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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. g Says:

    Go grab Estrada–LiveStream cut out about 5 ago!

  2. g Says:

    Rolen stated, without hesitation that he had gone out in 2010 for an RFP to find and see if there was competition for outside legal representatives.

    If it exists at all, where is a copy of that RFP. Or was it one of our now very notorious “invitation only” RFPs?

    Why are all of the six contracts that were brought to the board for two yr contracts on 8/9/11 the exact same ones that were voted on for 1 year contracts on 8/24/10 (at increased hourly rates), AND also the same ones voted on 8/11/09?

    I’m sure some have been around much longer than four years. Some fought, and lost court cases that lasted longer than that!

    The only firm that seems to have fallen off of the old list is Ruiz & Sperrow, who seems to have been replaced by bringing in mumblin’-stumblin’ Cooksey at an internal COE well over what they had cost us the prior year.

    One of Rolen’s more laughable moments was when he tried to chastise Cheryl that she couldn’t bring in outside legal counsel that didn’t already have a contract with the district—and then admitted that the ones he presented tonight “have already been doing work for the district.” What work would that be Greg–preparing for your wrongful termination suit, on the side-while you write the check out of our taxpayer General Fund like you did for McCoy?

    I’d say the district has “cause for termination.” Unless Marisol spread her “gifts” around equally.

    BP 3315: No district employee or Governing Board member shall accept personal gifts, commissions or expense-paid trips from individuals or companies selling equipment, materials or services required in the operation of district programs. Gifts include any gift purchased specifically for an employee which is not generally offered to other buyers.”

  3. Doctor J Says:

    So when does the public get to see the July 26 draft of the FCMAT special education report ?

  4. Doctor J Says:

    PS Your time stamp is not on Daylight savings time.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    I suspect that Greg Rolen’s first phone call today, when he gets in, will be to Ollie North to get a recommendation on a shredder. :-)

  6. Doctor J Says:

    Where is the Agenda for the Budget Advisory Committee meeting tomorrow ?

  7. Wait a Minute Says:

    This is exactly what Rolen/Lawrence fear.

    A completely outside law firm (selected by Hansen and NOT steered by Rolen due to pre-existing relationships) being brought in to review Rolen’s decisions.

    Now what they most fear (besides being fired) would be a comprehensive performance audit and fiscal audit of Rolen’s legal dpt.

    I would say to Hansen that when the outside legal expert finds flaws in Rolen’s legal rationales regarding the PRA, these audits would be the natural next steps to take.

    By the way Theresa, has Dan Borenstein thought about doing a piece on Greg Rolen and Marisol Padilla’s evolving business and personal relationships over time and how they have impacted the MDUSD and the taxpayers?

  8. Doctor J Says:

    @WAM Does Marisol do any translating at any other district than MDUSD ?

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    WAM: I am doing a piece on Rolen and Padilla’s evolving business and personal relationships over time and how they have impacted the MDUSD and taxpayers. However, one key person who could provide information about why the district abruptly began contracting with Padilla has refused to talk about it: Margot Tobias. Mildred Browne said it was Tobias who entered into the contract, even though Browne also signed off on it. Perhaps trustees could ask Tobias to explain why she entered into that contract.

  10. vindex Says:

    Theresa #9.. This will be an excellent piece. Thanks for being a mudracker. First amendment at it’s best. I support Rose Lock. The staff i speak with agree she does a great job. Rolen and Lawerence need to go. Rolen lacks ethics. Lawerence has lost the confidence of the staff and community.. It looks the board has lost fait in him too. Right or wrong, he needs to go. Rolen is a no-brainer.

  11. Wait a Minute Says:

    TH, I think you will find that the reason Mildred recieved the sudfen and hush, hush paid leave of absence was to reward her for keeping quiet.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Great blog post by Wendy Lack on Transparency and Sunshine Week should be required reading for Rolen and the board:

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The more than 95 teachers in MDUSD who will receive preliminary pink slips this month may want to check out this Santa Clara County Office of Ed. teacher recruitment fair on March 23:

  14. Wait a Minute Says:

    I think that the 95 teachers and all the other employees getting shafted should demand that the Board explain why Mildred Brown has a paid leave of absence while they take the hits?

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Not only is there no Budget Advisory Committee meeting agenda, I just found out from our Bay Point reporter that MDUSD is hosting a Bay Point Community Meeting tomorrow at Riverside MS to discuss the future of Bay Point schools:

    The secret meetings continue. Why do we have to hear about this from Federal Glover’s office? Why is this not posted on the MDUSD website? Perhaps the board should also direct staff to look at its procedures regarding the posting of “community” meeting notices, with an eye toward openness. Number one should be posting the agendas online.

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Now that CFO Bryan Richards has revealed that the district has a “positive” budget certification — despite deficit-spending, special ed “encroachment” and the controversial CVCHS costs — MDEA is asking for a pay raise and increased benefits coverage:

  17. g Says:

    Bay Point secrets: Theresa, perhaps you could ask Tim Cody which of our newest attorneys he is working with regarding Bay Point secrets, and what work have they done for the district “already” that had to be approved last night.

  18. Anon Says:

    My fingers are crossed that Rolan and Lawrence go away.June 2013.
    Thank god for Ms. Hanson! We can do this. Turn This district around!
    If we are certifying a positive budget then go ahead and try to pull back those private placement kids! Go ahead and try! Parents of Special Ed. Students should get familiar with the term STAY PUT and prepare to file! The things that are going on in IEP meetings are horendous. The kids are suffering! They deserve better.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Well, what do you know? The Bay Point meeting has suddenly shown up on the district’s website:

  20. Anon Says:

    HAHHAHHAHHAAA Theresa, Greg is monitoring your blog to help with his job.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Because so many different things happened Monday night, my editor has asked me to write two separate stories — one about some of the board actions during the regular meeting and one about the contract extensions and PRA discussion.
    Here’s the story about board actions, including agreement to move forward with an ambitious biliteracy program as part of the English Learner Master Plan, parent concerns about the FCMAT special education recommendations and good news from CFO Bryan Richards about the positive budget certification:

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my story about the PRA and contract discussions:

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my “news brief” about the Bay Point meeting, where proposed Delta View Elementary boundary changes will be unveiled:

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Walnut Acres Elem. is hiring an instructional assistant:

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As Wendy points out, this press release keeps getting picked, promoting Del Monte, Sun Power and MDUSD’s massive solar project:

    I wonder if Richards will reveal whether the district is meeting its solar revenue goals during the BAC meeting tomorrow.

  26. Doctor J Says:

    Last night: not a single statement of support for Steven Lawrence or Greg Rolen, yet some board members spoke highly of Julie B-M and Rose Locke. March 25 should be interesting.

