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MDUSD Trustee Lynne Dennler comments on her votes to retain the superintendent and general counsel

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, May 10th, 2013 at 9:29 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

After the Mt. Diablo school board voted 3-2 to terminate Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s contract early and voted 4-1 to let General Counsel Greg Rolen go before his contract expired, I asked all five trustees to explain their votes. Board President Cheryl Hansen, Vice President Barbara Oaks and Trustee Brian Lawrence voted in the majority on both decisions, saying the district needs new leadership to overcome low morale and lack of community trust.

Trustee Linda Mayo voted against terminating the superintendent’s contract, but sided with the majority in the decision to oust Rolen. Trustee Lynne Dennler voted against terminating both contracts, which were set to expire in June, 2014.

Mayo told me Monday she did not want to comment on her votes because she had previously made comments during board meetings that would explain them. When I said I did not recall those comments, she did not elaborate on what they were or when she made them.

Dennler, on the other hand, sent me an e-mail explaining her votes, which she asked me to quote “with fidelity.” Here is her complete statement:

“I ran for the MDUSD Board of Education, because as a teacher in Mt. Diablo, I felt disrespected and undervalued. I didn’t trust ‘the administration.’ I ran to be a ‘voice’ the classroom and the teacher.

These two years have been eye opening. I gained an understanding of the incredible challenges facing our district by being observant, listening to many differing opinions, and asking questions. I’ve been careful to not be ‘managed,’ avoided blogs, as I appreciate and prefer direct input from the public.

The superintendent answers to and advises the Board of Education. The board has the final direction, which this superintendent has always followed. For the most part, I’ve experienced administrators who would listen. They didn’t necessarily ‘change their thinking.’ It did, however, give me hope, that with multiple like voices on the board, change was possible.

The superintendent’s character and trustworthiness is of greater value to me than policy agreement. I have discovered the reality of the District operation is vastly different than it is perceived through the outside lens. Half-truths and distorted views are often disseminated as fact. Had the present Board chosen to work with Dr. Lawrence, I believe MDUSD would have moved forward.

I met Greg Rolen after my election. He ‘seemed’ to be cocky and supremely confident. After months of working with and observing his work, I realized he was a competent, effective attorney. I grew to appreciate his legal skills, the fairness with which he negotiated settlements, and the money he saved MDUSD.

The facts and timelines of Mr. Rolen’s activities haven’t been presented accurately. A combination of an individual’s interpretation, perspective, and understanding of facts have been blended into actions deemed ‘illegal’ in print. In hindsight some of Mr. Rolen’s actions may have been ill advised but were well meaning, not illegal as have been reported. He has provided the district excellent legal direction.

Historically, newspapers have been bastions that disseminated truth. Today, blogs and newspaper have begun to intermingle in ways that give a perception of fact, to a combination of half-truth and opinion. This ‘blend’ then morphs into ‘fact’ that is shared, commented on, over and over again. Hence the reason I chose to avoid them.

I saw no reason to incur the costs for this change of leadership. Extensive legal expenses, and buyout costs for MDUSD seemed unnecessary. I think first working with these two men, then perhaps acting in a year would have been more prudent.

This superintendent would have changed policy, followed negotiation objectives, or made changes as directed by this board. MDUSD wouldn’t have been static. This board chose instead to make this move. That will appease a small, vocal minority with special interests. Our system allows for that.

I look forward to working together with my fellow board members to bring the important changes we feel are necessary to MDUSD. We will now move ahead to continue to work to provide a quality 21st century education to the students in MDUSD, staffed by employees who are respected and valued.”

Do think the board should have allowed the superintendent and general counsel to finish out their contracts?

MAY 11 UPDATE: When I sent this blog post to my editor to be published on Sunday, she pointed out that the Times never reported that Rolen’s activities were illegal. An editor’s note to that effect will accompany Dennler’s statement in print.

Also, I question how Dennler can make judgments about news reports and blogs that she claims she does not read.

