent Steven Lawrence to enter into construction contracts and hire administrators over the summer without their approval, in part because trustees normally take the month of July off.

However, the board has scheduled an unanticipated special closed session meeting Monday to discuss the superintendent’s evaluation and two potential lawsuits.

Here is the agenda:

“Special Closed Session
DATE: 7/16/2012 TIME: 6:00 PM CODE:
LOCATION: Room 6, Dent Center – 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord

1.0 Call to Order

1.1 President will call the meeting to order: Info

1.2 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call: Info

2.0 Public Comment
2.1 The public may address the Board concerning items that are scheduled for discussion during closed session only. These presentations are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time: Info

3.0 Adjourn to Closed Session

3.1 Superintendent’s Evaluation: Info

3.2 Anticipated Litigation: Info

4.0 Adjournment
4.1 Adjourn meeting: Info”

At the June 25 meeting, trustees Gary Eberhart and Cheryl Hansen voted against authorizing the superintendent to hire administrators without board approval, saying they did not want to relinquish that authority. Board President Sherry Whitmarsh, Vice President Linda Mayo and Trustee Lynne Dennler voted in favor of granting that authority to Lawrence.

Do you agree with the board’s decision to authorize Lawrence to hire administrators over the summer without board approval?

JULY 15 UPDATE: I received the following email from Trustee Cheryl Hansen today, informing me that she was surprised by the Monday meeting and is unsure why the board needs to continue discussing the superintendent’s evaluation:

“I just thought you might be interested in how I found out about Monday night’s special Board meeting: I read your blog posting on Thursday afternoon which was the first that I’d heard about any meeting.

When I checked my email, I found a message from Greg Rolen sent on July 12 at 12:47 PM to all Board members that referenced a Monday meeting. A couple of hours later, I received the email that the agenda had been posted.

That evening, I emailed Sherry Whitmarsh asking her what the point of Monday night’s meeting was since, according to Sherry at our April 23 Board meeting, ‘we finished the superintendent’s evaluation,’ which was her justification when I questioned her about what the hurry was for extending the superintendent’s contract that night.

Given the surprise nature of this meeting, I also asked Sherry to send me any materials that might be presented or discussed on Monday night so that I could reflect upon them advance. When I received no response, I emailed her again on Saturday and, as of this moment, have still had no response from Sherry.”

JULY 16 UPDATE: I received a voicemail this morning from Board President Sherry Whitmarsh explaining that the reason she did not return Hansen’s email was that she was camping in a remote location Thursday through last night and was not checking e-mail.

“She did not receive anything from me because it was not my meeting to call,” Whitmarsh added. “The superintendent wanted to discuss his evaluation for the next school year.”

JULY 17 UPDATE: I just spoke to Board President Sherry Whitmarsh to get clarification on her statements to me yesterday. She said the superintendent asked her if it would be okay to have a special meeting and she agreed.

“He did own that agenda item,” she said.

The other clarification was regarding her statement about the Poway “definitive assessment.” She said it was a closed session conversation with “OUR counsel, not the bond counsel.”

“Greg spoke to me in closed session,” she said. “I don’t know if it was anticipated litigation or what else. I do not remember when it was.”

When I asked if the rest of the board was present at the time, she said: “Yes, as far as I can recall. But there have been some times when someone has come in late.”

Regarding administrative assignments, she said the district may release them all at once next week — hopefully by Aug. 1. She said she hopes to put together a list of all the schools and principals, vice principals and student services coordinators — indicating which ones are new to the sites — “so that people can just see what’s going on.”

“I know that they are still conducting interviews this week,” she said. “So that’s why I belive they were trying to wait ’til early next week to release because they were hopng to have the interviews completed and the acceptances done.”

Whitmarsh’s latest characterization of the “definitive assessment” of the Poway letter being a conversation between herself and General Counsel Greg Rolen during an unnamed closed session — which Trustee Cheryl Hansen does not appear to recall — seems to undermine assertions by Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Trustee Gary Eberhart that they had received a “thorough analysis” of the Poway letter. It also appears to contradict Rolen’s statement in his PRA denial that: “The request seeks a legal analysis provided by the bond counsel to the Board of Education.”

That doesn’t sound like a conversation between him and the Board President. That sounds like a direct communication between the bond counsel and the board.

As a reminder, here is a link to video of the board’s conversation about the Poway letter:</a

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the first portion of the superintendent’s comments on video. But, according to my notes, he said: “We’ve given the board a thorough analysis of the Poway letter.” The video also shows Trustee Gary Eberhart saying: “We have received extremely definitive assessments of the process we’re using…”

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105 Responses to “MDUSD board to hold special closed session meeting Monday regarding superintendent’s evaluation and possible litigation”

  1. g Says:

    Since we know the board is pretty much a “rubber stamp” board on hiring matters anyway…I don’t see much of a big deal.

    History has shown that it is up to the public to show them the error of the “rubber stamp” approach after the fact.

    The real current issue is this “special closed session”. They must tell us why it is so “special” that it couldn’t wait until the next regularly scheduled meeting.

  2. g Says:

    Response to Sue Berg from other post: Please note, as the Californians Aware letter that I quoted states, the circumstances where the board might fall back on “A”–where the plaintiff may not even be aware that the district has legally wronged them–is VERY rare.

    To be overly dramatic, that is like saying “when they find out we shot their dog, they might sue us–so let’s have a closed session to figure out a good place to hide the dog.”

    Seriously, nearly all circumstances where the district might “Anticipate” litigation would entail the plaintiff already knowing they are either about to be, or have been wronged, and very likely has, in some manner, indicated that they “might” sue.

    Even if the district could stay mute under “A”, they would still have to declare openly why they are hiding behind that clause.

  3. Doctor J Says:

    As has become the custom and practice in MDUSD, I believe the Board improperly, and perhaps illegally, uses these closed session agendas, as a ruse to attempt to discuss policy and procedure with the Supt and keep it secret from the public. One possible area of strategy discussion would be the CVCHS charter waiver set for hearing on Wednesday July 18 in Sacramento:
    Another might be the still unfilled Elementary Principal pool OR the Gretchen Jacobs appointment.
    It does appear purposeful once again that both items for closed session discussion are just “information” and not action items.
    If the Board is exceeding its authority in having improper or illegal discussions in “closed session”, are Board members bound by the “confidentiality” of such closed sessions ? If not, perhaps some Board members will speak up about the illegal or improper discussions being held in closed sessions which are not bound by the confidentiality of proper closed sessions.
    But I think that the best way to expose this, is to do a PRA request for any documents from employees or the public that indicate “anticipated litigation” may occur in MDUSD.

  4. g Says:

    Look at this Agenda from the city of SF. Item 3, and all of its parts, is a perfect example of following the correct guidelines of how to post and advise of what the closed session is for. Notice that even though there is no legal action pending, they NAME the possible reason that action MIGHT be taken in the future, based on what they are planning to do–(potential violation of voting rights act, regarding redistricting).

