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MDUSD board identifies priority performance targets for superintendent

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 at 11:59 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

At the Jan. 28 board meeting, Board President Cheryl Hansen reported out some of the performance targets for Superintendent Steven Lawrence, which were discussed during his Jan. 18 closed session performance evaluation.

Since many people on this blog have expressed an interest in seeing those performance targets in writing, Hansen sent them to me in an e-mail today.

Here is what she wrote:

“On January 18, 2013, here is what the Board determined were some of the priority areas for the remainder of this school year based on the Superintendent’s performance targets, all of which he is still responsible for accomplishing:

1. High Quality and Effective Staff – Target 3: Climate Survey

· General Counsel completes and reports out his evaluation of any legal implications of conducting a climate survey (February 25 meeting).

· Create and actually conduct a district and school climate survey this school year, piloting it with at least one elementary, one middle, and one high school.

2. Supportive Family and Community Involvement – Target 2: External Communications

· Improve and update district and school web sites to be informative and current. Archive information and documents prior to August 2011.

· Create a Superintendent’s page with current messages and links to up-to-date communications, events, and reports.

3. High Schools – Target 4: Other Critical Measures (High School Rigor)

· Complete an assessment and present a recommendation regarding increasing graduation requirements and credits.

· Increase high school students’ completion of A-G requirements so graduates have more post-secondary opportunities.

4. All K-12 Students – Target 1A and 1B: English Proficiency

· Implement and monitor the English Learner Master Plan.

5. Middle Schools (and High Schools) – Target 1: API and Target 2: Mathematics

· Create more effective math pathways and successful course completion, particularly at the middle and high school levels.

· Evaluate and improve effectiveness of programs and intervention at Year 5 Program Improvement schools.”

Do you agree that these performance goals should be priorities for Superintendent Steven Lawrence?

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

314 Responses to “MDUSD board identifies priority performance targets for superintendent”

  1. g Says:

    What are the chances we could get them to overlay/merge these targets with the targets from the Commission on Equity and Excellence.

    We have an abundance of pockets of low income students that should not have to wait until their school qualifies for things like the next SIG before they get adequate attention.

  2. Wendy Lack Says:

    One item leaps out at me re: Re Item #1 – “High Quality, Effective Staff”

    One major District project for spring 2013 will be negotiating a new MDEA labor agreement, since the current contract expires June 30th (See current agreement on the MDEA website at

    I’d expect a key goal for the District – i.e., the Board and District Superintendent collectively — would be to reach a new agreement on time (before June 30th) and within budget that advances the District’s goal to attract and retain “high quality effective staff.”

    In addition there must be core principles the Board uses to guide labor decisions strategically, with the long term in mind. These would also be used in assessing how well this project has been accomplished.

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: I sent Hansen the link to the commission’s report, in case she wants to participate in Honda’s Town Hall meeting.

    Regarding school improvement, here is an upcoming webinar that may be of interest to district administrators, which stresses the importance implementing the plan well:

  4. Wendy Lack Says:

    Some readers may be interested in hearing school reform advocate Michelle Rhee this Thursday evening, February 21st in San Francisco, where she’ll be speaking at the Commonwealth Club.

    Details and tickets available here:

  5. Jim Says:

    These evaluation criteria look like a good start, although it’s difficult to tell what the goals and measurement metrics will be. Still, Ms. Hansen is to be commended for trying to bring some discipline to this administration.

    “General Counsel completes and reports out his evaluation of any legal implications of conducting a climate survey (February 25 meeting).”

    Really?!? Rolen is worried about the legal implications of a SURVEY?!? Why is it his legal qualms only get aroused by Board efforts to find out what is going on inside MDUSD (but not by nepotism, bond premiums, misleading financial information, or flagrant Brown Act violations)? Is this just like all of his trumped up “concerns” about board members attending parent meetings? This guy was born about 80 years too late. He would’ve been a star, working for the Soviet Politburo.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy #4 She didn’t too good of reviews in Sacramento last month — but then her husband is the Mayor. :-)

  7. Doctor J Says:

    Yikes, I think Steven Lawrence continues to look for an easier job.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Believe it or not, the idea for a districtwide climate survey surfaced at a board retreat back when Dick Allen and Paul Strange were trustees. I believe it was then-Trustee Gary Eberhart who suggested it. Rolen must have raised his legal objections behind closed doors, because I don’t remember the board ever discussing this as a problem.

    I know the San Ramon Valley district does a climate survey, apparently with no problem. In fact, that district even surveys students:

    I just got back from the Equity Advisory Team meeting, where one committee member suggested the idea of having a parent conference with parenting classes as a way to help deal with behavior problems. Another member of the committee told her the district used to do that, but stopped about five years ago. One parent stressed the importance of including parents in the disproportionality plan. Felicia Stuckey-Smith said she appreciated the feedback and noted that the board will be asked Feb. 25 to approve the plan that the district has already submitted to the CDE.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    So what happens if the Board does NOT approve the Disproportionality Corrective Action Plan the District has submitted ? Really, the problem is that even with an extension, the District is without the leadership to get things done and approved by the Board ahead of time. A 9 month buy out is really cheap compared to what is happening month after month.

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Superintendent Lawrence was not at the meeting. Leadership was provided by Felicia Stuckey-Smith and Bill Morones, with Jonathan Roselin and Susan Peterson also presenting portions of the plan, and Mary Bacon adding context. Kerri Mills answered a few questions about special education. Rose Lock and Julie Braun-Martin were also present, but were not involved in the plan presentation.
    Deb Cooksey explained that now that the EAT is a board committee, it must provide public notice and provide minutes if action is taken. However, she said if no action is taken, there may be no minutes.
    Trustees Linda Mayo and Lynne Dennler were also present and Board President Cheryl Hansen popped in for a bit, but didn’t stay long. When Willie Mims asked why the board decided to make the EAT a board committee, no one answered him. Cooksey suggested that he ask the board. He replied: “That’s not a problem.”
    Mims asked how much of the $1.5 million budget will be devoted to salaries and benefits. In response to him and the parent who asked about parent involvement, Stuckey-Smith said the committee will discuss the budget and parent involvement at the next meeting from 2-4 p.m. March 19 in the district office.

  11. Doctor J Says:

    You have to love Willie — he cuts to the chase.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Mims was not in favor of the EAT being a board committee.

  13. Doctor J Says:

    I think Willie now understands the Brown Act implications and appreciates them. To have staff “stonewall” Willie with his questions, is an insult to the NAACP.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustees Linda Mayo and Lynne Dennler also offered no explanation when he specifically asked why the board made that decision. Hansen wasn’t present when he made the inquiry.

  15. Giorgio C. Says:


    Regarding item #1(Effective staff), I may have made a mistake because I became frustrated with how one program was being handled, so I recently criticized those responsible. I wouldn’t have done this if I was confident in our leadership, that I thought they had things under control, but there seems to be an incestuous relationship of sorts between the board and the district staff.

    I had some concerns with our Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, and last week shared them with our City Council by voicing my concerns during their vote on the WCCUSD debt limit waiver. In this video clip, one of our council members tells my school board representatives that he will contact the state legislature if any of my concerns are deemed valid.

    Video clip of council meeting

    Getting in your school district’s business comes with risk. Jobs are on the line. It is personal. It is possible I have upset someone with my criticism. In fact, at a Sept 5, 2012 board meeting during public comment, I voiced my concerns about the handling of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, saying that “district staff were ill-prepared to work with the committee during the drafting of a response to the Grand Jury report on school bond oversight.”

    When I left the Sept. 5th meeting, a gentleman followed me outside and asked what my problem was with “his” committee. He took my comments personal. He gave me a business card, but never replied to any of my follow-up queries since.

    Last week, at the Hercules City Council meeting (video clip above), I complained yet again about how this committee was being managed, including the fact that there were two positions that were in violation of the Ed Code because of their relationship to the district. During the previous WCCUSD board meeting, I respectfully requested President Kronenberg to change the status of these two committee members to “non-voting.” Trustee Mr. Ramsey has now assured me that my concerns will be reviewed, so this is positive.

    The night after the Hercules City Council meeting, the WCCUSD held an information meeting in Richmond for purpose of addressing concerns regarding the bond program. The trustees said they (their bond program) were “being hit hard” and “assaulted.” I thought I owed it to the WCCUSD to hear their side of the story, so I attended. Mr. Ramsey had even sent me an email, saying he hoped to see me at this meeting. Communication is key, so I attended, and am glad I did. I learned quite a bit.

    I felt a tad uncomfortable because I was now going into their house after what might have appeared as ambushing them in my house at the Hercules City Council meeting. I didn’t ambush them, but just couldn’t bite my lip any further. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t mentioned one district official’s name during the criticism I voiced at the Hercules meeting, but we all want accountability, right? I was frustrated at what I witnessed as the CBOC meetings I attended.

    During the Richmond WCCUSD meeting, something caught my attention, but I will not say what it was in this blog. Let’s just say I began to have some concerns for my safety. The meeting TV footage was mostly focused on the Power Point presentation, so you cannot see what I was observing that caused me concern. Let’s be honest, I was probably feeling a bit paranoid because I placed a target on my back with my big mouth, so lesson learned. I will not make this mistake again.

    After three hours, I exited the meeting at 10 pm, one hour before the conclusion. The only folks remaining were consultants and staff. There had only been a few of us community members. Others showed up earlier for the first agenda items, but did not stay for the “main event.” As I stepped outside, the first thing I noticed was the lack of police-security. At all previous meetings, there have been police officers present.

    As I walked to my car which was parked in the lot for meeting attendees, I had a bad feeling. I had parked under a light in the fenced parking lot. And there was my car. With a smashed windshield, hit twice with something like a crowbar perhaps.

    Maybe a random act? Or just some good ol’ karma? Maybe. Someone commented to me that we should be able to criticize public officials. Not if they live in the community and might be fighting to keep their job. Then it gets personal. Again, maybe there is no relationship between the $1700.00 worth of vandalism to my car and my complaints, but I’ll use this as a warning-lesson.

    If there were proper oversight of school districts, then citizens wouldn’t have to risk their safety by getting in their district’s business. It would help if school boards did their part. If the Superintendent doesn’t make the necessary staffing adjustments, then get a new Superintendent asap. If the board doesn’t do this, then get a new school board.

    We need better oversight of school districts as evidenced by scandals and Grand Jury reports. The very large LAUSD actually has an Office of the Inspector General to investigate such matters.,256601&_dad=ptl&_schema=PTL_EP

    How about establishing such an OIG office for Contra Costa County school districts? The DA does not have the resources. The Grand Jury is hit-and-miss with no authority, other than to use the DA for prosecution. And the CA Dept of Ed has informed me that they do not have the resources to enforce many of the laws on the books.

    I am sure the cost of such oversight would be worth the savings in the long run.

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Giorgio: Have you gone to the police with your concerns?

  17. Wait a Minute Says:


    The reason Greg Rolen desperately wants to stop a climate survey is because there is MASSIVE DISSATISFACTION of the MDUSD’s so-called “leadership” both within the district and outside too.

    In fact, Greg Rolen’s (and his compadres) lack of anything even remotely resembling ethical behavior is one of the main reasons that so many people are embarassed for this district and Greg knows this and doesn’t want this dirty laundry addressed.

    Hopefully the board overrules Greg’s “legal objections” and the survey goes forward because it is a crucial tool in identifying and acknowledging the deep-seated issues that must be fixed in order to move forward.

    Of course, the removeal of Rolen and others is equally necessary for improvement and he knows this too!

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I hope that Rolen submits a WRITTEN report that is attached to the agenda when it is released, so the public has ample time to review his findings. If he presents an oral report with nothing in writing, the public will be denied the chance to comment, because no one will know what he plans to say until he says it.
    If he presents a PowerPoint, the district should ensure that it is posted BEFORE the meeting begins. If not, printed copies should be distributed at the meeting and it should be posted immediately after the meeting.

    Kudos to the Equity Advisory Team for distributing copies of the PowerPoint yesterday. This made it very easy to follow along and to review it afterwards.

  19. Jim Says:

    Frightening story, Giorgio. People get desperate when lots of money and power are at stake, as happens with these huge bond issues for unaccountable spending. We should be asking ourselves: Why do we allow the concentration of so much power, influence, and money in these large school districts, which are serving our children so poorly?

  20. Wendy Lack Says:

    @TH #18:

    I would go one step beyond “hope” regarding District disclosure of staff reports.

    The Board should DEMAND distribution of materials via the website — reports, powerpoint, etc. — in advance of any presentation at public meetings. And hard copies should also be publicly available at the meeting.

    This practice is the very essence of government transparency, responsiveness. Plus, it’s simple courtesy.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I agree!

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an interesting article about good leadership: “The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically, Every Day”:

    Do these sound familiar in MDUSD?

  23. vindex Says:

    These are a good mix of targets. Some are “soft” targets and some are “hard” targets. Meaning they are measuring both leadership (soft target) and student achievement (hard target). Most Boards only look at student achievement data, but this is faulty in many respects, as the advances in student achievement are mainly the result of good teaching not Superintendent competence. Leadership and fiscal responsiblity are the main focuses of Superintendents and from my perspective and most of the MDUSD teachers I have spoken with, he has failed. Rolen is another whole bag of goodies. He is a complete disgrace to have on the payrolls of the MDUSD.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy#20 Spot on. However, there is one more dimension at work in MDUSD and Linda Mayo is masterful at this tactic which keeps the public in the dark. She asks staff questions; sometimes verbally and via email — they answer her, but she never shares the information with the public, even though she usually thanks staff publicly for answering her questions, which she keeps secret both the questions and the answers. This kind of practice needs to stop.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I agree. As I have previously pointed out, it is perfectly acceptable for trustees to ask staff questions ahead of time. But, if they use the information they learn privately as a basis for their votes, they should explain that publicly. Also, information shared with one trustee should be given to all other trustees so that they all have the same knowledge. It should also be shared with the public and could be added as an agenda addendum.

    During City Council meetings, I have seen many elected officials raise questions they have asked staff privately. Then, they ask staff to share the information with the entire board and public. This is the kind of transparency MDUSD should embrace.

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Regarding the budget, School Services of CA has created an online “Local Control Funding Formula Simulator” that allows districts to plug in certain numbers to get a good estimate of what their funding would be under the governor’s proposal. Hopefully, Bryan Richards will have this information available at the next board meeting.

  27. Wendy Lack Says:

    @DJ #24:

    The Board needs to police its own conduct. If they fail to do so, it signals that the current Board is no more committed to transparency than was the previous Board.

    I agree that the Board majority should not tolerate the types of behaviours you describe.

  28. Giorgio C. Says:

    I did report the vandalism to the police. There is no law against bad karma, so I have nothing else to report. I have my suspicions, but that is all they are. I just knew that something was not right at approximately 9:30 pm. Me thinks I was right.

