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Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula brings optimism and concerns

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 15th, 2013 at 6:27 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The governor’s plan to give school boards more control over how they spend money — and give more funding to districts with a needy students — is creating both optimism and concern in the education community.

At a New America Media briefing about the proposal Wednesday, three panelists described the frenzied debate going on in Sacramento and districts throughout the state, which are trying to get as much money as possible for their students.

A California Budget Project policy analyst joined the executive director of Education Trust-West and an EdSource reporter to talk about how this proposal could revolutionize school funding in a way that the state hasn’t seen in decades.

Jonathan Kaplan from the California Budget Project said the formula would give schools with low-income students and English learners more money over seven years, which could end up flip-flopping current funding inequities. For example, the Dublin school district now gets about $1,000 more per student than Alameda City Unified, he said. But under the governor’s proposal, Dublin would get about $3,000 less per student after seven years.

“Some people say there are winners and losers after this,” he said. “But, are there winners and losers now?”

Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-West, said the extra money for low-income and immigrant students could help the state overcome the persistent achievement gap. But, the proposal needs to be strengthened to ensure that extra money really goes to those students and not to other board priorities, he cautioned.

He said civil rights groups are struggling with the proposal because they agree that needy students deserve more money, but they think school districts should be required to show how they will use it to help struggling kids.

“Who’s going to hold districts accountable?” he said.

John Fensterwald, a longtime education editor and journalist, said local control will require school boards to be effective.

“The dynamic is changing,” he said, “so it requires much more intelligent, involved school board members than we’ve had before.”

He hinted that some may not be up to the task.

“There is debate over the wisdom of local school boards,” he said. “Those of us who have been around school boards have seen that they vary in quality.”

But he said everyone fundamentally agrees that more money should go to the neediest students.

“The dichotomy over winners and losers distracts from overall agreement that inequity needs to be addressed,” he said.

One issue of concern is that funds currently set aside for specific programs that help vulnerable students, such as those for foster youth, will be lumped together in a pot of money that districts could spend however they want.

“The language needs to say it will supplement dollars being spent on needy students,” he said, “not supplant it.”

Another twist is that money will not be designated for individual schools, it will go straight to the district. So, in districts such as Mt. Diablo — which includes poor communities as well as wealthy communities — the poor schools may not be assured of getting the extra money meant for their students.

“Parents are going to have to be very vigilant,” Fensterwald said, “and hold boards and districts accountable for spending money on needy students.”

Ramanathan agreed.

“For years, school boards have punted this to Sacramento, saying, ‘Our hands are tied,’” Ramanathan said. “Now, they will be accountable for how they spend money.”

Panelists also agreed that the estimates released by the state are not set in stone, since the Department of Finance hasn’t explained the assumptions it used to create them. For the next few months, superintendents and others are bringing their concerns to Sacramento, hoping to influence the final budget, which the Legislature should adopt by the end of June.

“The critical question,” Ramanathan said, “is: ‘What would districts do with more money?’”

What do you think districts should do with more money?

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115 Responses to “Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula brings optimism and concerns”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Won’t MDUSD end up with less money ? One of the continuting issues will be declining enrollments over the last ten years and expected to continue. As you point out, those districts which use the “at large” trustee voting model will be tempted to direct less money to impoverished schools and more to schools where the Trustee’s supporters and donors are located. Districts that divide their trustee’s by area, will be more likely to have even distribution of money. It will be an interesting debate.

  2. g Says:

    Whatever the final decision is on amounts to distribute, one thing is clear. MDUSD does not have a dependable administration in place at Dent to allow them to be trusted indiscriminately with the funds. Nor do we have a full board with the brain power or strength to control current administration of those funds. As stated above:

    “”“Who’s going to hold districts accountable?” he said.”

    “John Fensterwald, a longtime education editor and journalist, said local control will require school boards to be effective.

    “The dynamic is changing,” he said, “so it requires much more intelligent, involved school board members than we’ve had before.””

    The problem is not just the poor leadership–or perhaps even illegal administration of the dollars that flow so freely. We cannot go another (almost) two more years with Mayo and Dennler playing their form of ‘mejor amiga’ to the end, with little regard for what is right.

    Both need to give up the ghost–now!

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The MDUSD board showed lack of interest in the budget at the last meeting, when the superintendent announced that CFO Bryan Richards would just give a quick overview and that anyone who was really interested in the budget could see his PowerPoint at the Budget Advisory Committee meeting. This is the first time that I can ever recall the CFO failing to give a full PowerPoint presentation to the board before they approved his second interim report.
    Of course, it appeared that the reason for the quick report was the fact that the agenda was so packed that trustees were unable to address everything that evening. Perhaps the board should consider meeting three times a month, like the Concord City Council. Then, it could give each item the attention it deserves.
    Somewhat ironically, Trustee Barbara Oaks said some administrators complain they are only given 10 minutes in meetings for topics of great importance. What about the board?

