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Mt. Diablo school district’s top administrative leadership is in question

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 29th, 2013 at 2:50 pm in Contra Costa County Board of Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS BLOG POST HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT NEW INFORMATION ABOUT A PLANNED CLOSED SESSION NEXT WEEK:

The Mt. Diablo school board on March 25 approved amended contract extensions through June, 2014 for Superintendent Steven Lawrence, General Counsel Greg Rolen and three other top administrators. But, there is public speculation that a Wednesday closed session meeting to consider discipline, dismissal or release for two unnamed contract employees may be related to Lawrence and Rolen.

This is because the contract extensions approved two days earlier in split 3-2 votes were considered by a majority of the board to be legally required, since they reaffirmed extensions that had been approved by the previous board in April.

Those extensions, however, do not prevent the board from dismissing or releasing Lawrence and Rolen before their contracts expire with or without cause.

If they were terminated for cause, all compensation and benefits would cease on the termination date. If their contracts were terminated without cause, both would receive payments equal to one-half the value of their remaining compensation, not to exceed nine months.

The general counsel’s contract does not provide any option to appeal or respond, if the board decides to terminate him. But the superintendent’s contract says that the board shall not terminate the employment agreement for cause until it has notified him in writing of its intention to do so, including its reasons.

If this occurs, the superintendent would have five business days after receiving the written notice to request a conference with the board. If such a conference were requested, the superintendent would be given reasonable opportunity to respond to the written concerns, with a representative of his choice.

“The conference with the board shall be the superintendent’s exclusive right to any hearing otherwise required by law,” according to his contract.

After Wednesday’s closed session, Board President Cheryl Hansen announced that trustees took action on two contracted employees, but she declined to name the employees, state that nature of the action or reveal how individual trustees voted. Attorney Deb Cooksey said the actions taken were incomplete and “in process.”

Hansen told me after the announcement that trustees would hold another closed session Tuesday and may have more to report after that. But Vice President Barbara Oaks told me this afternoon that the April 2 meeting has been canceled and trustees may set a new date April 3.

A reader who wondered why the board wasn’t required to report out more about the Wednesday vote sent me the following information, which he found online related to the Brown Act:

“Action taken to appoint, employ, dismiss, accept the resignation of, or otherwise affect the employment status of a public employee in closed session pursuant to Section 54957 shall be reported at the public meeting during which the closed session is held. Any report required by this paragraph shall identify the title of the position. The general requirement of this paragraph notwithstanding, the report of a dismissal or of the nonrenewable of an employment contract shall be deferred until the first public meeting following the exhaustion of administrative remedies, if any.”

So, it’s possible the board may be waiting for additional administrative remedies to be exhausted before it reports out its actions.

The public will be able to comment before trustees go behind closed doors at their newly scheduled closed session. The agenda will be posted at http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us.

At Wednesday’s meeting, a union rep urged the board to take its time considering contracts for the district’s top administrators and two residents spoke in support of the superintendent.

Northgate High parent Kent Caldwell threatened to withdraw support for the United Mt. Diablo Athletic Foundation if the board fires the superintendent. Caldwell said he and other Northgate parents might also consider “other options” for the high-performing Walnut Creek campus if Lawrence is let go, in an apparent reference to a possible charter conversion.

Do you think the Mt. Diablo school board should seek new administrative leaders?

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  • Doctor J

    Anyone get a copy of the El Monte camp cancellation letter ?

  • Anon

    Dr J,
    If Mr. Moore wants parents there, your proposal of $65 is way too much!

  • Anon

    Oops, $60

  • Doctor J

    @Anon#352 I like the idea of an awards event. It really depends on whether Guy Moore wants it to be an “elitist event” or include a cross section of the district. MDUSD has about 39% of its children on Free & Reducded meals; and 21% English Learners. So if you price all parents at $40, you immediately economically disqualify 60% of the MDUSD families, yet give ALL employees of MDUSD, including all of the high earners over $90,000. Why should Steven Lawrence making $260,000 only pay $20 ? So I proposed a sliding scale. I don’t know what Guy Moore’s budget is for this event. I think reducing the price for MDEA members is appropriate since they pay mandatory dues. I think the real problem is that a good idea popped up, but hastily planned and discriminatory against low socio-economic families.

