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MDUSD trustee urges rest of board not to talk to press or public via social media

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, January 18th, 2013 at 5:46 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo district Trustee Linda Mayo became the longest-serving board member after Trustee Gary Eberhart stepped down and voters ousted former Board President Sherry Whitmarsh in her November re-election bid.

Mayo, who has served 15 years on the board, now sits alongside Cheryl Hansen and Lynne Dennler — elected just two years ago — and newcomers Barbara Oaks and Brian Lawrence.

Given her seniority, Mayo may have seemed like the natural choice for board president. In fact, she appeared poised to accept that position when Trustee Lynne Dennler nominated her Dec. 10.

Often on government boards, elected officials defer to the first person nominated and don’t nominate anyone else, adhering to a sort of unwritten protocol that rewards those who have put in the most time. But that didn’t happen on the Mt. Diablo school board.

Instead, Oaks and Lawrence backed Trustee Cheryl Hansen for president, who won in a 3-2 vote. Thus, a new board majority was born.

Since then, Hansen has taken bold actions to improve transparency, producing agendas with more detail than I ever recall seeing in the past. Lawrence, who was already on Twitter, immediately started up his own blog and has commented regularly on my blog, responding to questions posed by readers.

Hansen, Lawrence and Oaks have also all given me their cell phone numbers and have been very responsive when I have called them for comments on a variety of district issues. Mayo and Dennler, on the other hand, are far less accessible.

After listening to comments Mayo made to her fellow trustees before they went into closed session Dec. 21, I now understand that she doesn’t think it’s appropriate for board members to speak to the press over the phone, via e-mail or social media. She urged the rest of the board to embrace her ideas about limiting communication with the public and press, saying failure to do so could damage the trust among trustees.

Here are her comments:

“Trust is a five letter word with a profound meaning. The word itself has five letters, like our number on this board.

Without one letter in the word, the word stands as a jumble of letters — meaningless.

As members of the board, we must work on building trust with one another. Each action can build or destroy a relationship.

The letter T — we must work as a team.

The letter R — we must rely and respect one another.

The letter U — we must listen for understanding.

The letter S — we must speak as one in support of adopted decisions.

The letter T — finally, we must treasure the children, for whom we do this great work.

Our employees and our community expect us to model trust, civility and respect. For me, trust does not include discussing out of context your actions as trustees with the press or through social media outside of your presence.

Trust, when lost, is difficult to restore. I look forward to our positive work as a team, building trust today and in 2013.”

Yet, in the age of technology and accountability, many trustees believe that it is perfectly appropriate for them to communicate with the public and the press via social media. These include San Francisco Trustee Rachel Norton, West Contra Costa Trustee Todd Groves and Contra Costa Community College Board Trustee Vicki Gordon.

In addition, many elected state leaders also regularly tweet, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson; Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

After Mayo made her statement, I noted that Lawrence continued posting comments on my blog, showing apparent disagreement with her strict admonition. This prompted the following (exerpted) comment from board watchdog Wendy Lack: “Glad to hear about Brian Lawrence’s ongoing use of today’s customary modes of communication (i.e., social media, blogs, etc.), in defiance of Mayo’s bizarre perspective on the matter. All of the board members should follow his lead.”

Do you agree with Mayo’s position?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

113 Responses to “MDUSD trustee urges rest of board not to talk to press or public via social media”

  1. g Says:

    Trustees in all fields need to be careful to not relay their preferences or planned votes on specific items that may (in the future) come before them for a vote. They must not use media to try to sway the opinions of other trustees.

    On the other hand, they did not forfeit their 1st Amendment rights when they ran for office, and Mayo should no better than to admonish them for exercising that right.

    She should also loosen the reins she has apparently strapped onto poor Lynne Dennler’s back.

  2. Giorgio C. Says:

    WCCUSD trustee, Todd Groves, in addition to having his own blog, even posted a comment on the El Cerrito Patch on an editorial written by a teacher in his district. His comments were about teacher benefits, basically telling her some of these benefits were a thing of the past. I thought this was pretty ballsy on his part. I don’t think the author-teacher responded to his comments.

  3. Rachel Norton Says:

    I want to avoid commenting on Trustee Mayo’s views without all the necessary context. Still, I think it’s an over-correction to say (generally) that external communication hurts Board dynamics and decision-making. It’s all about what is communicated and how. I am a prolific communicator and use Twitter, Facebook and blogs to connect with constituents, press and other interested parties. Generally I think that has helped enhance understanding of our Board’s work, but I should note that I studiously avoid criticizing other Board members or staff in any public way (what I tell my husband doesn’t count :-). And I strongly agree with the previous commenter about avoiding Brown Act violations by telegraphing votes or specific policy positions.

    Rachel Norton, President, San Francisco USD Board of Education

  4. Wait a Minute Says:

    Pass the Mayo please.

    Well Linda, I’m sure you would love to go back to the closed room deals and Brown Act violations and other assorted secret acts on behalf of Greg Rolen and the rest of the Big 5.

    Sorry, not going to happen.

    Its a new world out there so you had better adapt or go the way of Eberhart who was to cowardly to run again and only to lose or Whitmarsh who didn’t even have that much common sense and came within 3 votes of a fourth place finish.

    This is especially ironic considering that many of these modern communication technologies were invented right here in the Bay Area yet there are still dinosaurs out there who can’t adapt to their value.

    And Linda, on the subject of Trust–you have proved over and over that you have none with the true owners and customers of our district and your 15 year tenure is marked by the rapid decline in the public faith, trust and performance of our district.

    You should resign in disgrace rather then continue to try and delay the positive changes that are now finally starting to occur before there is a recall campaign against you and your sidekick.

  5. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Theresa Harrington:

    Thanks for posting the transcript of Linda Mayo’s remarks from this December 21st meeting. When she spoke these words, I was dumbfounded.

    If Mayo chooses to maintain poor quality communications with the press and public, that’s her prerogative. But to characterize other Board members as “untrustworthy, uncivil and disrespectful” is odd.

    Other Board members, including Brian Lawrence, appear to be making a sincere effort to open up the “black box” at MDUSD — to demystify the Board by openly communicating, real-time, with the press and public.

    In my view Mayo is misguided, focused on the wrong part of the equation. The trust issues that need attention are those between the District board and administration, and the public.

  6. g Says:

    Do you suppose after 15+ years Mayo still doesn’t know that agreeing to Cure & Correct something can be just a mere formality–a way to say “Oops” and get off with what is usually a simple fix? Why would she fight something with vigor that we haven’t seen from her in years?

    Agreeing to C&C or the newer Cease and Desist in no way implies that a board member is “guilty” of anything more than trusting/accepting the advice from their hired staff.

  7. g Says:

    Comment 6 is where someone should come in and say “Mayo made it obvious that she didn’t like Hansen when she flopped her first vote ever with the Eberhart club. Now she’s just really ticked at being shoved out of the President’s seat.”

  8. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    You don’t have to like someone to be able to work with them. Grownups have to be able to make good, informed, correct and legal decisions based on their knowledge and best judgement; not based on whether they like someone.

    It would be great if we all liked each other, but that’s not real world. That doesn’t mean one can’t or shouldn’t be respectful and work with the other person in a civilized manner, nor does it mean they should be condescending and childish (I.e.: spelling out and self defining the word “trust” for the other “trustees” ).

  9. Anon Says:

    There are 2 board members I do not trust.
    M. Might hold a grudge forever
    A. Answers only to those who Agee with me
    Y. Yes, I want to make sure Rolen and Lawrence are my primary concern
    O. Only want my opinion heard and that is it.

    I think we know who the other one is. Way to go ms. Hansen. Take charge so we can take our district back!!!!!

  10. anon Says:

    Frank from PH got it right yesterday. Mayo is harmful and the parents and children of this community need to be rid of her once and for all.

  11. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    It is time that a serious RECALL MAYO effort is considered.

  12. anon Says:

    By following Mayo’s TRUST acronym comments, it brings a “circle the wagons” type mentality that has helped bring the district to where it is now- full of secrecy, nepotism, behind close doors administrating, and good ole’ boy deals. If you look at her explanation of the acronym, there is absolutely no reference to anything about transparency or openness. Its all about sticking together and “circling the wagons.” It is indicative of how the board has operated in the past and is a significant factor in why we are where we are now. I think the wagons need to be broken apart so the public can better see what is going on. Keep up the good fight Ms. Hansen, Ms. Oaks, and Brian Lawrence. Please lets us in so we can see what is going on.