  27. Doctor J Says:

    Think of the amount of money that Bryan Richards, Steven Lawrence and Greg Rolen have cost the district in recent months: its mind boggling. Richards alone: theft of laptop $100,000 and failure to pay the district taxes on time: at least %5,000 in penalties and interest. Then add in Rolen’s stonewalling on the PRA: now we have to hire an outside attorney to unravel his web of deceit.

  28. g Says:

    If someone were to write to Dennler, explaining that sometimes you really must “spend money to make/save money,” do you suppose she would understand the concept?

    If someone were to write to Mayo to explain that if you think a motion is “out of order” or “in violation of the law”, you do not then vote either for OR against the motion?

    Even a No vote is an acknowledgement of the motion.

    Who actually lives to their ages or spends their entire adult lives either as an educator, or as a professional candidate without learning some of the basics.

  29. Doctor J Says:

    Interesting that Joe did not make the video available today from last night.

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe it’s posted on the livestream site.

  31. Flippin' Tired Says:

    If teachers think they’re getting raises before CST members have their hours/days restored, Dent is in for a very ugly time of it. Teachers already got a raise when they were given money towards the benefits THEY VOTED AWAY.

  32. anon Says:

    Under which agenda item did the votes occur to direct staff to modify board policy and to provide the president and vice-president the authority to hire an outside attorney? It appears to me that it happened under an information item. If that is true, that is a clear violation of the brown act. If that is true, I hope that the contra costa times will pursue that violation with the same vigor that it has pursued other alleged brown act violations. The public has a right to know when the school board is going to vote on something so that we can be there to advocate positions. Its bad enough that they changed the meeting time to 5:00 PM when most working parents can’t attend, but then they vote on items that aren’t even on the agenda. How in the world can we possibly participate unless there is an agenda?

  33. Wait a Minute Says:

    Is that you Gary?

  34. Doctor J Says:

    @Th#30 Only the first 1.5 hours prior to the closed session is posted.

  35. g Says:

    @32: Who knows what may have changed in some dusty, cobwebbed corner at Dent. Thanks to a General Counsel not adhering to his own fiduciary duties and the complacent/complicit board that was in place for the last several years there are a lot of required procedures and updates that were ignored, or simply never incorporated into Board Policies.

    AB 1234 comes to mind.

    Of course, I could be wrong. A PRA request to confirm compliance with AB1234 would be interesting.

    GC 53235.2 states: “… a local agency shall maintain these records for at least five years after local officials receive the training. These records are public records subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act…”

    And yes, it pertains to the Big 5,6 too; not just the board.

    I wonder how up to date Rolen’s MCLE certificates are?

  36. Doctor J Says:

    Another pathetic academic report — we can’t even meet the graduation rate with dumbed down graduation requirements. Its unbelievable that any board trustee would actually consider extentding the contract of Steven Lawrence’s lack of leadership.

  37. Anon Says:

    @ 32 – I believe the agenda was available online prior to the meeting. If it is important to people, they will be there. The motion was to review current policy only for further information, not to update or change a policy, which would be an action item. After Staff review and then report their findings of their review, a change/update may be needed, which then becomes and action item on the next agenda. If an item needs further review by Staff, and you have to wait until the next board meeting to even ask Staff to review it, that is not efficient or transparent. The topic was on the agenda, questions were raised, and now staff is being asked to only review current policy to answer the questions raised. Makes sense. Are you saying the Board cannot direct staff to provide a report/review current policy & procedures unless it was an action item on the agenda? I highly doubt that! I also believe this board will have the report out of this request as a future board meeting, not forget about it entirely, shuffle it under the carpet and never address it again. Kudos to Cheryl Hansen, Barbara Oaks, and Brian Lawrence. About time the leaders of this district are held accountable.

  38. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: I have posted all of the video I shot from the meeting at
    Anon: What you are saying is what Hansen said, when Mayo objected to the votes. Hansen said it was not a Brown Act violation because no actual action was being taken regarding the policy. I do not know if it was a Brown Act violation to vote on hiring an outside attorney, but I’ll try to find out. Perhaps that is why Mayo withdrew her amendment to bring the outside attorney back to the entire board for a vote, since she said she thought it violated the Brown Act to vote on that at all.

  39. Doctor J Says:

    Audio is posted on the district website under the agenda.

  40. Doctor J Says:

    Since Susan Hukkanen’s sudden departure 7 months ago after being the SASS “coach” for the Sun Terrace debacle, her part time replacement Doris Avalos maxed out her retirement benefit “time” and amazingly corresponds with the closing of the full time position replacement advertisment. So if we could do with a part time position for 7 months, why do we now need a “full time” person ? This is the second year in a row we have maxed out Doris Avalos retirement “double dipping” — a year ago as director of secondary and now in Susan H.’s position. Lets just change the name from MDUSD to the Mt. Diablo Public Employment Agency.

  41. Wait a Minute Says:

    More reason for the pink-slipped teachers and Flippen to get mad.

  42. Jack Weir Says:

    At last the main issue confronting the district is being discussed! It’s chrystal clear that the superintendent, general counsel and CFO must go – now.
    >No superintendent report – AGAIN? The superintendent is hiding in his bunker, and Rolen is fully engaged in CYA activities.
    >Dennler thinks the contracts are “legal?” – even though the manner in which they were written was completely flawed and totally lacking in transparency?
    >Kudos to Oaks for stating the obvious: we need new top leadership – YES!
    > Hansen agrees – time for new top leadership; time for Brian Lawrence to seal the deal come March 25.
    >The superintendent has failed completely in seeing that all agendas and meeting notices are posted for the public. Other local agencies acomplish this routinely, with no hassle; it’s not rocket science.
    >The district fails to submit withhholding taxes – AGAIN? Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay IRS fines. This is one reason why McHenry and his CFO were given the boot.
    Along with public safety, good schools are Pleasant Hill families’ top concerns, hence the Mayor’s education initiative. Hansen is out in the community every day, trying to mitigate problems caused by the superintendent and general counsel, but is obstructed by Mayo and Dennler at every turn. Secession and recall are the buzz here, but that’s not the best solution – at this point. Hansen and Oaks deserve full support to bring in competent and ethical leaders. No significant reform of the district’s woes will occur without new leadership at the top. Otherwise, we’re just rearranging the deck chairs while the band plays.

  43. Doctor J Says:

    I still don’t have an answer to my question: Where in prior Board minutes does it show that a new position was created for Mildred Browne on “special assignment’?

  44. g Says:

    Dr J #43: Willie Mims was very clear in his request for this information. He asked Who was that, What did they do, When was that position created and, twice, When did they last actually work.

    Julie B-M answered Who–period! Then blah-blah as if Mr Mims wasn’t able to read for himself.

    The mantra at Dent is: “Always talk longer and say more than you need to without ever actually answering the questions.”