    Dr. J: The law is very clear. Most Items discussed in closed session are required by law to be kept confidential–unless Action takes place, in which case they must return to Open Session and report that action.

    But wait!

    If any member ‘feels’ that a law is being broken in closed session, they are protected by the Whistle Blower law, which allows them to speak publicly, saying that they “believe it is their duty” to report that they “feel or suspect” that a law may have been, or is planned to be broken.

    Cool, huh?

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: Regarding your first comment, Trustee Gary Eberhart specifically stated this as his reason for not wanting to grant the superintendent the authority to hire over the summer — it would cost the district to break contracts, if trustees don’t agree with Lawrence’s appointments.
    So, although the board has seemed to be a rubber stamp in the past, Eberhart appeared to anticipate the possibility that trustees might object to an appointment so vigorously that they would want to break the contract after the fact.
    It’s unfortunate that the district doesn’t reveal the names of the people being appointed until the agenda item is opened for discussion. This gives the public very little opportunity to object to an appointment. A person would have to submit a public comment card in advance, without knowing who the appointee is, to even be given the opportunity to object.
    However, as you state, Lawrence’s appointments directly reflect on his competence as superintendent. So, it is possible trustees could discuss the appointment of Jacobs — or any other reassignment he has made — as part of his ongoing “evaluation.”
    It’s also possible they could discuss the succession plan in light of Mildred Browne’s sudden request for a leave of absence. I have asked Julie Braun-Martin what the plan is and have not received a response.

  6. g Says:

    Theresa, I believe a possible Jacobs issue could be squeezed in under Lawrence’s evaluation.

    However, to be strictly legal, the Browne succession issue would probably require another Item–under the title of “Personnel”—unless such a discussion actually might fall in under the “Anticipated Litigation” Item.

    Wouldn’t that be a kicker!

    Which came first in Browne’s decision to ‘retire’ into a contracted position–the chicken or the egg–?

    When Whitmarsh/Lawrence left her off of the proposed renewal list, did they already know she was planning retirement–and was that information kept from others on the board, even though they questioned it in public?

    Was a replacement for Browne perhaps already in the wings (or Lawrence’s mind) on the day renewal contracts were proposed and voted on–and Whitmarsh/Lawrence concealed that from other board members as well as the public?

  7. Doctor J Says:

    The plot thickens.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    Doesn’t appear the Special Meeting Agenda even follows the MDUSD Board By-laws. I sure wish Supt. Lawrence would read the Board By-laws since as the Board Secretary he is responsible for following the By-laws in preparing the agenda. Here is an excerpt from the MDUSD Board By-law 9321: “Before holding a closed session pursuant to this section, the Board shall state on the agenda or publicly announce the subdivision of Government Code 54956.9 under which the closed session is being held. If authority is based on Government Code 54956.9(a), the Board shall either state the title or specifically identify the litigation to be discussed or state that doing so would jeopardize the district’s ability to effectuate service of process upon unserved parties or to conclude existing settlement negotiations to its advantage. (Government Code 54956.9)

    Agenda items related to “pending litigation” shall be described as a conference with legal counsel regarding “Existing Litigation” or “Anticipated Litigation.” (Government Code 54954.5)

    “Existing litigation” items shall identify the name of the case specified by either the claimant’s name, names of parties and case or claim number, unless the Board states that to identify the case would jeopardize service of process or existing settlement negotiations. (Government Code 54954.5)

    “Anticipated litigation” items shall state that there is significant exposure to litigation pursuant to Government Code 54956.9(b) and shall specify the potential number of cases. When the district expects to initiate a suit, items related to anticipated litigation shall state that the discussion relates to the initiation of litigation pursuant to Government Code 54956.9(c) and shall specify the potential number of cases. The agenda or an oral statement before the closed session may be required to provide additional information pursuant to Items #2-5 above (Government Code 54954.5, Government Code 54956.9(b)(3)(B-E))”

  9. Doctor J Says:

    Did Lawrence prepare and provide this report to the Board prior to the evaluation ? See BP 2140 and especially this excerpt: “Prior to the evaluation, the Superintendent shall prepare and distribute to the Board a progress report toward district goals, the Superintendent’s self-appraisal of accomplishments and performance, and a review of action taken to address any Board recommendations from the previous evaluation.”
    Each Board member shall independently evaluate the Superintendent’s performance. The Board shall examine all Board members’ evaluations and reach a consensus on the evaluation. The Board president or designee shall then develop a single evaluation representing the Board’s collective judgment and provide a copy to the Superintendent.”

    Does the Board even read its own proceedures ?

  10. Doctor J Says:

    Ah ha ! I think the STAR test results are coming down the pike and if rumor is correct, they don’t look good. That means trouble for Lawrence — his failed SASS looks worse than the state budget.

  11. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In looking over some old board minutes, it appears that the district has become less transparent about reassignments.

    Two years ago, the district publicly announced reassignments at its June 22, 2010 meeting (item 16.2):

    This year, the district is only notifying the communities at individual sites of assignments. This is why I keep having to email Julie Braun-Martin to verify rumors of reassignments as I hear them.

    It would be very beneficial to the public (and would help restore public trust in the district’s commitment to transparency) if reassignments were similarly presented to the board this year.

    Here’s how such assignments were presented to the board on June 22, 2010 (along with public comment objecting to the lack of public input into the assignment at MDHS), according to the minutes:

    “16.2 Approval of Administrative Assignments for 2010-2011
    In an attempt to find the best match for each school, District staff has gathered input from site staff members and parents. For those positions that we feel we have a match, we will announce the person filling the position; otherwise, we will continue to search for qualified candidates. The District requests approval of administrative assignments for 2010-11 as announced.
     Diane Sargent, Site Based Program Specialist, assigned to Meadow Homes Elementary School
     Linda Hayes, Vice Principal, assigned to Northgate High School
     Cynthia Goin, Principal, assigned to Wren Elementary School (approved at the June 15 meeting)
     Rhys Miller, Principal, assigned to Valle Verde Elementary School
     Sandy Bruketta, Principal, assigned to Hidden Valley Elementary School
     Spoogmai Habibi, Principal, assigned to Ayers Elementary School
     Christine Huarjado, Principal, assigned to Riverview Middle School
     Ean Ainsworth Vice Principal, assigned to Riverview Middle School
     Kate McClatchy, Principal, assigned to Mt. Diablo High School
     Liane Cismowski, Vice Principal, assigned to Mt. Diablo High School
     Cheryl LeBeouf, Principal, Assigned to Olympic High School
     Katie Gaines, Vice Principal, assigned to Olympic High School

    Public Comment
    Dan Reynolds, English teacher at Mt. Diablo High, expressed concern that administrative changes were made at the school during the summer without input from staff. He asked the Board how the principal swap will affect the restructure plan as he would like to offer his input and help. Colin Jones, science teacher at Mt. Diablo High said he would like to see the students, parents, and teachers become engaged to help dispel the message that Mt. Diablo High is a failing school.

