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Mt. Diablo school board candidate Ernie DeTrinidad drops out of race

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 2:31 pm in Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district.

I have received the following statement from Mt. Diablo school board candidate Ernie DeTrinidad, announcing his decision to withdraw from the race. Please note that he will still be listed on the ballot.

“As residents of the Mt. Diablo school community continue to face really tough challenges, the need to change the makeup of the School Board is without doubt the most important and vital. It is critical for residents to elect new members, members with new ideas, solutions and, most important, new approaches. We must build a more positive, productive, collaborative, and inclusive environment for our students, teachers and district staff, to achieve their very best – because successful students are essential for a healthy and prosperous community.

It is my belief that two candidates offer the Board exactly what is necessary, a genuine passion for positive change. Barbara Oaks and Debra Mason bring educational, community and organizational experience to the table. They are independent, yet can collaborate on creative solutions for the benefit of our students and our community.

We don’t need someone who will use the Board as a stepping-stone in his political pursuits, and falsely labels himself as an educator. We don’t need someone who has had ample opportunity as a current Board member, and yet has failed to lift our School District out of low performance results, instead filling the Board with negativity and distancing the Board from the very communities it serves, alienating District employees and staff.

In order to bolster our opportunity to achieve positive change, I have decided to withdraw from candidacy for School Board. This is a most difficult decision, but one I make in the best interest of our students. Instead I stand ready and ask that our community join me in support of the two best candidates for MDUSD School Board; Barbara Oaks and Debra Mason.

Ernie DeTrinidad
Parent/Candidate for MDUSD School Board”

Do you agree with DeTrinidad’s decision to drop out of the race?

OCT. 15 UPDATE: Here is the link to the CCTV MDUSD candidate forum:

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145 Responses to “Mt. Diablo school board candidate Ernie DeTrinidad drops out of race”

  1. Wait a Minute Says:

    I will say that my opinion wholeheartedly agrees with Dr J’s and Anon#100’s opinions that the superintendent is likely breaking the law by helping Sherry Whitmarsh’s visibility by inviting her to speak at all these so-called “feeder pattern” meetings with the public that apperently were never disclosed properly to anyone but the invitees.

    I would further like to restate my opinion that it appears to me that Greg Rolen is helped to develop/influence Mr. Brian Lawrence as a board candidate.

    I believe he did this (my opinion only) by getting the MDUSD’s highly paid outside bond counsel Mr. Matt Juhl-Darlington of Chico, CA to donate money to Mr. Brian Lawrence’s MDUSD BOE’s campaign.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    In my opinion, the TIMES has failed its constitutional duty and duty to the public by not following through on its public records requests to MDUSD and to FCMAT, as documented in this blog. Personally, I would like a public accounting by the Editor as to why the requests are made, said that it will not take “NO” as an answer, and then gives up time after time when Rolen stalls the release of the documents. The bark has turned into a whisper, and soon will be mute. Why doesn’t the TIMES follow through with its Public Records Requests ? [If you need a list, do a search for PRA and you will be able to put one together quite quickly]

  3. Anon Says:

    I call on Brian Lawrence to confirm or deny the fact that he has accepted campaign donations from Mr. Matt Juhl-Darlington.

    If he has, I think any reasonable person would be able to draw their own conclusions about where Brian’s votes will fall on the issues.

    If you returns the Juhl-Darlington money, I think that we have a candidate worth voting for.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    Brian Lawrence continues to secret his Facebook friends from the public. The voters have a right to know who his “friends” are !

  5. Anon Says:

    Matt Juhl-Darlington’s campaign contribution was reported on Lawrence’s 460 form in February 2011. The actual contribution was made a week before the 2010 election. His other contributors in that last week very much look like the same contributors to Eberhart over the years….trade unions, not local, but in other parts of the state..the same unions who benefit from cozy relationships with certain board members with Measure C ties.. It is quite enlightening to see who brought in money late so that it wasn’t reported until well after the election. The question now is whether Lawrence has the same contributors as he did in 2010.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have spoken to Board President Sherry Whitmarsh to get clarification on her role in the feeder pattern meetings.
    She said they were the superintendent’s idea, which she supports. She said she has not gone to any feeder pattern meetings yet and doesn’t expect to attend any except for the YVHS meeting, since she lives in that neighborhood. The meetings are not board meetings, she said.
    Whitmarsh said the PAC also supported feeder pattern meetings instead of PAC meetings.
    However, some people at the CAC meeting said they didn’t recall any consensus at the PAC regarding disbanding. Several said they liked being able to meet as a large group so they could hear what schools were doing across the district.
    Also, Pleasant Hill parents said parents were hand-picked by the principal to attend their feeder pattern meeting on very short notice, giving the impression the meetings are invitation only. One parent said only about three parents showed up to the Pleasant Hill meeting.
    Some said they liked the fact that the former PAC meetings were open to anyone. One parent said superintendent Lawrence said anyone who wasn’t a parent in the feeder pattern would not be told to leave.
    Another parent said: “That doesn’t sound very welcoming.”
    CAC parents also said they are not always part of feeder patterns, since their children often attend schools outside their neighborhoods, due to their special needs.