  45. g Says:

    Apparently this year of a Very Expensive “favor” to Ms. Mildred Browne was so out of the ordinary, Mr. Richards had to create a NEW, Function Code for accounting purposes.

    Let’s hope we never have to use that sort of sneaky bookkeeping tactic ever again.

  46. Doctor J Says:

    Fire all of them ! Lets get honesty back into government !

  47. Wait a Minute Says:

    So Dr J,

    How many new “Gates” do we have now?

    Mildred Gate
    Rolen PRA gate….

  48. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Jack Weir, #42:

    I concur that the Superintendent, Chief Legal Counsel and CFO all must go. And it is inevitable that this will happen sooner or later . . . but it should occur sooner, if only for the sake of students!

    The District needs new leadership. The community deserves better. The talented MDUSD employees deserve better.

    And, most importantly, in replacing these three administrators the Board should be seeking ETHICS and INTEGRITY, in addition to COMPETENCE and PROFESSIONALISM.

    In filling these vacancies, let’s not just “fill billets.” The District Board (or at least Board majority – as Mayo and Dennler appear irretrievably clueless about the reality of the current situation) needs to clearly and specifically articulate the core competencies for these jobs. A track record and commitment to ethical conduct, and integrity beyond reproach, are job requirements that must TOP the list.

    In making these hires, the Board must not repeat its past hiring mistakes. That chaos we’re experiencing now painfully illustrates what’s at stake!

  49. Doctor J Says:

    @WAM, I lost count but its clear that Steven Lawrence and Greg Rolen have been involved in all of them. Its despicable. But are there 3 votes to get rid of them ? Linda Mayo and Brian Lawrence really need to do some soul searching. Unfortunately, Lynne Dennler is thinking like her second graders.

  50. Wait a Minute Says:

    You know, considering how poorly Chevron Sherry did in her re-elction bid (as a sitting board president coming within 3-4 votes of a last place finish to a candidate who had dropped out!!!),

    I think that any board member that votes against replacing these clowns will basically be guaranteeing that they will not be re-elected next time.

  51. MDEA Educator Says:

    The inevitable departure of Lawrence and Rolen should occur as soon as possible. The district needs to begin a healing and rebuilding process as soon as possible and finding the new leadership to begin is of utmost importance. Lawrence and Rolen are so compromised that to keep them on would be both an insult to the public intelligence and pocketbooks. It is very telling, and baffling, why those two, knowing how unpopular and untenable their positions are, would not simply submit their resignations and allow us to move forward. Obviously, their own self interests and egos supercede any sense of the district good. I would urge the public and our unions to attend the March 25 meeting and support Oaks, Brian Lawrence, and Hansen in bringing MDUSD new leadership.

  52. Theresa Harrington Says:

    MDEA Ed: Brian Lawrence did not comment during the contract discussions, so it’s unclear whether he ages with Hansen and Oaks.
    G: I have sent a PRA to Rolen and Braun-Martin asking for all documents, including any settlement agreement, related to the creation of the assist supt on special assignment position.

  53. g Says:

    Since we were not given a copy of Mildred Browne’s contract on April 23 (not being renewed) we can only assume at this point that she had a valid contract through 6/30/13 like the rest of them.

    The real question is not why did they choose to not include her in the renewals, although the public would certainly like to know. The real question is why would they keep her under a paid contract–if she requested the leave? Where in any of the Big 5,6 contracts does it say they can take off 9 months ‘with pay’ as long as they drop in once in a while–and we’ll hire another full time–full pay person to do your job for you?

    It was said that she would still be performing ‘some’ duties. What would that be–shadowing Mary Montell Bacon on the speaker’s circuit? Dropping in on the occasional Equity Advisory Staff meeting for lunch?

  54. Doctor J Says:

    Maybe we need a “cure and correct” on Mildred Browne in order to get to the truth. It appears there has been a Brown Act violation that we have not been told about.

  55. g Says:

    No, Brian Lawrence did not comment about the contracts ‘this time’. His previous comment that said something to the effect of “these people count on their employment, we owe them their jobs, we have a responsibility to them”—whatever!

    He was wrong.

    They may wish they could count on us going ahead with the old Ebermarsh buddy system, but we do not OWE them their jobs, and any RESPONSIBILITY we may have for them should be in direct proportion to their job performance.

    If Lawrence and Rolen still have a job July 1, it should be at a greatly reduced salary. Neither has warranted a salary increase.

    The board should negate all existing Big 5 contracts, and, if so inclined, offer new contracts to some executive staff that are more in alignment with proven performance.

    Look at the AYPs Dr J referenced this morning! With all the increased score accomplishments of SIG schools, the district overall only gained 7 points—that means we are going backwards! Losses due to poor choices in teachers and administration staff far outweighed improvements; we are in year 2 of PI—

    Ah, but that’s OK, as long as we will be able to pay our bills and keep bringing in outside consultants to do what the ‘$100,000.00+, 75 member, high roller staff club’ should be able to accomplish on their own.

  56. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another topic, here are a couple of photos from the district’s science fair:

  57. Theresa Harrington Says:

    And here’s a cute story about a knitting club at Pleasant Hill MS:

  58. Anon Says:

    The Board does not owe anyone any jobs; the Board owes the community the best leadership and educational opportunities for its children. Brian Lawrence should be reminded of that obligation.

    G. Note that graduation rates dropped in 2012 despite the fact the MDUSD has the fewest graduation credit requirements in the area. Again, a failure of leadership.

  59. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On the topic of leadership, I attended a media briefing today about the governor’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula, where all three panelists agreed that the current proposal would give much more power to school boards and superintendents, with few accountability requirements. One panelist said this will require trustees who are intelligent and more involved. It will also mean that parents will have to become stronger advocates for programs that are important to them, since the district will be able to spend money however it wants, instead of according to mandates from Sacramento, panelists agreed. They also cautioned that districts such as MDUSD, which has some wealthier schools and some poorer schools, will receive money for the entire district instead of earmarked for specific schools. They worried that money that is supposed to help English learners and poor students could end up being redirected districtwide to fund administrative and teacher raises, or anything else the board and superintendent designate. Local control will make public watchdogs even more essential, since Sacramento won’t be watching as closely as it does now, after it writes the checks, panelists said.

  60. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ #58 Anon:

    As per Dr J’s comment at #40, the District isn’t an employment agency.

    You are correct that the Board of Trustees’ primary duty is to those who subsidize and reside in the District area.

    Trustees who defend and extend employment contracts for the current Supt, Chief Legal Counsel and CFO should expect to face recall.

    @ MDEA Educator #51:

    “It is very telling, and baffling, why those two, knowing how unpopular and untenable their positions are, would not simply submit their resignations and allow us to move forward.”

    Precisely. The Board of Trustees should be seeking to negotiate exit arrangements but, if the incumbents are unwilling to go quietly, then the District may face legal challenge from their own administrators.

    When the pressure’s on, one’s true colors show.