  13. g Says:

    Hurry Theresa, I need part 3 😉

    Sitting here watching “attorney Cooksie know-nothing,” and “Mayo I read the chapter on substituting paragraphs, but not the one about substituting the whole damn motion” and Hansen quoting exactly how Robert’s Rules actually are written.

    First person makes a MAIN MOTION.
    Second person makes a SUBSIDIARY MOTION, requesting it to Entirely replace the first motion (not just some of it).

    Board must first vote whether to make the SUBSIDIARY MOTION the “new” MAIN MOTION.

    If it passes–First Person’s motion dies.

    If it does not pass, the Subsidiary dies, and the First person’s motion Remains the MAIN motion.

    whichever one is left open (should be restated) and must be seconded, debate is opened. Other ‘amendments’ (not substitutions) may be made,
    when debate is over, or someone calls for the vote–voila! They vote!

  14. g Says:

    Now that video #3 is up: Mayo’s substitution is wrong in trying to tie a denial of Lack’s C&C to April 23 votes. Lack spoke strictly to the signing of the “Oct.” contracts, not the vote in April.

  15. anon Says:

    @13g – Hansen is correct.

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have uploaded all seven video clips from the meeting to I’m sorry that I was unable to live blog. After extensive discussion (and disagreement between Hansen and Cooksey regarding Roberts Rules of Order related to substitute motions) the board took two votes.
    First, Mayo’s motion to deny the cure and correct, send letters of thanks to Minyen and Lack, and go through Brown Act and contract training died in a 2-3 vote (Mayo and Dennler yes)
    Second, the board voted 4-1 in support of Brian Lawrence’s motion that the board found the Brown Act allegations of Ms. Minyen and Ms. Lack lacked merit. But, in order to reflect the actions taken by the board on April 23, 2012, and to provide valid legal contracts, the board requires the contract extensions be brought to the board after they have been reviewed by an independent counsel, for public review and voted on by the board. (Hansen no)

    Brian Lawrence clarified that the extensions themselves were valid, but the contracts needed to be cleaned up and publicly presented. The contracts to be reviewed will be the original (old) contracts presented to the board last April, not the revised contracts signed by four board members, but never publicly reviewed.

    Hansen asked the superintendent who changed the contracts. He said he didn’t know for sure, but said Greg Rolen oversaw them. The superintendent said he didn’t give direction for any changes other than extending the date. So, it appears that Rolen was the one who removed the housing allowance from the superintendent’s contract and failed to notice one handwritten change to Richards’ previous contract. In addition, Rolen may have failed to draw up the new contracts in accordance with AB1344.

    The board went back into closed session to complete the superintendent’s performance evaluation after the open session.

    During public comment before the meeting, John Ferrante again blasted the district for the laptop theft. Unfortunately, I missed it, but he told me afterward he is concerned about the district’s apparent lax attitude regarding placing confidential information on laptops. That practice should not be allowed at all, especially if it’s unencrypted, he said.

  17. Jack Weir Says:

    The Ralph M Brown Act is simple in concept. It says although voters delegate the power to govern to elected officials, they DO NOT surrender their right to participate. Aside from a handful of specific exceptions, ALL business must be done in public. Officials are also charged by the Political Reform Act to keep an open and unbiased mind on matters that may come before them. In my experience, compliance with both requirements can be a little challenging, but is certainly doable.
    If the people are to meet their responsibility to participate, they must know what’s being planned, how public functions are being performed, and how their money is spent.
    TRUST has to do with being able to judge whether a person adheres to a basic set of principles and values. In public service, that must include two-way openness. That is all Lack, Minyen, Harrington and others are asking. Hansen, Oaks and Lawrence clearly get it.

  18. Anon Says:

    Looks like Eberhart and Whitmarsh have sunk their claws into Brian Lawrence. That really is to bad, it seemed early on that he might be the person who could finally bring MDUSD out of this mess it is in.

  19. g Says:

    I have only ONE problem with them putting both C&C demands under ONE blanket board vote. They were TWO entirely different demands, on TWO entirely different issues.

    Ms. Minyen’s demand was, in fact, filed too late to be considered for April 23 errors, and should have been denied SOLELY on that ground. However, based on Brian Lawrence’s Subsidiary Motion, the errors THAT demand speaks to, is the one they are going to base their next actions on.

    I call that a Cure and Correct of exactly what Ms Minyen asked for.

    —-Thank you Ms. Minyen for your (albeit late) C&C. It seems to have worked!

    Ms. Lack’s demand was, however, filed on time and based on the later ‘revised’ contract issues. They voted last night to deny her demand for ‘lack of merit’ (based on legal counsel that there was no ‘serial’ meeting to get signatures), BUT in the same vote agreed to, in effect, toss those contracts out because they had not gone public before they were agreed upon and signed by some board members.

    I call that a Cure & Correct of exactly what Ms. Lack asked for.

    Brian’s solution will work. Everyone will be happy to pay even more to outside counsel to get three year old contracts ‘lined out’ ‘highlighted’ ‘reworded’ ‘folded-stapled-mutilated’, and the resulting (very expensive) contracts will be the same as the tossed out contracts that Ms Lack referred to, except they will come to the public, and THIS board for a vote prior to being signed.

    —Thank you Ms. Lack, for your C&C that “lacked merit”. It seems to have worked!

    Alicia and Wendy: Great Job! Ignore the insulting letter! You both accomplished your goals.

  20. g Says:

    And…to our 21st Century savvy board members…Please do not come to the public with the “newly revised-revised contracts” if they do not include the all important Attachment ‘A’ as referenced in the Originals.

    If those are left out, you will not have ‘revised’, but rather ‘new’ contracts.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my story:

  22. Sue Berg Says:

    Jack Weir, #17:
    Ms. Mayo said, “Our employees and our community expect us to model trust, civility and respect. For me, trust does not include discussing out of context your actions as trustees with the press or through social media outside of your presence.”

    You said: “The Ralph M Brown Act is simple in concept. It says although voters delegate the power to govern to elected officials, they DO NOT surrender their right to participate. Aside from a handful of specific exceptions, ALL business must be done in public. Officials are also charged by the Political Reform Act to keep an open and unbiased mind on matters that may come before them. In my experience, compliance with both requirements can be a little challenging, but is certainly doable.
    If the people are to meet their responsibility to participate, they must know what’s being planned, how public functions are being performed, and how their money is spent.”

    Seems to me Ms. Mayo agrees, “ALL business must be done in public.” Not through the press or social media.

    Wendy Lack, #5: I do not see any of the words you cite (“untrustworthy, uncivil and disrespectful”) anywhere in Ms. Mayo’s statement.

    I’m rather flabbergasted that anyone is finding fault with a statement that encourages the five board members to work together with respect for and trust in each other, carrying out the district’s business in an open forum. For most of her 15 years on the MDUSD Board, Ms. Mayo worked with fellow trustees whose opinions and priorities differed, yet who were able to exchange ideas and opinions and reach consensus respectfully and without rancor for the good of the district. Such has not been the case for the past 5 years. Her wish for mutual trust, respect, understanding, and support is based on her experience that those qualities make for an effective leadership team.

  23. Wait a Minute Says:

    Always the apologist Sue for the shameful way this district was run into the ground for the past 15 years by people like Mayo Eberhart, and Whitmarsh.

    Of course you probably miss sitting next to and bonding with them.

  24. g Says:

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we still got minutes like the PAC used to get under Nicoll and even before? That was you, wasn’t it Sue? Those reports were great, and if I’m correct, I thank you!

    On the other hand you say, “”Seems to me Ms. Mayo agrees, “ALL business must be done in public.” Not through the press or social media.””

    Unfortunately, it seems Ms. Mayo doesn’t always practice what she preaches. Much has been done behind closed doors under the guise of “legal matters” or as in this most recent case as “merely ceremonial.” In some instances she was President of that board and still failed to insist they follow the rules.

    With her 15+ years of experience on not only this board, but many other organizations, she, like Hansen, should have known to refuse to participate outside of strictly legal parameters.

    It seems, unfortunately she has shifted, and is now far too much like Eberhart and Whitmarsh in at least one way. She runs hot and cold with her understanding of and adherence to both the Brown Act and Robert’s Rules depending on whichever one she is willing to sacrifice to achieve her personal agenda.

  25. g Says:

    Hopefully, when we will have NO choice but to start this round of bull again next year, THIS board will have sense enough to rewrite any contracts they may wish to continue, using staggered expiration dates.

    I suspect it was under advice from Rolen that Lawrence was given a 3.5 year contract, rather than 3 year.

    This gave Rolen a perfect excuse to talk them into “replacing” his original contract, and extending him another 8 months longer than what he originally had. Smoooth!