  7. Anon Says:

    Credible information from Dent Center reports that both Whitmarsh and B. Lawrence were seen leaving the superintendent’s office last week within twenty minutes of one another. This feeder pattern meeting plan and PAC breakup is starting to come together. Seems that Superintendent Lawrence is treating candidate Lawrence like a board member already passing on information and Whitmarsh seems to be behind the scenes as the den mother.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: As I mentioned, the superintendent has met with all the candidates. Although only Brian Lawrence and Sherry Whitmarsh mentioned the feeder pattern meetings to me, it’s possible that Oaks and Mason were also informed about them.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    Possible ? That’s pure unsubstantiated speculation which is easily verifiable with a phone call.

  10. Jack Weir Says:

    Here’s an update on school board campaign issues.
    I attended Debra Mason’s Bay Point rally, at which dozens of citizens waved signs at passersby, and discussed the need for more genuine community outreach by the MDUSD board. Trustee Hansen was also in attendance, and outlined a litany of failure on the part of other trustees to support her repeated efforts to steer the board toward op

  11. Jack Weir Says:

    (continuing after a fat-finger glitch)
    …Trusted Hansen shared her frustration at trying to convince the current MDUSD board to be more open to community input and concerns. Bay Point folks’ complaints of being ignored by the board echo those heard in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.
    Barbara Oaks continues her walking program, now extended into Concord. Her refusal to accept donations documents her commitment to remain independent, in order to focus solely on the needs of our kids, regardless of peripheral influences.
    With the flury of criticisms of candidate Lawrence’s self-labeling as an “educator,” many are perplexed by MDEA’s signs endorsing both Oaks and Lawrence. Oaks has distanced herself from Lawrence, but has no control over MDEA. Local One’s endorsement strengthens Oaks’ campaign. Hansen’s endorsement of Oaks and Mason, following DeTrinidad’s withdrawal, along with Ernie’s endorsement of Oaks and Mason makes voters’ choice clear: Oaks and Mason are independent and dedicated candidates, free of any residual Eberhardt/Strange baggage. Whitmarsh and Lawrence are not.
    We’re already working on steps to prepare DeTrinidad for future opportunities to serve and represent the interests of all of the district’s families.
    On the community college front, Vicki Gordon campaigns for the same fiscal effectiveness on the 4CD board she helped foster during her years as a Martinez teacher and school board member. Her opponent, incumbent Tomi Van DeBrook, voted for a project labor agreement that may ultimately cost 4CD residents tens of millions of dollars in wasted school bond money. Gordon is the clear choice for 4CD Ward II voters.

  12. Anon Says:

    Hope the Times editors endorse Debra Mason. Agree it’s perplexing MDEA did not.

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Mason said she received the Times’ endorsement the last two times she ran.
    As a reminder, Times’ endorsements are made solely by the Editorial Board, which is completely separate from the reporting staff.
    I plan to post more information from my interviews with the candidates, but am awaiting a video from Board President Sherry Whitmarsh (I shot a video of Mason and shot video of Oaks and Lawrence at the MDEA press conference announcing their endorsement, but have extended an invitation to Whitmarsh to also supply a video).
    On a side note: I did not see any candidates at the UMDAF 5k on Sunday. Perhaps I missed them. But, if none showed up, they missed an opportunity to meet and greet very involved parents from all six high school feeder patterns at the event.
    But, Concord Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister was there, rooting on her alma mater, Concord HS.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, the Times’ editorial board will interview the MDUSD and WCCUSD candidates Oct. 23. I have been invited to sit in on the interviews, but I will not ask questions or have any input into the endorsement.

