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MDUSD live blog of 3-11-13 meeting

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, March 11th, 2013 at 6:39 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

During its special meeting earlier this evening, the board voted 4-1 to direct staff to review its policy related to responding to Public Records Act requests and to come back with recommendations for openness. Trustee Linda Mayo voted against the motion, saying she believed it was out of order, since it wasn’t on the agenda as an action item.

The board then voted 3-2 to authorized Board President Cheryl Hansen and Vice President Barbara Oaks to contract with an outside attorney to review the documents that General Counsel Greg Rolen withheld from Contra Costa Times columnist Dan Borenstein.

In closed session, trustees discussed negotiations and readmitted two students, and admitted one student to MDUSD, and discussed expulsions.

Board is voting on expulsions. General Counsel Greg Rolen just entered the meeting.
Motion carried 4-1.

Here is a link to the agenda:

Board is voting on second expulsion. Motion carried 5-0.

Did not discuss public employee discipline and dismissal, but there was a board discussion regarding a response to a uniform complaint and board took action on that item.

Consent calendar:
Hansen pulls 10.2 (minutes of Jan. 28 meeting) and Lawrence pulls 10.12 (adjustments to position control for 2013-14).
Motion to approve all other items passes 5-0.

10.2 Hansen moves to approve minutes with amendment on page 7 under public comment by Ron Hansen, remove the word “not” in sentence about board is legally or morally obligated to approve contracts.
Lawrence seconded.
Carries 5-0.

10.12 Adjustments to position control
Public comment by Willie Mims: pg 2 of 4, assist. supt. on special assignment. Who is this person? If he or she was on special assignment, when was last date. Another position is being created that appears to be replacing that person. Who was this person on special assignment and when was this person’s last date of employment?

Braun-Martin says Mildred Browne was on a leave of absence and that was the assist. supt. on special assignment and interim assist. supt. Kerri Mills has been acting in that position. She said positions can be brought back with categorical funding in the spring.

Carmen Terrones, Local One CST Unit President: I have a few concerns for my members. The interim assist. supt. for special ed. services is being eliminated, so the current person is being placed into the position. Has she been evaluated? Once again, we are paying an assist. supt. on leave her regular salary and we are also paying more money for an interim assist. supt. The message we receive is we are hiring more administrators at higher salaries, but classified employees get nothing. It’s not fair. (Applause).

Supt. Lawrence says evaluation of Mills is supposed to be conducted in May. The position is budgeted as a place-holder for next year.

Braun-Martin says district has until end of May to do administrator evaluations, but paperwork can be turned into personnel in June.

Bryan Richards says position is being budgeted with no person assigned to it.
Motion carries 5-0. Greg Rolen walks back into the board meeting.

12.1 Public Comment:

1. Willie Mims: Complains about how cold the board room was during the last regular meeting. Says board agendas need to be streamlined. He says the board should not take up all the people’s time with long reports. Says trustees repeat themselves too much when they are trying to make their points, making circular arguments. “You go round and round, but you’re not moving forward. You should not waste the people’s time by repeating the same language. I’ve been watching this board for some time and until there’s a positive working relationship between all of you, you’re not going anywhere. Streamline your agenda, because the people should not have to be here until 12:30 (a.m.), and then freezing too.”

13.1 District Organizations

1. Ernie De Trinidad: Says tonight is a special night for DELAC, which is pleased to see the English Learner Master Plan, which will improve services and help the district reach its goals. Urges board to approve the master plan.

Hansen praises the work of Jeanne Duarte-Armas, Rose Lock and others involved in the creation of the plan.

No superintendent report.

15.1 Amended contract for Rose Lock: Oaks praises Lock. Dennler and Mayo apologize for what she’s had to go through.

15.2 Contract for Julie Braun-Martin: Oaks compliments Braun-Martin on her hiring and retaining of employees.

15.3 Amended contract for CFO Bryan Richards:
Willie Mims: says Lock represents color and he also supports Richards. Says district should work toward diversity.

Hansen: I have some concerns about the current state of our fiscal services dept, including lack of oversight, security and accountability, so I will be giving this contract some serious thought as we move forward to March 25.

Dennler: What do you mean?

Hansen: This board has to take action on these contracts. Last April, I asked that this vote be postponed until the new board was seated and I did not get a second. I asked that it be delayed and it was rushed through in April. The idea was those contracts had to be revised and cleaned up and at this point, this current board must take action on these contracts and this current board is entitled to vote any way this current board wants to vote. Our names will be on these contracts. It is not a rubber-stamp situation. Today is not the time to go into how we might vote, but it’s to discuss concerns.

Dennler: These contracts are legal and the only thing we will be doing is cleaning them up. They are legal until 2014. That’s what we were thinking in January when we voted and now all of a sudden we’re talking about new contracts.

(NOTE: Video of the remaining conversation will be uploaded to

15.4 Amended contract for General Counsel Greg Rolen:
Hansen: I’ve brought Exhibit A for review.

Oaks: I’ve been on this board a few months and have found there is a lot of controversy, which I didn’t expect. Morale is extremely low. There’s a lack of trust and I think it’s time to seek new leadership.

