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MDUSD 8-27-12

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, August 27th, 2012 at 9:23 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

[NOTE: I am updating this Tuesday morning, based on information from the superintendent’s secretary regarding the consent calendar.]

Here is the link to the board agenda:


Board unanimously passed all items on the consent calendar.

Item 9.10 — AIS Interpreting — was pulled for discussion. General Counsel Greg Rolen excused himself, saying he was married to the vendor. Attorney Deb Cooksey sat in his place during discussion of this item.

When I arrived a bit late, Carmen Terrones, Local 1 CST rep was critical of the AIS contract, saying it was a conflict of interest because Greg Rolen is married to Marisol Padilla. It passed anyway, 5-0. (I did not hear her testimony, but this is what she told me after her comments.)

Former MDHS teacher Jessica Preciado spoke about how disheartened she felt after being ignored by MDHS administrators when she asked them to consider allowing her to work part-time, after her son nearly died of a rare condition. Making matters worse, she said payroll has made repeated mistakes and she was told she was not entitled to the 3 percent bonus and then was told by Bryan Richards that she owes the district $2,500.
“If you really want to keep good teachers,” she said, “I guarantee making an effort to really listen and care would be greatly rewarded with teachers who are loyal to our district, and students who receive a better education.”

MDEA President Guy Moore said Preciado’s experience was not an isolated incident and he encouraged the district to treat its employees with respect. For example, he said new teachers were not paid for their two days of training.

Steven Lawrence presented CAHSEE results and said solar info is now available online.

14.1 Board voted 4-1 to appoint Dr. Kerri Mills as interim superintendent of pupil services and special education, after first voting 1-4 against eliminating item 12 from contract. She is replacing Mildred Browne, who requested a leave of absence after the board failed to extend her contract, when it extended the contracts of many other top administrators until 2014. Browne’s contract was set to expire in June.


Superintendent’s Report, continued (due to late arrival of presenters): Windemere reps make donation to HOPE project, which serves homeless students.

14.2 Board unanimously approved nonpublic school contracts.

14.3 KVHS
After much discussion (which I’ll post to YouTube/tunedtotheresa), the board unanimously agreed to allow KVHS to operate a county ROP class at KVHS through the end of the 2012-13 school year. The board further agreed that no sale or disposition of KVHS FM shall be considered until the conclusion of the MDUSD 2012-2013 academic school year. In addition, trustees asked staff to continue investigating the value of the station, should it decide to sell in the future.

Three former KVHS students spoke in favor of keeping the station: Rick Bartlett, Matthew Boggs and Karen Klaizynski.

14.4 Elimination of some “overflow” busing
After much discussion, the board unanimously agreed to provide overflow busing for students from Title 1 schools who must travel 1.5 miles or more from their home schools, if their neighborhood schools are full; and to eliminate overflow busing for students whose home schools are not Title 1 campuses, if they will travel 5 miles or less to their new schools.

This was Trustee Lynne Dennler’s idea because she didn’t want to continue making cuts that hurt low-income communities in the district.

Lawrence presented a 6-page Excel spreadsheet that showed available space/overflows for 29 elementary schools:

Unfortunately, the spreadsheet did not show the total number of students affected or any cost estimates for savings. It also did not show which schools were Title 1.

Based on questions from the board, Lawrence said his staff recommendation to eliminate busing for all overflow students who would be moved to schools less than 5 miles from their home schools would require about 8-10 bus routes at a cost of about $20,000 per route, or a total of about $160,000-$200,000. He never gave a cost estimate for the amended motion, which the board approved.

Lawrence said he didn’t present this to the board sooner because he wanted to wait for the FCMAT report. Yet, he didn’t present any information from that report.

Trustee Linda Mayo asked staff to work with cities to suggest they apply for Safe Routes to Schools grants to provide sidewalks and improve school access.

14.5 The board discussed the superintendent’s evaluation targets extensively. Unfortunately, my Flip cam was full by this point, so I had to download my videos and I missed the first portion of the conversation, in which Trustee Cheryl Hansen said she walked out of two closed sessions regarding the superintendent’s evaluation because she didn’t believe they were properly noticed and she didn’t receive any information about them ahead of time. There were some very testy exchanges between Hansen, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and Trustee Gary Eberhart. I did catch some of it on my Flipcam, which I’ll post to my YouTube account.

Trustee Linda Mayo said the board needs to work on communicating better. Eberhart said trustees need to come to meetings better prepared.

Eberhart said he thought it was appropriate for the board to discuss the superintendent’s goals in closed session, but he agreed it was also appropriate to present them to the public for input. He said he didn’t think the board violated the Brown Act in its closed sessions.

