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MDUSD closed session regarding employee discipline or release starts at 8:30 p.m.

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, April 11th, 2013 at 7:29 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Please note that the Mt. Diablo school board’s closed session meeting originally scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. tonight has been changed to 8:30 p.m. to accommodate the schedule of one trustee who couldn’t make it at the earlier time, according to Board President Cheryl Hansen.

In a voicemail message, Hansen said the meeting is an extension of the closed session held March 27 involving two contracted employees.

Here is the agenda for the meeting, which takes place at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord:

“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 Report of Closed Session
4.1 Report out on Closed Session Info

5.0 Adjournment

5.1 Adjourn meeting Info”

I received copies of two emails sent to the board today regarding this meeting, which is widely believed to be related to Superintendent Steven Lawrence and General Counsel Greg Rolen, whom three of the district’s five trustees have expressed an interest in replacing.

One email urged the board to retain Lawrence and Rolen, while the other asked the board to seek new administrative leadership.

The public is invited to comment before trustees go behind closed doors. The board expects to report out any action taken after the closed session.

I will attend and videotape the public portions of the meeting. I will also file an online story if it’s not too late, or blog and tweet the outcome.

At Monday’s board meeting, Trustee Brian Lawrence (who is no relation to the superintendent) publicly announced that he is interested in seeking new district administrative leaders. He said it was his idea to go into closed session after the March 25 meeting to discuss personnel issues. He also cautioned the board against making personal attacks.

Here’s what he said:

“Two weeks ago, I made a statement that I believed it was the job of this board to always be questioning the leadership of this district, that it was the most important job that a school board has. And, two of my colleagues have stated that they believe that it is in the best interests of the district to have a change in leadership. I’ve refrained from speaking about that publicly because, partly I felt that that should be taking place in closed session.
What I’ve heard over the last few weeks — there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding that. So, I do want to just state very briefly I too have great concern that the district is not heading in the right direction and needs a change in the top leadership. And because of that, I requested prior to our last meeting that we — the board – enter into closed session for consideration of personnel matters at the end of the last meeting. And that is not something that I did lightly. It has very large repercussions.
And, at the same time, I wanted to take a moment because — what I’ve seen in the last several weeks is there have been a lot of personal attacks. And I truly believe every single person in this room is here because they’re doing what they believe is in the best interests of children. And we might have different views of how we achieve that…”

He stressed that employees are human beings with families.

“So, I hope that even as we figure out what is the best direction to move forward in the district, that we can do it in a constructive and positive manner. Thank you.”

Do you believe it is appropriate for trustees to state the reasons behind their decisions to replace or retain district leaders?

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  • g

    My interpretation of Brian’s statement is that he did not say anything even remotely like “we need to “replace” top leadership.”

  • Doctor J

    I think trustees are free to comment without hesitation on why they feel the district is headed in the wrong direction without the need to disclose the closed session criticism of the leadership. Just like the Exxon Valdez, if the Captain is alseep, he is still responsible for the damage being done. If the trustees haven’t asked SASS for the three year comparison graphs of the assessments that have been taken, they have no idea how disasterous the STAR test scores, starting this month will be when they are released. This is the perfect time to look for new leadership, and get an interim Supt from outside the district to come in and get the house in order.

  • Doctor J

    Thrersa, I hope you are able to post the public comments immediately after they head into closed session.

  • Anonymous

    g, why interpret his statement? His words were his words as reported. Exactly what he meant, only he knows.

  • Anon

    Anything Theresa ????

  • Theresa Harrington

    There were four public commenters and trustees are now in closed session. I videotaped the comments and will post links soon.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Oh, I forgot that the MDUSD Wi-Fi blocks YouTube, so I won’t be able to post the links until later. However, I will transcribe the comments in a live blog post of the meeting.