Hansen: I will not support this contract.

15.5 Amended contract for Superintendent Steven Lawrence:

Classified union rep Debbie Hickey: I’m disheartened by district leadership and lack of responsiveness from this board. It is disheartening to know we are not getting any support.

Hansen: I think enough is enough. It’s time for new leadership. We need a superintendent who builds trust. We need to cut our losses. I’ve heard from so many staff about the need for change.

15.6 FCMAT report on special education
CAC Chairwoman Lorrie Davis voiced many concerns about the recommendations, followed by CAC parents Dorothy Weisenberger and Denise Lambert, who also expressed concerns about the recommendations.
District resident Willie Mims expressed concerns about why the district invited FCMAT to create a report in the first place.

FCMAT staff presented report and board agreed to bring back in March 25.

15.7 Questions on FCMAT report
Carmen Terrones, Local 1 union rep: It’s my understanding there was a draft and the recommendations were slightly different from what’s presented. CI would like to know if Dr. (Mildred) Browne was part of this study, because some of the recommendations, I can’t see that they would come from Dr. Browne. My members are concerned about more upper management and the draft being a bit different. It makes us wonder how trustworthy higher management is.

Hansen: I did see a draft. It was different. Hopefully we can build a culture of trust and make sure we’re forthright about the info.

I will continue blog tomorrow.

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175 Responses to “MDUSD live blog of 3-11-13 meeting”

  1. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Even Dennler appears to have been excluded, since she didn’t sign the contracts until after the district sent them to me.
    Also, it is telling that Trustee Linda Mayo specifically made a point of clarifying that the outside attorney was only instructed to look at the ORIGINAL contracts that were presented April 23, NOT the NEW contracts that she herself signed. It appears that some district officials are hoping that everyone will just forget about those secretly drafted contracts.

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    And speaking of Dennler, it’s also interesting to note that she has spoken out in the past about low morale and problems that led to the CVHS charter. Yet, she was silent when Board President Cheryl Hansen and Vice President Barbara Oaks laid blame for these problems at the feet of the superintendent and general counsel. In fact, during the board retreat, Dennler said she herself had experienced retaliation as a district employee. Julie Braun-Martin became defensive and said she can’t help employees if they won’t give their names. But Dennler said some employees are fearful of doing this. Who does Dennler hold accountable for these problems?

  3. g Says:

    Yes, when they got the three assured signatures, they stopped. I suspect Dennler signed the contracts in the folder the same night she handed that folder to Hansen–and Hansen refused, and passed the folder on to Mayo.

    Dennler signed simply because she saw that the others had–meeting after meeting she repeatedly shows her extreme (there should be a bigger word than extreme) political naivete’.

    Mayo and all others involved know they are afoul of the law on that little mockery of justice.

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: According to Hansen, it was Mayo who handed her the file folder after the meeting where Hansen was elected Board President. So, Dennler either signed the contracts before or after Mayo handed the file folder to Hansen. Hansen told me she returned the file folder to the district without looking at the contracts, since they were already in question at that point.

    Back to the subject of the 3-11-13 meeting, here is CAC Chairwoman Lorrie Davis’ response to the FCMAT report:

  5. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH, can’t get that long address to open …

  6. Anon Says:

    G. 150 There was no contract signing party in October. The contract signing party happened in December shortly before Whitmarsh and Eberhart left office. Consider: If the contracts had indeed been signed in October why did Lawrence release them the Thursday before the new board took their seats; why not in October? When TH asked the district where they were in November she was told they were in Greg’s office for review. Why review them if they were already done? The only person who claimed publicly they were signed in October was Sherry. The contracts that were submitted were not dated, had the same ink – an unusual color palette- and none of the parties outside of Linda, Gary, and Sherry signed them. In Steven Lawrence’s haste to get to Theresa he didn’t sign his nor did he have the others sign them.
    Further, Dennnler got left out of the party. Why? Because they didn’t need her signature.She was just a useful idiot for them. If it had been in October they would have had her sign them but they were hurried and so they just shoved the contract to Dennler after the release to Theresa. Of course, Hansen wasn’t even notified of any of this, their focus on not letting her know anything particular;y after she voted no in April and called for the new board to approve them.

    No, G, those contracts were not signed in October. They were very probably signed in Lawrence’s office the first week in December with Linda, Gary, and Sherry in attendance. Now, THAT was a violation of the Brown Act.

    Of course, it’s not what you know, but what you can prove but most of us can fill in the spaces.

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On the subjects of CVCHS and Common Core, the COE Board will vote Wednesday on a material revision to the charter requesting to lease space at CSU East Bay; and two COE staffers will explain how the COE is supporting the adoption of Common Core State Standards (items 7.2 and 7.3):

  8. g Says:

    Anon, you got most of it right, but I do believe the party was in October, but the documents were “in Rolen’s office for review” but were really just awaiting the outcome of the November election.

    They never intended for those contracts to ever see the light of day, unless push came to shove someday, when they might need “approved” documents to make it look like they had been in existence for two years.

    Problem is, push came to shove long before they anticipated it.