    I told our Superintendent that if the wccusd invites folks to attend a meeting, that they should provide security. I would downgrade our superintendent on his lack of awareness with respect to safety.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Giorgio: MDUSD does not provide security at its meetings. But, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been any vandalism to the cars of attendees.
    Certainly, members of the public should not have to sacrifice their personal safety to attend school district meetings.

  30. Giorgio C. Says:

    I have seen officers at most wccusd meetings, sometimes in the audience and also at the parking lot. I was told they might have been busy with a soccer game during this meeting. Even at 10 pm? Someone with the Richmond PD added that officers were not permitted to work past a certain time or number of hours. The wccusd is paying for 6 richmond SROs and they couldn’t get one to stay for the meeting? Maybe a union thing.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    LA Supt wants 30% of teacher evaluations based on test scores. It takes a district this size to challenge the norms.,0,2751290.story?track=rss

  32. vindex Says:

    @Doctor J.. You are a smart person and I appreciate your feedback on this site. However, on this one,The LA Supt.’s suggestion is off. To Evaluate correctly you must start with the right set of questions or criteria or your evaluation is invalid. The assumption is that a good teacher will have high test scores. Incorrect. I have known teachers that are fantastic and one year they have the best student scores in the school, but the next year they are loaded down with students that struggle and they get last place. The assumption that student test scores have a correlation to excellent teachers is false. Teachers can help, but there are too many factors at play. One more example: I was sitting in a meeting when I was working where a straight A student was suddenly pulling F’s.. We were perplexed. We dug deeper and realized that her grades plunged and test scores declined the year her parents divorced. This was not the exception but the rule. Bad teachers? No, life circumstances. You spend one day with a public school teacher and listen to the stories in the classes and you’d be amazed. I think that without excellent teachers, most are by the way, the scores of the students would even be lower than they already are. What we are experiencing is a collapse of the family, and schools can’t save the day.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    @Vindex, I understand the debate — I am just saying here is a Supt who is challenging the norms and CTA. Its one thing to teach brainiacs — its another to teach in lower socio-economic schools. Having some minor percentage of your evaluation based on “improvement” of test scores, and not just overall scores, helps teachers and administrators focus on data driven instruction so that real learning is occuring. Just look at the 3 SIG schools last year — massive gains in API because the Feds and State forced Steven Lawrence and Rose Lock to impliment the grant standards of longer instructional time. That change was “data driven”.

  34. Michael Langley Says:

    @TH#8: The district leadership thought the questions from the MDEA Annual Climate Survey were fair, but did not like the results for some sites. Hmmm, did they aggresively try to address those issues? Did they try and see what was going right at the sites that had a positive climate? I don’t know, because I did not get any feedback about how the board and/or Dent leadership wanted to deal with any site climate.

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Mike: The disproportionality plan is forcing the district to look at school climate. District officials admitted at the EAT meeting that some schools have interventions in place where a child could succeed, but at schools without those interventions, that same child might not succeed. The district plans to identify schools where more interventions are needed to pilot better Rti strategies and positive behavior programs.

    Bill Morones said the district is going through a paradigm shift from a focus on teaching to “a focus on learning.” He also said: “No one cares what you know, until they know that you care.”

    Morones said every staff person will be trained in cultural responsiveness so that students feel that teachers and administrators care about them and parents feel welcomed into the MDUSD family.

    Interestingly, I interviewed Northgate Principal John McMorris about two years ago about his school’s “Focus on Learning” effort, which he said was a shift from a “focus on teaching.” So, it appears that Northgate has already been piloting some of the ideas that are now catching hold in the rest of the district as part of this “paradigm shift.”

    Morones said one simple thing teachers can do is to greet students warmly and make eye contact as they enter the classroom.

    But, teens are smart. They’ll know if a teacher is just going through the motions or if the greetings are sincere. How can the district force teachers to care about students, if they’re just in it for the paycheck?

    Perhaps MDUSD should follow San Ramon’s lead and survey STUDENTS about the school climate.

  36. g Says:

    I also seem to recall surveys back in ’09 to see what the ‘people’ wanted in (and from) a new district superintendent. So what could possibly be illegal in surveying them now to see if they feel they’ve gotten what they asked for?

  37. Doctor J Says:

    @Mike#34 MDEA’s climate surveys were revealing and informative — yet I remind you that you did not make them “public” but kept them “in house”. It seems to me that the only time this Supt and his administration responds to any issue is when it becomes “public” that public reaction seems to drive the outrage. CVCHS is just one example. BTW, has CVCHS responded to the FCMAT Management Letter ?

  38. Doctor J Says:

    @Theresa#35 Excellent point that MDUSD is “forced” to look at school climate — why forced ? CDE requires it — do you really think MDUSD did it on its own ? LOL. Here is a pretty good primer on disproportionality in California. A little hard to read in the column format, but worth reading the whole enchilada.

  39. Wendy Lack Says:

    Surveys are just one source of performance feedback. We’re constantly receiving feedback from inside and outside the organizational environment, in the form of informal conversations, others’ actions, reactions, data/metrics, etc.

    Just because something isn’t formally labeled as a “survey” or “performance feedback” doesn’t mean it doesn’t “count.” It’s all feedback. Surveys are just one method of soliciting a certain type of feedback.

    A problem must be well defined and fully understood before solutions can be designed, considered.

    A well-designed survey can be a useful tool in the beginning stages of problem definition. Survey results indicate where additional research is needed to understand what’s going on and why. It’s a start — not an end-point.

    Surveys of one particular sector of an organization offer one perspective — among many. And surveys are only one mechanism for obtaining performance feedback. They’re not the end-all, be-all.

    There’s no need to be defensive about survey results or performance feedback. It’s all just information. Getting defensive is a distraction from the work at hand: Improving individual and organizational performance to achieve agreed-upon goals.

    The focus should be to use survey results to guide future efforts and identify issues that need attention. Survey results — as with all types of performance feedback — are inputs to future work plans.

    Many organizations use so-called “360 Degree” feedback systems to systematically gather information from a variety of perspectives, in order to gain a more comprehensive, balanced view of how things are going. More about that approach here:

  40. vindex Says:

    @ Doctor J.. good points. However, I believe the massive improvements we have seen are because like you said, the schools had “longer instructional time.” This does not mean that teachers were instructing better, but rather helping raise these students. I have taught in inner city schools and for the most part, the family is non-existent. When the student goes home, there is nothing done at home. So, the really successful schools in those areas have longer instructional time and in effect become the parents of these students. Luckily, this isn’t my fight anymore, but it concerns me that schools are getting into the “raising the children” bit instead of instructing. In my career I have also taught at very high achieving schools and I’ll tell you, it was the easiest part of my career. I would challenge the students to jump and they would as “how high”. The families were not perfect but largely functional. Made my job so easy. My test scores were off the charts. Over 87% of my students were advanced or proficient in the tests. I’d like to take all the credit, but that wasn’t the reality. The reverse is true. In the urban schools, my test scores were not even close. I couldn’t shoulder all the blame either.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    Yes Vindex, there is a laundry list of reasons ranging from ESL to single parent families working 3 jobs. Reminds me of when Bill Clinton bragged he had created a million new jobs and the guy at the Town Hall Meeting said, “Yeah, I know, I have 3 of them.” The important thing is we try to support these children in learning so they can step up and out of poverty. Someone has to pay off these Measure C funds.

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Thanks for that excellent resource. The thing that struck me is that it was published in the summer of 2010 – BEFORE the district was signficantly disproportionate in the over-identification of African-American students as emotionally disturbed.

    This section jumped out at me:

    “…The Diagnostic Center’s idea of holistic assessment is being field tested in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District in Contra Costa County, where Carolyn Sakkis is the lead school psychologist. “We were on board with this from the beginning,” she says, “because we’ve long been concerned with over-identification” of minority students “and we’d like to do better assessments of these kids.” (In the 2008–2009 school year, African Americans were 5.2 percent of the general population at Mt. Diablo but 9.3 percent of the special education population.)
    Four psychologists for the Mt. Diablo USD were trained by and are working with a psychologist from the Diagnostic Center in this pilot project. “It’s a work in progress,” says Sakkis. “It’s about changing your mindset. A child is more than just a number on a test. You have to get to know the quality of the child, how they learn or don’t learn. By paying close attention to what you are observing and learning through interviews, you are picking up nuances you didn’t get historically when tests were skewed to middleclass whites.”
    The pilot project is working with students who have already been identified as needing special education services, most of whom are in elementary school and have been in special education for at least three years. But Sakkis and others see the potential for using this assessment earlier in the special education process. “I’d like to try this with students not yet identified,” she says.
    And Dawson wonders: “If we did this at the initial assessment, would we have fewer children in special education?”

    I didn’t hear this “pilot project” from 2010 mentioned in the disproportionality report. Did the district ever start using this method to assess students BEFORE identifying them for special education, as Sakkis suggested? If so, it doesn’t seem to have resulted in fewer African-American children in special education. If not, why not?

    Wendy: You make an interesting point about defensiveness. At the Equity Advisory Committee meeting, one parent said she feared the presence of the press would inhibit discussion. But a district employee said committee members should keep in mind that they are there for the benefit of the children. She told them they shouldn’t feel compelled not to say something just because they are afraid of what others will think of them.

    Mary Bacon had mixed feelings about the committee becoming public. While she agreed that it might inhibit frank discussion, she also said she thought that elevating the group to a “board committee” showed the board was really committed to equity. When it wasn’t a board committee, it was only necessary for the committee to exist until the district is no longer disproportionate. But, as a board committee, it will exist until the board decides to disband it.

    Deb Cooksey called it a “quasi-committee” because she said it must meet, even if there is no quorum, because the state mandates that it meet.

  43. Doctor J Says:

    Its just a lie.

  44. Giorgio C. Says:

    Using the test BEFORE identifying these students with an approved assessment methodology (gold standard)? Until a test is approved, complete with established performance specs and predictive value, it is my understanding that the currently approved methodology must be given priority, whether you agree with the results or not.

    Until a test is approved-accepted as a result of validation studies, doesn’t this assessment have to be performed in parallel with the approved assessment methodology?

    Is that not the case with this kind of testing? In my profession, we can use such non-approved (experimental) testing, but we must perform the routine, validated tests. In my profession, to not do so would be unethical and unlawful.

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Back on the subject of the budget, the state has released estimates under the governor’s funding proposal:

  46. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an interesting summit some EAT members might want to attend:

  47. Doctor J Says:

    How can the Board Trustees rely upon staff when there is a history and pattern of lying for the purpose of deception and cover-up ? How deep does this go ? It seems to have been a culture — we have seen it in so many departments. I really believe Linda Mayo was a victim of the lies and deception when she asked her questions. I don’t believe she was a willing participant.

  48. Doctor J Says:

    @#45 Like I have been saying –its not pretty. $2200 less per student than Pittsburg. Am I reading it correctly ? And no parcel tax with little liklihood of ever getting one with the lies and deception of staff coming to light day by day.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On the subject of attracting and retaining high quality teachers, I see that much-beloved former CPHS band director Johnny Johnson is now at Campolindo HS in the Acalanes district:

    He was laid-off in MDUSD when the board decided to eliminate elementary instrumental music and the bumping of music teachers began. It’s hard to retain high quality teachers when you’re cutting entire programs.

  50. Doctor J Says:

    Its time to get rid of Board Medical/Dental/Vision.

  51. g Says:


  52. Wendy Lack Says:

    TH #45:
    Here’s an article that gives a bit of context (for newbies like me) to the Governor’s funding plan, to be phased in over 7-10 years.

    When fully implemented the plan would increase funding differentials significantly between San Ramon Valley and, say, Antioch and West Contra Costa schools.

  53. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Thanks, Wendy. Yes, as its name implies, EdSource is a great education resource!

    Also, the state’s 2-pg. policy brief gives a pretty good overview of the rationale for the plan:

  54. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In looking at the guidance for disproportionality corrective action plans, I see that MDUSD chose not to focus on closing the Achievement Gap and improving its alignment with IDEA policies and procedures. Instead, it chose to focus on:
    • Culturally Responsive School Environments
    • Positive Behavior Supports (PBS); and
    • Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2)

  55. Anon Says:

    Were these choices presented to the board and decided at a board meeting?

  56. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No, I noticed that the plan Powerpoint said the district was asked to choose between five areas of focus, but it only listed the three that it chose to focus on. Since the two that it decided not to focus on were not listed, I went to the CDE website to see what they were.
    The plan is supposed to explain why the three areas were chosen. I assume the Equity Advisory Team and Leadership Team made these decisions.
    Anyone who thinks the district should focus on the other two areas could comment at Monday’s meeting, where the board is expected to adopt the plan.

  57. Doctor J Says:

    Why do you say “expected to adopt the plan” ? Is this Board just a rubber stamp ?

  58. Doctor J Says:

    Interesting that the Board retreat agenda for Saturday still has not been posted and we are now under 48 hours. Wondering if there is a little tussle between Steven and Cheryl.

  59. Theresa Harrington Says:

    There was interesting discussion about the board adoption of the disproportionality plan at the EAT meeting. Willie Mims expressed concerns about the group being a “board commission,” because he feared the board would try to change the plan that the group had agreed on. Mary Bacon informed him that the board has the authority to do that. But, he seemed to think the board should just rubber-stamp it.
    Although the EAT includes some community stakeholders, it certainly does not include the entire community. And until recently, the public and press have not been expressly welcome. It appears that some members of the group prefer it that way so that no one else will question what they have come up with.

    Regarding the retreat: You’re right. It starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, so the agenda should have been posted by 10 a.m. today, unless they’re going to call it a special meeting.

  60. Wendy Lack Says:

    The CA Legislative Analyst’s Office has released its report on the Governor’s education funding plan. The report is available at:

  61. Anon Says:

    When is the agenda for Mondays meeting supposed to be posted?

  62. Doctor J Says:

    With yesterdays discovery of the 2010 previously undisclosed pilot program, plus the lack of involvement of community stakeholders, the Board could very well send them back to the drawing Board to “do it right”. Frankly, the Board should have been involved in setting the policy for the areas of focus — it may have some serious policy concerns about the choices.

  63. g Says:

    Very Interesting Agenda….

  64. Doctor J Says:

    One very conspicious missing item: AB 1575 policy. “The bill would require public schools to
    establish local policies and procedures to implement these complaint procedures by March 1, 2013.” Yet the Board is being asked to approved several large “trips” for students. If these are really sponsored and paid for by the parent groups, why is the District signing the contracts ? Why not let the parent groups take the risk?

  65. Wendy Lack Says:

    @TH #45:

    Here’s a summary of the big-picture view of state finances. Mounting pension costs and unfunded retiree health liabilities are eroding the state’s spending power, leaving progressively less resources for actual services. Rising costs for healthcare and debt service are also problemmatical:

  66. Doctor J Says:

    Where are minutes of January 28 ? How long does it take to type up minutes ?