  61. Brian Lawrence Says:


    You are misquoting me and it is an important distinction. I never stated that the Board or the District owes anyone a job. I believe that every single person has to earn their job every single day.

    I said that the Board needed to be mindful that our actions affected the lives and careers of five individual as well as the District as a whole.

    I’ll certainly be sharing my full views on March 25th.

  62. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Brian, Thanks for making that distinction. You are showing how a trustee can comment on blogs responsibly, without revealing how you intend to vote, which might violate the Brown Act if two other trustees saw or heard about it.

  63. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Re your comment on retirees working in SASS, FCMAT also noticed that the special ed dept hires lots of retirees and recommended against that. It also recommended taking a closer look at translator services to be sure they’re cost-efficient. I wonder if they looked at Padilla’s contract. FCMAT wrote: “Contact the company that provides Real Time Translation to determine whether a trial group can be established so that the district can determine if this type of program is cost and program effective.”

  64. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a new blog post that raises the idea of electing trustees according to geographic locations instead of in districtwide elections:

  65. Anon Says:

    I sure hope Brian Lawrence stands strong with Oaks and Hansen. This would certainly proove to me that I may have been wrong about him.
    Lawrence and Rolen and Richards need to go. I know everyone praised the other two but I don’t care for them.
    I also hope that they think long and hard about special education. What they are doing now is leaving many behind and if they don’t make the right changes we will leave all behind.

  66. Wait a Minute Says:

    Yes Brian, it will come down to you.

    I pray that you will represent the good of the vast majority of long suffering students, parents and staffs instead of the corrupt interests of the very few.

    Please, please turn that page Brian.

  67. Doctor J Says:

    Steven Lawrence, Greg Rolen and Bryan Richards have to decide what is best for their own careers. The choice is theirs. Do they withdraw their contract extension requests or hurt their careers by having a public discussion about their poor performances ? While to most of us it seems like an easy choice, to a narcissistic person, it becomes almost self destructive. We already know how two of the board trustees feel since they voiced it in open session. Linda Mayo and Brian Lawrence as of now are fence sitters — a year ago Linda Mayo tried to carve off Greg Rolen’s contract, but more recently has showed a different intent. Lynee Dennler continues to be more focused on her joint school visits with Linda Mayo than she is on how the district is run at large. For example, Lynne think how many projector bulbs could have been purchased with the $100,000 laptop loss by Bryan Richards and the February “penalties and interest” which is more than %5,000 for Bryan’s late payment of employment taxes. I just can’t wait until Greg McCoy shows up on the 25th and the Board gets to ask him about HIS conflict of interest in being paid as a district lawyer in December and then in January representing the BIG5.

  68. g Says:

    Brian, thank you for responding publicly. I believe it is important for the public to put its arguments out there for the public as well.

    Thanks to Theresa’s Youtube tapes (since board audio is garbled and cut out before you spoke) I am able to reflect what you said.

    “Five educational professionals made decisions about their career plans and their lives based on those extensions, and we have a legal and moral obligation to honor those extensions.”

    Nice in moral theory, but I disagree in the legal theory.

    I found your reference to the old “who’s job is it, anyway?” Marbury v. Madison confusing to this issue in light of more recent cases that actually deal with Boards of Education findings on issues much the same as what we have here.

    1) JOSE R. NEGRON v. Board of Education Borough of South Plainfield…2011. Mr Negron lost his case and further appealed to the ALJ that his contract was not renewed in a proper manner where, by the time it went for judicial review the court stated …

    “…that even if the vote had gone [Negron’s] way…”

    “…the current board has no authority to authorize an employment action which would begin during the tenure of a different board.” And they cited a Gonzalez case.

    Negron then appealed to the State Commissioner who said the reference to the Gonzalez case was correct and further stated:

    “…boards of education do not have the statutory authority to approve appointments or contractual extensions if they are to take effect at a date beyond the current board’s natural lifetime; the contract extension in the instant case was to commence more than two months after the 2011 board was elected, and accordingly was void.”

    Brian, ‘our’ extensions were to take effect eight months after the election, and a year before such a decision needed to be made.

    2) The referenced Gonzalez case:

    Gonzalez v. Elizabeth School District. The case began in 1999, Supt. Gonzalez lost. Gonzalez appealed, lost again and it went to the State Supreme Court.

    By that time the case hinged on just one thing: Whether one school board may “bind the hands” of the next board in deciding whom it wants to hire. That Supreme court stated:

    “The central issue raised by this appeal is whether a local school board is empowered to appoint a superintendent whose term would begin during the term of office of the succeeding board.”

    The Supreme Court said NO, and upheld the decision of the lower courts.

    One board may not bind the hands of a succeeding board. Neither should your opinion of moral obligation.

  69. Frustrated Says:

    Why don’t the 5 experts who continue to write on this blog run for School Board? You seem to have all the answers. Talk is cheap. Why not step up?

  70. anon Says:


    Speaking of the Brown Act, how is your Brown Act investigation going related to the 3/11/13 board meeting?


    Do you believe that the board violated the Brown Act when they voted on items which were not on the agenda? Especially the vote where the board voted to give the board president and vice-president the authority to hire an outside attorney and expend the public’s money.

  71. Wait a Minute Says:

    I wonder if Anon#70, 32 isn’t Greg Rolen himself hypocritically wanting to apply a different standard to his critics then to his own follies.

    And I do mean hypocritically since I NEVER saw anything agendized about hiring Greg MCCoy to defend the Big 5 or ANYTHING about giving Mildred Brown a paid absence of leave while simultaneously hiring Kerri Mills to do her job?

  72. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon#70 I guess you can file your cure and correct letter if you want.

  73. Wait a Minute Says:

    Dr J#72, LMAO!!!

  74. Anon Says:

    @70 Better yet, tell Greg to call his friends at the DA office and make a complaint.

  75. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: As Dr. J states, if a Brown Act violation occurred, any member of the public (or even Trustee Linda Mayo herself) could file a Cure and Correct letter. One possible correction would be to agendize the item and re-vote. But, since it is already clear what the outcome of that vote would be, it’s questionable whether anyone will go to the trouble of forcing the issue.

    On another topic, I happened to bump into the superintendent this morning at Meadow Homes Elementary, where I was interviewing some parents about their new “walking school bus” program (which the superintendent said he didn’t know about). When I asked him how the liability issue was resolved for the Ayers crossing guards, he basically admitted that it wasn’t. The district is essentially taking a wait and see approach, hoping that no serious accidents occur. “We’re hoping that through the training and working with the Concord Police Department that we’re minimizing any risk,” he said. “And we continue to work with the city around issues of liability.”

