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MDUSD fills some administrative positions, but is still interviewing for others

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, July 29th, 2012 at 8:22 pm in Education.

Based on continued questions from readers about administrative assignments in the Mt. Diablo school district and the district’s failure to publicly announce many of them to the entire community, I have compiled the following list of assignments that have been announced (in some instances only to the school site communities) or confirmed by the district:

Here are assignments or appointments that have been approved by the school board:

Bill Morones: Director of Secondary Education (4-1 vote; promotion from Ygnacio Valley HS principal)

Charla Hernandez: Ayers Elementary (from Brentwood)
Lianne Cismowski: Cambridge Elementary (promotion from MDHS vice principal)
Jon Pierce: Fair Oaks Elementary (from Oakland)
Kristan Martin Meyer: Sun Terrace Elementary
David Ramirez: Westwood Elementary (promoted from El Dorado MS vice principal)

Marie Schirmer: SASS administrator (promoted from Cambridge Elem. principal)

Here are reassignments that Superintendent Steven Lawrence has made without board approval (under his own authority):

Gretchen Jacobs: After-school administrator (transferred from Sun Terrace principal)

Cheryl Champion: Delta View Elementary (transferred from Fair Oaks Elementary)

Jenny Vargas: Sunrise/Shadelands special education (transferred from Westwood Elementary)

Sue Brothers: Principal of Ygnacio Valley HS (transferred from Clayton Valley HS)

José Espinoza: Vice Principal, Ygnacio Valley HS (transferred from Clayton Valley HS)

Stephen Brady: Vice Principal, Northgate HS (transferred from Ygnacio Valley HS)

Jon Campopiano: Vice Principal, Oak Grove MS (transferred from Northgate HS vice principal)

Additional principal openings:
Pleasant Hill Elementary, Valle Verde Elementary, Woodside Elementary and Riverview Middle School

Are you satisfied with the administrative appointments made so far?

JULY 30 UPDATE: It has just come to my attention that the district is also seeking a new administrator for Prospect alternative HS:

AUG. 9 UPDATE: I have just received the following email from Julie Braun-Martin, in response to a request for the names of newly hired principals:

“Here is a list of the newly hired principals:

Kristan Martin-Meyer: Sun Terrace Elementary

Jon Pierce: Fair Oaks Elementary

Thom Kwiatkowski: Riverview Middle

Jenny Cronan: Woodside Elementary

Angela Hotchkiss: Pleasant Hill Elementary

Beverly Tom: Valle Verde Elementary”

AUG. 10 UPDATE: Here’s the email response I received from Julie Braun-Martin, after I asked whether the the appointment of the Riverview MS principal is contingent on board approval, since the board did not authorize Superintendent Lawrence to fill that position:

“The superintendent had the authority during the month of July when the Board was not meeting to proceed with hiring all adminstrative vacancies, so we could be ready for the opening of school.”

Here is the response I sent her:

“Julie, Here is the authority the board granted to Superintendent Lawrence, according to the June 25 agenda report:

‘Member (Linda Mayo) Moved, Member (Lynne Dennler) seconded to approve the Originalmotion ‘Approve allowing the Superintendent to enter into contracts for the above stated positions prior to the August 13 Board meeting.’. Upon a Roll-Call Vote being taken, the vote was: Aye: 3 Nay: 2.

Here is a list of the ‘above-mentioned positions,’ which was attached to the agenda:

‘Elementary School Principal 3.0 FTE

Student Services Coordinator 9-12 .60 FTE

Vice Principal, Continuation School 1.0 FTE

Administrator, NSHS 1.0 FTE

Student Services Coordinator 6-8 .60 FTE

Coordinator, After School Program 1.0 FTE Classified Position

(If approved by the Board)’

The agenda report also stated:

‘Only positions that are currently authorized by the Board can be filled.’

The staff recommendation stated: ‘Approve allowing the Superintendent to enter into contracts for the above stated positions prior to the August 13 Board meeting.’

What is the basis for your assertion that the superintendent was authorized to fill vacancies not disclosed in the June 25 agenda report?”

Here is a link to the June 25 agenda report:

Here are links to portions of the board’s discussion regarding this:

Part 1:

Part 2:

AUG. 15 UPDATE: Since the district still has not released a comprehensive list of new administrators, it appears information will continue to trickle out.

Here’s an announcement about new administrators at Foothill MS, from the principal’s letter to parents:

“…As you and I continue our journey this year you will see some new faces at Foothill. With the retirement of Mike Mattos, we have David Roe joining us in the Vice Principal position. Dave comes from Sequoia Middle School where he has been an administrator for over six years. Previously he taught history for a combined total of 15 years at Clayton Valley High School and Pine Hollow Middle School. Dave looks forward to working with the entire school community to continue Foothill’s long tradition of academic success. You might want to catch one of his infamous “Coffee with Dave” morning gatherings coming to you this fall. Dave will be overseeing the 6th grade.

Also joining us is Theodora Pappas in the Student Services Coordinator (SSC) position. Theo is very excited to join the team here at Foothill and get to know students, staff, and families. Last year she worked between Pine Hollow and Riverview Middle Schools as a SSC and previously she was a middle school Assistant Principal in San Ramon. Before beginning her administrative career, Theo taught high school government, economics, and world history. Theo spent her summer in Greece and is a life time resident of Berkeley. She will be overseeing the 7th grade…”

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104 Responses to “MDUSD fills some administrative positions, but is still interviewing for others”

  1. g Says:

    Rhys Miller has left too? I guess I missed the Valle Verde opening. If they hire “outside” for that position it will make six “new hires” for elementary principals and one for middle school.

    That is what is disturbing! Cismowski was the only HS VP willing to go–or offered a chance to promote– to elementary principal? No teachers with credentials to move up ?

    It will be interesting to see how much of a raise they gave those three CVCHS VPs to stay with the district. Too bad we have to wait till next year for the Willis-Peele updates.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    I have names — all outside people — for PHE, Woodside and Riverview, but have been unable to confirm them. I believe they are scheduled to start on Aug 6, which is just a week away, and it appears that Julie B-M is still interviewing and accepting applications for Elementary Principals. What a sad state of deterioration in MDUSD, just a week before Principals are to start.