    What board in their right mind would have ALL executive contracts come up for renewal at the same time. Mr. Nicoll was great, but what in the world was he thinking–or did he just throw up his hands and say “you guys work it out–I’m outta here.”

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dick Nicoll was doing the board a favor when he accepted the interim superintendent position. He told me he did what the board told him do.

    Also, regarding this blog post, I realize there are many other elected officials who don’t tweet or use social media. But, it’s unclear if their reason is because they don’t believe it’s appropriate or for some other reason.

  27. g Says:

    Yes, as I said in #1, they must be very careful in what they say in any forum outside of a board meeting. Some (hopefully) are smart enough to know what would be improper versus simply keeping the public informed.

    Mayo was way off base in trying to pit Internal Trust against Open Communication.

  28. Sue Berg Says:

    G, #24:
    Yes, I wrote and distributed the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) minutes for 9 years under Superintendent McHenry’s direction. As Interim Superintendent, Dick Nicoll continued many of the communications that Gary McHenry initiated, including a detailed Annual Report that showed progress on the district’s/superintendent’s objectives. Copies should still be available at the Dent Center.

    FYI, Linda Mayo was last Board President in 2006. As Vice President, she opened the December meeting because Sherry Whitmarsh’s term had ended a week before. The election of Board President was the first order of business, and Linda handed the gavel to Cheryl Hansen following that vote.

    I would assume that since the Board is working with an outside law firm on the Brown Act issues that have been recently raised, Board members are getting advice from experts on that law.

  29. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Sue Berg, #22:

    Here’s a quote from the transcript of Ms. Mayo’s remarks, as shown above:

    ” . . . Our employees and our community expect us to model trust, civility and respect. For me, trust does not include discussing out of context your actions as trustees with the press or through social media outside of your presence . . . .”

    In her criticism of fellow Board members, I understood Mayo’s remarks to mean that she considers Board members’ use of social media and giving press statements as not meeting an acceptable performance standard of “trust, civility and respect.”

    This amounts to labeling her fellow Board members “untrustworthy, uncivil and disrespectful.” Such statements are unlikely to engender goodwill between Mayo and her Board colleagues.

  30. Sue Berg Says:

    WAM, #23:
    I encourage you to read through copies of the MDUSD Annual Reports, 2000-2009. You will find data to support the district’s improvements and achievements during that time, despite the continual cuts in state funding that required significant budget cuts. MDUSD administrators and teachers introduced some innovative programs that were recognized throughout the state. The 10-year Special Education Consent Decree was also implemented, giving children with special needs access to appropriate services and regular classroom programs. The first Measure C brought facility upgrades to every school and department. It was a heady, demanding, sometimes tumultuous time, with staff working with good energy and focused on students. I believe district staff are just as dedicated and conscientious today, and there are many success stories to tell.

    I am not apologetic about my high regard for my supervisor, Superintendent Gary McHenry, a man with a strong moral center, extensive knowledge about public education, and a commitment to students that guides his decision making. Considering that Sherry Whitmarsh and Gary Eberhart (along with Paul Strange) were the ones to decide that Superintendent McHenry had to leave and my job had to be cut, I have to laugh at your assumption that I “miss sitting next to and bonding with them.” I don’t miss my relationship with Linda Mayo as she remains someone I admire and enjoy seeing now and again.

  31. Sue Berg Says:

    Wendy Lack, #29:
    I did not read Ms. Mayo’s remarks as criticism, particularly since, to my knowledge, her fellow board members rarely (and some, never) use social media or issue press statements. She seemed to be explaining why she does not use either (“For me, trust . . .”) given that lately she has been the one publicly taken to task on this matter. That said, I’ll let the five board members themselves decide how to interpret each others’ comments as they learn to work together trustingly, respectfully, and civilly.

  32. Anon Says:


    Great to see you posting again. What happened to your alter ego longtime board watcher?

    Anyway, you seem to be angling for the PR job again. Will McHenry help you get that?

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Sue, I also interpreted Trustee Linda Mayo’s comments the way that Wendy Lack did. Because she used the word “your” when speaking to her colleagues on the board, it appeared to me that she was not only expressing her opinion regarding her own actions, but also admonishing her colleagues about their actions.
    Thank you for trying to clarify what you think she meant. But, my question is: Why is she unwilling to respond for herself to questions about what she meant?
    I don’t expect trustees to “issue press statements.” But, I do hope that they will be willing to respond to phone calls asking for clarification about their board actions or statements.

  34. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#63 I agree with you and Wendy. Linda’s comments were meant to slam the other trustees. Linda is afraid to talk — every time she speaks, it is written out in very “measured” language. There is room for social media, just like there was room for traditional media. Ben Franklin was right.

  35. g Says:

    CSBA 2011 Conference: “…A series of in-service training workshops, for example—held right on the trade show floor, next to the CSBA Pavilion—demonstrated how to use social media, such as CSBA’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

    With such instant communication channels quickly establishing themselves in business and popular culture as well as education, CSBA used those media to report out from Delegate Assembly and the Annual Conference.”

    Of course, CSBA also has active Linkedin and Youtube sites. Do they prohibit individual board members from contributing articles, or commenting on their individual board’s activities?

  36. Giorgio C. Says:

    The chain-of-command is the electorate–>elected board–>Superintendent–>school staff.

    The school board should share with those they report to, their thoughts with respect to any decisions they are having to make. They should be engaging in discussion with those who elected them to do the people’s business. They are an extension of us. To some degree, there is a lobbying process.

    We previously heard from school boards that many parents don’t care, they don’t get involved. Social networking is an avenue for increasing the level of participation and involvement. To not fully take advantage the communication technology now available to us would be nothing less than foolish and short-cited.

    Add the fact that the WCCUSD lost their CC Times reporter, meaning we are relying even more on our board members to keep us informed, using whatever means possible. We do appreciate the work of freelancer, Rick Radin. Thanks.

  37. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Giorgio C:

    “To not fully take advantage [of] the communication technology now available to us would be nothing less than foolish and short-sighted.”


    Social media and blogs are an important source of information for elected officials, allowing them to obtain valuable information about residents’ views. Listening to constituents is an elected official’s first job.

    Use of modern communication tools are essential to the success of all organizations — public and private.

    Residents expect public meetings to be accessible — i.e., broadcast live, with videos posted to websites, and with complete agenda packets available online prior to meetings. Given the demands of modern living, residents frequently cannot attend evening meetings, making live broadcast of meetings (and real-time online “public comment” during meetings) increasingly important.

    And given the limits of today’s newspaper staffing budgets, citizen journalism and blogging also are increasingly essential to functional representative government.

  38. Giorgio C. Says:

    Well stated, Wendy. I will add that WCCUSD trustee Todd Groves did respectfully request that I not post negative comments on his blog about other WCCUSD trustees. That seems like a fair and reasonable request. I can use my own blog for such, though I am making a greater effort to voice my concerns in a more constructive manner.

  39. Sue Berg Says:

    Wendy Lack, #37:
    You have just proposed the best solution to improving the public’s knowledge and understanding of MDUSD issues and the board’s decision making: live broadcasts of board meetings. When Paul Strange arranged for the meetings to be viewed on line, public interest increased. Though his was a low-cost, rudimentary system, it was successful. Unfortunately, it was discontinued after he left the board. Perhaps you and others can lobby the board to allocate funding for the necessary technology for this purpose. It would definitely meet the board/district goal regarding community involvement.

    As for blogs, you apparently have more faith in their credence than I do. Yes, they do allow for interactive dialogue, but even when the initial article is a straightforward news story, the accompanying comments can often digress into virtual hissy fits and personal attacks among those who post. I would expect you, as a strong proponent of the Brown Act, to be wary if more than two MDUSD board members commented on a specific issue on a blog. More than that could be seen as a “serial meeting,” with a majority of the board offering opinions of district issues and potential actions without the required public notice.

    Kudos to public officials who maintain websites either on their own or, in the case of full-time reps, through their paid staff. Still, again referencing the Brown Act, such a website allows the public to receive information from and interact with an individual board member. However, the public could not expect to see other members of the board contributing to that site.

    So, I encourage you to put your energies into encouraging the MDUSD board to make its publicly noticed meetings available as they are happening or quickly afterwards on video. In that way, everyone sees and hears the same discussions, opinions, and actions without having to go to one blog or another to read others’ accounts of the meetings.

  40. Giorgio C. Says:

    Communication works both ways. The public deserves a chance to weigh in as is required by the Brown Act. The WCCUSD board holds meetings like any school district. With the WCCUSD, public comment is often two hours into the meeting, item “E” on the agenda. Is it the same with the MDUSD or is public comment earlier in the meeting? For my city council meeting in Hercules, public comment is one of the first items.

