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MDUSD appears to misrepresent some information in letter to parents about special education transportation changes

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 at 6:31 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Although a June 20 letter to some Mt. Diablo district parents appears to attribute details about upcoming transportation changes to an outside agency, I have found that the district actually generated some of the information itself.

The letter includes drastic changes in special education busing procedures, including one that is being implemented “immediately,” one that will go into effect Aug. 26 and one set to begin Jan. 7.

According to the letter, the changes were based on a “Financial Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) study to assist with identifying more effective and efficient means to provide special education transportation.”

Yet, the district didn’t receive FCMAT’s draft transportation report until July 18 — nearly one month after the letter was written. The district had, however, received a June 5 letter from FCMAT outlining some of its preliminary findings and recommendations, which it had not publicly disclosed.

The June 20 letter to parents states: “The study revealed that we are significantly overidentifying transportation as a related service for special education students. For example, the district currently provides transportation to 26 percent of our students with an IEP (Individualized Education Programs); however, in most districts reviewed by FCMAT the average was approximately 10 percent. The FCMAT team found that the district has an inordinately high number of parents who receive reimbursement in lieu of transportation services. One similarly sized district has only two parents who are paid in lieu while we reimburse 144 parents. In response to the FCMAT findings and recommendations, the district is modifying special education transportation services as follows.”

First, the letter states that parents will only be reimbursed for transporting students if the district is unable to transport them.

Second, it states that special education students who attend their neighborhood schools will no longer receive transportation unless they have unique needs.

Third, it says some students will be picked up and dropped off at nearby schools, instead of at their homes, beginning Jan. 7. According to this “cluster model,” students would then be transported to and from schools that are farther away, the letter states.

But when I read FCMAT’s June 5 letter and July 18 draft report, I didn’t see any mention of the “similar sized district” referenced in the Mt. Diablo letter. So, I sent an email to Bill Gillaspie, chief administrative officer for FCMAT, pointing out that the information did not appear in its letter or draft report and asking which district it was using as a comparison, how many special education students it served and what percentage of them were transported to and from school.

“In response to your question, we did not give the district the ‘similarly’ sized district,” he wrote in an e-mail.

We don’t know what district they are referring to, so I can’t tell you how many students with IEPs there are or how many are being transported.

You are correct. We make no reference about this in the draft report.

The district must have that information that they are referring to in their letter to parents.”

I also noticed that the draft report attributed the “cluster” idea to an analysis the district received “from a third party expert in special education law, compliance with IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and best practices.”

“As a result,” the draft report states, “Mt. Diablo Unified is working towards clustering special education students at group stops where appropriate and training special education staff members in the IEP process and in determining whether transportation should be a related service. That same expert has developed a checklist that can be used in IEP meetings to help appropriately direct the provision of service.”

FCMAT then recommends that the district “cluster stops for students who can reasonably get to their local school or a nearby bus stop.” It adds: “These changes should be clearly communicated to parents well in advance.”

Just to double-check, I asked Gillaspie if the cluster idea came from FCMAT or from the district. Here is his emailed response:

“The ‘clustering’ is a MDUSD word that appears to have legal grounds to do so, according to the MSUSD legal counsel. You may clarify that with them, if necessary.

We continued to use it so there would be some consistency in how the district communicates the concept to their parents.

What MDUSD is hoping to do is create group bus stops most likely at the elementary school of residence in their neighborhood, or at a common, public location, like a park, rather than picking up each child at their doorstep.

We agree that having group bus stops for the less severe students who can safely get to those stops is a positive for the children and district.

This can be a cost reducing method of providing transportation, provides for the least restrictive environment and promotes student independence with parent support.

Any change of placement or services will involve an IEP meeting, which consists of a meeting between parent and district.”

I asked for a copy of the independent legal analysis on which the clustering idea was based. Gillaspie said it was FCMAT’s belief that it was a public document, since the district had provided it to FCMAT.

However, as a courtesy, Gillaspie said he called Greg Rolen, the district’s general counsel, on Monday to let him know that FCMAT intended to release the document to me and to see if Rolen had any objection. So far, Gillaspie has not heard back from Rolen.

I also asked Gillaspie to name the districts FCMAT reviewed, when it determined that “most school districts” transport about 10 percent of special education students.

“The figure that we use has no basis in any statistical report or data that is available from the state,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Over the years we observe that most districts that control their transportation placements seem to transport about 10 percent of the total special education population.

(The state wide average of serving children in special education is between 10 percent and 11 percent of the general education population).”

Yet, FCMAT’s report and the district’s letter to parents both appear to represent the transportation percentage as a fact that has been “reviewed” by FCMAT. To further clarify whether FCMAT compared districts, I followed up with a phone call.

Gillaspie said FCMAT had not actually analyzed its data to confirm its conclusion.

“What I told you is an honest opinion what we observe,” he said. “We’re looking at the number of kids that are being transported and the number of kids in special education in the district and we’re drawing a conclusion from that.”

Again, I asked him to name the districts to which he was referring. After hesitating for a few moments, he said the Poway Unified School District transports about 10 percent of its special education students.

“That would be my estimate,” he said. “I would say that you could look at Poway and probably draw that conclusion.”

However, he did not provide the data to back up this conclusion. Instead, he said I could look at the transportation reports on FCMAT’s website.

Gillaspie also said that he was not sure whether other districts “cluster” special education students or whether FCMAT had ever recommended that any other districts do that. He said he would try to find out and get back to me.

I also noticed that the district’s announcement in the parent letter that it will stop transporting students to their neighborhood schools (in most cases), is not specifically stated as one of FCMAT’s recommendations.

Instead, FCMAT recommends improving transportation forms and checklists, which would require parents and district staff to identify whether students attend their neighborhood schools. As previously noted, the recommended checklist in FCMAT’s report was provided by the district’s third-party legal expert.

So, the letter sent to parents includes:

– a change regarding reimbursements, which is partially based on information that FCMAT didn’t even have;

– the elimination of busing to neighborhood schools, which was not expressly recommended by FCMAT; and

– a recommendation regarding clustering, based on a legal analysis provided by the district to FCMAT, which has not been shared with the public.

Parents should be given the opportunity to question the true basis of these decisions, instead of being led to believe they are the direct result of FCMAT’s study.

Gillaspie said it is important for districts to involve those who are affected by changes in discussions before they are implemented.

“As we discussed, to implement program or transportation service changes, open dialogue, meetings, correspondence between the district and parents will be required to be ongoing, to assure transparency and a spirit of working together for the best welfare of each child,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I believe the district is committed to do this as a result of our studies.”

Do you believe the district is committed to open, transparent dialogue with parents in a spirit of working together for the best welfare of each child?

AUG. 2 UPDATE: FCMAT has denied my request for the third party analysis, reversing its previous opinion that it was a public document by now claiming that it is protected under the district’s attorney-client privilege.

Here is FCMAT’s response to my request for the analysis and emails between the district and FCMAT, which I received in an email today:

“Hello Theresa:

In regard to your request for document in connection with our nonpublic draft MDUSD Transportation Report, you asked in reference to page 22 who is the legal expert and requesting for a copy of that legal analysis. The special education legal opinion referred to in the nonpublic draft FCMAT report was provided to us by the district in our capacity as an agent for the district in studying and reporting on transportation issues. The district asserts its attorney/client privilege and we are not in a position to release that document under a public records request. If you intend to pursue this further, you need to deal directly with the district.

The same position applies to any attorney/client communication between the district’s attorneys and FCMAT with regard to the study and report. Accordingly, in providing you with copies of correspondence, including emails, we do not include any such communication as to which the district asserts an attorney/client privilege.

I will be forwarding to you in the near future the copies of email correspondence between FCMAT and MDUSD, as you requested, from April 2012 to present, except for any attorney/client protected material.

It is the practice of FCMAT that we do not comment on draft reports, they are subject to review, edit and comment by the district, prior to finalization and publication.

The MDUSD draft FCMAT transportation report was not released publicly by FCMAT and is not a public record. Mistakenly made public, which should have not been, due to the need for district staff to review for accuracy of data, findings and recommendations. This report remains a draft, no final conclusions have been made, and presently continues to be under review by the district, with there is no required timeline for completion.

When a final report is published on our website, it will speak for itself and FCMAT will have no comment. Any questions about the released report should be directed to the district that commissioned it.

Thank you

William P. Gillaspie, Ed.D.”

AUG. 8 UPDATE: According to the CAC blog, Superintendent Steven Lawrence says the FCMAT reports will not be on the Aug. 13 agenda:

AUG. 9 UPDATE: I have received the following email from FCMAT’s attorney, explaining why FCMAT is denying my Public Records Act request:

“Ms. Harrington:

I am the attorney for the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). I am responding on behalf of FCMAT to your continuing request for a copy of a memorandum sent to the Mount Diablo Unified School District by an attorney engaged by the District for a legal opinion. This memorandum was made available to FCMAT by the District in order that FCMAT could provide the management assistance which the District engaged FCMAT to perform. In our relationship with the District with regard to this engagement, we have been serving as an agent of the District.

The District maintains that the memorandum in question is a confidential communication protected by the attorney client privilege. After careful consideration, I have concluded that the District’s position is correct and, further, that only the District can waive the privilege and it has not waived it by making it available to FCMAT for the accomplishment of the purpose for which the attorney was consulted by the District. Accordingly, FCMAT will not produce this memorandum in response to your public records request. It is my understanding that, except for this memorandum and any communications between FCMAT and the District’s attorneys in the preparation of the transportation report FCMAT has been working on, you have already been provided by Bill Gillaspie of FCMAT all of the communications, including email, that you have asked for.

By separate email immediately following this one, I will be forwarding to you a letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern” at FCMAT, from the District’s General Counsel, Greg Rolen, dated August 1, 2012. This letter states the District’s legal basis for its position and it is in reliance on that position that FCMAT declines to produce the memorandum. If this is a matter that your publication intends to pursue further, you should consider the District to be the real party in interest and an indispensable party.

Frank J. Fekete
Legal Counsel

Here is the letter Rolen sent to FCMAT:

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332 Responses to “MDUSD appears to misrepresent some information in letter to parents about special education transportation changes”

  1. Anon Says:

    No they are not committed to anything but their own pocketbooks. Liars liars liars. You can add Patton to the list of district liars. So we get rid of no action Browne and gain liar patten. Geeze can we just break the cycle of week minded self centered liars and teach the kids!
    It is going to be another generation before we undo what these morons have done. It is truly criminal what we are doing to our children and country.

  2. g Says:

    So there they are. The review team; sitting around the table trying to formulate their review.

    One person, looking at the numbers states: “Geeze, they sure over-run their transportation budget. They bus a lot of their SpecEd kids, and pay a whole lot of parents to drive others to school.”

    Timothy Purvis, Transportation Director at Poway says: “Yeah. We only give those services to about 10% of our SpecEd kids, and I’d say we’re about average.”

    The other guy asks: “You sure? 10% is average?”

    Purvis: “Yes, I’m sure we’re about average.”

    And that is how “official statistics” are born.

  3. Wait a Minute Says:

    So much for the vaunted “Data driven decision making”!

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As of right now, some data in the district’s letter to parents is unsubstantiated. FCMAT is unlikely to be able or willing to back up its claim that “most districts” transport 10 percent of special education students.
    I have sent emails to Browne, Rolen and Patton asking them to substantiate the claim about the similar district mentioned in the letter. So far, I have not heard back from any of them.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence played Gillaspie like a fiddle.

  6. lc Says:

    It is really too bad that all you can do is criticize people at the district office. While I’m sure mistakes are made, I have rarely seen any information on the POSITIVES MDUSD does for Special Education Students; the amount of time, evaluations, reports, meetings, etc that take place for one child. It is very easy to get a small group of people involved in negativity. While I’m not saying things that may wrong should not be looked at, it would be nice to focus on some of the positives. And there are many!

  7. Anon Says:

    @LC this tread is about the mistrust of the leaders. I have been to many many IEP’s and you are right. There are many caring people out there. When the Special Ed awards night happens again I bet you will see a full story by Theresa and many will focus on that.
    For now we need to focus on the wrong that is going on right now and fix it before the top Admins destroy any more children and their future!

  8. Doctor J Says:

    @lc, you missed the point that the administration is trying to take away Special Ed services to children based on false assumptions which they are masking as “facts”. A couple of weeks ago you stated there were lots of internal MDUSD principal candidates — why didn’t they apply ? Why are almost all of the new principals from outside of the district ?

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    lc: As Anon and Dr. J point out, this blog post is not criticizing the special education programs or the hard-working teachers and professionals at the school sites who work directly with children. It is, however, pointing out the lack of transparency in the letter that was sent by the district to parents and the district’s failure to hold public discussions about the changes before implementing them.

    Gillaspie told me that it was his impression that MDUSD is very proud of its special ed program and the people who are serving students.

    He said: “They were very sincere about, ‘Hey, we’ve got good people here, but we are in a very big hole financially and maybe you can help us.'”

    However, he also told me that it was his impression that Superintendent Lawrence was “new” to the district and had only been here about a year. He said he hoped that this process would be a learning experience for Lawrence and that if Lawrence was not accustomed to open dialogue with parents, that he would begin to hold public meetings and communicate with parents in a transparent way.

    Gillaspie was surprised when I told him Lawrence has been here more than two years.

    “A lot of this stuff really comes down to good old communication,” Gillaspie said. “I’ve seen some districts really be successful with the superintendent going to a forum, saying, ‘We’re going to work toward solving some problems. You’re being heard.’ When people get really agitated is when people feel they aren’t being heard.”

    Gillaspie told me that a wise superintendent who was much older than him told him 25 years ago: “Communicate with the people who are affected by the decisions so that they can’t come back and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know anything about this.'”

    If districts involve parents before making decisions, Gillaspie said that parents “can disagree because they don’t like the decisions, but they can’t disagree because you closed them out.”

    As you may be aware, the district held a special education parent meeting in May and alluded to the FCMAT report and upcoming changes, but has still not presented the report to the public. To my knowledge, Superintendent Lawrence was not present at that meeting. Also, it was held on the same night as the Valle Verde open house, making it difficult for some parents to attend the entire meeting.

    As Anon pointed out, I have written positive stories and blog posts about special education, including a couple about the You Make A Difference Awards and the autism program at Valle Verde Elementary. However, the district’s problems with transportation in the past few years have frustrated many parents and those issues also deserve to be covered.

  10. Anon Says:

    Check out “Claycord” this morning..interesting news

  11. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Apparently Eberhart has announced that he will not seek re-election.

    The Concordian story includes these two portions about special education:

    “And funding issues that show a disparity between Special
    Education and General Education leave many parents confused why education funds are not just evenly allocated…”

    “Special education gets a large
    amount of funding, approximately $80
    million year. ‘You would expect for that
    money you would be getting awesome
    outcomes,’ Eberhart says, ‘but we are
    not getting these outcomes. There
    needs to be a fundamental change in
    education. Everything has become
    about politics.’ That includes the news
    coverage about district activities.”

  12. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Hmmm….I wonder if there is anything else behind Gary’s reason for leaving?

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The story is not very specific about his reasons. It says he has decided it’s his time to leave and his 9-year-old daughter wants him home. It also mentions that he has been unhappy with some media coverage.

    In addition, Eberhart appears to be critical of the fact that he is not receiving as many emails as he used to. But, he doesn’t mention that his email address is no longer listed on the district website.

  14. Anon Says:

    So he is really saying that his skin is not thick enough for the truth! He can no longer get away with the lies he and others have been telling. He was caught and is not leaving.
    Good luck in the future Gary….Sorry but this is one parent that is glad to see you move on!

  15. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Hmmmm……I suspect there may be some additional “unhappy” media coverage coming.

  16. g Says:

    Theresa, I have been trying to locate a copy, or minutes of when the board gave themselves benefits.

    The question is: Do they continue to take any benefits after they leave office?

  17. Anon Says:

    I am guessing it has to do with the Special Ed. FCMAT report. I am sure there will be a ton of changes. Get ready to file those stay puts!

  18. g Says:

    The article quoted Gary: “We desperately
    need a Public Information Officer,”
    Eberhart says, although noting that
    there is at least one board member
    trying to thwart that movement.”

    When has such a discussion come up–by the board–in the open?

    Public Information Officer sounds a lot like what Lawrence’s job should/could be–if he could tell the truth….

    Ginsberger’s whining article reads too much like Gary’s 2008 campaign rhetoric; with smooches added from Michelle and Sherry.

    One down!

  19. Flippin' Tired Says:

    We had a public information officer. Her job was cut. Maybe if the board gave up their benefits, they could afford to get her back.

  20. Doctor J Says:

    I wonder if Carolyn Patton had the courtesy to return Theresa’s email or phone call today — day 2 ?

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have not heard back from Rolen, Patton or Gillaspie today. However, Mildred Browne’s secretary called to say that Browne is out of the office week. She suggested that I speak to Patton. I told her I was attempting to do that.

  22. Doctor J Says:

    Its Thursday — has Gillaspie forwarded the outside report yet ?

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Still no word from Gillaspie, Rolen or Patton.

  24. Anon Says:

    Here are some links to a Special Education site. There is some information there that I think goes with what the district is doing. They are in violation of Federal law to change placements without the Parent being involved.

    And here is one on the Private Placement (this is coming soon I fear)

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Aug. 2 update to this blog post with FCMAT’s denial of my request for the third-party analysis and denial of my request for emails that include information about that analysis.

  26. Anon Says:

    OMG! Bill what in the world are you talking about? Looks like FCMAT is just about as worthy as Lawrence. Seems like maybe they are long lost twins or something.

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Previously, he told me the district had already submitted the corrections and he thought the transportation report would be finalized this week.

  28. g Says:

    All of this secrecy over an “Assessment” of the Poway Letter, and “Third Party Assessment”
    of Special Education and Transportation!

    The first is going to cost us many dollars that should have gone to pay down taxpayer debt.

    The second is going to cost us the horrendous amount it is going to take for many SpecEd parents to go through a new IEP process to protect their current standing.