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118 Responses to “MDUSD Trustee Lynne Dennler comments on her votes to retain the superintendent and general counsel”

  1. anon Says:

    I truly appreciate that Ms. Dennler was willing to share her perspective. In the end, I may not agree with it all, but it is probably much closer to what has really gone on than all of the hyped up rhetoric that I see reported. I hope her words causes Theresa to evaluate how she has covered this school district and that she tries to make the changes necessary to truly be a positive participant in the processes which will follow. I also hope the bloggers on this site appreciate Ms. Dennler’s words as well and try to work with her as she tries to affect positive change.

  2. Wait a Minute Says:

    Dennler in no way represents the teacher perspective within the MDUSD.

    Anyone who would correctly call Julie Braun Martin a cruel witch and then VOTE FOR HER CONTRACT is obviously woefuly ineffective at providing effective oversight.

    Just like when Dennler accused the MDUSD of practicing “educational malpractice” and then refused
    to do nothing effective about it, part and parcel of the Dennler MO.

    So Dennler is OK with Rolen manipulating the district including firing the long-time interpreting contractor and then hiring his booty-call girlfriend as the new contractor and steering 5 FIGURE CONTRACTS TO HER.

    All i can say to Dennler is enjoy your last year on the board because you will not be re-elected because of your gross incompetence in providing effective oversight.

  3. vindex Says:

    She expressed herself well, and I believe throughly explained her vote. I happen to disagree with her position, but I can respect it. She was out voted, and now we move on.

  4. g Says:

    I also appreciate Dennler’s willingness to speak out, especially knowing her opinions would be published in the newspaper. However, to disparage the reporting (in any form) of what the public observes while we try to see through the veil of secrecy drawn around Dent in the last few years is not only misguided, but shortsighted, and worse, out of touch with the times (no pun intended).

    I would have appreciated her argument much more had there been a few honest “should” “would” “could” phrases in her opinions.

    Her rose-colored glasses position on the board “to be a voice for the classroom and teacher” is misguided–they pay MDEA a lot for whatever they may get of that. Every position on the board is supposed to be a voice for Education Excellence, Ethical Management and Public Trust.

    There can be no other way, and no short-cuts if we hope to bring this “entire district AND every student” back up from the dank, dark education basement.

    And let me add– neither fresh paint nor raises untethered to performance, nor back-room bargaining is going to cut it.

  5. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    I would like Ms Dennler to explain how she knows what a newspaper reports and what blog posts or comments include, since she states she has chosen to avoid them.

    Does this mean she doesn’t read newspaper/sites articles, newspaper/sites editorials, or blog/opinion pages and comments associated with all of those, at all? or does she only avoid the CCTimes? Does she only avoid specific reporters or journalists?

    Is she getting the information she says is wrong, half truth, opinion “of a small vocal minority with special interests”, second hand from someone else who IS reading all the newspapers, sites, blogs and comments?

    I want to understand how she can form an opinion about the reports, editiorials,blogs and comments if she is avoiding them / not reading them.

    I know she visits the schools and obtains input from those visits, and I believe she also listens and hears public comments at board meetings. I just don’t understand the “head in the sand” behavior regarding news reports, blogs and comments. She may think that she can avoid reading what she HAS BEEN TOLD is “bad” or negative, but that means she also misses out on what is reported that is positive and informational about the district and education in the communities she represents as a trustee on the school board.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    Finally we hear from Lynne Dennler. I don’t doubt her sincerity or dedication to school children but disagree with many of her positions. From the time of her election when she announced she would be the “teacher’s representative” on the board to her lack of knowledge of even the basics of Brown Act, she has shown her lack understanding of the why’s and how’s of the school board system — and incredible naivity. She became Linda Mayo’s “wingman” in visiting schools taking the time up of an Asst Supt and voting nearly exclusively in unision. My head still shakes with incredulity when she asked the Supt why the district can’t replace the $350 projector bulbs — Steven’s answer: you have to take the money away from something else. Yet she failed to challenge Steven on donating $5,000 district money to the Academy Awards Dinner for MDEA.