    Sometimes, the agenda is repeatedly rearranged as I experienced at the last meeting. I was going to comment on a specific item, but the order of the agenda kept changing. I left after 2 hours. Apparently, my name was called 2.5 hours into the meeting for an item in section “C”. I have a life, too. I plan my evening based on the board agenda.

    One teacher-citizen requested that the WCCUSD move public comment towards the beginning of the meeting. She attempted to circulate a petition for this issue, but it died. This week, I’ll pitch a tent in the auditorium, prepared to sit it out for 4 hours if necessary.

  41. Giorgio C. Says:

    And why isn’t public comment documented in the WCCUSD board minutes? Does the MDUSD document the comments to any degree? With the WCCUSD, a board member might say “Hey, this is great coffee tonight. Is it Peet’s?” This will appear in the minutes.

    Yet, a citizen during public comment can point out an Ed Code violation and the minutes will simply list the names of those who spoke, without any verbiage describing what it is they commented about. No mention ever of an ed code violation.

    Even funnier is that the names of those who give up and go home before their name is called is listed in the minutes with those who actually commented.

    I apologize for venting on this MDUSD blog.

  42. Wait a Minute Says:

    Sue Berg@30,

    You know Sue you can certainly claim all you want about how disgusted you are that Sherry along with Gary and Paul forced out you boss and cut your position, however your actions speak louder then your words here while posting as Sue or the exposed LTBW handle you used or any of your other aliases you use here.

    Theresa herself reported that you sat next to and was very talkative/friendly with Sherry at the 9/16/2011 Year of the Teacher awards.

    So what is it Sue, are you a suck-up or do you just like to have it both ways while you energetically apologize for the misconduct of certain individuals and by extension the district they controlled?

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    WAM: Although I do recall commenting that Sue Berg sat at the same table as former Board President Sherry Whitmarsh at the County Teacher of the Year awards dinner, I don’t think I said that they were very talkative and friendly. I was seated across the room and was not facing their table, so I did not observe their interactions. I merely noticed when I scanned the room that they were at the same table. Whitmarsh told me afterwards that it was the Chevron table and that they were seated there coincidentally, not intentionally.

    Giorgio: You raise excellent questions about WCCUSD and provide an interesting perspective for those of us who mainly attend MDUSD meetings. You are correct that in the interest of transparency, public comments in the minutes should include some information about the content of their comments. MDUSD used to provide more detail, but then began merely listing the names of the commenters in the interest of turning around the minutes more quickly, saying its audio provided backup. Trustee Cheryl Hansen has pushed to get more detail into the minutes and now a few sentences are included about the content.

    You are also correct that WCCUSD should NOT list people who left the meeting before speaking in the list of those who spoke. That is inaccurate. Has anyone pointed that out to the board?

    You are also justified in venting frustrations about how late in the meeting WCCUSD invites public comment. Although many people criticize MDUSD, it does allow public comment near the beginning of the meeting. And sometimes it rearranges its agenda specifically so that people who are waiting to speak on a certain topic don’t have to sit there for hours.

    Did the teacher-citizen circulate that petition before the election? Newly elected WCCUSD Trustees Todd Groves and Randy Enos both ran on a platform of better communication with the public. They may be more receptive to changing the agenda than the previous board.

    Sue: I also agree that it would be wonderful if MDUSD would broadcast its meetings live and provide online archives. Trustee Brian Lawrence attempted to livestream the last meeting, but I don’t know if anyone tried to watch it. I videotape chunks of the meetings to try to make them accessible to people who are interested. But, I would be happy to be relieved of that duty! The board recently discussed videotaping meetings and seemed supportive of the idea, as long as it can find the money.

    And while I agree that it’s great for everyone to be able to see the entire meeting, I know that most people don’t want to sit through a long video. I was surprised at the last meeting when one member of the public said he had been checking my blog for a recap of the previous meeting and was wondering why it wasn’t there. I attended a few out-of-town conferences last week and am working on an indepth project, so I haven’t had a chance to post a recap. Some trustees, including Brian Lawrence and WCCUSD’s Todd Groves, have also tried to provide that service for those who don’t want to wait until the minutes come out. I appreciate those efforts as well, since I only have a limited amount of time to devote to blogging.

  44. Giorgio C. Says:

    The petition was circulated prior to the election by Hercules teacher Sara Creely. I will ask the board for a follow-up report on this. I will also bring to their attention the item regarding accuracy of documenting commenters. Thanks for even the limited amount of time you do devote to blogging.

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Giorgio: You’re welcome.

    Here is a comment I received via email, but was given permission to post, from Jerry:

    “No, I don’t agree with Linda Mayo re not speaking with press, public, etc. I think it’s very important to talk with reporters and the public in order to give/get input. Her comments make me think that she expects the Board to always speak as ‘One.’ Sounds to me like maybe she’s been on the board too long!”

    Please note that the above comment is the opinion of Jerry. I was merely posting it for him.

  46. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Since Mayo and Dennler have not responded to my calls asking for more information about when they signed the contract extensions — and since Mayo has said the board should conduct its business in public — perhaps the other board members would be willing ask Mayo and Dennler during a board meeting when they signed the contracts and whether or not they read them. It was refreshing to see Board President Cheryl Hansen ask the superintendent who altered the contracts and hear his response. If the district is unwilling to conduct an internal investigation, as a CC Times editorial suggested, an even better alternative is to publicly discuss what happened.

  47. g Says:

    Regardless of just whose hands edited those five contracts, not one of those five came forward to say they would rather give up that questionable 1% over COLA. Not one said they’d rather have those funds help the students. Greed!

    They had, just a few months earlier, gotten a 3% ‘bonus’ to match what was paid to subordinate staff and teachers. Sure, they quickly capitulated to that 3% when the unions cried “Me first” because they knew they could get their piece of the “me first” too!

    Now, they give themselves yet another year of 1% over CPI! Think of those funds being hoarded while they closed schools and wailed about how a school going charter would break the bank. Think about the money that was being hoarded while they justified ‘one cheek on and one cheek off’ at a closed school. Look at what they spent on multiple (never-ending) “studies” to justify closing schools without first fixing overflow issues at other schools.

    Watch them spend millions more covering play areas with even more modular buildings. But smile; the kids that lose playgrounds now even get to pay for it later–at 3,4,5%.

    Weigh those studies against what were obviously preconceived plans to cut even more busing and put even more kids out on the street.

    Now–just shut up and let them have their 1%! I’m sure every single one of them has far exceeded their job requirements! Ha!

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    When the contracts are reviewed, they should include Exhibit A, so the public can see what their job requirements are.

    It is also important to note that Rolen has dual bosses, according the the district’s org chart, the board AND the superintendent:

    Therefore, it appears that he not only was directly responsible for reviewing his OWN contract, he was also directly responsible for reviewing and altering his boss’ contract. Why did the board allow such obvious conflicts?

  49. Wait a Minute Says:

    Great points G and Theresa.

    Honestly, there is only one real way out of this dung-heap. Have a re-vote on the contract “extensions” and have three board members with courage vote no and say “we can do better” by hiring real leaders to bring positive change to the MDUSD.

    It would also have a fantastic added benefit of starting a precedence of holding people accountable for their performance.

    The flip side is to keep these so-called “leaders” and continue to throw good money after bad with no hope for the future.

    Since at least three of the board members did not illegally vote yes the first time then there is hope if they do the right thing and put the children and taxpaying owners of this district first.

  50. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Equity Advisory Team is supposed to be meeting in the board room from 2-4 pm. today, but I don’t see an agenda posted.

  51. Doctor J Says:

    Here we go with more Brown Act violations — someone could make a lot of money on all of these !

  52. g Says:

    Drop this little item into the middle of a nice fresh 2013 ‘Cease and Desist’ letter demanding that ALL board approved committees adhere to the Brown Act from this day forward.

    My apologies, it’s a Word Doc and I could not shorten the URL.,d.cGE

    Of course, since it seems our own general counsel was very busy being a bit of a bad boy in 2009, he may not have attended that Council of School Attorneys meeting.

  53. anon Says:

    G. FYI – Rolen is not a member of the CCSA.

  54. g Says:

    Gee, I wonder why not. It’s parent, CSBA, is a major defender of the positions taken by the school districts — as opposed to the student’s, parent’s, and taxpayer’s rights—and it seems they don’t even have a Morals Clause for membership. What’s no to love?

