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MDUSD board president asks superintendent to be more welcoming and transparent to press and public regarding meetings

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, January 24th, 2013 at 12:54 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Covering the Mt. Diablo school district is never dull. But, this week, I had to stand up to Superintendent Steven Lawrence to insist on my right to attend an Equity Advisory Team meeting where a committee was discussing the district’s draft plan to address the fact that the state has found it significantly over-identifies African-American students for special education, labeling many “emotionally disturbed.”

This is an important issue that the district has been working on for more than a year. In addition, it over-identifies African-Americans and Hispanic students for suspensions and expulsions, according to the state.

I heard a report about this at a recent special education Community Advisory Committee meeting, where the presenter invited other members of the committee to attend the Tuesday Equity Advisory Team meeting.

But, when I started to walk into the Equity Advisory Team meeting, Lawrence quickly stood and said, “Ms. Harrington,” (while the meeting was in progress) and asked me to step outside.

He tried to prevent me from attending the meeting, saying that it wasn’t open to the public. I told him the CAC presentation had given me the impression that anyone could attend. He said he didn’t know who made that presentation, 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 about the work the committee is doing. He said he didn’t know why that administrator would have invited me.

Lawrence said 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 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 because there are so many. But, he said the public could see the finished report when it is presented to the board on Monday.

Further, 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.

When I saw how intent he was on turning me away, I decided to compromise. So, I asked him if I could attend the meeting 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.

So, true to my word, I sat and took notes on my laptop. I didn’t videotape, live blog or tweet.

But, I was surprised when I looked at the agenda and saw that it was in fact a public meeting after all and that recording was allowed.

Under “introductions,” the agenda 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.” The agenda also allowed for “Public Comment” from people who were not on the Equity Advisory Team.

So, why was he trying to bar me from the meeting?

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. 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 also said the district needs to change its mindset and allow the public to see how business is being conducted.

Hansen informed me today in an email that she spoke to the superintendent about his actions. Here is what she wrote:

“I followed up with the superintendent about the incident with you yesterday. I told him that we have to find ways to be more transparent and welcoming to the public and the press. It’s just better PR (Public Relations). I suggested that the district:

1. Post all meetings on the district’s online calendar and, when people click on the posting, they would be able to see agendas and other information showing the purpose of the committees and what they’re discussing. Relevant documents/reports could actually be linked there as well.

2. Take the initiative to inform and actually invite the press to our public meetings.

3. Make sure committee members are emailed information prior to the meetings so they can prepare ahead of time and make meetings more productive.

Thanks for letting me know what happened because it helps keep the focus on more transparency and accountability.”

Somewhat ironically, the need to communicate better with the public also came up during the committee meeting. The draft report stated that one of the root causes of the over-identification is that some parents don’t trust the district and may not feel comfortable discussing their children’s needs with school staff. The draft plan emphasizes the need to warmly welcome parents (and the public), so they don’t have a negative impression of the district.

Bill Morones, director of secondary education, 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.”

After the meeting, I tweeted about the superintendent’s attempt to exclude me. Recently elected Trustee Brian Lawrence followed up with this tweet: “(Thomas) Jefferson: ‘Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.'”

Do you agree with Hansen’s suggestions for greater district transparency?

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

174 Responses to “MDUSD board president asks superintendent to be more welcoming and transparent to press and public regarding meetings”

  1. Wendy Lack Says:

    Two observations:

    1. If the District is unable or unwilling to post agendas and related documents for all of its public committee meetings, then it has no business convening such committees. Publicizing government committees, their purposes and their activities are essential, core functions of government.

    2. If current management is unable or unwilling to implement practices to achieve public transparency, then the Board should replace them. As it stands, the District Board appears to be playing a game of Whack-a-Mole — when one problem is solved, another immediately pops up. This is not only tiresome, it is UNACCEPTABLE. The residents of this District expect and deserve high-performance schools run by competent leaders with integrity and know-how.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    What was the Supt’s response ? His actions speak louder than words. He needs to get out in front of this story and be proactive. The stories were legion this last week how he was scrambling for reports for his evaluation, but he had to have staff TRY and explain what they meant. I heard from several sources that even Lynne Dennler is questioning the equity report as “piling on” more and more responsibilities on teachers and administrators without giving them any help. The studies they are using to justify the actions have lots of teacher support and administrator support that MDUSD doesn’t provide.

  3. Wait a Minute Says:


    I agree with ypur statements wholeheartedly.

    Unfortunately, under Stevie Lawrence and Greg Rolen this district will NEVER conduct itself with integrity or competence because they have none as amply demonstrated over time with too many examples to count.

    When I inquired about Stevie Lawrence in his last two districts (West Sac and Roseville) I was told that this was his total (and his sidekick Sue Brothers BTW) M.O.

    It was well known that he had a penchant for secrecy and unethical decisions, which only makes sense since they tend to go hand in hand.

    In fact, West Sac told me he and Sue Brothers had obvious contempt for the public and after they left the far more successful Superintendent that replaced him stated that one of their main goals was to repair the damage done previously to the public’s trust!

    As far as Rolen goes, he is even worse if its possible because of the naked corruption he has repeatedly engaged in (in my opinion).

    Both of them are as Machievelian as I have ever seen in school leadership and should be replaced as soon as possible for the good of the organization because they ARE BAD FOR OUR CHILDREN!!!

    These are the types of people that give public servants a bad reputation and I pray that the board will have the courage to do the right thing and hard thing here and not renew their contacts so we can be rid of them in only six months and they can hire new leaders that are competent and have integrity.

    I can’t wait to read the editorial from Tom Barnidge about these contract extensions and I have a feeling his opinion is similar to mine.

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

    According to a follow-up email from Hansen: “The superintendent also intends to take this issue and these ideas to Cabinet so I’ll watch for follow up and results.”

    As I have mentioned, the board previously cut Resource teachers and Resource Assistants, which could have provided the interventions that it now realizes are lacking. But, instead of hiring them back, the district’s new plan calls for more professional development for teachers, hiring a few teacher coaches and “implementing districtwide” a whole lot of things it supposedly already had in place, including: Response to Intervention, Student Support Teams, a “functioning” Coordinate CARE Team, Support Calls and Positive Behavior programs. In addition, it plans to “implement” things a lot schools are already doing, including life skills training. It also includes school climate training, which I know the district has already offered to many schools, since Mildred Browne invited me to attend the training.

    One of the strategies that shows just how bad things are now, is to train staff on data inputting. It turns out a lot of the data the district is using for its data analysis hasn’t been input correctly!

    WAM: Here is Barnidge’s column, which already ran:

  5. Wendy Lack Says:

    One other observation:

    Attempting to ban a reporter from a public meeting is the height of stupidity.

    Someone this flat-out stupid is poorly-suited to leadership.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    ACLU tells State Board its going to sue state and districts for underserving English learners in over 251 districts [26%]. Meanwhile Steven Lawrence continues to stall over implementation of the MDUSD EL Master Plan while he now pays attention to the Significant Disproportionality crisis — one crisis to another, and none of them solved. Lets not forgot about AB 1575 on Student Fees — hasn’t even told us how the District is paying for PE uniforms. From the ACLU:

  7. Doctor J Says:

    As a follow up to the ACLU threat to sue the state and districts where EL are underserved, here are MDUSD’s statistics.
    Compare that with the number of bilingual professionals.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Funny you should mention this. One of the strategies in the disproportionality plan is: “Make a concerted effort to increase the number of culturally competent African American staff members to which these students and families can relate irrespective of the roles they hold.”

    Ernie DeTrinidad specifically asked why the plan didn’t similarly identify the need to make the same effort to increase the number of culturally competent Hispanic staff members, since they are also being over-identified for suspensions and expulsions. He also made the point that there are far more Hispanic students in the district than African-American students. The district’s response was that it is not “significantly” disproportionate with regard to Hispanic suspensions and expulsions yet. This is also when Mary Bacon said it was important not to be divisive by pitting one group against another. But, DeTrinidad’s suggestion couldn’t hurt and it was surprising that it was shot down so quickly. Although the Equity Advisory Team said it wanted public input, it appeared to have its draft plan ready to go and didn’t seem to want to make any substantial changes.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    There seems in the last few weeks to be a sudden change in the strategy — probably cost driven. I am almost going to predict that rather than working with students who have behavior issues, the plan is to pull them from their regualr class and sink them in specialized classrooms of “trouble” makers — with just teacher coaches and no trained behavior modificationists. Its just a modern day version of the prision island.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    I would hope that Dr. Mary Bacon has some academic studies that validate the new approach, and further tnat she can show us that she has recommended this approach here in this district and in others with great success.

  11. Theresa Harrington Says:

    While the plan does include implementing alternatives to suspensions, it also includes hiring “behavior teacher coaches to work with schools and support and coach teachers” and hiring “behaviorists to train and coach teachers and provide counseling to at-risk students.” This puts a bigger burden on teachers, expecting them to deal with behavior issues instead of merely sending kids out of the classroom.

    Dr. J: Stephanie Roberts told me the district has been working with other districts such as Pittsburg, comparing plans. I have requested a copy of Pittsburg’s presentation and report from last night. Unlike MDUSD, their agendas don’t include links to staff reports and supporting documents:

    WCCUSD, which is not on the significant disproportionality list, has made a concerted effort to reduce suspensions through an innovative “restorative justice” program. I’m surprised MDUSD isn’t even considering that.

    I have received Pittsburg’s Powerpoint from last night, but not the draft plan. At a glance, it looks pretty similar to MDUSD’s, but with a greater emphasis on mental health prevention.
    MDUSD plans to hire TWO behavior health specialists to work with coaches, provide in-classroom support AND provide counseling support to students. Will two people with such a myriad of duties really be able to devote a significant amount of time counseling students?

  12. Doctor J Says:

    Are there job descriptions to support the new staff ? Of is this just make it up as you go ? How about organizational charts ?

  13. g Says:

    If the first official notice of disproportionality was presented in 2008, why did the Doctors This and Directors That just sit on it?

    Because, nobody MAKES you do anything until you hit years 3-4 without correction, and anyway–you have an employment contract.

    It shouldn’t have taken any ‘official’ reprimand for the district to notice (long before 2008 even) a growing imbalance in something as simple to see as –yes– skin color and ethnicity.

    Management’s Scarlet O’Hara approach to the woes of this district are astounding, but fall directly in line with several years of their Rhett Butler approach.

    And yet, who was entrusted with taking the programs and protocols and training that already exist, wasting years of student lives and education opportunity, playing 52 card pick-up, and tossing those protocols right back on the table? Whose every solution to their problems seems to be “contract with someone from outside to do our jobs for us?” Whose mind-bending determination is it that “What we have here is a failure to communicate–so let’s hire someone to teach us how?”

