MDUSD board to hold special closed session meeting Monday regarding superintendent’s evaluation and possible litigation
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
4.1 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: http://qik.com/video/52274799</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…”