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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. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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….

  4. 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)”.

  5. 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,…”

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my crossing guard story:

  7. 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:

  8. 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….

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  10. 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.

  11. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ TH #95:

    “Who’s on first?”

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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?

  15. 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:

  16. Doctor J Says:

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

  17. 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!

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  19. Doctor J Says:

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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:

  22. 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 ?

  23. 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. 🙁

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

  27. 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

  28. Doctor J Says:

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

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    Here is another article on her keys to success:

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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:

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. Doctor J Says:

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

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. Doctor J Says:

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

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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?

  50. 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.

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