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    MDUSD candidate forum Thursday in Pleasant Hill:

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Oct. 15 update to this blog post with a link to the CCTV MDUSD candidate’s forum.

  17. Jack Weir Says:

    Rumor that Trustee Linda Mayo endorsed Sherry Whitmarsh is confifmed on the site.
    Mayo’s endorsement reinforces her support for the Eberhardt/Whitmarsh regime. She has consistently formed the board majority in blocking attempts by Trustee Hansen to bring openness to public discussion of critical issues. The need is clear this year to elect Barbara Oaks and Debra Mason, staunch proponents of open and respectful board meetings.
    Ernie DeTrinidad will be a worthy opponent, should Mayo decide to run again in 2014, and he has my full support in preparing for that contest.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At the Pleasant Hill candidate’s forum, Whitmarsh said she supports the idea of televising board meetings. All of the other candidates also said it is important to televise and/or webcast meetings, so the public can see what is going on. The only issue is how to fund it.
    Whitmarsh commented that a former board member (Paul Strange) used to videotape meetings. But she said when he left, that service ended. She didn’t mention that Gary Eberhart continued the service for a while on his joint blog with Strange, then took down his blog, including all the videos. So now, there is no archive of all the videos.
    This is why the district itself should provide the service and not rely on someone else, who could pull the plug at any time, like Eberhart and Strange did.

  19. Jim Says:

    @111 — “We’re already working on steps to prepare DeTrinidad for future opportunities to serve and represent the interests of all of the district’s families.”

    Mr. Weir, could you elaborate? How is Mr.DeTrinidad being groomed for a future board race? Frankly, I have to question whether a candidate who needs two years or more of tutoring is what this district needs. We’ve already seen the effects of having a board where only one member seems to possess the requisite organizational skills and institutional background to lead the district in a positive direction. MDUSD is an almost $300 million enterprise that is “responsible” for educating over 30,000 students. We can all see what happens when the leadership is not up to the task.

    I do not know Mr. DeTrinidad, but on the occasions when I have heard him speak, he has not impressed me with his understanding of the issues, his professional qualifications, or his vision of the direction in which he would try to lead the district. He seems like a likable man, who probably wishes to do the right things, but the MDUSD board needs much more than that to pull this sad district out of the fire. I am open to changing my mind on Mr. DeTrinidad, but the necessity of “preparing” him to run does not bode well.

  20. g Says:

    Theresa, I seem to recall a board meeting where the board did instruct Lawrence to look into possibilities and costs of televising meetings, and “report back.”

  21. g Says:

    Found it: 3/26/12–16.8 Televised Board Meetings
    The Board requests the Superintendent to investigate and develop a plan of action to televise to the public all regular and special Board meetings, either through video streaming or through Contra Costa Television (CCTV). This plan will include a working budget that itemizes both start up and ongoing costs. The Superintendent will make his report of findings and recommendation to the Board at a future Board meeting.

    Of course, it has only been SEVEN months….

  22. g Says:

    Now, that is the type of thing I expected to see on the “Accountability and Progress Reports.”

  23. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    When webcasts and recorded board meetings finally do become a reality, I hope board members will have more sense and not be caught texting on their phone during a meeting like Sherry was seen doing multiple times during board and other public meetings (example: school closure public meeting at one of the elementary schools) in the past … There is no excuse for any board member not to be giving full attention at all times during any meeting. That Includes not conducting side conversations during district member reporting or community members speaking (Eberhart and Rolen being incredible rude during public comment portion as captured on tape a few weeks ago).

    Board members and district staff members responsible / part of the the meetings should be required to turn off Phones and all personal devices, and should not be able to log into the webcast as it is happening. A simple verbal reminder at the beginning of the meetings to board members and staff to turn off personal phones/devices during both closed and open portions of the meetings could be made.

    Pet peeve I have had since I saw Sherry do this when the meetings were webcast previously.

  24. anon Says:

    @Jim 118

    Why didn’t you run for the board.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: Thanks, I’ll correct my previous post. It doesn’t seem that staff has followed this directive, since Hansen has reported about her meetings with CCTV, with no comments from staff about actions they are taking to make this a reality.