    And the answer is: The Rhett and Scarlet Team. The very same people who sat on their hands, cashed their checks, and either created the mess or turned a blind eye to it. The only difference it seems is now they’ve added a Joker to the deck.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: All that the Equity Advisory Team received was the “Executive Summary,” which includes short paragraphs describing each position: Admin/coord, consultant/training contract, behavior teacher coach, behavior health specialist, and secondary intervention support teacher FTE allocation.
    Hopefully, the full report presented to the board will include more detailed job descriptions along with COSTS and an org chart, which were totally left out of the executive summary.

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just received an email from Trustee Barbara Oaks, who said that all the board members received an email from a district resident complaining that the superintendent had tried to block me from attending the Equity Advisory Team meeting. So, even those who don’t read my blog are now aware of what happened.

  16. Doctor J Says:

    Can anyone find another Mary Bacon report on Disproportionality to see what she helped develop in another district ? I just get the impression her efforts are being frustrated by Size 14 internal forces.

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Roberts told me that some of the districts identified as “significantly disproportionate” last year have improved so much that they got off the list this year. Many, however, have not. It would be prudent to find out what those who got off the list did.

  18. g Says:

    And this year’s List is reported…where?

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have a call into the CDE to find out if it’s online. According to the list, which I received from Pittsburg reporter Eve Mitchell, Pittsburg and MDUSD are the only Contra Costa County districts significantly disproportionate in terms of over-identifying African-Americans for special education, based on “emotional disturbance”:

    District Name



















































  20. Jack Weir Says:

    Now we’re in the soup, as was predicted if/when a new board was elected. The systematic veil of secrecy/cover-up is being blown away. Top-level district mismanagagement is all-too apparent.
    Those on the new board committed to openness are faced with a serious challenge of identifying and prioritizing necesssary actions; Wendy’s “Wack-A-Mole” fits well.
    Of course, under normal circumstances the board would be able to rely on their superintendent and general counsel for professional support. In this case, it seems clear that those two are the main problem, rather than the solution. They have to go, right now, no matter what the cost. Given the bond debacle, ditto the CFO. The board should terminate them immediately, and let lawyers negotiate a settlement. As additional proof of malfeasance surfaces, those negotiations should become easier and cheaper.
    Hansen is on the right track, and deserves full community support.

  21. Wendy Lack Says:

    School Choice Week starts Monday, January 27th. This is a good reminder about the importance of transparency for both public and private schools. Parents need quality information when choosing a school. Easy availability of up-to-date info on key performance metrics is essential to making good choices.

    For more info, see:

  22. Wait a Minute Says:

    Jack @20,

    I agree they are the problem and have to go. However, I think the best way to be rid of them is to simply NOT approve their illegal contract extensions and then they will be gon in only 6 months.

    Of course in the meantime the board should start an exhaustive search to find highly competent and ethical replacements and hire them as soon as they are identified.

    Another option for district legal is to simply contract out (which they already do anyways for the vast majority of the real legal work) and simply eliminate the in-house counsel.

    I believe these solutions would prove to be the least costly compared to straight up termination even though there is ample reason and cause to do so.

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have received Pittsburg’s draft plan. It’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions and supports include not only behavior intervention, but also mental health intervention delivered by a school psychologist to small groups and academic intervention in reading and math delivered by a certificated staff member. MDUSD’s plan does not include direct mental health and academic interventions. Instead, Student Success and Coordinated CARE teams will meet to discuss students’ needs and the district plans to implement Response to Intervention, but it’s unclear specifically what action will be taken.
    Pittsburg’s draft plan shows it will allot $231,807 to its plan, or 15 percent of its $1.5 million FY 2012-13 IDEA allotment. The plan also includes a detailed budget.

  24. g Says:

    MDUSD meets to DISCUSS students—Pittsburg meets WITH students— We’ll wait to see which approach will be more successful FOR students….

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Agenda for Monday’s meeting is posted, including draft disproportionality report, crossing guard update and report that administrator contracts are expected to be brought back to the board Feb. 25:

    Interestingly, a translator contract is on the consent calendar:

    Wasn’t district staff supposed to bring back translation contracts for all four vendors to be reviewed by the board? Victor Gomez told me he got a contract for just under $25,000 that didn’t come to the board. And now we see Evelina Villa getting a contract extension with no discussion about CTI and AIS and whether AIS agreed to renegotiate lower terms.

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In looking through some old files, I see that it was exactly a year ago that Hansen first brought up the idea of the public input meetings, which are also on Monday’s agenda.
    Initially, she wanted them to be opportunities for the public to give the board and superintendent feedback on their job performance. Now, perhaps she could add the general counsel and CFO to the list of administrators the public could weigh in on.

  27. vindex Says:

    @wait a minute… I couldn’t agree more with this statement “Unfortunately, under Stevie Lawrence and Greg Rolen this district will NEVER conduct itself with integrity or competence because they have none as amply demonstrated over time with too many examples to count.”

  28. g Says:

    Alicia! Wendy! Help…I see Isom is back at the Bond well. Weren’t the 2002 Series-2006 bonds themselves Refunding bonds–for something from way back in the ’90s that themselves were used to refund something from waaay back in the ’80s?

    What can we BUILD for students today (besides a debtors prison) from bond money being used to pay prior 10-20-30 year old debt? I’m confused!

    Aren’t we dragging out to (at last count) 2031 bonds (with huge balloons in the last two years that would have been paid off much sooner, or even years and years ago, and probably not at any higher overall cost if we had left the Original bonds alone.

    That’s OK, let your grandchildren pay for what was built in the 80’s and 90’s, and torn down already, and rebuilt in the 2000’s and now again in the ’10s!

    It would be great if we actually saved the more than $7million alluded to on paper. But I can’t help but get stuck on things like balloon payments, and insurance and credit enhancement that doesn’t say ‘how much’ that is, and the more than $285,000.00 that Isom and crew get to do this ‘favor’ for us.

    And are we selling bonds now to refund bonds that we can’t even redeem until 2014?


  29. Doctor J Says:

    Why are the committee assignments back on the Agenda after being approved last meeting ? Apparently Steven Lawrence wants some of the committees to be “secret” without posted agendas and public attendance.

    And the AB 1575 language — sure appears to me to stigmatize parents by pressuring them to say their child cannot afford to attend. Those documents are not policy — the policy is the law — those are to discourage families who cannot afford to pay.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    I think the Supt’s contract already expired automatically effectively June 30 by his failure to notify the Board by January 1.

  31. Giorgio C. Says:

    There is something wrong with the title of this article. The board president “asks” the superintendent to be more welcoming and transparent?

    If the president understands their duties, the title of this article would read “The board president reminds the superintendent to be more welcoming and transparent in accordance with the standards articulated in the yearly performance evaluation if they expect to keep their job.” Have the expectations and performance standards been clearly articulated to the Superintendent?

    Any indication of unsatisfactory performance or inappropriate behavior, etc., should be formally documented somehow, yes? Documentation of performance of any employee is critical. Or is it only us rank-and-file worker-bees who receive such little goodies as counseling memos and other forms of progressive discipline for purpose of documenting our actions before we are sent packing. I’m a better employee because of it. Trust me, it works!

  32. anon Says:

    Can we add “truthful” and ask the same of Principal McClatchy? She’s been working on “friendly” though it is obvious that it is forced. “Truthful” is much more difficult. Staff have found that to be lacking.

  33. g Says:

    Dr. J @29: Compare to the list from 1/14. The Committees have been shuffled, renamed, rearranged. Looks like they had a game of Go Fish to determine who was boss after Steven blocked “his” committee’s door from the press.

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As stated in the staff reported, they were shuffled according to Trustee Linda Mayo’s request. And yes, it appears that some committees are being designated as “Manager’s Committees” instead of “Board Committees.” However, I don’t believe that gives the superintendent the right to exclude the press or public from them, especially since the Parent Advisory Council meetings are among these.

    Giorgio: The board president does not have the authority by herself to direct the superintendent and I don’t think that being welcoming and transparent are specifically stated performance evaluation goals for him, although they probably should be. Then, if he isn’t, the board could document that, as you state.

    Anon: Certainly all district employees should be expected to be “truthful.” Have you taken your concerns to Bill Morones, who now oversees secondary schools? He talked the talk during the Equity Advisory Team meeting. If the superintendent had allowed me to videotape, you would be able to see and hear how emphatic Morones was about the need to build trust among parents so they will feel welcomed into the “Mt. Diablo family.” But, it is obviously equally important to build trust among employees. No one is going to feel welcome if the family is dysfunctional, in part because employees don’t trust that their leaders are being truthful.

    Have MDHS teachers revisited their Vote of No Confidence this year? It could be argued that the previous staff that voted No Confidence has changed. Does the current staff still believe there are problems? If so, Morones and the board should be given concrete examples of how the principal is not being truthful and what impact that alleged lack of truthfulness is having on the school climate.

    The superintendent’s truthfulness also appeared to be a bit fuzzy when he told the board the city of Concord had not shown a willingness to cover liability for crossing guards. The police chief said this issue had never even been discussed. So, how could the city show an unwillingness to cover liability, if it had never been asked? The superintendent further commented that he understood the city’s position. What position? When did the city relay its unwillingness to cover liability? If, as the police chief told me, no such conversation ever took place, the superintendent should have admitted to the board that he endorsed the crossing guard training without considering liability insurance and that it was only when Rolen piped up about it that he realized he needed to put the brakes on a program that he previously appeared to have green-lighted.

    FYI, in listening to the audio from the Jan. 18 meeting, there was a Local 1 food services worker who spoke in support of the superintendent before his performance evaluation:

  35. g Says:

    On the 6/26/12 Concord decided to continue Crossing Guard service for three years, but cut financial support for it in stages. Their minutes don’t reflect the steps, but as I recall, it was full financial support this year, half next year and then zero. Of course, that leaves time for reconsideration. All of the cities of the district are part of Central County’s Transpac, so maybe there is County cost assistance available through that agency.

  36. g Says:

    Concord had already cut the number of crossing protected locations from 19 to 12 a few years ago. The school district, at best, let out a sigh.

    If a permanent street light costs about $90K and takes a year or two, if ever, to approve. And if a team of professional crossing guards for 12 locations costs $90K per year. But if volunteers are used, the $90K could be used to pay for a whole lot of Indemnity Insurance.

    Can we get a middle school math student to figure the break-even point for me (assuming no injury law suits in the mean time).