  67. Doctor J Says:

    Lorie O’Brien is so amazing — she read and approved all the schools “Single Plans for Student Achievement” on Friday Dec 14, 2012 when most of them were not even written yet. I am not sure if we tag her with a nickname of “Superwoman” or a “David Copperfield” ?

  68. Doctor J Says:

    But my favorite [so far] is Greg Rolen’s statement” in item 16.11 to justify his hiring almost a “million bucks” of outside lawyers [remember he is “General Counsel” and there is his “assistant” General Counsel Deb Cooksey [former Oakland Unified General Counsel] who embarrassed herself at a recent Board meeting with lack of knowledge of Board by-laws and Roberts Rules — so Greg says: ” By adding these three (3) firms, there will now be nine (9) law firms that will serve the District.” What the &%$#@ ?

  69. g Says:

    Rolen needing 9 outside legal firms is laughable, especially since, based on payouts, he gives his very good-est buddy most of the expensive special ed work.

    I’m very disappointed the big 5 contract is still a mystery. Why didn’t we check FFF calendars before we called them in on this.

    But my very favorite items on the agenda is in the warrant report:

    Paid 1/17/13–
    Marisol Padilla $6440.00 – 010-1300-36-5100
    Marisol Padilla $3350.00 – 010-1300-36-5800

    I guess she ‘lowered’ or fees…or found some old invoices…and no one thought her contracts (or apparently any of the others) would need to come back to the board for an actual VOTE.

    Must admit I did get a chuckle from them paying Eberhart $216.45 for his 2013 CSBA expenses…;)

  70. Doctor J Says:

    Got to keep Marisol quiet — can you imagine what she could tell ? Paying Eberhart’s expenses AFTER the election ? WTH ?

  71. Doctor J Says:

    @G#69 The BIG5 contracts are a “real problem” — the 4/23 extensions were probably “illegal”. That’s what I think FFF is telling the Board. That’s why I said that just let the BIG5 sue the district. They will lose and owe the district attorney fees — the letter was just a favor done for a Rotary brother . Actually, I think that Rose, Julie, will chicken out, and so will Bryan [especially after costing the district at least $100,000 for leaving his laptop for theft]. Steven is actively looking for another job. Greg could probably work for Paul.

  72. Jim Says:

    @69 G — I’ve found that it’s not at all uncommon in organizations for an employee in a profession — any profession — to want to spread contract work around to the other people s/he knows in that profession. That can be an effective way to build up a “favor bank” and “network” one’s way to the next gig. It happens quite often in the private sector. The difference there is that are people with a financial interest, who are accountable to keep an eye on things and make sure the favors don’t get out of hand or impede the overall effectiveness of the organization.

    In organizations like MDUSD, of course, the funds are all “other people’s money”, and there is no one who has any incentive to monitor or stop such behavior.

  73. g Says:

    Ah, yes. But the people must be afforded the opportunity to see where their money is going. To accomplish this, they should not have to wade through 75 pages of a warrant report, nor should they have to go line by line on a budget to try to pick out obscure object codes that might – or might not – lead to an accounting in the General Fund of the legal expenses.

    Nor should our board have to go to the CFO or the General Counsel and ask to see individual invoices.

    An in-house legal department was created in 2004 on the premise (and promise) that it would save money. That office was given a multi-million dollar budget. In the eight years since, I do not believe the people have been given a single break-out accounting of that department.

    Why is that department’s enormous budget any different than Adult Services, Food Services, Special Education….

    General Counsel (if the board should decide to continue with in-house counsel at all) should be required to publicly present a quarterly accounting of who, what, when, why we have used these nine outside firms, what we have paid them, and their records of legal wins, losses, settlements. In fact, it should also have its warrants separated out on the monthly warrant report.

    The item, crammed in at the end of the 2/25 agenda for Rolen to speak to “…how his office handles and addresses legal issues…” is an insult to the taxpayers.

    I want to know what were our legal expenses in 2002-3-4, what are they today, and why.

  74. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a story and chart showing the state’s Local Control Funding Formula:

    MDUSD Superintendent Steven Lawrence did not respond to an email I sent asking for his reaction to the formula. However, I did hear back from superindents of Canyon, Lafayette, Martinez, and Moraga, as well as from the San Ramon Valley district spokesman and the Pittsburg Deputy Superintendent for Business. I’ll do a blog post with their comments and will include Lawrence’s, if he ever gets back to me.

    Also of interest, Julie Braun-Martin responded to my email asking about mandated reporting training for classified staff, saying the district DOES provide it. But, Annie Nolen tells me she surveyed CSEA members and out of 140 responses so far, 99.9 percent of them said they had never been trained in their mandated reporting responsibilities. Not only that, she said they also haven’t received their mandatory training in bloodborne pathogens.

  75. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#74 So what’s surprising ? Julie B-M says they do and the empoloyees say they don’t. Let’s see the records that show they do. Or else the records will prove they don’t. Then we can have a discussion about whether to extend the BIG5 contracts.

  76. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#74 No response from Steven ? Its Friday. Did he show up for work today ?

  77. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of records, when asked how many mandated reporters were trained this year and last year, the district answered: “Unknown at this time.” In our initial survey, the district merely said it trained “all certificated employees.”

    When I followed up and asked why it didn’t also train classified employees, Julie Braun-Martin wrote: “Felicia Stuckey-Smith provided the responses to the original survey.” So, apparently she delegated that responsibility initially.

  78. Doctor J Says:

    The agenda changed. Now Steven L. thinks his “cabinet” can “reform” the strategic plan. He has no clue — CLUELESS — about how a stratgegic plan is to be adopted. This is pretty clear his “evalutation” did not go well. No kidding.

  79. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#77 Sounds like they didn’t train the classified employees — remember Felicia is a lawyer. Just another example of one of the BIG5 not properly managing their departments — Julie needs to accept responsibility for not providing legally mandated training to the employees — she is the head of personnel.

  80. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: It’s unclear why the Superintendent’s Cabinet has decided to create its own draft strategic plan to revise the already-board adopted plan. And it would be nice if the cabinet had made its changes by redlining the adopted plan, so the public could easily see what changes, additions and deletions were made.

    Anon: Here’s the Saturday agenda:

    It also includes a presentation by an outside attorney about the Brown Act, Public Records Act requests and confidential information. I hope the board asks about the Poway “thorough analysis” and the FCMAT third party analysis.

    And here’s the Monday agenda:

    FYI, I just received an email from the superintendent’s secretary clarifying that the start time for the closed session is 6 p.m., not 6:30 p.m. (which was originally posted).

    Lots on the agenda, including Common Core Standards (with PowerPoint already posted!), school climate survey, Pleasant Hill and Concord initiatives to support schools, costs of laptop theft, legal services contracts, replacing bus destroyed in crash, public input meetings, video broadcast of meetings, security on portable devices such as laptops, general counsel’s handling of specific legal matters, public access to and release of FCMAT reports, and an update on the review process for five district administrators’ contracts.

    By the way, I’m hearing that several district employees have been victims of credit card fraud recently. Hopefully, Rolen will update the board about how many employees have signed up for identity theft protection and whether anyone is alleging ID theft as a result of the laptop theft.

  81. Doctor J Says:

    Suddenly, there is a posting on the district website, after my observation, of a change to an Administrative Regulation. But it does NOT appear on the Agenda for Monday. Steven, you are so behind the curve.

  82. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I notice that it says at the bottom that it was revised Feb. 25, 2013. How can it be revised Monday, when it’s not on the agenda? Maybe the district figured no one would notice.

  83. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, there will be no audio recording of the board’s Saturday retreat. Because of this, I will try to attend and post video recordings.

  84. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In most districts, he head of Human Resources is responsible for the mandated reporter training.
    Some districts actually have board policies stating that the superintendent or designee is responsible for providing training. MDUSD has no such policy. But, as was apparent in Brentwood, even though that district has such a policy, it wasn’t being properly implemented.

  85. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    Dr. J, someone told me today about your concern from a few days ago. I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply but I do not read the blog – no time.

    I wish I was Superwoman – my family probably does, too! I actually did read all the plans. Additionally, other administrators in the department read them as well. All plans were due to the department on December 14th and many were in earlier than that. Minor adjustments were made by the sites (typos cleaned up, etc.) as we read the plans. When needed, they were taken back to their School Site Councils (SSCs) for any additional approvals. We had to put a date on the cover page for the company that “houses” the plans for us, provides the translations, and creates the PDFs. It seemed appropriate to use the due date but any date after that would have worked. If a site wishes, they can redo that page and change the date to one that their SSC is more comfortable with – it is really a minor issue. The important issue is the approval by the site’s SSC and Board approval.

    I hope this clears up any questions you may have about it. Please don’t hesitate to call me or email me. I am happy to try to answer any questions or concerns you might have.

  86. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s Braun-Martin’s response to my follow-up questions about the classified mandated reporter training:

    “Felicia may have data on when training sessions were offered last year, but I do not have data on last year in our office. When principals do the site meeting, we want them to offer the opportunity to the classified staff.”

    But, is there any followup to ensure that principals include classified staff in the training?

  87. g Says:

    “…offer the opportunity…” for mandated training? Huh?

  88. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Doesn’t sound very mandatory, does it?

  89. Doctor J Says:

    Doesn’t sound like it happened ? Think Sun Terrace.

  90. Doctor J Says:

    @Lorie#85 Lorie you know over half the SPSA’s were not even turned in by Dec 14, the date you said you read and approved them all. The truth would be a good start.

  91. g Says:

    The way school site administrators are shuffled around, (20 this past Fall?) I doubt if half of them know if their current site has done any mandatory training, and if so, who or when.

    That shuffle and parent/student turnover goes for SPSA site input as well.

  92. Annie V.P. CSEA Says:

    What does the District consider Training? I would not have found a web site for my members if I thought they were being trained. Out of 140 I think 4 said yes and I’m still receiving e-mails.It was nice to see that Tom Torlakson thinks its a good web site and recommended it to schools.I’ve been telling our District about that web site since last year.Some of my members have already taken the on line class.But that does not relieve the District of their duty. I did it strictly to protect my members and the students.

  93. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is the online training that both Annie and Tom Torlakson are recommending to districts:

    Here’s Julie Braun-Martin’s response to a question from me about why the district hasn’t acted on Annie’s request:

    “The District has investigated the idea of using online materials and is still open to that option. At this time we do not have an online program that we have selected for our use.”

    And here’s her response when I mentioned that Torlakson was also recommending the same program as Annie:

    “Annie mentioned the Torlakson recommendation had come out. We are considering that program and another option that our legal department was looking into.”

    Here’s what the district says it is doing:

    “Yes, we provide training to classified employees. We have mentioned to our union leaders that we are scheduling those district-wide training meetings now to review the mandated reporter information with our classified employees for 2013.

    Employees receive notice of the annual notifications which are posted on the district website to remind employees of their legal responsibilities. Administrators just reviewed the mandated reporter requirements in their February administrative meetings. Mandated reporter requirements are reviewed by the administrators with the staff at the sites.”

    However, as has been pointed out, it’s unclear whether principals include classified staff in those meetings.

  94. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    Hi, Dr. J. I thought I’d check in to see if you had any follow up questions. My husband is working tonight so no barriers to me spending a little time online. I am curious where you got that information. In fact, most were in on time. A few were delayed due to the need for some additional input by their Site Councils, but the schools communicated with us about that. The date isn’t a hard date, but one that is set to try to make sure we have adequate time to read them – over Winter Break – and talk with sites if any questions come while getting to the Board for approval on time. I’m sorry you felt it necessary to imply I am lying. The buzz of activity after the due date was making sure all the reading was done in plenty of time, that all the Site Council minutes were in, and budgets submitted. Perhaps your source was confused? The date on the cover page is predone by the company where the documents are developed. We had to pick a standard date due to that. As I wrote earlier, if a site is uncomfortable with that, they can replace it – not a big deal. That date is unimportant, the ones that matter are the Site Councils and the Board. I’d rather have the Board approval date on it – it seems to make sense – and perhaps that is a change we can make next year. Again, I am happy to talk or answer emails.

  95. g Says:

    There could only be one possible problem with the online reporter training.

    “…We are considering that program and another option that our legal department was looking into.”

    The one possible problem is that Rolen hasn’t figured out a way to turn it into a few bucks for himself or his buddies yet.

  96. Annie V.P. CSEA Says:

    From what I hear from my members not that many go to staff meeting. They are usually gone by the time staff meeting are held after school.I guess on short days they could get training.So if there is training I sure seem to have a lot of members that missed it.I would like to see when these trainings have been so I can send another e-mail to see if my members knew anything about them.

  97. g Says:

    Well, it certainly might help if, under Duties and Responsibilities there actually were such a thing as the alluded to, yet so illusive “Exhibit A” in their contracts.

    Does Julie B-M have the authority to ‘delegate’ any personnel training to the Student Services department–and thereby lay the blame on someone else if it isn’t done?

    Does Rolen have any jurisdiction over state mandated personnel training?

    Should Rolen bypass the chain of command and go directly to personnel or student services to direct (or delay) them in their jobs?

    None of the above as I read it.

  98. Doctor J Says:

    @LO#94 When you put your name on a document with an “approved” it should be truthful and accurate. This is simply the problem with the MDUSD culture — being accurate and truthful has seemed to disappear, because as you put it ‘That date is unimportant’. Its your credibility at stake — its your name. Don’t blame inaccuracy on some company that develops boilerplate forms. After you approved it, it could easily be inserted by each school. Thank you for admitting that you did not read over 5,000 pages in a single day. If they were all approved on December 14, why are they just now appearing on the Agenda for Feb 25 ? I believe they normally appear on a January agenda. There was a similar issue with you on the Corrective Action Plans for the 3 SIG schools — a Board member asked you a question about whether parents were involved, as required by law, and you responded yes, but you weren’t even involved in the creation of the CAP’s so you didn’t know, and I believe you subsequently learned it wasn’t true. But it was the “expedient” answer. Would you please help change the MDUSD culture and be accurate and honest ? Sometimes a “No” or a “I don’t know” is the right thing to do.

  99. Doctor J Says:

    @G#95 — Perhaps a new company for Marisol ?