    Allen moved, Eberhart seconded and the Board voted 5-0-0 to approve the administrative assignments for 2010-11 as presented.”

    It is interesting to note that someof the people named above are no longer in these assignments, which hints at the administrative turnover that has occurred during Lawrence’s tenure as superintendent.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added a July 15 update to this blog post, which is an email from Trustee Cheryl Hansen expressing surprise about the Monday special meeting.

  13. lc Says:

    It will take a long time for a new person to be as knowledgeable about special ed as Mildred Browne is. Regardless of whether or not someone likes/dislikes her, she has contributed a lot to this district and the special ed community she serves.

  14. lc Says:

    Theresa, where is July 15 update?

  15. lc Says:

    I found it!

  16. Anon Says:

    This is just crazy. Now thanks to Sherry an Gary we are stuck with Lawrence and Rolen. I wonder if other Board members were treated like ms. Hansen?

  17. Anon Says:

    @Anon18-It’s never been this bad and it’s getting worse. Four board members have abdicated their responsibility to the public, to the district, and to their fellow board member. School starts next month and we have chaos. The election in less than 4 months is our best hope. The new board candidates should take a stand and make public statements at the meeting tonight or to Theresa about the level of respect on the board, and how to turn around the district back to the right direction.

  18. Alicia Says:

    @12 – Board members should be provided information supporting each agenda item well in advance so that they can formulate meaningful input and make sound decisions. This is another example of unprofessionalism and mismanagement.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added a July 16 update to this blog with information from Board President Sherry Whitmarsh about the special meeting and her reasons for not responding to Hansen’s emails.

  20. Anon Says:

    Any news about the 3 Elementary Schools in need of new principals?

  21. g Says:

    That’s right Sherry. Sit back and allow the Superintendent to call special meetings of your board without first asking you, the Board President. When and how were the other board members notified of this “urgent evaluation” that simply could not wait until the next “regular” meeting?

    If Eberhart, Mayo and Dennler were also only informed by email, this would mean you just heard about the meeting last night too?

    Or did ‘some’ of you have earlier discussions about this “urgent business” with Lawrence and Rolen, and chose to leave ‘some’ other members of the board to find out about “urgent business” by email.

    Why do your statements so frequently seem to not pass the smell test?

  22. Anon Says:

    Say it again-If the special meeting was properly noticed then Whitmarsh could go camping without raising these questions. Now the story is that the super who received a contract extension called the special board meeting to discuss his evaluation for next year? That and anticipated litigation are the limited purpose of the meeting?-instead of holding an open board meeting for important matters affecting the students e.g. principal appointments. That’s the best we can expect? IT’S CHAOS!

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just spoke to Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and asked her whether the district plans to inform the entire community about administrative appointments as they are filled. She said she’s not sure that many people are really interested and that the school communities — such as YVHS — are being informed. However, she did say she has discussed with the superintendent the idea of districtwide updates listing appointments and vacancies.

    I also took the opportunity to ask about a few other things:

    1) ELECTION: She hasn’t yet decided whether she will run for re-election.

    2) POWAY LETTER: She said the “thorough analysis” provided to the board regarding the Poway letter was a closed session conversation with the bond counsel. She said it’s her understanding that the Poway letter does not represent any official “findings” of the attorney general regarding paying the cost of issuance with bond premium. Also, she said the district has no context for the letter.

    “It’s kind of like finding a piece of mail and just using that piece of mail,” she said. “To my knowledge, every other school district does it.”

    3) BOND PRELIMINARY OFFICIAL STATEMENT AND PURCHASE AGREEMENT: Whitmarsh said she didn’t recall looking at anything other than what was attached to the bond sale agenda item. When I asked if she was told that she could request the official preliminary statement and purchase agreement, she said: “I can request anything I want to. I felt comfortable with what I was given. I don’t recall feeling like I needed to have anything additional or even asking about it.”

    4) REDUCED PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS: She said the board will have to wait until 2015 to see if they can issue the $77 million at that time.

    “Mr. Isom has given us the best knowledge that he has available at this time,” she said. “So I will go with what he recommends.”

    5) YVHS LIGHTS: She said the school site council, athletic council and YVHS boosters have agreed to expand the scope of the project with the additional Measure C money, so the district will issue a new RFP and do a new environmental report.

    “It’s no longer just the lighting project,” she said. “We do not want to earn distrust with the neighborhood, so it’s now being looked at in its totality for the larger project.”

    The larger project includes lights, a free-standing press box, a sound system, a ticket booth and a food area, she said.

  24. Anon Says:

    When will the other high schools have “totality” projects for their stadiums initiated/completed? Or, is it only YVHS, to benefit the Whitmarsh kids, future students at YVHS?

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Whitmarsh said this was a decision made by the site council, athletic council and YVHS boosters, based on the additional Measure C money that has been made available.
    Other schools have or are in the process of figuring out their priorities.

  26. g Says:

    Theresa @23: Perhaps Whitmarsh could enlighten us all on just “when” this closed session with Bond Counsel took place. I cannot find any meetings with bond counsel on closed agenda items, nor mention of bond counsel on any closed session minutes.

    Nor do I find any indication in the Government Code or CA Ed Code indicating that discussions with bond counsel could ever meat any legal parameters for closed sessions.

    Either she is a liar, or the public has not been properly and openly informed on matters of great financial concern. I suspect both are true!

  27. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Regarding the MDUSD Board PRESIDENT’s response to Theresa’s question listed in #23 about admin appointments – What the hell does this mean in regards to informing the public / mdusd parents of administrative appointments?

    “She said she’s not sure that many people are really interested and that the school communities — such as YVHS — are being informed. ”

    She’s ‘not sure’? WTH! Publize the damn appointments on the district website AS THEY HAPPEN, and follow up with district wide email to all. If people are interested,they will read the flipping emails!

    What a freaking rediculous cop out and slap in the face to the entire MDUSD community. Stupid responses like this make me incredibly angry. She works FOR the community in her role as Board President. She should be getting the answers to our questions from the staff instead handing these lame responses that mean nothing and are full of crap.

  28. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    2) POWAY LETTER: She said the “thorough analysis” provided to the board regarding the Poway letter was a closed session conversation with the bond counsel. She said it’s her understanding that the Poway letter does not represent any official “findings” of the attorney general regarding paying the cost of issuance with bond premium. Also, she said the district has no context for the letter.

    Who was in this closed session?
    When was this closed session?

  29. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    1) ELECTION: She hasn’t yet decided whether she will run for re-election.

    What are her criteria for deciding? (this requires some thought … if she says she isn’t sure yet, then she shouldn’t run)
    Is she leaning toward another run? (this is a yes or no question)
    Is she waiting to see who esle officially will run? (this is a yes or no question)

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: I will try to find out when the closed session took place.