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, but when I spoke to our Concord reporter, he said liability insurance was never discussed during the Concord Council meetings. So, it could appear a bit disingenuous for the superintendent to say Concord had not shown a willingness to pay for it, when it may have never even been brought up.

  38. g Says:

    Absolutely agree. If anything happens on the streets, the City(s) are always going to be the ‘deep pocket’ on any law suit/insurance claim. The district is already on at least three JPA’s for insurance for “stuff” but as usual balks at spending for kids. I guess that kind of thinking comes easier if your own kids don’t have to walk to school in Concord.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Brian Lawrence tweeted this today: “Visited Ayers to check out the crossing situation this AM. It is not safe there. We need to get it fixed ASAP.”

  40. Doctor J Says:

    Agenda Item 14.9 on AB 1575 gives Deborah Cooksey’s interpretation of the law on P.E. clothes and long term educational trips. NOW, after reading that, listen to the webinar put on by the law firm being embraced by the new Board, and ask yourself, which legal opinion is more credible. Can PE clothes still be dictated just because they are brought from home instead of purchased from the school ? Can the school send a subtle pressure letter home singling out the cost of a trip and asking the parents to not sign up their child ? Why not get every child excited about going and then get the fundraising moving to meet the need ? I don’t like the way Deborah Cooksey tries to exclude children through this letter to their parents.
    Then someone needs to stand up and ask the Supt where on the website a “Uniform Complaint” can be found to file a complaint ? And why isn’t it listed on the front page.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I tweeted this question to Trustee Brian Lawrence: “What solution do you suggest?”

    His tweeted response: “Stop signs, a guard, police to give tixs- need to work w city and look at multiple options.”

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: School Services of CA is offering this workshop Feb. 28 in San Mateo: “The General Obligation Bond Passed! Next Steps and Best Practices.”
    Wonder if any MDUSD peeps will attend to make sure the district is following “best practices.”

  43. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr. J, #40: Click on the “Forms Library” in the left-hand column on the MDUSD home page. You can also type “Uniform Complaint” in the search box at the top of the home page. Either step will get you to the Uniform Complaint Form and the procedures explaining it.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    Thanks Sue. What do you think of the FFF webinar on AB 1575 ?

  45. Flippin' Tired Says:

    TH@41, I’ve called dozens of times asking for traffic help at my kids’ schools. I’m told that writing tickets doesn’t benefit the city, most of the money goes elsewhere. I’m not allowed to volunteer either. Hope B. Lawrence can either get the police to do their jobs or at least get parents cleared to help.

  46. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Regarding cost of PE “uniforms”, field trips, class room supplies:

    1. PE uniforms – if the individual schools with PE classes (middle schools and high schools) have uniforms in inventory, the schools need to hand them out to students at walkthru or first day of PE class. If the schools do NOT have PE uniforms, and can NOT afford them because our district finance personnel cannot figure out how to spend the money coming in to the district on the students for these classes, then PE will have to go the way of sports and music programs (the distric cut those programs as non-essential a few years ago and now parents and community members fund the programs).

    2. Field Trips – the district claimed in the draft attachment on the agenda for the upcoming meeting it can NOT afford to pay for these trips. The district needs to start work immediately with the affected schools / PFCs and come up with a plan to fund raise, or cancel the trips currently being planned and work toward next year. If the District cannot figure out how to spend the money coming into the district on the students for these field trips, then field trips will have to go the way of sports and music programs (the distric cut those programs as non-essential a few years ago and now parents and community members fund the programs).

    3. Class room supplies – if classes require specific supplies, the district needs to provide adequate funding to purchase and deliver those supplies to the class by the time the classes start each year. If the District cannot figure out how to spend the money coming into the district on the students for these required supplies, then those classes will have to go the way of sports and music programs (the distric cut those programs as non-essential a few years ago and now parents and community members fund the programs).

    See a pattern here? The district receives money for the students. The district knows how much they need to spend to provide the services, supplies, materials. The district does not spend the money they recieve on the students. The district spends the money they recieve on the district instead.

    When my children were in elementary school, I was happy to Donate a box of Kleenex, a package of pencils, a box of crayons, etc. when asked. Over the years we’ve donated books as our kids outgrew them, as well as school tshirts, sweatshirts, etc. so they could be used by families who couldn’t afford to buy new.

    When my children were in middle school, I was required to purchase PE uniforms (or a plain white tshirts / appropriate color sweats and shorts), binders for 7 classes, paper to fill the binders, dividers for each binder, calculators for math classes, water color paper for art class, etc., etc., etc. – for my child to use at school.

    I asked how much the piles and piles of PE uniforms cost the school and did they ever run out? No one could tell me, but they told me they had boxes and boxes of uniforms stuffed away (which per uniform didn’t cost the school near as much as each parent paid – so someone was profiting from selling them).

    When my children were in high school, I had to purchase all the same items as I did in middle school, and then some. Suddenly, teachers were sending home notes for all types of classes, asking for checks / cash so the teachers could purchase needed supplies themselves. Many teachers went as far as stating they were giving extra credit to the student if 1. Mom or Dad signed the note showing they got / read it, and 2. More extra credit if they “donated” cash to the class room. So when I asked for a class budget or a list of items needed instead of handing over $30, $40 or $50 or more as “suggested” (per student) x 3 different classes, I was ignored, or told it wasn’t necessary. in other words, no accountability on how much received / spent by those teachers.

    I tried to explain to the teacher that if they actually got every family (student) in class, per class to pay that money, it was a huge sum to be handled, and we (the parents) should be given a statement each month for the school year showing how much came in, and how much (with receipts) was being spent. Do the math. Example – General Science class = $30 x 35 students x 6 periods = $6300.00. For what? Labs. What “labs” is a science teacher teaching that the district can’t afford to fund? Another example – Ceramics class = $40 x 35 students x 4 periods = $5600.00. For ceramic clay and glaze. Why isn’t that funded by the district if they offer the class? District can’t afford it? The closet in the ceramics class was so full of clay blocks it was stacked to the ceiling and as deep as the closet.

    When I complained to the teacher(s) that extra credit given in this fashion was unfair to those who could not afford to pay the “donation” I was told if I didn’t want my student to get the extra credit it was my choice. When I complained to the principals of the schools about this practice I was again ignored. My children did not receive extra credit for “donations” because i refused to pay for “extra credit” and would only pay if i and all the other parents recieved a budget and statement. My children earned extra credits by completing extra credit assignments listed for the classes.

    My point to all this (can you fall it’s a sore spot?) – If the district can not, or will not spend monies it receives on the students, then either they are not doing their job to keep a balanced budget or this district needs to be turned over and cut back to what it can afford to ensure the students are getting even the most basic of an education.

    Look at the $$$$ flying out of the district for district salaries, lawsuits, lawyer fees, studies/documentation, presentations, iPads for district staff, Lunches for staff, etc. by this administration. That is where the money coming into the district is being spent. The district can’t afford to pay for PE uniforms (bulk pricing/discounts), school field trips, or even classroom supplies because the district has decided to spend it elsewhere.

  47. g Says:

    It seems to me one of the best practices to get out of trouble on Equity and Disproportionality would be to go for every Grant available—AND THEN spend it directly in the schools—NOT spend SpEd money we can’t afford to send 15-18 (their math doesn’t add up) staff members to a six day conference put on by an Unproven 2yr old company of ex-salesmen and professional talkers with little or no Education Reform history.

    There’s a deadline in March to apply for Federal i3 STEM grants, Google has STEM and Rise funds available–there is a lot of this money available. Almost a year ago there was talk about “looking into a STEM program for after school CARES—How about we get some specific money into the classrooms to engage ‘trouble’ kids—maybe they if they weren’t bored to death we’d find out many are a lot smarter than we give them credit.

    The problem is, every time MDUSD gets even a 10 cent Grant, they spend the money on employees to give them some unproven new training, re-training, planning on training, and studying whether they may need more training—very little goes into a classroom (except to pay for substitutes while the teachers are in —

  48. Doctor J Says:

    @#39 Why does it take brand new Trustee Brian Lawrence to visit a school and determine the school ingress and egress is unsafe ? Lets see, we have a Supt, a principal, an SASS Coach, and above all a “Transportation Department”. And Theresa, while we are at it, can you get all the 911 calls for the Diablo View MS double bus crash ? Should be a lot of them with all those children on board, and all the parents observing. What is the status of the bus driver that slammed on her brakes to cause the crash ? Were the buses impounded ? Any word yet why the Hwy 4 bus lost its wheel ?

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: As I have mentioned, I am working on a special assignment and I don’t have time right now to chase after all of the 911 calls and police reports. Any interested member of the public can request those and the board could certainly ask what is going on.

    g: I was talking to our Lafayette reporter today about how that district is addressing school safety not only in terms of physical improvements (such as new locks), but also in terms of providing counseling to troubled students. As you point out, MDUSD provides the same type of training over and over again (school climate, Rti, positive behavior). And now, it is putting that training into its plan as though it’s a “new strategy.” These strategies have existed in the district for years, but just haven’t been implemented well. Instead of more staff training — or in addition to it — more actual counseling for students would likely greatly assist them in terms of attempting to overcome problems that have caused them to be labelled emotionally disturbed.

  50. g Says:

    HFO Look at the Christy White audit coming out on Monday. One thing in particular–that comes up every year… ASBs do not properly account for their funds coming or going. The districts response: We trained them, but we can’t afford to make them.

  51. g Says:

    We need to take a close look at “The Plan” they came up with for Equity. 2008 to 2010-ignore. 2010 to 2011 glance at it occasionally. Oops, 2012 TSHTF, so take a year and a lot of money to spit-polish what we already have to make it look new. Consider spending some money in 2013 so we look busy for the Feds, and if we don’t just accidentally improve our equity, then in 2014 we all get to go on trips and get more new staff and spend a lot more time at Willow Creek.

    An old friend emailed this to me and it got me started. It seems STEM should be a motivator for less advanced students, not a reward for students that already excel.

    By the way, has College Park drop-out or grad rates improved?

  52. Giorgio C. Says:

    Check out this Superintendent Evaluation document. I have included an excerpt below. The school board sure as hell better understand their role with respect to providing a superintendent who is fit to lead. That is the most critical role of the elected school board. They are not the superintendent’s friend. They are the Superintendent’s boss.