  100. Doctor J Says:

    @Annie#96 Did your employees receive mandatory sexual harassment training last March ? Here is my post from March 10, 2012:
    “Mandatory” sexual harassment training is the responsibility of the Personnel Dept, so why is it suddenly without prior notice coming from the “legal dept” ? Its only offered “one day” and so mandatory they won’t allow any employee to miss — even though prior commitments and meetings were in place. Could it be related to those undisclosed “potential” litigations ? Has someone filed a sexual harassment claim with the state or feds and it came to light that there is no sexual harassment training as required ? I can’t wait to hear why the district has ignored the law passed in 2004 ? Just remember when months ago I pointed that out — but was ignored. When was the last “sexual harassment” training ? Its required every two years — can’t remember when the last one was ? Was there a “last one”? I wonder why Julie Braun-Martin, Greg Rolen and Deb Cooksey have not been paying attention to AB 1825 that was passed in 2004 ? You wonder why the district hires people in a field who are unfamiliar with basic concepts ? Do you really think President Whitmarsh’s employer Chevron would miss their employees having the mandatory sexual harassment training ? Even the California School Boards Association teaches about it — oh yeah, Gary and Sherry don’t believe in CSBA training.
    Julie, please tell us why you haven’t been insisting on mandatory sexual harassment training every two years for all supervisory employees ? Greg, please tell us. Deb, please tell us. Supt. Lawrence, you of all people should know this, why haven’t you insisted on this ? All of you have put the district “at risk” by not enforcing mandatory trainings in the last eight years !

  101. Annie V.P. CSEA Says:

    My members are not in supervisory positions. Do I think everybody should have the training? Yes. I think everyone forgets other people work in schools that need information too. Classified seem to get forgotten in the working of a school system. Can’t run it without them. When it would happen I don’t know,because they would have to pay most of my members to stay late. I wish we still had school development days. One thing I can tell you is my issues are not always with Julie or Lois because both are very responsive to my concerns or problems. I think I’m on speed dial with both of them. Do I always get the response I want? No.Do I sometimes keep digging and checking the answers? Yes. But, I know they have looked into it. Meet with them once month. Does it take time? Yes. One question can take 3or4 calls per member and more then a couple of days. I know they work some very long hours. I also know that the ladies in benefits(classified)did an incredible job of trying to make sure employees did not lose their dental and vision in the audit the District just did. Some things do work.

  102. Doctor J Says:

    I sure hope Theresa does a “live blog” today — the first presentation will be all about the Brown Act, Public Records — something Theresa deals with frequently.
    I hope someone brings up the issue with the posting on the district website about the changes to the By-laws and Admin Regs — as Theresa pointed out with a date of revision of Feb 25 — but not even listed on the Agenda.

  103. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I’ll try, but will also be trying to videotape, so we’ll see how it goes…

  104. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    Dr. J, , I don’t disagree about the blanket date and that is why I think it should be the
    Board approval date and is something I hope we will change for next year. You position on this is very reasonable. Just to be clear, I never said or wrote I read them all in one day! That would be quite a feat! Also, you can read something one day and approve it another. Giving the very few plans that came in later a December 14 date is not something I’m fondmof but there was no way I was able to find to do it differently with the constraints from the process with the company.

    The plans were on the last January agenda for the Board for info and they go this time for approval. We are one meeting later than last year which you can see if you go into the archives from last year. We are one meeting later because the company we work with had some technical problems and they had to fix some things – missing pages and extra blank pages. We were not sure they would be ready in time for the date the agendas are posted so we delayed one meeting. There is no requirement when the plans are approved by the Board, just that they are annually.

    To clarify, the item you referenced was the LEA Plan Addendum that was both a requirement for the SIG grant and as a district in Program Improvement Status. There may be a SIG Corrective Action document but I am not aware of it as I do not work closely with SIG. The Lea Plan Addendum is the one place where things intersect. I was not the person who coordinated the development of the Addendum, but I was present at some of the meetings when the schools, staff, and parents provided input and I know there were others as well that I did not attend so I was and remain comfortable with the answer.

    Dr. J, being willing to say you don’t know, you were wrong, or to apologize is an important thing. In my experience, every person I work with in MDUSD has no problem saying that. They all want to do a great job and care very deeply. It saddens me that you’ve had such a negative experience with MDUSD. Reading this blog since yesterday saddens me even further. What an amazingly horrible picture of our district is painted here! Is there room for improvement? Always. No person or place of employment ever reaches the point of perfection. But, there are also so many wonderful people in the district doing amazing and wonderful things. I work daily with some of the most talented and dedicated people I’ve ever known. If there are additional questions, I am happy to meet, talk, share with anyone about what I do.

  105. Lorie O'Brien - private citizen Says:

    I want to be clear that what I am writing next is from me as a citizen of Concord and a grandparent of children in the district, not as a District employee. I declared my personal email address in the required info for posting. I’m not writing that because someone told me to or because I am afraid but because I want to be clear that these are my personal opinions and thoughts. Given the kind of writing I’ve read today and yesterday I am sure someone will be skeptical of that but it is true.

    This blog is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. There seems to be so much anger here at anyone and everyone in MDUSD and it puzzles me. There seems to be a desire throughout to hurt people to the point of bullying. Insinuations, innuendo, and manipulation are so destructive! It makes for juicy reading but at what cost? I’m sure the number of hits the blog gets as a result brings in pretty good ad revenue so it is good business but is it responsible citizenry to engage in what appears to be a lot of adult bullying? I wonder if businesses who support this are aware of what their name is attached to? Do they really want to be known as companies that support bullying and emotional violence? Reminds me of the old slam books kids used to get in trouble for creating. I’ve taken time from my family to respond to what was written. I’ve put my name on it unlike most of the folks posting. Yet, I get comments back that are full if nastiness designed to tear down and create questions of credibility rather than acknowledge that someone attempted to be open and honest as the blog espouses it wants. Why on earth would any sensible person willingly subject themselves to that? My naive thought was that you were truly interested in the facts, but that does not seem to be the case. The blog does not appear to be a place for fact finding, truth and open honest discourse, but a place for people to get to be as nasty and hurtful as they want because they can hide behind an alias – no ownership of what they say or do. It amazes me that during a time when our country is struggling to find ways to end violence folks would be willing to engage in and promote the emotional violence I see in this blog. I have to question the motivation.

    MDUSD is filled with wonderful people doing wonderful work and I’m thrilled I get to work with and learn from them. Room for improvement? Of course. Do I make mistakes? Well, of course I do; all humans do! Everday I learn more and hopefully get better at what I do as a result. Seems to me that this is what we should all aspire to in this gift of life; are we adding in a positive way or only seeking to tear down and destroy? My personal goal is to try to stay with the positive. For that reason my two day adventure into the blog is ending; I won’t keep reading the blog.

  106. Doctor J Says:

    My point about the Dec 14 date was simply that every single plan [that I looked at] says you approved them on that date which was not true. I apprecitate your acknowledgment that this was a due date. My sources say you sent several emails out because the due date was not met by many schools; but alas they are all in. You are correct, it was the LEA Addendum. I will stand by my statement that the addendum was done solely by staff without parent involvement according to my sources. Nevertheless, It was approved by the Board after you accepted your new position and accepted by CDE.

  107. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    The LEA Plan Addendum was approved by the Board the June prior to me taking this job. I brought an update for approval. Please see the archived agendas and minutes.

  108. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    I’d question those sources. They are manipulating you.

  109. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    Interesting that something else I posted a few minutes ago as a private citizen has yet to show up. The header next to it says waiting moderation. I wonder why?

  110. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Lorie, When someone posts under a new email address, the comment needs to be moderated so that person can be approved as a new member of the blog commenting group. This is to prevent spam.

  111. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    Thanks for that clarification, Theresa. Then I am sure it will appear soon.

  112. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    I am glad to know it isn’t censorship! As an advocate of openness and transparency, I am sure you would have award time with that! I guess there is no need for me to continue to take screen shots of what I posted. Thanks.

  113. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    Goodness” autocorrect! Let’s try that again. I am sure you would have a hard time with that!

  114. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    So, who does the moderating? You or someone else?

  115. Doctor J Says:

    Lorie, I went back to my notes and it was the Feb 27, 2012 meeting. Theresa reported this: “Trustee Cheryl Hansen pulled item 9.12 LEA Plan Addendum Update, to ask how the district had solicited input from parents, as required. Administrator Lorie O’Brien said the California Dept. of Ed. decided the district didn’t have to go through this process, since it had already gathered parent input during the School Improvement Grant process. She was unsure how many parents had been consulted regarding the plan.”

  116. Doctor J Says:

    Lorie, here is a post from March 1, 2012 about the Feb 27 Board meeting: “At Monday nights Board Meeting, Lori O’Brien SASS Asst. Director of Categoricals, stated in response to a question by Trustee Cheryl Hansen about the “parental involvement” required as stated in Supt. Lawrence’s Oct 26, 2011 letter on the Federal reqt’s of the “LEA Plan Addendum” as a result of MDUSD being named as a “Program Improvement” District and I quote from the transcript:
    “At the beginning of November we received permission from CDE to not go through the entire process as outlined in that letter. . . . CDE in looking at the process that was used and the quality of the Addendum that was approved by this Board on June 28, 2011 felt that we had met the requirement and there was no further need for us to go back out to the community and do that again.” I emailed Christine Swenson, CDE Director of Improvement and Accountability Section, about Lorie O’Brien’s statements and Ms. Swenson replied: “I have checked with the staff here; no one advised the district that parent input was not necessary.”

  117. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    Yes, and with the rest of the information, there would be a complete picture. Only part of the picture is here and creates a picture that we did something wrong which is not accurate and feels deliberately slanted.

  118. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    I checked with CDE before going forward about the process that had been used and with the people involved in leading the process. They were clear parents had been at the meetings. I shared that info with CDE and they’ve direction to me was to simply update the demographic and test data and to have that approved by our Board. I followed those instructions. I trust the guidance given by CDE. We want to be compliant and so do they. When guidance is given we act in good faith based on it.

  119. Lorie O'Brien Says:

    If mistakes happen based on the guidance or in how we intact it, we work to fix it as soon as possible. On a different note, if we remain in PI status as a district next year, we will have to update the Addendum again. Since it seems there is a need to make the parent involvement that happened more deliberately published, this conversation is very helpful in thinking forward to how to do that next year. Good food for thought. Thank you!

  120. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Lorie, I do the moderating. And yes, it has already posted.

    Dr. J: I was unable to live blog from today’s meeting, but I did videotape it and am uploading clips to and

  121. vindex Says:

    @Ms O’Brien.. First, I admire the fact that you’d come to this blog and engage the paying public. Second, I would have no problem putting my name down as I write but out of respect for the 50+ people that work in the MDUSD that I call friends, I do not. They fear reprisals… As long as Greg Rolen works for this district, I will never print my name. Third, you may find what goes on here as emotional violence, and I understand your point. However, Freedom of Speech is for the most part is offensive. Therefore it is protected in the first amendment of the Constitution. If Free Speech wasn’t by nature offensive, it would need no protections. So, while I do not agree with some comments on this blog, I celebrate that Theresa has created a forum to voice concerns. The MDUSD would heed the tone of the comments and realize that the public does not trust the District Admin. in the least. The teachers, classified, and many of the Admin.? We love them. However, something is wrong at the District office level.

  122. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:


    Your hyperbolic statement about “emotional violence” leads me to believe this is your first time on the internet.

    It is time to shape up or ship out.

  123. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Lorie and Vindex: There was a very interesting discussion during today’s Board Retreat, when several board members talked about the culture of distrust in the district. They said they know of people who are afraid to speak up because of retaliation. This is why some people choose to post on this blog under aliases.
    I am trying to upload the videos, but have been having technical difficulties.
    Although the MDUSD cabinet espouses the idea that ALL students and ALL parents and ALL employees should feel valued and welcomed in the district, the administration admitted that that is not the case now. Why not?
    This culture starts from the top. If administrators react to constructive criticism responsively instead of defensively, then maybe more people will feel willing to post their names with their comments.
    I do not condone nasty attacks. But, I do believe that people who are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation should have an outlet to express their concerns.
    Although Trustee Linda Mayo has in the past appeared to be slow to embrace social media, she was very astute today when she suggested that the district should look at analytics to see who is using the website.
    As the district tries to figure out how to improve customer service, it is important to LISTEN to what parents and employees have to say, instead of defensively dismissing it.

  124. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Regarding the suggestion from Ms Mayo to analyze who uses the district website –

    While i agree with the suggestion to some extent, the site is so out of date, with broken links and disjointed or hidden informationit is pretty much not usable by the general public. It’s pretty embarrassing and sad compared to other unified district sites in California.

    Perhaps the suggestion should be to update / revamp the site; model it after other districts -that shouldnt take longer than 2 weeks. Announce and unveil the updated site, THEN analyze the usage; determine what parts of the site are accessed more than others and by whom, etc. Provide site users with a way to answer if the site was useful, easy to navigate and if they found the information they needed. Then every 30 days run the analysis again. Make adjustments, fix broken links, keep the site usable.

    And remember: The goal is to provide everyone (general public, district staff / employees) with up to date and easily accessed information, copies of public records & documents used by the district to make decisions that affect our children / students and the general public; details of who to contact for questions and of how to report problems, as well as to avoid the appearance of hiding information, not being truthful or transparent.

  125. Wendy Lack Says:

    Let’s hope this proposed federal legislation called “The Fair Academic Standards Act” is not successful.

    What a travesty . . . it institutionalizes grade inflation. What are the proponents smoking?

  126. g Says:

    Sheesh! I only read the beginning so far…. Are they talking about making students ‘earn’ better than a C+ to be promoted, or are they proposing masking Failure with a better letter???

  127. g Says:

    OK. Wendy is correct!

  128. Jim Says:

    @125-7 — I think you are witnessing the unfolding of an internet hoax.

  129. Wendy Lack Says:

    Re: #125

    Yes, it’s satire, people!

    Though in today’s world, it’s pretty hard to tell fact from fiction.

  130. g Says:

    Ya got me!

  131. Doctor J Says:

    Sacramento City USD Trustees just voted to close 7 schools and 3 more are under consideration due to declining enrollment. Should the MDUSD Board establish a School Closure Committee to take a look at the declining enrollment in MDUSD ? I am tired of Steven Lawrence’s secret committees. The public is a stakeholder in this district.

  132. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of secret committees, I was amused by the staff’s discussion of how they are wrangling with how to include more parents in the district. They seemed genuinely dumbfounded as they struggled to figure out how they could get more parents involved. Felicia Stuckey-Smith said one good way for parents to get involved is for them to join committees. Board President Cheryl Hansen suggested that perhaps a more concerted effort could be made to let parents know about committees and invite them to get involved, “instead of a principal standing in the parking lot trying to get a committee member.”
    This is what I’ve been saying all along. It’s very clear that when a new committee is formed, the district makes no effort to invite parents who are “outsiders” to join. Instead, many principals hand-pick “insider” parents who they already know (because they already serve on other committees) and no one else finds out about the committees or has any opportunity for input.
    The board’s decision to make the Equity Advisory Team and Feeder Pattern Meetings Board Committees was a step in the right direction. Now, at least, the district is informing people about the meetings.
    But there are still other secret committees that meet at times and places that are not publicly revealed. It is unknown who is on these committees or how they were selected.
    These include: The Bay Point Master Plan committee, Graduation Requirements Committee and the Technology Committee.
    I’d bet that there are a lot of district parents who would be interested in serving on those committees – or at least knowing about them. But, the district has intentionally kept them secret.
    Instead of scratching their heads in wonder about how to involve parents, district administrators should tell parents about the committees and invite EVERYONE to serve on them.
    Giorgio also makes a good point about site councils. How many site councils post their agendas and minutes online?
    And HFO makes a good point about the website. It’s so outdated and difficult to navigate now, it’s questionable how valuable analytics about current use would be.
    But, Trustee Linda Mayo and others appeared to suddenly realize that up-to-date websites — both for schools and the district — would be a good way to inform the public about what is going on.