  4. g Says:

    Mayo has said before that she believes fully in the recommendations of staff, and has shown on occasion that even if she doesn’t understand or isn’t really sure about an issue, she will still ‘vote the recommendation’.

    Far too frequently items come before the board, such as AB1575 on Monday, that was already 10 days late in filing, or like Rolen’s last Monday hurrah with the outside attorney’s contracts stating he had already used them and now they had to be contracted to be paid.

    What’s left for the board but to go along.

    Too often the board fails to simply say “You should have brought this to us in a more timely manner. Let’s put this item off to a better time when we’ve had time to study it.”

    As a sometimes silly, but generally wise man once said: “Trust, but verify!”

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On at least one occasion, however, the board did not go along with the recommendation — when the superintendent sought authority to enter into contracts during winter break and the board questioned the lease-leaseback contract. Still, Mayo wanted to give the supt the authority to approve that contract sight unseen to avoid delays. In that instance, too, it seemed that staff was expecting the board to go along with the recommendation due to time constraints.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#5 As I recall, Pete Pedersen said waiting until January would cause construction delays and so a special meeting was called for just before Christmas. Well, when January rolled around we learned that the “urgency” was not really construction delays but Pete Pedersen had used use hours and was back in hibernation. It makes one wonder if Pete had a vested interest in getting those contracts approved while he was still captain of the ship. Just saying.

  7. g Says:

    Yes, we have a new board, and old bad habits have to be broken.

    Every June and again in Nov/Dec Pedersen’s Measure C deals “could not wait.” This has been going on since at least 2003.

    Every June, Lawrence “needs” to play 52 Pick Up with school and Dent staff during the Board’s planned July break.

    Sure, occasionally a few will leave and need to be replaced at an awkward time and over Summer break–that’s what the application pool and pre-vetting is for. Some failing school will need to find new leadership as soon as scores come out. But swapping out/hiring 30 or more in one swoop during July with no oversight? Not if you are on top of your job all year long!

    These are perfect examples of “plan and present” in a timely manner.

  8. g Says:

    I seem to remember Pedersen rattling on about “if we wait we’ll have all the extra expense of ‘temorary’ housing.”

    Has the board looked at the warrant reports lately for what we are paying right now for ‘temorary’ housing? I sure don’t remember those bids coming to the board.

  9. g Says:

    While I’m on a roll…tear down an old portable, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it. Bring in temporary housing, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it. Run wiring/plumbing to the temporary, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it. Bring in the new building, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it. Wire and plumb the new building, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it.

    There are no fewer than 17 qualified Class 1 DSA certified inspectors in Contra Costa Co. alone. Why has Alisha Jensen (who raised her rates $10./hour last year) NEVER had to bid for the work?

    How do we pay one person more than a quarter of a million a year without ever bidding?

  10. Doctor J Says:

    You have to wonder.

  11. Doctor J Says:

    I wonder how the outside counsel reviewing the 100 documents described by Rolen is going ?

  12. Wendy Lack Says:

    It’s up to the Board of Trustees to manage the “bum’s rush” M.O. that staff has become accustomed to using. Trustees should insist on thorough staff briefings, receipt of staff reports in advance, adequate time for deliberation, etc.

    Additional Board meetings appear to be necessary, for the foreseeable future — so that Board members can get their questions answered, discussed, etc.

    Those Trustees that subscribe to the blind followership method (“just vote for the staff recommendation”) surely recognize that it cannot work in the current environment. Given staff’s recent conduct, the Board must rise to the occasion and actively involve itself and verify information provided in staff reports. This kind of micromanagement is irksome, but necessary — since the buck stops with Trustees and they’re already on notice that some District execs play fast and loose.

    This state of affairs adds urgency to need for staff changes. Trustees will quickly grow tired of doing their jobs AND doing detailed review of every staff report and giving close scrutiny to the metrics and analysis supporting each staff recommendation. As Will Rogers said, “Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.”

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Good question. But, on the subject of PRAs, I received this response via US mail today, which I assume is in response to my request for FCMAT records, although it doesn’t say:
    As usual, Rolen is withholding some documents, claiming “confidential attorney-client indications and attorney work product.”
    I also have an outstanding PRA request regarding Mildred Browne’s mysteriously approved new job, but I haven’t heard a peep in response to that one.
    And when I called to request copies of Form 700s, I was told I needed to submit a PRA for those as well. Although I complied, it’s my understanding that no PRA is necessary to inspect Form 700s, since they are required to be kept on file for the express purpose of disclosing them to the public upon request.