    ___ 21. Gains support and respect of the community on the conduct of the school operations.

    ___ 22. Maintains a cooperative relationship with the print and visual media.

    ___ 23. Participates actively in community life and affairs.

    ___ 24. Provides educational leadership to the community.

    ___ 25. Works well with other districts police and other municipal governments.


  53. Kristi Buchholz Says:

    @Dr J,
    I am the parent at Ayers that wrote a letter to multiple District Administrators, Concord City Council Members, and multiple members of the press.
    The crossing guard issue at Ayers has been a problem for over 6 years. In the past, I contacted those at the District office that I was directed to in order to get answers. I got various answers, none of which seemed to make sense to me, so I pressed further, then would get no response at all.
    I contacted the Concord PD about putting together a volunteer program in order to properly train people to act as crossing guards. The Concord PD was absolutely fabulous, very receptive and put a training program together quickly. Two officers came out and did the training, which I took, and then began my “job” safely escorting students across the street.
    Within a matter of weeks, we were told that MDUSD could not take on the liability and that we were to cease the volunteer program.
    At this point, I decided my only course of action was to cast a net far and wide, engaging all community stake holders in this issue. I heard back from nearly all the MDUSD Board members, Dr. Lawrence, and Greg Rolen. I also heard back from City Council Member Edi Birsan. Ayers was visited by Edi Birsan, and Brian Lawrence. I am told that Lynn Dennler had been by as well, but I did not see her, or meet with her.
    I am sure that Ayers is not the only school with this issue. My hopes are that a city wide volunteer program can be put in place, as not all school parent groups can raise the $8000+ needed to use a contract company to do this important job.
    So, in a nutshell, that is why Brian came to Ayers today. I appreciate the collaboration of everyone who has worked toward a solution in this matter, and am looking forward to a positive outcome at the board meeting on Monday! If not, it is back to the drawing board to keep at it!

  54. Doctor J Says:

    Never underestimate a committed volunteer. Great job Kristi !

  55. high school teachef Says:

    My youngest child “graduated” from Ayers 7 years ago and we had been fighting about crossing guards for a couple years before that. We used to have parent volunteers but the district forced us to stop. It took many years to get the crosswalk in front of the school because the city kept denying it. Parents used to drop their kids of in the circle, but they stopped that too. It’s been a nightmare for far too long.

  56. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    So how does the district force parents / volunteers to stop helping children to cross the street to get to school?

    Does someone from the school or district office show up and physically force the parent to stop escorting / assisting children across the street?

    If they do, do they then help the children to cross?

  57. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    I believe the district & city (and therefore us, as it’s our taxes that pay for services and salaries) absolutely should pay / cover crossing guards at ALL schools where there is no light to help stop traffic so children can cross with some safety to the schools. Even in some areas where there are lights at crosswalks, crossing guards are needed because traffic is so congested / heavy and people are crazy on the way to work, school, wherever thay are traveling to.

    In my post above, I’m trying to understand in the absence of crossing guards or school personnel helping children to use the crosswalks / cross the street to & from school, how the district is forcing any parent / adult to stop helping the children.

  58. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At Sequoia MS in Pleasant Hill, teachers rotate crosswalk duty in front of the school on Boyd Road, where many cars are busily driving in and out of the parking lot do drop off kids, or trying to get to the elementary school next door, which has a crossing guard at the intersection with Patterson Blvd. Have teachers at Ayers considered this idea? This is an issue where it might be wise for principals to brainstorm together to share how they are dealing with a lack of crossing guards.

  59. Wendy Lack Says:

    I fail to understand how District officials are able to “force” parent volunteers to stop helping kids across the street — unless it’s using intimidation with families of current students.

    This appears to be a problem that could be solved within current resources, if stakeholders were willing to come together with open minds and solutions-oriented attitudes.

    After all, isn’t this the District “Where Kids Come First”?

  60. Concerned parent Says:

    Wow a lot of deep dives on discovery from all the same bloggers. Most of the information is compiled about board rights, public rights, personal viewpoints, press viewpoint (which does not seem to be reporting on the facts by adding in their tainted viewpoint), contract concerns, organizational structure and management by committee vs. what improvements have been accomplished, cost savings, return on investment from long term proactive strategies and most importantly the improvement of staff thus improvement in education – is that not the purpose of education? When is the focus going to be on the students and what tools the staff has to ensure that education is the prime objective?
    We moved from the Fairfield area in fear of schools in that district from and education perspective (at that time) to ensure my children would have a better chance of education – they were in private school as the public school did not meet the standards that they deserved. Moving to Walnut Creek was not only about education – it had a community feel and mapped better to our professions. I have two children that have gone through this system and I can as a parent say that my youngest was able to benefit from the improvements carried out by Lawrence and team. Some of the outcomes under Lawrence – change in the quality of educators, empowering the leadership of each principal and being more engaged in the overall student quality of life that prepares them for the next phase of education (higher education) and then onto life in the working world.
    It seems that the focus on administrative, contracts and politics has taken precedence over what is really important – the students and staff that educate them whether it is academic, extracurricular (clubs, bands, sports).
    I work in private sector and politics are very evident however what is measured is meeting and exceeding goals and objects. So if the Superintendent’s job is to clear the path for principals, admin staff, teachers etc to be more productive in their jobs I would think the board would be focused on whether the schools are indeed more capable (given current budget constraints and government policies) than they were prior to the arrival of Lawrence.
    I have not seen the press or board comment on this aspect ever?
    I have seen Lawrence and various levels of his team interact with the students and it is evident that this team has impacted the students and staff positively (in my opinion and other parents that I have solicited as well).
    I am not out to bash but to encourage that the focus be on the real task ensuring that tomorrows future leaders are receiving what they need to meet their goals and objectives.

  61. g Says:

    Wendy: The district practices old fashioned trickle down economics; where the adults eat first, and the kids get ‘cold taters’ without gravy.

  62. Anon Says:

    @TH regarding crosswalk duty for teachers. Check MDEA contract.

  63. g Says:

    Steven Lawrence said in Oct. that he would ‘probably’ release the FCMAT SpEd report in Dec. or Jan.. Since we know it was completed months ago, and payment was made for it in Dec, and since the Equity Advisory Team “worked up to the last minute” on their presentation, doesn’t it seem their report would include something as important as the FCMAT Study?

    Didn’t FCMAT notice or even mention the district’s standing on equity and disproportionality?

    Wouldn’t Monday’s discussion of Equity and Disproportionality be a good time to release that FCMAT SpEd Report?

    Did CAC already get it, and I just missed a reporting of it?

  64. Doctor J Says:

    @G#62 I don’t know how the Board can possibly approve the Corrective Action Plan on Disproportionality without having had a thorough analysis and public debate about the secret FCMAT study ? This will be an interesting test for new Trustees Barbara Oaks and Brian Lawrence.

  65. Kristi Buchholz Says:

    HFO and Wendy,
    No one is physically “forcing” us to stop anything. I am choosing to give the “powers that be” the opportunity to come to a workable solution.
    I will attend the board meeting on Monday night to hear what progress as been made.

  66. Anon Says:

    All you have to do is look to the many rumors (remember where there is smoke there is fire) about former board members “making life hard” for the children of those parents who “stir the pot”.

    Kristi and other parents probably have no choice but to back down, lest little Johnny starts getting put in with the trouble makers when he hasn’t done a thing to deserve it.

  67. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: You make a good point about the FCMAT special ed study. If significant disproportionality wasn’t addressed in it, it should have been. The board should release that report, in the interest of transparency.

  68. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Thanks Kristi @64.

    You were the second poster to use the term “forced by the district to stop” in regards to parents escorting students across streets in crosswalks where there are no official crossing guards.

    I am glad you are going to the board meeting on Monday to try to get some resolution to the safety issue at Ayers.  What perturbs me the most is the issue regarding student safety should not have escalated past the district staff to the point where any parent would have to formally address the board to try get the district staff to resolve a safety issues that affect so many students at different schools sites. 

    This is a safety issue that Measure C 2010 could / should be used to address.

    This district has in the past and also recently utilized the state and federal grants Safe Routes To Schools programs to address street crossing and sidewalk safety issues for select schools / areas. Click on the links below to see the projects, schools, and cost of the approved projects.

    State: (see page 1 regarding Wren ES) (see page 1  regarding Rio Vista ES, Shore Acres ES and Riverview MS; also Strandwood ES) (see page 1  regarding Rio Vista ES, Shore Acres ES and Riverview MS; also Monte Gardens ES, Shadelands School, Sunrise School) (see page 2 regarding Pleasant Hill MS) (see page 2 regarding Wren ES; also Bel Air ES)

    Federal: (see page 2 regarding Rio Vista ES, Shore Acres ES and Riverview MS) (see page 6 regarding Fair Oaks ES)

  69. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Concerned parent: I believe many people on this blog have commented on how Lawrence and his team have affected student outcomes. In fact, his performance evaluation goals are based on that as well. Thanks for sharing your positive experiences with him and his administration. In addition, there were several parents who spoke in support of Lawrence in April, when his contract was extended.
    I would also like to point out that when the board voted to cut Resource Special Ed assistants, Lawrence and CFO Bryan Richards said that the board had already made enough cuts and could probably work something out with the teachers’ union to retain those positions, after then-teachers’ union President Mike Langley argued against cutting those positions, saying how critical they were to teachers to help struggling students. But, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh insisted on cutting the resource assistants anyway, since the teachers’ union hadn’t yet agreed to furlough days. In that instance, Lawrence appeared to be motivated by what would be best for students, but he was overruled by the board.

  70. Doctor J Says:

    @Concerned Parent#60 Love your quote: “I work in private sector and politics are very evident however what is measured is meeting and exceeding goals and objects.” Someplace in these posts, I did just that to show that students are worse off since Steven Lawrence became Supt. Further research shows the same type of drop in education scores in his last district: Washington Unified in West Sac. Even more research shows when he was Asst. Supt in Roseville High school district, there was a similar drop in student scores. The private sector knows how to read the trends. I would assume you do too.

  71. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Was pointed out this link I pasted didn’t work (due to cut/paste typo):

    To see the home site for the SRTS Programs, click here:


  72. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Also found within the Ca Safe Routes To School site:

    Don’t let school or school district liability fears deter your program!  Click on the links below for tools to help tackle liability head-on.
    California-specific Liability information, National Policy and Legal Analysis Network (NPLAN)
    National Center for Safe Routes to Schools Liability Tip Sheet
    Volunteers Liability Fact Sheet, NPLAN

  73. Kristi Buchholz Says:

    Thank you for the links and the information. Trustee Linda Mayo has also mentioned looking at the SRTS program, but for the City of Concord to take it on, not the District.
    I am printing the info and will read it!
    Thanks again!

  74. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Kristi @73 –

    I sure hope to hear you tell the Board you and other parents fully expect the district to be the driver in determining the SRTS program needs for ensuring street crossing safety by working with the city and county. I do not want to hear the disrtict try to wash their hands of their responsibility to the students / families of the district to keep children safe while crossing streets to get to and from their schools.

