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Live blog of MDUSD 3-27-13 closed session regarding dismissal of two employees

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 at 5:36 pm in Education.

The Mt. Diablo school board is currently holding a closed session meeting to consider possible discipline, dismissal or release of two contracted employees.

Here is the agenda for the meeting, which began at 2:30 p.m.:

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President will call the meeting to order Info

1.2 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

2.0 Public Comment
2.1 The public may address the Board concerning items that are scheduled for discussion during closed session only. These presentations are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

3.0 Adjourn to Closed Session

3.1 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint Action

4.0 Reconvene Open Session

4.1 Report out on Closed Session Info

5.0 Adjournment
5.1 Adjourn meeting Info”

I shot video of the portion of the meeting before trustees went into closed session, but am unable to upload it right now because YouTube is blocked from the district’s WiFi. I will upload it later. Also, Joe Estrada is recording the proceedings.

Here is a recap of what has happened so far:

Pledge of allegiance and roll call, with all trustees present.

1. Trustee Linda Mayo asked how and when the trustees would sign the contracts approved Monday. She said she believed some trustees agreed with district resident Wendy Lack that contracts should be signed at public meetings. She suggested that the board sign the contracts when closed session is reported out.

Hansen said the board should probably discuss that. Mayo said she believed it should be done expediently, especially after criticism that contacts were not signed quickly after they were approved last year. She asked that the contacts be attached to the April 8 agenda for signature and Hansen agreed.

2. Rebecca Jensen: Spoke in support of the superintendent. “I see a good man accomplishing good things.” She said a question was raised at the last meeting: Is this a man we would want to hire for another year? She answered yes and said the decision to be made could have long-term implications for the district and the superintendent’s family.

3. Carmen Terrones: Referred to Mayo’s comments regarding signing the contracts. She said there should be no rush to sign the contracts and urged the board to take the time to make sure the right decision is being made. Said she is a union rep and she visits school sites often. “The morale in this dist is very sad. People are very frustrated.”

On the subject of adjournment: Mayo asked who would provide legal counsel to the board during the closed session. Hansen said Deb Cooksey would be on standby in her office. Mayo said she believed it was important to have legal advice and she did not support the use of advice from a third-party legal counsel that has not been approved by the board. Hansen said that would not be the case today.

4. District resident Kent Caldwell spoke in support of the superintendent. He said the superintendent has achieved many accomplishments. He said nothing the superintendent has done warrants early dismissal. He asked why anyone would want to work for a school board that makes negative comments about the superintendent publicly. “How many prospective candidates would be interested in serving in such a toxic environment?” He questioned whether it would be ethical to fire Dr. Lawrence. He said Dr. Lawrence has all the attributes that Hansen said in the CC Times that a superintendent should have. “If you fire Dr. Lawrence, are you building trust and morale within the district?” He said firing Dr. Lawrence would have consequences and that he would shift from a district advocate to an adversary and he would immediately withdraw from UMDAF. “An organization I helped create and served tirelessly for four years.” He said he and other Northgate HS parents would seriously question whether Northgate should remain in the school district if the board fires the superintendent. “As we know, there is another option out there for Northgate. I strongly urge you to not prematurely dismiss Dr. Lawrence as superintendent.”

Hansen announced that she expected to reconvene and report out at about 4:30 p.m.

During the closed session, Deb Cooksey walked back and forth between her office, Rolen’s office and the closed session.

At around 4:30 p.m., Hansen came out and said she expected the closed session might last until 5:30 p.m.

At around 5:25 p.m, Hansen came out and said she expected to report out in about 10 minutes. She asked Deb Cooksey to join trustees behind closed doors.

5:40 p.m. The superintendent’s wife is waiting to hear the report out, along with three union reps and me.

6:15 p.m. Still no sign of trustees.

6:30 p.m. Hansen announced the board took action on two employees, but she would not say what the action was. She told me afterwards that there were two separate votes and there will be another meeting April 2 and she will see if she can report anything else at that time.

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  • Anon

    If no discipline were being taken, I would think they would have reported out “no action” by now.

  • Theresa Harrington

    And they wouldn’t need legal advice.

  • Anon

    I would absolutely support a Northgate Charter option. It should have been done long ago.Surprised that CVCHS beat them it to.

  • Waiting…

    Anxiously waiting for news!

  • Theresa Harrington

    No news yet. Trustees have not emerged from the closed session.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here they come.

  • Anon

    And……..?

  • Theresa Harrington

    See 6:30 p.m. update to this blog post.

  • Anon

    Well, more waiting to see if we can start looking for quality leadership. The wait is killing me. I want nothing more than a functioning school district for the generations to come.