  55. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In a crazy twist, Superintendent Steven Lawrence tried to prevent me from attending the Equity Advisory Team meeting. As soon as I walked in, he asked me to step outside, where he told me there has been a misunderstanding and the Equity Advisory Team is not a board committee because the board never voted to establish it. I said the CAC presentations always appear to invite anyone to attend. He said he didn’t know who did the CAC presentations, but that wasn’t his impression. I also told him another district administrator has encouraged me to attend, saying it’s important for the community to know what’s going on. He said he didn’t know why that administrator would have invited me.
    The superintendent continued that it wouldn’t be good for just any member of the public to drop in and start making suggestions, since they wouldn’t have been to all of the other meetings and wouldn’t have reviewed all of the materials. I said the School Closure Committee also held “working meetings,” but the public was allowed to attend those. He said that was because that was a committee formed by the board.
    I also pointed out it would be easier for the public to review the documents if they were posted online. He said the district can’t possibly post agendas and minutes for all of the various committees online and that the public would be able to see the finished disproportionality report when it is presented to the board on Monday.
    The superintendent said it was a “working meeting” and it wouldn’t be good if I was there videotaping or blogging, since it might inhibit discussion.
    Finally, I asked him if I could attend if I agreed not to videotape or live blog, although I said I might blog later. He said if I just sat there and took notes, it would be all right for me to go in.
    When I looked at the agenda, I saw that it was a public meeting after all and that recording was allowed. Under “introductions,” it stated: “Please notify the audience during introductions if you are recording the meeting and let us know if this is your first time attending the Equity Advisory Team.”
    It also allowed for “Public Comment” from members of the public who were not on the Equity Advisory Team.
    Clearly, his original contention that it was a district committee meeting that the public was barred from attending was completely false and meant to convince me to stay away.
    After the meeting, I happened to see Board President Cheryl Hansen and relayed my frustrations to her about the superintendent’s attempt to exclude me under false pretenses. She said she would ask him why he did that, since it is her hope to make meetings more transparent, not keep them secretive. She said the district needs to change its mindset and allow the public to see what is going on.
    As I was leaving, I noticed another meeting taking place between Concord police and principals. One person said it was to discuss school safety.
    I also met the Police Chief and asked him if I could see the video from the laptop theft.He said he would check into it and get back to me.
    In addition, I mentioned that Greg Rolen and the Superintendent told the board last Monday that the city refused to provide liability insurance for crossing guards. He said that was the first he had heard of that and that to his knowledge, the district had never even discussed liability insurance with the city.
    I should hang out at the district office more often!

  56. Jim Says:

    @ 55 — Good grief! Supt Lawrence is at a meeting where he takes that much time out to tell you what you can and can’t do as a reporter and attendee, and then you see printed right on the meeting agenda that what he has told you is all wrong?!? What IS it with the MDUSD crowd? How can they be so pathetically mistaken and incompetent so MUCH of the time? You’d think, just by accident, they’d get things right once in awhile.

    Duplicitous or just plain dumb? We can’t ever tell.

  57. Wait a Minute Says:


    This is just one more of so many reasons to deny Stevie Lawrence’s contract extension and be rid of him and his lies/excuses in 6 months.

    They can hire a quality and honest superintendent who will put the children and citizens first instead of themselves.

  58. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Jim: Yes, and I showed the agenda to Hansen.
    Also, Trustees Linda Mayo and Lynne Dennler were in attendance.
    However, my conversation with the superintendent took place in the lobby outside the board room, while the meeting was in progress behind closed doors.

  59. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Tha fact that the Supt watched for you and took you aside as soon as you walked in tells me he was lying in wait for you – he ambushed you. He planned it. He had intent.

    What is he afraid you will hear and capture on video or take notes about and tell those of us who don’t attend in person?

  60. anon Says:

    Let me see – you have two serial Brown Act violators in attendance – Mayo and Dennler – and the superintendent asks you to leave? Hmmmmm!? He doesn’t do these things on his own… so guess who directed him to keep you out, Theresa. Which of the two board members present has been the most vocal about not talking about anything publicly? Has she now moved from violating the Brown Act to violating the Freedom of the Press?

  61. g Says:

    Dec 13, 2011–Agenda Items 10.32 and 10.33 indicate:
    “At the April 19 Board Study Session, draft policies were presented for review. The Board asked that the policy be shared with additional role groups. This policy was shared at The Leadership Institute for all district administrators, MDEA leadership, Nurses, Special Education staff, Psychologist, CAC and other role groups.

    I contend that: A) If there was a 4/19/11 “Board Study Session” it was held behind closed doors. A vote was taken by the board, ‘behind closed doors’ setting Policy based on Advice from a “Team” that had included board members. Apparently this was done at a time and date where the original Action Item for that agenda was deleted from public record, and the Open portion of that meeting was “cancelled”.

    Is it a good Policy-? Let’s hope so.

    BUT that is not the point here.
    The point is that regardless of what early intentions were, it IS in fact a Board Advisory Committee, subject to Brown Act.

    Call it a ‘Team’, call it a ‘Quilting Bee’. The Board, as a Body, concurred with staff recommendations to (1) Convene such a group, then (2) act on its Advice, and now (3) the entire district is supposed to be adhering to that Board Approved Policy.

  62. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: I do think the superintendent was expecting that I might show up, since I called the special ed secretary right before the meeting to confirm that it was still happening.

    Anon: I don’t know if anyone directed him to intercept me or if he did it on his own. I actually walked in behind Lynne Dennler and in fact, I think she was also confused by the closed doors because she walked into the hallway, then circled back to the meeting. So, I don’t think she had time to direct the superintendent to block me. Mayo was already seated, but I would be suprised if she would go to the trouble of asking him to exclude me. At one point, she offered me some candy (which was in paper plates around the table) and joked that I had to give it back. She also forwarded the copy of the plan to me and did not seem to be put out by my presence. Dennler also greeted me as we walked in together and did not seem to be surprised by my presence.

    Ironically, the draft plan emphasizes the need to warmly welcome parents (and the public), so they don’t have a negative impression of the district. The Concord Police Chief questioned a statement in the plan that said that some parents don’t trust the district. He said he hadn’t heard that discussed during Equity Advisory Team meetings. But, Willie Mims and Carolyn Patton assured him that in fact, it’s true that some parents don’t trust the district. The Concord police chief told me he wants to get very involved in the school district because he believes people choose where they want to live based on the schools. He said he came from San Diego, where schools had student crossing guards supervised by parent volunteers. So, he didn’t appear to understand why Greg Rolen is putting the brakes on a volunteer crossing guard program that he thought was ready to launch. He said Rolen, the superintendent and the interim city manager plan to meet about the crossing guard issue Friday.

    There seems to be a disconnect between the superintendent’s proclivity for excluding the public and the Equity Advisory Team’s stated intention to make everyone feel included and valued.

    G: I specifically asked the superintendent if the Equity Advisory Team was formed when the board agreed to work on its Equity policy and he said “no,” the board never voted to establish the committee. Yet, it is required by the CDE to show that the district is involving stakeholders. This appears to be another instance where the district is trying to do the minimum required and hoping not to actually be held accountable. But, Ernie DeTrinidad was paying attention and he blasted the district last Monday for not inviting DELAC representation on the committee, especially since the district has been found disproportionate in its identification of Hispanic students (along with African-American students) for suspension and expulsion. I asked the superintendent why DELAC wasn’t invited from the beginning and he said Jeanne Duarte-
    Armas was on the committee. But, I pointed out she is a staff person, not a community rep. He also said there were reps from another Hispanic organization. But, when I spoke to the rep from United Latino Voices, he said it was quite by accident that he was invited to participate, after he expressed an interest in finding out more about what was going on in the district. It doesn’t appear that the district made a very proactive effort to invite community participation on the Equity Advisory Team. Yet, members of the Leadership Team insist they are eager for public input. According to the superintendent, however, the team has all the public input it needs and no one else need bother inquiring about what it is doing.

  63. g Says:

    The January 2012 “SpecialEDition” speaks of getting a $45,000.00 Grant to support the funding of this group and its efforts to allay inequities. How is asking for, and spending Grant funds NOT Board approval.

    Maybe you should ask Willie Mims if he felt he was working at the behest of the Board, or what?

    In addition maybe to Guy Swanger, I count just three, what I would call “public” representatives on a “team” of 34. Maybe that meets CDE requirements to involve “stakeholders?” Maybe there is even more Grant money available to pay some “overtime” to staff?

  64. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: I agree there seemed to be very few actual public stakeholders. The Equity
    Advisory Team is heavy on district administrators.
    I didn’t know everyone there, but I counted the police chief, CAC rep, DLAC rep (Ernie DeTrinidad), Willie Mims and the United Voices rep as the only community stakeholders in a room full of district reps.

