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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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130 Responses to “MDUSD 8-27-12”

  1. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s another news story about Mills’ departure from Santa Barbara:

  2. Doctor J Says:

    @G, yup, they are in a hurry and don’t verify facts like enrollment figures. They should have checked the CDE site, but they are not “Education Reporters” like Theresa is !

  3. Doctor J Says:

    @99 Too bad some of Mount’s administrators don’t have the same sense of humanity and compassion. Of course, one got promoted to elementary principal, and the others are still employed despite a 7 point API drop and didn’t meet her subgroups.

  4. Anon Says:

    Shouldn’t the apology be coming from Sherry Whitmarsh?

    Sherry appeared to be a heartless, unfeeling, despicable human being.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    @104 Yup, that was insult to injury. I think I would strike “appeared to be”. Add her insult to Cheryl, and like Abe Lincoln said: Its better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. Sherry’s true colors showed last night like a flag in a strong wind.

  6. anon Says:

    re: the 8-29 update from Theresa: what a nice gesture to Preciado from Cheryl Hansen….the ONLY Board Member who is competent. And also impressive that Julie Braun-Martin took the time to meet with Preciado. I’m hoping that Richards will investigate Preciado’s case.
    By the way, for those who haven’t watched Theresa’s video on YouTube, check out the obvious whispering between Rolen and Eberhart.

  7. g Says:

    So how did all the kids do today? Did enough buses show up? Did the kids get dropped off in the right places. Were there textbooks and workbooks enough for everyone? Were all the toilets working, and unlocked? How about all of those new air conditioners? Were there qualified teachers and enough aids in every classroom?

  8. Anon Says:

    Looks like the no on whitmarsh campaign is beginning.

    Check out what I found:

  9. Realia Says:

    Julie Braun Martin and Cheryl Hanson – what phonies. Here’s hoping against hope that Jessica Preciado gets a fair evaluation this year. But knowing how vindictive and petty JBM is, I wouldn’t count on it.

  10. Sparrow Says:

    Let’s be clear.

    Julie Braun-Martin’s visit to Jessica Preciado was a PR move. That is it.
    Jessica’s story has become public, and Julie Braun-Martin was simply doing damage control. For years, Braun Martin has been concerned with one thing: the bottom line-ie, protecting the district. She has repeatedly responded to the concerns of MDUSD teachers with indifference. When she is not indifferent, she is calculating, often blurring ethical lines.
    Almost as bad is MDEA’s apparent willingness to look the other way where Braun-Martin is concerned. She continues to drop the ball when it comes to adequately assisting teachers who come to her for much needed support, yet, at least publicly, MDEA seems to consistently give her a pass.
    While Preciado’s case is important and poignant, her experience is not is not isolated, nor is it, unfortunately, the most egregious. MDUSD staff have dealt with poor treatment from the personnel office for years.
    In May, former MDEA president Mike Langley posted these comments on this blog:
    “We will continue to work for change at the dysfunctional sites…teachers…will tire of the crushing dysfunction and surly lack of basic human respect they are experiencing and look elsewhere to serve other students they so wish to support”
    However, the “surly lack of disrespect” teachers encounter at their schools at the hands of their administrators can only persist if the district continues to allow it. Theresa Harrington responded to Langley by asking him to make all school climate surveys public.
    Why is MDEA so reticent to let the public know what is really happening both at the school sites and also at the district office-more specifically, Julie Braun Martin’s office?
    Clearly, as in this most recent case with Preciado, she is more responsive when things are made public, so perhaps shedding the light on what she has been allowed to keep secret for so long is the way to go.
    What is MDEA waiting for?

  11. Anon Says:

    G 107, As far as I know there were enough busses for the ones that get transportation still. They did pick up some kids so early that they were dropped off at school at 7:30. Many parents still were not aware that their bussing changes and they had not transportation.
    Text books won’t be handed out til next week I believe.

  12. Anon Says:

    Cheryl Hansen is not a phony. She has no interest financial or otherwise to go to Crossroads and apologize other than her class and basic human decency which she demonstrates at all times even in the Dent Center looney bin. Hansen was a teacher in the district and probably understands Precaido’s situation better than most of us. Other board members should step up and apologize for this fiasco.

  13. Doctor J Says:

    Is this a Nugent II ? Did Julie B-M do a thorough internet research job or did she blow it like she with with Dr. Nugent ? I think Dr. Mills needs to respond to her termination and explain it. I think Steven Lawrence needs to respond why HE would recommend a candidate who was fired ?

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The story does say that she was an assist. supt. and the board planned to replace her with a director, so it’s possible they were trying to save money.
    Also, Santa Barbara apparently had no qualms about hiring her after that.

  15. Doctor J Says:

    Her husband was fired as Supt of Albany USD. How did that affect it ? “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first to deceive ?”

  16. Doctor J Says:

    What answer has SHE given as to why she was fired for cause ?

  17. g Says:

    Her husband left Albany over 10 years ago. That probably had no effect.

    Santa Barbara seems to have liked what she did under her “orders to follow the FCMAT recommendations.” I’m sure many parents did not like the changes.

    Then there is the fact that she says she “was recruited” by MDUSD—- there’s the real story! Recruited? Did someone from FCMAT maybe put a bug in the MDUSD ear suggesting that there was a person in Santa Barbara who, in just a couple of years, had proven she could do exactly what they were recommending this district do–and she was a Bay Area resident to boot? There’s the question.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: Regarding Hansen, she sent me an email about her reactions to Preciado’s statement and did not mention anything about visiting Preciado. It was Preciado who told me about Hansen’s visit.
    Then, I sent Hansen an email telling her that Preciado told me she had apologized on behalf of the board. Hansen said she did not apologize on behalf of the board, but did extend Preciado a personal apology, since the board president had not responded after Preciado’s comments.
    Hansen wrote that relationships between people in the district matter.
    “Relationships are built when we have a heart, listen, and respond with empathy, support, and problem solving,” Hansen wrote.

  19. Anon Says:

    Santa barbara had something like 11 special Ed directors before mrs. Mills. This could explain why they were willing to take her. They are happy she is gone.

  20. Anon Says:

    This is NugentGate II for sure.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    When did the Board authorize Lawrence to recruit for an “interim” and then permanent Asst Supt ? Its not on the agendas.

  22. Doctor J Says:

    Why did Guy Moore accuse the District of “cheating” the new teachers of two days pay, if it was according to the contract ? Wouldn’t that be more of MDEA not properly representing the “new teachers” ?

  23. Anon Says:

    Dr. J.,

    I suspect that Lawrence needed complete a favor to the FCMAT guys for their “help” in dealing with the little early release of documents problem (notice that FCMAT report is still curiously under wraps).

    FCMAT may have needed to complete a favor to MDUSDs newest employee (why is not completely clear).

    Bada Boom Bada Bing.

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As an update to the KVHS vote, the station is off the air temporarily, due to overheated equipment:

  25. Anon Says:

    Could be retaliation from a board member known for threatening retaliation.

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No, it was due to high temperatures in the studio.

  27. Anon Says:

    Did the studio have a/c ? Might be a use for those Measure C funds ?

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    If it did, it wasn’t turned on.
    I think the school has developed its list of Measure C projects, but I don’t think studio ac is one of them. It would make sense that something has to be done to prevent this from happening again.

  29. Doctor J Says:

    I wonder if there is an agreement on who is responsible for maintaining and repair of the equipment ?

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Melissa Wilson said the radio class had funds in the former CVHS ASB account set aside for renovating the studio, which could be used to replace the equipment. But, she’s not sure how much was in the fund or where the money went.

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