  • vindex

    I’d be shocked at this point if they were not terminated. This would be a good step. Now, can we hire the right people?

  • g

    I just noticed that the “Coordinated School Health Council meeting was scheduled for same time, same room, today. I don’t remember seeing it before.

    I suppose they found other accommodations.

    I tried to find the agenda for the Bay Point Master Plan Committee meeting this evening—but couldn’t find one.

  • Theresa Harrington

    G: There was another meeting in the board meeting from about 3:20 pm to 5 pm or so. But it didn’t conflict with the board’s open session.

  • Anon

    Theresa, did you take video of the report after closed session? Did Hansen report the vote count for each action? Odd that they did not report what the actions were under the agenda (discipline, dismissal, release, etc.) Because everybody knows what employees were being considered, I have a feeling Cooksey told them they could not give more public information on whatever action they took.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    #13

    Action summary:

    Meeting Date:  Wednesday, March 27, 2013 – 2:30 PM
    Category:  Adjourn to Closed Session
    Type:  Action
    Subject:  3.1 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint

    Policy: 
    Enclosure: 
    File Attachment: 
    Summary:  Consideration of the dismissal of employees #22936 and #28941.
    Funding: 
    Fiscal Impact: 
    Recommendation:  Action
    Approvals: 
    Recommended By:
    Signed By:
    Loreen Joseph – Secretary to the Superintendent
    Signed By:
    Steven Lawrence – Superintendent

  • g

    Anon; In this case, Cooksey probably got it right. If there was a termination, the “action” is not complete until the terminated person is in receipt of a letter formally advising him of that action.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Anon: Yes, I did videotape the report out and will post it on YouTube.com/tunedtotheresa.
    Cooksey said the actions taken did not need to be reported out because the were confidential and “in process.”

  • help the kids

    What’s going to happen with the technology advisory committe recommendations that got cut off at the last board meeting????

  • Anon

    After their presentation Hansen said she really wanted to hear the full presentation before they took action, and put it on the April 8 agenda so the board could hear the rest of their report and to take action. She apologized to them and thanked them for being so patient. From what I heard from Hansen the board will vote on their recommendations at the next board meeting. She also said this is what she wants to be doing at board meetings.

  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, I popped by the district office this morning to pick up the documents related to Mildred Browne’s mysteriously created position. I noticed the superintendent was there, working. The general counsel’s office, however, was dark.
    After glancing through the documents, I can see why Trustee Linda Mayo has been warning the rest of the board not to make disparaging remarks about district administrators, saying they could result in a claim against the district. Browne filed a $48,000 claim against the district for disparaging remarks she alleged were made about her by the superintendent and others.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Please note that I have just finished uploading all four video clips from yesterday’s closed session to YouTube.com/tunedtotheresa.

  • Wait a Minute

    Theresa@18, did the “others” making disparaging remarks include Rolen and if Brown filed a claim against the district then why in the hell would they put her a paid leave?

    Oh I know why, because its not their money!

  • Theresa Harrington

    WAM: I haven’t had a chance to read through all the documents yet. The claim was based on comments she received from other people both inside and outside the district, who told her that she was not expected to work for the district during the last year of her contract. One person allegedly asked her: “Why doesn’t the superintendent like you?”

    Concerned parent: Based on your allegations, I checked with the County Office of Education to find out what kind of background checks they do on employees. Here’s what County Office spokeswoman Peggy Marshburn wrote in an email:

    “The COE checks references and former employer/s on all prospective employees. If the position is a credentialed one, the credentials are verified. All employees have to be fingerprinted and vetted through the DOJ. We can’t comment specifically on an individual employee as reference checks are not public information.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a webinar that MDUSD officials might want to participate in regarding how to attain high achievement in diverse districts: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/746528230

    MDUSD scored near the bottom on the Ed Trust report cards, as I recall.

  • Theresa Harrington
  • Doctor J

    I applaud Steven Lawwrence’s wife for “standing by her man” but wonder where the hell was Marisol ?

  • Doctor J

    @TH#19 What was the date of the claim ? And why wasn’t it identified earlier as a claim by Mildred Browne against the district ? That is illegal.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The claim was dated 7-16-12. And even Mildred Browne herself wonders why it hasn’t been publicly approved at a board meeting.
    Before responding to my PRA, the district contacted Browne to let her know about my request. In a Monday email to Deb Cooksey, Browne wrote, in part, about the settlement agreement: “I am still puzzled as to why it must be released and it has not been ratified in an open session by the Board.”
    So, it appears that Rolen and Lawrence’s tendency toward secrecy even surprises Browne.

    Regarding Padilla, the district is in the process of drafting a new AIS contract to bring to the board at a future date. Since Rolen has established an “ethical wall” between his office and her, perhaps she could feel conflicted about appearing by his side.