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On the subject of conflict of interest, it’s nice to see that they take this seriously in Berkeley:
    But, even there, it looks like there were allegations of a coverup by the district attorney.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    @#154 Remember that Steven Lawrence thought that Linda Mayo would be president since her signature was on the bank “signature card” and had to be changed after cheryl was elected president instead of Linda.

  11. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, it was very presumptuous to fill that out before the board voted on its president. It also smacks of backroom deals with decisions being made before items are ever publicly discussed.

  12. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, I think you should just walk into Dent tomorrow, ask to review the Form 700’s and if you are denied, call the FPPC right then and there. Let FPPC fine Steven Lawrence and Greg Rolen.

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It turns out that I had a voicemail message from Bryan Richards earlier today saying that the Form 700s for this year and last year are available in his office, but those from farther back are archived, so they would need a request for those. I will try to swing by Dent tomorrow for the current forms and reiterate that I have already submitted a PRA for the rest.

  14. g Says:

    Shucks, we wanted to see the oldest 700 where Lawrence admits (or doesn’t) the golfing foursome (plus who knows what other expenses) on Chevron’s solar dime–which, co-incidentally (allegedly) took place about 3/4 mile up the road from the Rolen family’s little mountain home.

    I wonder what Rolen’s handicap is.

  15. Doctor J Says:

    From the FPPC site: “Statements of economic interests (Form 700) filed by state and local public officials are public records. The agencies that retain filed statements must make them available for public inspection or reproduction during regular business hours no later than the second business day after they are received. No conditions can be imposed on individuals who wish to review copies of statements and no identification can be required. Copies must be provided for no more than 10 cents per page (plus a $5 retrieval fee if the statements are five or more years old). (See Government code Section 81008.)”
    Pay in pennies. 🙂

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Although the district isn’t setting records for releasing public documents in a timely manner, it’s sure managing to spread the word far and wide about its solar system:

  17. Doctor J Says:

    Why in the world would the CFO keep the Form 700’s ? Normally, human resources or the supt or the district lawyer would hold them, but not the CFO. They must be produced by tomorrow according to Government code Section 81008, even the ones “archived”. At least they can’t charge Theresa the five buck retrieval fee.

  18. Doctor J Says:

    Dont let Richards get away with the “archive” speech — he has until the 2nd business day after the request to produce them. I looked up Government Code 81008: (a)Every report and statement filed pursuant to this title is a public record open for public inspection and reproduction during regular business hours, commencing as soon as practicable, but in any event not later than the second business day following the day on which it was received. No conditions whatsoever shall be imposed upon persons desiring to inspect or reproduce reports and statements filed under this title, nor shall any information or identification be required from these persons. Copies shall be provided at a charge not to exceed ten cents ($0.10) per page. In addition, the filing officer may charge a retrieval fee not to exceed five dollars ($5) per request for copies of reports and statements which are five or more years old. A request for more than one report or statement or report and statement at the same time shall be considered a single request.

  19. Northgate Parent Says:

    I have had two children in the school district for the past 13 years. I have been very pleased with the improvement in the district under Steve Lawrence. Do any of you folks remember what shape this this district was in before Mr. Lawrence got here? It took many years for this district to get into this situation, and it will take some time to get where the district needs to be. Given time, I am sure Mr. Lawrence will guide our district to prosperity, I think many of these folks need to end this “witch hunt” and try to be part of the solution not continue to be part of the problem.

  20. Wait a Minute Says:

    Wow, another shill posting.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s more info about the CVCHS plan to expand to Cal State East Bay, Concord:
    It looks like they’re beating MDUSD to the punch regarding collaborating with local colleges to offer college credit in high school. Although Superintendent Steven Lawrence has said the Graduation Requirements Committee has been meeting about this idea, no proposal has come to the board.
    As has been previously noted, CVCHS appears to be able to move much more quickly than MDUSD in implementing new ideas. MDUSD, on the other hand, isn’t even inviting the public to its mystery Graduation Requirements Committee meetings or making minutes available online. So, who really knows how close the district is to making this idea a reality?

  22. Anon Says:

    In 2009 Northgate ranked 66th out of 100 similar schools in API. In 2012 Northgate ranked 88th out of 100 schools.”Given time” I’m sure Mr. Lawrence can get that to drop even more.

    For the record I can remember what the district was like before the Strange, Eberhart, Whitmarsh, Mayo, Lawrence, and Rolen group got their fingerprints all over it.. It was a good district, but now…….?

    So, Mrs. Northgate Parent, you may want to join the new group of parents at NHS who are looking at going the charter route themselves.

  23. Doctor J Says:

    I wonder how the Morones party in Whittier is going ? Who is minding the high schools in MDUSD ?

  24. Northgate Parent Says:

    Wait a minute,

    I did not realize this board was only for negitive comments against the the Superintendent!
    I think you need to check yourself and your motives. Do you even have children in the district? You are amazing!

  25. Flippin' Tired Says:

    TH@171, MDUSD has been collaborating for years with DVC and LMC for high school students to take college courses and receive both high school and college credits. One of my own children did it for two years.

    CVCHS did not invent this concept.

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