    But then, Rolen and the legal machine he helped create will clean up, also out of district education coffers, to represent the District in what I expect will be many law-suits.

    Will all of the secrecy be worth it in the end?

  29. Anon Says:


    You forgot the cost of all of these things that will need to get translated to Spanish.

  30. g Says:

    How do “Assessments” that were neither given to the Board, as an elected legal Body, nor appraised and approved by the Board, become an Attorney/Client privilege?

    Isn’t THE BOARD the client in this case?

    I understand, sort of, Gillaspie wanting to “dance with the one that brought him” since that is who butters his bread, but due to the cost implications to taxpayers, both current and future, parents and especially students that can’t speak for themselves, this needs to be sent out for a MUCH higher legal opinion.

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    We aren’t taking no for an answer.

  32. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence will avoid any publication of any FCMAT report, transportation or special education, by refusing to have it “finalized”. Theresa, I hope you get your legal beagles on this — I will bet any email with Rolen’s name on it, even though he is director of transportation, will be withheld. That is wrong.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    @#31 And we won’t let the Times forget it. Don’t take the bait of Gillaspie and only communicate with the District — its FCMAT that has these documents and has to release them — they don’t have the guts to stand up against the scruitiny of the Public Records Act.

  34. Wait a Minute Says:

    HUGE coverup going on here folks.

    This is why the rats are fleeing the sinking ship now.

    Theresa, I hope that your paper gives you the legal support to peel this onion all the way back to its rotten core!

  35. Anon Says:

    I would say Rolens attorney foot is in Lawrence mouth. Parents be aware that if your current IEP has transportation and a school placement then in order for them to change it they need to hold an IEP meeting with all team members. If you do not agree to it don’t sign it. Sign that you were there on the top portion but do not sign the bottom. Call an attorney and file a stay put immediately.
    If they change your services (transportation is a service ) without holding an IEP they are in violation of federal law.

  36. g Says:

    Theresa, have you asked Mayo and Dennler if they received hard copies, or were in the room to hear a verbal report, or received emails regarding either of these “Assessments”?

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: You are correct that FCMAT cannot dictate that we communicate only with the district.

  38. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    As I have been saying for a couple weeks, I “suspect” more grandiose fireworks are coming.

    You don’t really beleive someone with Gary’s ego would just “hang up the cleats” because it is someone else’s turn do you?

    Pop your popcorn and get ready for a show folks.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It’s ironic that Gillaspie says “it is the practice of FCMAT that we do not comment on draft reports,” since he has already commented extensively on the draft report in my previous phone interviews with him (as well as in emails).

    And since the district has not responded to any of my questions about its June 20 letter to parents, it will be interesting to see if it will respond to questions about the final report after it is released.

    Parents deserve answers about who REALLY came up with the information in the June 20 letter (regarding the “similar sized district” and the clustering idea) and should demand to know.

    g: I have attempted to reach them, but have not heard back. Mayo was copied on Rolen’s denial of my PRA for the assessments, so I assume she must know what he was referring to in his letter.

  40. g Says:

    Theresa, confirmation please. You copied Mayo on the denial when you wrote to her–or Rolen copied her when he replied to you?

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Rolen copied Lawrence, Whitmarsh and Mayo on his denial to me. My PRA was sent to Rolen.

    Also, Gillaspie’s denial was copied to Lawrence and Rolen.

  42. Another Parent Says:

    Theresa, perhaps Bill Gillaspie no longer wants to communicate with you because he read your article and saw that you accused the FCMAT team of basing a recommendation of information they didn’t have. Your account of your communications with Gillaspie does not support that conclusion. After reading your article, I wouldn’t want to deal with you, either.

    FCMAT is the expert in California school finance. When the expert is school finance makes a statement on school finance based on their observations, I wouldn’t say that’s based on nothing. They weren’t writing a term paper that required a reference for each statement. They didn’t waste their time documenting statistics in case a reporter wanted proof. Their job is to assist school districts with finances based on their expertise and that’s what they did. He told you where you could research the exact numbers if you wanted to. Did you? If not, why not? What was the point of bringing this up if you hadn’t done the research to see if the FCMAT team’s numbers were accurate or not? I think you owe Mr. Gillaspie an apology.

    Perhaps Gillaspie read your reporting that the District’s letter to parents said the decisions were made based on a FCMAT STUDY, but the district only had a FCMAT LETTER with preliminary findings and recommendations at the time it wrote the letter to parents. Perhaps he had the same reaction I did to that: So what. Your implication that somehow this is evidence of misrepresentation by the District is ridiculous. What difference does it make to a single special ed student if the district used the word “letter” or “study”? Do you have any reason to believe that what’s in the final report will differ materially from what was in the letter? If not, then what was your point in bringing this up?

    You apparently feel that you must be provided documentation to prove where each proposed change originated. My question is why? Gillaspie appeared to be supportive of the changes put forth by the district. I saw nothing in your reporting that indicated Gillaspie thought the district was off base in what it was doing. Have you researched what other districts are doing? I saw nothing in your reporting that indicated your research had shown the district to be way out of line with what other districts are doing.

    This should be a story about special ed transportation changes and the effects on both students and the district’s budget. But you are turning it into a story about YOU and how YOU are demanding statistics and documents and how YOU are being treated in your vendetta to prove that MDUSD administrators are the worst people in the world.

    Be a reporter who reports on something that actually matters to your readers. Report on how MDUSD’s special ed costs compare to other districts. Report on how MDUSD’s special ed transportation plans and costs compare to other districts. Report on how the changes will affect students. Report on how the changes will affect the budget. Report on the sorry state of school finance in California that makes transportation a luxury item instead of something that every student is entitled to. Do something worthwile.

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    AP: I did not accuse FCMAT of basing a recommendation on information they didn’t have. I pointed out that the district’s June 20 letter appeared to attribute the information about the “similar district” to FCMAT, but FCMAT did not have that information. I acknowledged that FCMAT did assert that the district appeared to transport more special education students than most districts, based on its experiences working with districts.

    I did not say FCMAT’s assertions were based on “nothing.” Many studies and reports include footnotes and charts to substantiate statements of fact. I asked FCMAT for backup information about the districts it was using as a comparison because I received a phone call from a parent who wanted to look at comparison data, which she assumed FCMAT had. She was the one who wanted proof and she asked me if I could get it so I could share it with her and other interested parents.

    Because I am required to write several stories per week about a variety of education-related issues, I have not yet had time to review all of FCMAT’s transportation reports online. My point in bringing this up was to show that FCMAT had not actually done the comparison to see if its own impressions were accurate or not. Mr. Gillaspie himself admitted that, so I don’t believe I owe him an apology for reporting what he told me.

    I am not saying that the difference between a study and a letter indicated misrepresentation. And I do not have any reason to believe that the final report will differ materially from the letter. My point in bringing this up is: the district appeared to misrepresent that the “similar district” information came from FCMAT, that FCMAT had expressly recommended the elimination of transportation to home schools in most cases, and that FCMAT had come up with the “clustering” idea. In fact, FCMAT had no knowledge of the similar district referenced in the letter, FCMAT did not specifically recommend the elimination of transportation to home schools in most cases, and FCMAT got the idea for clustering from the district’s third party expert. In fact, Gillaspie said he did not know if any other districts cluster special education students and he was unsure whether FCMAT had ever recommended that another district cluster special education students.

    I am asking for documentation about where each proposed change originated because the district’s June 20 letter suggests to parents that all the ideas came from FCMAT. However, Mr. Gillaspie, FCMAT’s letter and FCMAT’s report do not completely substantiate that. I believe that parents have the right to know where the information that was not generated by FCMAT came from.

    When I asked Mr. Gillaspie for his reaction to the district’s June 20 letter, he said he had no comment. He did not disagree that it appeared the district was attributing portions of the letter to FCMAT, which did not come directly from FCMAT. He did not say whether he supported the ideas in the letter or not. Although you did not see anything in my reporting that indicated Gillaspie thought the district was “off base,” his comments about the “similar district” and the third-party analysis indicated that he did not wish to comment on those items because they came directly from the district. Instead, he said the district should answer questions related to those items. He did not offer any opinion about whether he thought the district’s proposed changes were “off base” or not. I have not had time to research what other districts were doing. I contacted Gillaspie because I thought FCMAT had done that. It is unclear based on Gillaspie’s comments whether the district is “way out of line” or not.

    I agree the effects of the changes on both students and the district’s budget are also important. A blog post is not the same thing as a “story.” I write blog posts to give readers information as I am finding it out. Because of that, I often write in the first person. As previously mentioned, I initially asked for the backup materials based on a phone call I received from a parent who wanted that information. I hope that special education parents will contact me to tell me how the changes will affect them so I can report on that in a news story, which would not include any reference to me (except the byline). I will also write about the effects on the budget in my story, if the district will release that information. The June 20 letter to parents does not reveal how the changes will impact the budget. I do not wish “to prove that MDUSD administrators are the worst people in the world.” It is my belief that most district administrators are very hard-working people who care about students and are trying to do the best jobs possible, with ever-dwindling resources. However, I believe readers have a right to know when district leaders refuse to provide information to the public, which would give insights into the reasons for the changes they are proposing.

    Although it appears that this does not matter to you, I hear often — and sometimes daily — from readers who thank me for my reporting and say the issues I cover matter very much to them. In most districts, administrators provide information to their boards that includes the data that you are asking me to compile. The MDUSD board should ask its staff to compile a cost analysis that shows how the proposed changes compare to other districts. Based on what Gillaspie told me, it appears that the district has done some research in this area, which led to the statement in the June 20 letter regarding the “similar district.” Again, I would be happy to report on how the changes will affect students, if parents contact me to discuss that. And again, I will report on how the changes will affect the budget, based on the information the district releases. Your comment about “the sorry state of school finance in California that makes transportation a luxury item instead of something that every student is entitled to” is very compelling and I would love to quote you in a story, if you would be willing to go “on the record” with your identity. Again, although you appear to believe I am wasting my time, there are many readers — including MDUSD employees, former employees and parents — who tell me they are grateful for what I do.

  44. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:


    I appreciate what you do. please keep it up. Your reporting is the only reason I continue to get the CC TIMES.

    It is clear that Another Parent is one of three people: Eberhart, Whitmarsh, or Strange. What is not clear is their logic. They are just angry that this is being exposed and by the rumors I am hearing there is much more bad news for that gang of three on the way.

  45. Jim Says:

    What a ridiculous snow job from the district! And so unnecessary. The proposed transportation changes do not seem at all unreasonable, and are probably not that rare among school districts in CA and elsewhere. But because the district leadership apparently cannot distribute even the most mundane communication without lying and obfuscation, we now have another controversy with no apparent purpose. Why do they do this so reflexively? Is it really so hard to just say, “We are making these changes because we need to use our resources more carefully, and we do not believe that it will be detrimental to any student.” Sure, there might be the usual pushback, but they have — or rather had — logic on their side.

    Instead, with their uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, MDUSD implied that this decision resulted from a “recommendation” that never occurred, based on a study that was never done, using data that does not exist — all while implicating FCMAT in the wrongdoing and tarnishing the name of an important state agency that they will have to work with in the future. Quite a piece of work!

    Of course, all of that misrepresentation was easily discovered. So now we have more evidence, as if any were needed, of the utter disdain in which they hold the public. Do they think we are all THAT stupid? Or are they just that incredibly clueless?

    And the assertion of “attorney/client privilege” is almost beyond absurd. The only attorney involved is Rolen, functioning as MDUSD’s transportation manager, and he is the CLIENT in this instance. The outside consulting party is FCMAT, and it is not a legal firm and is not permitted to dispense legal advice. Again, why would they think anyone would believe such nonsense?

    As far as the district apologist who posted in #42, nothing written by Whitmarsh or Eberhart that I’ve seen would suggest that they could write something that coherent and grammatical. The writer who is shilling for MDUSD in this case must be someone else.

  46. Wait a Minute Says:


    My bet is Strange wrote that attack-dog, district-apologist post.

    I doubt Rolen has the skills to write it.

  47. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Jim, Thank you for pointing out that the blog post is not commenting on whether or not the changes are a good idea. It is commenting on the apparently misleading way they were presented to parents.

    I would also like to point out that I probably would have never even called FCMAT if the district had presented the June 5 FCMAT letter and June 20 parent letter to the board at its June 25 meeting. Instead, Carolyn Patton alluded to the parent letter and FCMAT’s findings and recommendations during the Pawar Transportation discussion — and mentioned that it was her understanding that trustees had seen both documents. This is what prompted me to ask to see those documents and led to Superintendent Lawrence’s accidental release of the draft report.

    I also might never have pursued this issue if a parent hadn’t sent me her own copy of the June 20 letter, with a note expressing her frustrations, saying she called the district office asking to see the FCMAT findings and recommendations on which the changes were purportedly based, and was told that no one knew what she was talking about. I agreed with her that this made no sense and wondered how the district could base the changes on findings that no one seemed to have. This is what prompted me to start asking questions.

    Gillaspie himself told me that in his opinion, the best way to present changes to parents is to shows them the report during a public meeting, explain why the changes are necessary, and invite public dialogue about them. As previously mentioned, he also told me he thought FCMAT should release the third party analysis to me. Unfortunately, however, MDUSD does not appear to have asked Gillaspie for recommendations about how to present transportation changes in a transparent way.

  48. Anon Says:

    Theresa, I appreciate your reporting especially on special Ed. I am a special Ed parent. All of this affects my family. Parents more so special Ed parents need to be able to trust someone in the system. It is unfortunate that there are not many people in the district that we can trust. You would not believe the lies that are told on all levels.
    I was truly hoping that ms. Patton would be someone to trust. I am sorry to say that she is not. After receiving the June 20th letter at the end of July I did call Greg Rolen to ask for a copy of the FCMAT report that they said they had. I am still waiting for a return call!
    If I behaved this way in my job I would have been fired. I am not sure how on earth they can get away with this.
    My big question is why on earth would the send a letter dated June 20th at the end of July? Why did it take a month to send it? Just another game I guess. Let’s mail it with a letter dated July 20 this way we will have the FCMAT report in hand and blame everything on that.
    I am not sure what they gain by treating parents and kids (the kids that need the most help) the way they do. I can say that until things change with the communication with the district I will not vote to give anymore money to them.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: Another Parent appears to be arguing that since he or she believes the changes are reasonable, no one should question how the district arrived at its decision to implement those changes. You point out a a fundamental flaw in the district’s leadership — it appears to assume that the end justifies the means. It doesn’t appear to realize that the means — or the process — matters to parents like you. Gillaspie gets this. Any public official dedicated to openness and transparency gets this. It’s unclear why MDUSD leadership doesn’t get it. But, until the public holds the leadership accountable, it has no incentive to change.

    Another Parent also doesn’t seem to realize that reporters and the public shouldn’t have to spend hours trying to substantiate vague claims made by the district. District administrators are responsible for substantiating their own claims.

  50. Ian Greensides Says:

    The end couldn’t justify the means, because this would assume a beneficial end result. But, the District keeps failing to perform, and is consistently found to be out of compliance with special education legal requirements.

    It’s time for stone cold honesty, for the district to admit their short-comings, and to tell the public and parents where they really are, in resources, and commit to providing proper services.

    The public will not approve more funding for a District that has a culture of mis-information and gamesmanship.

    It’s time to be accountable. After accountability, then the public will stand behind an agency that has integrity.

    The lack of integrity continues to magnify the problems and creates continued distrust.

  51. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Ian: I was at Clayton Valley Charter High’s freshman transition program yesterday, where six character traits were emphasized: integrity, respect, kindness, responsibility, courage and self-discipline.
    These are part of the Clayton City Council’s “Do the right thing” campaign, which the charter school has embraced.
    Some have suggested that the charter could actually benefit the district by providing new ideas that could be tried at other schools if they are successful at the charter. This could be one the district might want to consider.

  52. Anon Says:

    Are you kidding Theresa! The district that was fighting so hard against the Charter. They will never admit that the Charter is doing a good job. They could have worked side by side with them and they chose not to. I can’t see Lawrence and Rolen playing nice and doing what is right for the kids.
    I have been saying for many years that we can all get along and teach the kids and stay within the budget. But if we have no leadership then it won’t happen.

    I still remember sitting in the CV multiuse room and listening to Lawrence at a meet and greet say ” I want communication, in fact I need it and if you are the type of person who has trouble asking questions in public feel free to e-mail me.” Well I am that type and did e-mail him……how many years later and I am still waiting for a reply. (and yes I did follow up)

    As of today I am still waiting for Rolen to call me back regarding the June 20th letter and the FCMAT report.

    I will be unable to attend the Aug. 13th Board meeting so I hope you will be blogging about it.

  53. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I will blog and videotape portions of the meeting.
    While I was at Clayton Valley HS yesterday, I spoke with County Superintendent Joe Ovick and County Communications Director Peggy Marshburn about the financial impact of the charter on the district.
    Ovick said that after analyzing the information the district has released and comparing it to the charter’s budget, he did not think the charter will spend more to operate the school than the district. He said high schools cost more to operate than elementary and middle schools and that the district showed much of the costs of operating the school in its centralized services costs.
    Marshburn said that when a district loses students, reductions should be made at the district office — not at other school sites.
    In addition, Ovick and Neil McChesney said the district still has not finalized the rent it intends to charge the charter. McChesney said they are continuing to haggle about the KVHS radio station and that the district says the charter will not receive credit for solar energy generated. McChesney also said the district has been ignoring the charter’s list of planned Measure C improvements.

  54. Anon Says:

    And there you have it! The District is saying go F yourself instead of embracing it. They can go jump in a lake! so the tax dollars that I will be paying for the rest of my life will not benefit the HS my kids will attend? This is it….The last straw! Is there any way we can get rid of Lawrence, Rolen and the other idiots that refuse to do their job?

  55. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As Chairman of the Measure C Bond Oversight Committee, John Ferrante told the group that there is no question that CVCHS improvements must be made. So, I don’t believe the district can put CVCHS off forever.
    However, the district does not appear to be moving forward with CVCHS improvements as quickly as it is with projects at other district schools.
    McChesney said the Measure C list was sent to Deb Cooksey and Jeff McDaniel.