  14. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    I wonder how much $$ we would save (postage)if Rolen just replied via email instead of U.S. mail?

  15. Doctor J Says:

    @Theresa, quit putting up with the BS. Call the Fair Political Practice Commission.

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: You can also find the link to the CAC’s response to the FCMAT report here:
    The postage was 46 cents, plus the envelope and letterhead. Also, it took four days to reach me. If Rolen would use email, he could save the district money and respond more expediently. Also, my request specifically asked for the district to respond via email.

    Dr. J: Thanks. I was planning to call them. I also sent a copy of my PRA regarding the Form 700s to the superintendent, Bryan Richards and Board President Cheryl Hansen, explaining that I had been informed that I needed to file a PRA to receive the forms, which I did not believe was necessary. I attached a 2009 email in which Rose Marie Scorsati had previously scanned and emailed me the forms. Things sure have changed since then!

  17. g Says:

    We all know the 4/23 contract vote was garbage-in, garbage-out with nothing presented to actually cast a valid vote on.

    We’ve seen the McCoy letter to Namita Brown–I want to see the phone logs/emails and the ‘Engagement Letter’ to McCoy from Rolen and troops.

    And, the emails or phone logs from Rolen/Lawrence enviting just “certain” board members (Eberhart, Mayo and Whitmarsh) to come in to sign the “Oct” contracts.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As an update to the PRA question, our lawyer says the district cannot require a PRA for Form 700s and cannot make the public (or press) wait 10 days to see them, since the 10-day period is meant to allow districts to review documents for possible exemptions. That’s not necessary with Form 700s, since they are legally required to be public.
    I hope that when the board reviews its Public Disclosure policy to make it more transparent, it includes: responses by email when requested; and immediate disclosure of Form 700s, with no PRA necessary.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    Wow, I wonder if Steven Lawrence, Gary Eberhart, etc. are having frequent trips to the restroom after reading this article:
    I don’t think the statute of limitations has expired.

  20. g Says:

    Great article Dr. J. Be sure to click on the other article link at the bottom. It goes into even more detail. Alicia Minyen and others have been trying to wake the people up! While the article specifically tells the perils of CABs, the real culprit for us is the words “Negotiated Sale” that is in every one of our bonds–that costs us more than we should have to pay.

    “The securities board also said banks must tell school officials about the risks of complicated bond deals. A bank that promises schools it will get them the best deal, but fails to do that, the board said, is breaking federal law.”

    A Negotiated Sale is NOT the best deal!

    Some ‘good ol’ boy pals (Isom, Juhl-Darlington, Rolen, Eberhart, Lawrence) need to answer some GJ questions.

  21. g Says:

    In the article I reference, it says Baum et al slimy bod deals cost 1.1% but the average if handled properly would only cost a school district about .613%. Well here is an easy to read example of one of ‘our’ bonds–with a cost of issuance of 1.62%.

    Check out those ballooning payments and interest rates!

    Did your breakfast stay down?

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Well, my trip to get the Form 700’s was VERY interesting! Although Rolen had been checked off on the list, his was missing. When I pointed that out, his secretary brought it in, dated 3/17/13. Pete Pedersen has also not turned in his form, after repeated requests, according to Richard’s secretary. Also, Mildred Browne, Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh were never asked to fill out Form 700s in 2012, so Richards’ secretary is following up with them.
    And, it turns out that no one seems to know where the forms for 2010 and earlier are, since they used to be housed in the assistant superintendent for administrative services office. When that position was eliminated, it appears that these important public documents were stored away somewhere – but no one is sure where.
    It’s pretty ironic that Bryan Richards was carrying around social security numbers on his laptop that were decades old, but no one knows where the Form 700s from TWO YEARS ago have gone!
    Shouldn’t someone have scanned them into some sort of secure file?

  23. Doctor J Says:


  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    And on a somewhat humorous note, I saw a Volvo and a BMW parked in two spaces marked “reserved for district vehicles.” No wonder the district is running a deficit! :)

  25. g Says:

    Wasn’t the position Asst. Supt. of Administrative Services created specifically to both reward and bump Pedersen up for his last couple of years of district pay/retirement benefits?

    Didn’t the position go away when he retired?

    Did he move his complete office files to storage at Holbrook, or off-site at his place in Arcata?