  • IdeaMan

    Dr. J./354
    I like the idea of a dunk tank.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: I have also heard that the board’s decision last October to designate the “gray area” for College Park HS instead of YVHS has not been well-communicated to students, parents and the community, so that may be a topic of conversation as well.
    Regarding Pleasant Hill’s commitment to education, it is also interesting to note that no other city in the district has an Education Advisory Commission.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    Isn’t CPHS over capacity? How much? Is it safe – are there more students crammed into classrooms than there should be?

    Isn’t YVHS below capacity? How much?

    Why isn’t there any discussion about closing YVHS and OGMS to save $$$ since enrollment at these schools is so low, and since families are choosing to go to overcrowded schools instead?

  • Theresa Harrington

    HFO: I also thought CPHS was over capacity. But the district said it wasn’t, so it acquiesced to Pleasant Hill parents’ requests to designate the gray area for CPHS. However, the fact that this hasn’t been well-communicated – even to staff – could lead people to wonder if the district was hoping that people living in that area would continue going to YVHS. Once again, it appears that district “insiders” may be benefitting from this board decision, while those who haven’t been informed about it have been left in the dark.
    This is one more example where trust in the district could be compromised because very basic information appears to have been withheld from those affected.
    You also make a good point about YVHS and OGMS. The district backed off those discussions when the School Closure Committee rejected the idea because it didn’t come from them. But, it’s worth revisiting as enrollment continues to decline. Also, former OGMS Principal Terry McCormick’s presence on the School closure Committee could have swayed members against voting to close that campus at the time. But now that she is at Pleasant Hill MS, her allegiance to OGMS could be a moot point.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    The district should start looking into how it could retrofit OGMS to make it a trade and vocational training only campus. Make YVHS a shared campus – move the OGMS students over to the YV campus.

    District Students 16 thru 18 years of age could drive to the trade & vocational school campus regardless of their home school address and enjoy classes that will help them become responsible adults and get jobs (or at least a foot in the door) out of high school.

    Trade & vocational students would have classes in the morning, or classes in the afternoon, giving them flexibility to take the required classes needed to graduate (English, Math, Science, History, etc.), at their home schools either in the mornings or afternoons (or online, or homeschooled, etc.).

    If a student can get credit for PE by bowling at a bowling alley, what’s stopping the district from thinking of other ways for students to succeed?

  • Theresa Harrington

    This is an interesting idea. However, the district is in Year 1 of a 3-year School Improvement Grant for OGMS. However, that didn’t stop the board from closing Glenbrook. So, it will be interesting to see if OGMS is able to truly “turn around” with its grant.

  • Really?

    MDHS has the food services academy. We need a trades academy in this district too. Not every student is made for college. It’s not like plumbers, carpenters and electricians don’t use math or algebra, just in a different way. Make freshman do a regular year of high school, spend sophomore and junior year in vocational classes, and in their senior year they can be matched up with local companies that will train them for the real world of work. Schools on the east coast and in the south do this. Why are we being so stubborn about reality?

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    @361 R — You make a valid point that is seldom expressed these days. There is too much pressure, at all levels, from the President on down, to “send every kid to college”. We already send too many HS graduates to college. It’s just not a good fit for many, many students. That’s why we see even higher dropout rates in college than we do in K-12. That’s also one reason we see higher and higher unemployment rates among those who do graduate from college.

    We don’t provide enough alternate paths to post secondary training for all sorts of careers that are valuable to society and rewarding to those who pursue them. The message students hear, whether we admit it or not, is that “anything but college is second rate”. Hey, we might even see more students staying in high school if they thought it would lead to something where they could actually experience success.

  • g

    Talk about a ‘bite me’ and ‘in your face’ attitude. Cody has posted FIVE (5) more Lease/Leaseback RFQs on the C cite. Does posting make them less phoney–no bid deals?

    How do you “lease” a remodel and repair? I thought PederEberMarsh were gone–but he’s obviously taking orders from someone in a back room somewhere.