    Regarding the election, Whitmarsh said her decision could be influenced by the health of her mother, who lives far away.

    Regarding the administrative assignments, Whitmarsh said she has asked the superintendent to inform the community about where administrators are moving and where there are openings.

    “If the community wants to know, that’s great,” she said. “I don’t know if people really want to know, or if they’re just trying to make issues (out of it).”

    She said some reassignments have been made to give people more experience in different areas. Regarding the reassignment of Gretchen Jacobs, she said she assumed that personnel had determined she was a good fit for the after-school position.

  31. g Says:

    “…if the people really want to know, or if they’re just trying to make issues….” I don’t believe making crystal ball clairvoyant determination is within her job description.

    Informing the public, in a timely manner, of what is going on in the district–that is her job description.

    Certain job assignments might be the determining factor in a parent’s decision about whether to keep their kids in a certain school or program.

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Whitmarsh said she didn’t think appointments had been as much of an issue in the past. She also suggested that people who live in the school communities where appointments are made may be the only ones really interested in them.

  33. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH #30, thanks.

    Closed Session: Pls try to find out WHO was at the seesion as well as when and what time, and where the minutes for the closed session are.

    Election: this response sounds like that is her only criteria, and she WILL run if Mom stays healthy. Ask if that is her only deciding factor / criteria; it will help us understand if she plans to run.

    Administrative assignments: … “If the community wants to know, that’s great,” she said. “I don’t know if people really want to know, or if they’re just trying to make issues (out of it).”

    So what if people ‘make issues’ … parents and communities SHOULD call out issues if there is cause to. It’s up to district to do the hard up front work to make the best possible assignment based on research and interviews of the assignees, and inform the public / communitiies who are sending their children to the schools in the district. Sheesh … That is the typicle slap in the face response that irks me and many others. Not her call to figure out if “people are trying to make issues”.

    She said some reassignments have been made to give people more experience in different areas. Regarding the reassignment of Gretchen Jacobs, she said she assumed that personnel had determined she was a good fit for the after-school position.

    If this Board and it’s President were more transparent and forthcoming with timely, meanignful responses to the community, we wouldn’t have to ‘make issues’, would we.

    I’m still waiting for a better response regarding POWAY instead of “other districts do it…” what are we, five years old?

  34. Shaking my head Says:

    I actively campaigned for Whitmarsh, and now I am thoroughly appalled by her statements, actions and complete sense of cluelessness! I had high hopes for her tenure as a board member, she has let me down on just about every level possible.
    Please, DO NOT run again, and save yourself the humiliation.
    How can she have even the slightest notion that the community at large does not care about administrative appointments? She must truly have her head up her arse!
    I am utterly baffled by the idiotic management of this district, and so beyond delighted that the CCCBOE approved the charter.
    Sherry, if you perform at your place of business as well as you do for the BOE, I am surprised you still have a job.
    Please, please, please, do not run again, I do not want you splitting votes, although not sure who on earth would vote for you anyway.

  35. Anon Says:

    With respect to Poway, Whitmarsh said to her knowledge, every other school district uses bond premium to pay cost of issuance. I’d like to know how she gained this knowledge and its support.. I looked up school bond offerings issued after the Poway Letter, and most school districts did not use bond premium to pay cost of issuance. A lawsuit is the only cure to stop this kind of misappropriation.

  36. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence violated Board By-law 9320 by calling a Meeting on his own which limits the authority to call a Special Meeting: “Special meetings of the Board may be called by the presiding officer or a majority of the Board members. (Government Code 54956) ”
    Sorry Steven, you are not the presiding officer. This is not a “regular meeting” since it was NOT on the Board resolution of “regular meetings”. And apparently Rolen is his co-conspirator since Rolen knew about the meeting before it was even noticed to the Board members.
    When is the illegality going to stop ? Who is going to stop it ?

  37. g Says:

    Dr. J: How could that happen? Sherry said: “…it was not my meeting to call,”

    Surely she has had time to read the bylaws and Ed Code regulations regarding her responsibilities as board president?

    Maybe she didn’t think anybody “really cared”, or maybe she has not had “a lot of emails” complaining about that, or maybe she just thought if knowing the regulations was an important part of her job, her crystal ball would have told her.

  38. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    We have a very simple thing to figure out, either:

    1. Sherry is a bald faced liar (she has lied MANY times in the past).

    2. Lawrence committed an illegal act.

    It is one of those two explanations. I wish someone on the board besides Hansen had enough guts to determine which one it is.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: Whitmarsh said her mother has cancer and lives 1,600 miles away, so her health is a major consideration.

    Regarding Poway, so far, the district has not revealed anything “definitive” regarding its assertion that it is legal to pay bond cost of issuance with premium. The main argument seems to be the assertion that everyone else is doing it (which anon disputes).
    Although Lawrence said the board received a “thorough analysis” of the letter, Whitmarsh said no one knows what it means because no one seems to know the context for it. That doesn’t sound like a very “thorough” analysis.

  40. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH #39

    Yes, family medical issues are major concerns and often deciding factors for a lot of us in our life travels. My own family medical & life events (deaths of two family members and a diagnosis of cancer for my 15 year old grand niece) in the past 4 months have been reason to rethink and re-focus our family & individual priorities, and determine how best to perform our everyday jobs and our volunteer time while caring for our family members. I pray for comfort and healing for her mother, and strength for her and her family.

    I’m glad Sherry was able to go camping and have fun with her family for 4 days. Family should come first – just like the slogan says. So the next question to ask since she was gone Thursday to start her fun family camping trip is, did she know about the special session before she left? If not, why is she allowing it to be held and not telling the supt and the lawyer to reschedule it? If she did know, why wasn’t that stated and why weren’t her fellow board members notified and provided documentation to preview 3 days in advance? …. perhaps the vice-president needs to step up and relieve Sherry so she can attend to her mother. That’s what vice-presidents are for. Then Sherry will can determine if there is any compelling criteria / reasons to run.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    The State Board of Education is soliciting public comments on its agenda items. Last night I received an email which included: “The full Agenda may be viewed at
    Members of the public wishing to send written comments about an agenda item to the board are encouraged to send an electronic copy to, with the item number clearly marked in the subject line.
    In order to ensure that comments are received by board members in advance of the meeting, materials must be received by 12:00 p.m. on the Monday before the meeting.
    Carol K. Gorman
    Executive Assistant to Susan K. Burr
    California State Board of Education
    (916) 319-0705″
    The meeting is tomorrow, but any comments would probably be reviewed if received today.

  42. Doctor J Says:

    What happened last night ? Any comments before the Board went into closed session ?

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Cheryl Hansen informed me in an email that Board President Sherry Whitmarsh clarified that the superintendent called for the meeting through her.

    Hansen also said that Whitmarsh did respond to her email inquiring about the meeting at 8:46 p.m. Sunday night, with the following message:

    “I have been camping since Thursday and had no email access. Dr Lawrence would like to discuss his evaluation which is for this school year.”