    Of course, many parents are willing to partner with the district and the city on programs to keep our students safe. I hope we hear from parents of other schools too, where crossing guards / parent volunteers are needed so the issue can be fully addressed.

    Good luck at the board meeting!

  75. anon Says:

    Perhaps if the superintendent had been more engaged in working with the cities to deal with student safety traveling to and from school and less in keeping the public/media from attending district meetings this problem would have been not a problem.
    And if board counsel had done his job finding the solutions to liability questions regarding these same issues we wouldn’t have a problem.

    Question: Why are we, the community, paying these two a total of over $500.000 a year in salary and benefits?

  76. Doctor J Says:

    @#75 What was the Supt doing a year ago ? Secret boundary realignment meetings and one of the big snags that came out of that was having children walk too far and across too many large streets without crossing guards. Then there were the secret meetings on reducing bus access. Then there were the secret meetings on ……The list goes on.

  77. Doctor J Says:

    Legislation introduced to ban Capital Appreciatioon Bonds like the ones used by Measure C.,0,2698452.story?track=rss

  78. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Don’t forget secret meetings on the Bay Point Master Plan, Technology Committee and Graduation Requirements Committee. The district’s failure to let the public know about these meetings creates a culture of “insiders” and “outsiders.” Those who get invited to serve on the secret committees are the insiders. Everyone else is outsiders. How can the district build a culture of trust in this environment?

  79. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an encouraging sign — MDUSD is actually asking for Teacher of the Year Nominations:

    In the past, teachers of the year have been selected somewhat haphazardly, with no public invitation for nominations. Last year, the district only selected one Teacher of the Year, even though it is entitled to name two.

    This is the first time I can recall the district announcing a formal, open process for the selection. Kudos for opening it up to the entire community!

  80. Doctor J Says:

    @79 Wonder who let that one slip by ?
    @78 And those are just the secret meetings we found out about ! That great line, talking about something else, from Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, seems to fit in with the secret meetings: “Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing” Thanks to that moonlighting teacher at Buttercup who reported the first secret meeting in Supt Lawrence’s tenure that we know about.

  81. Theresa Harrington Says:

    With the superintendent’s performance evaluation completed, here comes the next Good News Letter:

    Interesting to note that Oak Grove MS appears to have implemented a lot of new strategies that may help overcome some of the issues raised last year by the whistle-blowers. Also, it appears that Pleasant Hill schools have been meeting with the superintendent and police chief regarding their safety plans.

    Although there is no Good News listed for Northgate High, the school’s Jazz Band I won first place in its division Saturday at the Folsom Jazz Fest and was one of the top five finalists overall in the competition. Also, Northgate’s Jazz Combo won a third place trophy. Concord High’s Jazz bands also competed, as did Northgate’s new Jazz Band II. Acalanes High’s Jazz Band was also a finalist, including former MDUSD student Larry Wong, who was featured as a CC Times Hometown Hero a few years ago, after he organized the Sequoia MS after-school band program for Sequoia Elem. fourth- and fifth-graders.

  82. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of the Graduation Requirements Committee, here’s a column about how high schools are failing to adequately prepare students for college:

  83. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On an unrelated note, the CC Times has restored archived stories to the website to they are now available to the public for free. So, if you want to find out what MDUSD was doing a year ago, you can now search for stories online.

  84. Doctor J Says:

    @#82 Always enjoy Tom Barnidge — but contrast with the bust your buttons spin by Steven Lawrence in his Good News on the high “participation rates” in the 2012 “Early Assessment Program” [EAP]. Steven Lawrence said nothing, nada, zero, about how MDUSD graduates are “ready for college”. EAP, a good thing, “is . . .designed to provide students, their families, and high schools with early signals about students’ readiness for college-level English and mathematics.” What are the EAP results ? Now go back and re-read Barnidge’s commentary. According to CCC President they spend a lot of time on remediation and the biggest hurdle is English Language arts: “comprehension, critical thinking and composition.”

  85. g Says:

    Dr. J and Theresa: There have been rare occasions when the public was notified, or at least got wind of (thanks to other cities’ agendas) meetings of many of those committees you listed, but what of that very illusive Facilities Committee that Eberhart and Pedersen kept so close to the chest? Even still is says “Meetings are scheduled
    whenever it is felt that new information should be shared with the Board…. Decided by whom? Meetings ‘called’ by whom?

    For example, the district has spent nearly One Billion dollars for “facilities” just from bonds in the last 25 years, but has only actually built one new school that I can think of. The actual debt burden will be much higher over the next 25 years.

    The district imposed upon us what feels like a ‘never-ending’ $90million Mello Roos Community Facilities District tax that was promised would be used to help build and maintain schools. Is it, or has it ever been used to build a school, buy property, add classrooms?

    From a state guide to using Mello Roos: Local agencies should establish ‘project review teams’ to scrutinize and
    assess developer applications for Mello-Roos CFDs.

    What do we spend our Mello Roos on? Copiers, tables, desks, projectors.

  86. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Even after I specifically asked Pete Pedersen to notify me when the Facilities Subcommittee meets, he has never done so. So, either the committee never meets, or the district is continuing to keep the public in the dark. Now that Pedersen has maxed out his retirement contract, it will be up to Tim Cody to rise to the new level of transparency Hansen is requesting.

  87. Wait a Minute Says:


    What does “Now that Pedersen has maxed out his retirement contract,” mean?

  88. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At the Jan. 14 board meeting, the superintendent announced that Pedersen has used up his 2012-13 post-retirement contract allotment, so Tim Cody is taking over as Measure C Project Manager:

  89. Doctor J Says:

    But isn’t that just temporary until a “new year” starts ?

  90. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, if he gets a contract extension for 2013-14.

    FYI, I have created a new blog post with the agenda for tonight’s meeting, where readers can comment on topics up for discussion:

  91. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ TH #83:

    Great news!

  92. Mom Jackie Says:

    Theresa, I don’t think the superintendent was out of line to ask you to leave the meeting if it was a working meeting for a committee dealing with a draft document. How could staff and community members of a committee openly and honestly discuss anything if a newspaper reporter is there recording their every word and live blogging it? Your presence would have a chilling effect on the discussion. That does not help the children of MDUSD.

    Not every meeting of a government agency needs to be open to the press. Do the Supreme Court justices invite the press in to record their every word when they sit down in a conference room to discuss a case? No, they don’t. When a group of senators and their staff get together to hash out what will be in a bill, do they invite the press in to record every word? No, they do not. When the President meets with his advisors, are reporters always invited in to record every word?? No, they are not. Some meetings should be open to the press, but others should not be. Sometimes people need to be able to have discussions without fearing that every word will appear on the Internet or printed in the newspaper.

    Some meetings should clearly be open to the press, but not all. It sounds like this one was not appropriate for you to be there. My impression is the superintendent was attempting to protect the rest of the people in the room and allow them to do their job. Kudos to the superintendent.

  93. Theresa Harrington Says:

    MJ: As requested by the superintendent, I did not videotape or live blog. Also, when the participants broke into small groups to discuss the issues among themselves, I did not join any of the groups and remained seated where I was so they could speak privately.
    I also do not videotape most of the CAC meetings, to protect students’ privacy.
    And to be honest, I seldom live blog, although I do tweet occasionally.
    I am willing to work with the district to allow for free discussion. I don’t think the desire of participants to speak freely should necessitate that I be barred altogether from the meeting.

  94. Wendy Lack Says:

    @MJ #92:

    It’s simple: Open meetings are just that.

    The meeting in question was a public meeting.

    The public/press had a right to attend.


    The Superintendent acted improperly in seeking to bar a reporter from a public meeting. His actions are indefensible, damage the reputation of the District and create potential liability. Such conduct most certainly does not, as you put it, “help the children of MDUSD.”

    Transparency is but one of many problems in this District. The District’s problems are far-ranging, run deep and in many cases are longstanding — and they all stem from and are tolerated by those at the top of the org chart.

    It’s time for residents of MDUSD to demand new management. Enough is enough.

    Our children — and taxpayers — deserve better.

  95. Wendy Lack Says:

    Success is possible, with enlightened leadership.


  96. g Says:

    Wendy, excellent review and I would say the analysis of problems and today’s system is spot on.

    “…Reynolds states that the K-12 student population increased 96% between 1950 and 2009. During that same time, the ranks of administrators and other non-teaching school personnel grew by 702%, “more than 7 times the increase in students”!

    There is something vastly wrong when it takes 4 times the number of employees to run just this school district of 31K students than the number of employees it takes to run all of the 5 contributing cities for their entire populations.

    MDUSD employee count last year–5462
    City of Concord–746
    Numbers weren’t available for WC or Bay Point, but Pittsburg has 391.

  97. Doctor J Says:

    No audio again ?

  98. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I am also trying to watch the livestream and I agree the audio doesn’t seem to be working.

  99. Doctor J Says:

    Have they ever thought of testing the equipment before the meeting ? :-)

  100. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Funny, the audio for the ads is working!

  101. Doctor J Says:

    Premium members never see ads. LOL.

  102. Concerned parent Says:

    Theresa thank you for your input especially about the statement about what Lawrence tried to do accomplish for the students and was overruled by the board. Sad and hence I question what value does the board bring for the students?

  103. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At that meeting, it appeared that politics outweighed concern for the students, as the board appeared to be making a point to MDEA that it should have agreed to furlough days sooner, then the special ed assistants could have been saved.

  104. Concerned parent Says:

    Dr. J – Why attack? Wow – I read several of your other comments and all you seem to do is attack. and quote links and performance of an assistant not the lead? You seem to be a well researched individual that has information on every topic including private sector. My statements were light and from personal experience in the district. I only asked how the position was measured. Sorry I did not read your previous comments. As mentioned I have had the opportunity to have two children through the system pre Lawrence and current Lawrence – and indicated that current Lawrence was a more positive experience. Do I know how to review trends, you ask sarcastically… how offensive and counter-productive is that question/statement!!? It speaks volumes though. I purely made a personal oberservation about differences and all you can do is attack. What’s in it for you? Is this for personal gain and have you no care in the world about student well being or student parent experience? FYI – Dr. J was a great basketball icon for all athletes – how did you select this title? Sorry everyone I had to say this as I do not appreciate juvenile attacks.

    Dr. J I have no time or interest in your personal attacks, they are toxic, counter productive and add no value. Use your smarts and knowledge for good outcomes, not wasted breath on non-stop critism that has ZERO benefit “to the kids”.