  56. g Says:

    “…the district says the charter will not receive credit for solar energy generated.”

    ???? Can that possibly be legal?

    That means the district is saying, ‘it will only cost us $x per energy unit, but we are going to charge the charter school $y for what they use’ and pocket the difference?

  57. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I was a little confused by this also. I think the charter will still benefit by having a lower energy bill, but if there is additional energy generated, the extra revenue would go to the district and not to the school, as I understand it, based on what McChesney told me.

    McChesney said the school is paying PG&E directly for its energy use.

  58. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have sent a formal CPRA to FCMAT, since it is an outside agency that is independent from the district and is not protected by the district’s attorney-client privilege. In fact, this is what Gillaspie himself told me before Greg Rolen apparently persuaded him to change his mind.

    On another note, the mystery surrounding the district’s Poway analysis has gotten murkier.
    I spoke to Trustee Linda Mayo today and she told me the analysis was a document that all trustees received several days before the June 25 board meeting. She was calling in response to a phone message I had left for her, stating that Trustee Cheryl Hansen said she hadn’t received an analysis and asking if Mayo had.
    “I and all trustees received a copy of the document and I can’t make conjecture about Ms. Hansen’s reciept or lack of reciept thereto,” Mayo said.
    Just to clarify, I asked her if it was a written document instead of a conversation.
    “It was a document, correct,” she said. “And it’s privileged.”
    So, now it’s unclear why Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said it was a closed session conversation instead of a document. And, it’s unclear why Hansen said she never received it.

  59. g Says:

    FCMAT is also a government agency formed and taxpayer funded under mandate of AB1200 (though they have far outgrown the original intent). They have documents in their possession that belong to us, the people who paid for them.


    Mayo used the term “thereto”? LOL!

    Ms Mayo; Was that a typo in Rolen’s specific instructions, or did you misquote him and mean “thereof”?

    Read this very slowly, Ms Mayo–your words:

    “I – and – all – trustees – received a copy of the document and I – can’t – make -conjecture – about Ms. Hansen’s reciept or lack of reciept thereto,”

    Ms Mayo, your entire statement is duplicitous and mired in conjecture!

    You can either say “I received a copy, but I can not conjecture about ALL trustees”, or you can admit that you are aware that “some” trustees received copies, but you, again, cannot conjecture about “all trustees”. You don’t get it both ways.

    Who did you SEE get copies? That’s the question!

    It appears Rolen is very careful to not openly “copy” his emails to more than two board members at a time (especially when giving them instructions about what they may say to Theresa), but I’ll bet the same email copied to Whitmarsh and Mayo was separately, or blind-copied to Eberhart.

    I think it’s obvious that Eberhart has finally realized just how deep the swill is in the pen he climbed into–and it’s time to climb out before the lawsuits start using names instead of “Does 1-8”.

  60. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As I mentioned, Mayo was specifically responding to my question about whether she knew what Poway analysis Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Trustee Gary Eberhart were referring to at the June 25 meeting, since I told her that Trustee Cheryl Hansen said she had not received it.

    I believe that is why she specifically stated that she couldn’t conjecture about why Hansen said she hadn’t received it.

  61. g Says:

    So, Mayo witnessed all board members getting a copy of the analysis and is, in a (non-conjecture) manner of speaking, calling Hansen a liar.

  62. Theresa Harrington Says:

    She didn’t specifically state whether or not she witnessed all the other board members receiving it.
    But, her statement also calls into question Whitmarsh’s contention that there was nothing in writing and it was merely a closed session conversation.

  63. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    So the question to ask Ms Mayo is HOW was the doc received – did she receive it as an email attachment, hardcopy handout at a meeting, smoke signals from Dent Center … And does she still have her copy?

  64. g Says:

    Not meaning to argue with you Theresa, but she stated “I and all trustees….” Perhaps she felt inclined to conjecture about “all trustees.”

    As for Whitmarsh–and not wishing to be edited for name calling– we can all agree that veracity is not her strong suit.

  65. Seriously... Says:

    I doubt there is any meaningful analysis regarding Poway. The law is clear that bond premium shall be deposited in a debt service fund to be used to pay down the bond. If Mayo truly understood bond premium, she would understand that the consequences of using bond premium for cost of issuance will ultimately result in the district receiving more money than what was voter approved. In 2015, when the remaining bond proceeds are sold, we will know the exact amount that the district illegally received over the $348 million that was voter approved for Measure C. This all exposes the district to more lawsuits…regardless of the supposed legal analysis.

  66. Anon Says:

    Whitmarsh is a confirmed veracity challenged individual.

  67. Seriously... Says:

    I would be interested in knowing how Mayo and the other Board members interpret the Poway letter. I’m curious why they (excluding Hansen) believe district’s counsel’s analysis supercedes our Attorney General’s analysis of misusing bond premium to pay cost of issuance.

  68. Anon 2 Says:

    @42 – Theresa’s work is more than worthwhile and is the one reason for me subscribing to the Times. Your mentality is unfortunately similar to certain School Board members. I agree with Jim that you are unlikely Eberhart and Whitmarsh. Based on your ability to spin the facts, I’m betting you are Strange or a buddy Board member of an entirely different school district…maybe of West Contra Costa Unified.

  69. Seriously... Says:

    The Charter’s rent should take into consideration the PG&E “savings” and solar rebates….especially since Clayton’s Community is paying for those solar panels via paying 5.5% of the total Measure C Bond costs.

    Eberhart & Company did promise that the solar savings would be used for “educational programs”, and that promise was made on a sign that was posted right on CVHS’s property for all parents to see when solar was being installed.

    Clayton pays about 5.5% of the Measure C bonds…so Clayton should receive at least $17 million worth of projects. Go fight for your fair share of solar savings/rebates and project money before the next $150 million in bond money is spent!

  70. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon 2: Thanks for your comment.
    However, in re-reading my blog post, I understood why Another Parent was wondering why I was differentiating between the study and the June 5 letter. I realized that I had neglected to include the very important fact that the district had not made the June 5 letter public when it sent the June 20 letter to parents. My point is that the district should have publicly shared the June 5 letter — and preferably the draft or completed report — BEFORE implementing the changes. Instead, the district implemented the changes without public disclosure of the findings and recommendations on which it told parents the changes were based.
    I had made that point in my previous blog post and have amended this post to make it clearer here too.

  71. Jim Says:

    Re #65 — “The law is clear that bond premium shall be deposited in a debt service fund to be used to pay down the bond. If Mayo truly understood bond premium, she would understand that the consequences of using bond premium for cost of issuance will ultimately result in the district receiving more money than what was voter approved.”

    The problem highlighted in the Poway letter is not just that the district will receive more money than voters approved. Mayo et all may think, “And what’s wrong with that? No harm, no foul. The district got more money.”

    The bigger problem that the Poway case highlights has to do with the way the bond market works. Bonds are priced according to their credit risk, maturity, and coupon interest rate. If two bonds are equivalent with respect to the first two factors, but one pays a higher coupon rate, that one will trade at a higher price. Pricing in the market for muni bonds (like MDUSD’s) can be quite murky, because there may not be much active trading in comparable instruments. That leaves the door open to conflicts of interest among the banks and brokers who bring the deal to market, particularly if the client is rather unsophisticated (a label that, alas, applies to MDUSD in so many matters…).

    Issuers like MDUSD are a bit at the mercy of whatever banks and brokers tell them, as far as the coupon rate and price that a bond should go to market with, to get the deal placed successfully. If bond premium proceeds can go to “issuance costs” (i.e. the fees for the banks, brokers, lawyers, consultants), what is to keep all of those parties from supporting a higher coupon interest rate? It helps get the deal done (always their main concern), and if the coupon is so generous that the bonds sell for a premium, well, then they might get a slice of that money too. The fact that the taxpayers are saddled with an above-market interest rate for decades into the future — well, who cares about that?

    Forcing any bond premium to be used to pay down the debt does two things: 1) it removes the possible conflict around offering an above-market coupon rate and generally reduces the funds available to all of the “issuing parties” that show up at the trough; and 2) it ensures that taxpayers come out even (ie even if the issuance happens to go out at an above-market coupon, despite everyone’s best estimates, the excess proceeds reduce the principal, and therefore, the annual debt service for taxpayers).

    Whether MDUSD boardmembers like Mayo and Whitmarsh understand the potential for pricing and fee shananigans that the Poway letter addresses, and wish to maintain that “leeway” to compensate “friends” in the bond market who might later help them out, or whether they are just clueless about the whole topic, is difficult to say. Dumb? Or devious? That’s always the question with this crowd.

  72. Seriously... Says:

    @71…I completely agree with you. The Board approving a negotiated sale vs. competitive bidding also allows for more shennigans. I bet Mayo and other Board members don’t remember approving the Negotiated sale of Measure C bonds and probably don’t understand its potential negative implications.

  73. SR Says:

    @Theresa re:#70, Let’s not forget that the district is violating IDEA by implementing these changes without parental consent via the IEP process. This includes the letters that parents received regarding placement “assignments” by the district.

  74. Theresa Harrington Says:

    SR: Gillaspie said the district could not make certain changes unless they were agreed upon through the IEP process.

    Seriously and Jim: RE: the Poway anlaysis: Hansen has informed me that she was told by Eberhart in an email that it was something that was received by all board members. But when she asked how and when it was distributed, he did not respond to her email and instead said he would speak to her about it. She has not heard from him and said she doesn’t understand why he didn’t just respond to her email. When she asked Superintendent Lawrence about the Poway analysis he mentioned during the board meeting, she said he responded that he was unsure what agenda item she was referring to and that he would need to listen to the audio of the meeting. She responded with the agenda item and has not heard back from him.

  75. Anon Says:

    @SR, You are right that they are in violation of IDEA. I did speak to an attorney last week and she said there a 2 Districts that she is aware of doing the same type of thing. Her office is gearing up to file Class Actions suits and being very busy. Budget cuts are one thing (most Parents) will work with the District to find a solution that benefits the child and can save money. When the District acts in this manner I can’t imagine that parents who know what their rights are will put up with it. I know I sure as heck won’t!

    @74, Sounds like the Gary is trying to pull one over on Ms. Hansen the problem is she is smarter then they are! :-) She misses hardley anything.

  76. g Says:

    “…(Hansen)said she doesn’t understand why (Eberhart) didn’t just respond to her email.”

    She must have forgotten about him warning Dennler that “emails can be subpoenaed.”

    It’s looking more and more like that email Rolen sent to Theresa, and copied to Whitmarsh and Mayo (but not Hansen), was also sent undercover to Eberhart; or maybe given verbally, as serial instructions to them as to what they are “permitted” to say to the press. It would be interesting to know if Dennler received the same message. It is hard to believe that Mayo would go along with the whole dirty cover-up, but….

    Whether it was the truth or a lie will eventually come out.

  77. Anon Says:

    The Ebermarsh Train left the station with Mayo on board a long time ago and she has had a free ride ever since.

  78. Seriously... Says:

    @71 – See the story below about a capital appreciation bond sold by Poway Unified. Sound familiar?

  79. g Says:

    Seriously: Here is another good example from 2009 of the screw turning, biting in, and the people looking around–wide eyed–out of touch–“but it’s for the kids”….'sCash-OutDealsStirDebate.pdf

    Read a few of the Official Statements for bonds around the state. Look at the players on these Cash Out Refinancings, CABS, Premium “money laundering,” to slip through the loop-holes.

    There is a pattern.

    I don’t believe we can put all the blame on the board-most of them are just “us, in big chairs.” They have been led by the nose by a hand full of attorneys and underwriters.

    If we had a decent General Council he would be protecting the district, protecting his own children’s future. Eventually, even his kids will have kids, and who knows, they may also need a ton of ‘extra’ tax payer money.

    As long as we sit and do nothing, neither the law nor the elected state officials will do anything more than write “opinions.”

    I can’t do it alone, you can’t do it alone–and the Isom and Stone & Youngberg folks know it!

    They are the ones who need to be brought to stand before the Attorney General. They need to stand in court to defend their raping of the taxpayers under the guise of “it’s for the kids!”

    We have active Tax Payers organizations out there writing their own “opinions”. But until we directly engage them, and ask them to do more than debate the issues–after the fact–, we are going to continue to feel the screw tightening–and our children and their children will be the ones who suffer.

  80. Anon Says:

    G @79,

    Agreed for the most part. I don’t however consider Gary “one of us in big chairs”. I think he is manipulating the system and other board members for his personal gain.

  81. Doctor J Says:

    Sherry Whitmarsh TAKES OUT RE-ELECTION PAPERS ! New potential candidate: Barbara Ann Oaks. Looks like Debra Mason has filed all paperwork. Others have not.

  82. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Our committee stands ready to launch our VOTE NO ON WHITMARSH campaign if this is true.

  83. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Ok, just checked it out it is indeed true (not that I ever doubted Dr. J., I’m just extremely surprised).

    I predict the NO ON WHTIMARSH campaign posters will outnumber hers by at least a 10 – 1 margin, maybe more.

  84. g Says:

    Anon @80; We do agree. Hence, the “most” in my comments.

    Board Watcher; My “NO MORE WHITMARSH” and “ONCE WAS TOO MUCH” signs may be hand painted, but I live on a corner and have room for a lot of them!

  85. Jim Says:

    @79 G — “I don’t believe we can put all the blame on the board-most of them are just “us, in big chairs.” They have been led by the nose by a hand full of attorneys and underwriters.”

    Sorry, G, but I cannot agree with that. There is little or no evidence that attorneys and underwriters have done anything fraudulent or illegal that could plausibly lead to prosecution. They are in business to sell products, and most of those products have a legitimate need, under appropriate circumstances. It is the client’s business to decide whether they are buying the right product, as they should do with ANY vendor selling goods or services. For example, with the MDUSD capital appreciation bonds, the district wanted a financing vehicle that would let the district spend hundreds of millions of dollars now, without having to pay much of it back for two generations. That requirement was foolish and unethical, but I do not blame the underwriters who met the client’s needs in that case. The client was a democratically elected board, and all of the issuing documents were reviewed by the SEC and available to in advance to purchasers of the bonds.

    The MDUSD board received LOTS of on-target scrutiny and criticism of that financing structure, from Linda L., the Contra Costa Times editorial board and many others, before they went ahead with it. They had many opportunities to avoid being stupid, and they passed them all by. If you think that makes them “us, in big chairs”, well, I guess I have a higher opinion of “us”. (In fact, based on your many other insightful posts, I doubt whether you would have rushed headlong into these types of deals with the warnings that were extant.)

    No, the question we should be pondering is whether we have placed way too much authority in the hands of public school district boards composed (perhaps inevitably) of uninformed, mediocre people with very parochial interests. In other words, is this a viable way of running public education in the first place?

  86. Anti-Whitmarsh Says:


  87. g Says:

    Jim; No one has argued more on here about our current board members’ failures to even truly recognize, much less uphold, their fiduciary duty to the district.

    Something big changed (for the worse) when Rolen chose straight district employment over what one would tend to believe was a promising and rewarding corporate law career, with perhaps a political future. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the old board made that decision. Who held the influence–what was the motive?

    As to our board. There are three on there that ‘generally’ act as little more than lemmings, much like us, the voters who almost unfailingly just check off any name that says incumbent after it, simply because they have done NO homework.

    One member, so tightly bound to her mentor/guru/party-master, that she is little more than an echo of thought. One, who is apparently inclined to desire nothing more than to be on the ‘majority du-jour’ and flip-flops on her votes to maintain that status. And finally one, nice enough, but so far over her head politically that she walks in the others’ shadows; no doubt to avoid detection.

    So yes, ‘most’ of the board is just like us.

  88. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    #78 Seriously – thanks for that link. Pasted a comment below from the comments section of the link – totally agree with this person. And, I wonder what the MDUSD pie chart showing what was borrowed vs. what will be payed would look like.

    “School construction bonds are just a matter or elected school board members funneling millions of dollars to the big construction contractors who bankroll their campaigns. The school district is just a money laundering vehicle. The school board members tell voters that the bonds are “to help the kids”, when in reality the only parties who profit are the contractors who get sweetheart contracts from the school board members and their staffers. Before voting on any new school construction bonds, voters should first look at their own property tax bills and see how much they are already paying for previous school construction bonds the districts are still paying off. They will find out that the majority of their property taxes are already being spent paying of school constuction bonds that didn’t do a thing to improve their children’s educations. That money goes straight into the pockets of local construction contractors, who use a small percentage of those profits to fund the campaigns of future friiendly school board members.”

  89. Doctor J Says:

    Anyone have insights about Barbara Oaks, retired Principal from College Park ? How would she align as a new board member ? Pro-Anti-Neutral for: Lawrence ? Eberhart/Whitmarsh ? Mayo ? Hansen ? Transparency ? Honesty ?

  90. anon Says:

    @Anon 80
    Just out of pure curiosity, what is the personal gain Gary gets from this?

  91. Anon Says:

    Anon 89,

    Just follow the money and the answer is clear.

  92. Doctor J Says:

    BEWARE CONTENDERS ! If Eberhart pulls the ol’ switchero and does a last minute filing on Friday, he and Sherry could “cut off” any contenders who didn’t get their candidate filings finished by Friday ! The August 10 deadline is only extended if one of the “incumbents” does NOT complete the filing by the end of business on Friday. BEWARE !

  93. Anon Says:

    Following money-WCSD has raised developer fees from $1.20 to $3.20 per s.f.

    What is the mdusd rate, how much is earned annually and how is it spent ?

  94. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    I would put my money on Gary re-entering the race. His ego is way to large for him to bow out.

  95. g Says:

    Yesterday was the “Back to School” meeting for both elementary and secondary Administrators at Willow Creek.

    I wonder if all the “new hire” folks attended. At least one of them has not been approved by the board yet.

  96. Anon Says:

    G @ 95,

    Lawrence isn’t worried though. Gary will happily rubber stamp anyone (to keep lawrence from revealing the skeletons in the closet). Remember Nugent rubber stamp from Gary until the public got involved.