    Hansen also wrote that Whitmarsh said during open session that there were inaccuracies in what I wrote in my blog, so I will call her to find out what she meant by that.

    In addition, Hansen disputes what Whitmarsh told me about the Poway discussion taking place during a closed session.

    “If you look back at our closed session agendas, you will not see any agenda items posted for a conversation with bond counsel so this conversation couldn’t have happened in closed session,” Hansen wrote. “I don’t know who had this conversation and with whom, when it may have occurred, or what this ‘definitive assessment’ was that she and Gary are referencing.”

  44. MDUSD Parent Says:

    #34 THANK You!

  45. g Says:

    Theresa; Many of us feel, with good and provable reason, that we can believe very little of Whitmarsh’s off-the-cuff comments. May I suggest that if you edit your comments, you do it as an ‘edit-point’, but leave the original comment as our reference?

    We do have both Lawrence and Eberhart saying they (speaking presumably of the board as a ‘body’) had received a “very thorough assessment”. They used that comment to lead/encourage the board to vote for the proposal as it was–without back-up documentation, based on that assessment while trying to convince the public that they were correct and legal, with total disregard for the written law.

    With or without the Poway Letter, the law is not ambiguous. It is very clearly spelled out.

    Making the taxpayer pay for Premiums may be legal, but it is not ethical.

    To deposit that premium money into the correct sinking-fund account, just to make it look correct for a Moment-in-Time on the books, and then transfer it out again for other purposes meets every single definitive word in the dictionary for ‘back room, illegal, crooked, money laundering.’

  46. Theresa Harrington Says:

    This reminds me of what Gus Kramer told me when I asked him about projections for growth in assessed valuations by public agencies.

    He said: “In government and the private sector, people surround themselves with two types of people — people who tell them what they want to hear, and people who tell them what they need to hear. And the difference in success is who surround yourself with. I’ve spent 40 years watching people in this county, so I speak with some authority.”

    Which types of people do you think MDUSD administrators and trustees surround themselves with?

  47. g Says:

    Your question immediately brought to mind the Barrel of Monkeys game.

    In choosing who they want to have around them, administrators, like good little politicians, tend to choose someone who will line up easily with their own personal wants and needs.

    But, even as children we learn quickly in the Monkey game that asymmetry (such as what Hansen brings to the board) is necessary and only that will eventually win the game.

    For far too long we have tended to take the easy way out and just ‘choose the incumbent’ because, at least as far as we could see, they haven’t burned the building down.

    We have not looked behind the bricks and wallpaper to see all of the scorch marks—until now!

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is more clarification about last night’s meeting, from a follow-up email from Trustee Cheryl Hansen:

    “I wanted you to know that Sherry did not make her statement last night about who called the meeting without any prompting. Here’s part of an email I sent her at 4 PM yesterday just prior to the meeting to give her a chance to rethink it:

    ‘Since it has now been reported that, according to you, the superintendent called this special meeting, this is now a violation of Board Bylaw 9320 on Special Meetings which states that ‘special meetings of the Board may be called by the presiding officer or a majority of the Board members’ (Govt. Code 54956). The superintendent may not call a special meeting. Therefore, this meeting is not a valid, legal meeting.’

    When I received no response from her, I raised a Point of Order last night prior to closed session, stating the following, ‘Madam President, I rise to a Point of Order. I make the Point of Order that this special meeting has been called in violation of Board Bylaw 9320 and Government Code 54956.’ Sherry ruled that my point was not well-taken, and when I informed her that she must give reasons for her ruling, that was what prompted her to state that the superintendent had requested this meeting through her.”

  49. g Says:

    [This comment has been edited to delete name-calling]

    Sherry is …! I’ll say it over again and again. What else does she not “understand” from by-laws and SBE regulations?

    She said she was “away” already camping by Thursday; she had “no access to email”. So obviously, either she lied, again, or she was home when “he asked her” to call a meeting—then a simple 30 second email FROM HER to the board, indicating that Lawrence would send a follow-up, would have sufficed.

    Look deeper. Look at Rolen–he’s the one who sent the initial email. Look at “Anticipated Litigation.”

  50. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added a July 17 update to this blog post, with more clarification from Board President Sherry Whitmarsh about the meeting, the Poway “definitive assessment” and the district’s plan for announcing administrative appointments.

  51. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Rolen and Eberhart are hiding something big. Keep looking everyone, we are close. I predict we will all know and be shocked by certain revelations in one month’s time.

  52. Anon Says:

    MDUSD BW, I think you are right. We are going to get a huge surprise in the next few weeks. I am almost frightened and can’t imagine what else they can do to mess our kids up even more

  53. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    If the full truth is told once, there is no reason to go back and explain or keep adding to, removing from or any way embellish any part of the truth. We’ve hade several updates and “clarifications” already.

    We, the community and student families of MDUSD, are being fed a constant string of lies. We are being deceived and stolen from by specific members of the MDUSD district board and staff.

    In her lame attempt to explain how she called the special meeting, Sherry put her foot in it by stating the supt asked her if it would be okay to have a special meeting and she agreed. That statement says it – She didn’t call the meeting.

    Again, we ask when did this supposed conversation regarding a special board meeting to be scheduled between Sherry and the supt take place, what was the content of the conversation and how was the conversation conducted?

    Phone call? Email? String and tin can since sherry did not have email access while camping?

    Was the supt sitting around the campfire with Sherry’s family and say “hey Sherry, yanno I was just thinking we should all get together and rehash my evaluation for the umpteenth time …”?

    How did Rolen get involved and why did he send out the notice of the meeting? Did he get a phone call from The supt saying “hey, schedule a special meeting Monday would’ja” ?

  54. g Says:

    “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.” ~Abraham Lincoln

    That’s why we have the Brown Act, and why there is an “official keeper of records-including closed session minutes, which may be released if highly personal or sensitive info is redacted.”

    So far, five people=four disparate and questionable assertions regarding the Poway Assessment. Perhaps Dennler and/or Mayo has a version?

    Even if it were Rolen who laid out the gist of an Assessment of the Poway Letter, while refusing information, yet seemingly Leaking Information to the Press by stating the gist of something that had been discussed in a Closed Session… hmmm…

    Even if it were just a verbal report by him to ‘some’ board members of an opinion given only to him by Bond Council… hmmm…

    I suspect — though he may not wish to confirm it — Rolen did not rely on a recent Assessment when he ‘allegedly’ spoke during an ‘alleged’ closed session — but rather he shared an opinion that had been bandied back and forth over BBQ and beer with Matt Juhl-Darlington.


    When it comes to Sherry’s duplicitous responses about who could, who did, who should, who ‘owned’ the special meeting — OR — well golly-gee I don’t remember who-all knew, or when, or how my board agreed to accept the opinion of ‘the assessment’; she’s proven, again, she doesn’t even need Eberhart, Rolen or Lawrence to help her build different versions of the incessant piles of dung she spews out.