    But, it is noteworthy that while a few supporters have showed up to advocate for Lawrence, so one has similarly praised Rolen’s job performance.

  • Doctor J

    So its not just a claim, but an actual “settlement agreement” ? Maybe the Board won’t approve it.

  • Anon

    Theresa @ 27, an ethical wall? That’s a joke! They are married and AIS business address is Padilla’s home address! What wall? The one between the bedroom and the bathroom? That’s ridiculous. Rolen is benefitting financially from her contract- isn’t that a conflict of interest?

  • Doctor J

    Mildred Browne Timeline:
    April 19, 2012 FCMAT Study Agreemment for Special Education signed
    April 19, 2012 Board Agenda posted and excludes Mildred Browne’s contract extension.
    April 23, 2012 Board declines to include Mildred Browne’s contract with the BIG5 for contract extensions.
    June 4-8, 2012 FCMAT conducts study at MDUSD
    July 16, 2012 Mildred Browne files her claim against the Supt and others for $48,000 and not noticed on any Board agenda or disclosed.
    July 26, 2012 FCMAT issues initial report but not made public
    August 27, 2012 MDUSD Board hires Kerri Mills without disclosing FCMAT report.
    January 23, 2013 FCMAT issues final report to Supt Lawrence but not made public
    February 23, 2013 FCMAT redates report and Supt Lawrence releases it to public after demand by Board President

    I am not making commentary here on the Mildred issues, just stating a factual history.

  • Theresa Harrington

    According to the docs I received, the board reviewed the agreement in closed session in January. However, it’s unclear whether it was approved.

  • Doctor J

    I don’t see it on any agenda.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Anon: Hansen told me that after she found out about Rolen’s relationship with Padilla, she told him that he would have to disclose his marriage. But, this begs the question of whether he should have disclosed his relationship to her before they were married. Now that he has publicly admitted it, it is up to the board and public.

  • Doctor J

    Read Board Policy 4112.8 which defines “relative” to include “co-habitation” :”"Relative” means a connection between persons by blood, marriage, adoption, domestic partnership, or other personal relationship including co-habitation.” It also states: “Not every relationship that can create favoritism or the appearance of favoritism can be listed here. Whenever an employee enters into a relationship with another employee, she/he should ask whether the appearance of nepotism or whether an audit or control function may be compromised.”

  • g

    Old leadership of the last board is gone–because they thought they knew best about what was or wasn’t good for the public to know. They were wrong!

    All the while, that board and every one on this board knows (except maybe Dennler…) that if even one single dollar is spent behind closed doors–it MUST be brought out in the open right then–not a year later!

    Let’s hope this PRA, Browne, FCMAT, Padilla AND hidden Legal Expenses swill is cleared out before it starts to stink up this board– –I’m already getting a bad whiff from somewhere.

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    Am I to understand that the current board has been hiding illegal dealings with Mildred Browne?

  • g

    Board Watcher: No one has even hinted that any deal made was illegal—but they have certainly been wrongfully hiding it.

    They do not have to tell us the ‘who’ or the exact ‘why’ but they do have to tell us the ‘title’ of who, and exactly ‘how much’ it has cost.

  • g

    I should add…the who, why, what and how much has to be given—unless it is still in either arbitration or court and not settled yet.

  • Wendy Lack

    Bad news for California public schools. It looks like Prop 30 will be a wash, as the new tax revenue is needed to fund STRS pension liabilities.

    Here’s a link to a brief but excellent summary of Prop 30 and CA schools, by Stanford lecturer David Crane: http://bloom.bg/YLeYwB

    And here are a few excerpts:

    “Last November, California politicians persuaded voters to support a proposed seven-year, $50 billion tax increase, largely on the vow that the money would go to public education . . . The first five words of the initiative’s title were ‘Temporary Taxes to Fund Education.’

    “Now, just four months after the election, the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has announced that the California State Teachers’ Retirement System requires an extra $4.5 billion a year for 30 years — $135 billion — to cover its unfunded liability for teacher pensions and that the money will have to come from some combination of school districts and the state.

    “To the extent that it comes from the school districts, $4.5 billion a year is 167 percent of the annual amount those districts expected from the tax increase. To the extent that it comes from the state, $4.5 billion is more than 100 percent of the annual amount it expected in new revenue.

    “Either way, more than $30 billion over the next seven years will go to the service of a debt that wasn’t disclosed before the voters were asked to approve the tax increase . . . Non-disclosure of CalSTRS’s liability before the tax vote continues a pattern of deception about California’s pension obligations.