    Once Gary votes then Sherry follows, Mayo then wanting to be part of the majority is along for the ride. Bingo we have approval.

  97. MDUSD Parent Says:

    Its just soooooo sleazy !!!!!

  98. g Says:

    I agree it will be a rubber stamp, but I don’t think we’ll have a problem with this one. I can’t help but wonder why MDUSD seems to be the place to come to when you are close to retirement…? Then again, OUSD can’t be a very fun place to work either; at least not if you are on the edge of going on the chopping block after many years on the job.

  99. Anon Says:

    Has anyone heard who it was that retired in July do to Blog posts? Isn’t that what Whitmarsh said?

  100. g Says:

    Anon: In this district you don’t leave due to negative blog posts. You get promoted!

  101. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have sent another email to Julie Braun-Martin, asking for a list of principal assignments, since many school websites are still outdated. I didn’t get an “out of office” reply this time, so hopefully the information will be forthcoming.

    The district will need to list promotions or new hires on the Aug. 13 agenda. However, as has previously been noted, the superintendent has the authority to laterally reassign administrators without board approval. Still, even Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said she planned to request a list of all schools and administrators (noting those who were new), or else she said she would work on creating it herself. However, her Aug. 1 deadline for that list has come and gone…

  102. Doctor J Says:

    Julie B-M is in a bind — she can’t release the info without compromising Lawrence’s violation of the Board resolution. When the truth is finally revealed, appointments will be made retroactive. What if the Board doesn’t approve the illegal appointments ?

  103. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Aug. 8 update to this blog post citing the CAC blog, which states that Superintendent Steven Lawrence says the FCMAT reports will not be on the Aug. 13 agenda.

    Also, I have received the emails I requested from FCMAT (minus any mention of the third party report or copies of the draft reports). Interestingly, the district asked FCMAT to speed up the special ed report so it could incorporate the recommendations into its 2012-13 budget. Perhaps the transportation changes were also incorporated into the budget, which could explain why the parent letter was written June 20, before the end of the fiscal year, even though it wasn’t mailed until later and even though the district has still not publicly released the report.

    Also, it looks like Lawrence decided not to survey all special ed parents as originally intended. Here’s what he wrote to FCMAT in a May 17 email:

    “…Because of the closeness to the end of the year we have slightly reduced the scope of work. I will ask that Bill included the CAC parent leaders as a group to interview, but we are not going to do a full blown parent survey at this time…”

    I wonder if special ed parents agree with his decision to eliminate most of them from the FCMAT scope of work.

  104. Doctor J Says:

    Gillaspie must be delaying the final reports — modifying one or both to reflect fact vs opinion to try and save FCMAT’s reputation. How many of their prior reports contained unverifiable opinions stated as “facts” when in truth they were just opinions without a verifiable basis ? FCMAT may have shot itself in the head and not just the foot.

  105. Doctor J Says:

    @#103 Classic bait and switch: Lawrence promising Special Ed parents to be involved in the survey and then cancelling it without notifying them. Is that the kind of transparency and honesty one should expect of a school superintendent of 32,000 children ? He may have gotten away with it in West Sacramento with the 6,000 students, but not here. The Board should demand higher standards from its Superintendent.

  106. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Although Gillaspie originally told me he would send the final report to Lawrence after FCMAT received the corrections, his email shows that he has instead called it a “second draft.” Previously, there was no mention of a “second draft” before the final report.

    Also, I see that the scope of the special education review includes comparisons with similar districts. It’s unclear whether these comparisons will be based on actual facts, or whether FCMAT will again base them on their “impressions.”

    In a June 19 letter, FCMAT states: “The average district encroachment throughout the state is approximately 23 percent to 30 percent.” There is no comparative data included in the letter to back up this statement. It’s unclear whether any actual comparison will be included in the report.

  107. Doctor J Says:

    @TH, Are you going to publish the actual emails and other documents, along with the list of documents not produced under some kind of legal privilege ?

  108. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I’ll try. I may post some as DocStoc links and paste shorter ones into my blog.

    Here’s what Gillaspie’s email says:

    “Hello Theresa:

    In regards to your formal public records act request, I have made two word documents reflecting email correspondence between FCMAT and MDUSD between the dates of April 2012 and present, as you requested.

    In regards to the attachments mentioned in the emails, I have attached them as well for your reference.

    This represents all correspondence with the exception of the third party document, which MDUSD has stated to us that this is attorney/client protected material.

    Therefore, please feel free to directly contact the district regarding your request for that document.


    Bill “

  109. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#108, So what are the Times “legal beagles” [maybe we need “pit bulls” :-) ] doing about getting the “third party document” since you said the Times was not taking “NO” as an answer ? Joke: What is the difference between a “legal beagle” and a “legal pit bull” ? The “legal pit bull” bites you in the arse and gets lock jaw. :-)

  110. Theresa Harrington Says:

    We have requested any and all writings showing that FCMAT agreed to protect the third party analysis as “privileged” before the district provided it to FCMAT.
    As expected, FCMAT has not been able to produce any such written agreement.
    I have copied Anthony Bridges, Deputy Executive Officer for FCMAT — who signed the contract with the district — on my latest request.

  111. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In response to my email mentioned above, I received the following response from Anthony Bridges, which appears to have been sent to me inadvertently:


    It sounds like she is correct as my previous conversations with Frank Fekete is that we do not have any attorney client privileges. Would recommend that she file a public records act (Hazel) and we provide information. Have you received any advice to the contrary from Frank?

    Anthony L. Bridges, CFE

    Deputy Executive Officer


  112. g Says:

    This is getting good!

    As for Lawrence telling Laurie/CAC he is “trying to work something out” to give them reports at the same time it is given to the board—all too often, if documentation IS given to the board it is at the last possible minute. That, by design, allows no time for CAC to distribute to all parents, or time for informed discussion or debate by the public.

    How feeble is “trying to work something out?”

    That’s “back against the wall and caught in too many lies” kind of feeble!

  113. Anon Says:

    I am one ticked off Special Ed parent. The district is so wrong here. Get ready
    The law suits are coming.
    How could Lawrence think that parents would be ok with him changing his mind and leaving us out?
    What a nightmare! I sure hope they held all the IEPs to make the changes in placement and transportation

  114. Doctor J Says:

    The amazing world of “reply all” ! FCMAT should be producing it much to the consternation of Rolen.

  115. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    This would all be laughable if it wasn’t so darn important. A little birdie has told me there are probably still shocking anouncements on the way.

  116. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It looks like someone at the district really doesn’t want that report released. Here’s the latest response from Anthony Bridges:


    After further discussions with Bill Gillaspie regarding this matter, the district’s attorney has been in contact with FCMAT’s legal counsel and has cited attorney client privileges regarding the document requested. FCMAT has been advised to refer you back to the school district regarding your document request.


    Anthony L. Bridges, CFE

    Deputy Executive Officer”

  117. Doctor J Says:

    Rolen wants you to chase your tail. FCMAT has the report — its theirs to produce. Legal beagles or legal pit bulls, which does the Times have ?

  118. Anon Says:

    What could be in that report that is so privileged? We already know that FCMAT had nothing to do with the changes.

  119. g Says:

    So, it’s time to let a judge decide.

    I suspect Rolen faked the whole “third party assessment”, and sorely needs to be caught!

  120. g Says:

    It would be a LOT less expensive for MDUSD if the “client,” the district board itself, released any Assessment (some of them) may have received.

    Gary seems to be running for the hills. Maybe he doesn’t want to get caught up in another “Gate.”

    Sherry thinks she’s running for the board again. Is she absolutely certain she wants to stick to her “story” of the “conversation” with Rolen???

    Then there’s Mayo, who will rocket herself into school board infamy if she sticks to her “all members got a copy” story, with the insinuation that Cheryl must be the one not telling the truth.

  121. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Dent Center must be crazy with all the cursing and yelling that has to be happening by the district’s “third party” and “expert on special Ed law”. I imagine people hiding around corners or turning quick about-face in a hallway so as not to caught in any crossfire.

  122. Anon Says:

    Is it possible Rolen got paid extra to do the assesment as an “outside” consultant? Then I bet the assesment also HAD to be translated into Spanish.

    If so that is some ballsy double dipping there.

  123. Doctor J Says:

    FLASH ! Lawrence just changed the Board meeting to Aug 20 from Aug 13 ! Its on the front page of the district website: no explanation given. WHY ?

  124. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Three (3) board candidates showing qualified to date = Ernie, Debra & Barbara

  125. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Dr. J.,

    That is a very curious move. Something big must be on its way.

  126. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Holbrook is going to have students again it appears –

  127. Doctor J Says:

    @HFO#124 We have a horse race. Retired/parent [Ernie]; Educational Consultant [Debra] ; and Retired Educator [High School Principal][Barbara]. 3 others with unfinished paperwork: Brian, Atilla, and Sherry. Others can take out paperwork and file still.

  128. Doctor J Says:

    Now they have Board meetings on the 20th & 27th — yet still unapproved Principals and other beginning of year appointments.

  129. Anon Says:

    @HFO 126. We knew anova would be leasing part of Holbrook and Seneca will be at the other closed school (Glennwood) can’t quite remember the name of the other school.
    I’m not sure if everyone knew about Seneca either but I was told about it today when I called the district.
    I’m sure something big is coming. Not sure what but I can feel it in my bones.

  130. g Says:

    What we didn’t know about Holbrook–and so far it’s just a rumor–Anova will install front entry fences and gates as well as a gate at the back neighborhood ‘walk-thru’ to keep their kids in, and the neighborhood kids from being able to use the fields and basketball courts swings and playground.

    Every day, during summer and after school, neighborhood kids have used those fields and courts and equipment for 60 years. Does the district have to take their play and exercise options away too?

  131. Anon Says:


    This is so that Gary E. can give another F you to the community of North Concord. The question is why he has such a vendetta against them.

  132. Anon Says:

    G, I understand where you are coming from in regards to fencing and the community.
    I also understand why they need to do this. Perhaps the school will come up with a solution for times the school is closed. They are not evil they just need to make sure the kids who will attend there are safe. These kids are the most severely disabled. I don’t think they are trying to hurt the community at all.

  133. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Regarding Monday’s meeting postponement, I received word from the superintendent’s secretary that it was changed because two board members will not be available Monday:

  134. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have received a further denial from FCMAT’s attorney, based on a letter sent by Greg Rolen to FCMAT. In his letter, Rolen states that the third party analysis was created by Matt Juhl-Darlington on or about April 6.

  135. g Says:

    Un-huh…. Well, we’ll have a NEW board in a few months. Let’s see how they feel about keeping things like Transportation Assessments secret—AND whether they should even consider renewing, just a year after they take office, the contract for a general counsel with such blatant disregard for “other people’s” special education children’s needs, while at the same time making sure his own two are getting what he wants them to have!

    Juhl-Darlington may have almost two years left on his contract, but that doesn’t mean the NEW board will find any need for his services.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the current board members as a legal body would make its own determination of whether the Assessment should be made public or not.

  136. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Aug. 9 update to this blog post with the letter I received from FCMAT’s attorney and the letter Rolen sent to FCMAT.

    And, yes, the board could decide to release the analysis. Although Rolen asserts that the district requested that FCMAT keep the memo confidential, FCMAT has not produced any such agreement. Gillaspie told me that if the district had asked FCMAT to keep the document confidential, he would have known that was the district’s intent, but no such request was made. Also, if the district had asked FCMAT not to refer to or disclose the confidential memo in its final report, then it’s highly unlikely that FCMAT would have included it in its draft report, since it was FCMAT’s understanding that the draft would be made final, except for corrections to factual errors.

  137. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Would be interesting to know how much Matt Juhl-Darlington was paid for this analysis. Like I have repeated many times here, follow the money.

  138. Doctor J Says:

    And the Times next step to get the Juhl analysis will be . . . . ???

  139. g Says:

    The devil is in the details. Apparently it wasn’t really a new “third party study” or even a “third party assessment.” It was a “memo,” and there may be a huge difference.

    I wonder if in the document we might find a well placed reference or opinion as to Anova or other special schools for the very high functioning, and perfectly able-bodied students — concerning the legitimacy of continuing to ‘limo’ some of those kids–specifically those of some highly paid district employees, and contractors — while forcing some less fortunate children to walk.

    My theory: Using recommendations from MGT’s 2010 assessment, Rolen built the framework for this transportation plan based on cuts that he (and probably, Richards and Lawrence) were looking for. Juhl-Darlington simply signed off on it by way of a “concurring memo” indicating that it appeared to be legal.

    Board: Good job on giving the big boys and girls their raises and bonuses and contract extensions. Good job raising hourly pay scale while the economy is broke. Good job closing schools and screwing special education—just so you’d have more money for Dent.

  140. Anon Says:

    G @ #139,

    I would assume that The Gary had his hand in there as well. The Gary is a lot of things; one of those things is having his finger in the wind and knowing when something was about to go bad against him.

    I suppose this is why we see the “unexpected” retirement. The Gary knows the stuff is going to hit the fan when the Juhl analysis comes to ligth.

  141. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Who got hired for this? Anyone yet?

    Maybe we’ll have to wait for November when a new board is in place to hear who will fill this.

  142. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:


    Is it, oh I don’t know…..Gary E.????

  143. g Says:

    HFO and Board Watcher: After just a year or so, Kenya Chapman went back to her Project job in Oakland.

    And NO, even Petersen wouldn’t hire…him.

    He needs someone that actually has real construction lead experience—not someone who claims to just because he has, on occasion, hammered some nails, smeared on some paint, and can BS some people using the lingo.

    And YES, the position has been filled.

  144. Doctor J Says:

    Oh my, can Rolen ever tell the truth ? In his Aug 1 letter to FCMAT he says the Juhl memo was commissioned to obtain the “legal guidelines” for the FCMAT report, but then states it was never the intention for FCMAT to reference the memo or guidelines — what a whopping contradiction ! The Juhl memo was April 6 — but the FCMAT agreement was proposed by FCMAT until April 19 and was on the April 23 agenda item 16.8 so presumably not signed by Lawrence until after approval by the Board that evening. No mention of a prior Juhl memo being authorized for this study. Is Rolen so presumptuous of the Board that he would authorize a Juhl memo in March anticipating Board approval a month later ?? As usual, Rolen has a hard time keeping his story straight, both professionally and personally. Its a character defect.

  145. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have asked Rolen for any and all writings substantiating his claim that the district requested that the memo be kept confidential and that he asked FCMAT not to disclose its existence in the transportation report (which FCMAT apparently intended to violate — if such an agreement existed — since it attributed the clustering idea to that memo instead of claiming that FCMAT came up with that suggestion in its draft report).
    As previously mentioned, Gillaspie told me the district didn’t have the right to edit the draft report — just to correct factual errors.

  146. Doctor J Says:

    Listening to the audio of the April 23 motion on FCMAT reports Lawrence, in response to question from Eberhart, says “we would be more than happy to share the drafts of FCMAT reports” with the public. Mayo has some enlightening comments and “concerns” about the Special Ed percentages cited by Lawrence. Hansen has some concerns about the scope of the contract not matching the agenda item.

  147. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As previously mentioned, Lawrence amended the scope after the board approved the contract.
    He eliminated a survey of all special education parents, which was intended to gauge morale.

  148. g Says:

    I doubt very much if the word “Confidential” appears anyplace on that “Memo,” and the term attorney client communication, does not necessarily make it a confidential document.

  149. Doctor J Says:

    Ironically, April 23 Agenda item 16.8 was the FCMAT study agreement, which followed item 16.7 which was the Contract Extensions for the BIG5. Hansen’s project scope concerns were not about Special Ed, but that the FCMAT scope was about the entire Transportation Department, and not as stated in the Agenda item limited to “Home to School” transportation — she did express her approval of a head to toe examination of the transportation department but felt the Agenda description was misleading. Mayo did comment on the “similar size” district comparisons within the county and percentage comparisons — sounds like she had more information available to her than what was given to other Board members. She did express sincere concern about the district cutting services that were required by state and federal requirements in the interests of fiscal cutting. This might be worth following up with her on her concerns and her sources of information.

  150. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Gillaspie told me that if the district wanted to keep the memo confidential, it could have referred to the document without actually releasing it to FCMAT. It was his belief that the district waived its right to confidentiality when it released the report to FCMAT. He did not say anything about the alleged request that Rolen is now claiming the district made. Certainly, if he had been aware of such a request, he would never have told me that he intended to release the document to me, unless Rolen had any objections.

    Here’s what Gillaspie told me: “Greg did call me and he’s reviewing what their position is going to be on the third party analysis… He called me yesterday and he said, ‘What’s the deal?’ And I said, ‘Here’s the deal — they’d like to see it. You’ve made a lot of assumptions in your communication to the parents based on that correspondence. So what’s your position on that?’ He said that he’s going to review it and let us know.”

    If the alleged district request had been made before the district released the document to FCMAT, Gillaspie would have never had the above conversation with Rolen and then related it to me. He would have known what the district’s position was.

    Perhaps the district doesn’t want to release it because — as Gillaspie said — the letter to parents was based heavily on the third party analysis, instead of on FCMAT’s draft report.

    Gillaspie also told me that the district had not made substantial corrections to the draft. He did not say the district asked FCMAT to delete the reference to the third party analysis. It was my impression that he would have mentioned that, if the district had requested that.

    At the April 23 meeting, CAC Chairwoman Lorrie Davis objected to the fact that Mildred Browne’s contract was not being considered for renewal. She also said that the CAC wanted to be able to compare the draft to the final report.
    She detailed many current problems in special education, including: principals without adequate assistance to fulfill their duties with respect to special ed, ineffective collaborative middle and high school programs, more students placed in county and nonpublic schools due to lack of space in district programs, preschoolers not advancing to kindergarten on time and the district’s inability to hire more special ed assistants unless more behaviorists are hired.
    “Teachers are choosing which students to teach,” she said. “Therefore, students are being set up to fail or more are going to nonpublic schools….To stay compliant, we need to have the trust of parents…We need to protect the integrity of the special education program, otherwise, 13 years of work will be down the drain and a new consent decree might be our future.”