  7. g Says:

    Yes, Dr.J. While seeming to be a thoroughly nice lady, she does show a truly unfortunate naivete and lack of acumen concerning public law and political process in the 21st Century.

    HFO: For Dennler to say she avoids published paper and blog information because it is “…wrong, half truth, opinion “of a small vocal minority with special interests…” shows her personal unwillingness to wade through the deep end of whatever we spew, wherever we spew it, to cull the facts for herself.

    It shows her to be easily “managed” and gullible to whomever shows her the charming side of their face for a few minutes. It shows her turning a blind eye to the ‘facts’ of the last election — where the advice and decisions of not only who should [should not] run, and the result of that election was in no way the voice of a “small vocal minority with special interests.”

  8. Doctor J Says:

    Dennler’s statement “I’ve been careful to not be ‘managed,’ avoided blogs, as I appreciate and prefer direct input from the public.” Hello, Lynne, WE are the public and this is about as “direct” as you can get.

  9. vindex Says:

    G and dr J. Have you ever thought about running for the school board? I’d bit for you

  10. vindex Says:

    Vote not bit:)

  11. Jim Says:

    I’m glad Ms. Dennler finally spoke up. I wasn’t sure whether she had retained that ability.

    Like so many adults in Edworld, she props up the system by saying, “It’s terrible, but it’s complicated. What can we do? Certainly not criticize it!” Ultimately, like so many other apologists, she defaults to “hear no evil, see no evil”. She’s completely out of her depth, but somehow must think she is contributing to student welfare, rather than undermining it with her passivity.

  12. Anon Says:

    Ms. Dennler is correct that Rolen is very bright and capable, and is also overly confident. However, she drank the Koolaid and is parroting Rolen’s projection of the blame for his actions on others, such as the Contra Costa Times and Theresa Harrington. By doing so, she has shown she is not intelligent or competent enough to be a board member. In the end, even Mayo could not agree with her on the Rolen vote. I would have like to hear her site examples of the Superintendent’s character and trustworthiness rather than just an assertion, but none was forthcoming from her.

  13. Anon Says:

    @12, correction, “cite” and “liked”-darn, we need an “edit post” feature on this blog.

  14. Wendy Lack Says:

    As evidenced by her statement above, Dennler has a big ol’ blind spot where rational thought and a moral compass should be.

    She has proven herself unfit for public office.

  15. soooo frustrated Says:

    People wanted the board members to respond to TH. Ms. Dennler did that and she is still being criticized. You asked for her opinion and that is what you got. The few people writing on this blog ONLY respect their own opinions. According to the few on this blog, anyone who has anything positive to say about MDUSD in any way, shape, or form, “has their head buried in the sand.”

  16. Doctor J Says:

    @#15 Positive: MDUSD best days are ahead; but it will not be easy getting nor fast getting there.

  17. Annie V.P. CSEA Says:

    I prefer people who speak up and give their opinions at least we can talk about our different thoughts on the subject. You don’t like my opinion that’s ok at least you know where I’m coming from. Please, don’t put grammar patrol on here ( I’ll be in trouble) sometimes its just a mistake. I know people that don’t have a very good education, but their common sense is off the chart. Sometimes that’s better.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: I have added an update to this blog post with an editor’s note indicating that the Times never reported that Rolen had acted illegally. And, I also question how Dennler can make judgments about news reports and blogs that she claims she does not read.

    You are also correct that the Times publishes many “positive” stories about MDUSD. These are routinely displayed at the front counter in Dent. Hopefully, Dennler has seen these as she has walked into the district office for board meetings.