  65. g Says:

    The Rubric suggested by the 2006 “Preventing DISPROPORTIONALITY by Strengthening District Policies and Procedures — An Assessment and Strategic Planning Process” states:

    “In order to obtain multiple perspectives on the effectiveness of the district, a representative panel, including the superintendent, staff from each division, school personnel, and community members should be selected for the assessment team. [*]This does not preclude input from other interested members in the school and the community. Greater involvement from different groups increases not only the accuracy of the assessment but also the vested interest in accomplishing district Standards set as a result of assessing district practices.

    [*] I believe this means the public should have every right to not only attend, but provide input, and in the case of the press, report out to the public on what is being done at these meetings. How else is the public even made aware that they not only ‘may’ but ‘should’ participate in that decision making.

  66. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: I agree. The superintendent’s excuse for not posting agendas and minutes seemed unsubstantiated. And his desire to limit press and public access to the meeting seemed at odds with the stated goals of the meeting. If the district’s Equity Advisory Team truly wants to include feedback from the community it serves, then the superintendent should not be discouraging public participation or attempting to block press access to the meetings.

  67. g Says:

    Well, we are just a couple of weeks away from another Board Governance Workshop. Remember last year when the (apparently pre-coached) Facilitator chided Hansen for “editorializing” just one comment after Lawrence had done the same?

    Remember when you reported that the “Facilitator told trustees they are elected to represent the people. Employees have accountability. She asked how trustees are held accountable.”

    Remember this response:

    …Sherry Whitmarsh said “That happens at election time.”

    (I’m smiling now)

    We are stuck with current management and legal staff for (most likely) another year and a half. But, since we now have a board that seems more interested in openly representing the student’s and people’s interests (more than their own ego), we can hope for appropriate (required) changes in Lawrence’s and Rolen’s behavior.

    We are stuck with a couple of out-of-touch and increasingly contentious board members for a little less than two more years. Beyond making the meetings interesting, their behavior may become less than significant.

  68. Brian Lawrence Says:

    I agree with Jefferson when he wrote: “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

  69. Wait a Minute Says:

    G @67,

    There is no good reason to be stuck with certain incompetent/unethical senior managers/legal staff for another 1 1/2 years when all it would take is three votes by the board to deny the ill-advised if not illegal contract extensions pushed through by the Former Board majority.

    If the Current Board majority would just have the courage to do the right thing by the children and real owners of this district we could, in only SIX MONTHS BE RID of the machievellian unethical and incompetent players who still continue to try and use secrecy in order to benefit themselves as Stevie Lawrence did last night to Theresa.

    Even if it might cost us a little more money to do this it will be money well spent because we are currently throwing away much good money because of these people not fit to watch my dog much less to continuosly mis-manage my children’s educations ans squander our districts’s resources!

  70. Anon Says:

    TH-were other police departments at the meeting or only Concord?

  71. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: It’s possible there were reps from other police depts, but I’m not sure. I only recall seeing principals from Concord schools, so it appeared to be a Concord-focused meeting.

    Brian: Thanks. It would be nice if the superintendent shared the views of you and Jefferson.

    It was pretty ironic that the Equity Advisory Team talked about how important it is to build trust in the community and buy-in for the plan by making sure parents and the public have positive interactions with district staff.

    Bill Morones said: “For some of our parents, visiting a school is not a positive experience. When they walk on a campus, we want them to feel welcomed and loved and part of the Mt. Diablo family. One bad experience can turn them off.”

    Does the same philosophy apply to the district office?

  72. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another note, Jan. 31 is the deadline to purchase the “Chasing Rodriguez” video to help support MDUSD schools. Here’s a video about it featuring the superintendent:

  73. anon Says:

    Brian – I’m sure Tom would have been happy you agreed with him. Now, what are you going to do about it in the MDUSD?

  74. g Says:

    Brian and Cheryl if you’re reading: Hi! I have several questions that I hope will be addressed in some detail at the board meeting when the Equity Team gives its report.

    Understanding that due to prior lack of both Staff and Board oversight of growing equity and disproportionality issues, we had no choice but to convene this Advisory Committee:

    1) How much has been spent from its first planning stages (June 2010) to current 2013?
    2) We are aware of the $45K Grant received over a year ago. Does that amount cover the RTI and Mary Bacon (etc.) contracts as well as “overtime, mileage” for all of the meetings of 25+ staff members, plus additional meetings of sub-committees, over the last 15 months or so?
    3) If not, what is the cost to the district -so far?
    4) Which buckets are those expenses coming from–special ed, legal, general fund?
    5-a,b,c,)This all started in June 2010. When will plans begin to be adopted? Will they even benefit the students that are in school now? Will we see the rewards of these efforts (and expenditures) this year, next year, the next?
    6) Were the RTI and Bacon contracts brought to the board for approval?
    7) Is this, or is this not, a Standing Advisory Committee to the Board? It is certainly not an Ad Hoc committee. As I understand it, if the board told the Supt it was OK to spend funds and establish the committee for the purpose of “advising” the board, that makes it a Standing Committee.

    and finally:

    8) Is this (PowerPoint download) all we get for our money and a year of executive work-so far?

  75. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: The district intends to begin piloting some its corrective strategies from February to June and then to begin implementing the plan in the fall.

    Stephanie Roberts also distributed the draft plan to the Equity Advisory Team. I’ll try to scan it and post it later.

    Willie Mims said it was a lot to try to digest during the meeting and he said it would have been better if the committee had received it ahead of time so it could review it before discussing it. Roberts said staff had been working on it up to the last minute. But, staff already had portions of it done when it passed out information about it to the CAC, so Roberts could have at least provided the Equity Advisory Team ahead of time with the same information the CAC received.

  76. g Says:

    Yes, and it seems that since the PowerPoint document says it was last revised (revision #5) on 10/15/12, it probably was NOT worked on until ‘the last minute’.

    Does the most recent Draft plan differ much from the one they presented to the public on the 11/8/11 agenda?

  77. Doctor J Says:

    @G#76 You nailed it — not much “work” done since Nov 2011 — yet they cashed their checks every month. Actually, I hear rumor Mary Bacon is EXTREMELY upset about the lack of work by MDUSD — it reflects on her with CDE.

  78. Brian Lawrence Says:

    @ 73 I’m planning on working to get it fixed.

  79. g Says:

    In June 2010, MDUSD was among roughly only 8.5% of the Calif. districts found to be heavily lacking in Equity and Proportionality. But, that wasn’t the first time! Although they stated that “addressing this challenge is critical” it took until the following Spring to convene a committee that then (in toto) only met four times in 2011. However, based on Mr. Mims’ comment, it would appear that the 3-4 public members of that august committee of 34 were, for lack of a more appropriate term, “token” members. While they surveyed, and questioned and schmoozed, this PLAN, like most, could not be trusted to the common man for its final content. After three years of sitting on their fading laurels, THAT chore was left to the very SAME people who got us into the Disproportionality mess to begin with!

    The district was “first informed” of disproportionality in 2008.

    Although this is called the “Condensed Version” of their PLAN (and it takes a while to load and debug itself) I couldn’t help but notice a reference to the “Superintendent’s State of the District 2011-12 Report” that should be an attachment.

    Huh? He does an annual “State of the District” report? Is that the same as “Good News” reports? Or is that the 2-3 minute lead-in to the Budget report.

    This is one of those really long URLs so hope it doesn’t kill the blog and hope it works!

  80. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    You know what? I believe Brian Lawrence when he tells us “I’m planning on working to get it fixed”.

    I see he is trying to provide live feeds of the board meetings (still have audio kinks to work out) so those of us who can’t attend in person can hear and see what is (and isn’t) happening at the meetings;

    I see he is reading and responding to questions / comments on blogs, in person, in emails and on the phone; I hear him ask the hard questions at the baord meetings;

    I imagine he has a notepad on his PC that is starting to fill up with all the bits and pieces to chase that have been hanging around for some time now and never quite being resolved.

    You know, like the status of the non-secured laptop theft, as well as the security issues of all the former/current employees of MDUSD and Berkeley and how our tech ops department / staff will ensure proper policy & security going forward;

    maybe we can get an update on the student restroom conditions at MDHS and if the teachers still have no confidence in the principal or if those issues were finally corrected;

    maybe we will finally start to see the district website get cleaned up or at least updated in the next few months so the pages show a current date (last revised 2009 – really?) with relevant information and documentation filed in an organized and easy to find / read manner – all those studies we (yes we, the public) paid for but haven’t been able to read because Rolen is hiding them;

    maybe now we will see some progress and forward movement as our new board is digging in …

  81. Doctor J Says:

    The most significant development occurred last night when Supt Steven Lawrence tried to prevent a member of the press from attending a public meeting — see post #55. As I recall, this same tactic worked one time on TH, but not this time. It almost appeared to me that Steven Lawrence was ready to have her arrested. I would have hoped the editorial board of the Times would have stood behind her with all of their scarce resources. After the completion of his evaluation, will the Board have the fortitude to call him before the board and discipline him for this attempted violation of the Brown Act ? Who put him up to this cowardly act ?