    HFO: The board could create a policy that trustees must turn off cell phones and other electronic devices during meetings. I have seen staff texting and checking emails during meetings, while they wait for their items to come up on the agenda. It could make them less productive if they are forced to turn off their electronic devices to listen to discussions of items that don’t pertain to them. But, of course they should not be allowed to text or email trustees during the meeting. I know this is a concern that has been raised by Trustee Linda Mayo in the past, but no other board members seemed particularly concerned about it.

    I do recall one board study session in which Whitmarsh said that someone in the room was tweeting comments made by trustees (that was me). I wondered how she knew I was tweeting, since the district blocks twitter from its Wi-Fi (I have to use my phone to tweet). I assume she was either logging on to twitter using her phone — during the study session — or someone texted or emailed her during the meeting to let her know about my tweets.

    Also, Trustee Gary Eberhart openly admitted that he received a text during the meeting about KVHS — when he announced the meeting was not being simulcast on the radio station.

  26. Anon Says:


    Is it illegal to tweet about board meetings? I would like to see Sherry try and put an end to that. She can try to have me arrested but that is free speech all the way.


  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No, it is not illegal for members of the community to tweet about board meetings. The district, however, blocks twitter from its Wi-Fi so that students and staff (and the public) cannot access it via computers. However, the district can’t block people from accessing twitter via cell phones.
    Whitmarsh was not trying to prevent tweeting. She appeared to be making the comment to warn other board members that their comments could be made public.
    She said she was going to make a comment about her daughter, but she decided not to because she didn’t want personal information about her family to be tweeted. I don’t think I would have tweeted anything about her daughter, but I don’t remember the exact context for her comment.

  28. MD Educator Says:

    How will Tom Torlakson, Mark DeSaulnier, Joan Buchanan, and Susan Bonilla respond when they find that the candidate they endorsed for MDUSD school board, Brian Lawrence, cynically listed himself on the ballot as an “Educator” for the purpose of misleading the public into thinking he is something he is not? All four supposedly support public education yet they endorsed a fraud for a position on the school board. Has anyone asked them?

    If they knew, and did nothing, shame on them. If they now find out and do nothing, shame on them. If they withdraw their endorsements, good for them. I’ve supported DeSaulnier and Bonilla in the past and I would expect that they do the ethical thing

  29. Anon Says:

    MD Educator,

    DeSaulnier and Bonilla do something ethical???? HAHAHA

  30. Jim Says:

    @124 — I didn’t run for MDUSD’s board because I understand that my basic vision for our schools is not (yet) acceptable for most voters and educators in the district. And unlike some current board members, I would not run using false pretenses about what I would actually want to accomplish (e.g. “strategic planning”, “greater transparency”, “using best practices”, etc,).

    I believe that MDUSD is simply too big and the leadership is too dysfunctional for incremental approaches — at least within a timeframe that is relevant for most families, who are impatient to see improvements. I would like to see the leadership candidly admit its failings and offer to bring in outside management to any school where the parents want it. For any school that remains district-managed, I would like to see far more site-level autonomy, because in too many cases, the district actually impedes the progress that teachers, parents, and site administrators want to make. And finally, as some other failing districts have done, I would seek to eliminate all of the hostility that MDUSD has shown to charter school organizations, and instead, promise that in the future, responsible charter proposals that could help students will get a fair hearing, and approved charters will see positive, constructive collaboration from the district.

    In other words, the district needs to dramatically narrow its focus to whatever challenges it can realistically handle. (Many advanced countries operate entirely without this unnecessary and expensive layer of “school district” bureaucracy, yet they achieve results that are superior to ours.)

    Unfortunately, instead of a shrink-to-fit MDUSD, we have a slow-motion breakdown where an ineffective board, an unimpressive superintendent, and dysfunctional district administrators work in concert to discourage more capable educators and citizens from becoming involved. Mediocre can only attract mediocre, resulting in a self-reinforcing downward spiral. I am not ordinarily a cynical person, but sadly, it will take more than a couple new board members to really fix what ails this district. That said, I would certainly like to minimize this evolving train wreck, and perhaps even reverse some of the worst trends, by electing more competent board members like Cheryl Hansen.

  31. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    MD Educator @128:

    As a voter in this district, I have to wonder why Torlakson and Bonilla (among others) did NOT endorse the lone incumbent …

  32. g Says:

    HFO: While we may not always like or agree with Torlakson or Bonilla decisions; I think we can all agree that neither of them lack a certain innate intelligence.