  • Doctor J

    Who all showed up ? Julie Lawrence ? Marisol ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Public speakers were Sherry Whitmarsh, Ilana Samuels, Mary Gray and John Parker. The only staff member here for the meeting is Joe Estrada, who is recording the open portion of the meeting. Julie Lawrence was not here. I don’t know what Marisol Padilla looks like, but I don’t think she was here. There were also two elementary school teachers and Mr. Gray. I counted nine people in the audience, aside from me.

  • Doctor J

    In general, what were there positions on the dismissal/discipline, etc ?
    Did Joe ever say if he did a server search for those documents Borenstein requested ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is the beginning of the live blog, with Whitmnarsh’s comments: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2013/04/11/live-blog-of-4-11-13-mdusd-closed-session/

    In general, Samuels also supported the superintendent and Rolen. Gray supported the superintendent. Parker asked the board to carefully consider its decision.

  • Employee

    Yes, employees are human beings with families that can relocate. Isn’t kismet just a bitch sometimes? Back door deals, lack of integrity and trying to hide conflict of interest can bit ya in the butt. The more important issue is -students have a right to an education free of administrative politics.

  • Doctor J

    Please Sherry, you were at ButtercupGATE and never denied it.

  • MDUSD Teacher

    Sherry Whitmarsh is a joke. To even give her any credence is an insult to the community. She was voted out of office because of her high handed behavior, routine back door deals (FCMAT), refusal to explain to the North Concord community why she voted to close those schools, dividing the community against the charter school, dismissive attitude to employees- a total failure as a board member.Good riddance!

  • Theresa Harrington

    NOTE: I have updated this blog post with the report out.

  • Viewer

    Finally someone acknowledges that Padilla was let go by CTI in 2008. But Whitmarsh didn’t tell the truth about why CTI let her go, and, the major client they lost was MDUSD because Rolen convinced Sherry and Gary et al to let their contract lapse and approve Padilla’s contract (aka AIS) instead. IT IS A WELL KNOWN FACT that MDUSD has been AIS’ main contract, and any law firm business she may was sent to her through Rolen. Time for the lies to end.

  • Doctor J

    I am convinced hat every AIS contract Sherry voted for, she knew that Greg and Marisol were lovers. Sherry is as guilty as Rolen.

  • g

    Many times since 2008 Sherry has shown that she will say whatever she needs to in order to make her story fit. From her mouth referring to the Brown Act sounds like a pants load.

    Padilla got her business license in 2008 while she still worked at CTI. And, she was in a position to not only build her own employee base from CTI employees, but to also facilitate the “problems” the district had with CTI that Sherry referred to.

    Regardless of the whole dirty Padilla affair, it is time to move on. Rolen has not been a loyal General Counsel nor has he acted in the best fiduciary interests of the district.

    His loyalties lie only in his own delusions of grandeur, self gratification and financial interests of his friends.

  • Doctor J

    Brian Lawrence’s statements did not translate into action. I am quickly losing confidence in Brian’s statements. Brian, you can’t change the stripes on a Zebra.

  • Wendy Lack

    “Do you believe it is appropriate for trustees to share the reasons behind their decisions to replace or retain district leaders?”

    Yes, it is appropriate for trustees to share the rationale for all of their decisions, at least in general terms. Regarding the question of terminating the employment of the Superintendent and the General Counsel, the simple statement that they are “not meeting expectations” provides sufficient explanation as far as I’m concerned.

    It’s not as though decisions to replace these administrators would be coming out of left field. In fact, given the circumstances there likely would be greater demand for an explanation to RETAIN these incumbents, than for their release.

    Even a cursory review of the press reports and academic performance data publicly available illustrate ample rationale for MDUSD leadership change. When data from these sources are considered with anecdotal evidence from parents, employees and even the BOE, the case makes itself.

    Thus extensive explanation from trustees regarding release of these incumbents seems unnecessary. A decision to retain them, however, would prolong a clearly dysfunctional state of affairs and exacerbate organizational and community dissatisfaction — unhelpful to the political futures of trustees.