  82. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Dr J @ 81:
    I want to know why The Supt approached TH as she was entering – he was waiting specifically for her – and then missed a good portion of the meeting while trying to keep her out.

    I want to know why he LIED about the meeting being closed to the public (doesn’t he even read the agendas of meetings he is attending?).

    I want to know why he “allowed” TH in only on her word not to video tape or live blog during the meeting – what was he trying to hide / keep from getting out to the general public? the fact that only 2 or 3 of the 25 or more attendees for this committee are NOT staff?

    I want him to explain exactly why there are no minutes of this meeting after the fact? Why isn’t the agenda posted? Someone did the work to create (or copy an old one) so Don’t tell me it takes to much to much work – that is an excuse, not a reason – and a pisspoor excuse to boot. If that many staff can attend a meeting, at least one of them can post the agenda and another can take / post minutes! His response to that question should be that he will make sure agendas are posted prior to the meetings staring with the very next meeting, and that minutes are taken and posted within 2 business days of the meeting occurrence.

  83. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It’s possible the district doesn’t want to post all the reports that it has received through the Equity Advisory Team, which include a self-assessment about the root causes of the disproportionality.
    One of the solutions is a community climate survey. Finally, MDUSD will take off its blinders and ask the community what it thinks of the district.
    Also, Ernie DeTrinidad asked many good questions, even though he hadn’t been to any of the previous meetings. In fact, Roberts said she appreciated his perspective, since many other people would likely have the same questions. This is the benefit of actually allowing members of the public to attend.
    One of his best questions was: What will the district do if one of its own employees is the problem, ie. not treating people from different cultural backgrounds with respect?
    Bill Morones said emphatically that every school employee will be held accountable for complying with the district’s Equity Policy by the school principal.
    “We have raised the bar,” he said. “We will hold them accountable.”
    Morones said he, Rose Lock and Susan Petersen would oversee this accountability.

    HFO: His response about posting the agendas and minutes was that the district couldn’t possibly do it because there are so many committees.

    I will try to scan and post the agenda as well. Interestingly, they didn’t appear to actually be following it, since they ended up spending all of the time when I was present talking about the report. I don’t know if they talked about the other items sooner, or just skipped them altogether.

  84. g Says:

    Lawrence may have decided to try that all on his own. Much like the “token” members of the public on that Committee, the nice words of “Welcome” on the agenda are a ruse so that if anyone ever complains that they were not informed… they could say “but…everyone was welcome.”

    All those old adages come to mind. Actions speak louder than words; the pen is mightier than the sword….

    I suspect he was afraid she would report the contents of their work, and he didn’t want anyone to ‘steal the limelight’ before the documents went to the full board and the public.

    How does that next old saying go…na na na na na naaa.

    Lawrence needs to mind his manners!

  85. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The conversations were very candid, including the topic of racism. It’s possible the superintendent may have been worried about that. But, as previously mentioned, Morones said racism will not be tolerated.

    Regarding our conversation, at one point, after the superintendent told me the public couldn’t just drop in and start making suggestions, I said: “Are you telling me that no member of the public, who is not a member of this committee, has EVER sat in on an Equity Advisory Team meeting?”

    He said he couldn’t be positive, since he hadn’t attended every meeting, but he didn’t think so.

  86. Kristi Buchholz Says:

    In reading your post at #55, I too am unaware of the City of Concord refusing to provide liability coverage for volunteer crossing guards.
    MDUSD is not inclined to allow volunteers and have them covered under their liability insurance.

  87. Doctor J Says:

    Was Dr. Mary Bacon there, and what did she have to say ? Have they identified what the cause of the disproportionality is ? If they don’t know the cause, its going to be hard to fix it. Where are they going to get the money to fix it if the district is already spending at a ten million deficit ?

  88. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Kristi, The superintendent told the board on Monday that the city hadn’t shown interest in providing indemnification. However, the police chief told me that to his knowledge, the district hadn’t even asked the city about that. The superintendent also said, “I can understand the city’s point of view because the crossing guards cost them money.” So, he appeared to be giving the impression the city had expressed an opinion that it wasn’t interested in providing liability insurance. Also, Greg Rolen said the district wanted to see if perhaps the district could share the liability, appearing to be offering a compromise. But, if the city never told the district it was unwilling to provide liability insurance, it’s unclear why the superintendent and Rolen characterized the ongoing conversations the way they did.

    Here are video clips from the meeting:
    Part 1:
    Part 2:

    The police chief told me the city had trained the volunteers with the superintendent’s blessing. Then, at the last minute, Rolen appears to have told the superintendent that the district needed to consider its liability and the whole program came to a grinding halt. Once again, it appears that the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. If the superintendent and Rolen had discussed the proposal before the superintendent approached the city, negotiations could have been carried out more effectively and volunteers wouldn’t be getting their hopes up, then having them dashed, then wondering what will happen next. Maybe now the police chief will begin to understand why some people don’t trust the district.

    Since CC Times columnist Tom Barnidge was at the meeting to write about the contract extensions, he heard the entire discussion about crossing guards and has written about that too:

  89. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Yes, Mary Bacon was there and she said she thought the district had done a good job on its draft plan. Although the district is now only required to address its significant disproportionality for over-identifying African-Americans for special education, the plan also provides some strategies expected to help all students. In addition, it provides some strategies to try to address the district’s over-identification of African-Americans and Hispanics for suspensions and expulsions. When some on the committee asked why there weren’t more specific strategies just related to Hispanics, Bacon said she thought it was important not to get bogged down singling out one group or another.

    Yes, there were several root causes identified, which I will outline in a separate blog post. The money is supposed to come from the special ed budget. But, I didn’t hear any discussion of what will be cut to provide that money (maybe that happened while the superintendent detained me in the lobby). Obviously, the board will need to consider that.

    The Pittsburg district is in the same boat and is discussing its plan tonight.

  90. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In other news, I have received an email from two El Dorado MS parents who are dissatisfied with the algebra instruction there, due to a teacher who is on medical leave being replaced by substitutes — some of whom do not know the subject or do not have good classroom control. Although the principal and district have been responsive, the parents are still not satisfied. The district has gone down this road before with Northgate, Clayton Valley HS and Sun Terrace Elem. Let’s hope it doesn’t take the district all year to figure out how to solve this problem. The first semester is almost over.

    I also received an anonymous letter today from someone who characterized himself or herself as a district educator, complaining about a lot of different things, including the laptop theft and a of myriad payroll problems. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about payroll problems, yet they seem to continue. Where is the accountability there?

  91. Doctor J Says:

    Is the mud becoming clearer ? Deficit spending by $10 million, no money for crossing guards to protect young children, just spent $100,000 for a laptop left on top of a desk on Friday night, 3 buses wrecked, Steven Lawrence is going to solve a “substantially disproportionate” racial designation in Special Ed, solve over suspensions of racial minorities, all by some hocus pocus money shell game with Special Education funds — oh, and El Dorado MS can’t hire a long term Algebra sub ? No wonder Steven tried to lock the doors — I guess they were Columbine locks, eh ?

  92. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of how much the laptop theft is costing, I had a call from someone who read in my story that Rolen told the board the ID theft protection cost $27.50 per person. He said he had gone to the wrong ID theft website initially because the district put the wrong link in its letter and that the service cost $27.50 per month, or $330 per person for 12 months. If all 18,000 people affected signed up for it, it could cost $5.6 million, which would exceed the district’s $1 million in liability insurance, he speculated.
    However, it’s possible the district got a discount, which could explain why Rolen said $27.50 per person.

  93. g Says:

    I also believe it is actually $27.50 per month. That’s about a 60% discount for the full package the district is buying. The district has a habit of just cutting sentences a bit short when they bump up against a dollar sign. That is why Rolen said ‘we’re almost up to [having already spent] the full $100K of Retention’–over 1800 had signed up (so far) but they were signing up at an average of 500 per week.

    I would have liked to have the insurance question put a bit clearer. Does the $million cover just actual employee losses, and maybe lawsuits?

    I didn’t get the impression that it paid for ANY of the Experian enrollments even if/when those enrollments exceed our Retention–??