    Here are two video clips from the board’s April 23 discussion regarding the FCMAT scope of work. Part 1:;
    Part 2:

  151. g Says:

    It’s in the board’s hands-and hopefully on the conscience (of those who still have one.)

    If the district originally intended that the document should be kept confidential, Rolen or Lawrence, or even Juhl-Darlington could have just grabbed that great big “CONFIDENTIAL” stamp and slapped the word onto the Memo BEFORE it was shared with a half dozen ‘outside’ people; some from other districts, who were being paid by FCMAT to offer ‘their’ considerations about it.

    Why should the head of transportation at Poway Unified get to see it; make a few hundred dollars extra to study it, and perhaps benefit his own district -freely- from having access to it; the same for the technical writer; or even a collator?

    But the people who pay for it, who are most affected by it, are not allowed access to it!

    FCMAT may be setting, not only a bad $40+K precedent with this, by forgetting who their paying client really is, but also opening itself up to some real hard ridicule of their entire system if they knuckle under because of Rolen’s little threat of legal injunction.

    Make him file for injunction–let the court decide!

    Their own attorney had already given his opinion…but– “Oops–I changed my mind because some other lawyer talked mean to me!”

  152. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In response to whoever was asking about Paul Strange a while ago, I just happened upon his Linked In Profile:

  153. g Says:

    And if you scroll down, you’ll see a link to Eberhart’s fabrications.

  154. Linda L Says:

    Amazing, the NATIONAL NEWS just did a story on school districts that pass capital appreciation bonds. They were referred to as insane and incompetent. The politicians who sell these to their constituents as a good deal should be ashamed. I am happy MDUSD reversed this action. The politicians who help get these passed should be held accountable.
    Especially those politicians who then refuse to help make it right.
    Thanks Alisha

  155. Anon Says:

    Ya the school district they mentioned was Poway. Called them irresponsible to the future of their children. Interesting

  156. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Interesting, since Poway was a consultant on the FCMAT report and Poway was also the district chastised by the Attorney General for paying cost of issuance with bond premium. Did the national news mention that?

  157. Jim Says:

    Here’s the link to the Poway story:

  158. Doctor J Says:

    @LindaL — Its not “over” yet in MDUSD, is it ? Can’t the Board go back and reverse themselves and still issue CAB’s ? And the resolution is still problematic, isn’t it ? Plus we still have the CAB’s that were issued and cannot be paid off early, right ? Those will still tag taxpayers for 40 years, right ? I don’t see it being “over” until we reset the clock at zero. That may take legislation to accomplish that.

  159. Anon Says:

    The article says poway deferred maintenance. How does that compare to mdusd ? How much does mdusd receive from developer fees and how is it spent ? Should mdusd raise its rate for developer fees like wcsd ?

  160. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an interesting paragraph in the story:

    “The underwriters for the nearly $1 billion Poway bond deal, Stone & Youngberg, a unit of Stifel Nicolaus, and financial advisor Dolinka Group of Irvine, Calif., will get a sweet $1.4 million in total fees, says FOX News analyst James Farrell.”

    What a coincidence! That’s the same underwriter MDUSD is using! The MDUSD board contracted with Stone and Youngberg — which donated about $10,0000 to Measure C — before voters even approved it. I wonder how much Stone and Youngberg donated to Poway’s bond measure campaign.

    This article doesn’t mention the attorney general’s letter to the Poway district saying it was illegal to pay the cost of issuance with bond premium. All along, MDUSD officials have said they have no idea of the context for that letter. It would seem logical that Stone and Youngberg could fill them in on the context, since they are working for Poway.

  161. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#160 Maybe you and FOX News analyst James Farrell need to huddle and share information ! This information looks like the tip of the iceberg ! Wouldn’t the Poway bond donation list be public ? BONDgate is alive and growing !

  162. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Here comes the big shocker! Also probably the reason Gary bowed out.

  163. Doctor J Says:

    Less than six hours for Gary and/or Sherry to complete their candidacy papers.

  164. Jim Says:

    @161 Dr. J — I’m not sure if there is any “bondgate” here. It is typical for bond underwriters, banks, law firms and consultants to contribute to the campaigns of people who use their services. Whenever there are big pots of money to spend, the people who want the money will try to influence the people who control the money spigot. It happens in private companies, too, but there it is almost always against the company’s code of ethics, and people can easily get fired for doing it. (I’ve seen it happen plenty of times.)

    In public entities, that kind of mutual back-scratching isn’t really unusual, so long as it is “disclosed”. The idea, I suppose, is that if the public gets riled up enough about it, then they will “throw the bums out” — although we know how often that actually happens. Which leads me to conclude that perhaps something as important as our school system should not be controlled by mediocre elected representatives who regard their positions as sinecures. But that’s just me.

    Theresa @160 — Stone & Youngberg is a smallish-to-medium-sized firm that specializes in public debt. The really big +$1 bil deals go to the NY firms, but S&Y’s market share in the smaller CA deals is significant. (Because CA is such a high income tax state, a lot of CA muni debt is marketed to CA investors who want those kinds of tax-exempt instruments, so it gives S&Y a bit of a “home field” advantage.) S&Y knows all about the legal pitfalls around bond issuance, and I’m sure that they could have advised MDUSD about bond issuance premiums (not formally, of course — they would have left that to legal counsel — but in the conversation around the Powerpoint sessions, or during drinks afterwards). After all, S&Y, Citi, Wells, and all the others just want to get the deal done and the paper placed with investors. They don’t want any hiccups along the way. Sometimes, in finance, you have clients who want to do stupid things, and if they don’t do the deal with you, they will just do it with someone else. No one wants to be the bartender who has to tell someone, “Sorry, pal, you’ve had enough.”

  165. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At the June 25 board meeting, an S&Y rep was there to answer questions about the cost of issuance, but no trustees asked him any.

    Regarding the Poway analysis, Trustee Linda Mayo has not responded to my phone message asking her where and how it was delivered to all board members.

  166. Anon Says:

    Jim It may not unusal for this type of back scratching to happen but that does not mean it is right. Perhaps letting this type of politics happen at all is part of the problem. Bondgate.

  167. Jim Says:

    @166 Anon — Did I say it was “right”? No, I didn’t. What I meant to convey was that this sort of activity is virtually inevitable when you are dealing with a large public monopoly that “serves” a captive citizenry and operates with minimal public scrutiny. (It is amazing that the CC Times devotes as much attention to MDUSD as it does. The major Bay Area papers and TV stations have DOZENS of public school districts in their coverage areas. Do you really think they cover even 10% of the hijinks that are going on? Believe me, they do not.)

    So how would you propose to “not let this happen”? More laws and regulations perhaps? For a board that already behaves as if the Brown Act never happened? For a board president who says that a formal notification from the state on bond issuance rules “does not apply to MDUSD”, when it clearly DOES apply — EXACTLY? (And besides, she assures us, like some juvenile delinquent, “everybody does it”…)

    In what world are you going to “not let this happen”? Here’s an idea: let’s wind down these unaccountable public monopolies that can’t seem to make things better after 30 years of “reform”, yet won’t tolerate any competition for their oh-so-terrific schools. Plenty of advanced countries get by without anything like this extra layer of local public school fiefdoms, yet they spend less money and get better results. Instead of solely blaming the teachers and the kids for our pathetic schools, maybe we should re-examine the whole rationale for the local districts that actually make the rules and allocate the resources.

  168. Anon Says:

    The Financial Times Today: Remember that Gary found us $320 Million dollars that will cost us $1.6 Billion.

    Sound familiar?

    School Bonds Could Trigger Fiscal Shock (FT)
    The issue at stake revolves around some exotic bonds issued by San Diego educational authorities in recent years. Once upon a time (think six long decades ago), US school authorities used to finance themselves primarily by using taxes. Then they started to issue a swelling volume of bonds to supplement those taxes. But as the fiscal situation in California has deteriorated, voters have become so upset they have imposed various fiscal straitjackets on educational boards. Worse, property tax revenues, which have been used to fund schools, have declined as the housing market has crashed. That has left schools in a bind. So, local financial advisers have offered some “innovative” solutions. Last year, Poway Unified, one San Diego educational district, issued some $105m worth of “capital appreciation” bonds to finance previously planned investment projects. These are similar to zero-coupon bonds, meaning the district does not need to start repaying interest or capital until 2033. As a result, Poway’s local authority has been able to promise to keep local taxes unchanged while completing previously promised investments (building projects, computers and so on). But, there is a big catch: to compensate for this payment deferral, these bonds are paying double-digit interest rates and cannot be redeemed early. When the bond is repaid in 2051, the total bill will be more than 10 times the initial loan.

  169. anon Says:


    Why do you let so much misinformation exist on this site? I was always under the impression that a news organization had as their highest priority to provide accurate information and news to their readers? Has the Times abandoned that calling? If so, why? Anon #168 indicates that the cost of solar to tax payers is $1.6 billion. You know for a fact that the cost to repay the entire bond doesn’t come close to $1.6 billion, but you consistently encourage and support a systematic campaign of misinformation on this web site. Now if Anon #168 had misrepresented something that you said, you would have corrected them; there are many instances where you have done that. I assume when you correct someone you do so to ensure that the record is correct. When you allow the misinformation to exist unchecked on this web site you endorse that position by association, or at least readers could take it that way.

    Theresa, let me ask you a simple question, what is the cost of the solar project to the tax payers and what length of time will it take to pay off that amount? You don’t have to be exact, just give us the ball park number. Can you at least be honest?

  170. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: According to a “Plan of Finance” provided to the CC Times by Jon Isom, the $120.9 million issued in 2010 (which paid for the solar project and other projects) is estimated to cost more than $227.5 million to pay off over 25 years. (The chart starts with 2012, so does not include amounts paid in 2010 and 2011.)
    The $150 million issued in 2012 is estimated to cost $252.1 million over 25 years.
    The $77 million expected to be issued in 2015 is estimated to cost $133.2 million to pay off over 25 years.
    The total $348 million is estimated to cost more than $612.8 million over 30 years (again, the chart does not include amounts paid in 2010 and 2011).
    These amounts are lower than the district’s original estimate of $1.8 billion to pay off $348 million over 42 years because the district issued shorter-term bonds than first anticipated and recently agreed not to issue any more Capital Appreciation Bonds.
    Here is a blog post with links to both financial plans:

  171. Anon Says:

    Anon #169,

    Good to see you on the blogs again Gary. Why the retirement?

  172. anon Says:

    Thank you Theresa. A bit of honest reporting is good. And to further straighten out anon#168, solar is only a portion of the $348 million in total bond dollars being spent to improve the educational environment of all schools. The other $258 million is being used to install HVAC, repair buildings, improve athletic facilities, improve the technological environment for students etc.

  173. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: I am happy to report information that is provided by the district. However, I am often frustrated by the district’s reluctance to share such details. It’s unclear why Jon Isom did not present this information to the board.

  174. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon#172 And how many millions for rent and salaries to administer the Bond, commissions and legal expenses, administer the construction, and other front office expenses should be included in there someplace, correct ?

  175. Anon Says:

    Just wondering if Gary and Sherry filed today? If they didn’t then they have 15 more days right?

  176. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As of this morning, neither Eberhart nor Whitmarsh had filed. Eberhart hadn’t pulled papers, but Whitmarsh had:
    So far, the three qualified candidates for two open seats are: Ernie DeTrinidad, Debra Mason and Barbara Oaks.
    If both incumbents fail to file by 5 p.m., the filing deadline for challengers will be extended five calendar days to Wednesday, Aug. 15.

  177. Anon Says:

    Very curious that the two endorsed by mdea have not filed

  178. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As of 4:42 p.m. today, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh has qualified for the ballot, along with four challengers: Ernie DeTrinidad, Brian Lawrence, Debra Mason and Barbara Oaks:

  179. Doctor J Says:

    Brian Lawrence has now qualified too. I believe the filing period is extended to Aug 15 due to Eberhart not filing his papers. I don’t believe that it just one of them filing cut off the extension.

  180. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, Lawrence qualified today and the filing period is extended if either incumbent does not file.
    Since only one filed, the deadline is extended for nonincumbents.
    Attila Gabor is the only intended challenger who has not yet qualified.
    As previously announced, Eberhart is not seeking re-election.

  181. Doctor J Says:

    Since Sherry is now running, will you please answer the question you have refused to answer for two years: Were you at the Buttercup the night of the alleged Brown Act violation ? I will not rest on this issue until she tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

  182. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Could you be more specific about the time, date and nature of the incident that you are referencing? Since this rumor has never been substantiated to my knowledge, please state the question as a hypothetical situation and let readers know what you are basing it on, without adding commentary that could be construed as assuming it is true (see note below).

    To everyone: Although I always try to monitor blog comments for appropriateness, I will be monitoring comments related to the election especially closely and deleting or editing comments that may be considered unfair to candidates. I will delete all name-calling and will edit or delete unsubstantiated allegations. Since Board President Sherry Whitmarsh is the only incumbent running, it is fair to comment on her record in office. It is also fair to pose questions. I invite all candidates to respond to questions posed by readers, if you want. In the past, Brian Lawrence and Ernie DeTrinidad have done this. It is my hope that the election-related comments will be conducive to informative dialogue about district issues and how each candidate could affect the school board and the district. Thank you in advance for refraining from “low blows” and insults.

  183. Doctor J Says:

    When I have time, I will go back into your blogs and find the specifics — including where Sherry refused to answer the questions about ButtercupGATE. Theresa, did you ever interview Mike Noce about his conversation with Paul Strange concerning ButtercupGATE, where Paul reportedly denied the conversation, and then when Noce gave him the specifics from the teacher/waitress he was forced to recant ? If you didn’t, now might be a good time. If Noce talks, it would sure make an interesting follow up interview with Sherry.

  184. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No, I have not spoken with Noce about this and was unaware of such an alleged conversation.

  185. Anon Says:

    Butter Cup Gate occurred just prior to the wine/dine kickbacks that Lawrence was provided by Chevron in an attempt to win the solar business. This directly ties into the facts that Chevron engineers signed off on the original plans.

  186. g Says:

    If I may butt in– Although the Chevron/Buttergate story seems a bit stale now, some things surrounding it leave both questions of honesty and transparency, as well as an odor.

    We have a right to know what role ‘candidate’ Whitmarsh may have played in the back room lead-up to what has become a $90+million dollar, plus interest, expenditure.

    Read through the item posted in full below. Ask these questions:

    1) Who is/was on that fabled “Facilities Sub-committee?”
    2) Where would one find any record of that committee’s meetings.
    3) Where might we find a copy of that “original RFQ?”
    4) If these were indeed “public meetings” how were they announced so that the public might attend?

    The point is– everything about solar was just too shady, and was kept under the public’s radar until they had a bond approved for “fixing the schools” with just a tiny mention of solar on the ballot.


    July 27, 2010 MDUSD BLOG—

    “MDUSD Solar
    To say that what the Times has written about the District going solar is factually inaccurate would be a gross understatement. My guess is that the Times, with an ever-shrinking subscriber base, is attempting to do anything they can to compete with the successful blogs, such as Claycord and Mr.Writer. We get our news from Claycord, Mr. Writer and other blogs, and in many cases, the news gets to us in a more timely manner and the stories are more thoroughly investigated. Sure there are trolls and misstatements interwoven with the comments that are accurate, but readers can tell the difference between fact and fiction.

    Given the stories that have been written by the Times regarding solar and our district, I wanted to start a dialog with our community on the subject. I will try to address a few of the facts here initially, but I really want to address real questions and concerns from the community rather than me sitting at a computer spewing about things that may be of no interest. I would also like to put out there that if there is an interest in getting together a discussion group to talk about the issue, I am happy to meet with people and I’d be happy to find a suitable location and plan a time to get together to chat.

    By way of background, the district started looking at going solar about five years ago. We did a small solar project at Northgate in 2008 and quickly realized that we should be looking at a larger scale project. In the Spring of 2009 we went out for an RFQ (Request for Quotation). Chevron was one of the respondents to that RFQ and based on their response to the RFQ, the district began having discussions about using Chevron as the provider for solar for our district. As I recall, Chevron’s initial proposal would have brought in about $6,000,000 over a 30 year period. When that was brought to the Board I thought we could do much better than Chevron’s initial proposal, which included the District paying over 9% interest per year on a $60 million debt. We have continued to discuss, with Chevron, the possibility of using Chevron to provide solar for the District. Through those discussions, we have brought about significant changes to how we are going to approach solar in our school district. At last count, Chevron’s latest proposal would bring in well over $100 million to our general fund, money that our school children desperately need. The other reason that we have continued to have discussions with Chevron is because we have been working on a strategy together where by the District would receive Federal Incentives that have typically been unavailable to school districts. Those Federal Incentives could amount to $25 million. Despite all of our efforts, those of the District and of Chevron, we have no guarantee that we would ever get the Federal Incentives. Because we can’t guarantee the Federal Incentives, we believe that it is in the best interest of the District to go out for another competitive bid. With all that we have learned during our time spent discussing solar with Chevron, with all that we have learned reviewing contracts that other school districts in the State have entered into, and with all we have learned about the financing methodologies available to our school district, we believe that we are in an excellent position to put together a solar program that will effectively and efficiently save our District well over $100 million dollars. Because of our exhaustive research the District has made the decision to bring an RFQ proposal to the Board of Education for discussion and possible approval. That decision to competitively bid this project had nothing to do with the Times article, despite what their reporters are saying to their readers. Keep in mind, that assuming that the Board agrees that we should go out for an RFQ, it is possible that Chevron could be chosen. We are looking at a solar project that would be very extensive and there are only a few companies that have the size and experience to execute on a project this large.