  55. Doctor J Says:

    Ever since ButtercupGATE, Sherry has had a difficult time telling the truth. Now as Board president the only reason she opens her mouth is to change feet.

  56. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Good point Dr. J,

    The misdeeds and lies of Chevron Sherry do indeed go back to ButtercupGate.

    She had such potential to be a valuable board member, unfortunately she fell under the spell of the gary and pauly.

  57. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    anyone find out yet what the special meeting item “3.2 Anticipated Litigation” “Two potential cases” is about?

    Does that mean district staff “anticipates” there is a “possibility” of two lawsuits being filed due to action(s) taken by the district?

    what does anticipated and potential mean?

    the agenda item is ‘anticipated litigation’ – anticpated definition is: probable,expect or predict / guess or be aware of and take action to be prepared.

    the summary for the agenda item is “two potential cases” – potential definition is: possible,as opposed to actual / capable of being or becoming / expressing possiblity

  58. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Since those were for information only, the board does not normally report out any information about them.

  59. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, I just listened to my voicemail message from Sherry Whitmarsh on Monday and my quote regarding her reason for not responding sooner to Cheryl Hansen was verbatim: “She did not receive anything from me because it was not my meeting to call,” Whitmarsh said. “The superintendent wanted to discuss his evaluation for the next school year.”

    In hindsight, it appears that she decided it was her meeting to call after all.

  60. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have just received notice that the Brown Act has not been suspended for schools, according to this:

  61. g Says:

    Thank you Theresa. I have confidence in that firm to properly assess the language of the Bill. Now, if they would just push the issues of compliance with their MDUSD agency counterparts!

  62. g Says:

    I should have said, I have confidence in their opinions-now that Rolen has left them. Sad isn’t it? The district jumped from the frying pan into the fire with that very expensive decision!

  63. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Regarding Mildred Browne’s departure, here is an update from Julie Braun-Martin about whether employees are paid or receive benefits during leaves of absence, from an email this morning:

    “In response to your questions about leaves, the answer is that it depends on the type of leave. Unpaid long-term leaves such as improvement of health, don’t receive pay or benefits and don’t count toward pension accrual while, FMLA receives benefits and is not considered a break of service in terms of seniority or pension accrual.

    I am not at liberty to discuss Dr. Browne’s leave as the details are still being worked out and also it is a personnel matter.”

    I followed up asking what the succession plan is and have not yet received an answer.

  64. Anon Says:

    It seems that it is a long term leave since there was a farewell party and they are looking for a person to step in until her contract is actually up. I am telling you this is already done and she will be paid as a contract position.

    Has anyone heard anything about moves in middle school principals? I just wish the district would spill it and let us deal with the change rather than being so hush hush.

  65. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Board President Sherry Whitmarsh told me that a principal was resigning in part due to blogs. She did not say who the principal was.

    On the subject of principals, here’s information from the National Assoc. of Elementary Principals about the importance of “accomplished, proficient principals” in achieving sustained improvement:

  66. Doctor J Says:

    @#65 The resignation is due to the TRUTH being told — if there was any untruth, the Principal, or anyone else, was free to correct any misperception. MDUSD continues to dredge for enough people to fill the Elementary principal pool. Remember two years ago when Steven Lawrence quoted Jim Collins and his book, “Good to Great”, about getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats. Not a single change in the upper management of MDUSD. Clearly Lawrence followed the Bank of America disaster philosophy, not the Wells Fargo success story [if you have read the book, you know what I mean]. The Elementary principal pool dearth is but one example. As Jim Collins says: “IF you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” MDUSD has neither.

  67. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    A principal is resigning due to blogs? What the h@ll?

    Anyone who resigns due to blogs or anything else on the internet doesn’t belong in that position in the first place.

    Maybe Sherry misworded her response yet again. Maybe a prinicpal is resigning because of information that the public became aware of due to blogs.

  68. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Whitmarsh also said that some people from other districts have decided not to apply for principal positions in MDUSD, due to blogs.

  69. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    [This comment was edited to delete an offensive reference]

    Ok so now it becomes clear, Sherry wants to shut down blogs that oppose board policies on the interent. I guess she hasn’t heard of free speech.

    There is a hilarious video on youtube (Google MDUSD parody) where Hitler … tries to shut down bloggers. …

  70. Flippin' Tired Says:

    How many principal positions are still open?

  71. Anon Says:

    Whitmarsh shoots the messenger

  72. Doctor J Says:

    I can’t wait until the recently retired principals — especially those who retired “early” — “speak freely” now that Lawrence and Eberhart have no power or control over them ! Sherry, why don’t you start by confessing the truth about ButtercupGATE. You used to blog yourself until confronted with questions that would expose the truth.

  73. Theresa Harrington Says:

    According to the June 25 board agenda, the superintendent was authorized to fill three elementary principal positions:

    However, based on what Whitmarsh said, there could be other openings that have become available since then. The board did not authorize the superintendent to hire anyone for positions not listed in the agenda item. However, he could reassign people to different positions, such as the reassignment of Sue Brothers to YVHS.

  74. g Says:

    Well, let’s see. Who could Sherry be talking “out of school” about this time.

    I doubt if it’s McNorth–he’s pretty much at the top of his game– in wages and school caliber.

    It’s probably not McNorth’s buddy “coach-Mo”–they’ve given him his Dent-Stint reward for being one of only three principals that stood with the rat-pack.

    It isn’t “those Holbrook kids are just bad trouble makers” Jacobs–they’ve found a desk job to keep her away from all those pesky parents and students–no doubt to protect the students, and protect themselves from “anticipated” litigation.

    That could leave “flushless Mc-C”–but if nation-wide embarrassment didn’t send her running…what would.

    Then there’s Suzy Q.–But with the smell of a Dent-Stint in the air…I doubt it.

    Nah—I think the puppet’s nose is getting longer and longer.

  75. Doctor J Says:

    @G, I think Sherry shared this info she learned from Lawrence’s closed session “evaluation” last Monday. Where is District Attorney Mark Peterson when you need him ? What’s good for the gander is good for the goose.

  76. Anon Says:

    Have any positions been posted on their site?

  77. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Dr. J.,

    Excellent point. Why isn’t the DA going to investigate Sherry for revealing closed session information?

    I put my money in the McMorris camp. He essentially ruined his once stellar reputation by being a sycopahnt to Lawrence, then Lawrence didn’t come through with the promotion to Dent.

  78. Doctor J Says:

    Elementary Principals still being sought in MDUSD today even as interviews are conducted — reposted again on June 12, 2012 — I have lost track of the number of times it has been posted. Here is the “external” posting, and there is an “internal” one too.

  79. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It was not from a closed session and it does not appear to be a male principal, based on what Whitmarsh said:

    “I do know that I have been told by one principal that she doesn’t need to work and she’s going to resign” because of (potential blog comments).