  94. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: Then the caller has an excellent point. I hope the board asks for another update about this on Monday.
    Perhaps the El Dorado MS algebra subs could use some real life district math with the students: (12)$27.50x = y. Rolen can give them the latest number for x (number of employees signed up to date) and the students can solve for y, telling the board how much this is costing.

    I noted that only Julie Braun-Martin sat at the dais with the superintendent during the special board meeting. Richards and the other assistant superintendents weren’t there. And Richards wasn’t there Jan. 14 when the laptop theft was discussed.

  95. Doctor J Says:

    Crime blotter: any copies of the CHP accident reports on the three crashed buses ? Did the Chief produce the video yet of the laptop burglar ?

  96. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have been working on a long-term project at work and haven’t had a chance to follow up. The chief hasn’t called yet.

  97. g Says:

    Dr. J gave us the link to a copy of the insurance policy. I think it is pretty clear, and we spent $100,000.00 in the FIRST month, with only coverage of $250,000.00 After that to cover Notification and annual cost:


    Privacy Notification Cost B. 250,000 Policy Aggregate Limit of Liability for each
    Insured/Member Privacy Notification Costs covered under Insuring Agreement B.

    Specific Coverage Provisions. …Privacy Notification Costs means costs incurred within one year of the reporting of the incident or suspected incident to the
     To hire security experts
     Notification provisions
     Public relations mitigation up to $50,000 subject to 20% coinsurance
     Credit monitoring for the purpose of mitigating potential damages
    and are subject to 20% coinsurance
    o One year of Credit file monitoring,
    o Mailing and third party administrative costs


    So it looks to me like in addition to the first $100K, we are on the hook for anything above $250K with Experian, and actually even more because there is a 20% coinsurance clause on all of it.

  98. Doctor J Says:

    @G#97 The key to unlocking the mysterious cover-up is the MOTIVE of those covering up. There is more than monthly fees in the $250,000 limit: add “security experts” “notification” “public relations” and the credit monitoring with the 20% co-insurance, plus mailing and “third party administrative costs”. Remember also Rolen said he hired “coverage counsel” — how much was that and unlikely covered by insurance ? I looked up what “co-insurance” means — its not a deductible. Its a penalty if you don’t maintain the appropriate level of insurance for the risk you are insuring. Here is a primer and it sounds complicated, but the bottom line is that if the district didn’t fully disclose the property being insured, there might be trouble down the road. Someone needs to get a copy of the declarations page to see if the district acted properly in its insurance application by the “Risk Management Department” managed by none other than Greg Rolen. As Yogi Berra said: “Its not over until its over.”

  99. g Says:

    Yeah, I’d like to see the whole policy too. That $250K I mention is “in the aggregate” for all insureds (everybody we share the policy with), so we may have much less than that amount to help the bottom line (?)

  100. Theresa Harrington Says:

    MDUSD is not the only district with community trust issues.
    Here’s the latest from Brentwood, where a special education teacher who kicked a 5-year-old was transferred to another classroom, before the boy’s family won a settlement from the district that required her to stop working with children:

    Could this happen in MDUSD? Anyone who works with children is REQUIRED to immediately report suspected abuse directly to police or CPS. It is NOT necessary to inform your principal or the district. That’s what it means to be a mandated reporter. Unfortunately, many school employees don’t seem to understand this and their bosses aren’t making it clear to them.

  101. g Says:

    How much training should Mandatory Reporting laws take? Hire a few consultants, pull teachers out of class, send them to training in and out of district, hire a few coaches to watch them in class? Bull!

    How hard would it be to include this in Every Parent/Student Booklet. How hard would it be to have Every Teacher and Administrator sign a document upon being hired and each school year, indicating that they have received a copy and Understand the law, and put a copy in Every Teacher Performance Expectation (TPE guide) and post it in Every School Office?

    Here’s a simple but good example of what it says in a Parent/Student Booklet in Acton, Ca. The Teacher’s copy only needs the first two paragraphs:

    ~~~What is child abuse? The following definition is taken from Penal Code
    Sections 273 and 11165.5: Child abuse is a physical injury, which is inflicted by
    other than accidental means on a child by another person. Child abuse also
    includes sexual abuse and willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment of a child.
    Failure to safeguard a child from injuries or abuse when the child is under a
    person’s care or custody may also be child abuse.

    ~~~Mandated reporting: State law requires that if physical abuse, sexual abuse, or
    neglect of a child is suspected, school personnel must report the information to
    the Department of Children’s Services. School personnel are not allowed to
    investigate or confirm the situation themselves by contacting parents or others.

    ~~~How to file a complaint of child abuse by school district employees or others at school sites:

    A parent or guardian of a pupil has the right to file a complaint against a school district employee or other person that they suspect has engaged in abuse of a child at a school site. The complaint may be filed with
    the Child Protective Agency, the School District, or the County Office of Education.

    Note–Failure to safeguard a child may itself be considered Child Abuse!!!

  102. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a separate blog post about the superintendent’s attempt to exclude me from the Equity Advisory Team meeting, which includes follow-up by Board President Cheryl Hansen:

  103. Doctor J Says:

    Before we lose the “moment” of last week, I hope there can be some followup on the copies of the CHP accident reports on the three crashed buses AND the Chief’s promise to produce the video of the laptop burglar ?
    I also hope that based on last nights discussion, we will get more complete details on the costs to the district and the particulars of the insurance policy.

  104. Giorgio C. Says:

    This item regarding the math teacher is worthy of its own column. I’ll say more tomorrow. As a science teacher, I witnessed this scenario over and over with respect to both math and science classes. Kids being taught math and science by subs or non-credentialed teachers.

    I hope you are ready to jump on this item in a big way, Theresa. I’ll organize a protest march to any school where this is currently happening. These children are being ROBBED of their right to an education. There is no excuse for it.

  105. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Giorgio: The parents have given me permission to post their letters without their last names, along with the responses they and other parents have received from the principal and district. I will try to do a blog post about that later.

  106. Giorgio C. Says:

    Sounds good, Theresa.

  107. Giorgio C. Says:

    Isn’t not providing a math teacher addressed by the Williams Complaint process?

    “B) a lack of qualified teachers such that (1) the student attends a class or classes for which no permanent teacher is assigned; “

  108. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, absolutely. Those parents who aren’t satisfied with the level of math instruction being offered could file a Williams complaint. However, the district is providing additional tutoring, I believe.

  109. Giorgio C. Says:

    Additional tutoring doesn’t address one key issue, and that is getting buy-in from some students who might be lacking in motivation. From my experience, they saw conflicting messages. We were telling them to value education, yet we often didn’t provide qualified instructors. Yes, education is so important that we are giving you a substitute teacher…again.

    And when is tutoring offered? After school? When some kids are working or possibly playing sports, etc. They should have split the class up, placing the students in a classroom with a qualified instructor, but I suppose the union would have a cow if a tenured teacher felt overloaded. I can’t believe I keep hearing about this same scenario being repeated over and over again, often with math and science instructors.

    My first teaching job was to rescue a few science classes who had no teacher. The substitutes had them write essays and watch movies. They had not been doing science for 4 weeks.

    I look forward to reading the letters, Theresa.

  110. Annie CSEA Says: is excellant to learn the law. You take the class online and do a 20 question test at the end.There is a general training one(you have to take first) and an educator one. I took both. At the end of each training (if you pass the test)you print out a certicate with your name on it. I was a State Humane Officer about 15 years ago and we were mandated reporters. I had to go to a 2 day intense training.After I took this online training I was shocked at how much I did’nt remember or how much had changed. It was very scary. I have spoke more then once to the Board and District of how very important it is for their employees to know the law.We need to be proactive and not reactive.

  111. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Annie, Did the district provide this training or did you do it on your own? In Brentwood, special ed assistants who saw a teacher kick a student did not report it to police or CPS because they feared retaliation. Do you think instructional assistants in MDUSD know their responsibility to report suspected abuse to police or CPS? The law also protects employees who make reports from retaliation.

  112. Annie CSEA Says:

    I went online myself and found it. I was so concerned about my members not knowing the law. Yes, I do believe they are afraid of retaliation or not being a team player. You heard my idea of a team player in the District at the last Board meeting.I think everyone in the District should take this online class.Check it out Theresa, I think you will find it very informative. I do not believe they know the scope of their responsibility as a mandated reporter.Better safe then sorry.

  113. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Annie, This is very interesting, since the district recently responded to a Bay Area News Group survey about mandated reporting in which the district claimed that all mandated reporters receive training annually. Are you aware of CSEA members being trained annually by the district?

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