Hansen asked what happened to the strategic plan. She said she had asked that it be placed on the agenda, but it wasn’t. Eberhart and Rolen said the board couldn’t discuss that, since it wasn’t on the agenda. Hansen said she has submitted it again and wants to see it on the Sept. 10 agenda.

14.6 The board discussed Hansen’s proposal regarding agenda dissemination to the public. She asked that it be brought back to the board for action.

Eberhart said she should work with staff and that item 6 seemed very hard. Mayo said she wasn’t interested in discussing something so prescriptive. She said she believed the superintendent and Loreen Joseph could work out a system for alerting the public when agenda items have been revised.

Dennler had no comment and Whitmarsh said three board members didn’t want this brought back for action.

14.7 The board discussed Hansen’s idea to create a Mayoral Council. Whitmarsh and Mayo said they had discussed the idea with five mayors at a recent mayor’s gathering and that none of them wanted a mayoral council. Mayo said some of them were interested in less formal ways of communicating with the district, however.

Hansen said she had spoken to some mayors who were in favor of the idea. But, she said any ideas for better communication between the district and its city leaders are welcome.

14.8 The board discussed Propositions 30 and 38.
Three speakers urged the board to support Prop. 30 and not Prop. 38: Mike Langley, MDEA President Guy Moore and MDHS teacher Dan Reynolds.
Mayo said the PTA has endorsed Molly Munger’s Prop. 38. She passed out two handouts to trustees: “Prop. 38 benefits every Mt. Diablo District student” and “November 2012 2012 Funding Initiaves” from CSBA. She asked the other trustees to join her in supporting Prop. 38.
Dennler said she wanted to read through the documents before making a decision. Lawrence suggested bringing them back as separate agenda items.

14.9 The board discussed the idea of creating a Public Information Officer position. Hansen said she was against it, saying it was not a good use of money, especially when the board just cut busing for some students.
Mayo supported the idea and asked the superintendent to create a job description.
Whitmarsh said the County Office of Education, San Ramon Valley district and West Contra Costa districts all have PIO’s. Lawrence said the county has added duties to its PIOs, due to budget cuts.
(This is true. Peggy Marshburn oversees QEIA compliance and Williams Act complaints, I believe. Also, the WCCUSD PIO is in charge of community outreach and engagement.)
Whitmarsh said she has heard from at least three board members that they would like to move forward with the creation of a job description.

14.10 The board discussed revising its cell phone policy to allow students to use their cell phones during the school day. Mayo said that the district might need to come up with alternatives for students in low-income areas who may not have cell phones, if teachers plan to use them in classes.


Hansen said she attended the new teacher orientation and Dennler said the district needs to let teachers know that they’re appreciated.

Although she didn’t specifically mention Preciado and Moore’s comments earlier in the meeting, Dennler’s message appeared to coincide with what Preciado and Moore said.

Mayo spoke about some nice comments she received from teachers about recent trainings.

NOTE: Video clips of the Superintendent’s Report, appointment of Kerri Mills, HOPE donation and the beginning of the overflow busing discussion are at Video clips from rest of meeting will be posted soon at

Here is the link to audio of the meeting:

Do you think the district’s teachers feel appreciated?


I have received the following email from Julie Braun-Martin, in response to my question regarding Mildred Browne’s employment status:

“The district has granted Dr. Browne’s request for an extended leave of absence to address some personal concerns. Notwithstanding her need for a leave, Dr. Browne has continued to work in her role as Assistant Superintendent until the Interim Assistant Superintendent is approved and reports for duty. Dr. Browne will remain available to the District to ensure a smooth transition of the Interim Superintendent. As her leave is a personnel matter, the district will have no further comment on it.”

I have also received the following prepared statement from KQED:

“KQED is not planning to make an offer to purchase radio station KVHS at this time. If and when the Mt. Diablo school board decides to officially put the station on the market, we will consider a possible purchase. We have heard from our KQED Public Radio listeners for years that we need to improve our broadcast signal in parts Contra Costa Country. We have taken a number of steps to improve reception over the years with some success, but we still hear regularly from listeners who have continuing issues with the signal strength of 88.5 FM. Our potential interest in KVHS would be to improve our service to KQED listeners in Contra Costa.”

When I asked if KQED is interested in purchasing the station and equipment — or just the frequency — I got the following email response from publicist Evren Odcikin:

“We have not had any conversations internally about the details of this possible opportunity, so I’m not able to answer any questions about specifics at this time.”

AUG. 29 UPDATE: I heard from Preciado that Julie Braun-Martin stopped by Crossroads school — where she is now working part-time — to apologize and set up a meeting with Bryan Richards to go over the discrepancies in her paychecks. Then today, Trustee Cheryl Hansen stopped by, offered a personal apology and gave Preciado a card. Preciado said she was encouraged by these actions.
However, it’s my understanding that a date and time for her meeting with Richards has still not been finalized.

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