  105. Mom Jackie Says:

    Wendy Lack, aren’t you the one who filed the frivolous Brown Act accusation against the district? As I remember it, the Board had to pay outside counsel for his opinion on the matter. He found your complaint to be without merit. Have you repaid MDUSD for costs it incurred because of your actions?

  106. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ MJ #105:

    I have no authority to control how the Board of Trustees allocates resources, nor do I have any personal responsibility to pay District expenses (beyond my legal duty to pay taxes). Further, a “frivolous” complaint would not have required an extensive legal opinion. Thus, I fail to understand your point.

    The Board’s actions last spring were improper. My response was an effort to sunshine the problem with the newly-elected Board majority, in hopes that they would act promptly to correct the previous Board’s error. My complaint can hardly be characterized as “frivolous” given the Board’s commitment to bring the contracts, in proper form, back to the Board for consideration – and requisite advance public review.

    As the Times news report ( stated: “In a 4-1 vote, the board determined . . . the written documents supporting [the contract] extensions will be reviewed by an independent attorney and publicly presented to correct omissions and other possible errors that were made when new contracts were drawn up after the April vote. ‘As a board, we must continually try to earn the trust of our constituents,’ said trustee Brian Lawrence, who was elected in November. ‘In the case of the contract extensions, I believe the previous board failed and failed miserably. I believe their actions were reckless and irresponsible.’”

    Trustee Lawrence’s assessment hardly sounds chock full of frivolity. Further, I see no evidence that the Board of Trustees shares your opinion.

  107. Anon Says:

    @ MJ#105,

    Sherry is that you?

  108. g Says:

    Mom Jackie: I agree, it is a shame that we’re stuck having to pay for outside legal help — to clean up the mess left by the repeated bungling of our own legal counsel and the prior board majority.

    Theirs was inexcusable behavior in public office.

    Wendy Lack’s was commendable public service.

  109. Doctor J Says:

    Detailed legal bills to school districts are subject to Public Records disclosure. So why does Greg Rolen not release them ?

  110. Doctor J Says:

    Where is the long promised FCMAT Special Education report ?

  111. Wait a Minute Says:

    I wouldn’t just characterize it as “…repeated bungling of our own legal counsel..” although there is plenty of that going on.

    I think the entire rush to extend his and hid buddies’ contracts was nothing less then a conspiracy by Rolen, Lawrence, Eberhart and Whitmarsh and others to protect the key players who led the massive corruption regarding the Measure C, AIS, Gang of Five raises, repeated Brown Act violations, and the Schreder employment that The Gary enjoyed, etc.

    I also don’t think it is coincidental that all of a sudden there has been a small influx of posters here like “Mom Jackie”, “Concerned Parent”, “Tom” etc that all seem bent on casting aspersions on our attempts to continue to hold individuals and the district accountable for following the law.

    I feel that along with Stevie Lawrence’s attempt to keep Theresa from attending a public meeting that these people have reached the desperation phase of preserving the conspirators and their jobs and most if not all of these new posters are simply the individuals mentioned above.

  112. Doctor J Says:

    Well said WAM #111 — its not a coincidence. I think there is now a great fear on the part of some, that once one or two or three of the key players are gone, that there will be an unveiling of the truth — that might put some at risk, and many nervous.
    On the other hand I was encouraged that the message is getting through — Deb Cooksey’s presentation was much more thorough than the documents she posted with the agenda. She probably decided to watch the free on line webinar of FFF. All of this means just one thing: Dent is now reading this blog and paying more attention.

  113. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Cooksey also admitted during Monday’s meeting that she had made a mistake at the previous meeting, when it was implied that Cooksey was the board’s parliamentarian. Actually, Cooksey said, the board president is the parliamentarian.

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch the entire meeting Monday. Did the supt or anyone else mention the FCMAT special Ed review during the disproportionality report?

  114. Doctor J Says:

    Deb Cooksey appears to be distancing herself from Greg Rolen to save her own bacon — she obviously was not familiar with Board By-law 9121 which makes the Board President the parlimentarian. Was she shooting from the hip or acting on Greg Rolen’s instruction in attempting to usurp the responsibility of the Board President ? Lets not forget the Oakland Unified fiasco that Deb Cooksey was embroiled in. The whole department needs a clean sweep.

  115. g Says:

    Dr. J 109: Like I said in #3 on the Agenda thread this week…Rolen has his own budget and directs payments. Litigation cost must follow the same guidelines as all other Brown Act rules. We should not need a PRA request to get what should be part of reports given in open meetings.

    Litigation is already public record. We already know who sued whom and the results. We depend on our board to tell us “how much” money it cost. Not just the amount paid to the litigant, but how much to the attorney–case by case. Then, what about all of the “possible litigation” where they simply decide to settle right up front and give the person what they ask for to keep them from suing? That should also be reported out.

    Litigation costs need to be itemized and reported-at least quarterly-not swallowed up in “other” General Fund reporting on a budget that only a CPA could read. I’d bet if you asked Richards to pull the last budget report and give you just the total “legal” expense, it would take him hours of work to pull it from that report, and even then, he could not tell you which cases.

    How is the public supposed to find it or know where their money is going?

  116. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The transparency has begun!

    The district has posted the agenda for a Coordinated Health School Council meeting tomorrow:

    Now, the public can see what these committees they only occasionally hear about are doing.

  117. g Says:

    Theresa, the FCMAT report seems to have gone down that deep, dark well. Even they have not released it yet. Do they need Rolen’s permission – again?

  118. Doctor J Says:

    If you didn’t hear John Parker’s comments on the consent agenda items, he is “right on” and I appreciated his honesty. Listen to the audio. Its worth it.

  119. Doctor J Says:

    Wow, consider what Bill Gates has to say about grading teachers !

  120. g Says:

    Theresa: I know Mr Wogan and Mr. Roselin work to help the kids, but how is this going to be significantly (or any) different than what Student Services have had in place since 2002? What? Oh, now they’ve re-shuffled some PowerPoint and decided to actually “do” it now that they have a mandate to take 15% out of the SpEd budget for their own pay?,+Building+Effective+Schools+Together&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgGU08HL2KpY2fMo6Oz96T-tsZOpbwM-fonHqB9y_plun4lk_Cuc9HWtiyxWScFNw8EUwlrd6Gh8FY3AUqVcfR3A8okmTORy7VxZO7lpD2WhmWrrPk9pV5f7Wz6QyfMc4ueM8-y&sig=AHIEtbTTx0emAqbD9KdCBiwT7HHQgE8pZQ

  121. g Says:

    Dr. J: Great Bill Gates article. Thanks! Speaking of spending just 1.5 to 2% of the Teacher’s compensation budget to actually help the teachers he says: “But such an investment in great teaching would be small compared to what is being spent now on professional development that too often shows little results.

    Hiring all those outside “professional “talkers for so called Professional Development is a money pit.

    But then, we already have said that. Many times!

  122. Doctor J Says:

    Just look at all the outside speakers that are “brought in” and there is no change in how we operate — Monday was a good example. Tomorrow, Phil Marzanno will be “brought in” [big bucks] to talk to the principals — will there be any real change ? I heard a story once: an Eagle was brought in to teach turkeys how to fly, and after a great day of lessons, all the turkeys walked home. I thought of MDUSD.

  123. g Says:

    As to Mr. Parker’s comments. By his professional estimate Alisha Jensen is going to have to put in more than some 350 hours in the next 6 months to do her DSA work. Six months is about 130 working days. She’d have to put in 300 ten hour days to get to the number of hours we’re going to pay her for.

    Quick, run out to any active construction site—Is she there? Un-uh. How many certified Class 1 or Class 2 employees does she have to help her do those hours?

  124. Sue Berg Says:

    G, on another thread you encouraged someone who voiced a negative opinion about some of the posters on this blog to “please stay, join us, contribute, tell us when we’re wrong on facts and give us the straight scoop. But don’t chide us for our opinions.”

    Would that everyone posting on this blog agreed with your request. Anyone who says something positive about the district is routinely chided, as was done by #107, #111, and #112 above, and as I will be just for pointing this out. I respect your request; just wish I had more faith that it will be heeded.

  125. Doctor J Says:

    Ooops. I meant Mike Mattos.

  126. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue #124 — My post #112 “chided” something postive about the district ? Who did I chide ?

  127. Mom Jackie Says:

    Wendy Lack, There was no Brown Act violation. Because of your actions, money that should have been spent on the education of our children was spent instead on outside counsel dealing with your frivolous accusation. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    If you want to help the children of MDUSD, join the PTA at your child’s school. Volunteer in the classroom. Buy the overpriced wrapping paper from the fundraisers. Get elected to your school’s site council. Volunteer for a position on one of the district’s many committees that include parents. Speak your mind at a Board meeting. Let your legislators know how you feel about the state of education funding in California. Work to get NCLB rewritten. The next time a parcel tax or bond measure is proposed, volunteer with a group working to get it passed. If you don’t like what the Board members are doing, then work to get someone else elected or run yourself.

    Wendy, I was feeling sorry for you after you made a public fool of yourself by making unfounded accusations, but I see that you have fallen completely under the sway of the numbskulls that post here. Crying “Brown Act violation!” every time the Board does something you don’t like doesn’t make it true. The people who post hear clearly don’t understand the law and wouldn’t know a Brown Act violation if it jumped up and hit them in the face. There is no vast conspiracy as the cabal that post here seems to believe. How stupid do you have to believe that district lawyers, board members past and present, a rotating cast of district and site administrators, parent volunteers, a laptop thief, businesses large and small that work with the district, and anyone who posts here daring to disagree with the little group that regularly posts here must be part of some grand conspiracy to do heaven knows what? Don’t you ever read what’s posted here and say “These people are nuts!”?

    I don’t agree with everything the Board or the superintendent or other administrators and employees do, but that doesn’t mean they’re evil or have hidden motives or are a part of a criminal conspiracy. They’re just ordinary people doing their jobs with varying degrees of competence. In the case of the Board members, they’re citizens wo care enough about their school system to step up to the plate and try to make a difference.

    By making uninformed accusations you are part of the problem, Wendy, not part of the solution.

  128. g Says:

    Sue, I meant what I said. I want to be told if I give wrong information, and I want to be given the correct information.

    In comment 112, Dr. J’s agreement was directly related to two comments where we were taken to task for our comments—those speakers had no counter proposal or positive idea to suggest, nor any specific information to offer. But, certainly they were entitled to their opinions.

  129. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr J, you agreed with WAM #111, who did the chiding. “Well said WAM #111 — its not a coincidence.”

  130. Doctor J Says:

    I agreed with WAM that it was not a coincidence that there was a sudden influx of people who did not want to hold the district accountable for following the law.