  26. g Says:

    Speaking of PRA, back on 8/11/10 Theresa, you gave us figures for legal costs that yr. Although they apparently neglected to give you the PRA that would include FFF and Stone Youngberg payments, the total wad admitted to for one yr. was $915,556.42.

    Using Rolen’s best buddy Juhl-Darlington’s contract from that period at $185./hr, totaling $405,458.00 He worked 2,192 hours in that one year! That means he spent 4hrs out of every single day, 7 days a wk, 365 days a yr, for that entire year working on MDUSD business

    Yeah, sure!

  27. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH @ 22 – didn’t you post somewhere that the district CFO responded via voicemail to your request for the Form 700s saying something about archived forms/docs? I can’t find your earlier post about his voicemail, so wondering why he would tell you that, if the forms from 2010 and earlier have conveniently become unable to locate …

  28. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Here it is – it was posted under the 03/11/13 blog … He needs to explain what “archived” means (scanned to a file? Filed in a cabinet at Dent? Dumped in a box? ) and why he would tell you that if no one seems to knows where those forms are.

    Theresa Harrington Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 6:07 pm
    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.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Actually, Richards’ secretary said she didn’t know if the previous person collected all the Form 700s as required.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    Bryan Richards is going to blame it on the secretary — just more evidence of what Cheryl Hansen commented on that the CFO doesn’t know how to manage a department. He’s toast.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    How to file a Fair Political Practices complaint against MDUSD for its failure to have its management personnel file their form 700’s. Every citizen should flood the FPPC with such complaints.

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It hasn’t been established that they didn’t collect all the forms as required, but the secretary couldn’t find evidence that they did. She had one file from 2011 that had a smattering of Form 700’s from some principals, along with a comprehensive list of many more officials whose forms weren’t in the file.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    So Theresa, whose form 700’s did you receive and for what years ? I assume the rest have not been filed with the district and they failed to report it to the FPPC. Are you going to write a story about this ?

  34. g Says:

    “… a comprehensive list of many more officials whose forms weren’t in the file.” Was that a list of “who has to file” or a list of files that had once been in the file? Any check-off system to keep track?

    Or is this just same ol’ – same ol’; kind of like the Mandatory Training issue?

    Somebody thinks Everybody did it but Nobody knows if Anybody did it.

  35. Jim Says:

    @19 — “I was startled by how explicit the quid pro quos have become,” Lockyer said.

    That’s right. The piano player had no idea at all what was going on upstairs…

  36. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Some of them were checked off, but they weren’t in the file. Others were highlighted. It was impossible to decipher what system was used.
    I have to compliment Janet on her excellent organization of the files since she has been responsible for keeping them, however.

  37. Doctor J Says:

    Board Policy 2310 and Board By-law 9270 identify a long list of employees who must file a Form 700 — obviously this ball has been dropped by the BIG5: Here is just a sampling of the first two categories:
    1. Persons occupying the following positions are designated employees in Category 1:
    Governing Board Members
    Superintendent of Schools
    Assistant/Associate Superintendent
    Chief Financial Officer
    General Counsel
    Purchasing Director
    2. Persons occupying positions with the following designations as part of their title are designated employees in Category 2:
    Program Coordinator
    Program Specialist

    I would bet there are over a 100 people who should be filing Form 700’s in MDUSD. Steven Lawrence knows better — Bryan Richards is inept in managing his department charged with the collection of these forms.

  38. Alicia Says:

    @19 & 21 – Many don’t realize that effective January 1, 2010, AB 1388 allowed all municipalities to sell bonds on a negotiated basis. Prior to this legislation, only schools were allowed to sell bonds on a negotiated basis. Even worse, AB 1388 repealed Government Code 53508.5. 53508.5 essentially required a level debt service for repayment of bonds….meaning CABs over 25 years could not be sold because levies would vary widely. Ever since this repeal took effect, there was a material uptick in very expensive long term CABs up to 40 years. Assemblyman Edward Hernandez authored AB 1388…who is now a State Senator.