  3. Anon Says:

    The district administration has gone through a blender process. With the exception of Greg Rolen and Linda Shuler at Bancroft, is anyone in the same post as four years ago. Has every post and every person had a change or two. Is the end result better student scores and a better district, or mixed up blended nothingness?!

  4. Doctor J Says:

    I sure hope that some, if not all, of the recently “retired” MDUSD principals would be interviewed by Theresa to find out the “whys and wherefores” !

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: I just happen to have a County schools directory from 2009-10, which lists Dick Nicoll as superintendent.

    Still here in the district office are: Rose Lock, Mildred Browne, Greg Rolen, Julie Braun-Martin, Pete Pedersen, Joanne Durkee, Bryan Richards, Joe Estrada and Loreen Joseph (although some have different positions now).

    Gone are Sue Berg, Dick Nicoll, Alan Young, Gail Isserman, Katie Gaines, Dorothy Epps, Melinda Hall, Kathleen Corrigan and Margot Tobias.
    Brian Slaughter was listed as director of purchasing. I don’t know if he is still here.

    Principal changes have occurred (or are occurring in 12-13) at: Ayers, Bel Air, Cambridge, Delta View, Hidden Valley, Highlands, Meadow Homes, Monte Gardens, Mt. Diablo Elem., Mountain View, Pleasant Hill Elem., Rio Vista Elem., Sequoia Elem., Shadelands Center, Shore Acres, Silverwood, Sun Terrace, Valle Verde, Walnut Acres, Westwood, Woodside, Wren Avenue, Foothill MS, Oak Grove MS, Pleasant Hill MS, Riverview MS, Sequoia MS, Valley View MS, Clayton Valley HS, College Park HS, Concord HS, MDHS and Ygnacio Valley HS.

    As far as I can tell, there are six elementary schools with the same principals (Bancroft, El Monte, Gregory Gardens, Strandwood, Valhalla and Ygnacio Valley), three middle schools (Diablo View, El Dorado, Pine Hollow) and one high school (Northgate).

    Holbrook Elem. and Glenbrook MS have closed.

    Obviously, there are many reasons for the staff turnover, including promotions, reassignments, retirements, resignations and in the case of some employees — the elimination of their positions due to budget cuts.

    Do you think the 10 schools with leadership continuity have any advantage over the rest, which have had one or more changes in top administrators since 2009-10?

    g: Here is Miller’s retirement announcement to the Valle Verde community:

  6. Anon Says:

    The Concord High principal is still there…He’s the longest serving HS principal in MDUSD.

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: According to the 2009-10 directory, Ronald Miller was still principal at Concord HS when John McMorris was already leading Northgate HS.

    Gary McAdam came to Concord HS from Glenbrook MS after Miller retired.

    I should also note that Eagle Peak Montessori has the same administrative director that it had in 2009-10.

    Also, please note that I have added a July 30 update to this blog post, with new information that the district also appears to be seeking a new administrator for Prospect alternative high school.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    21 of 27 Elementary schools have had changes in Principals since June 2010 — in 24 months after Lawrence took over. I don’t call that stability for the children. It appears Valle Verde is still without a principal. Woodside and Pleasant Hill Elementary appear to have been made but not announced just a week before Principals report to work on August 6. Sounds like chaos.

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As previously mentioned, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said the district would try to announce its new administrators by Aug. 1 — two days from today.

    I have heard from a teacher that former Prospect/Horizons administrator Tom Lorch was not rehired.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    The Board ONLY authorized Lawrence to hire 3 Elementary principals during July — not a Principal at Riverview MS. See June 25 list of authorized hires. Looks like Lawrence exceeded his authority once again without Board approval — unless there were secret Brown Act violation discussions to increase the list without a public meeting and vote — if so, what would be the consequences for those hired under Brown Act violations ? Lose their jobs ?

  11. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, when do we get to hear the “shocking rumor” you announced a week ago ? :-) How could it be more shocking than the Supt get caught lying by sending you the wrong email attachment ? Or hiring a Principal without Board approval ? I just want to be sure to have my rubber soled shoes on when this “shocking” news comes to light !

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: I probably shouldn’t have mentioned anything about the rumor. I have not confirmed it, so will not be writing anything about it in the near future.

    You are correct that Lawrence was not authorized to fill the Riverview MS principal position from the outside. However, he does have the authority to transfer someone into the position, if it is not a promotion.

    It’s possible he has identified a candidate, whom he will bring to the board for approval. Since administrators are supposed to start work Aug. 6, perhaps the board will hold a special meeting to approve new administrators.

  13. Doctor J Says:

    The name I have for Riverview MS is an outside hire from a Bay Area district whose spouse is currently employed in MDUSD. As for Prospect, there was a job listing “reposted” on July 27 for an Administrator\Vice-Principal at Prospect. And for the rumor, perhaps you can give us the gist of the rumor sans identity and maybe a reader can provide the necessary confirmation to you.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The rumor involves a personnel matter, which it’s unlikely a reader would have information about.

  15. Anon Says:

    So if mt diabo el is changing leadership again that means every 2 years they have changed in the the last 8 years ( at least as far as I know). Also for special Ed no one on the IEP team is left. The school psych is gone, the resource teacher is gone and now the principal is gone.
    This will be a mess at the beginning of the year.

  16. Jim Says:

    So if I understand this correctly, because of the CVHS charter, Jose Espinoza got to go to a VP position at YV, which meant that Stephen Brady got bumped to a VP position at Northgate, which meant that Jon Campopiano, a competent and well-liked administrator at Northgate, got bumped to Oak Grove MS. Now we have three people who have not increased their responsibilities one bit, but who must now adjust to working for a new principal and must get to know a new school community. How long will it take for these three people to become as effective as they were in their prior positions?

    Inadvertenty, Supt. Lawrence is showing us another important advantage of converting an MDUSD school to a charter: the students, teachers, staff, and families of the charter get to say goodbye to the district’s pointless annual game of musical chairs.