  131. g Says:

    People who live in Glass Houses…. Mom Jackie. Even though the attorney spoke of “ceremonial” signing of things like contracts, she could only mean contracts that had been vetted and voted on by the board. The Brown Act violation Wendy Lack spoke of was the hub and spoke signing of contracts that no one had ever seen. As each person was called in to sign those un-vetted contracts, the next individual board member saw that a “consensus” of agreement was forming. Did you know it is also against the Brown Act for the Administration to “pick and choose” which board members are provided documents? You don’t get to just quit asking for signatures on contracts in October because you have gotten the three you wanted for consensus.

  132. Sue Berg Says:

    G, Let me clarify my statement. I said, “Anyone who says something positive about the district is routinely chided . . .” I should have said, “. . . is routinely accused of being either one of the individuals who’s been criticized or part of a grand conspiracy to protect those who’ve been criticized.” And regardless of how one feels about Dr. Lawrence, referring to him as “Stevie” is rude.

    Again, I’m with you on your request for civility by all who post, including #127, whose anger probably eclipsed the valid point she made in paragraphs two and four.

  133. Doctor J Says:

    MDUSD is so “blind” that it hasn’t even had a discussion yet of the MET findings. Not a single word of it at the Board meeting or the all day “in service” meeting on Monday. “Great teaching is the most important in-school factor in determining student achievement. It is critical that we provide our teachers with the feedback and coaching they need to master this very challenging profession and become great teachers,” said Tom Boasberg, Superintendent, Denver Public Schools. “We all need to look at multiple sources of information to understand better our teachers’ strengths and development areas so we can provide the most targeted and useful coaching. The MET project’s findings offer new insights that are of immediate use in our classrooms and form a roadmap that districts can follow today.”

  134. Doctor J Says:

    Read the nine principles for measuring successful teaching. Do you agree or disagree ?

  135. g Says:

    Sue, I agree. Belittling of a person by name calling is out of line. However, I contend that my coining of the phrase EberMarsh was spot on. But we have transcended that phase.

  136. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ MJ: #127

    Facts don’t lie. I will continue to expose government incompetence, waste, fraud and abuse as occasion arises to do so.

    As regards MDUSD, such efforts are the best way — in fact, the only way — to improve long-term academic performance. Any current successes occurring in our schools are in spite of District administration — certainly not because of it. One rarely sees such mismanaged, low-performing organizations — in the private sector, organizations like MDUSD mercifully go out of business.

    The residents of this District expect and deserve much, much better that what they’re currently getting.

    Don’t want to take my word for it — just ask the parents of CVCHS students.

  137. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy#136 Actually Wendy I concur with you that there WAS a Brown Act violation or maybe more than one. I am concerned that it appears the Board will only revisit the contract language, not the actual “extentions” of the contracts. I believe that ALL aspects of the contract extensions should be revisited. Keep up the “watchdog” efforts — improving government efficiency will ultimately improve the health of the community. CVCHS is just one example. I can’t wait for the STAR scores this year to show vast improvements.

  138. Anon Says:

    Wendy Lack,

    Many are applauding your efforts and your comments.

  139. Davce Says:

    Good for you, Wendy, you keep on doing what you are doing.

  140. Mom Jackie Says:

    Wendy, you took what you thought was your best shot at proving the Board was violating the Brown Act. It was found not to be a violation. Neither wishing it were so nor pretending it were so will ever make it so. No Brown Act violation occurred. As far as your statement that “facts don’t lie”, you don’t have any facts. Just baseless accusations and sweeping generalizations.

    We’re all frustrated with the state of education in California and in MDUSD. But blaming it on individual Board members or Steve Lawrence or the district’s lawyer or the entire administration is ridiculous. We’re in trouble because of the recession that lead to massive state cuts in education funding. We’re in trouble because our communities are made up of older subdivisions with declining numbers of students. We’re in trouble because it costs a lot of money to educate Special Ed students. We’re in trouble because ELD students require a lot of extra support. We’re in trouble because we pay teachers too little to attract top talent and we can’t get rid of bad teachers. We’re in trouble because we don’t live in communities that are willing to pass parcel taxes or financially support educational foundations that can make up for lousy state funding.

    The crowd that hangs out here spends their time spinning the most far-fetched conspiracy theories, inventing insulting names for anyone they don’t like, and accusing anyone who dares to disagree with them of being an enemy in disguise. You guys remind me of those nuts who are positive the government is covering up the fact that aliens landed in Roswell. Anyone who seriously wants to discuss the possibility that life might exist elsewhere isn’t going to hang out with those guys. Anyone who seriously wants to discuss how to improve education in MDUSD isn’t going to post on this blog, at least not after they read what the regulars here post.

  141. Davce Says:

    MJ – who said there was no violation of the Brown Act? You have some adjudicated decision or is this simply your opinion?

  142. Anon Says:

    Mom Jackie,

    Your quote, “…not after they read what the regulars her post”. You mean the regulars like you?

    Are you part of the Sue Berg / Long-time board watcher / Mom Jackie family of posters?

  143. Doctor J Says:

    @#139 There was no “finding” — both C&C letters are still subject to litigation, although doubtful they will file with the reconsideration of the phoney extensions.

  144. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ MJ #139:

    I believe the Board acted in good faith, considered the information available and reached the best finding of which it was capable. And I’m pleased the Board committed to come back on February 25th to take a “do-over” regarding the form of the contracts in question.

    What’s most important to me is the future conduct of District officials. Regarding all matters I expect Trustees and staff to act responsibly, lawfully, with integrity and professionalism, in a manner responsive and respectful to one another and the public. I am pleased my complaint raised awareness about transparency issues and hopefully served to sensitize District officials to their importance.

    As regards my complaint about an apparent Brown Act violation, the Board’s decision is, well, just that. A decision. And as with court verdicts, decisions made by government sometimes don’t mirror one’s personal views.

    My ongoing suspicion that the Brown Act was violated in this instance is a moot point. Without complete information, we’ll never know the facts, if indeed they can be fully known. My ongoing suspicions about the prior Board’s handling of these contracts is little different from my belief that OJ got away with murder. It doesn’t change things and isn’t relevant.

    In civilized society we accept (or legally appeal) decisions with which we may not agree or even fully understand. In this case, because the Board did not make public the results of its investigation, the public will likely never know the basis on which the Board reached its finding. And that’s OK. The Trustees represent the public interest and have done their best in this matter.

    Fortunately, it appears you and I can continue to diligently work for the benefit of students and taxpayers. While we may do so in different ways, it’s good to know we both seek to achieve the same ultimate outcome.

    Oh, and just for the record: I think this CCT blog is great. Theresa Harrington is to be commended for her efforts in keeping the public informed about ongoing developments in MDUSD schools. Her conscientiousness and commitment are appreciated.

  145. Doctor J Says:

    The new Board, by rejecting the contracts drafted by Greg Rolen [according to Steven Lawrence] gets to reconsider them. I don’t know how the new Board, with advice of independent counsel, on AB 1344 will ever be able with a straight face to approve Greg Rolen’s contract, based on his sloppy and incompentent work ignoring AB 1344.Plus add in the whole issue of his paramour turned wife and her $100,000 plus contract and the issue of conflict of interest. Reading the tea leaves is why you saw Deb Cooksey on Monday distance herself from Rolen by admitting that the Board President is the Parlimentarian, not the General Counsel. Personally, with Cooksey’s history from Oakland Unified, I don’t think she will survive a contract extension either. A new broom sweeps clean.

  146. Wait a Minute Says:

    As was said above at post#140,

    It does look more and more like “Mom Jackie”‘s screeds are suspiciously similar to good old Sue Berg’s enthusiastic and apoligistic statements here.

    Specifically her many statements defending the district’s longstanding dysfuntions and conversly attacking myself and Dr J and others putting forth our interpretations of what ails this once-proud district.

    You know Sue, you don’t have alot of credibility here after you hilariously exposed yourself as posting under your alias Long Time Board Watcher.

    Since you already have a proven track record of subterfuge and dishonesty on this blog. it is no wonder that myself and others question your lame statements that because of EberMarsh ans Strange you had to leave but then you sit with her at the “Chevron Table” at the TOY event.

  147. Mom Jackie Says:

    Wait a Minute Says 146, You’re nuts.

  148. Jim Says:

    Too much attention is paid to “Brown Act violations” I think. Clearly, many CA school districts are quite cavalier about adhering to the letter or spirit of the law — MDUSD certainly more than most. But no one is particularly interested in enforcing the law, so let’s take the discussion out of that context and into the world of normal human affairs.

    Let’s suppose a board — any board, let alone one with oversight over a $300 million organization with thousands of employees — were asked to “extend” the contracts of the organization’s senior executives without having the new contracts available for prior review (or even available at the meeting for that matter) by the voting board members. And furthermore, let us assume that the request were being made prior to any substantive evaluation being done of the performance of the executives in question. Now, it doesn’t take an organization expert to conclude that it would be irresponsible, if not inconceivable, for any such board to go ahead with approvals of such “extensions” (which, of course, in this case, were not extensions, since the terms were being altered).

    Only in the bizzaro parallel universe of unaccountable school district monopolies does it have to be explained — again and again! — why this practice was so unprofessional and reckless. I suspect that in closed session Mayo and Dennler pleaded for mercy, and maybe even promised to start acting like responsible board members in the future, and that was enough to persuade at least one other board member not to vote for a smackdown under Brown Act auspices. But let’s not forget that Brown Act or not, the MDUSD board has been a clown car act for several years now, and all of us are likely to suffer the consequences for many years to come.

  149. Sue Berg Says:

    Thank you, WAM #146, for proving my point about the downside of blogs, not just about the name-calling but also that the information presented on them may not be as complete as it would be for a news article published after an editor’s review.

    I attended the Teacher of the Year dinner as a guest of my friend April Treece, who, as a communications consultant, has spent years initiating and coordinating ways to bring local business leaders and educators together to help make curriculum relevant to today’s students. Chevron is a major donor to “linked learning” programs. April works closely with Chevron. We sat at the Chevron table at TOY. As dinner was about to be served, Sherry Whitmarsh, a Chevron employee and MDUSD Board member, arrived. She took the last unfilled place at the table, which happened to be next to me.

    Theresa Harrington, whom I did not see nor talk to that evening, saw Sherry and me sitting together and reported that fact here on her blog. An assumption was made that Sherry and I had elected to sit together, which seemed to mean, according to some posters, that I am in her camp. I contacted Theresa after her report to say the seating arrangement was coincidental. Not long ago WAM brought up the TOY seating arrangement in one of his continual criticisms of me. Theresa posted the clarification about the seating immediately after WAM’s comment. Yet, here it comes again, that my sitting next to Sherry at a large event shows my allegiance to her and to Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange as well. And belies anything I might say about MDUSD.