  39. Doctor J Says:

    I am anxious to get Wendy Lack’s take on Form700GATE.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Again, I want to reiterate that Janet is doing a good job of keeping everything organized. The person before her, however, does not seem to have kept everything together in one file. You’re right. There are over 100 employees who HAVE filed those forms this year. As already mentioned, Greg Rolen somehow slipped through the cracks and Pete Pedersen appears to be refusing to do it. Janet has sent the forms along with her checklist to the county. Pete Pedersen’s name has no check mark next to it. Inexplicably, Rolen’s name DID have a check next to it, even though his form was missing. And, as I have already pointed out, Mildred Browne, Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh were inexplicably left off the list for 2012. But, when I pointed that out, Janet immediately made phone calls to get the forms to them.
    She said it’s difficult for the fiscal dept. to keep track of the forms since information about new hires doesn’t get forwarded to her. It might make more sense for HR to handle this responsibility, since the forms are supposed to be filled out upon hire, promotion to a new job category from a previous category that doesn’t require the form, and upon leaving the district.
    Although it might be incredibly embarrassing for the district, I am going to suggest that it might be easier to just ask the county for copies of the missing forms than to spend hours searching for them. Then, the district will know exactly what it sent to the county in the first place.
    Also, I am going to suggest that it get a new copy of Barbara Oaks’ form, since portions of the copy on file are virtually unreadable.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    Steven Lawrence, as Supt, is in charge of supervising all of the departments, and obviously he has not been doing a good job of this if there is such disarray in collection of these forms. Leaving off Board members is inexcusable. Theresa, are you saying these were all forwarded to the COE ? As for Pete Pedersen, I think when an employee refuses to fill one out, they are to be reported to FPPC and fined per day for not filling them out.

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No, I believe they were forwarded to the county clerk in Martinez.
    I don’t know what the penalty is for failing to file the form, but Janet said she had contacted Pedersen at least three times and that she was required to keep documentation showing that the form had been sent to him, but he had failed to complete it.
    Forms for Tim Cody, Mitchell Stark and Jeff McDaniels were all filed.

  43. g Says:

    I’ll go looking, but I seem to recall a conversation either here on board minutes where ‘someone’ told Pedersen he did not have to file 700s.

  44. g Says:

    I also seem to recall when I made a phone call about this a couple of years ago, I was told that the District is not required to send the Form 700s anyplace, but are required to keep them at the District Office (and available) for 5 years.

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At one point, I think Pedersen told the BOC members that THEY didn’t have to file Form 700s, but he later said they did. The funny thing is, when he told them they DID have to, he basically said it was no big deal and that he fills them out too.

  46. g Says:

    Answer to my own post 43. When a couple of CBOC members got their feathers up over filing Form 700s, or anything to do with Conflicts of Interest reporting, Pedersen told them CBOCs did not have to file the forms.

    So…. Do CBOCs have to file Conflict statements or not?

  47. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a story about Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan’s proposed laws on strengthening the mandated reporter law and making it easier to dismiss abusive teachers:
    If this law is passed, MDUSD would have to review its board-adopted policy (which neither Julie Braun-Martin nor Felicia Stuckey-Smith appeared to be aware of) annually with employees.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As previously stated, I believe Pedersen later told BOC members they DID have to fill out Form 700s. The senior citizen member then quit, saying she didn’t want to do that.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Deb Cooksey has informed me that she will respond to my request for the Form 700s. She wrote in an email this afternoon:

    “…please note that I will be providing the District’s response and production of applicable documents. We are in the process of trying to locate all documents relative to your request…”

    I responded with the suggestion that it might save time for her to just request them from the county so they’d get them all together and be assured they don’t miss any. I also asked for a better copy of Oaks’ form.

  50. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#49 “trying to locate” ???? Clearly the Captain of the ship has no idea how to run the ship. How embarrassing ! What kind of management is in place in MDUSD ????? Its time to make a change ASAP.

  51. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Deb has agreed to ask the county for the records instead of trying to find them in the district.
    HFO: This is very interesting, since the supt recently reported to the board that he was meeting with DVC and LMC to try to develop this kind of program. Are you sure it is currently in place?

  52. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH 51 – I think you meant Flippin …

  53. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Oops, yes, you’re right. I meant Flippin.

  54. g Says:

    Theresa; It just sank in what you said in #49. Deb Cooksey will be ‘handling’ the full PRA request. At first reading I thought you meant she’d send her own….


  55. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, here’s Deb’s emailed response to my suggestion about requesting copies from the county:

    “Hi Theresa,
    Good idea. Via a separate email, I have just asked Janet to request them from the County…”

  56. Wait a Minute Says:

    Gee, I wonder why Pete Pederson and “he Gary”, nd “Chevron” Sherry didnt file their REQUIRED FORM 700s???

    Gee, I wonder why it is so hard for them to find any form 700’s from 2010 or earlier???

    I wonder if the massive amounts of Measure C lobbying by Chevron among others has anything do with this???

    FOLLOW THE MONEY THERESA, I have a feeling your getting close.

  57. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, why not just you request them from the county and don’t let MDUSD filter them ?