  17. Doctor J Says:

    Excellent point Jim; and 21 of 27 Elementary schools have had changes in Principals in the last 24 months. Lets see how the API has changed at each of those schools where changes has occurred. They will be out in a couple of weeks.

  18. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    I suspect there remains a shocking rumor or two out there. You know what they say, “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. It’s time to drain the swamp.

  19. MDUSD Parent Says:

    Who is the current Principal at Oak Grove? As of July 4th weekend Jon Campopiano minions have stated adamently he is the new Principal at OakGrove. Northgate Athletic page says he left after 19 years at NGHS to be Oak Grove VP?? Makes no sense…. NG and YV are starting to creep me out …..there is something going on here :(

  20. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Julie Braun-Martin has previously confirmed that Campopiano was reassigned as vice principal of Oak Grove. The outdated school website lists Lisa Murphy Oates as principal, but doesn’t mention the new vice principal:

    As has been previously pointed out, Lawrence was not authorized to hire a new Oak Grove principal. If Murphy Oates has left and Campopiano is her intended replacement, the board would need to approve that appointment, since it would be a promotion for Campopiano.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is an interesting article about how principals can help nudge out “bad” teachers and encourage “good” teachers to stay:

  22. Michael Langley Says:

    We return to the problem of whether most principals are competent in evaluating teachers. Time and time again we see principals with little or no classroom experience unable to mentor, encourage or identify their best teachers. As to using a method to “get rid” of teachers, it is relatively simple. Take an elementary school teacher who has taught fifth grade for many years and assign him/her to teach kindergarten. Give a secondary teacher five different curriculums so that they are ground down in trying to prepare lessons before they enter the classroom. Be sure in every case to identify the most problematic students and put them all in the same class. Drop by the classroom daily and criticize every aspect of the observation followed by vague generalities for improvement:”Engage students more.” “Modify your lessons to meet the needs of every student.” And my favorite nonsensical buzz phrase, “Teach with fidelity.” These would be helpful if they were accompanied by real mentoring.

    The link you provide, Theresa, highlights the absurdity of it all. No true method of evaluation, reliance on value added methods that have not worked outside the realm of theoretical economics, and cherry picking elements from studies then blasting the union when it tries to shed daylight on the whole problem.

    We see in MDUSD a yearly shake-up in site management leaving principals with no knowledge of the skills of their teachers. Years ago, I suggested to a board member that one solution would be to stop making site principal a stepping stone to district level management. I suggested that the position of Principal be considered the top of the educator career path. The Principal would be an excellent teacher who has the skills to evaluate and mentor adults. Instead of them spending outrageous amounts of time attending meetings at district level and doing bureaucratic paperwork, Principals would focus on working with teachers and even continuing to co-teach one class in elementary or one section in secondary. Let the District level administrators be assigned a number of schools to handle the other administrative duties. SASS would be staffed by administrators who were experts in forms, reports and state/federal requirements. They would be taking work away from site levels instead of increasing it.

    The loss would be the unattainable standardization that current administrators seem to feel is the goal of education. The district would be put in the unfamiliar position of supporting the needs of each site instead of trying to fit all in some unproven rubric. Principals would know how to educate students and work with their teachers, encouraging them to be better and acknowledging that there is an art to teaching. They would know after two years of probation which teachers to retain and which to release.

    Finally, let us address merit pay. Most teachers work as hard as they can. Offering a bonus will not increase their effort. And where does the money come from to act as an incentive? There is only a finite (ever shrinking) amount of money allocated to education. To institute merit pay, money has to be cut from someplace else. When in the classroom, I always appreciated a raise, but my incentive was to help my students gain skills and knowledge they needed to succeed. How do you use a test score to evaluate the Music, Art and PE teachers? Do Librarians and Drama teachers get merit pay? How do we measure the teacher who has a self-contained SH class? What score do we give the speech pathologist and the school nurse? Merit pay is rarely a true measure of merit in education, nor is it always effective in private enterprise. As we have seen in the financial sector, people game the system to appear to be productive if the sole goal is to get a bonus.

    It all seems to come down to the issue that a drum beat is constant that the public should not trust teachers. We must question if we are not setting ourselves up for a self fulfilling prophecy as fewer and fewer quality people are attracted to education, the overall quality will eventually be reduced. It’s not too late to change. It has to start at the local level. Your school board must be filled with people who understand how students learn and they must make decisions with that as their goal.

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Often, it appears that school board members rely on district staff to decide who the good teachers and administrators are. And I hear off the record that some people are afraid to speak up when they see things they don’t believe are best for students, out of fear of retaliation.
    How can a trustee who has never taught try to understand how students learn?

  24. Doctor J Says:

    Mike, you have until August 10 to complete your candidate paperwork. I urge you to do it. As for merit pay, I was disappointed that you would not allow consideration in the SIG grants of the bonus or reward money for educators. It was not only allowed, but enouraged in the SIG grants. Unfortunately, according to my sources, you would not even allow discussion of it in the 4 elementary schools [now 3] that were SIG — consequently we see much of their grants unspent.

  25. Michael Langley Says:

    Doctor J
    All teachers working at SIG schools are paid for the extra site time required. That money is counted as their onschedule pay. We beleive it is consistant with the philosophy of a majority of the teachers in MDUSD.

    Just because there is Grant money available does not change what I wrote about Merit Pay.

    “Finally, let us address merit pay. Most teachers work as hard as they can. Offering a bonus will not increase their effort. And where does the money come from to act as an incentive? There is only a finite (ever shrinking) amount of money allocated to education. To institute merit pay, money has to be cut from someplace else. When in the classroom, I always appreciated a raise, but my incentive was to help my students gain skills and knowledge they needed to succeed. How do you use a test score to evaluate the Music, Art and PE teachers? Do Librarians and Drama teachers get merit pay? How do we measure the teacher who has a self-contained SH class? What score do we give the speech pathologist and the school nurse? Merit pay is rarely a true measure of merit in education, nor is it always effective in private enterprise. As we have seen in the financial sector, people game the system to appear to be productive if the sole goal is to get a bonus.”