    I apologize, everyone, for taking up your time with this matter. But the old journalism teacher in me needs to show how one incomplete report can lead to false assumptions. Fact: two people sitting together. Not known because no one was asked: what their sitting together might, or might not, portend.

    We really need to be careful in everything we read and hear, but particularly on blogs, which are popular because there is little editorial oversight, that we have sufficient information on which to make our judgments. It’s only fair.

  150. Wait a Minute Says:

    Just a coincidence Sue?

    Well it certainly wasn’t just a coincidence that you have repeatedly acted as an apologist for district mis-deeds here on this blog and it certainly wasn’t a coincidence that you were exposed as commenting here under multiple handles.

    I’d like to see your explanation for that one Sue, are you going to tell us you had multiple handles on here because you have multiple personalities?

  151. Sue Berg Says:

    WAM, send me your contact info so we can interact without bothering others. You have my name. You can reach me. I can’t say the same about you.

    As for what name we use when we comment, that’s a decision each poster has to make for him/herself. For about a year after I retired from MDUSD I posted as Long-Time Board Watcher as everyone seemed to prefer anonymity. In time I decided that if I was moved to say something, I should be willing to use my name. And so I have. Perhaps one day you’ll decide to do the same.

    As I’ve said ad nauseum, I post when I have information that may help others (e.g. where to find all MDUSD Board agendas and minutes for the past 50+ years) or when I read something that I know from my nine years of working directly with the Board and Superintendent to be significantly incorrect or misleading. Many people posting on this blog seem to have become interested in MDUSD within the past four years. Four of the five Board members and the Superintendent himself have been in their positions for four years or less. Sometimes it helps to have some institutional history when talking/posting about district issues. That’s all I see myself doing here.

  152. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Jim #148:

    Well said.

    “Bizarro parallel universe of unaccountable school district monopolies” — quite a mouthful. That phrase sums up the disconnect between government schools and those they are supposed to serve.

    There’s no doubt public schools are a weird world unto themselves, which is one appeal of the charter school model — it cuts down a wee bit of the calcified bureaucratic sludge.

    Increased accountability of school officials combined with school choice are two avenues for change that hold promise.

    The status quo doesn’t cut it.

  153. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue Berg#151 I don’t want to get caught in the cross-fire between you and WAM but thought I would refresh your memory that it was on Sept 20, 2011 when you were posting on the same thread using both your real name and your psuedoname. My recollection is there was even a couple of times you made it appear you were two different people, complimenting your own posts. That was until you posted under “Long Time Board Watcher” and accidentally signed it Sue Berg — you then went silent for months. I am comfortable people using a psuedoname to post, as long as they don’t keep switching names — after all Mark Twain was a psuedoname.

  154. Doctor J Says:

    @Jim#148 I would only add to your post that what made it even more bizzare was one of the BIG5 was the “General Counsel”; who not only approved the proposal, but also went on months later to draft the agreements [according to Steven Lawrence].

  155. g Says:

    I have to disagree with Jim on the Brown Act debates. Other than Charter or pulling out of public schools altogether, both which are very difficult to pull off and will only help a few, we the people only have two tools available to direct those who are supposed to serve us and educate our children.

    The Brown Act, and the Polls.

    The polls don’t come often enough or right when you need them.

    For the first 50 years the Brown Act was largely a limp noodle for all but a few. For those same years, voters by a majority, in my opinion, only voted to choose the President, maybe in a hot year, a senator.

    For the rest of the ballot, I firmly believe ‘the masses’ chose which box to check based on important things like “I never heard of any of them, but that’s a nice enough name.” Or, “I think I heard someone say something about this Bill was a bad idea.”

    Of course there were always very astute people voting too, but the masses? If they voted at all it was without a clue.

    The 21st Century brought us something new besides a close-up look at our enemies near and far and a war that has us all PO’d at not only that but everything around us where we have no control.

    The 21st Century brought us cheap, electronic, seat-of-your-pants or on-the-fly Information and Communication! Instead of trying to remember what the person looked like on a campaign poster–we go to the internet and read what they stand for and who pays their way and what did they do and care about before this election. You get my drift…that’s how we prepare for the polls now.

    Boil all that down to our cities and school districts. Unless we had had a run-in of some sort with either one, until lately Average Joe floated around in la-la land and ignored them and let them do their own thing. Some years things ‘felt’ good enough and some they didn’t–but we didn’t know why.

    But that was then. If there’s a roadblock to what we need and want and are entitled to, we have to use the tools we have and with great vigor.

    The Brown Act is the pick. The polls is the shovel.

  156. Wendy Lack Says:

    @G #155:

    And – if I may extend your metaphor? — citizen activism/citizen journalism/blogging is the dynamite.

    It’s unreasonable to expect voters to keep on top of the issues. Sorry, people are just too busy with their lives to hassle with such things — that’s the reality. After all, most people (or, as my apolitical kids would say, “normal people”) pay little attention to politics until the week before a general election. Understandable.

    In-the-trenches citizen activism/journalism, social media and the press all work together to 1) cut through the noise to inform voters about what’s important; and 2) elevate issues to ensure press coverage.

    “With great vigor” — I like it.

  157. Jim Says:

    @G155 — I have nothing against the Brown Act. It’s a very good, well- intentioned law. The only problem with it is that it is often not followed and virtually never enforced. DAs don’t like to go after school boards, who (some still believe) are in it “for the children”. But really, does anyone need the Brown Act to tell them that MDUSD has been operating as a murky cesspool for years now?

    Ultimately, it’s not just about the transparency that taxpayers and parents deserve. There are basic organizational processes at stake here that MDUSD just can’t seem to get right. If ANY group is going to have a useful meeting, for heaven’s sake, have an accurate agenda. Decide who’s supposed to come. CIRCULATE the agenda IN ADVANCE. If a document is going to be discussed, MAKE THAT DOCUMENT AVAILABLE TO REVIEW. If a staff member is going to present information, MAKE THE PRESENTATION AVAILABLE, both before and after the meeting. Keep accurate records of what transpires at a decision-making meeting.

    These are all things that MDUSD apparently can’t master — despite years of pleading from the public and the media. It’s not just transparency that has suffered. How can a board make good decisions when such simple organizational basics are beyond their grasp? Of course they can’t.

    Devious? Or just dumb? Once again we are left wondering.

  158. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr J. there’s been more than one poster using some form of the name Board Watcher, as there are many different people using “Anon,” and I don’t know if “g” is the same as “G.” Still, you have to appreciate the irony that I, who use my name, am arguing with people who hide behind screen names as they level some pretty harsh criticism at others. I’m ready to let this subject drop. I hope you will do the same.

  159. g Says:

    Wendy, you may, and I wish I had thought to add that myself!

    Jim, we agree.

    Sue, I enter g, a fault in the system (trying to make everything correct I guess) changes it to G when it posts.

  160. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Kudos to the district — the CAC agenda for the Feb. 5 meeting is already posted:

  161. Doctor J Says:

    Kudos ? for complying with the law ? I don’t see the FCMAT report on the agenda. Why not ?

  162. Doctor J Says:

    Just to keep this issue at the forefront, where o where is the FCMAT Special Education report ?

  163. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The superintendent still hasn’t responded to my Friday morning email asking him about that. So, I left a phone message for him this morning. I will also try to find out if Kerri Mills has any information about what’s taking so long.

  164. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a look at a very successful supt. in Cincinnati, who helped turn around 16 low-performing schools in four years:

    So far, MDUSD Superintendent Steven Lawrence has closed one of the district’s lowest-performing schools (forfeiting a School Improvement Grant), but saw Sun Terrace Elementary sink to Program Improvement, keeping the district’s number of Program Improvement schools at 10. Still, those with School Improvement Grants did make impressive gains last year. Will they be able to sustain their progress and climb out of Program Improvement this year?

  165. Doctor J Says:

    The key to the SIG schools improvement was the “increased instructional time” mandated by the SIG grant which when the audit exposed that Steven Lawrence and Rose Lock had not complied with the promises in the grant, the Feds and State cut off the funding until a “Corrective Action Plan” required the increased instructional time: the results were impressive — massive gains. Now Steven Lawrence will cut off the SIG schools from increased instructional time — it will be back to underpeformance. What a crime against the humanity of these children.

  166. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of the great gains being made with SIGs, Mary-Louise Newling invited me to come to Meadow Homes Elementary to see how they are implementing their grant, when she saw me at the Equity Advisory Team meeting. (She didn’t seem to be concerned about my presence at the meeting.) I appreciate the fact that she is excited about showing the press and public how the SIG money is being spent. As Wendy points out, all district administrators should share this commitment to transparency about every aspect of the district budget.

  167. Doctor J Says:

    I would hope that Dr. Newling can match Toby’s 57 point API gain before he got fired so she could replace him.

  168. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On the subject of transparency, our Oakley reporter says that city is planning to allow residents the chance of scanning a QR code to pull up a meeting agenda and all the backup documentation on their smartphones! If MDUSD did that — AND if MDUSD posted its Powerpoints BEFORE the meetings — people could follow along more easily.

  169. g Says:

    I ran across this quote and thought how fitting it is, but how sad that we are sitting here in 2013 still wrangling with something that shouldn’t even be an issue; simple, easy, hyper-local, school district accountability to the taxpayers!

    “It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error,
    It is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error.”
    — Robert H. Jackson, 1892-1954.
    Chief Judge at the War-Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg

  170. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a blog post with the agenda for tonight’s CAC meeting, in case anyone want to comment on it:

  171. Anon Says:

    I agree G. but when you have people like Linda Mayo who believes in the ” We can’t tell the children” approach to government; we being the children, of course; it creates the cesspool of incompetence and distrust that we’ve experienced the past four years.
    The good news is we seem to be moving in a new direction with a board president who believes in being open and accountable and two new board members who, hopefully, believe it too.

  172. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of this, Trustee Lynne Dennler reported to the CAC tonight that the board has done some “bonding” during its closed sessions. Also, Board President Cheryl Hansen told me she’ll ask why it is taking so long to release the FCMAT report.

    I shot some video of the infant presentation, which I’ll upload to I also shot the assist. director’s report, which should be uploaded now at

  173. Anon Says:

    Thanks for the updates, Theresa

  174. Theresa Harrington Says:

    You’re welcome. There was also a great deal of interest in how the district will decide where to place special ed students next year and who will receive transportation. A detailed handout was passed out, which I’ll try to upload to googledocs. I also shot video of Carolyn Patton’s discussion of it with the CAC, which is at

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