  76. Doctor J Says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Cheryl and Barbara have already hired the outside counsel. This is no time for Greg Rolen to drag his feet in getting the documents to the outside counsel. If he does, it will not bode well for him on the 25th. I expect that Cheryl will have the outside counsel’s opinion by the 25th and it will be the subject of disclosure prior to the contract votes. One tidbit came to my memory about the April 23, 2012 vote — Sherry Whitmarsh in defending the sudden vote, made a statement that they had been waiting for a certain unnamed event to occur to put them on the agenda. I wonder if that is contained in the emails ?

  77. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I was very surprised that Rolen said he had asked trustees and senior managers for emails related to the contracts, but he didn’t mention the superintendent’s secretary. If he neglected to ask for her emails, that would be a HUGE oversight, since she likely has emails from her to him asking for direction related to the drafts and email from Rolen or someone else directing her to remove the clause from the superintendent’s contract. Also, it’s possible that she emailed Eberhart, Whitmarsh, Mayo and Dennler to let them know that the contracts were ready to be signed. Hansen has said she was never asked to sign the contracts until after she was elected president of the board, when Mayo handed them to her in a file folder.
    I hope that when the board reviews the emails Rolen collected, they specifically look for emails to and from the superintendent’s secretary and ask for them if they are missing.

  78. Doctor J Says:

    Perhaps the outside counsel will ask Joe to do a server search to make sure no one is withholding emails.

  79. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Brian Lawrence also appears to have a lot of expertise related to computer tech. Perhaps he will ask Rolen why his attempt to collect emails for the PRA was not comprehensive.

  80. Doctor J Says:

    I am posting an edited version of Theresa’s blog on the contracts posted April 23, 2012 to explain this mysterious event — it also verifies there are emails back and forth regarding the contracts which need to be produced:

    In a previous interview, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh told me she did not put Hansen’s agenda item regarding the contracts on an agenda because she was waiting for a “milestone” — which had been discussed during a closed session regarding the superintendent’s evaluation — to pass.

    “When I brought that up (during closed session), she did not say anything,” Whitmarsh said of Hansen. “My undersgtanding was that Dr. Lawrence was talking to her about that. In the closed session — it was all board members in person — and we had talked about how contracts would be handled. It was not meant to go on the agenda until the milestone that I said would be hit.”

    . . . . .

    Hansen also said she was surprised that Whitmarsh was claiming she couldn’t put the contracts on an agenda until a milestone had been reached, since that was never reported out of closed session.

  81. Theresa Harrington Says:

    During open session, I believe Whitmarsh said she had been waiting for the board to complete the superintendent’s evaluation, which she said they had done in closed session. But, as Alicia Minyen pointed out in her Cure and Correct letter, if that is true, it was not done according to the timeline spelled out in the superintendent’s contract.

  82. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, if I understood your posting correctly, it was some kind of “milestone” that was discussed during the Supt’s evaluation. Remember that evaluation went on for months and we found out later that Cheryl Hansen walked out of one session she said was a Brown Act violation for discussing district business under the ruse of “evaluation”. You already know that Eberhart and Mayo responded to a citizen letter concerning the subject so it will be interesting to see if those responses are included. No one has ever verified that Eberhart and Whitmarsh returned their district computers.

  83. Wait a Minute Says:

    Lies and more damn lies by last-place Chevron Sherry.

    The bottom line here is that the previous board majority/Rolen/Stevie Lawrence twisted all the facts and reality itself to fit their pre-planned strategy of extending contracts IN CASE THEY WEREN’T RE-ELECTED and in fact The Gary had already made up his mind to not run because of the heat coming down upon his collusions with Rolen, Lawrence, Measure C contracters, etc!

    Any rational person doing their to the real owners of the district would properly evaluate these clowns and find them performance to be completely un-satisfactory ANY MEASURES TAKEN and gracefully as possible usher them out the door.

  84. Doctor J Says:

    Also remember that Cheryl was attempting to get on the agenda her item to postpone consideration of any contract extension until after the election but was getting stonewalled by Steven Lawrence, Greg Rolen, and Sherry Whitmarsh. It was because Cheryl was pushing this that I believe they “rushed” the contract extensions on the agenda in their typical hap-hazzard manner. And now this new board is still cleaning up the mess.

  85. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another topic, here’s a working paper that says private school enrollment is down, while charter enrollment is up nationwide:

    Coincidentally, when CVCHS was formed, many charter advocates said they didn’t want to keep losing students to Carondelet and De La Salle. Yet, district officials continue to insist local private schools are not taking students away from the district. Brian Lawrence, on the other hand, said the district needs to work harder to keep those students, during the strategic plan portion of the retreat.

  86. Wait a Minute Says:

    Of course Brian Lawrence and other trustees want to keep these students.

    The only way to do that is to replace the current incompetent and corrupted district senior management with highly competent and with ethics beyond reproach and then start to rebuild this district.

    Conversely, if these incompetent and corrupted people are allowed to stay for even one more year, the district will continue to implode and the people will lose even more faith in it and the exodus of students from it will continue.

  87. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On a positive note, the Kaiser liaison who is working in the Monument Community highly praised the principals of Meadow Homes and Cambridge, saying they are really building parent involvement in that area.

  88. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Regarding the Bay Point master plan meeting, our Bay Point reporter says the maps didn’t include street names and they were so small they were barely readable. She also said the consultant ran out of reports and told her to go to the website, without revealing that the website is completely separate from the district’s website. Why isn’t there a Bay Point Master Plan link on the MDUSD website? The Bay Point Master Plan website also wasn’t listed on the meeting notice. The public and press shouldn’t have to know about secret websites to get information about what is being planned.

  89. Doctor J Says:

    Secret committees = secret website. :-) What were you expecting “transparency” ? LOL

  90. Doctor J Says:

    CDE compares teacher salaries and benefits of MDUSD.!bottom=/_layouts/EdDataClassic/fiscal/TeacherSalary.asp?reportNumber=4096&level=06&fyr=1112&county=07&district=61754#teachersalaryschedule-annualsalary

  91. Doctor J Says:

    This Eddata site through CDE is amazing. Here is finance comparison of MDUSD with all other CCC districts. MDUSD appear to be very typical of the average district in Contra Costa.!bottom=/_layouts/EdDataClassic/finance/MC-FinanceResults.asp

  92. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I wonder if the Technology Committee and Graduation Requirements committee also have secret websites.

  93. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another positive note, I happened across this video of a presentation of the Mayor’s Student Recognition Awards to Khalled Mahmoud, an 8th grade student at Pine Hollow Middle School, and to Dalhya Gomez, an 8th grade student at Oak Grove Middle School by Concord Mayor Helix when I went to the Concord City Council website to watch the police chief’s presentation on crossing guards (Item 1A):

  94. g Says:

    Theresa: Your (cat out of the bag) comment #15 on Tuesday, at 12:12pm apparently triggered the posting of the agenda for Bay Point. It was posted at 1:50pm on the 12th. I wonder if the BAC ‘insiders’ went to Bay Point too.