    If merit pay is not a effective tool, then using it anyway because there is money unspent is not right. If the district didn’t know how to spend it to make a difference in the student’s education, then why did they apply for the grant in the first place?

    It created a position for SIG administrator at the district.The money could not be used at Bel Air in a manner that the site wanted, reduced class size to allow individual attention for struggling students.

    The district jumped through hoops to get the grants without a viable plan to use the money in an effective manner. Sometimes you have to leave a grant on the table if the money does not improve practice and drains resources (time and focus).

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Mike, As we have discussed, the first four SIG applications were completed quickly, with little input or buy-in from the union (in fact, with objections from the teachers’ union).

    For the second round (which will benefit Meadow Homes Elementary and Oak Grove Middle School), the district had more time to prepare its School Improvement plans. How involved in the second round grants was MDEA and do you support them?

  27. g Says:

    “The money could not be used at Bel Air in a manner that the site wanted, reduced class size to allow individual attention for struggling students.”

    Why? Did the site turn down SIG money?

  28. Doctor J Says:

    The crime is that accepting the SIG money with no intention of using it took it away from others schools and districts that were turned down in the “competitive bid” process. That cheated deserving students just because MDUSD has a professional grant writer — both the Supt, and Principal signed off on the grant proposal — Why if they had no intention of using it ?

  29. Doctor J Says:

    It just occurred to me that Bel Air and other 3 schools had to write “corrective action plans” or give up the money. Why did they do that if they had no intention of using the money ? They could have hired a private tutor for every child with the kind of money they left on the table. More educators, not more administrators. And Mike I disagree with you — under SIG they could have used the money to reduce class size. Why do you say they could not ?

  30. Doctor J Says:

    Mike, here is just one reference to class size reduction being permissible for SIG grant money: See Section I-30 at page 85.

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe that the schools are supposed to show that they have been implementing their plans to get continued funding next year. If they haven’t spent the money, I think they are in jeopardy of losing their final year of funding.

  32. Frustrated Anon Parent Says:

    Mr. Langley #22,
    I agree that we should have Board Members who understand how students learn. I agree that being a Principal should be the last step on an educators career path.

    I believe Superintendents need to have business, marketing, and most importantly leadership skills. They must be visionaries and have the capacity to share their vision and inspire teachers, administrators, parents, and students to follow.

    As for teachers, let me take your paragraph and tell you how I see it:

    “Principals should be trained to be competent in evaluating teachers. If they are not they should face the consequences of not being competent at their job. I can assure you that teachers, administrators, parents, and students at every school site can tell you who the good teachers are and who are not good. It is not rocket-science and you do not need an abundance of classroom time to mentor, encourage or identify the best teachers.

    As to using a method to “uninspire/disengage” a student, it is relatively simple. Take a high school student who has been in school for 12 years and sit them in front of an irrelevant movie almost every day. Give a high school student a five page paper to write with zero tolerance for being late but don’t return it for 5 weeks, even better give every student in the class an 85%. Be sure in every case to identify the students as problematic and disruptive and of course, this is an honors class so pre-determine that only 2 students will receive an A. Sit in the classroom daily and ignore the fact that 25 students just walked into your class 10 minutes ago and to make it worse go ahead and take that 25 minute cellphone call. Make sure the students hear you say, “No I am not busy this is a good time to talk.”

    And HELL YES “Modify your lessons to meet the needs of every student.”
    “Teach with fidelity.”

    And if the teachers want to have mentors so badly, put it in your contract right next to “you do not need to post grades” or “of course you can miss 45 days of school” or “your boss can’t evaluate you he might not like you.” or…….

  33. Michael Langley Says:

    @ TH #34 MDEA leadership was not involved in crafting the second round. Elections were held at both schools with secret ballots to detirmine if a majority of staff supported the grant after it was designed. MDEA only agreed to the MOU for contract exeptions only after members voted at each site. If a majority of members had voted no at Oak Grove or Meadow Homes, there would have been no MOU and no SIG at that site.MDEA felt it was important to listen to the members at each site. We were modeling good practice for the District.
    @FAP #32 I had no problem with modify for every student, but when coupled with a requirement to follow a pacing guide in lockstep and teach to a teast instead of evaluating using alternative means, it is a Catch 22. Also The objection to “Teach to Fidelity” is that it was used as a phrase but when asked what that looked like, often no answer could be forthcoming. Fidelity to what or who? Is the expectation to the pacing guide, test taking skills, critical thinking? The real meaning as used in MDUSD often was do everything according to a script and use only a few strategies that are favored by top down management.
    When you describe the methods of a poor teacher, refer back to my suggestion that Princpals know what it takes to teach and then make quality of education their primary duty.

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In going through some old files, I found this January press release about an “Educator Excellence Task Force” started by Superintendent Tom Torlakson to “boost educator excellence”

    Do you think task forces such as this can accomplish that goal?

  35. District Teacher Says:

    Mike, don’t take the bait. FAPS is either a troll or a district or board plant. If you do run for a position on the board, be prepared for more belittling comments regarding teachers and MDEA. Just consider it a compliment for daring to try to change the status quo.

  36. Wondering Says:

    Mike, I have a question. Teachers get paid a stipend if they have a masters degree (in anything). Why doesn’t the union provide a stipend to teachers who have both a general education and special education credential and are using them in the classes they teach.

  37. lc Says:

    Mike, Why is it the district will not pay a stipend for someone who has two credentials and is using both, but they will pay a stipend for a master’s degree in anything?

  38. Frustrated Anon Parent Says:

    #35 –
    You are wrong, I AM a frustrated parent.
    I agree with Mr. Langley on much of what he says and I would vote for him if he chooses to run. I think he takes great care in his thought process and I believe he cares about kids. My post is to challenge him to truly address the problem we have with substandard teachers (not all but certainly more than just a few). We have major problems in this District (many at the top levels)and I am tired of making teachers exempt from the part they play in the substandard education being provided our children.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The US Dept. of Ed. is sponsoring a “Connected Educator” month:

    Do you think educators are likely to take advantage of these types of activities?