  58. g Says:

    The PRA issue just took a step forward.

    At the 3/11 PRA/Borenstein meeting, Rolen did say (4 times) “Or, you could let a judge decide.”

    Precedent has been set. Of course the SJ case will go to appeal, but we can still hope…. You know Rolen doesn’t want his private conversations looked at too closely.

  59. Doctor J Says:

    @G#58 I would call that a Blockbuster decision. Rolen, Eberhart, Whitmarsh, and even Strange have to be reaching for the Immodium. Theresa, I hope you get on this ASAP.

  60. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I’m having a hard enough time just getting Form 700s and FCMAT emails. After receiving Rolen’s response to my FCMAT PRA via US mail, in which he said I could view the documents at a mutually agreeable time, I called him on Monday and said I’m available anytime this week.
    After not getting a response from him, I dropped by his office yesterday while I was at the district office to look at the Form 700s. His door was closed and his secretary said I couldn’t view the documents at that time because there was “no room.” She said that Wendy Lack had previously had to sit at the table in the lobby to look at documents. The secretary seemed to be implying that a conference room or some other special area needed to be set aside for me to view the documents. This is ridiculous. I could have easily just sat at the same table Lack had used earlier. I don’t need a lot of space. All I need is the documents….and a return phone call from Rolen.
    Since he hasn’t bothered to call me back in two days, I will now follow up with an email.

  61. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, I am sorry to say that Rolen is playing you like a piano.

  62. g Says:

    I would imagine “the room” is being taken up right now by an outside attorney looking at last year’s contract materials–with Rolen–or his own attorney–arguing legal points.

    That’s why Cooksey is manning the legal helm.

    In order for there to be a “mutually agreeable time” you have to have both parties be of an “agreeable” nature.

    That leaves Rolen out!

  63. Doctor J Says:

    The FCMAT emails are available directly from FCMAT which is a public entity and subject to the PRA.

  64. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: FCMAT has already complied with my PRA. I also requested emails between staff and trustees from MDSUD related to the Oct. 3 agreement with FCMAT. FCMAT would obviously not have those. It does appear that Rolen is unnecessarily delaying my access to the records. I will copy trustees on my email to him so that they will be in the loop regarding his tactics.

    g: The interesting thing is that Dan Borenstein told me that after he and Rolen agreed to a mutually agreeable time for Borenstein to look at the Gagen McCoy letter, Rolen wasn’t even there. So, this requirement is virtually meaningless. I should be able to just drop in and see the documents, since they have already been collected.

  65. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#64 Rolen is clearly desperate. His lies have reached the end of the rope. Its not any different than his lies with Diane as she detailed in her so called book review that unveiled the lying sack of manure that Greg Rolen really is.

  66. g Says:

    Theresa, how did the district respond to your (3/13 ?) request for “…documents, including any settlement agreement, related to the creation of the assist supt on special assignment position.”

    I suppose a snail mail refusal will be postmarked on 3/23.

  67. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: You are correct that so far, I have received no response to that PRA. In fact, when Deb Cooksey told me yesterday that she would be responding to my PRA, I asked: “Which one?”

  68. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Just as I was about to send my email to Rolen and the board about the FCMAT PRA, Rolen’s secretary called to invite me to come to the district office this afternoon to review the documents. Progress is being made.

  69. g Says:

    I don’t know why, but based mostly just on gut feeling, I suspect something kind of nasty must have happened over in SpEd personnel dept. that came to light in early 2012, and that board decided to bury it.

    It is very rare to move someone as high ranking at Browne into a ‘no desk’ job–with pay.

    Maybe they felt some obligation to not leave contract renewals to a new board in fear that the new board would renew Browne without knowing the full circumstances.

  70. Anon Says:

    Theresa, you may find this useful: San Jose Superior Court Judge orders emails/texts from city officials’ private cell phones produced per PRA request. Makes your’s and Borenstein’s requests look like no-brainers.

  71. Anon Says:

    G @ #58, I should have read your earlier post, you beat me to it on the San Jose case!

  72. g Says:

    😉 sometimes double exposure is good! Whomever they have assigned to read this blog all day may have missed it too.

    Theresa posted on the 13th that there was no Bay Point Agenda, and suddenly up-it-pops. She posted about no BAC agenda, and…up-it-pops.

    I imagine minutes of the meetings will require another PRA.

  73. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of the nearly secret Bay Point meeting, here’s our Pittsburg reporter’s story about the proposed boundary changes for Delta View Elementary:

    It says a committee will be making a recommendation to the board. But so far, the district has never posted the committee’s agendas or minutes.