    The Times has made the assertion that the District has been having “secret meetings” with Chevron. Really? Secret meetings? There have been a number of meetings with Chevron to discuss the possibilities of solar and what those possibilities could mean for the students of our district. As I stated above, the discussions that have been held over the past 20 months or so have changed a deal that was worth $6 million over 30 years to a deal that is worth well over $100 million over 30 years. The meetings did not cost the school district anything. The meetings were not secret. The meetings were held in many locations, including the district office and at restaurants. The District has a subcommittee of the Board called the Facilities Subcommittee and some of the meetings were held during regularly scheduled Facilities Subcommittee meetings, which are public meetings. We do not have secret meetings. We have been meeting with a potential vendor to try to ensure that if we do enter into a contract with them, we get all that we can get for the school children of our district.

    I think I will end there. I could go on for pages and pages. I want to give the community an opportunity to ask questions. I will try to answer all of the questions that are submitted. I will say that comments that are made that do not further the discussion will not be posted. I think people have legitimate concerns given all of the misinformation that is out there and I would like to spend my time addressing legitimate concerns.Comments
    Posted by Gary Eberhart at 7/27/2010 11:44:00 AM”

  187. g Says:

    I left out one important question. In speaking about the original RFQ, Gary also said:
    “When that was brought to the Board I thought we could do much better than Chevron’s initial proposal,…”

    Just when was that “brought to the board?”

  188. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Thanks for raising those questions. Also, I am sad to announce that higher education reporter Matt Krupnick, who dug up all the information on the Chevron meetings, is leaving the Times to start a new adventure in his life. We will miss him dearly. He first started investigating this as part of his investigation of Chevron no-bid solar contracts at local community colleges.

  189. g Says:

    Many of us will miss Kuprick’s fine investigations. I wish him success–and imagine some of his “notes” would be a goldmine of info–if he will share them.

    Here is a link to a conversation that went on back then:

  190. Doctor J Says:

    My recollection is that ButtercupGATE occurred following a Special Ed meeting at which Lawrence and two board members attended which seems to me was about March or April 2010, plus or minus. The parents were hostile to the Board members and Lawrence and the Board members left the meeting for Buttercup where they were joined by another Board member. It was extensively blogged on this blog, MDUSDparent blog, and later on Claycord. My sources at the time told me that a teacher moonlighting as a waitress observed and heard district business being conducted, and reported the meeting to Mike Noce. Noce confronted Strange who initially denied the meeting, but when Noce told him what the teacher/waitress had observed and overheard, Strange recanted, and made up an excuse for it. Perhaps some of you can dig up some of the blog posts about it. On the blogs I confronted Sherry a few times about it, and she never denied it. Strange was believed to have been blogging annonymously about it and I think it was him that accused me of throwing the “rat” teacher under the bus by exposing her on the blogs. She was already protected by Noce.

  191. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, I am trying to pinpoint the meeting and date on which the infamous Buttercup occurred. I cannot find any reference to it in your blog during 2010, but I did find a blog message from Sherry to me in July 2010 that asked: “Are you talking about the CAC meeting where some board members walked out after being verbally attacked by the audience.” I can’t find any article or blog on which you wrote about it. Do you have any recollection of that or way to pinpoint it ? I believe that it may have occurred on March 1, 2010 during consideration of the MGT report. Present at that meeting were FOUR Board members: Strange, Eberhart, Whitmarsh and Mayo.

  192. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    I remember Gary taking a picture standing next to the ButterCup sign and posting it on a blog (unfortunately it was probably his own) as a way of thumbing his nose at those of us demanding answers.

    Maybe that might help the search?

  193. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Just googled Gary Eberhart and MDUSD look what pops up:

    This is the picture that I just remembered a minute ago.

  194. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: I was also at the March 1, 2010 CAC meeting.
    According to my notes, both Paul Strange and Gary Eberhart left after a frustrated parent told Strange to “shut up.”
    “Okay, I’m done,” Strange said.
    “That’s it for us,” Eberhart added.
    The chairwoman said she was sorry they weren’t staying to discuss the MGT report further.
    “I appreciate being treated with respect,” Strange said.
    Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh did not leave at the same time. She stayed a bit longer and listened to more discussion.
    Then, she said, “I need to leave at 9 p.m. I just want you to know it’s not a reflection on anything going on in this room.”
    I didn’t make any notes about Trustee Linda Mayo. But I believe she stayed for the entire meeting.
    I do not know where Eberhart, Strange and Whitmarsh went after they left.

  195. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, the evidence points pretty clearly that the Buttercup meeting occurred on March 1, 2010, and likely was a pre-arranged meeting in light of the special board meeting the next night, 3-2-10 to consider the MGT report recommending significant changes, spell that “CUTS” to Special Education. The 3-1-10 CAC minutes show that you were there, and also Trustees Eberhart, Strange, Whitmarsh and Mayo which began at 6:05pm. Eberhart and Strange leave early after confronted by angry parents, and after Eberhart had made his presentation. It may have been a “convenient excuse” to leave. Whitmarsh announces she has to leave at 9:00 pm, whcih is shortly after Eberhart and Strange exit. Lawrence apparently joined them at Buttercup, and the four of them met. Whitmarsh in a blog with me on July 26/27 2010 refused to deny that she was at the Buttercup meeting, but confirmed she left the CAC meeting early and Linda Mayo was still there. Whitmarsh also confirmed that Eberhart and Strange “walked out after being verbally attacked by the audience.” Lawrence has also refused to deny that he was at the Buttercup meeting. That puts 3 Board members and the Board Secretary at the Buttercup, and the witness reports they were discussing District business, clearly a Brown Act violation — the only business of consquence for March 2 was the AGT report on Special Education. Strange did initially deny to Mike Noce that he was at the meeting, but when Noce disclosed the substance of the witness’s sttement he had to recant and tell the truth with an excuse of how it occurred. More than likely Lawrence as the new Supt paid for the beverages and/or food with his district “Cal Card” credit card, which is a public record. This would absolutely put all of them at that location, and there may even be notations on the receipt as to who was there. I would suggest you do a PRA request.

  196. g Says:

    I could understand if Eberhart and Strange decided to stop at Buttercup to lick their wounds after the CAC meeting, but then Whitmarsh just “happened” to also stop by? Lawrence just “happened” to be there?
    No district business was discussed?

    Have you heard the one about “This man and a duck walk in to a …?”

  197. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Matt Krupnick did a PRA to get info regarding the Chevron meetings. He forwarded the responses to me, so I’ll see if there’s anything in there regarding this.

    However, to my knowledge, Noce has not publicly corroborated what you are alleging. Also, the “witness” you cite has not come forward publicly. So, at this point, this is all hearsay and conjecture.

  198. Doctor J Says:

    I guess you forgot that Gary finally admitted a “social” meeting with Board members at the Buttercup.

  199. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is what the Crazy in Suburbia blog says about that: “Eberhart said there was no violation under the Brown Act when he and other board members met at Buttercup restaurant or on at least one other occasion, at Eberhart’s house for dinner, because the Brown Act exempts social events, ‘providing that legislative members do not discuss amongst themselves business of their legislative body.'”

    This is much less specific than what you are alleging. It does not include dates or names of other participants.

    Also, Krupnick received a copy of Lawrence’s calendar. There is no mention of a Buttercup meeting on March 1.

  200. Doctor J Says:

    As a candidate on the ballot, Sherry Whitmarsh should be held to answer for ButtercupGATE. On July 26, 2010 in a blog exchange with Sherry Whitmarsh this was said:
    Doctor J at 10:47 pm : “Were you the female board member that joined GE, PS and SL at the Buttercup Restaraunt following the contentious school meeting, I think in early March, where special education cuts were discussed ? Well founded rumor has it that the waitress, really a school teacher moonlighting to make ends meet, overheard school business being discussed and she reported it to the Union. Sherry, let me suggest a different course of action. Sit down with Theresa and tell the whole truth and give her the documents she wants. The good book says the truth will make us free. It may save the district and the children whose education you are charged with providing.”

    Sherry responds 10:55 pm “John 8:32 refers to Christ. Christ is the truth and it he who sets us free.”

    Doctor J replies at 12:05 am: “Sherry, I always tell the truth. I am a little shocked you didn’t answer my question about if that was you at the Buttercup Meeting so I must presume it was unless denied. It is intriguing how frequently you have been quoting the Brown Act lately. If that was you at the Buttercup, what were you thinking and why didn’t you leave.”

    Sherry responds at 12:17 am: “Doctor J, Are you talking about the CAC meeting where some board members walked out after being verbally attacked by the audience. For those at the CAC they will remember that I stayed at the meeting. I did not leave when other board members left. I stayed to hear the concerns of the CAC as a result of the MGT meeting. The CAC meeting was to discuss the results of the MGT study and for the CAC members to state their concern.”

    Doctor J responded at 12:55 am: “Sherry, I am not sure what meeting you called it, but there was a meeting at the Buttercup where a third Board member attended along with the Supt. Were you there or not at the Buttercup with two other Board members and the Supt ? ”

    No response from Sherry that night or the next day or any other time. Sherry knew exactly what meeting I was referring to. Theresa’s notes confirm Sherry announced she had to leave at 9 pm.

    But the best one is on July 28, 2010 in the “live chat”, Gary refuses three times to answer my question if he was at the Buttercup meeting in March. G thanks for citing the link a couple of days ago and I will cite it again.

  201. Doctor J Says:

    If Gary or Sherry wasn’t at the Buttercup on March 1, 2010, all either one of them had to say was “No, I wasn’t there.” Both of them refuse to say that.

  202. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    It is clear to me through both their dodging of the questions that they were both at the meeting.

  203. g Says:

    Eberhart does, however, say “other board members” (plural). Were these gatherings for “all” board members to just get together and socialize? Or were some board members “excluded” so that only a like-minded majority of them might meet?

    Do they still occasionally do that?

  204. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In the live chat, Eberhart defends a meeting at the superintendent’s house with Chevron. But, Dr. J. is correct that he never answers the question about meeting at the Buttercup Restaurant.

  205. Wiat a Minute Says:

    Everyone knows where there is smoke there is fire.

    Under Eberhart, Whitmarsh, Strange, Lawrence, and good old Rolen the woods have been on fire for some time know.

    It is unfortunate that the witness teacher and Noce did not file a Grand jury complaint or really even speak up at the time or the inferno that the MDUSD has become under the before-mentioned so called “leaders” night not have ever came to the point that it has.

  206. g Says:

    In his 9/3/2010 Superintendent’s newletter Lawrence stated: “I know there have been numerous articles in the local paper about discussions between me and solar vendors. I apologize to this community for any misunderstanding or misperception my actions may have caused. I am committed to keep every step of this solar project transparent and accessible to the public.
    In order to ensure transparency, we will post all meetings and decisions on the District’s website. Additionally, I have personally extended an invitation to our local news media, including the Contra Costa Times, to observe and cover the solar interview process and its roll out.”


    It was not too late in 9/10 to come clean about who, when, where on those meetings.

    It is STILL

  207. g Says:

    Oops–STILL not too late for Lawrence to instruct Greg Rolen to stop hiding documents regarding costs of issuance of bonds, and documents related to special education that the public has paid for.

  208. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, unfortunately, the superintendent’s commitment to transparency appears to have been short-lived.
    However, he did keep his word and invited me to the solar interviews, in which Chevron declined to participate.

  209. g Says:

    Any idea what he paid Chevron to sign off on CREB Grant application? Or did Chevron do that as a pre-favor?

  210. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe that Chevron did not charge the district for that service.
    Of course, those applications were never brought before the board, so the public didn’t find out that Chevron signed the applications until Alicia Minyen requested copies of them, while serving on the BOC.

  211. g Says:

    I also recall a promise to the IRS on those applications stating that “the operating budget” would pay the debt service on the CREB bonds.

    There’s a laugh.

    While it could have, I guess, been set up that utility savings could be designated directly to make those payments, we are instead stuck for, basically, paying them off + interest well beyond their lifespan.

    Then there was the false promise of $20million or so from QSCBs, but then “Oh, we only got $3million because we weren’t ‘shovel ready’ enough for QSCBs.

    And don’t get me started on bonds paying off COPS…and then lying about it on subsequent Bond Official Statements!

    On the other hand—did we actually get any or all of that $59million CREB money from Uncle Sam?

  212. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Originally the solar project at Northgate was also supposed to be paid for with the energy savings. But, instead Measure C was used to pay that off, I believe.
    Yes, the district did get the CREBS, which may be part of the reason Pete Pedersen pushed to install solar on the closed schools — since that’s what they told the IRS they would do. If they didn’t, the district might have had to refund that money to the federal government.
    Now, of course, those schools are being used by nonpublic special ed. programs, which could further justify the solar installations.

  213. g Says:

    I understand that was Pedersen’s stated reason to go ahead at Holbrook and Glenbrook, but does the receipt of CREBs money show up anyplace on Measure C books/audits? I don’t recall seeing it.

  214. g Says:

    If the CREBs money went straight into the Sinking Fund, is there a place in the annual budget where we can see the before and after balances for proof? The district said several times that the CREBS were not guaranteed, so it would be good to confirm their receipt–since we weren’t really “shovel ready” as stated.

  215. Doctor J Says:

    My sources are telling me that while Elementary enrollment continues to plumment downward another 3% +/- this year [a greater percentage than in the last few years], SASS has grown about 25% and so large that part of the staff has left Dent and moved to Willow Creek. Take a look at the overall trends.

  216. Doctor J Says:

    TWO YEARS LATER: What happened to the former Administrators in “Curriculum & Instruction” that was eliminated in July 2010 and replaced by SASS ? [Excerpts from TH post of 6/30/10 of a Board Meeting appointments on 6/22/10]
    Ayers Elementary Principal, Concord: Spoogmai Habibi (former curriculum specialist) quietly reassigned to El Dorado MS as Student Services Coordinator
    Hidden Valley Elementary Principal, Martinez: Sandy Bruketta (former curriculum specialist) REMAINS
    Valle Verde Elementary Principal, Walnut Creek: Rhys Miller (former program specialist in curriculum and instruction) LEFT DISTRICT
    Meadow Homes Elementary program specialist, Concord: Diane Sargent (former curriculum specialist) REMAINS
    The board also didn’t vote June 22 on the administrative positions listed below, even though they were in the agenda attachment. The board approved these appointments May 11 and June 15:
    Director of Personnel: Melinda Hall (former director of Curriculum and Instruction) LEFT DISTRICT
    Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support: Jennifer Sachs (former assist. dir. of Curriculum & Instruction) LEFT DISTRICT
    Principal Coach and school support: Susan Hukkanen (former Curriculum and Instruction administrator) REMAINS
    Administrator, English learners, Student Support: Carmen Graces (former Curriculum and Instruction administrator) REMAINS

  217. SR Says:

    @Anon- If you have any information on a class action lawsuit, would you direct me and other special education parents to this information please? Perhaps the CAC would be so kind as to place this information on its blog as well.

    @Theresa #74- Gillespie said the district could not make changes without IEP’s, but the district did this anyway via the Transportation letter and the letters that SPED parents all received notifying us of our children’s “assignment” to particular district programs/classrooms. I did not consent to my child’s proposed placement, but still received a letter stating he would be at XXXX Campus in XXXX class. That is ILLEGAL. Why isn’t the district addressing this and stating its position as to why they believe they are within the law? I asked this at the MAY special ed meeting and got no real response from Carolyn Patton.

  218. Anon Says:


    That is terrible, I’m sorry this is happening to you. However, until some special ed parents are willing to stand up and file a lawsuit it will not change.

  219. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As a reminder, here is what Gillaspie told me in an email:

    “Any change of placement or services will involve an IEP meeting, which consists of a meeting between parent and district.
    As we discussed, to implement program or transportation service changes, open dialogue, meetings, correspondence between the district and parents will be required to be ongoing, to assure transparency and a spirit of working together for the best welfare of each child. I believe the district is committed to do this as a result of our studies.”

    It’s unclear why MDUSD is changing placements without an IEP.

    Also unclear is what happened regarding the scheduled CAC summer planning meeting that was supposed to have taken place yesterday:

    That meeting was never noticed on the district’s website and Mildred Browne’s secretary tells me it didn’t take place. The next scheduled CAC meeting is Sept. 4, she said.

    However, it was my understanding that the CAC wanted to review the FCMAT report before it goes to the board. I’m not sure how that’s going to happen.

  220. Doctor J Says:

    Last 5 years of STAR testing:
    Year Supt API Increase/Decrease
    2012 Lawrence ???
    2011 Lawrence 2
    2010 Nichol 11
    2009 McHenry 21
    2008 McHenry 8

  221. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Browne’s secretary just told me the CAC meeting originally scheduled for yesterday is taking place today instead. However, she said it’s not a public meeting.
    Although this means I can’t go, I’m not sure whether other special education parents can attend. If you are a special ed. parent who wants to attend the special CAC meeting today, you can call Browne’s office at 682-8000 ext. 4047 for more information.

  222. Anon Says:

    Why would the CAC meeting not be a public meeting? That doesn’t make any sense at all.

  223. g Says:

    If your personal circumstances mean you can’t be part of a committee(s) “in crowd” you are just SOL in every one of Lawrence’s books.

  224. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have left a message for CAC Chairwoman Lorrie Davis, asking why the meeting is not open to the public. As previously stated, I’m not sure if it’s open to all special education parents or if most special education parents were aware of it.

    I have posted a new blog with questions that I emailed to Greg Rolen, Mildred Browne and Carolyn Patton on July 31 regarding the June 20 letter to parents:
    So far, I have received no response from any of them.

  225. Doctor J Says:

    What is the status of getting the secret document from FCMAT ? The CAC is subject to the Brown Act — it was created by Court Order.

  226. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As previously reported, FCMAT is standing by Rolen and refusing to produce it. I sent an Aug. 9 PRA to Rolen asking for all writings that reflect the district’s request that FCMAT not refer to or disclose the Confidential Memo in its final report, as referenced in the district’s Aug. 1 letter to FCMAT. So far, I have received no response.

    Regarding the CAC, I have left a message with Browne’s secretary asking what legal basis the CAC is relying on to bar the public from today’s meeting.

  227. Doctor J Says:

    I think you should just show up and if they try to bar you, then you have a basis for the Times to take action against them and settle this bull manure once and for all. Until you actually try and gain access to the meeting, you have not been denied.