  133. Theresa Harrington Says:

    A bill has been introduced that would delay layoff notice deadlines for teachers from March 15 to June 1:

  134. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#132 Parental involvement ? Don’t you remember when MDUSD was named a Program Improvement District and posted that first letter on its website which included parents getting involved in writing the addendum [see my discussion with Lorie O’Brien]. As I recall several parents called to see how they could get involved and were shut down — then the letter was removed, rewritten and the parental involvement was taken out. Lorie admitted at the Board meeting on Feb 27,2012 that there was no parental involvement in that revision that was approved. She and I have a disagreement about the extent of the parental involvment, if any, in the prior addendum approved in June 2011. I agree that the committees should be better publicized, agendas posted on the website, and not limited to a few exclusive parents. But as I just said on the other thread, Steven Lawrence doesn’t want public involvement.

  135. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Board President Cheryl Hansen has said that the superintendent’s performance goals should be aligned with the strategic plan. In the strategic plan, one of five goals is “supportive family and community involvement.” The superintendent can’t ignore this. If he tries to, the board should hold him accountable for failing to adhere to the strategic plan.

  136. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#135 I am sure the Supt would point out he has seen parents at meetings, but like Lorie O’Brien implied, they don’t have a list to tell you how many or who. That’s why we need public committees.

  137. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Right. And although everyone is going out of their way to talk about how many stakeholders are on the Equity Advisory Team, there really aren’t very many. The majority of that committee is district staff. One man told me he was invited purely by happenstance, when he called to express an interest in finding out more about what was going on. Then, after he got onto the committee, the district didn’t bother to invite anyone from DELAC, since he was Latino. It was only after Ernie DeTrinidad asked why DELAC wasn’t involved that he was invited to join.
    Instead of just haphazardly grabbing the first person available, the district should have a better system for recruiting committee members.

  138. Theresa Harrington Says:

    New Americorps grants to help turnaround schools:

  139. Doctor J Says:

    I think Steven Lawrence’s idea of of family and community involvement does not include large members of the public participating in developing a Strategic Plan, or participating in district committees. He likes to hand select who participates and keep the meetings secret. The school closure committee was an example of what he didn’t like — remember he finally had his “cabinet” make a different recommendation, which was rejected by the committee. And we all remember the fiasco of the board meeting on school closure in Feb 2011. So he formed his own boundary realignment committee and kept it a secret.

  140. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, the entire school closure process was very frustrating to the public, including board meetings where the superintendent presented PowerPoints with no written staff report, which weren’t posted ahead of time or made available to the public at the meetings.
    At the Board Retreat, the outside attorney made it very clear things like that aren’t supposed to happen. Staff reports are supposed to be posted with the agenda. PowerPoints should be made available to the public during the meeting. There should be no surprises and there should be ample opportunity for public input.

    This also reminds me of when a plan to move the alternative high schools was about to be implemented with no public or board input, until parents and staff members complained to the board. This is not a way to build public trust (or staff trust). Instead, it makes people wonder: What other secret plans may be in the works?

  141. Doctor J Says:

    @140 So what was Steven Lawrence’s response to that ? Usually staff is working up to the last minute on the powerpoints — now they are going to have to have them done a week ahead of time ? Oh my. That will be a culture shock. Sounds like the Board got to see a huge contrast between the outside FFF attorney and our two general counsels.

  142. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, when the FFF attorney said that settlements must be reported out after they are ratified, Trustee Linda Mayo asked: “How do we do that?”
    Clearly, the board hasn’t felt the need to do this up til now.

  143. g Says:

    Secret committees? Make Rolen tell us ‘why’ we need more outside law firms.

    Olson, Hagel & Fishburn. Why do we need a new firm whose specialties are Political Law, Elections, Initiatives, and Campaign Finance? Where is their Engagement Letter and Fee Schedule?

    Why Tomislav Peraic, for at least the last nine years he was/is General Counsel for he very wealthy Aspire Public Schools in the Sacramento area. How/why is he available to advise MDUSD and about what? Where is his ‘Addendum 1’ showing fee schedule?

    Why bring Orbach Huff & Suarez back with a copy of his Oct. Contract (but not a copy of his pay schedule.

    Pedersen/Rolen just got him added in Oct. with a 2 year, $200K deal most specifically to ‘fill in the blanks’ on Lease/Leaseback contracts for Measure C. So what is this request tonight all about?

    Do we have firms on the books with contracts but have stopped using them? If so, why? Somebody not willing to play for pay–or pay for play?

  144. Anon Says:

    The problem with satire is that there is always some idiot, i.e. Maxine Waters, out there who might think that it is a good idea. I saw it and, seeing that it had Waters’ name attached to it, thought she had indeed brought that forward. Now, I’m afraid she will.

  145. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of lease-leasebacks, there’s another one on tonight’s consent calendar:

  146. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#142 Aren’t the settlement agreements public record ? I still wonder if there wasn’t a settlement with Dr. Nugent.

  147. Doctor J Says:

    G #143 There is something that smells in Denmark about all of these outside law firms when we have two general counsels. Its time to get copies of the invoices from these law firms. They are public records.

  148. Doctor J Says:

    What was the response to Linda Mayo’s question about “How do we do that?” [report settlements to the public].

  149. g Says:

    Yep. It was originally put out for public bid with (just as the last one) no mention that we were planning on making it L/LB. The company they are recommending actually went on the Mandatory Walk Through last March. Where is the comparison on all those bids? How did Taber and S&H get on the final list–they didn’t go on the Walk Through. Did Taber actually bid double what North State bid–was it a bid for apples-to-apples? Or a ‘favor’ bid for the books?

    The board needs to actually LOOK at all of the bids! We’re sitting on over a Billion dollars worth of ‘blind trust’ construction spending in the last dozen years. I can’t count high enough to figure what the actual pay-off costs will come to by 2035!

  150. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The board seems to have very little knowledge of the Measure C master plan. When Trustee Lynne Dennler was asking about the cost to purchase Columbine locks, she didn’t appear to know that this has been in the Measure C master plan since it was developed. It just wasn’t a high priority until now.
    Superintendent Lawrence said the district “now knows” how many locks need to be replaced. In reality, the district has known all along, since it’s IN THE PLAN. But, since the superintendent told Pete Pedersen not to put the plan online, very few people have a copy of it.

  151. Doctor J Says:

    So Theresa, are you keeping a copy of your plan secret too ? :-)

  152. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It is a thick booklet. I have previously posted portions of it. Plus, I have hand written on it extensively. But, I could scan portions of it and post them in google docs. It includes $775,680 for door hardware, which defined as “Columbine style devices and/or approved panic system.”

    Regarding Sharepoint, yes, there are people the district could hire. But, there’s no one IN the district, apparently.

  153. g Says:

    Which brings us back to tonight’s L/LB. The original bids were for College Park Windows AND Doors. Are Doors still in the bid? Do they come with proper locks in the bid–or are those ‘extras’ for ‘later’? Can a Sacramento contractor really do what the original bid was for, for the amount in the L/LB?

  154. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Superintendent Lawrence told the board there would be a bid for the door locks coming soon. So, it sounds like that may be separate. Good questions for the board to ask, if they remove it from the consent calendar.

  155. Doctor J Says:

    The Sharepoint website version the district is using is probably outdated and they need to purchase the new version. Its a Microsoft product so it is readily available. If they just use it for website, they should only have to purchase a single license. Otherwise, they can research other products.

  156. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Estrada said the district might have to purchase 32,000 licenses so everybody could use it, at a cost of about $70,000.

  157. Doctor J Says:

    @#156 I just looked at the Microsoft site, and it looks like you just need one license to establish your internet site but I could be wrong. If you want to buy the whole enchilada which includes lots of other goodies then maybe more licenses. But why 32,000 ? There are only 5,000 employees. Here is a quote from the Microsoft site: “SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Sites, Standard SharePoint for Internet Sites, Standard, delivers the core capabilities of the SharePoint 2010 Standard CAL for use on an Internet or extranet site. This server license is designed for small and mid-sized companies, and deployment is limited to a single domain and related subdomains. A domain is a combination of a public domain (such as .com, .net, .org) and a second-level, proprietary domain (such as MyCompany, MyOrganization, MyClub). Examples of valid domains are,, and Subdomains are any URL prefixes to the left of the second-level domains.”

  158. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Maybe I heard wrong. Maybe he said 5,000.

  159. Doctor J Says:

    I don’t know much about website development except when I go to Office Depot I see lots of programs that can be purchased to do your own website. I am sure the district would want to get one more sophisticated. Wouldn’t Brian Lawrence know more about this as he is in the software business ?

  160. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, in fact Brian Lawrence joked that he and Estrada could “geek out” in a detailed discussion about the website.

  161. Doctor J Says:

    @G#149&153 This gets us right back to the issue of lack of significant staff reports. I wish the Board would start rejecting agenda items, tabling them until the next meeting and demanding more specific staff reports. No more phoney excuses like were given by Peder Pedersen about delays when it really was his own “vacation” that would have been impacted.

  162. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Similarly, I have heard that the Board of Supervisors is starting to demand more thorough staff reports from the fire chief, saying what he has been giving them is insufficient.

  163. Doctor J Says:

    We had better leave you alone so you can write those stories about Sat’s meeting.

  164. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Unfortunately, due to other assignments, I’m not writing stories about Saturday’s meeting, but I do hope to do blog posts.

  165. Doctor J Says:

    I wonder why Brian has quit posting to his blog ?

  166. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I was also very surprised that no one — including Trustee Linda Mayo — asked about social media as it relates to the Brown Act. Although the outside attorney cautioned about possible serial meetings via e-mail, she NEVER said anything about posting on blogs or other social media.

  167. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, you spent 7 hours in the retreat, and no story ? Get those blogs out for us please. And are you going to do a live blog tonight ?

  168. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Yes, so I worked a six-day week. I am also possibly working a double-shift today, since I’m covering tonight’s meeting. Although I know you would like a transcript of the meeting, I do have other stories I’m working on. I have been able to upload a few videos to YouTube.

    Also, it looks like Greg Rolen may not be able to present his items tonight. A member of our editorial staff tells me he is out because he is “unexpectedly sick.” Will Deb Cooksey be able to explain the rationale behind the legal contracts, identity theft protection, bus replacement due to an accident, public input meetings, security on portable devices, whether or not there are any legal problems associated with a school climate survey and “general counsel’s handling of specific legal matters?”

    I will try to do a live blog, but it’s difficult when I’m also videotaping and taking notes.

  169. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, I know you work hard and have a “life”. But Rolen’s sudden illness is unfortunate — and convenient. I also know you really have 3 hands. :-)

  170. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have three recording devices, but only two hands. On Saturday, my ipad was also full, so I was unable to use it to record portions of the meeting.

    Regarding Rolen, this is another reason staff should submit WRITTEN reports with the agendas. If Rolen did that, we’d already have his reports.

  171. g Says:

    I like the Youtube clips to refer back to…the Qik, I can’t understand most of what is said. For now, I am content if KVHS broadcasts the full meeting and Brian has video. Of course it would be ideal to have one good single source both live and archived from the district, but I want them to be very frugal with those Ed dollars too.

  172. Doctor J Says:

    I hope the Board just continues them for two weeks and demands specific written staff reports. Sounds like he took quite a beating, at least indirectly, as the Board retreat.

  173. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Rolen did not appear to be taking a beating. He defended his practices and offered clarification a few times. He was also quite pleased when he was able to persuade the outside attorney to agree with him that FCMAT was an “agent of the district,” so could protect the district’s document.
    Still, the board could agree to waive that attorney-client privilege.

  174. Doctor J Says:

    Yea, but how about his not disclosing the settlements on lawsuits ? Or the posting of staff reports with the agenda ?

  175. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No one beat him up about that. However, trustees could certainly ask him after-the-fact to explain the rationale behind his practices and procedures.

  176. Doctor J Says:

    I think Greg Rolen is feining illness to not answer legitimate questions. I am sounding like his former wife to get him to answer questions. Isn’t there a question tonight about payments to Marisol too ?

  177. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe that g found some payments to Marisol Padilla in the fiscal transactions. It would certainly make sense for a board member to question that, since staff never brought her contract back after promising to renegotiate her fees.

  178. Doctor J Says:

    Someone will have to answer those questions since the contract was not approved. It will be like the roadrunner cartoon: “He went that-a-way !” pointing in opposition directions.

  179. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe she still had some outstanding hours from her previously-approved contract. But, it would be prudent to find out if she has used up all those hours yet and whether the district was able to negotiate a lower rate. If not, why hasn’t it contracted with CTI yet?

  180. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just started working on a blog post about the Brown Act presentation and I see the PowerPoint is not posted with the agenda!

  181. Doctor J Says:

    Unbelieveable !

  182. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I will scan the PowerPoint, along with the other documents she distributed, then upload the links to my blog.

  183. Doctor J Says:

    I think Steven Lawrence is reading the tea leaves.

  184. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At least the strategic plan handouts were attached to the agenda. But, one trustee asked why the adopted version said “draft” on it. I was wondering that too.

  185. g Says:

    That 2011 original AIS contract (which carried Greg Rolen’s approval) was written specifically for “the 2011-12 school year”

    But the same paper kept being brought back every month or two with scratched out/increased dollar amounts, changed accounting codes, and it was generally to cover what she had already billed. I don’t believe there was ever an officially ‘renewed, restated’ contract.

    The $9,750.00 she billed on just two invoices in January are highly questionable, since I don’t believe there had been payouts to her for a couple months.

    On the other hand– with the right not knowing what the left was up to– and since individual departments were allowed to call on her without prior approval and come back with a request for funds ‘after the fact’….

    Is the clerk cutting checks going to question anything put in front of her? Of course not! If they do, I’d surely like to know how Juhl-Darlington manages to make so much off the back of special ed every month.

  186. Doctor J Says:

    Exactly. You would think there would be some “preventive treatment” to prevent all of the legal fees.

  187. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: The board unanimously approved a 2012-13 AIS contract Aug. 27 for $68,900:
    After that, the board agreed to try to renegotiate with her. But, it’s unclear if that was done or if she has been able to continue collecting higher fees than her competitors under this old contract. If so, why hasn’t the district started contracting with CTI yet?

