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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.]

  • g

    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.

    http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/01/i3-grant-provides-stem-graduation-path-for-colorado-students-2/

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

  • Giorgio C.

    Theresa,
    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.

    http://www.superintendentofschools.com/Supt_Eval_Toolbox/Super_Eval_Doc_4.html

    Excerpt:
    E. COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIPS

    ___ 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.

    Comments:

  • Kristi Buchholz

    @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!

  • Doctor J

    Never underestimate a committed volunteer. Great job Kristi !

  • high school teachef

    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.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    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?

  • Hell Freezing Over

    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.

  • Theresa Harrington

    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.

  • Wendy Lack

    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”?

  • Concerned parent

    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.

  • g

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

  • Anon

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

  • g

    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?

  • Doctor J

    @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.

  • Kristi Buchholz

    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.

  • Anon

    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.

  • Theresa Harrington

    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.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    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:
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/SafeRTS2School/3rd_Cycle_Final_List_4Internet.pdf (see page 1 regarding Wren ES)

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/SafeRTS2School/5thCycleProgramPlan.pdf (see page 1  regarding Rio Vista ES, Shore Acres ES and Riverview MS; also Strandwood ES)

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/SafeRTS2School/6th_Cycle_Program_Plan.pdf (see page 1  regarding Rio Vista ES, Shore Acres ES and Riverview MS; also Monte Gardens ES, Shadelands School, Sunrise School)

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/saferoutes/documents/SR2S_Cycle_9_2010-11.pdf (see page 2 regarding Pleasant Hill MS)

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/saferoutes/documents/2012/cycle10-2012-13-11.pdf (see page 2 regarding Wren ES; also Bel Air ES)

    Federal:
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/saferoutes/documents/srts-cycle3-final11-11.pdf (see page 2 regarding Rio Vista ES, Shore Acres ES and Riverview MS)

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/saferoutes/documents/new/SRTSCycle1_FinalList.pdf (see page 6 regarding Fair Oaks ES)

  • Theresa Harrington

    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.

  • Doctor J

    @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.

  • Hell Freezing Over

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

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/SafeRTS2School/6th_Cycle_Program_Plan.pdf

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

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/saferoutes/saferoutes.htm

    Also:

    http://www.casaferoutestoschool.org/

  • Hell Freezing Over

    Also found within the Ca Safe Routes To School site:

    http://www.casaferoutestoschool.org/safe-routes-to-school-basics/address-common-concerns/

    Liability
    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

  • Kristi Buchholz

    HFO,
    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!

  • Hell Freezing Over

    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!

  • anon

    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?

  • Doctor J

    @#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.

  • Doctor J

    Legislation introduced to ban Capital Appreciatioon Bonds like the ones used by Measure C. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-costly-bonds-20130128,0,2698452.story?track=rss

  • Theresa Harrington

    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?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s an encouraging sign — MDUSD is actually asking for Teacher of the Year Nominations: http://www.mdusd.org/NewsRoom/Pages/toty2013.aspx

    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!

  • Doctor J

    @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.

  • Theresa Harrington

    With the superintendent’s performance evaluation completed, here comes the next Good News Letter: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=h8gdgicab&v=001w_-M_3FUdLenNHDwagD9bRqL-wjOJADl_-_Soi-jrcK7JetlEkCvyRpRugbqY3lyXldBq3bYzVxsd718-IVqUA7JwyxSdI8Zg5NZqytUPM37S9Eu3RfQw7CXFukUF3Cy

    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.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Speaking of the Graduation Requirements Committee, here’s a column about how high schools are failing to adequately prepare students for college: http://www.contracostatimes.com/twitter/ci_22454096/barnidge-why-are-so-many-high-school-graduates

  • Theresa Harrington

    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.

  • Doctor J

    @#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.”

  • g

    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.

  • Theresa Harrington

    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.

  • Wait a Minute

    Theresa@86,

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

  • Theresa Harrington

    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: http://youtu.be/MaSsme2da3Q

  • Doctor J

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

  • Theresa Harrington

    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: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2013/01/28/mdusd-board-tonight-to-discuss-crossing-guards-disproportionate-identification-of-black-students-for-special-education-budget-and-new-law-that-prohibits-districts-from-requiring-fees-for-school-supp/

  • Wendy Lack

    @ TH #83:

    Great news!

  • Mom Jackie

    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.

  • Theresa Harrington

    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.

  • Wendy Lack

    @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.

    Period.

    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.

  • Wendy Lack

    Success is possible, with enlightened leadership.

    See: http://amzn.to/14pHz97

  • g

    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
    Martinez–236
    P.Hill–115
    Numbers weren’t available for WC or Bay Point, but Pittsburg has 391.

  • Doctor J

    No audio again ?

  • Theresa Harrington

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

  • Doctor J

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

  • Theresa Harrington

    Funny, the audio for the ads is working!