    I have written many stories that I believe reflected positively on the district. These include Hometown Heroes stories about district educators, a story about volunteer crossing guards, a story about the district’s ambitious English learner master plan, about the district’s food services program, about its autism services, and about the garden and healthy cooking program at MDHS, among others. However, it would be a disservice to the public if the Times failed to also report about problems in the district.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Annie: I agree that it’s better to state an opinion than to say, “no comment.” This is why I am still wondering why Mayo voted the way she did. The public shouldn’t have to guess at which comments she may have made at some point in the past that could give them insights into what she was thinking.

    Also, regarding “grammar patrol,” I believe most people who post corrections are correcting their own posts – not criticizing other people’s grammar. And, certainly, common sense is just as important as education — if not more so, in some instances.

  20. g Says:

    Theresa; I think it is likely that when Mayo stated 4/23/12 that she would like to take Rolen’s renewal out of the mix (but did not say why–nor did any member of the board ask why) she had probably already given them her opinion in closed session.

    The fact that she is not willing to be more forthright with the public, is further indication that in this, as in several of her other secretive back-room activities, she thinks that a lot of what she does –‘in pursuit of the public’s business’– is none of the public’s business.

    Sad, huh?

  21. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Thanks TH @15 – appreciate the update.

    Perhaps you could follow up with Ms Dennler to see if she will respond to the questions of how she is able to form opinions that the news reports, blogs & the public comments are half-truths or negative, if she doesn’t read / avoids them.

    Does she avoid all print, or only the CCTimes? Does she avoid specific reporters or journalists?

    Eberhart used to be very vocal – telling others to avoid certain reporters & newspapers & blogs – when he no longer thought he could use them to his advantage – to the point of commenting about his belief of “bad” or “not true” reporting, both on his / P Stange’s blog and on a Facebook page dedicated to boycotting the CCTimes.

  22. Sue Berg Says:

    Board members and other district leaders don’t need to read the blogs to know what’s being reported and alleged in the posts. People will tell them via e-mail, phone calls, or even conversations in the grocery line. Those messages are often not just reports of what’s said in the posts but personal attacks on the Board member/ administrator based on the posts. I experienced it myself during the leadership change four years ago; I know of others experiencing it now during this one.

    It’s curious that the usual critics are chastising Ms. Dennler for having her own opinion on a district issue. When the Board votes 5-0, it’s accused of being a rubber stamp; when one or two differ from the majority, they are called “unfit for public office.” There are at least 20,000 families, 30,000 students, and 4,000 employees in MDUSD. The five-member board is supposed to represent all of them, not just the handful of critics who use this blog to promote their agenda. Superintendent Lawrence had his supporters; I expect they expressed their opinion directly to Board members and not on this site. And, most important, Ms. Dennler actually personally worked with the man.

    Finally, look no further than the reporting of the Boston bomb tragedy for the truth of Ms. Dennler’s assertion that in today’s blogs and news media we allow half-truth and opinion to morph into ‘fact.’ Blogs are entertaining for sharing points of view, but they are definitely not error-free.

  23. g Says:

    It’s a funny thing how that works though, Sue. ‘Facts’ do not morph into half-truths.

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: I will follow-up with Dennler to ask what is the basis for her judgments and conclusions about news reports and blogs, which she claims she doesn’t read.

    However, by responding to me via email, I don’t believe that Dennler is specifically avoiding me or the Times. She is, however, being very careful to write out her comments ahead of time instead of answering phone calls. Although this makes it difficult to ask follow-up questions and receive prompt responses, it is still preferable to refusing to comment at all.

    g: If you are correct that Mayo explained her votes in closed session, that does not satisfy the public’s expectation that she also explain her votes to her constituents. It is up to the public to decide whether or not this is “sad.” Certainly, it is opaque.

  25. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#24 I think two different people wrote the Dennler response — but of course she approved the message.

  26. soooo frustrated Says:

    Dr J….if you think that…it must be true!

  27. Doctor J Says:

    I must have posted under the wrong heading. First, its likely that 7 administrators in MDUSD would be afraid of the retaliation, but if this kind of complaint had been filed under the Eberhart/Strange/Whitmarsh, S. Lawrence, Greg Rolen regime, the public would never have heard about it since the prior regime did not report out potential litigation as required by the Brown Act.