  95. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Actually, I had called Tim Cody and left a voicemail message for him, saying that I had previously asked Pete Pedersen to put me on his distribution list for Bay Point meeting notices, but didn’t find out about the meeting until it was forwarded to me by our Bay Point reporter, who received it in a forwarded email from Federal Glover’s office. I then reiterated my request to Tim, in Pedersen’s absence. I also said in my message that I didn’t understand why the meeting notice was not posted on the district’s website.

    Here is Cody’s emailed response:


    Thanks for your voice message earlier. I was unaware the Bay Point meeting was not posted, however based on your call, we were able to quickly rectify the problem.

    In reference to your notification, I apologize but your name was not on my CBOC or Bay Point list. Now that I have your e-mail, I intend to add you on future notifications.

    Thanks again for letting us know.

    TM Cody

  96. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another topic, MDUSD gets good compliance review from Grand Jury (despite the fact that Greg Rolen routinely responds on behalf of the board without ever putting these on public agendas, in contrast to the open and transparent way most elected boards discuss and approve their responses):

  97. Wait a Minute Says:

    TH#96, regarding board compensation discussing health benefits (MDV) for board members when exactly did the MDUSD h their discussion on ????

    “Recommendation #3: As part of the public annual review discussed in Recommendation 1, districts that provide healthcare benefits should consider whether it is appropriate to provide such benefits to their elected board members.”

  98. Wait a Minute Says:

    Also, on recommendations regarding school bonds the MDUSD (I guess this was Rolen” call?) decided to NOT IMPLEMENT most of the GJ recommendations!

  99. Doctor J Says:

    As if the Board needed more reasons for not renewing Rolen’s contract — he thinks he can set Board policy.

  100. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, here’s video from the meeting of the discussion of Rolen’s contract:

  101. Wait a Minute Says:

    You know Theresa, that could be a story in and of itself.

    Why, or maybe WHO, decided to not implement so many of the GJ recommendations regarding school bonds?

  102. Doctor J Says:

    Both responses, one signed by Steven Lawrence [July 2012] and one signed by Greg Rolen [August 2012] say they are responses on behalf of the Board of Education — show me the Agenda and Minutes where those responses were considered and voted upon. I would like to know from Cheryl, Linda and Lynne if they approved these letters.

  103. g Says:

    Considering his record, it would seem Rolen considers Grand Jury recommendations as if they are “potential litigation” or “work product” or “client/attorney privilege, etc. etc. etc. and therefore, whereby and whereas, etc. etc. etc., responses must be kept behind closed doors and the public has no right to know—until the GJ itself makes “Will Not Implement” public.

    But that was then….

  104. Doctor J Says:

    From the Calif Attorney General manual on the Brown Act: “the Act contains specific additional requirements for closed sessions regarding pending litigation where the body believes it is subject to a significant exposure to potential litigation. (§ 54956.9(b)(3)”.

  105. Doctor J Says:

    It further says: “Prior to holding a closed session pursuant to this section, the legislative body of the local agency shall state on the agenda or publicly announce the subdivision of this section that authorizes the closed session. If the session is closed pursuant to subdivision (a), the body shall state the title of or otherwise specifically identify the litigation to be discussed,…”

  106. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my crossing guard story:

  107. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an announcement from the PEAK Foundation about its recent donation of more than $48,000 to six Walnut Creek schools in MDUSD:

  108. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Dr J #76 – wasn’t that when the supt was applying for a different district? We’ll have to go back and try to find that thread in the blogs….

  109. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, I believe that’s around the time when the DA questioned Hansen about an alleged Brown Act violation.

  110. Anon Says:

    TH, As far as De La Salle applications they have over 500 applications for 267 spots. Seems to me that they are still way up there as far as applications.

  111. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ TH #95:

    “Who’s on first?”

  112. Doctor J Says:

    @HFO#108 I guess only Sherry can tell us what the “milestone” event was that prompted putting the contract extensions on the April 23 Agenda. My simple google showed that Cheryl went public with her criticism of the District Attorney’s attemped intimidation of her at the June 4 Board meeting.

  113. g Says:

    What was it & What did this Dent S.N.A.F.U. cost?

    One of Rolen’s secret law firms (Olsen, Hagel) with contracts JUST brought to the board for approval this week, says on their website under ‘recent cases’ that they:

    “Obtained agreement absolving Mt. Diablo Unified School District of $1.3 million penalty associated with audit finding over District’s processing of teacher credential documents.”

    Thanks for saving us the money, but WTH?

    Was $1.3 the total penalty? Another failed duty of the big 5—and exactly what law was broken that would have THAT kind of penalty?

    Rolen? Braun-Martin? Browne?

  114. Wait a Minute Says:

    A 1.3 million penalty is HUGE and should result in the termination of whoever was reponsible but what I want to know is how much did it cost us the taxpayers for Olsen, Hagel to fight this?

  115. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Meanwhile, the CVCHS group appears happy at a recent charter conference in San Diego in a photo posted by Rep. George Miller:

  116. Doctor J Says:

    There aren’t that many smiles in ALL of MDUSD !

  117. Clayton Squirrel Says:

    I love the photo from the charter conference. (#115) I am very proud of CVCHS and the folks who are leading the way to a better high school for our community. Congratulations!

    I am surprised that the district says that private schools are not taking away students from MDUSD. Of course they are. Where else are these private school students coming from besides our local community. MDUSD lost my last child to an independent private high school two years ago and lost many of her friends to Carondelet. I am very proud of CVCHS and would send my kid there if I had another that hadn’t already started high school. Good job!

  118. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a new blog post about the Local Control Funding Formula media briefing I attended on Wednesday:

  119. Doctor J Says:

    Has the district given an explanation as to why the video of the second half of the meeting is not archived ?

  120. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Nine people from CVCHS at a conference in San Diego? Weren’t people on this blog screaming about MDUSD people going to so many conferences? How did the CVCHS group get down there? Who is paying for their hotel, the conference, their food?

    Now we know where the $1.7 million taken from MDUSD students is going. Glad you’re so proud, Clayton Squirrel.

  121. Alison Bacigalupo Says:

    @Flippen’ Tired #120

    You might be interested to learn that the State of California Department of Education has a Charter School Division. All new charter schools have an opportunity to apply for a grant called the Public Charter School Grant Program (PCSGP)through CDE. This grant is designed specifically to help charter schools plan for and implement successful charter schools. As soon as the CVCHS petition was approved, we began the application process and were approved in August of this school year. CDE is very clear that this grant money can ONLY be spent on non-recurring expenses and we MUST use it in different areas including ensuring Teacher Effectiveness (Professional Development), Governance (Brown Act training, etc), Fiscal Management and Meeting and Exceeding Goals. This conference provided for all those areas of training and was specifically one of the things we designated in the grant. In fact, if we had NOT attended, we would have been in violation of the grant approval. Frankly, in noting the areas of training above, it seems MDUSD could benefit from a conference like this as well. It was, however, specific only to charter schools. You can read more about the training and workshops offered here:

  122. Doctor J Says:

    Oh, Flippin, chill. This week Morones & his entourage will drop $20,000 on a trip to observe Whittier Union High School district, and their highly acclaimed program. It will dwarf Mildred Browne’s Sacramento boondoggle. Does MDUSD have the leadership, the will, and the money to implement a similar program ?