  40. Doctor J Says:

    Aug 1 has come and nearly gone — Julie B-M still hasn’t announced the seating for the annual MDUSD “musical chairs”. Of course, she could have done it Monday morning since Lawrence has been vacationing this week.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    Look for Pete Pedersen to offer Gary a job in December.

  42. Anon Says:

    If THE GARY is offered a job by Pedersen, I will indeed file a lawsuit.

  43. 2 More Principals Announced Says:

    I just read through the MDUSD permit applications, that “New Principal Meetings” took place last evening for Pleasant Hill Elementary and either tonight or tomorrow night for Woodside Elementary. I say either tonight or tomorrow, because the application has a date conflict on it.

  44. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The PHE website still lists Voris as principal:

    And the Woodsite site still lists Batesole:

    Of course, many school websites in the district are out of date, so I’ll contact Julie Braun-Martin once again to find out who has been appointed. Thanks for the heads-up!

    I got an “out of office” response from Braun-Martin.

  45. g Says:

    A lot of things just don’t make sense (to me).

    Why would you move a Principal from one school, and put her in as Principal of a SpecEd school–then replace her with a much more expensive Principal, who was the Director of SpecEd in another district? I guess there is some long term plan–I just don’t see it.

  46. g Says:

    Sorry, I mixed up the names Jennifer Voris and Jennifer Vargas — The original schools may be different, but the question changes very little.

  47. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: I’m confused by your question. Jenny Vargas went from Westwood Elementary to the Shadelands Special Ed. school and was replaced by David Ramirez, who was promoted from vice principal of El Dorado MS. Jennifer Voris retired. Do you know who has replaced her?

  48. g Says:

    Theresa; I figured with Sherry Whitmarsh telling you the district hoped to announce new assignments by today, and with the strong PH Education Commission keeping a close eye on their schools, and with #43’s assertion that two more principals were announced today, that it was probably a done deal, and you would know about it.

    I will call it just rumors for now.

  49. Doctor J Says:

    My crystal ball says east of Bay Point.

  50. g Says:

    I wonder. Does this maybe have something to do with the late May, Early June talks about moving Autism to PH Elementary?

    Was that ever really decided?

  51. Doctor J Says:

    G, if we are hearing the same rumors, the Director of Special Ed in that district was only making a salary of $116k base so she will earn about 20k less as PHE principal. Why would she make that kind of jump unless she was promised more.

  52. Doctor J Says:

    Do we have confirmation yet for Angela Hotchkiss as the new Principal at Pleasant Hill Elementary ? She is the current Director of Special Education at Antioch USD and I believe she used to be Vice-Principal at Deer Valley High School. If I recall, the Times did a story on her pulling kids out of the Denny’s when they offered free breakfasts. Not sure what her elementary background is, if any. Not sure why she would suddenly take a massive pay cut from $116k to $89k in base salary to make that horrible commute up and down Hwy 4 everyday.

  53. Doctor J Says:

    Confirmation that Angela Hotchkiss resigned from Antioch USD as Director of Special Education eff July 31, reason: “other employment”. Having trouble posting the link to the July 25 Antioch School Board agenda:

  54. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Since Braun-Martin is apparently not in her office, I have not yet been able to confirm this.

    It’s interesting that Antioch lists the reasons for staff resignations. MDUSD doesn’t do that.

    g: Regarding the autism program at Pleasant Hill Elementary, I believe it was presented to parents at the May meeting as a done deal.

  55. Doctor J Says:

    Upscale Montclair’s Montera Middle School’s highly respected Principal Russom Mesfun resigned June 25 to take a high school job in So Cal.
    Long time Montera Vice-Principal Thom Kwiatkowski was apparently passed over to take Mesfun’s position, and is reportedly ready to assume the duties at Riverview Middle School in MDUSD — even though the Board did not authorize Supt Lawrence to fill this position without Board approval. Last year Montera’s API score dropped 21 points after a 32 point gain the year before. Kwiatkowski will be the third Rivewview principal since 2010. Denise Rugani was principal at Riverview from 2003-2010; Christine Huajardo 2010-12. Riverview and Montera are quite differently academically. The 2011 API scores show Montera at 812 and Riverview at 680.

  56. Doctor J Says:

    I don’t think Thom Kwiatkowski knows how to spell “Program Improvement” ! Riverview MS has been in PI FOREVER and Montera MS has NEVER. There must be more to this story.

  57. g Says:

    On the other hand…there are several teachers at Riverview making a bucket load of money more than Kwiatkowski makes after 20 years with OUSD.

    It’s a smart move if what you really want to do is boost earnings late in a career, and stay long enough to get that retirement.

    And if he can do anything to help improve Riverview, then maybe it’s a plus-plus for everyone.

    But who said Lawrence could hire a middle school principal over summer break?

  58. Doctor J Says:

    @G, Comparing “base” salaries, Huajardo made $98k as MS Principal, Mesfun made $96k, and Kwiatkowski as a VP only made $72k. I doubt he would make as much here as Huajardo since he will start without longevity but maybe he can negotiate that; one savings for MDUSD would be that he and his wife would not both be able to have full MDV in the same district, or would they choose to be covered under two different providers ?

  59. g Says:

    Good question. Why would two people take full benefits (even from two districts)? I would understand one of them bargaining for some small amount of ‘in lieu’ money to cover co-pay and deductables, of course–but full boat bene’s for both? Wow. Let’s hope not.

  60. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It appears that MDUSD is not the only district playing musical chairs:

    The Martinez district apparently finds it “disruptive” to search for a new principal three weeks before school starts. But, in MDUSD, the practice of scrambling to find a new principal a few weeks before school starts is beginning to seem somewhat commonplace.

    Martinez also “grooms” assistant principals to take on leadership roles when the time comes. MDUSD, on the other hand, does not often appear to have strong succession plans in place.