  228. Anon Says:

    I wonder what would happen if a bunch of us just showed up in mass. Would they cancel the meeting yet again?

  229. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Since no agenda was posted, I cannot be sure when or where the meeting is taking place or what the possible Brown Act exclusion may be.
    I know that the Executive Committee has held private meetings in the past. Unfortunately, however, the executive committee does not always share what transpires at its meetings on the CAC blog.
    Although the executive committee received a copy of the June 5 letter from FCMAT to the district, it did not share it with the larger special education community.
    I have also received a June 19 letter from FCMAT to the district, which outlines preliminary findings and recommendations regarding the special education review. It’s unclear whether the CAC executive committee also has that document, but hasn’t posted it on its blog.
    I will post it along with the other documents I received from my PRA to FCMAT.

  230. Anon Says:

    I thought at the bottom of EVERY agenda they have the words, “Don’t forget bring a friend”? Am I crazy? I’m sure I’ve seen that many times.

  231. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, that’s true.
    Maybe that’s why there was no agenda posted for this meeting. In a departure from the CAC’s usual open-door policy, all friends and outsiders were banned from today’s meeting.

  232. g Says:

    Last month, Lorrie was sooo publicly appreciative of the district coming to CAC with advanced information–so now it would seem, they don’t want the little folks to muddy up their waters. “It’s all about US, and getting what WE want for OUR kids, and the rest of you and YOUR kids can just settle for what WE decide is best for YOU. Who knows. Maybe what we get for us will also work out for some of the rest of you.”

    Why not play the special-ed high hand? Rolen has played it that way for years!

  233. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: Having attended many CAC meetings and talked to many parents on the committee, I believe they are very interested in doing what’s best for ALL special education students.
    However, everyone knows the money is dwindling, so each parent on the CAC is also there to advocate for his or her child — as well as for his or her children’s schools.
    But, the CAC always welcomes new members and usually welcomes visitors. So, I would disagree with your characterization.
    Actually, it’s my impression that some people are fearful of speaking up due to possible retaliation against them or their children.
    Special education in MDUSD appears to be more political than some people might think.

  234. g Says:

    My characterization may be strongly worded. We do agree that SpecEd is very politically inclined. Unfortunately, I don’t know many people who don’t put “me and mine” first, if given just half a chance.

    As you mentioned earlier, regarding the FCMAT report not being ready yet, on 8/8, Lorrie blogged that “When (Lawrence) has a better understanding of when the reports will be finalized and distributed, he will give me a call and I will forward the information.”

    If it isn’t too secret, perhaps Gillaspie would be willing to give you an indication of when they received the final request for revisions, and when (if not yet) the revised documents will likely be sent.

  235. anonadad Says:

    when do 2012 star scores come out?

  236. Doctor J Says:

    @235: I posted this today under another topic from last month, and it got “lost”: 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.”

  237. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: On July 30, Gillaspie emailed me the following regarding the transportation draft report:

    “District has reviewed final draft report, presented comments, and we will finalize this report Monday or Tuesday July 30 or July 31 and send final to Supt. to the district soon thereafter.”
    He said the draft final special education program review was “sent to the district for review July 26.”

    This is corroborated by a July 27 email I received through my PRA, which was sent from FCMAT to Lawrence along with the corrected draft report. It says: “This draft document takes into consideration the changes conveyed to FCMAT by the district on July 26, 2012. Please briefly review those changes and provide any additional comments by Monday, July 30, 2012, so we can proceed to finalize the report.”

    The PRA packet also includes a May 5 email from Bryan Richards to FCMAT saying the superintendent wants the special education review done this fiscal year.

    But now, the timeline seems to have slowed down considerably.

    Here’s what Gillaspie wrote to me in an Aug. 2 email regarding the draft transportation report, which was copied to Rolen and Lawrence:

    “…This report remains a draft, no final conclusions have been made, and presently continues to be under review by the district, with there is (sic) no required timeline for completion.
    When a final report is published on our website, it will speak for itself and FCMAT will have no comment. Any questions about the released report should be directed to the district that commissioned it.”

    So, even though “no final conclusions have been made” as of Aug. 2, the district sent a letter to parents June 20 implementing changes that were ostensibly based on those conclusions. It remains to be seen if the district will publicly release the document or if the public will have to watch for it to appear quietly on FCMAT’s website.

  238. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another note, I have just received notification that Claycord is now following me on Twitter.

  239. Doctor J Says:

    I said a couple of weeks ago that Lawrence’s ruse is NEVER to have the FCMAT report completed so that it is NEVER published on the FCMAT website. FCMAT’s credibility is in shambles as it plays hostage for the district.

  240. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On Aug. 8, Gillaspie wrote this to me in an email about the special education review:

    “Report is in draft format, being reviewed for accuracy, not available for public review at this time, will be once finalized and accepted by the district.”

    The first email in the packet, however, is dated July 26 from FCMAT to Lawrence. It states:

    “Attached is the special education draft report produced by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Please review this draft document and contact us with any corrections or suggested modifications. Upon receiving this information, we can finalize the report.”

    It has been more than two weeks since FCMAT sent that email. It is unclear why it is taking the district so long to review it and send back comments.

  241. Flippin' Tired Says:

    “Doctor” J, @236, you say:

    “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”

    What is the name of this program, when was it purchased, and how much did it cost?

  242. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a response I received from CAC Chairwoman Lorrie Davis, regarding questions about today’s meeting, the June 19 FCMAT letter and CAC’s FCMAT interview:

    “(1) CAC members did meet today for a ‘summer planning meeting’. It is NOT an official CAC meeting open to the public. Basically we talk about our goals as a group and sub committee work.
    (2) I did not receive a copy of the June 19 letter from FCMAT to the district regarding the special education review preliminary findings and recommendations. If you have a copy, I’d be very interested in seeing it.
    (3) In regards to any revised scope of study, the only revised one I received is for the Special Education Scope of Study Amended 5/17/12. It was sent to me in a packet when the district was setting up our parents group meeting with FCMAT. We had parents, not just CAC members.”

  243. Anon Says:

    I am hearing the rumor from credible sources that Lawrence is looking for a way to avoid releasing the FCMAT report. I don’t see how he can do this, at least not legally. This is even more surprising given the fact that he himself essentially released it – at least a draft of it. This whole thing doesn’t seem to make any sense.

  244. g Says:

    Would that be “Summer planning meeting” as in planning for next Summer? I don’t know Lorrie much beyond nodding hello and have nothing against anybody who works hard for a good and fair cause.

    But, general goals for 12-13 should be hard-set by now. The unexpected new ‘needs and issues’ (busing changes popping up over summer), (transfers to home schools popping up over summer), (border changes looming not far off) and plans for dealing with these things should include all parents who might be interested and who might be able to contribute.

    You never know when a really good resource might be sitting there waiting for the door to be unlocked.

  245. Anon Says:

    G. You are very funny……LOL! The district does not want input from parents or any outside resource. I think Lawrence made that perfectly clear when he changed the scope of work. He did not want parents surveyed.

  246. Doctor J Says:

    Flippin, the key is 9215, Nuff said.

  247. Doctor J Says:

    @242, the Brown Act requires that kind of a meeting to be noticed and open to the public. Lorrie knows better than that.

  248. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#242 Lorrie Davis violated the Brown Act and CAC By-laws by holding a non-public meeting — Theresa you should request copies of any document they reviewed in that meeting — its now public record ! These by-laws were revised in Sept 2010 and approved by the Board of Education on Oct 12, 2010 upon recommendation by none other than Steven Lawrence ! Agenda Item 8.17. Specifically Davis violated By-laws 6.2 and 6.7: “6.7 Open Meetings: Meetings of the committee and of standing or special committees shall be open to the public.” “6.2 Meeting Notices: Pursuant to the Brown Act, a calendar will be established annually with
    the business meeting dates and times. Notice of all regular and special meetings shall be in writing. Notices will state the date, time, and location, and shall be emailed to each member not less than five (5) days before said meeting. The notice shall include an agenda of the upcoming meeting and minutes of the past meeting. Notices must be posted and communicated in compliance with the Brown Act. Items to be included on the agenda must be submitted to the Chairperson or the Secretary ten (10) days prior to the upcoming business meeting. The Chairperson will develop the agenda in collaboration with the district’s administrative liaison.”

  249. g Says:

    Were any staff or board members at the CAC meeting?

  250. Doctor J Says:

    Is Mildred Browne still the “CAC Administrative Liaison” appointed by the Board of Education ? When was she appointed ?
    CAC By law: “4.1.3 The District Board of Education will appoint an administrative liaison, preferably
    the Assistant Superintendent Pupil Services and Special Education, to the CAC. The administrative liaison cannot serve as a voting member. The administrative liaison is responsible for facilitating the clerical support for the CAC.”

  251. Anon Says:

    What you are all missing is the fact that Steve Lawrence and the Board don’t give one bit of care to the Brown Act. No one calls them out on it so they pay it no notice.

  252. Theresa Harrington Says:

    They pay notice to it when they want to thwart Hansen. Eberhart and Rolen have said the board couldn’t discuss her Points of Order regarding Whitmarsh’s failure to place committee assignments on the agenda — because that item wasn’t on the agenda. Hansen said that was the whole point. Eberhart made a big point of saying he refused to commit a misdemeanor by violating the Brown Act and discussing it.
    The board has also gone round and round on the community meetings it agreed to hold, because Rolen said the agendas might be too vague and could violate the Brown Act. When Hansen tried to make them more specific, trustees shot down her ideas for possible discussion items. So, the meetings that were supposed to have been held by the end of June still haven’t even been scheduled.
    And don’t forget the mysterious Brown Act complaint alleging that something about the superintendent’s job search was leaked from a closed session. The DA’s office jumped on that, but appears to be sluggish about checking into Alicia Minyen’s Brown Act and Misuse of Public Funds complaints.

  253. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr J, are you and the other district critics so jaded that you see nefarious overtones in everything MDUSD? These accusations that parents of children with special needs are trying to hide something because one agenda for one CAC leadership planning session in late summer did not get posted make me see red.

    The CAC has been a visible, conscientious, communicative group since its inception more than 12 years ago. It has met publicly on the first Monday evening of every month since then. (Have any of you critics attended even one?) Its webpage is more current than the district’s. Its members hold district staff accountable through visits to classrooms and district offices and conversations with Board members.

    The CAC is comprised of parents who, before and since the Special Education Consent Decree of 2000, have challenged the district to be more open with its plans for children with special needs and to provide more opportunities and access to them–often with many in the district community (and on the Board of Ed) complaining about the money spent on those programs and services.

    I know parents who have been/are on CAC. They are strong-willed and also collaborative. They can be outspoken, but their goal is inclusion–of special ed and regular ed students, staff, and families in classrooms and school activities. Far from being secretive, they love talking about what’s happening, and not happening, for students in MDUSD who have special needs. They certainly do reach out to others.

    I share your concern about violations of the Brown Act. The standards for transparency that Eberhart, Strange, and Whitmarsh set for Supt. McHenry’s administration seem to have been abandoned quickly once the three became the district’s leaders in 2009. I object to your widening the brush you use to criticize the district leadership to paint CAC parents as duplicitous. If anything, they’ll tell you more than you thought you needed to know.

  254. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Sue, I agree with your characterization of the CAC. Lorrie Davis appears to believe that the summer planning meeting did not need to be noticed or open to the public. But, there is no indication that anything duplicitous was going on. I will follow up with her to try to get a better idea of why she thought that meeting was not subject to the Brown Act.

  255. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is an interesting study about how “overconfidence” can help people climb social or company ladders:
    Is there any hint of this in MDUSD?

  256. Doctor J Says:

    @SueBerg, you are mostly right, but the CAC has become a little complacent to the whims of the MDUSD administration — clearly the CAC is subject to the Brown Act. Yesterdays “meeting is off” then “meeting is on” BUT “its not public” wasn’t Lorrie Davis’s doing — its the doing of the MDUSD administration who is charged with making sure the CAC follows the Brown Act. However, Lorrie should have stood up and said — ITS A PUBLIC MEETING AND SUBJECT TO THE BROWN ACT ! She didn’t, but she can disclose the meeting now and make sure it doesn’t happen again. The whole fiasco with the FCMAT reports is a sure sign that Lawrence & Company are playing fast and loose with the Brown Act because NO ONE is going to enforce it. That’s wrong and a violation of their Constitutional oaths they took.

  257. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Sue, I agree you are correct about the rank and file of the CAC, but lets be honest…..for some reason the “leadership” of the CAC chooses to make their bed with the Board. As such they are just as culpable as the board in my opinion.

  258. Doctor J Says:

    Right now it appears Lawrence is headed to “cram down” his transportation changes by having Board meetings on the next two consequtive Mondays before school starts on the 29th and change Board policies. He had to change the Board meeting from the 13th to the 20th because he didn’t have the votes. He needs two board meetings to change “Board Policy”. Remember Lawrence’s idea about making First Graders walk 5 miles to school ? He’s going to cram it down BEFORE school starts and before there is a change in the Board composition beginning in early December. More importantly before parents can get organized at the beginning of the school year, and with just 7 days between Board meetings. And he wants it changed while he can still keep the FCMAT report secret. Tomorrow night we will get a glimpse of the Board agenda.

  259. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Lawrence wrote in his email to me that he planned to present the FCMAT report Aug. 13, so it’s unclear why he would now break that promise.

    I will post the special education review preliminary findings and recommendations shortly.

    Also, I have heard that the KVHS radio station may also be discussed on Monday.

  260. anonadad Says:

    @257 MSUSD Board Watcher: i agree. the CAC is a strong and an influential group that needs to stand its ground regarding services for special ed students; if their leader is so ignorant and vulnerable enough to accept what this supt/board members suggest, then they should not be surprised or upset that the services provided for their children in 2012/2013 will be substantially compromised….with the exception of Rolen’s children and his girlfriend’s child.
    In addition, I’m interested in seeing the 2012 AYP results for Students With Disabilities; these results will me objective and give members of the CAC a more realistic view on how MDUSD is meeting the needs of students with disabilities rather than the subjective sugar-coated verbiage of this supt and the school board.

  261. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#259 Why would Lawrence break his promise to you ? “Let me count the ways.” [My sincerest apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning] Perhaps simply put you and your blog exposed basic factual and logical flaws in the the FCMAT report and MDUSD written interpretation that seriously undermines the credibility of MDUSD, its leadership, and FCMAT, plus exposed undocumented information provided by the district which was falsely attributed to FCMAT and for which the district refuses to disclose its sources, if any there are.

  262. Anon Says:

    We are still hearing credible rumors that Steven Lawrence is searching for a justification to keep the FCMAT report underwraps indefinetely. Which again seems absurd in that he himself released what is essentially the final draft.

  263. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I didn’t really interpret it as a promise to me, per se. I interpreted it as a promise to the public — specifically to MDUSD special education parents.
    It would be surprising if district officials decided to withhold the report just because they aren’t happy with my blog.
    The public deserves the information.

    Anon: Are you talking about the transportation report or the special education review — or both. Although he inadvertently sent me the draft transportation report, the special education review has been kept under wraps.

    As I previously mentioned, Bill Gillaspie told me districts are not allowed to edit or rewrite FCMAT’s reports. They are only allowed to correct factual errors. Perhaps Lawrence wanted to make changes that FCMAT will not allow. It would be especially interesting to see if FCMAT insists on leaving the reference to the third party analysis in the report, since Rolen claims that the district specifially asked for that not to be mentioned. So far, however, he has provided no written proof that such a request was ever made.

  264. Doctor J Says:

    BTW Theresa, I guess Carolyn Patton didn’t keep her promise to get back to you either, did she ? And what is the Times doing to enforce the ten day rule on the PRA requests that MDUSD once again has failed to comply with ? Hmmm….beagles or pit bulls ?

  265. Doctor J Says:

    @262 I suspect FCMAT went back and “corrected” some of the false impressions, giving MDUSD credit for the unsubstantiated facts, which when you compare the first draft [received by TH] with the final draft will show a different story. Lawrence essentially got caught manipulating, or attempting to do so, FCMAT. FCMAT’s Board of Directors should be alarmed at its leadership.

  266. g Says:

    I would almost guarantee that every single person at Dent is under strict orders from Rolen to keep quiet about anything and everything, or else they will be looking for a new job!

  267. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The only outstanding PRA was dated Aug. 9, so I’m still awaiting a response from Rolen showing written proof that the district asked FCMAT not to reveal the third party analysis in its report or to release it to the public — before the district gave it to FCMAT.
    It appears that Rolen is trying to retroactively claim attorney-client privilege — without having mentioned it upfront to FCMAT.

    And yes, Patton never called me back after she read the questions in my email. Perhaps she wants to defer to Browne or Rolen. If that’s the case, however, it would be nice if she would let me know that.

    g: Rolen does not supervise everyone at Dent, so he cannot threaten to fire all of them.

  268. Sue Berg Says:

    So the answer to my initial question in post #253 seems to be “yes.” Four of the five immediate responses to my comment include criticism, one a personal attack, on the CAC chair. And this over the posting of one meeting agenda. The topic of this string is the district leadership’s handling and reporting of the FCMAT study. Why any of you feel justified in casting aspersions at a parent volunteer is beyond me.

  269. Doctor J Says:

    And no response from Julie B-M about the legal justification to hire outside of the Board directive ? Lets also remember there are unapproved minutes for the last five Board meetings: May 29, June 4, 18 and 25 and July 16.

  270. Doctor J Says:

    @SueBerg#269 My response, 256, did not attack Lorrie Davis directly. However, she is responsible in her own right even as a parent volunteer for knowing and following the CAC By-laws, the Brown Act, and should be receiving good advice from staff, which I don’t believe is happening. You have the issue wrong — its about holding an illegal meeting, not public and without proper notice, according to the Brown Act, even after she was advised that it was a violation. The information about the off then on meeting was coming from MDUSD staff — Mildred Browne’s office — who of all people should be giving good and proper staff advice, and knows the Brown Act inside and out. Volunteers who serve on these advisory committees are supposed to be taking the FPPC ethics training — but why and how would they know that if MDUSD staff isn’t telling them that ?

