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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.

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