  188. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have received encouraging news in an email from Trustee Brian Lawrence: The district has been testing livestreaming and plans to stream tonight’s meeting at

  189. g Says:

    Speaking of legal fees, if Rolen isn’t there tonight, it would be comforting if Namita Brown were there to help coach Cooksey and keep her blunders to a minimum. However, I expect Cooksey to fall back on the “not my job, so I don’t know” routine.

  190. Theresa Harrington Says:

    If Rolen isn’t there and Cooksey can’t satisfactorily answer trustees’ questions, the legal contracts should be continued to a meeting where Rolen can justify them.

  191. g Says:

    Thanks Theresa, I seemed to remember that contract but couldn’t find it. Now I remember– we made a big deal over the Agenda saying $68,900.00, but the contract itself says $24,500.00!

    There must be some legalese mantra that means “Always keep them confused and guessing.”

  192. Doctor J Says:

    @G#189 But Cooksey was “General Counsel” at Oakland Unified. She is “experienced” [sarcasim noted] and perhaps Theresa can post the news reports about what a mess she got the district into.

  193. g Says:

    A semi-formal question went out asking for the “intended purpose, use and need” of these new legal firms. The possibility of needing to answer that question in public, under the legal scrutiny of an open session, may be just enough to make any person at the dais sick.

  194. Doctor J Says:

    @G #191 I think the mantra is fraud and deceit.

  195. g Says:

    Rolen could not bring these contracts to the board without Lawrence’s approval. Hold Lawrence’s toes to the fire to explain AND justify them. NINE outside legal firms for a rapidly shrinking district with a full legal team in-house!

  196. Doctor J Says:

    Doesn’t Steven Lawrence’s name appear on the agenda as approving the item ?

  197. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Rolen, Bryan Richards and the superintendent all signed the staff recommendation:
    Still, Rolen reports directly to the board in some matters, so it’s possible the superintendent may not be recommending this himself. Remember, the board gave Rolen the authority to go around the superintendent when it changed his reporting structure. So, Rolen is directly accountable to trustees. At the time, Trustee Linda Mayo questioned the new structure. She has also questioned the need for two in-house attorneys. Certainly, it would be prudent to ask what the public is getting for its money.
    It would also be a good idea to ask if the legal contracts were competitively bid.
    There have been allegations from some blog commenters that Rolen gives legal work to his buddies. If that’s true, these contracts should be competitively bid to prevent favoritism. Even if it’s not true, Rolen should competitively bid out the contracts to help him try to assure the board and public that he is not funneling nearly $1 million in legal contracts to his friends.

  198. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Since I haven’t had time to finish my Brown Act blog post, here’s the PowerPoint:

    I noted on the paper copy where I started and stopped recording with my flipcam. I didn’t note where I started recording the video I uploaded to

  199. Doctor J Says:

    Is the livestream working ?

  200. g Says:

    If we must have outside counsel to fill the knowledge and time voids of in house counsel, it would be nice maybe to have some that don’t charge $200.00/hour for themselves and $185.00/hr for their assistants for travel time from&back 90 to 265 miles away–plus hotel for some!

  201. Doctor J Says:

    Ok its working. Popcorn ready. Drinks ready. :-)

  202. Doctor J Says:

    Notice Greg Rolen’s chair is vacant. Why doesn’t the broadcast show Supt Lawrence ?

  203. Doctor J Says:

    @G#200 When you add in Greg Rolen’s salary, MDV, retirement, etc. Rolen costs the district almost $200 per hour.

  204. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, Rolen is absent and Deb Cooksey doesn’t appear to be here either. Glad to hear livestream is working! I’ll still videotape portions of the meeting, just to be on the safe side.

  205. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#204 No problem. LOL.

  206. Wait a Minute Says:

    Actually Dr J and G,

    We know that Greg Rolen has cost this district and us taxpayers far, far more then his bloated salary and benefits.

    He is and has been at the epicenter of all the corruption and various scandals/pecadillos perpetrated upon us the taxpaying public.

    Does Rolen steer MDUSD legal contracts to his buddies and expect them to “owe” him in return?

    All one has to do to answer that is see how he has managed to steer well over $100,000 in interpreting contracts to what started out as his lover and now “shotgun” wife Marisol Padilla of AIS.

    It doesn’t take alot of imagination to see that if Rolen is unethical enough to steer those contracts to PERSONALLY BENEFIT HIS “NEW FAMILY” that he is certainly steering legal contracts to buddies like Juhl-Darlington.

    IMO, Greg Rolen and his cohorts like Stevie Lawrence are leaches upon the taxpaying public and are giving all public servants a black eye through their machiviellian corruption and imcompetence.

    Hopefully Rolen and Cooksey’s abscence from the meeting tonight is a sign that they are on the way out.

    I hope this Board takes their oversight and fiduciary responsibilities seriously and orders a thorough fiscal and performance audit of the MDUSD Legal Dpt/Rolen Empire and do so by a firm that is experienced in these matters and has absolutely no connections to Rolen or Cooksey!

  207. Anon Says:

    Where is the live stream?

  208. Doctor J Says:

    Livestream :

  209. Anon Says:

    Someone explain to me again just what Rolen does. If he is district legal counsel he uses a lot of outside firms, not to mention having an associate counsel, Deb Cooksey. If he oversees maintenance and transportation, he does a lousy job of that. It only appears he works.Why does the board keep him? Waste of money in my book.

  210. Doctor J Says:

    On the issue of confidential information on portable devices, why not start with the policy of a major corporation, such as Chevron.

  211. Doctor J Says:

    Supt Lawrence admits they got FCMAT management letter in January — Lawrence concealed it.

  212. Doctor J Says:

    Steven Lawrence got reamed by the Board AND Willie Mims for not disclosing the FCMAT reports.

  213. g Says:

    I was really looking forward to them, but I am so happy Cheryl pulled Rolen’s items to make him speak for himself at the next meeting. And Brian asked for a five year legal expense report! Right on.

    Anon: He stands in the middle of the intersection with a whistle and directs traffic.

    WAM: Are you saying he’s going to be running around soon with little ‘urp’ stains on his lapel?

  214. Doctor J Says:

    @#213 Yup, Brian really is putting the screws to Rolen. I think Rolen is history and he knew it since the contracts were not on the agenda. We will see what happens on March 11. I bet Steven Lawrence tries to put the contracts on the agenda before he puts the 5 years of legal expenses on the agenda.

  215. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Brian Lawrence also showed that he didn’t agree with Mayo and Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s decision to keep the FCMAT financial report secret – and Dennler’s defense of that decision – when he said: We shouldn’t govern my being afraid of what people might say about us, but instead should just do what is right.

    The incredibly ironic thing is that the superintendent, Dennler and Mayo don’t seem to understand that people will say worse things about them when they continue to be secretive than they probably would if they were open and honest about what they were doing. I was very surprised that even Board President Cheryl Hansen hadn’t been told about the FCMAT report. She also said she didn’t know anything about the Pleasant Hill Education Initiative until she read about it in the paper and saw that the superintendent knew all about it.

    It is not wise for a superintendent to keep some board members in the dark. That’s what got Gary McHenry in trouble with Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange. But then, when Eberhart and Strange became part of the board majority, they were the ones keeping secrets. This also happened when I was covering the city of Walnut Creek and then-City Manager Mike Parness decided to take direction from some board members, while not sharing information with others. They decided to show him the door.

    As the Brown Act presentation stressed, the public’s business must be done in public. Continued secrecy will only continue to hurt the district’s image, which Dennler, Mayo and the superintendent said they were trying to protect by not mentioning the FCMAT report. Only when the board and superintendent are completely committed to open government and transparency will the district’s reputation begin to turn around. Yet, it appears that Mayo, Dennler and the superintendent still don’t get it.

    Mayo’s participation in the secrecy appears to call into question her speech about building trust on the board. Did she think she would engender the trust of her colleagues by secretly directing the superintendent to commission a report and then hiding its existence, without even telling the rest of the board, much less the public?

    It was unclear whether Dennler knew about the report previously. But, she seemed to think keeping it secret was the right thing to do. If she didn’t know about it, it was surprising that she didn’t appear miffed about the fact that no one told her about it.

    On a positive note, Rose Lock and co’s Common Core presentation was very thorough and Brian Lawrence gave them kudos for posting the PowerPoint ahead of time. The board is starting to use Positive Behavior strategies with district staff, publicly praising them when they are transparent and open. But, when they’re not, what kind of interventions should trustees use to correct their behavior?

  216. Doctor J Says:

    True Theresa that Mayo, Dennler and Steven Lawrence don’t get that openess and honesty creates more trust. Why don’t they believe it ? Because as long as there are secrets, it falsely appears that there is more trust. But once the truth is told or in this case “discovered”, there is less trust. I think
    FCMAT disclosed the “management report” before they knew it was coming. It will be interesting to see the Spec Ed FCMAT report tomorrow. Why not disclose it tonight ? They must be afraid of the contents. The original report 8 months ago might have to be obtained from FCMAT along with any emails or correspondence “correcting” it. FCMAT should be the source — not Steven Lawrence or Greg Rolen.

  217. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The last time, FCMAT claimed that emails about corrections didn’t have to be turned over. I got a copy of the report tonight, but I haven’t had a chance to look it over yet. The superintendent said it will be posted tomorrow. But, I agree, there was no logical reason given for why it wasn’t posted tonight.

    Tim Cody also appeared to be a little surprised by the hammering he took over the lease-leasebacks and the board’s decision to bring in legal counsel to discuss the prudence of that practice. At first, he appeared to believe that his assurance that it was perfectly fine was enough. But, he wasn’t smiling when he sat back down. John Parker’s comments further blasted the Measure C team for wasting taxpayer money by canceling contracts “for convenience.”

    And I’ll be curious to hear what John Ferrante’s reaction is to the security plans for portable devices. Brian Lawrence is pushing for something much stronger than what Joe Estrada originally proposed. Ferrante has blasted the district in the past for its lax policies and procedures related to laptop security.

  218. Sue Berg Says:

    Theresa, #215: Gary McHenry did not keep Gary Eberhart, Paul Strange, or any Board member in the dark. I know that’s what they claimed, but it’s simply not true. The superintendent communicated with Board members almost daily, always alerted them when something unexpected occurred, sent them voluminous reports every Friday of his 10-year tenure and more often as need arose, and welcomed them in his office whether for scheduled meetings or unplanned drop-bys. If one Board member asked for information, he made sure all members received it.

    I am surprised when I hear/read of any current Board member being “in the dark,” as you report. Board members with whom I worked were pretty proactive in getting information from the superintendent to respond to questions and concerns they received from parents, staff, community members, and reporters. For issues that garnered a lot of media attention, as the FCMAT report seems to be doing right now, Board members demanded frequent updates. Board members have the authority and responsibility not to remain in the dark, but to open the curtains and let the light in on any matter not protected by legal considerations.

  219. Doctor J Says:

    @SueBerg#218 So what got Gary McHenry into the dog house then that got him ousted ? I take you at your word on Gary’s communication with Board members.

  220. g Says:

    Well,,, there WAS that Miller, Brown & Dannis contract issue…. Rolen had worked for them/us for years, and had to know their contract was out of date. Then when he scaled the mooring line from their ship to ours, he waited the appropriate amount of time, and then brought up the contract issue, making McHenry look like the bad guy.

    Then there was the big (not so big after all) IRS issue. Eberhart had an ego that had to be top dog. Who do you suppose took a complaint about the McHenry v. Board complaint to the GJ? Who supplied the GJ with all of the back-up they relied on; backup that mirrored comments from Eberhart?

    I don’t know—I just guess a lot. Sue probably can only guess about that too.

  221. Doctor J Says:

    @G#220 But what is Sue Berg’s opinion ? Rolen became outspoken that “McHenry had to go” — is that the role of General Counsel ? BTW, after 18 years on the Board, why haven’t we heard what Eberhart is doing ? Its contrary to his character to remain silent.

  222. g Says:

    Rolen also wanted to get rid of the 30 years of Miller, Brown & Dannis, so he could Really take over. Of course, we’ll never know why he left their employment.

    As to the other; we’ve been having some good house painting weather.

  223. Doctor J Says:

    @#207 See post #188 on this thread.

  224. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For anyone who is interested in Dr. William Daggett’s presentation at MDHS addressing the question: “How do we really prepare all students for college and careers?” — I’m live-tweeting it at

  225. Anon Says:

    Thanks for tweeting th. he is right. Reading is the key! The district does not want to make the
    Changes that we need. They need to leave the 70’s and jump into 2013.
    By the way did anyone read the FCMAT report on special Ed. I am sure no one at the district did.

  226. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    If you scroll to the end of the FCMAT report on Special Ed. you will notice that Stevie did not date his signature on the “official” report.

    Now the $64 question: why in the world would he be concerned with dating when he became aware of the report?

  227. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a story about youth incarceration, which highlights efforts to reduce suspensions in Oakland, Richmond and San Jose:

    Although MDUSD has plans to try to implement these kinds of programs as part of its disproportionality plan, it isn’t as far along on these ideas as other districts. Felicia Stuckey-Smith mentioned the success of “restorative justice” programs at the EAT meeting, yet MDUSD has no plans to try that at this time.

  228. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Although I’m not sure if anyone from Oakland reads this blog, I’m just passing this along. The Oakland Tribune has established this email address for news tips or pitches related to Oakland education news:

    As I hope readers know, news tips or pitches about MDUSD and Contra Costa County education news can be sent to me at

  229. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Although the superintendent has shown consistent reluctance to keep the board and public informed about what’s going on behind the scenes in the district, he appears to be meeting his performance goals for distributing the Good Newsletter:

  230. Theresa Harrington Says:

    And although the superintendent has not responded to an email I sent him with questions about the FCMAT CVCHS analysis, he seems to be happy to talk to Sun Power’s PR people to help them promote their solar projects:

  231. Wait a Minute Says:

    Maybe he and Eberhart are hoping that SunPower will hire them?

  232. Doctor J Says:

    @#229 Typical last minute Steven Lawrence job — the Feb 2013 edition comes out on Feb 27; just like the Board powerpoints, working on them until the last minute. Has anyone thought of number of staff hours to produce the “Good News” ? And they can’t figure out how to fix the website ? The name of the Vacaville company that produced the website in 2009 is listed right at the bottom of the front page of the website with a link along with the copyright of 2009. So who was trained in 2009 to run the website ? Not Joe, the Director of Technology ?

  233. Doctor J Says:

    I think its extremely important to get the July 26 version of the FCMAT Special Ed report so we can see what changes took 7 months to release to the public.

  234. vindex Says:

    Thanks Theresa… Great job. Your work is why the founding fathers wrote the first amendment. Well done

  235. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Thanks, Vindex. Interestingly, no one from CVCHS has responded to my call to them for a comment on the FCMAT report.

  236. Doctor J Says:

    Interestingly, CVCHS is the one to forward the FCMAT report to Dr. Ovick.