  123. Doctor J Says:

    Check out this graph of sustained API increases in Whittier over 13 years — impressive. Not exactly what the graph for MDUSD looks like. :-(

  124. Flippin' Tired Says:

    “Doctor” J, you whine the loudest about conference spending, and you’re telling me to chill? $1.7 million was stolen from 30,000 students. Fact. If the CVCHS community really wanted better for all students, they would not have taken that money. It’s obvious they want better for their offspring, and to hell with the rest of the unwashed. CVCHS wants to “work together” but only with their own kind. Being proud of taking money from children, and using it for a San Diego vacation? Yeah, we’re all proud of you, CVCHS.

  125. Doctor J Says:

    @Flippin, what I complain about is “professional development” without any improvement due mainly to lack of leadership and implementation. What CVCHS spends its money on, I hope it results in sustained improvement. I expect to see that with the STAR test results this year, instead of Sue Brothers losing 5 API points in her debut as a principal. CVCHS is responsible to its Board of Directors — not to the voters of MDUSD. Apparently the public feel that CVCHS is an improvement as their enrollment is gaining by leaps and bounds. I actually believe that the Whittier trip will open some eyes as to what is possible with leadership and implementation. Whether it happens, is a different question. The $1.7 million is just the ADA for CVCHS — its not being stolen.

  126. g Says:

    While Flippin’ is chilling…To say nothing of the $Billion that is being stolen from our children and grandchildren tomorrow and being given to less than a dozen (almost all non-local) favored contractors today.

    It’s one thing to spend millions on classroom buildings and enhancements, albeit they’re still plopping down little more than trailers without wheels, when for about the same amount they could have, over the years, actually constructed real design-enhancing annex wings to most of the schools, using existing utility tie-ins, etc., but…,

    Flippen, how do you feel about financing Measure A, C, and Prop 55 money, plus interest for 25-30 years to pay for today’s heat and lights for Measure C staff at Holbrook?

    How about financing 25+ years of “construction” money to pay for outside attorneys to write/copy/paste contracts that in-house attorneys should be writing? Or, financing attorneys to defend construction litigation?

    How about having your kids and grandkids pay tomorrow for computers and technology installed today that will be obsolete before the freshmen of today graduate?

    I don’t call any of the above items either construction or extended-finance worthy.

    Do you expect your grandkids to finance your car, its gasoline and its maintenance for 25 years?

  127. Alison Bacigalupo Says:


    @Flippen’ Tired #120

    You might be interested to learn that the State of California Department of Education has a Charter School Division. All new charter schools have an opportunity to apply for a grant called the Public Charter School Grant Program (PCSGP)through CDE. This grant is designed specifically to help charter schools plan for and implement successful charter schools. As soon as the CVCHS petition was approved, we began the application process and were approved in August of this school year. CDE is very clear that this grant money can ONLY be spent on non-recurring expenses and we MUST use it in different areas including ensuring Teacher Effectiveness (Professional Development), Governance (Brown Act training, etc), Fiscal Management and Meeting and Exceeding Goals. This conference provided for all those areas of training and was specifically one of the things we designated in the grant. In fact, if we had NOT attended, we would have been in violation of the grant approval. Frankly, in noting the areas of training above, it seems MDUSD could benefit from a conference like this as well. It was, however, specific only to charter schools. You can read more about the training and workshops offered here:

    by Alison Bacigalupo on Mar 16, 2013 at 10:28 am

  128. Doctor J Says:

    Oh Flippin, did I mention that it is just a two day trip ? That’s $10,000 a day.

  129. Doctor J Says:

    And Lynne Dennler is concerned about $300 projector bulbs — so Steven Lawrence says, you have to cut something else if you want projector bulbs. Such upside down thinking.

  130. g Says:

    Just don’t cut my CPI-plus-1% raise or the ‘automatic’ 1.5% annual raises from the Big 5 contract extensions! And for Pete’s sake, don’t even mention paying for TWO SpEd Supt. at one time!

  131. Doctor J Says:

    And G, keep the Trustees full family medical/dental/vison — the only part-time employees of the district to qualify for MDV. Morones may not know anything about increasing API, but I’ll bet he throws a hell-of-a party on Tuesday night.

  132. Doctor J Says:

    When you consider that Whittier UHSD is mostly Hispanic and 70% are economically disadvantaged, the work by Supt Sandra Thorstenson “has spearheaded Whittier Union’s transformation into a high-achieving district with five comprehensive high schools serving 13,500 mostly Hispanic students. Seventy percent of the district’s students come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”
    “And yet, at the same time that the District has seen dramatic increases in the percentage of its students living in poverty, its achievement levels have climbed steadily upward. The District has demonstrated remarkable gains in student achievement at every school, in multiple indicators and over time.”
    “Recent data show that nearly 100 percent of all Whittier Union seniors meet the California High School State Exit Exam (CAHSEE) requirement. More than 93 percent of the 13,000 students from the District’s five comprehensive high schools are graduating. Also, 52% of seniors are completing all courses required for entrance into four-year universities and 95% of seniors enroll in post-secondary education.”
    MDUSD’s record doesn’t even come close.
    I hope Morones and entourage learn something down there and implement it.

  133. g Says:

    He’s pretty good at reading copy and talking up a good rah-rah, but hasn’t shown much in the performance arena yet.

    As for MDV…the day that goes away so does the last one who has been using the district for personal gain for many years. Let’s hope no new(er) members have the same gain in mind.

    That $14-18K would buy a lot of light bulbs.

  134. Doctor J Says:

    At the Feb 2012 Asilomar Education Conference, Supt Sandra Thorstenson did a presentation with a powerpoint on their success. I thought I had posted a link, but I can’t find it in the Archives.

  135. Doctor J Says:

    Here is another article on her keys to success:

  136. Flippin' Tired Says:

    To Alison @127, that’s lovely that you’re getting money thrown at you from all different directions, as well as the sweat and elbow grease from your parents and all the fundraisers I see being advertised on When will CVCHS be writing a check for $1.7 million to MDUSD? Shall I look forward to your board presenting it to our board on 3/25, or will it take a bit longer? Since charters get so much more money from other state sources, you can refund what rightfully belongs to the 30,000 students you left behind. You could have saved all the children; you chose not to.