  61. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Meanwhile, Clayton Valley Charter HS finished up its freshman transition program today, with its staff firmly in place and enthusiastic about starting school in two weeks:

  62. Jim Says:

    Have you ever heard someone say, “I wouldn’t work there if it were the last place on earth!”? Well, metaphorically speaking, MDUSD is testing that proposition, by being the last place in the region where anyone in education would wish to work. I mean, really, who would want to jump on this torpedo and ride it to the end?

    I’m sure they’ll eventually find warm bodies for the remaining open positions, but one dreads the mischief that could result from such desperate hiring.

  63. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It’s interesting what a difference visionary and collaborative leadership can make.
    At Clayton Valley HS, staff members I spoke to were excited about working there, including Kat Marzel, who coordinated the freshman transition program. You can feel her enthusiasm, if you watch this video:
    Parent Alison Bacigalupo told me that many people didn’t think it would be possible for the school to implement all the changes it has already begun this summer — with some suggesting that maybe they should wait a year.
    “But (Executive Director) Dave (Linzey) is a force,” she said, with admiration. “And he’s fearless.”
    Linzey was out on the football field greeting visitors, staff and students, before joining in a friendly tug of war competition between staff and the football team. He exudes a “can do” attitude that is taking the school by storm, as parents and staff take on new challenges for the benefit of students.
    Teacher Neil McChesney told me that Linzey has asked teachers to stay after school to tutor struggling students. McChesney said most teachers at CVCHS welcomed the idea, even though there is no promise of extra money. MDEA voted to deny CVCHS teachers membership in the union, he said, so teachers there have formed their own CTA unit that will begin bargaining soon. For now, he said, teachers are working under the same contract terms they had with the district.
    Pat Middendorf also told me custodians and food service workers are proactively trying to please the staff — because they are under contract. They know that if they don’t meet expectations, the charter will hire someone else who will.
    There was a joyful sense of ownership on campus, as people picked up trash and put fresh coats of paint on the walls — welcoming in a new era.

  64. Jim Says:

    MDEA voted to deny the CVCHS teachers membership in the union?!? Well, I guess that just delineates even more starkly who is part of the solution and who is still part of the problem. (Teacher union officials, in their most candid moments, will sometimes admit that “it’s about the adults, not the kids”. But here we have a union that doesn’t even care whether its dues paying members remain in the organization. Incredible.)

    Good to hear that things are shaping up well at CV. Maybe now we will start to hear more stories of a local public school that SURPASSES expectations, instead of continually falling short.

  65. g Says:

    Jim; One can’t help but wonder if MDEA’s decision to “lose” the CVCHS members was in any way influenced by the district’s decision to give those kick-backs and bonuses in the new contract.

    As in; ‘you do this for us, and we’ll do that for the rest of you.’

    Who’s your daddy MDEA?

  66. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: The CVHS charter teachers got the same 3 percent bonus that everybody else did because they were still district employees as of June 30.

    Also, McChesney told me it was a close vote and that Mike Langley advocated for allowing the charter teachers to stay in the union. McChesney said it was very controversial.

  67. g Says:

    Theresa, the 3% is one thing. I’m glad to hear that. But that was just one of a dozen or so issues settled. How about (future) concessions, like the kick up in future hourly wages? What was that–from $20 to $25 etc. etc., medical leave, in lieu pay for some work….

    Understandably, as a start up, CVCHS may be better off financially by not being tied to MDEA. Hopefully teachers and management will be happy to work together on their own internal contracts, even if it means less financial rewards in the short term.

  68. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Former MDUSD custodian John Astor has reached a deal and has been sentenced to 28 years in jail for molesting five boys:

  69. Anon Says:

    “Pat Middendorf also told me custodians and food service workers are proactively trying to please the staff — because they are under contract. They know that if they don’t meet expectations, the charter will hire someone else who will.”

    Exact opposite of what happens to teachers, they get tenure and never have to worry about pleasing, or performance. I guess the custodians and lunch personnel aren’t union. Funny how a union employee (or former) seems to value that they can fire others to drive performance, but won’t remove or change tenure in their contract.

    It will be interesting to see how this goes in the future with their new union.

  70. teacher Says:

    Aren’t we forgetting the important people in education…students? Seems like we get afar from the real work that needs to be done and we are all caught up in the “he said/she said” and pointing fingers. All of this venting does not seem to be effective. Plan B anyone?

  71. Anon Says:

    We have been talking about plan B in this country for the last 2 years or more. Get rid of tenure, make district office smaller and accountable, make teachers accountable. with that we need to pay teachers that are accountable more. We need to lead by example. How can we as the adults expect children to learn to be accountable if we are showing them that you don’t have to be? I think we all agree that our children are the most important. I should not have to fight to get a basic education for my child. I should not have to pay a tutor because he/she got the crappy deal of a teacher. When a school says zero tolerance it should be just that. I should not have to listen to excuses of why children are able to get away with what they do. I should not have to listen to excuses on how a terrible teacher is still allowed to teach. I should not have to listen to frustrated teachers begging for help and getting none.
    I think you can see where this is going.

  72. teacher Says:

    #71 You list many of the things you would like to see changed and yoiu list many frustrations. I’m wondering what you are DOING from your position of anonymity to affect change? As the saying goes – If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

  73. Anon Says:

    I may be anon. On here but in other federal and state fights I am not. I voice my opinions very loudly. Until adults stop fighting and start talking nothing will change.

  74. Anon Says:

    Teacher-Make a list of what we should be doing. You can bet we have been there, done that.

  75. Jim Says:

    Teacher — Please remember that most of us on this blog don’t work each day in our schools. Many of us try to have an impact by volunteering and giving money, but we spend most of our time earning our living elsewhere. If we have a competent principal in our child’s school — a big IF for many years in MDUSD — then we can communicate concerns and feedback to him or her. And maybe, after several years of quiet, behind-the-scenes manuvering, a failing teacher will be replaced. Or maybe, after several years advocating for more challenging instruction for our children, the district will finally allow improvements in the course offerings or curriculum. Maybe. (And too bad about all the kids who passed through in the meantime.)