  237. Jim Says:

    @236 Dr J — People may expect a charter school to bring all sorts of “innovation” to a hidebound district like MDUSD. But really, the innovations that charters bring often involve common sense thinking that no longer appeals to traditional education administrators. The taxpayers paid for a report. It’s time that citizens learned what was in the report. It’s an innovative concept for MDUSD, but not for anyone else.

  238. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Somewhat ironically, the district invited an education “futurist” to talk about all kinds of innovative education reform ideas Tuesday and Mt. Diablo High and Wednesday during an education/business summit. Unfortunately, however, he didn’t talk about nuts and bolts things like how to run a district efficiently and transparently.

  239. Jim Says:

    @238 — That is exactly the problem with so many traditional educators’ ideas about “innovation”. The real shortcomings stem from the failure of so many educators to do the basic blocking and tackling that any system for delivering quality service would require. I’ve worked with many schools that achieved remarkable results by attending to rigorous, time-tested, common-sense practices. Educators in those schools were called “innovators” only because everyone around them had simply lost their minds.

    BTW, for anyone who has worked long with schools, it is obvious that there is no shortage of valuable, innovative ideas in education. The problem is that good innovative practices do not get replicated often enough — because administrators in traditional education are not accountable, and therefore, are unwilling to do the hard work and make the uncomfortable choices that true innovation INEVITABLY requires. (Bill Gates, are you listening?) If an innovative practice were easy and obvious, it wouldn’t be an innovation anymore.

  240. vindex Says:

    I’ve sat through some meeting with these “futurists”. Some of the information the espouse is decent, but most is non-sensible. They are usually trained by Google or Apple and espouse the company speak. Administrators, fearful of being left behind, jump on the bandwagon and mandate that teachers do the same. These futurists in my mind are snake-oil salesmen at their lowest. Let’s start with the basics people. Effective Communication. Integrity. Respect. Kindness. Fairness. Character.
    If we increase in these measures, the rest will be more attainable. Instead we hire these “futurists” to tickle our ears with things that aren’t practical. It’s easier to dream than to deal with the reality of the situation.

  241. Wait a Minute Says:

    Lets not forget other basic principles necessary for success like honesty which unfortunately is sadly so lacking amongst so-called “leaders” like Rolen and Lawrence.

    For the life of me I don’t know how you can run a educational institution that is supposed to instill these values in the children when you are completly lacking in these same values.

  242. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The plot thickens on the FCMAT report. The FCMAT employee who sent me the agreement told me she has been instructed not to send me anything else without an official PRA and that I need to address my inquiries to FCMAT’s Deputy Executive Officer.

  243. g Says:

    Should have known that once they read or heard about comments on here Rolen/Lawrence would tighten the screws on FCMAT.

    If it weren’t for watch-dogs on here, we’d still be playing by the Ebermarsh rules.

  244. g Says:

    It’s past time for Torlakson to be asked to take a close look at FCMAT and Kern Co. Supt and their role as a taxpayer funded ‘independent’ schools’ resource.

  245. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have finished uploading video clips from Monday’s meeting, including three regarding the FCMAT reports, to Unfortunately, the clip regarding the Baker & Hostetler Invoice wouldn’t upload due to technical difficulties, but it wasn’t controversial and passed unanimously.

  246. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s Dr. Joe Ovick’s response to MDUSD regarding the FCMAT report:

  247. Jim Says:

    Good job, Mr. Ovick!

    Earth to Steve Lawrence: when you do everything possible to alienate everyone…you end up alientating everyone.

  248. Anon Says:

    Dr. Ovick decisively cut through the BS by stating with the weight of his authority what was obvious all along. Dr. Lawrence should apologize for misleading the public.

  249. Doctor J Says:

    @TH Why don’t you send them a PRA for all communications from the district regarding the report — put the pressure on them to deny and then let your legal begals work on them.

  250. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, what is happening re the legal payments of the personal expenses of the BIG5 by the district ?

  251. g Says:

    So, Steven–there ya go! The county was at one point in time willing to concede that you may be out some funds due to the conversion. Now, they suggest you may be a bit top heavy in administration and if you take care of that bloat no children suffer!

    So do the right thing. Start by giving us all some relief from the bloat at Dent. Get us some counselors and qualified teachers for the kids and send SASS down the road to enjoy their retirements. Balance your budget from the top down, not from the bottom up.

  252. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: I have already sent a PRA.
    Also, I spoke to Neil McChesney and it turns out he never got the message that I had called on Tuesday. He said the district didn’t send the charter the FCMAT report. A parent saw it online and brought it to the attention of the charter administration and board, who then forwarded it to Ovick.

    We are still looking into the Big 5 legal counsel issue.

  253. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    The giant ball of string is finally unraveling …

  254. Wait a Minute Says:

    Follow the money folks because it will illustrate the depth of the corruption and lies being perpetrated by these dishonest and unethical people on our public payroll.

  255. g Says:

    Things we need to be able to find either aren’t posted on the district site at all, or they are so obscure it takes real determination to find.

    Too bad the board doesn’t insist on posting Dr. Ovick’s letter too.

    At least SOMEONE should publish it. It would make a nice “rebuttal” statement.

    If it were published, I wonder if FCMAT would carry it in their “Education Headlines” section.

  256. Doctor J Says:

    Has anyone wondered why Deb Cooksey did not step in for Greg Rolen the other night at the Board meeting ?

  257. g Says:

    Something about that charter analysis engagement letter kept eating at me, but…was it that the letter was dated Oct. 3rd, but Bridges from FCMAT was able to sign it on Sept. 5th–a month before it was even written . That’s pretty hot stuff, but was that it.

    Or was it that the study was scheduled the week of Sept. 24th! A week before it was even (supposedly) commissioned! Yeah, that’s hot too!

    Then I figured out that what bothered me the most wasn’t those stupid slip ups that are always made when you try too hard to cover up your deceat–and will, sooner or later, come back to bite you.

    The thing that bothers me most is the un-answered question that’s been going on for a year’s worth of studies—How does Lawrence get a government entity like FCMAT to cooperate and be complicate in his deceatful practices?

  258. Wait a Minute Says:

    Maybe Rolen has her in witness protection?

  259. g Says:

    does deceit look misspelled? :)

  260. Anon Says:

    Dr Ovick’s statement that his request was ignored puts him in the same camp as many of us who have asked to be involved in district manners. Welcome, Dr. Ovick, we, who are ignored, salute you.

  261. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Regarding Cooksey, I copied her on my PRA (since Rolen is out all week) and got this response:

    “I am out of the office, I will return on Monday, March 4. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Greg Rolen, General Counsel, at Please copy his assistant Lori Amenta at Both Greg and Lori can be reached at (925) 682-8000, ext. 4001.”

    Apparently, she didn’t know that Rolen would also be out of the office while she was gone. So, it looks like the district is without any legal counsel this week.

    g: Regarding the FCMAT letter, as I previously noted, a FCMAT rep told me the draft agreement had been sent Sept. 5 and she forgot to change the date next to Bridges’ signature on the final agreement. But, yes, I also thought it was odd that the interviews had already taken place by the time Lawrence signed the agreement on Oct. 8.

    Also, McChesney said the charter would have wanted to have been included in the interviews, if they had known the interviews were taking place. Obviously, they could have told FCMAT how many special education students they have and what types of services they are receiving. But, it seems FCMAT didn’t want to know those actual facts, instead it just wanted to hypothesize about what might be going on at CVCHS.

    Regarding FCMAT ignoring Ovick, it will be interesting to see what the new board majority thinks of that. Did Mayo and Whitmarsh know that Ovick wanted to be included and did they approve of the decision not to include him or the county analysis in the report?

  262. Wendy Lack Says:

    @TH #261:

    We need to keep our eyes on the Governor’s budget proposal that makes disturbing changes to Public Records Act requirements. This article by Terry Francke of Californians Aware asks:

    “What if California government agencies no longer had to let you know within 10 days how much of the public record information you’d asked for would be provided, if any? Or tell you what law allowed them to withhold it?”

    Read it all at:

    Make no mistake: Government prefers citizens to be disengaged (as long as taxes are paid, of course). Public/press scrutiny is inconvenient and annoying to those who hold government power, thus government officials often find excuses to avoid disclosure. Citizen rights to information about what government is doing must be actively defended, as these rights are perennially in jeopardy.

  263. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Teachers’ unions are also looking at the budget proposal, with many asking for increases to pay and/or benefits. Alameda just reached a tentative agreement:

  264. Jim Says:

    Before discussing any benefits increases, we ought to consider how much of the Prop 30 tax increase must already go to the underfunded CA State Teachers Retirement System. As Dan Borenstein of the CC Times has extensively reported, the much-ballyhooed 2012 “pension reforms” did little to reform anything. Instead, they did what CA does best — kicked the can down the road. Now, this week, a new report from Calstrs is telling us, essentially, that the Prop 30 money may be needed to shore up teacher pensions:

  265. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Jim #264:

    Prop 30 never had anything to do with education. Prop 30 was all about kicking the public pension cost can down the road a bit further. Thus the WSJ commentary comes as no surprise to anyone informed of the facts that expose the Yes on 30 campaign as pure hype.

    Sacramento has an insatiable appetite for tax revenues, in large part due to skyrocketing pension costs. Without significant pension reform and spending restraint (e.g., axe HSR), Californians face a future filled with a steady barrage of state and local tax increases.

    Runaway pension costs are taking more than their fair share of budgets intended for local government services, as illustrated by such developments as closed Contra Costa fire stations.

    Some timely analysis about California’s pension problem is available here:

  266. g Says:

    Which might explain the step-sister budget plan to give the ‘extra’ money to the poor (spelled ELL) districts—but let them spend it however/wherever they want—not necessarily on either education or the poor.

    At least that’s how I read it. Am I right?

  267. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ G #266:

    I think you’re right. Regardless, all California government agencies are hurling headlong into the pension “wall of debt.” It’s just a matter of time. So many local agencies already are effectively bankrupt. (Though those agencies that have done reform, such as San Jose and San Diego, have bought themselves a bit more time.)

    Wouldn’t it be a refreshing change if all Districts transformed schools into coveted, high-performance campuses, such as this:

  268. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, Neil McChesney told me CVCHS also did a lottery, with about 700 applicants for around 525 spots. He said the enrollment has also been increased to about 2,000. Yet, he said the school’s efforts to reach out to the feeder middle schools have been largely ignored. He said it hurts the students when the district tries to operate as if the charter doesn’t exist. The district, he said, should recognize that Diablo View and Pine Hollow middle schools feed into the charter and work to make that transition as smooth and collaborative as possible.
    Rose Lock said the district is working to improve math instruction in middle and high schools as part of its Common Core plan. Are they also reaching out to CVCHS in this effort?
    It has been nice to see, however, that district sports and music programs include CVCHS.

  269. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that the board plans to hold a budget study session March 6:

    I don’t recall anyone mentioning this at the last board meeting.

  270. Wendy Lack Says:

    @TH #269:

    The agenda doesn’t look like a “study session” in the true sense of the word — that is, review and Board discussion of substantive issues brought forward by staff (such as preliminary budget). Since there are no materials available to the Board in advance, it doesn’t qualify as a “study session” in my book.

    This appears to simply be a talk-talk presentation by the Prez of SSC ( Which begs the question: What is nature and history of SSC’s relationship with MDUSD?

    Other questions:

    – Will the SSC speaker make his powerpoint slides or other handout materials available to the Board and the public, preferably in advance of the meeting?

    – How will this SSC presentation be used to inform the budget process?

    – What is the District’s budget prep calendar and what are the key public meeting dates at which budget issues will be discussed?

  271. g Says:

    The minute you go to an “education” web site and see the word “products” and “fiscal report available to members only” you can pretty much bet it isn’t high on anyone’s list of favorite charities, and it’s charging a pretty penny to have its people come to town to read aloud (again) and explain what the Supt and Richards just presented to us on 1/28 (Item 14.7) “Significant elements of Governor Brown’s proposed 2013-14 budget and its effect on the district’s budget planning for next year.”

    The schtick for their 1/28 presentation was produced by SSC. What the —-? Did Dent buy a money printing machine too?

  272. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Why should the district reach out to the charter? They took their marbles, and a $1.7 million district marbles, and put in a new football field. How the hell does that give students higher test scores?

    The teachers already got a benefit increase. They got money to put towards benefits, that didn’t come out of their take-home pay. How about restoring time to the Special Ed assistants and secretaries first? Why do the teachers always feed at the trough first, and classified has to take the meager leftovers?

  273. Doctor J Says:

    @FT Wasn’t that Meas C money for the football field ? There is more money for staff because there isn’t a Dent overhead expense. The only administrative expenses are local in the school. The “teacher trigger” is a powerful weapon against a tyranical district administration. Sue Brothers as Principal of CVHS lost 4 API points — I predict that after the STAR tests coming up you will see at least a double digit gain. The fact that registration is expanding means that parents are delighted with what is going on in the school. When district attendance drops below 30,000 [which might happen next year] the district reserves will have to be increased and that will decrease what is available to the classroom. But the real robber barons from the classroom are the increasing salaries of the BIG5 while enrollment is decreasing.

  274. Doctor J Says:

    Take a look at the declining enrollment graph — its compelling. Then realize what has been happening with the Dent salaries. Its nausiating.

  275. Wait a Minute Says:

    Oh please, flipped.

    I guess you will be even more bitter when the CVCHS test scores come out!

  276. anon Says:

    The letter from Dr. Ovick is about the most unprofessional communications that I’ve seen in a long while. Aside from the fact that there is not $1.5 m to reduce in central office staff due to the millions that have already been reduced there, it is just unprofessional to criticize a colleague in that manner. Ovick is attempting to make it seem as though MDUSD will not suffer a negative financial impact due to the charter school because he doesn’t want to be the bad guy for chartering a district school and depriving the remaining students of much needed revenue. There is no positive value in the letter written by Ovick and only serves to highlight the fact that he has been in office way too long. If you are all so giddy about his letter and his idea to make $1.5 m in reductions to the central office, why don’t you provide specifics. Please share with us all what cuts you would make to the central office and what the impacts would be.

  277. Wendy Lack Says:

    I’d be interested to see the District create a zero-based budget — to truly start from scratch and build a budget from the ground up.

    When you put aside all the assumptions and “givens” it can be surprising what becomes possible.

  278. g Says:

    I am so anxiously awaiting the Willis/Peele public employees data base for this year. Between the 2010-11 year and 2011-12 year MDUSD only dropped 5 total employees — but closed two schools. Unfortunately in 2010 there was no breakdown of how many employees there were at Dent, M&O etc. In 2012 it was 176 at Dent and 82 at M&O.

    52.6% at Dent and 57.3% at M&O have a COE of over $75K! Several really know how to work the OT clock.

  279. g Says:

    Anon @276, did I mention that in 2012, no less than 90 people at Dent make over $100K, and you could fill a banquet hall with the ones that can’t spell or do math above an 8th grade level.