  28. Doctor J Says:

    @SueBerg#22. Do you think the grocery line is more informative than the blogs? Blogs are just one more source of opinion and sometimes new facts, while not having to fear retaliation. If you are including me with the description “usual critics”, I did NOT “chastise” Lynne for having different opinions, I said I disagreed with some of her opinions and also acknowledged her sincerity and love of school children. I did express my concerns over her lack of understanding of civics to be a board member.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I sent Dennler an email letting her know that we would publish her comments in today’s Times with an editor’s note indicating that the Times never reported that Rolen’s actions were illegal. I also asked how she drew her conclusions about news reports and blogs, which she said she avoids.

    Here is her emailed response:

    “Hi Theresa,

    I am sorry that you have chosen to publish my comments at this time. We, as a Board, desire to focus on District’s future. I am certain the members of our community would prefer to hear about our currents activities. I am pleased to hear ‘illegal’ wasn’t used Contra Costa TImes, as perhaps it’s the only negative adjective left out.

    My knowledge of blogs and other media comes from people who seem to (sic) trying to engage in conversation or share their perspective with me.

    All the best,
    Lynne Dennler”

  30. g Says:

    What could be more ‘timely’ or more “current?” The Times was kind to not use the word illegal. I continue to say the hidden Browne settlement is an “illegal gift of public funds” if it goes beyond her signed contract terms without Browne’s filing a formal law suit. The same holds true of the current contract “negotiations.” You don’t just pay for “allegations” of harm or hurt feelings. Otherwise, why even bother with contracts?

  31. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH @ 29 – Thanks for the follow up.

    It’s unfortunate Ms Dennler doesn’t follow up / find out for herself if what people share with her / say is written & commented on in blogs, news reports or editorials is something they actually read on “blogs or other media”. All she has to do is ask those people who “share their perspective” with her to email her a link to what was printed to verify content so she can form her own opinion instead.

    It’s also unfortunate that by avoiding the media she is missing out on reading about the positive reporting of the district and education (teacher awards, spelling bee outcomes, sporting events and championships, music events and competions, school fundraisers and outcomes, science fairs, debate teams topics, book clubs and reading socials, etc.).

  32. Earth to Dennler Says:

    Ms. Dennler in no way represents any classified employee I have spoken with. TH, you reported a problem so you are the problem. TH provides an open forum that is popular because people like Ms. Dennler have blinders on. Our comments are not “her coverage.” TH is not responsible to a “positive participant” in the fixing of Mt. Diablo. That is Lynne Dennlers’ job. Dennler wasn’t careful not to be managed: it was not necessary. Had she been any type of threat, they would have given her the same raw treatment they gave to Cheryl Hansen. Dennler is right about Julie Braun Martin and bases this on her personal experience. Is she now saying otherr personal experiences are not worthy of comment or action? Employees are pulled into meetings with attorneys and grilled like criminals. They are told there are “secret” files about them that they may not see. Management enlists coworkers to dig up dirt or errors on coworkers. Workers are never trained or corrected – they are “caught”. Fighting and fragmentation is encouraged and workers are frequently manipulated by unsound managers. The district frequently uses attorneys but forbids employees to have their own counsel present. Julie Braun Martin feels an attorney will give her credibility but since she does the picking and the hiring, the results are as suspect as she. One attorney is being reported to the Supreme Court and the California Bar Association. There are no less than three coworker against coworker restraining orders being contemplated or in the works. PERB complaints. Employees reporting irregularities to every agency you can name while the District pays for barely cursory inquiries by Christy White. Inflated job titles and salaries along with Bryan Richards appalling lack of management skills? What about one of Rolen’s “friends” making thousands each month in overtime while same level employees were refused part of the work? These workers were perfectly capable of doing this work. They did not even know why they were being excluded until their manager told them. Even this manager said it was unfair. They were rightfully angry and deserve like payment as settlement. Same friend slid into a management position already earmarked for her while Julie does one of her job postings where they already know who is getting the position. Another employee turned manager under Richards making over 80k for clerical work while she bullies workers she has no reason or authority to supervise? We need a complete management change and while this may take a while, the new or interim superintendent needs to get the people making 100k plus in line and stop harassing the ones making $12.00 per hour. Why doesn’t Ms. Dennler run a list of employees who have left the district and pick up the phone! Especially the ones who were REFUSED exit interviews.