    We try to vote for more competent leadership on the school board — clearly the source of so many problems in MDUSD — but the record there is decidedly mixed. Most voters have long ago lost interest in large public school districts like ours, so turnout is low and voting is highly vulnerable to targeted campaigns by special interests who benefit from their cozy relationships with the district. (And interestingly, all too seldom do we see educators taking a constructive public role in non-pocketbook issues.) Over the years, one begins to suspect that education is too important to be left in the hands of mysteriously elected amateurs.

    So some of us have come to the conclusion that more fundamental change is needed. In my case, after more than a dozen years working with educators and districts across the U.S., I realized that almost NONE of the large public districts were operated very well. (Small districts that are relatively homogenous and affluent can do well, but they have relatively modest challenges and usually serve a citizenry that is engaged, financially supportive, and willing to keep close tabs on things. Also, families in small districts tend to be more homogenous, as far as what they expect from their schools.) But the large districts? As a group, they are remarkably pathetic. They tend to be hide-bound, bureaucratic monopolies that are not accountable to anyone, because the funds keep coming no matter how poorly they serve students and families. And btw, some of those districts are funded at twice, or even three times, the rate of MDUSD. (Like MDUSD, these big monopolies can also be terrible places to work for many of the teachers and administrators in them. Like the decrepit state-owned factories in the old Soviet Union, they just propagate misery and cynicism for everyone. Shoddy processes, poor results, and that lovely “I pretend to work, and they pretend to pay me” attitude are some of the characteristic traits.) Eventually, I came to realize that if the “end users” in education did not have the ability to exercise choice about the schools they attend, there would NEVER be significant accountability in those districts. Ever.

    So I became a school choice “activist”. I support candidates and legislation that prioritize expanding school choice. I also started a blog devoted to school choice, to help people understand how choice is working in various parts of the country, and to combat the propaganda and misinformation promulgated by so many apologists for the current system. I “vent” because, sometimes, it can yield political change, if done correctly, for a long enough time. You can see my rants (and rant yourself!) at:

    Now, may I ask, what are YOU doing to be part of the solution? I’m sure that you are trying to help students as best you can. But our problem is bigger than your classroom, and it has reached a crisis. What is your Plan B?

  76. Doctor J Says:

    All principals report tomorrow for “mandatory” training — have all “principalships” been filled, even the ones Lawrence was NOT authorized by the Board to hire ? Julie B-M still hasn’t confirmed the “recess appointments” by Lawrence.

  77. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Where is the training on Monday, “Doctor” J? My principal doesn’t have training until Thursday (at Northgate) and then Friday and Saturday (at San Ramon, I believe).

  78. Anon Says:

    Why would we send principals to San Ramon for training?

  79. Flippin' Tired Says:

    New admins are doing something at Willow Creek tomorrow. Why San Ramon for the veterans? I have no idea. You’d have to ask the district office for their rationale.

  80. Doctor J Says:

    Yes, FT “new” principals tomorrow.

  81. Anon Says:

    Now it appears that the star tests results will not be released until August 31st. You all may already know this.

  82. Anon Says:

    Anon 71 and Jim 75,


    Teacher 72, do you not find it ironic that you question Anon 71 because of their anonymity?
    Very few on this blog are NOT anonymous and I suspect that is for various reasons. I would be careful not to assume they do nothing else. It takes a lot of work to remain informed and public discourse in and of itself can be a catalyst for change. Read the article about Mr. Eberhart, this blog certainly influenced his thoughts on running for reelection.

  83. Anon Says:

    Teacher #72,

    Also you should be aware that according to many rumors (remember where there is smoke there is fire) board members have a habit of reaching out and making life hard for the children of parents who confront the board. Probably another reason most of us remain anon.

  84. teacher Says:

    #75 – Thank you for your very thoughtful and open response. There is much work to be done and by approaching the task of change from multiple paths, we stand a better chance of improving the system for students. I have worked within the system as a teacher and outside the system as a parent and have seen change on both fronts. It is too slow though.

    #82 It may be ironic. My concern is that on this blog (and others)there are a lot of negative assumptions and finger pointing and because the comments are anonymous, there is no accountability. I will try to keep my anonymous comments non-specific toward individuals and groups. I read to try to understand.

  85. Anon Says:

    @ Teacher. I am the first anon that you addressed. The reason I am Anon on here is my kids attend schools in the District with one of them in Special Ed. If I become known as I have in the past it creates problems for my kids in education. It should not be this way.
    I am sure you are one of the few teachers that really want change. If you could please
    Tell us what your thoughts are about what we can do to help the process?
    I am willing to stand and fight but I have to know that I am not standing alone.
    I think like Jim. I would like to see school choice, higher accountability and to able to get rid of the ones who refuse to step up. I also believe that if a teacher is doing their job and accountable that they get paid better to do it. I don’t believe that a teacher should have to spend money out of their pocket for pencils and paper.
    I believe that we can do better!

  86. Jim Says:

    @Teacher — I have a lot of empathy and concern for educators and staff members in the current system who are trying to do a good job — and I believe that is most of them. It is very frustrating to feel responsible for the learning of so many students, and yet have so little control over the factors that encourage academic achievement.

    You may be surprised to know that our system of public school districts is quite unusual in the world. We operate with a whole layer of bureaucracy and funding that many advanced countries do without. In Germany, for example, schools and the curriculum are closely regulated by the individual states (much as they already are in CA), and all expenses are paid by the government (i.e. no tuition), but there are no “districts”. Each school is separately governed by a school head (almost always a former teacher) and a teacher committee, who must get important decisions approved by a committee including parents (and even students in upper grades). In general, parents may send their child to any school that has room and where the child is qualified. (Test scores and grades don’t really become a factor until middle school.) Parents I’ve met there seem pretty satisfied, both with the available choices and with the quality of their child’s education. (I know one couple who complained that they had “only 3 or 4 good schools” to choose from for their young son, who was starting kindergarden. But they expected that situation to improve once he was old enough to take a bus or train to school, at which point there would be a wide choice of schools that they were excited about. Most students attend schools close to where they live, but they are certainly free to attend school elsewhere. Other countries operate similarly. In fact, I attended a high school in the Netherlands that operated under such a system. Teachers ran the school, and I can tell you, it was run quite differently than the public high school I had attended in the U.S.!