    “There’s no free lunch here. To the extent that school districts pick up the cost, kids in school today will be hurt because more dollars will go to pension costs and fewer dollars will go to classrooms. To the extent that the state picks up the cost, residents will receive fewer services.

    “Either way, voters will get little for the tax increase they approved in November.”

    Any way you cut it, kids lose . . . and taxpayers do, too.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Someone appears to have approved a paid leave of absence for Browne. The deal also calls for a payment of nearly $48,000 in July 2014 and says Browne’s resignation would be announced at that time. So, if eagle-eyed board watchers hadn’t noticed that mysterious position on the board agenda attachment and I hadn’t done this PRA, it’s possible the public would not have known what was going on until it was all over.

  • g

    Wendy, I commented on this back in Oct, pleading with everyone to read the fine print. The fine print was there for all to see. First Prop 30 said the state would be ‘forgiven’ its current debts to the districts of what it has held back year after year, in exchange for increased tax funding, that would ‘maybe’ end up giving districts even more than the state already owed. Then in even finer print it said, First–the State would take funds to pay its debts–Second, it would fund Pre-Preschool. Third, IF anything was left over, it would be apportioned to the districts.

  • g

    Theresa; Back on your Local Control Funding blog on 2/22, when the 3/11 agenda came out, we started commenting on it. In addition to the Mildred Browne listing, Dr J. questioned a Payrol Tax Penalty and Interest for $56,621.23, but his question got lost in the discussion. That isn’t for tax-plus,etc.

    That’s for JUST the penalty and interest!

    It seems after the IRS debacle a few years ago–which we’re still paying off–someone would be under strict orders to watch what they’re doing!

    $56.6K is NOT small change. It’s enough to pay for a full time teacher for a full year!

    ~~or send 20 teachers all around the state for bleeping conferences (:>

    I wonder if the error was even taken to Lawrence. Or was this loss of education funds just swept under the CFO carpet.

  • Doctor J

    @#40 WE NEED A CURE AND CORRECT !!!! Lets stop the insanity !

  • Wendy Lack

    @ G #41:

    School choice is an idea whose time has come. Competition yields better quality and lower cost, wherever and whenever it is tried.

    Here’s a relevant commentary re Guv Brown’s education budget proposal: http://bit.ly/YNvtIA

    Excerpts:

    “…[Governor Brown's budget] is based on the fallacious notion that if a … school district has enough tax dollars to work with, it will turn out well-performing students.

    “Indeed, Washington, D.C. spends $29,409 per pupil, the highest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, it received an F grade for K-12 student achievement on its 2013 report card from Education Week.

    “Throwing good money after bad doesn’t make sense, whether we’re talking about public schools in the District of Columbia or California.

    “If Brown was really about justice to unequals, then he would empower parents of low-income or English-language-learning schoolchildren to exercise the same school choice as the state’s more affluent parents.
    And the very best way to do that is with a K-12 low-income student assistance program that provides “scholarships” — vouchers — that can be used to enroll in public, private or parochial schools.”

    The Prop 30/CalSTRS debacle illustrates the need for education choice. That’s the only way that California public schools will improve and costs will be reduced. Schools will improve only when they’re forced to compete for students.

    School choice ultimately offers California taxpayers better value for the taxes they pay.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have a call into Deb to try to get clarification on when or whether either of the two settlement agreements I received was actually approved by the board.

  • Wendy Lack

    “What you allow, you encourage.”

    A good read. Relevant to MDUSD’s situation:

    http://bit.ly/164Ni36

  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, the audio from the public portion of yesterday’s closed session meeting has been posted: http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Documents/audio/2013/03282013part1-2-merged.mp3

    There was no public comment. Mayo was absent at the beginning and there was no announcement about whether she participated, although Hansen said she expected her to arrive soon. Board discussed negotiations and gave direction to bargaining reps. No action was taken.

    Also, I see that an April 3 closed session has also been scheduled.

  • Anon

    Any word on when the agenda will be posted for the April 2 meeting? Nothing posted yet.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The superintendent’s secretary says she hasn’t gotten any information on this yet. I would anticipate that it will be posted by sometime this evening. But, they technically must post it 72 hours in advance, so could post it as late as 4 p.m. Saturday. Likewise, the agenda for Wednesday’s closed session should be posted by 1 p.m. Sunday, but hopefully they’ll post it by this evening also.

  • g

    Another thing the board needs to insist on immediatly: A well defined (separate) accounting for revenue/expenses at CVCHS–just like they do for Eagle Peak. We should be able to look at the Interim Reports and IFAS warrant reports and go right to CVCHS just like EP, Measure Cs, Measure A, etc.

    In Feb a check was written for $386,107.00 for Rev. Limit transfer. Was this 1/4, 1/3 of the annual transfer? What?