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: I do think it’s odd that Dennler is making accusations about an article she apparently hasn’t read.

  34. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#29&33 Ironic that Lynne Dennler is willing to rely on other’s interpretations of what is said in the Times and on this blog, instead of getting first hand knowledge. This is the Linda Mayo doctrine: if staff says it, there is no reason to question it. Why have a Board of Education ?

  35. Doctor J Says:

    Ask Lynne Dennler what her opinion is on the action of the California Board of Education on May 8 ? Where is this money coming from ? I am sure this could be discussed in the grocery line. Here is the summary and then I will give you the link to read the entire policy. “Senate Bill 48 (Chapter 81, Statutes of 2012) amended Education Code (EC) sections 51204.5 (addressing instruction), 50501, 60040(b) and 60044(a) (addressing instructional materials) to include the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals as appropriate, and to prohibit any pejorative references to the same. Additionally, Assembly Bill 300 (Chapter 552, Statutes of 2003) amended EC Section 60040(b) to replace the term “American Negroes” with the term “African Americans.” The Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content 2013 Edition reflecting those statutory amendments is presented in Attachment 1.”

  36. Doctor J Says:

    Didn’t Lynne Dennler get elected without a campaign statement, no website, and no major campaign effort ?

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, running as a retired teacher, she beat Brian Lawrence in his first election bid. The second time around, Lawrence designated himself partially as an as an educator and he won. Hansen also designated herself as an educator, I believe. In MDUSD, voters have consistently trusted educators, even without campaign statements. Oaks didn’t have a ballot statement either, although she did have a website. She is also a retired educator.
    On the current board, Mayo is the only one who has not designated herself as an educator on the ballot.

  38. Jim Says:

    @37 — Dennler is a perfect example of why voters need to dig deeper than just accepting the “educator” label. She is what you get when a candidate just “expects” the votes from a certain constituency, without bothering to have a website, campaign statement, or other typical vehicle for reaching voters. Her recent comments suggest that she does not feel inclined to engage in dialogue with the community, or at least not with those who might disagree with her. And her remarks in #29 above show little more than contempt for the media. (Newsflash for Lynne: Most people in public life soon learn that you don’t have to love reporters, but they are an important source of information for many citizens. It is crazy and arrogant not to play ball with them.)

  39. anon Says:

    Information gathered in the grocery store is definitely more accurate that what is spewed here. There is no comparison.

  40. Doctor J Says:

    @39 I let me guess, you probably read the National Enquirer for your news too !! Anytime I have had a discussion in the Grocery store with a trustee, it never has been an in depth discussion. We both are always busy.

  41. Wait a Minute Says:

    Anon@39, EPIC FAIL!!!!

    Talking to Gary Eberhart, Greg Rolen, or Paul Strange at Safeway does not get you “accurate news” regarding the MDUSD anymore then when they used to LIE directly to the board and people at meetings.

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Jim, As I mentioned previously, Dennler is not completely refusing to “play ball” with the media. She is, after all, responding to my inquiries via email. Mayo, on the other hand, appears reluctant to do even that.
    However, when Dennler continues to make accusations about media that she admits she does not read, it does call into question the basis for her accusations.