    An important component of intelligence is to recognize the lack of it in others.

    Then again, it may be that they tend to support those with a first-class ticket to ride their political train.

  33. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    G @ 132:

    I know you can see me and probably more than a few other voters all nodding our heads in agreement 🙂

  34. Doctor J Says:

    @G Actually I think its more simple; both have taught high school in MDUSD — Bonilla more recently — and feel some affinity with MDUSD. I believe Susan still lives in Concord. I think they really believe MDUSD can regain its educational prominence. Like most people who have not known what has happened in the last ten years in MDUSD, its really hard to believe the cliff that Gary and Sherry drove the district over.

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I saw a Whitmarsh sign beneath a DeSaulnier sign in downtown Walnut Creek this morning by Trader Joe’s, although that’s not part of MDUSD. It’s in the Walnut Creek and Acalanes districts. But, still, MDUSD residents may shop there and go to the downtown WC Kaiser.

  36. No On Whitmarsh Says:

    Thank you Theresa,

    Now we know where to launch the NO ON WHITMARSH CAMPAIGN!

    Stop the destruction of our district.


  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I am not endorsing any candidates or expressing any opinions for or against any of them. I was merely surprised that the first Whitmarsh sign I have seen was outside the MDUSD boundaries.
    I have seen Lawrence signs around Concord and have seen a few “Lawrence/Oaks” signs, but haven’t seen any Debra Mason signs or Barbara Oaks signs. But, obviously, they could be out there, since I don’t drive all over the district every day.

  38. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Bonilla visited a TK classroom in MDUSD last week:

  39. g Says:

    Some other things we Know:

    1) Sherry obviously doesn’t know (or doesn’t care) where the district boundary is, but knows how to ride someone else’s coat-tail!

    2) That Sherry cannot (legally) Receive or Spend any funds-(even her own)-since she has STILL not filed up-to-date Form 460. Even donated sign costs must be given “fair market value,” and there is a daily penalty building up from Oct 5…ca-ching, ca-ching!

    3) Sherry is the ONLY candidate who did NOT file the “Code of Fair Campaign Practices Form.”

    That says a lot!

  40. Doctor J Says:

    When is the next campaign finance filing deadline ?

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    5 p.m. Oct. 25, according to our political reporter, Lisa V. Please note that I will be at an out-of-town conference Oct. 26-27, so may not report on the campaign finance statements right away.

    FYI, I heard that someone submitted a question about Project Labor Agreements (that didn’t get asked) at the PH candidate forum. Here’s the district’s last PLA, as far as I know:

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Reminder that today is the deadline to register to vote:

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just received a phone call from CSEA rep Annie Nolen, telling me that her union has endorsed only Barbara Oaks, based on her experience in the district. She said Oaks came and spoke to her union. In fact, Oaks was the only candidate who asked to speak to the CSEA membership, she added.

  44. Jack Weir Says:

    Jim @ 119 My support for Ernie DeTrinidad stems in part from his courageous decision to withdraw, lest he tip the election in favor of Whitmarsh and/or Lawrence. I observed personal integrity prevail over self interest; is there a more critical quality? However, his intelligence and ability to listen and articulate are extraordinary. He currently lacks the political organization necessary to reach out, but that’s easily remedied. More importantly, it’s only a means to a worthy end – not the political power end-game sought by some, from which the district has suffered.
    Also, he brings insight into the needs and potential for a growing sub-community that has little or no voice. Demographic reality forces us to recognize that we are not just Whites and Blacks and Hispanics, but Vietnamese, Africans, Pakistanis – sailors and bakers and candlestick-makers who share appreciation of the importance of high quality education for ALL our kids. Enough with the dumbing-down “stepchildren” approach; the community requires and can do more.
    To effectively lead, we don’t need “cooky-cutter” or “clone” board members. We need a balance of working parents, true educators, business managers and other representatives of our diverse district. Even when we succeed in electing a better board next month, we will need new voices and perspectives thereafter, and we’re already working on 2014 and any opportunities in between. DeTrinidad is a diamond-in-the-political-rough; he’s the poster-person for responsible grass roots democracy. Talk to him.

  45. Anon Says:

    Very curious, we haven’t heard a peep lately out of Brian Lawrence nor Sherry Whitmarsh on these or any ohter blogs.

    One would think they would be campainging by now.

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