  137. Anon Says:

    Allison, don’t even respond to Flippen. He/she is just an angry person. Not worth the time it takes to type a response.

  138. Wait a Minute Says:


    I found the definition of what you truly are

    You are a “Useful Idiot” for Rolen/Stevie Lawrence/other overpaid Dent so-called leaders.

    See here at Wikepedia for a more complete explanation:

  139. Doctor J Says:

    Is MDUSD prepared to implement in every high school the Whittier model of frequent common assessments [testing], data analysis, and quick intervention ? Remember how much SASS has been criticized in elementary for a similar program. From the article I linked in #135: “Whittier’s against-the-odds success has been an object of fascination for researchers; more than 10 doctoral dissertations have analyzed the district’s approach. Thorstenson intensified instruction by carving out a 75-minute period each week when teams of teachers pore over student data and share their best practices. “The teachers get better the more they share,” she says. To ensure fresh data fuel teaching decisions, Thorstenson instituted common assessments every three weeks and doubled the number of marking periods from four to eight. Struggling students are moved quickly into extra classes and tutorials.”
    Its an expensive trip if there isn’t a prior commitment to be serious about evaluating it.

  140. anon Says:

    Still no word from Brian Lawrence on what he thinks about the alleged Brown Act violation on 3/11. Brian, is voting on something that was not on the agenda as an action item a Brown Act violation or not? It’s a very clear question and deserves a response.

  141. Doctor J Says:

    @#140 Why don’t you ask Linda Mayo who said she didn’t think they could vote on it, and then went ahead and did it.

  142. Doctor J Says:

    Hey Anon#140 — what did you think of Dan Borenstein’s article this morning ?

  143. Wait a Minute Says:

    Dr J and Rolen/Anon#140 et al.

    Dan Borenstein’s editorial is a classic! I’m printing this one out and hanging it up its so good.

    In any case, I have a feeling that the increasingly desperate Rolen is going to need his own attorney soon.

    I hope the trustees who care about the real owners of this district also get a financial and performance audit going of the MDUSD legal department by a completely outside expert unconnected to Rolen.

    Can’t wait to see the CCC Times article on Greg Rolen, Marisol Padilla, the AIS contract and that tangled web of shattered ethics! Oh lets not forget the Mildred Brown paid absence of leave/hush money.

  144. g Says:

    Anon: Who, besides you in this blog, has alleged a Brown Act violation. Mrs. Mayo, who may have some concern of disclosure of something she wrote regarding the contracts, apparently still did not believe the request for a vote was out of order. In fact, she attempted to add an Amendment to the Motion, which in and of itself, validated Ms Hansen’s motion. Her request for that Amendment did not get a second; not even from Ms Dennler.

    In the end, Mayo actually voted. Had she truly believed the Motion was out of order–and had she had the courage of that conviction–and considering her many years of experience–she should have refused to vote at all. But she voted, and that validated.

    Now as to ‘was it actually a violation’ of the Brown Act? I don’t think so.

    In a discussion of an Information Item on the agenda, the board has an expectation that they can rely on their attorney to allay any questions of impropriety alleged in a PRA request.

    When the board runs up against an attorney who refuses to cooperate, who even refuses to provide a valid reason to answer their simplest questions, who stonewalls even the most minor of their questions, who gives every appearance of someone with something to hide from his employer, THEN the board has every right to vote to take a different tack from what was expected to be a fairly simple matter of discussion, and ask for a second legal opinion on the matter.

    On the first vote, Ms. Hansen had every right as board president to ‘direct staff’ to review policy and come back later for discussion. But, she determined that she would like board consensus, so asked for a vote. She did not need that vote. Regardless of Eberhart incorrectly claiming a year or so ago to the contrary; ANY board member may ask staff to review an issue and bring their finding or recommendation back for later board review—done.

  145. Doctor J Says:

    Nice comment Wendy Lack. Wish you would post it on the blog too.

  146. Wendy Lack Says:

    Extension of MDUSD employment agreements through 2014 for the District Supt, Chief Legal Counsel and the CFO is unthinkable. Since April 2012, circumstances have significantly changed — and by that I’m not just referring to the fall election.

    In just the past four months a series of events has occurred that give just cause for Trustees to reconsider the issue of contract term for Lawrence, Rolen and Richards. Any one of these events would be sufficient to give one pause (FCMAT report release/handling; laptop theft and delayed notification; response to Borenstein record requests, etc.).

    Considered in the aggregate, it is reasonable for Trustees to cut their losses and seek new District leadership. Through their own actions, Lawrence/Rolen/Richards have proven themselves unfit. Trustees that seek to extend contracts for these individuals into 2014 should prepare to face voter recall.

    Trustees have a duty to act.

    Students deserve better. Taxpayers deserve better.

  147. Doctor J Says:

    I agree Wendy, there has been a significant change in circumstances since April 2012, almost a year ago that not only justify but demand that Trustees put a stop to the shenanigans [great word for St. Patty’s day]. Don’t forget the concealment of the relationship between Marisol Padilla and Greg Rolen, and its conflict of interest in awarding exclusive contracts to her, that involved Steven Lawrence, Greg Rolen and Bryan Richards.

  148. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ DJ #147:

    Typically, in cases such as these, the full scope of misconduct becomes known only after the individuals in question have left the organization.

    I expect this will be the case in MDUSD.

    We don’t know even the half of it, I suspect.

  149. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Some public entities, such as the city of Richmond, hire outside investigators to look into alleged misconduct:
    The public deserves to know who directed that the MDUSD superintendent’s contract be altered without board approval and who determined which board members to invite to sign the contracts and when. Shouldn’t all trustees have been notified at the same time that the contracts were ready to be signed? And shouldn’t someone have noticed that the superintendent’s and CFO’s contracts had been altered?

  150. g Says:

    Theresa (and Cheryl) this is the Govt. Code to which you are referring:

    6252.7. Notwithstanding Section 6252.5 or any other provision of
    law, when the members of a legislative body of a local agency are
    authorized to access a writing of the body or of the agency as
    permitted by law in the administration of their duties, the local
    agency, as defined in Section 54951, shall not discriminate between
    or among any of those members as to which writing or portion thereof
    is made available or when it is made available.

    There is no question that Cheryl was intentionally ‘excluded’ from the notorious contract signing party in Oct.

  151. 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.

  152. 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?

  153. 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.

  154. 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:

  155. Hell Freezing Over Says:

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

  156. 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.

  157. 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):

  158. 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.

  159. 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.

  160. 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.

  161. 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.

  162. 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.

  163. 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.

  164. 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.

  165. 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. :-)

  166. 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:

  167. 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.

  168. 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.

  169. 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.

  170. Wait a Minute Says:

    Wow, another shill posting.

  171. 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?

  172. 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.

  173. Doctor J Says:

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

  174. 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!

  175. 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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