  280. Anon Says:

    Doctor J @274, MDUSD enrollment is plummeting to the 30,000 barrier where the district will need to increase reserves. Are Dent and the Board ready for that?

  281. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Anon #276,

    Gary is that you? Good to hear from you.

  282. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: Hopefully, someone will ask that question at the March 6 study session. But, Wendy correctly points out this looks more like a presentation than a study session — much like the Brown Act/CPRA presentation at the beginning of the Board Retreat. SSC is an outside company that advises management in matters related to budgets and union negotiations.

    In contrast, the second half of the retreat was a true study session, with lots of back and forth between trustees and staff about the strategic plan.

    When I spoke to WCCUSD Trustee Charles Ramsey recently, he asked how MDUSD was doing with its budget and how many pink slips it would be sending out. At that time, there was no board study session scheduled, so I told him the district appeared to be cutting it close with its budget, since it wasn’t discussed at all at the Feb. 25th meeting and the next board meeting wasn’t scheduled until March 11 — just four days before the layoff notice deadline. However, the board on Feb. 25 did approve a preliminary resolution regarding seniority:

    g: I know that MDUSD has already submitted its 2012 salary and benefits information to Bay Area News Group, since I received an email from Bryan Richards asking which email address to send it to more than a week ago. Kudos to the district for not dragging its heels on this PRA request. I also got a call from a new charter school in San Jose that was surprised it would have to give out that information. Charters are public schools too. So, I assume we’ll be getting that information for July-December 2012 from CVCHS as well.

    FT: The money for the fields came from Measure C, which CVCHS residents are paying for on their property tax bills, so they are entitled to receive benefits from it. Regarding the need to reach out to CVCHS, it would behoove the district to find out what CVCHS expects incoming freshmen to know. Last fall, I heard there was some controversy about placement in math (which coincidentally, is the exact weakness that Lock is honing in on). CVCHS offers remediation over the summer for incoming freshmen. When CVCHS began, Rep. George Mlller and others suggested that charters could be considered pilot programs for new ideas. Instead of ignoring the charter, MDUSD might benefit from actually finding out if what the charter is doing is helping students and whether the rest of the district might benefit from replicating some of the charter’s successful strategies.

    At the last board meeting, several students and staff from the Eagle Peak Montessori charter school thanked the district for approving its charter and providing facilities. They also talked about the amazingly successful and innovative teaching and learning strategies used at that school. Instead of merely providing facilities, it might also behoove MDUSD to actually take a look at how children are taught there to see if there are some good ideas that could be replicated throughout the district.

  283. Jim Says:

    Particularly telling in @276’s comment is the phrase noting how “unprofessional it is to criticize a colleague in that manner”. For years, the top members of the education establishment have tended to circle the wagons in the face of ANY criticism from outside their bizzaro parallel universe. They’ve defended the school district monopolies, in particular, since that structure underpins the educrats’ entire ecosystem — the “guaranteed” tax funding “for the kids”, the pension benefits, the job security, the cozy contracts with friends and family, and the general freedom from accountability of any sort.

    Now, cracks are beginning to emerge, as more and more people lose faith in this antiquated system. Some of the more principled members of the education elite find that they can no longer defend the indefensible. Perhaps they see articles like this — where students are turned away from better educational opportunities and, because of their home address, left to the vagaries of a dysfunctional unresponsive district — and decide that they can no longer stand in the way of educating the next generation:

  284. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Jim, the community in San Pablo is so frustrated by the low performance of Helms Middle School that it is actually launching a Community Schools Initiative to help, similar to what the Pleasant Hill Mayor wants to do.
    At a Social Safety Net forum I attended yesterday, I heard that the San Francisco Foundation is giving money to the Bay Point community to help foster leaders who can work to address issues there. It will be interesting to see if MDUSD partners in this effort.

  285. Jim Says:

    Theresa, if this, or any Community Schools Initiative focuses on increasing school choice for their community by genuinely changing the system, then it is a welcome development. Too often, these initiatives focus on trying to “reform” their local schools, without disturbing the district’s iron hand control and service monopoly. Once the community leaders recognize how resistent most districts are to change, the community initiative turns into a more conventional lobbying effort to make sure the district machine gives them their “fair share”. This can easily become a zero-sum game, where the most organized (and often more affluent) communities get more, and the others are left with whatever dregs the district serves up.

    In most cases, the answer is NOT in trying to reform these retrograde districts. People have been trying to do that for at least 30 years, with astonishingly little impact. The answer for these underserved communities begins with reforming the STRUCTURE of school control to provide more school choice options for everyone in the district.

  286. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Jim, At “futurist” Willard Daggett’s presentation, he talked a lot about restructuring the way schools are configured, such as “looping” 8th and 9th grade teachers, so they teach for two years during those critical years, giving students a better chance at building relationships. He also mentioned the idea of creating “integrated” chairpersons at the high school level instead of having a chair of English, math, history, etc., who don’t integrate the curriculum. He also pushed for more technology.
    But, he didn’t really address the kinds of overhauls you are talking about.

  287. g Says:

    Theresa, yes, Bay Point got a 5 yr $300k Koshner grant to help those who help others, etc. The Koshner memorial group is well known for their protections of open space, watersheds, culture and religious diversity causes.

    But if SSF/Koshner looked closely under the sheets at Bay Point Community, would they see a Seeno toe sticking out. If they did, would they still donate.

    The 2/13 article in the CCTimes names all of the organizations that have “come together” to help residents, but it leaves one name out. The name of the “for profit developer.”

    Is that name Seeno?

    Did Bay Point sell its soul to the devil?

    No longer available (although archives were supposedly reinstated) is the Nov 3 article about Seeno buying what was promised to newer residents would be “open space.”

    So now, to shut them up, Suddenly, the newly formed Bay Point Community organization is going to receive “a percentage of the profits from the un-named ‘for profit’ developer.”

    Can we get the name the developer? How much will Bay Point get for its soul?

    No matter how they list it under charities on their many many tax forms—Seeno gives nothing – for nothing. The strings will always be there.

  288. Wendy Lack Says:

    This short article is a reminder that we must not succumb to complacent acceptance of immorality, when it comes to the health safety of our children and other vulnerable individuals:

    It’s chilling to consider how many abuse cases have been in the news in only the past couple of months. And how many Brentwoods and Moragas are there, that are yet unreported?

    There is no excuse for abuse. Zero tolerance must be the universal policy and practice.

    Ditto for fraud, waste and abuse. Zero tolerance is the only policy that makes sense.

    I’m reminded of the code of conduct in place at a successful high school I know of: “I will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” If this one fundamental rule were universally adopted for our schools — including staff and parent organizations — how much trouble (and litigation) could be avoided?

    These are questions important for any CEO to ponder.

  289. Wait a Minute Says:

    I couldn’t agree more Wendy.

    Everyone must always be vigilant for abusers.

    I think your following statement here shows just how far the MDUSD has fallen under some past and present so-called “management”.
    “Ditto for fraud, waste and abuse. Zero tolerance is the only policy that makes sense.

    I’m reminded of the code of conduct in place at a successful high school I know of: “I will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” If this one fundamental rule were universally adopted for our schools — including staff and parent organizations — how much trouble (and litigation) could be avoided?”

    These statements have people like Greg Rolen, Gary and Sherry, and Stevie Lawrence pegged for who they are in my opinion!

  290. Wendy Lack Says:

    My latest article deals with reduced government transparency under Governor Brown’s 2013/14 budget proposal:

    The proposed change is antithetical to good governance and will water down one of the few tools Californians have to hold public officials accountable.

    This is a step in the wrong direction for California. It’s naive to believe that legal requirements such as the Public Records Act can be removed without consequence.

  291. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my story about the letter from County Superintendent Joseph Ovick to MDUSD Superintendent Steven Lawrence:

  292. Theresa Harrington Says:

    This could explain why MDUSD is holding a budget study session on Wednesday:

  293. Jim Says:

    @291 — Well, now the wider community can read about this and decide who was being reasonable and who was not — the County Office that had already studied the matter and offered valuable input, or the MDUSD leadership, who apparently wanted a report that conformed to their existing propaganda and would be untainted by any third party information from the County, or even from the administrators who would be operating the school that was the subject of the fiscal report.

    I would caution Supt Lawrence and General Counsel Rolen not to COMPLETELY ruin their reputations in the world of education. But alas, this sort of embarrassing flap seldom matters in the end. There’s always a job somewhere, for everybody, in the ed biz.

  294. g Says:

    Correspondence between FCMAT and Dr. Ovick would be interesting. How did County offices hear about MDUSD’s secret request to have their own slanted calculations memorialized?

    Commissioning the letter may have been cooked up in secret, without asking the full board, but FCMAT needs to learn that WE, THE PEOPLE, are their client—NOT Lawrence/Rolen.

  295. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Jim #293:

    “I would caution Supt Lawrence and General Counsel Rolen not to COMPLETELY ruin their reputations in the world of education. But alas, this sort of embarrassing flap seldom matters in the end. There’s always a job somewhere, for everybody, in the ed biz.”

    Merciful Lord. One can only hope so.

  296. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#291 So has Steven Lawrence responded to Dr. Ovick’s letter from Thursday ? Any followup on the district paying for the BIG5 legal expenses ?

  297. g Says:

    When my nearly duplicate posts show up—I’m not drunk–I thought I may not have hit submit. I guess the link threw me into moderation.

    I don’t think I’ve had to stand with my nose in the moderation corner since I called last year’s board President a dolt.

  298. Anon Says:

    The Dent Center gives us a continuous menu of newsworthy distractions but the big tamale is the qualified budget. Someone with time to spare should list all the cost-saving measures they have built to nowhere — closing school sites, SASS, outsourcing, insourcing the general counsel… But it’s the same old story — the budget is going down and who’s at the helm ?

  299. Anon Says:

    CVCHS – I understand and think the District would greatly benefit from learning what works at local charter schools. The issue I see, and perhaps I have wrong information, is that charter schools do not have to abide by the same rules. Example, the free education bill, they can ask for fees for classrooms, extracurricular activities, supplies, and fundraise at school without the same restrictions that MDUSD schools must adhere too. They can also make parent volunteer mandatory, pay athletic coaches, music teachers what they want to retain them. Parents joining a booster club if student participates in certain activities, or PTA can be mandatory as part of a students attendance. MDUSD schools cannot do this. This is where Charter shools have an advantage. How can you implement what they can do with more dollars, more volunteers, and different rules? In participating in the Athletic & Music Foundations that have been set-up for MDUSD district shools, doesn’t this take more from the district schools who cannot fundraise the same as the charter?

    Your answers would be appreciated and could probably help the divide within the community on the Charter vs. District School funding inequities that many feel are unfair.

  300. Been Down That Road.... Says:

    Anon #299–Charter school proponents and supporters of school reform in general might argue that some of those reasons you state are why a school would convert in the first place. The core of a charter school is less bureaucracy (California Ed Code rules largely don’t apply)and more control over spending (most funds are not “categorical” but, rather, general). In return, a charter school must be financially sound and show academic improvement in the form of raised test scores and student achievement in all areas including sub-groups. Don’t we all want that? One of the biggest advantages CVCHS is additionally experiencing is the ability to make decisions and “turn on a dime” when changes need to happen. Losing an entire generation of students as District “decides” a new curricular philosophy and gets their house in order wasn’t acceptable to me as a parent. Are you willing to sacrifice your child’s education for that? If not, you might start researching how to make these changes for yourself and YOUR school community.

  301. Wendy Lack Says:

    Why can’t an entire District escape the tangled web of Ed Code rules, so it can “turn on a dime” and function more efficiently, responsively?

  302. @ 300 Says:

    Yes, I would love the Public School System in California to be disolved and rebuilt for the students, not the unions.

    I have obviously hit a hot spot for you in trying to figure out how this works and benefits the District as well as the Charter. Don’t YOU want all students, even District students, to have access to the best education? Your response gives me the feeling of well, we did it, so until you do it, too bad. Not a very nice way to try to achieve the best for all students.

  303. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: It’s my understanding that the new law restricting schools’ ability to ask for parent donations applies to all public schools, including charters. Some other public schools also “require” parent volunteers, such as Sequoia MS, which requires each parent to sign up for “parent patrol” during lunch one day per year for each child attending.

  304. Been Down That Road.... Says:

    @302–I actually believe that as more and more schools discover the advantages of charter or work to emulate what charters are doing, it begins to to affect the whole in a positive manner. The entire public schools system is broken and to fix it is the work of many years. No–I’m not willing to sacrifice my children’s education while I wait for someone else to “fix things”. The type of fix that CV enacted is a grass-roots effort at reform. I hope it spreads.

  305. Theresa Harrington Says:

    And as has been pointed out, Eagle Peak Montessori is doing that for students in grades 1-5. When Flex Academy held an orientation, I recall several Eagle Peak parents there told me they didn’t know where to send their children when they got to middle school and they were looking for options other than MDUSD.

  306. Anon Says:

    If you don’t volunteer for parent patrol, can the school tell you that your child can no longer attend due to lack of participation?

  307. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Since Sequoia is a “magnet” school, parents must sign contracts and failure to abide by those contracts is grounds for students to be transferred to another school. I believe it’s possible to opt out of the parent patrol if a parent is unable to fulfill that obligation, but I’m not sure how that works.

  308. Anon Says:

    So, since it appears that you are saying district schools can run like a charter, all schools in our district have the same rules and are equal to charters, it is just our district employees and board of trustees that run our schools poorly?

  309. Anon Says:

    And therefore, schools can pay more to retain certain teachers/administrators, even if that money comes from parent groups?

    This has always been no, please let us know it has all changed and we are now all equal.

  310. Theresa Harrington Says:

    If the district gave schools more autonomy, they could run more like charters. But, I don’t believe that parent groups can actually pay teachers or administrators more to retain them. Teachers are bound by their union contract.
    However, parent clubs could pay teachers or administrators extra money for taking on additional classes or coaching teams, etc. Technically, though, I believe that money would be designated for the class or activity, not specifically tied to a certain employee. Also, I believe it must be approved annually by the parent group.

  311. Doctor J Says:

    Any reports on the CAC or Meadow Homes feeder pattern ?

  312. Doctor J Says:

    I was surprised, but delighted, that FCMAT finally linked Theresa’s article on the snub of Dr. Ovick by Steven Lawrence under their educational headlines from yesterday.

  313. Doctor J Says:

    Interesting selection process in Berkeley for a new Supt which is heavily weighted with the public input. The Board rejected the finalists, and so they are on their third search. One candidate was rejected for being too top down management style.

  314. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Due to a project I’m working on, I didn’t attend the Meadow Homes or CAC meetings. However, I heard that very few people attended the Meadow Homes meeting, including Sherry Whitmarsh, a few other YV parents and a few Meadow Homes parents.

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