    Sorry, I didn’t capture the exact quote, but I asked Whitmarsh about this during a second conversation and she confirmed that it was a “current” resignation that was at least partially attributable to blogs.

  80. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Theresa, can you get a list of which sites are now looking for principals? I’m pretty sure the public, despite Whitmarsh’s thoughts to the contrary, is very interested in who will be in charge of each school. I see a lot of intra-district transfer requests headed for the district office, and a lot of pissed off parents.

  81. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    If someone quits because of “blogs”, they don’t have the guts to have their position anyway.

  82. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s the list of appointments that Julie Braun-Martin confirmed a while ago:

    Charla Hernandez: Ayers Elementary
    Lianne Cismowski: Cambridge Elementary
    Cheryl Champion: Delta View Elementary
    Jon Pierce: Fair Oaks Elementary
    Kristan Martin Meyer: Sun Terrace Elementary
    Jenny Vargas: Sunrise/Shadelands special education
    David Ramirez: Westwood Elementary

    Elementary schools openings:
    Pleasant Hill
    Valle Verde

    No other openings have been announced, but I will try to find out if there are more.

  83. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Thank you, Theresa.

  84. Anon Says:

    So the only women in the blogs over the last year I think we can narrow it down. Jacobs, the mount person, diablo view, sue brothers and who?

  85. g Says:

    If Kristen moved from Fairview to Sun Ter–I don’t see a fill in for Fairview. Also, it looks like El Dorado needs a VP–or have those two already been announced, and I missed it?

    Charla Hernandez: Ayers Elementary — from Ron Nunn in Brentwood
    Lianne Cismowski: Cambridge Elementary — from VP at Mt D.
    Cheryl Champion: Delta View Elementary — from Fair Oaks
    Jon Pierce: Fair Oaks Elementary — from Oakland (spec assign. teacher)
    Kristan Martin Meyer: Sun Terrace Elementary — from Fairview
    Jenny Vargas: Sunrise/Shadelands spec. ed — from Westwood
    David Ramirez: Westwood Elementary — from VP at El Dorado

  86. lc Says:

    There are plenty of qualified candidates in this district at the elementary level, if they would only be given an opportunity to prove themselves. There are teachers out there that have gone over and above through the years, assisting their principals in an unoffical “VP” type capacity. For the most part, these people aren’t hired; sit back and watch out of district people get hired…..and then watch how those people do the job! Some jobs have been filled within, but it seems like the majority are not.

  87. Theresa Harrington Says:

    c: Martin Meyer came from outside the district.

    lc: Do you know if any have applied for the three current openings?

    FYI, in going through some files, I came across the article I wrote when Superintendent Steven Lawrence first came to the district and was making the rounds at schools, holding community meetings and touting the solar idea.

    At the meeting I attended at Concord High, one parent asked him to address the issue of public trust. Here’s what Lawrence said, according to my Feb. 16, 2010 story:

    “We do have a trust issue. I’ve heard that at every meeting…It’s like a relationship…I would ask for time, because I realize that it’s about action.”

    Now that Lawrence has had more than two years to build his relationship with the community and demonstrate his integrity through his actions, do you think he has been able to resolve the trust issue?

  88. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Dr. Lawrence has exacerbated the trust issue. We need to beg Dr. Nicoll to come out of retirement to right this sinking ship.

  89. Doctor J Says:

    [This comment has been edited to delete an unsubstantiated allegation]

    ButtercupGATE showed Lawrence’s true character almost immediately — …

  90. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    SAT Action,

    Lawrence:Community Trust Oil:Water

  91. g Says:

    Lawrence has made absolutely no positive impact. StrangeEberhart would not have chosen him or maneuvered Whitmarsh into their scheme if they thought either would buck up against their solar/Measure C plans that they had been working up in the back room for a year or more. We can be pretty sure Rolen had his sticky fingers in there too.

    But even more shocking to me has been watching Mayo help steer the boat onto the rocks. I wish I had studied the CUES and campaign donation docs before I voted for her again.

  92. g Says:

    Gabor has not filed papers yet, and MDEA hasn’t updated the Catalyst or Facebook since May/June. What’s up?

  93. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: Regarding Mayo, she showed that she has reservations about Rolen when she tried to block renewal of his contract. But, she has been a staunch Measure C supporter and often tends to go along with the superintendent’s recommendations. Notable exceptions were the extensions of administrative contracts before Lawrence arrived and the raises — which she and Allen voted against. She also voted against reducing grad requirements, yet has not appeared to be so worried about that issue now that Hansen is rallying to increase them.

    Regarding Gabor, he and Lawrence are on Twitter. When I asked what was up a few days ago, Gabor responded: “Won’t be able to take it out until Friday or Monday.”
    Lawrence tweeted this Wednesday: “At the Elections office to pick up papers to run for the Mt. Diablo school board. Here we go!”

  94. Anon Says:

    Mayo moved to separate Rolen’s contract from the rest but failed to speak up after she was given a second by Hansen and a dirty look from Eberhart. She has been a major disappointment in that she has consistently toed the Ebermarsh lines going so far as to initiate motions for items Ebermarsh wants. She is a reliable third vote for Gary, Sherry, and Lawrence, and apparently has abandoned her previous positions on academic issues i.e graduation requirements.

  95. CARES staff Says:

    As current CARES staff-I am concerned and saddened that Gretchen Jacobs is being shuffled into the CARES Administrator position. Apparently she lacks in communication skills and this is a position which requires the ability to motivate, recruit and keep talented staff for 12 schools ASPs in the district.
    We had a great Administrator in the recently departed Allie Medina and we deserve nothing less. I am even more upset that a currently employed by MDUSD SUCESSFUL principal applied for the CARES position and was not even interviewed as apparently there were NO interviews just the automatic appointment of Jacobs by MDUSD. How does this policy support those who do a good job and want to broaden their horizons in MDUSD? MDUSD will not retain staff with these types of backwards appointments and ways of treating current staff. Mark my words!

  96. Theresa Harrington Says:

    CARES Staff: Was anyone on the CARES staff consulted about what kind of person they would like to see in their new administrator?
    Although Jacobs has been widely criticized for an alleged lack of tact and communications skills, she has been praised for her ability to get grants. Do you think her ability to get grants is more important than her alleged lack of ability to motivate staff?
    One of the district’s draft Strategic Plan goals is to improve its ability attract and retain quality staff. At the board retreat, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said this was her top priority. Yet, she told me she trusted the personnel department when it recommended Jacobs’ appointment to this position.
    How do you think the district should go about trying to attract and retain high quality staff?

  97. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    [NOTE: This comment was edited to remove an unsubstantiated accusation.]

    Remember Chevron Sherry has shown herself to be a …

  98. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In looking through some old files, I came a Dick Nicoll “Monday Memo” – a weekly update of district activities and education-related issues from the superintendent’s office. (I believe these were discontinued after the board laid-off Sue Berg, assistant to the superintendent.)