  74. g Says:

    True, Steven Lawrence cannot be blamed for this fiasco.

    What the recent buyers in the Delta View area AND the district don’t want to admit is that this problem all stems from two things.

    1) Pittsburg and its developers getting new schools south of Hwy 4 without actually paying for them.

    2) Shady land deals made between the district, the city of Pittsburg and developers that pretty much flew under the radar during the years of escalating real estate tax income.

  75. Wait a Minute Says:

    OK G,

    Who do you think was shady enough in the MDUSD to be involved on the district’s side in these “shady land deals”???

    And regarding Mildred Brown, is it possible that they couldn’t risk firing her because she knew too much about who gave the orders for the interpreting contract to be switched to the brand new company AIS, which just happened to be owned by Greg Rolen’s co-habitator, Marisol Padilla???

  76. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Browne told me she didn’t know why the contract was switched and that Margot Tobias handled that. As previously stated, Tobias isn’t talking.

    After getting the FCMAT/MDUSD records, I’m more puzzled than ever about why the report didn’t do a side-by-side comparison of the district’s estimates and the county’s, since Superintendent Steven Lawrence specifically requested that initially. In documents that must not have been released to me, that direction was apparently changed. Also, FCMAT clearly expected the report to be presented to the board. There are no emails revealing who decided not to present it to the board or why. I guess that information was considered “privileged” by Rolen.

  77. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Contra Costa County Board of Ed. voted 4-1 to allow Clayton Valley Charter HS to expand to Cal State East Bay, Concord. Daniel Gomes voted no and Pamela Mirabella voted yes, but expressed concerns about the financial impact to MDUSD.

  78. Anon Says:

    What financial impact would it have? Is she talking about the impact from the FCMAT or is there more of a cost to have them use cal state?

  79. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Pamela is probably worried that more kids are going to be applying to CVCHS and leaving the MDUSD.

  80. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, I believe that was what she and Daniel Gomes were concerned about. I videotaped the hearing and will post clips to

  81. Theresa Harrington Says:

    With regard to the Form 700’s, Richards’ secretary informed me yesterday that Pedersen has filed his.

  82. vindex Says:

    I have been told by people in the MDUSD that Rolen will be relieved of duties on Monday? What are the odds? Is this true?

  83. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:


    Why do you think that Deb Cookesy is already “handling” some of these PRA requests?

  84. Wait a Minute Says:

    I think the odds should be very good.

    Afterall, Rolen has been strongly implicated in STEERING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS towards certain people.

    Some like his then girlfriend Marisol Padilla he obviously personally benefitted from.

    For others like his buddy Matt Juhl-Darlington, (who according to G’s calculations billed the MDUSD for over $405,000 in 2010 alone!), I think we have to assume that there was some kind of quid-pro-quo based on Rolen’s MO.

  85. Theresa Harrington Says:

    More hot water for the MDUSD legal dept:

  86. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Back on the topic of Bill Morones taking a trip to Whittier, I heard from the CVCHS group that they are doing a lot of the same progressive things that Whittier is. Perhaps Morones could save some money and just visit CVCHS.
    During the hearing, Trustee Cynthia Ruehlig praised the planned Early College Academy at Cal State East Bay, Concord, saying that’s exactly what charters are supposed to be doing — innovating and trying new things that could be replicated by others.

  87. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#85 Deb Cooksey needs to go too. Sidewalks are in the city’s right of way — the public is entitled to be on them without restriction. The Teamsters are going to slam dunk her and get a major fine against the district.

  88. g Says:

    I’ve never heard of anyone claiming Cooksey actually knows much law. Without a book (and that has to be highlighted for her) she will step on her tongue the minute she offers ad-lib.

    Of course, she was probably instructed by her superiors to go ‘handle the situation’ without being specifically instructed to “stick to the script AND (highlighted) don’t answer any questions!”

    Of course no one will ever talk openly about the real ‘why’ she left Oakland.

  89. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#86 I was told that it was a “hell-of-a-party”.

  90. Theresa Harrington Says:

    MDUSD probably won’t be partying when they see CVCHS adding another 150 students a year in the next four years.

  91. Doctor J Says:

    @Vindex#82 Maybe you could donate some boxes to make the office clearning more efficient. :-)

  92. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I’m hearing there may be some dissatisfaction with Local One and the Teamsters may be trying to seize the moment.

  93. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#90 The boondoggle trips, a la Mildred Browne, Bill Moronoes, and remember the Palo Alto C&I fiasco, will come to a rapid halt once there are no more “categorical funds”. Steven Lawrence’s days — yes days — are numbered. Can’t wait for the agenda to be posted. I hear Greg Rolen will resign rather than be humiliated with a firing.