  43. Jim Says:

    @42 — TH, you’re right. Dennler is “not completely refusing” to play ball with the media. But that is not the standard that she should be held to. Why not have candid, real-time conversations with a reporter, once in awhile, and try to get her points across? Instead, she seems to prefer reluctant quasi-coherent emails with the insulting insistence that you quote her “with fidelity” (evidently, she doesn’t think that is your practice). If you want to be in public life, you need to deal with reporters and the public. Only the Richard Nixons of the world think they can win by clamming up, criticizing seemingly everyone else as a “critic”, and then stewing in their own desperation.

    As far as Linda Mayo, I think most people wrote her off a long time ago as a positive influence on the district.

  44. vindex Says:

    I hear everyone’s comments.. Let’s just take a break for a second… Can we just sit back and enjoy that Greg Rolen is gone? Not for our sake, but for the sake of the children of MDUSD! He is the most unethical person I have every dealt with and he did immeasurable harm to the district and it’s reputation. Mrs. Dennler is wrong on Greg Rolen, but the others were right. She was out-voted, and I will not vote for her again (as I did the first time). However.. I’m just so happy for the district to be able to get him out of there. They now at least have a chance.

  45. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr J, #28: You asked, “Do you think the grocery line is more informative than the blogs?” I believe any face-to-face conversation is the most informative and true means of communicating. Many many years ago and in another state I was a school board member and learned a lot from personal interactions, brief and lengthy, with parents and other community members when I was out running errands–and also when I was visiting schools and classrooms, which Ms. Dennler appears to do with some regularity. (And before you come up with a swipe about Board members visiting along with an Assistant Superintendent, I say they all need to take first-hand looks at education in action in order to guide their decision-making.)

    I hope that individuals who have serious complaints about anything or anyone in MDUSD would make them directly to Board members or through the formal complaint process and not just post them on a blog. Board members’ e-mail addresses and phone numbers are listed on the district website; they are all literally available to talk with at public meetings. Anyone fearing “retaliation” should look up their rights under Whistleblower laws, if that’s an issue.

    Speaking of which, you state, “Blogs are just one more source of opinion and sometimes new facts, while not having to fear retaliation.” Retaliation? Tell that to Ms. Dennler and others who state an opinion counter to the handful of critics who post the majority of comments on this blog. She’s been roundly lambasted and ridiculed. And yet you think she should be an active participant? As for the retaliation excuse, now that you critics have leaders you support and admire, why do you need to remain anonymous?

    All this said, can we retire the subject of who does and doesn’t write on, read, or pay attention to blogs and get back to exchanging ideas on real education issues?

  46. Doctor J Says:

    @SueBerg#45 In depth discussions, even through blogs, trump brief discussions in the produce section or at the meat counter. Plus the blogs inform the public. Think back to when G disclosed the huge sums being paid to substitutes for school and district business. Whistleblower lawsuits take years to wind through the courts — how do you feed your family in the meantime ?

  47. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is an interesting article in the American School Board Journal about rebuilding public trust in a district:

    According to the article: “…When an entire district’s reputation is in the tank, it can take years to undo the damage. Parents, employees, and community members tend to have long memories. Not surprisingly, it often takes longer to repair an organization’s reputation and restore public trust than to fix the problems that created the issues in the first place….”

  48. Anonymous Says:

    Vindex @44, will you provide facts about your statement that Greg Rolen is the “most unethical person I have ever dealt with” and how he did “immeasurable harm to the district and it’s reputation?” I sense your statement involves more than what Theresa Harrington cited in her article. I ask out of a desire to know, and the public’s right to know, not because I take offense at your comments. I applaud your willingness to state your belief.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a reader opinion piece that says the board majority has gone too far:

    It also alleges that the board has no long-term strategic plan, despite the fact that the board recently adopted a revised strategic plan that covers many of the topics addressed in this opinion piece. The piece was also signed by former Board President Sherry Whitmarsh, who was ousted in the November election by voters who opted instead for Brian Lawrence and Barbara Oaks.

  50. anon Says:

    @TH 49
    If that letter weren’t so utterly pathetic, it would be laughable.