    If a German school should deteriorate, it may generate complaints to the state, which could discipline the teachers in the school. But that rarely happens, because what happens first is that parents start moving their children to other schools. No school wants to “shrink”, so most of them work pretty hard to maintain their reputations. That’s where “accountability” comes in. They don’t seem to need a raft of district administrators constantly sending them memos, scheduling training, and generally peering over their shoulders on a daily basis. Now, you might think that under such a system, choosing schools would become a “popularity contest” with parents. But I haven’t heard any evidence of that — because, I think, just like here, most parents want their children to have an education that will lead to a good job and/or a place at a good university.

    Think about this for a moment. The schools are run by teachers and parents (much like charter schools here in the U.S.). Although schools are independently run, parents can send their children anywhere without cost (like with vouchers). The whole system produces pretty great results, with lower per-pupil spending than we have in the U.S. — and without a “district administrator” anywhere to be found! It just goes to show that ideas that can be very controversial here in the U.S. — and vehemently opposed by traditionalists here — can be quite common and successfully used elsewhere. In fact, when I tell people in other countries that students here in the U.S. must attend their “district” school, which is often determined by their address, those people are generally shocked. In fact, I’ve had people tell me, “In the U.S., where you talk so much about freedom from bureaucracy?!? Why would you tolerate such a stupid system?”

  87. Doctor J Says:

    I guess JBM & Personnel are too busy readying 50 Shades trilogy to fill the public in on Supt Lawrence’s Administrative Appointments. :-(

  88. Anon Says:

    It really is quite disgusting. What do they think? Just because we are some of the harder luck schools in the district we don’t care who our principal is?

  89. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Aug. 9 update to this blog post, with the names of six “newly hired principals,” including two that had been previously announced.

  90. Doctor J Says:

    When did the Board authorize Lawrence to hire a Middle School Principal from outside the district ?

  91. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have sent Julie Braun-Martin an email asking if that appointment is subject to board approval.

  92. Doctor J Says:

    Aha ! Therein lies the key to the Board meeting postponement — Lawrence didn’t have enough votes to sneak in an illegal principal appointment not authorized by the Board due to TWO Board members going to be absent on next Monday evening.

  93. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    I find it strange that two board members are not even able to call in as Dennler has done many times from Hawaii. Are the two board members Eberhart and Whitmarsh? If so, they may be “unavailable” only to protect Lawrence.

  94. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The two board members are Whitmarsh and Dennler.

  95. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Aug. 10 update to this blog, including an email exchange between myself and Julie Braun-Martin regarding the new administrative hires.
    She claims that the board authorized the superintendent to fill ALL administrative vacancies in July.
    I have pointed out that the June 25 agenda report does not say that and I’m waiting for her response.

  96. Doctor J Says:

    Another example of bait and switch — Julie B-M is in the thick of it — she cannot claim innocence. She also has a constitutional duty to follow the law — not Lawrence’s misguided attempts. Listen to the audio. In fact, I would encourage everyone to make their own copy before the audio disappears.

  97. Jim Says:

    Clearly, there has been a long-running disconnect between the meeting agendas and what actually happens. You can chase all those rats down into their respective holes, but in the end, if Cheryl Hansen is the only board member who cares about — or even understands — good governance, then it is not going to change. Typically, board members at any organization would be quite upset at all the failures to complete, post, update, and adhere to agendas that we see so often at MDUSD. Common governance practices that require little effort, discussion, or controversy on almost any other board, become constant sources of dispute and dysfunction at MDUSD. Most boards would certainly object when they approve one thing and the organization they govern does something to the contrary. But not here.

  98. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Dr. J.,

    I just made a copy and plan on forwarding it to the Grand Jury. Not that the board cares aobut that, but it seems like the right thing to do.

  99. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that the Aug. 10 update to this blog now includes links to videos of portions of the board discussion regarding authorizing the superintendent to enter into administrative contracts.

  100. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a story about administrative shuffling in East Contra Costa County:

  101. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    A few short years ago, a few very vocal trustees and board candidates postured outrage and conducted chest thumping at public meetings in order to oust a superintendent for so many alleged misdeeds – not being transparent, not providing timely and thorough information via meeting minutes and other forms of documentation to the public, not having and following a strategic plan, lying to the public to cover up budget problems, not working with the teachers and other district employees in a trusting and expedient manner, student transportation issues galore and all sorts of horrible injustices they publicly and loudly protested on blogs, other online outlets, in newspaper articles and even on voter information sites. Under the “management” of the very people who thumped the loudest, those same misdeeds and injustices have continued and worsened.

    Those who called out the superintendent then, and used the media so happily for their “cause” and promises to make it all better and “fix” the wrongs, are themselves the very monster they railed against.

    Shame on these public district employees and trustees for letting ineptness, ignorance, greed and power rule their decisions that affected and will continue to affect our children’s education in the MDUSD for years to come.

  102. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: It’s unclear why MDUSD is so reluctant to share information with the public.
    General Counsel Greg Rolen has threatened to seek a court order blocking FCMAT from releasing a report to the Times that outlines laws regarding special education. Rolen also refused to release a “thorough analysis” of the district’s practice of paying the cost of bond issuance with bond premium, after Superintendent Lawrence and Trustee Gary Eberhart assured the board and the public that the analysis showed the district was acting within the law.
    Such secrecy flies in the face of transparency and causes some members of the public to wonder whether the district has something to hide.

  103. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The Contra Costa County Office is hosting a “Breakthrough Coaching” workshop Nov. 1-2 at DVC so administrators and their assistants can “learn how to work smarter and work in ways that enable them to spend more time in the classroom,” according to the CCCOE July 18 minutes. I wonder if SASS staff and MDUSD principals will attend.

  104. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Aug. 15 update to this blog post, with information about new administrators at Foothill MS: David Roe has been promoted to vice principal, after serving as a student services coordinator at Sequoia MS. Also, Theodora Pappas in the Student Services Coordinator. She previously split her time between Riverview MS and Pine Hollow MS as a student services coordinator.

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