    The May 4, 2009 memo is chock full of timely information about the latest swine flu outbreaks, employee recognitions, end-of-the-year activities, the summer CARES program and the district’s layoff hearings.

    Nicoll ended his memo with pithy quotes, including this one from nutritionist Adelle Davis, who died in 1974: “Thousands upon thousands of persons have studied disease. Almost no one has studied health.”

    In contrast, superintendent Lawrence has not released one of his News Updates since April 10, when he wanted to persuade the public to support the Measure C tax rate increase:

    On another note, the district is encouraging parents who want to volunteer at schools to make fingerprint appointments now, to avoid the fall rush:

    This message is not a superintendent’s update, however. It appears to be in the form of a district bulletin.

    I also came across board minutes from 2008 regarding the “Mt. Diablo Achievement Team” that piloted Professional Learning Communities at Holbrook Elem., Sun Terrace Elem. and Glenbrook MS, focused on building a “community of schools.” Now, only one school is left in that community.

    Finally, I came across a January 2008 story I wrote about the board’s legal department reorganization after Whitmarsh was elected. Mayo and Allen voted against the move, which made the general counsel report to the board instead of to the superintendent.

    The story also said that Whitmarsh said one of her top priorities was to overcome the mistrust that had developed in the district.

    “The first thing that’s very important is to rebuild our relationships and open lines of communication to where people feel like they’re being listened to,” she said.

    Do you believe that Whitmarsh has accomplished this goal?

  99. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH #98 – how can you tell if the fingerprint memo is current? I don’t see any date on the memo. For all the public can tell, that memo has been there since the 2009 copyright date at the bottom of the page …

  100. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: It looks like all of the “news” items have the 2009 copyright along the bottom. However, it would be a good idea for the district to put a date on such notices.
    Since the fingerprint item just showed up on the district’s home page, I assume it is more recent than the solicitation below it for BOC members, which asked for applications by July 20:

    On another note, I also just came across an old 2008 Northgate HS blog post, which criticized the former Eberhart/Strange MDUSD blog for allowing “posts that were reminiscent of a lynching mob rather than a place where people with common issues come together to discuss ideas and viewpoints”:

    It is somewhat ironic that Eberhart and Whitmarsh (who ran on a slate with Eberhart) have since criticized other blogs.

    Like the Northgate blogger, I urge blog readers to make constructive comments and reserve the right to edit or remove comments or portions of comments.

    I also found an MDUSD blog entry blasting former Superintendent Gary McHenry for the $833,000 IRS penalty. Recently, when Bryan Richards announced that most of this penalty was dismissed, Eberhart commented that he hoped the press would give the dismissal as much attention as it gave the original IRS investigation. I thought that this was ironic, since it was Eberhart who had made a big deal out of it in the first place.

    Here’s what he wrote in his Sept. 2008 blog post, before Whitmarsh was elected:

    “What was truly amazing was that there was not a single question or comment on this issue from our Board majority. How can they continue to blindly support the superintendent with these types of continual mistakes being made? This type of costly mistake truly upsets me. We are supposed to be spending our dollars educating our students, not paying for administrative incompetence. If this didn’t wake the Board majority up, nothing will. I hope that the voters are awake enough to replace April (Treece) with Sherry Whitmarsh. Please don’t put April back on the board with me. I need someone there that will help fix these ridiculous problems.”

    It turns out there was not a problem after all and his allegations of incompetence by McHenry were unfounded. But, when Richards recently announced that the penalty was minimal, Eberhart did not apologize for his previous lambasting of the former superintendent. Instead, he chose to imply that the press had somehow blown the IRS penalty out of proportion.

  101. g Says:

    Theresa, regarding #97: I only saw part of the post, and hadn’t yet opened it to see if there was more. But there’s an old Yiddish proverb worth considering and repeating, especially as election time comes near:

    “A half truth is a whole lie.”

  102. Anon Says:

    @100…The district’s CFO should have known pretty quickly that the IRS penalty could be sucessfully argued. The IRS is incorrect many times. This blog post by Eberhart is ironic…I’ve lost count of how many more significant and “ridiculous problems” have occured since McHenry’s departure. In addition, I’d like to know why Eberhart felt publicly flogging/blogging about McHenry’s evaluation of mistakes was proper given this was likely closed session discussion.

  103. Sue Berg Says:

    Anon #102, The District administration and Board did know pretty quickly that the IRS penalty could be successfully argued. Dick Nicoll, assistant superintendent overseeing the Fiscal Services Department at the time the IRS issue arose, worked with staff to provide the documents needed to prove the district’s case to the IRS. He reported to the Board and Superintendent on several occasions that it would be resolved–not quickly, but eventually–in the district’s favor. And all Board members and the Superintendent asked many questions about it.

    Many of us who listened to the staff reports and Board discussions of the issue were surprised to hear Gary Eberhart publicly blame the Superintendent and chastise his fellow Board members about it. There were some attempts to counter his comments, but if you recall, Eberhart’s voice was beginning to drown out all others at that time. He and Paul Strange were presenting themselves as the only independent thinkers on the Board, the only ones willing to challenge the Superintendent’s thinking and recommendations. They were the “common men” rising up to fight the “establishment.” Who doesn’t love that story? A majority of voters certainly did. Those of us who tried, in vain, to counter the accusations and support the Superintendent and the three other Board members were ridiculed on the Strange Eberhart blog; most have since left the district.

    It’s all water under the dam now, but there is a lesson to be learned: Sometimes the loudest voice is not the one to heed. Listen carefully–and skeptically–to the voices of all the candidates who run for a Board seat in November. Base your vote on information, not rhetoric.

  104. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a new blog post that includes a transportation letter sent to special ed parents and the draft FCMAT report:

  105. Doctor J Says:

    With just days left before the release of the 2012 STAR test results, Supt Lawrence will being the “spin” on another year of poor peformance in MDUSD — consistent with his track record in West Sac and last year’s measley 2 point API gain in the district. Lawrence in the next week will receive the results and plug them into a “private program” [purchased by the district] to predict API scores so he doesn’t have to wait — so he will likely know BEFORE the Aug 20 Board meeting and certainly before the Aug 27 Board Meeting what he needs to spin — if you think the US Presidential election will have spin, you ain’t seen nothing yet compared to what Lawrence will twist and turn, while declaring “hocus pocus”.

    The question remains: After two years of SASS “reforms” that haven’t worked, what will be the future of “one size fits all” and “test, test, test and more testing” ? Unless we see a substantial gain in the API district score of at least 50 plus points [that’s only a two year average of 25 points] who will tell Lawrence he has failed again ? Will the newly elected School Board have the guts to tell Lawrence to “pack his bags” and eat the buy-out under his contract ?

    Here is what the CDE announced on July 17 about the release of the STAR test results: “Consequently, your district will receive STAR Student Reports no later than August 22, 2012. The public release of the 2012 statewide STAR Results will be August 31, 2012.”

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