  271. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Still no response from Julie Braun-Martin clarifying why she believes the board gave Superintendent Lawrence authority to hire administrators not specified on the June 25 agenda, which specifically stated that he was only authorized to hire people to fill the “above stated positions.”

    Regarding Sue’s comment, it has been my observation that the CAC leadership strives to keep an open dialogue with board members to educate them about the needs of children in special education. They have researched special education issues themselves, have vocally opposed cuts and are not always aligned with trustees.

  272. Doctor J Says:

    No Sue, I don’t agree that “are . . the . . . district critics so jaded that you see nefarious overtones in everything MDUSD?” However, unfortunately the main administrative players, as you admit, “The standards for transparency that Eberhart, Strange, and Whitmarsh set for Supt. McHenry’s administration seem to have been abandoned quickly once the three became the district’s leaders in 2009” and unfortunately I would include several other bad actors in there too, including Steve Lawrence and Greg Rolen and some others to various extents. Honesty and transparency don’t seem to be words often associated with MDUSD administration. However, you are right that for the most part, the CAC and the Federal Consent Decree, have kept the MDUSD administration from serious abuses of the Special Education needs of students and families — yet, on the other hand, some in power have abused it.

  273. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Sue, even you the great district apologist must concede that something isn’t right with the way the CAC meeting was held/noticed. When will YOU stand up for what is right?

  274. Anon Says:

    Can Lawrence keep the FCMAT report secret? If it was presented at a public meeting and paid for from tax payer money and said that all special Ed parents would be involved isn’t it now a public document? I may be wrong here but it seems that there could be no way they could keep this from the public.

  275. Anon Says:

    Anon #274,

    And yet he is successfully keeping it private at least to date. Makes me wonder what is in there that needs to be hidden.

  276. anonadad Says:

    @TH #267: Rolen does supervise employees at the Dent, although it’s not official. But he does intimidate employees at the Dent and if they don’t follow his “recommendations”, he goes to Lawrence and Lawrence comes up with some kind of reason to see that they’re fired.

  277. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: It would seem logical that the report would need to be made public. Gillaspie told me that some districts don’t present them to their boards, but FCMAT still posts them on its website. The public can of course demand to see the reports, especially since the transportation changes are ostensibly based on the transportation report and special ed changes are going to ostensibly be based on the special ed review.

  278. g Says:

    Or, just like the MGT of America analysis, Lawrence could simply say; “We have decided not to rely on either of these reports, and will make decisions based on our own needs, observations, and the law as we see it.”

    Of course they’ll be using what they’ve learned from both, but they won’t have to admit it.

  279. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence and Rolen have become more emboldened over time as they are not “forced” to produce the documents they choose to keep secret. They just say no, and despite some rhetoric, no one takes any action to force the production. This will continue until they are taught the lesson by the courts and “required” to produce and then stung with paying the requestors attorney fees. Lawrence and Rolen need to be challenged by some legal dogs that are more than just bark. So far the Times chihuahua’s have not frightened Lawrence or Rolen.

  280. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anonadad: Do you know of employees who were fired because they went against Rolen’s recommendations? Wouldn’t the union protect them? Wouldn’t that be grounds for unlawful termination? Lawrence does not answer to Rolen, he answers to the board.

    g: Yes. The district does not have to implement any of FCMAT’s recommendations. But, it should publicly release the reports.

  281. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is an interesting article about a judge sanctioning a special ed law firm for lying after it submitted misleading statements to the court:

    Note: This is not the same firm used by MDUSD. However, this case clearly raises questions about the ethics of providing misleading statements. Just as districts and their lawyers should not mislead courts, they also should not mislead the public.
    The case also points out that this firm billed a school district $500,000 for a case that could have been settled for $8,000 years earlier. Could this be happening in MDUSD?

  282. Anon Says:

    What about the case of the little girl purposefully dropped off in a wrong location? Remember Rolen wanted to fight that one, how much would that have cost us?

  283. Theresa Harrington Says:

    [NOTE: This comment has been amended to correct information]

    Anon: The little girl was not “purposefully dropped off in a wrong location.” She was accidentally dropped off in a wrong location. However, the bus driver did not confirm that it was the correct location. Rolen said a law firm he hired agreed to cap costs at $1,000. It also would have cost staff time to fight a $1,000 judgment. After the controversy became public knowledge, the district decided to pay the $1,000 instead of going through with the appeal.

  284. Anon Says:

    Why on God’s green earth would a law firm agree to take a $1000 case for free?

    That makes absolutely no sense to me.

  285. g Says:

    I think we heard $1,000 then $1800 on that case.

    According to court documents the claim was for the full $7,500.00 allowed in small claims.

    The district was handling that case itself from 9/21/11. They lost in a judgement filed 12/5, although the record does not say how much was awarded–may have been full amount–maybe not! The district appealed and brought in Crosby and Rowell–one of the district’s many contracted firms. Then, the district “abandoned” its appeal on 1/20.

    Maybe more to follow this afternoon….

  286. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is my blog post about that:

    It turns out C&R agreed to cap their fees at $1,000 – not take the case for free.

  287. Doctor J Says:

    If you have been upset with what has happened in the last few weeks, wait until you see the Board Agenda that will be posted this evening. It might even inspire an “Occupy Dent Center” !

  288. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I wonder if it will include the six items Trustee Cheryl Hansen submitted to be included.

  289. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Could this be the shocking news we have all been waiting for?????

  290. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#288, You had a greater chance of winning last night’s lottery without buying a ticket !

  291. Doctor J Says:

    Who will MDEA endorse in the election ? Since one of their endorsements dropped out and did not become an official candidate, will MDEA start from scratch or just endorse one more ? And why didn’t Barbara and Ernie file candidate statements ? Has anyone checked Sherry’s filings to make sure they were “kosher” ?

  292. Anon Says:

    I imagine much hand wringing in Dent right now.

    What items do we include on the agenda what don’t we include? What attachments do we attach?

    The Powerpoint program must be working overtime.

  293. Doctor J Says:

    Now that Eberhart isn’t running for re-election and Mike Langely is retired, I sure wish that Mike Langley would share with us the “calls” he got for information on Supt Lawrence for jobs outside the district and his assessment he shared to these districts.

  294. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Agenda is posted:

  295. Anon Says:

    Has anyone been able to find any nuggets in there yet?

  296. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The board is voting on four certificated public employee dismissals or complaints.

  297. g Says:

    and… assigning a Danielle Douglas to fill Alicia Menyan’s seat on Measure C.

    Would that be Danielle Douglas, Asst. DA under Mark Peterson? I could not find that name on published Taxpayer Association lists. Perhaps she’s a “new member”?

  298. g Says:

    and…as recommended on “one of those transportation studies” the board MUST change the board policy on transportation to read “only if the school is 5 miles away from the student’s home school.” It used to read from 1.5 for elementary and go up from there. Now it’s just plain 5 miles for everyone moving due to “impacted schools.”

    Kids that may have already walked a mile or more to their home school, may now have to walk that–plus “up to” 5 more miles????

  299. g Says:

    and…they’ve (for the first time that I know of) listed “possible” future agenda items. That is where they are burying Hansen’s requests—sort of like a Time Capsule.

  300. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, but all six of her requested agenda items were items that have already appeared at least once on a previous agenda, but have not been resolved.

  301. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    What is this?

    Subject:  13.13 Community Facilities District # 1 (Measure A)

  302. g Says:

    HFO: They are bragging about some of the things they did back in the 90’s with the Mello Roos tax money. These days that money goes to (mostly) just office supplies and equipment, and an occasional chair.

    A year or so ago they said they give each school $800,000.00 per year from those taxes to buy whatever they want.

  303. g Says:

    Theresa: Once upon a time, back in 1989 there was a committee to oversee the Measure A (Mello Roos) $90 million bond. I know John Ferrante was on it, and I don’t remember who else. Maybe you (or Alicia) have more info.

    By my calculations, the district has taken At Least $80+million of that money, and it is being used for “general fund” type purchases, with very little going to repair facilities–although, we’ve been told by the district that “legally” facilities can mean copiers, furniture etc.

    However, I really have my doubts about using Mello Roos to pay for Pedersen to be deposed on a Department of Labor Relations issue (Feb?), or in June for what the district calls an ”Open Order item with ‘Dept of Labor Relations’. How can anything to do with Labor Relations be “Facilities?”

    I admit, I don’t understand why or how long Mello Roos can just keep going, and going, and going.

  304. g Says:

    Sorry–twice I said Labor Relations, but meant Industrial Relations.

  305. Anon Says:


    Remember Pedersen has an apparent sweet heart deal with the district in which he is allowed to line his pockets from wherever he chooses.

  306. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    What is the purpose of item 13.13?

    Is Lawrence trying to raise the $67 a year per parcel on mello roos tax? Look at the attachment on the agenda item 13.13:

    “levy and apportion a special tax for the fiscal year 2012/2013”

    What does this item mean?

  307. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    See the Aug 18, 2011 (exactly one year ago) On Assignment blog post regarding mello roos / Measure A questionable practices by this school board and administration:

  308. anonawhat Says:

    site principals were asked 2 years ago to relinquish their authority of overseeing the Measure A funds at their site in order to save jobs in Maintenance and Operations……as an office manager I never understood this

  309. Doctor J Says:

    Check out the total bull manure response on the Williams Act complaint — specific complaints and the response is really insufficient to tell the specifics of any corrections. I think the Board should reject it. Its going to be a long meeting. I suspect lots of the items are going to be pulled for discussion.

  310. g Says:

    Does the turnover at Mount seems a bit more than usual this year too?

  311. Doctor J Says:

    How can the Parwar contract even be considered with the FCMAT report being kept secret from the Board ?

  312. Doctor J Says:

    Funny how the principal appointments and hirings by the board are NOT retroactive to when they started — sure seems like there are a lot of undone loose strings on this agenda. This meeting could last until 3 or 4 am.

  313. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    A lot of docs attached also make statements in regards to a public august 13 meeting – didn’t happen.

  314. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The board has chosen to rely on agenda reports and attachments to supplement the minutes.
    Those documents should be accurate, since the minutes include very little additional information.

  315. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district’s decision not to put the Consolidated Application on the consent calendar could be considered a small victory for Willie Mims:
    In the past, I believe he criticized the board for failing to discuss this very important document, which includes information about Title 1 and other programs.
    However, it looks like data related to suspensions and expulsions — in which Mims was specifically interested — is no longer included on this report.

  316. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I wonder if MDHS will get all the materials necessary to implement the new French Honors class:
    An anonymous Williams Act complaint said French materials on the campus were insufficient:

  317. Doctor J Says:

    The Williams Complaint describes Principal Kate McClatchy, the governess of ToiletGATE, as “‘a blank stare’ of not caring”, “‘not important’ attitude”, and “an unsafe and unealthy atmosphere of ignorance and ignoring on the part of staff, administration and supervisors.” More descriptive comments: “just doesn’t follow through”, “lack of concern” and “sets a tone”. And then read McClatchy’s non-responsive “response” — did we learn anything from her writing ? And Rose Lock and Steven Lawrence accepted that pile of words as a satisfactory Williams response ?

  318. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The agenda item for the proposed policy to eliminate “overflow” busing for students who must attend schools less than 5 miles from their home schools does not include any rationale for the change:

    Instead, it merely shows how the amended Board Policy would be changed.

    How can trustees justify such a decision without a detailed staff report outlining the number of students affected and the anticipated savings? If the FCMAT report recommends this change, it should be presented to the public so that parents and the public can comment on it.

  319. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#318 Its a racially based policy since the student population overwhelmingly affected will be hispanics — Meadow Homes is the number one target. This piece of the puzzle is necessary to do the next piece which is boundary changes. The Concord Police put a little monkey wrench in Lawrence’s plans earlier this year when it wanted to cut the crossing guards. Since that didn’t happen, Lawrence needs to move fast because next year they will be cut but the policy will already be in place.

  320. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Again, the title of this agenda item does not adequately inform the public about what is really being discussed.
    Boundaries are not being changed. Transportation may be eliminated.
    The district should be more transparent in the way it names agenda items.

  321. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence’s little “secret” is the phrase 5 miles from the “home school”. Potentially a students residence could be 10 miles or more from the school he is transfered to — yet the “home school” and the “overflow school” are within 5 miles. Are there any adjacent schools that are more than 5 miles apart. Are we talking as the crow flies, or google maps directions ?

  322. g Says:

    Theresa, I would imagine this is just the precursor to enormous boundary changes that will be announced.

    Dr J and I each commented here some time ago about the absurdity of closing Holbrook, “because they could move to just two schools,” while at the same time the District had Jack Schreder working on a Boundary Realignment study, that, if implemented even minimally, will necessitate moving kids at no fewer than SIX elementary schools, just to relieve overcrowding at one or two. Children will be displaced from their home school to make room for other children displaced from their home school, to make room for yet other children displaced from…. It is a really ugly plan.

    In the mean time they keep paying good buddy and major campaign contributor Meehleis to add portables which would be unnecessary if they had done the boundary change to start with.


  323. g Says:

    (untimely ‘enter’ key =) Maybe, they have decided to abandon Schreder’s recent work. If they want to renew his contract, which comes up soon I believe, they may need an excuse to have him “wash, rinse, repeat” his multiple studies of the same issues.

  324. g Says:

    Dr J: Whether it was intended or not, this will turn out looking (yet again) like a sick, selfish, minority and racially prejudiced plan. Mileage is based from the “home elementary school.” Kids in Holbrook have already had their home school changed to Wren, 1.75+ miles from many of their homes.

    Normally those kids would have gone to Glenbrook. Now their middle school is Oak Grove or El Dorado, or ?


    Under the new plan, using Wren as the “home elementary school” will make it so that they no longer have to transport any of those “one cheek on, one cheek off” students from Glenbrook neighborhoods. Sneaky of them, huh?

    But guess who will still get a limo to Holbrook/Anova.

  325. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: That’s really interesting about Holbrook and Glenbrook. Those families could request that their closed schools be considered their home schools and not their new – far-away schools. The board has the authority to make that kind of amendment to the proposed policy.
    At the previous school closure hearings, Trustee Lynne Dennler expressed a desire to help students who were being unduly impacted by the need to travel long distances get to school. It will be interesting to see if she speaks up again on this topic.
    It will also be interesting to see if the new board candidates show up and comment on the plan. Although the proposal doesn’t impact high schoool students, Barbara Oaks will now be expected to express opinions about students at every grade level.
    The plan may impact students in Bay Point — where Debra Mason lives. I’m not sure if it will impact Clayton — where Ernie DeTrinidad lives — or Walnut Creek, where Brian Lawrence lives.
    It will also be interesting to see what Board President Sherry Whitmarsh says. Oak Grove MS, which her children attended, has the opposite problem — students are leaving in droves under NCLB transfers. But since the district receives funding for NCLB transfers, Superintendent Lawrence is not pushing to eliminate it. However, FCMAT recommended (in its unpublished draft report) that the district consider designating specific NCLB receiver schools, instead of allowing students to transfer to any school in the district.

  326. g Says:

    Theresa: Unfortunately, after a full year of being divided, Holbrook parents are no longer ‘organized’ around the school, and the district knows that. A few parents tried to fight the closure, but even then the PTA president had already moved out of the neighborhood, and was not interested in putting up any extra effort. Why she stayed on after moving is beyond my understanding.

    The district knows they have the upper hand against what is becoming an increasingly low income, hard working, Hispanic, black and elderly long-time homeowners area of town.

  327. g Says:

    NCLB poses an interesting question. I see indications that there seems to be a big decline and failure of achievement at the middle school level.

    What happens when you close an elementary school in a low income, very diverse neighborhood, that despite all odds, was finally pulling in API over 800; downgrade many of them to much lower performing schools, and graduate/transition many of them up into very poor performing middle schools?

    It would be very interesting to find out how those specific children are doing on API a year later.

  328. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe the state has developed a longitudinal student tracking system that allows districts to follow specific students instead of just looking at overall API growth. Certainly, parents have this information for their own children.
    I believe the recently released data on children’s well-being showed that students have a much better chance at academic success if they go to a higher-performing school that is not in a poor neighborhood, even if they live in a low-income area.
    So, Glenbrook students sent to Valley View and El Dorado may have had better chances of success than those sent to Oak Grove MS.
    Also, many students from the Glenbrook area attend Sequoia MS, which has a high API score compared to most others districtwide, with a diverse student body.
    Based on what the Oak Grove whistleblowers regarding discipline told me, it sounds like staff at that school had its hands full just trying to maintain order in the classroom. The discipline issues there severely impacted their ability to teach and students’ ability to learn, they said.

  329. g Says:

    I seem to remember a quote on here about Gretchen Jacobs saying much of her problems at Sun Terrace were linked to “those Holbrook kids” or something like that.

    It would be interesting to find out how the Wren staff fared with “those Holbrook kids.”

  330. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is my news brief about Monday’s meeting:

  331. anon Says:

    How does MDEA feel about Brian Lawrence representing himself as an “Educator” as his primary and current vocation on his ballot designation? Wouldn’t MDEA want to reconsider endorsing someone who claims to be an educator when their role has always been to advocate and represent actual dues paying professional and trained educators?

  332. Theresa Harrington Says:

    You make an interesting point, especially in light of the fact that MDEA did not endorse Trustee Lynne Dennler when she ran two years ago, despite her former membership in MDEA. (I’m not sure if retired teachers remain members.)
    Dennler surprised nearly everyone by beating Lawrence and other candidates who filed ballot statements. Many believed her win was based largely on her ballot designation as a retired teacher.
    Ballot designations appear to make a big difference with voters. Many years ago, Susan Bonilla similarly surprised many people when she won a seat on the Concord City Council — beating out candidates that appeared to have more political clout. Her ballot designation was also a teacher, I believe.
    Even State Supt. Tom Torlakson faced a skirmish over his designation as a teacher on the ballot. Some opponents alleged he shouldn’t be able to claim that title, since he was only teaching a short course at Los Medanos College.

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