  94. Anon Says:

    #93-“resigning” means a 6th month severance per his contract. “Firing” means a dismissal hearing for cause, and if the District loses, he gets back pay. That means 3 board members have to agree to shell out $95,000.

  95. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon#94 No he will just walk away if he is smart. Otherwise, he risks his law license.

  96. Anon Says:

    I disagree that he risks his law license. The state bar is indundated with complaints, and I don’t think they would take much interest in his conduct at MDUSD. And even if they did, he’d only get a reprimand. It comes down to whether he resigns and forgoes the severance, is “released” from his contract which requires the 6 month severance pay, or the boad decides to dismiss him for cause, which is expensive.

  97. Wait a Minute Says:

    Well Anon#96 and 94,

    last time I checked, corruption by a public official was illegal.

    IMO, Rolen would be lucky to only lose his law license.

  98. Wait a Minute Says:

    Just wanted to add that with Rolen’s corruption we are talking about large amounts of money and don’t forget what happened to the Bell, Ca defendants–all convicted very quickly by their jury!

  99. Anon Says:

    Ok, I understand your arguments, I just don’t think those things would ever come to pass. Goodness, AIS is still contracting with the District with the Board’s blessing. Assuming I am right, how do you feel about him walking with half a year’s salary?

  100. g Says:

    Anon: I’m one of those people that will gladly spend $10. to keep someone from cheating me out of $5.

    So, 6mo pay is better that 12mo pay.

    On the other hand, every single contract, for both internal and external agreements written by a public entity like MDUSD should have a Conflict of Interest Code clause spelled out in it.

  101. Doctor J Says:

    I wonder what the delay is in releasing the agenda.

  102. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It’s posted. Also, don’t forget, audit report tonight at the BOC:

  103. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Did Rolen ever deliver this (from 02/25/13 board mtg)?

    Summary:  General Counsel, Greg Rolen, will address and discuss procedures for informing the Board and the public about how his office handles and addresses legal issues and procedures including lawsuit filings and Public Records Act requests.

  104. Doctor J Says:

    Deb Cooksey, the former Oakland USD “General Counsel”, thought, against MDUSD Board By-laws she apparently hasnt’ read, she was the parlimentarian, now thinks the district owns the public sidewalks, and gets the district charged with violations of unfair labor practices — I think we need to compare her level of intelligence with a rock. So far, the rock is ahead.

  105. g Says:

    Theresa @85: There was more at stake than the Teamsters mentioned in their complaint.

    It’s called the First Amendment.

    They should include: “State regulation of labor unions, whether aimed at fraud or other abuses, must not infringe constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly.” P. 323 U. S. 530 and 532.

    The handing out of flyers hardly represented a “clear and present danger” to the public welfare. Also, school district property is public property.

    Poor Cooksey. Can’t seem to learn to keep her finger out of the light socket.

  106. Anon Says:

    Mondays meeting should be interesting. Can’t wait to see what the outcome is.

  107. g Says:

    Dr. J: Remember, Deb Cooksey was a counselor at OUHSD working as assistant to Lead District Counsel Roy Combs (yes that one) when Oakland bellied up and was taken over by the state. Part of them going broke was when the state determined that it had indeed been illegal for them to abscond with $17million in Bond funds to supplement their General Fund–and the General Fund had to pay it back. Oops.

  108. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is MDUSD’s initial offer to MDEA:

  109. Anon Says:

    G @107-Roy Combs is now a partner at FFF in Oakland-the same firm that advised the Board that the contract extensions did not violate the Brown Act.

  110. Wait a Minute Says:

    Anon @109,

    Good to know, WHAT A COINCIDENCE!

    Rolen has been busy currying favors amongst these many lawyers and firms by spending the public’s money on them.

  111. Wait a Minute Says:

    I was cut-off.

    Or by hiring people they are close to like Deb Cooksey is to Roy Combs.

    Oh what a tangled web Rolen has weaved in his stay here.

  112. Wendy Lack Says:

    Do bad people think they’re good?

    Food for thought:

    Happy weekend, all!

  113. Wendy Lack Says:

    Compelling, meaty arguments for time-tested school reforms:

  114. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a blog post on the missing Form 700’s:

  115. Doctor J Says:

    CDE published its policy direction for districts on AB 1575 — prohibition of fees. Looks like Deb Cooksey is going to have to come back to the board with corrections. Most of our schools are NOT in compliance, still requiring students to bring supplies and pay fees.

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