    Gary McHenry “left”? I believe he was ushered out, similarly to Dr. Lawrence.

    I have had children in this district for over 13 years. This is the first time in all those years that I actually have hope in this district.

    I did vote for Gary and Sherry way back when. Then I was saddened at their tenure on the board. I did not feel they had the long term interest of the district or it’s students at heart. There was way too much “playing politics” going on.

    How Sherry Whitmarsh signed her name to that letter with a straight face, or clear conscience is beyond me. SHE voted to keep her buddies on the payroll for an extra year! SHE knew full well how the incoming board felt about the current administration and left them no choice! HOW DARE SHE LAY THE BLAME AT THEIR FEET! If she and Gary had done the right thing and not extended those contracts beyond their own terms, this would not be an issue.

    Shame on you Sherry, shame on you.

  51. g Says:

    Anon; I have to edit your sentence. If that letter weren’t so utterly… — scratch that —

    That letter is so utterly laughable, it is pathetic.

  52. Really? Says:

    “There were no petitions from teachers, staff, administrators or parents regarding Dr. Lawrence — this was entirely a board created issue.”

    An entire school of teachers and students left the district. If that isn’t a “petition” I don’t know what is!

    Those signatories must be high.

  53. Doctor J Says:

    The most ironic thing of the letter is Sherry Whitmarsh didn’t even spell her name correctly. LMAO

  54. g Says:

    Really: Wish I had said that! Dr. J. What isn’t ironic is that 2 signers are from NG, 1 from CP and the other 13 are merely the last dregs of the Whitmarsh contengent.

  55. Doctor J Says:

    @Really#52 Clayton Valley High leaving the district — voting with your feet is the most powerful petition. Supported by the teachers [it was a teacher trigger charter], the parents, and the community, including the city council. Remember it was Sherry Whitmarsh who rushed through the contract extensions of the BIG5 in an attempt to tie the hands of the new Board. Sherry, when questioned directly, never denied her participation in ButtercupGATE. That letter should be filed in the fiction file.

  56. vindex Says:

    @44… I cannot list them to do outing the people who told me the information.

  57. They're Baaacckkk Says:

    #44 Gone? I hear Greg Rolen still goes in and out and who knows if they have taken his computer access away. Hopefully this is ok with the board. Deb rendered herself unusable to the district. The district must release or correct bad managers. If the employees can take correction, why can’t the managers? Certainly there are fantastic managers at the District. This group at the Dent needs to be cleaned out like decay. This must start with an actual Personnel Department. The treatment of rank and file employees shows how lowly Personnel sees them. I think this is where the terms “mom-agers” and “mommy posse” came from. Sadly, Deb Cooksey would have been that person who said “enough.” She could have either broken this group up or refused to involve herself in intimidating employees. Having her on site was a mistake. I think the suggestion to monitor any access to the attorney is essential. Even phone consults should be logged and presented to the board and should match the billed hours along with a written detail of the advice given. They also need a trustworthy hotline because bad situations go on way too long with the employees having nowhere to complain without retaliation.

  58. anon Says:

    Thanks for sharing the letter Theresa. They make great points that most of the community are starting to understand. This community is beginning to learn that you can’t elect people who you know nothing about and then let them rule without watching what it is they are doing. These board members who are visiting our district with such low intelligence will not serve for long periods of time, but they will do amazing amounts of damage. Thankfully there is an election of school board members every 2 years.

  59. g Says:

    Questions to the board and bond oversight committee: Why is exterior painting of schools not basic maintenance? How do we justify it as ‘construction and modernization’ payable with bond measure monies?

  60. Anon too Says:

    Ironic Sherry Whitmarsh signed the letter. It was under her watch as President that the mess continued, guided by Gary of course, and now exploded. This new board is cleaning it up and doing their job, finally.

    I believe many more taxpayers are happy with the new board than the few who are not. Yes, we are looking forward to the next election too, but with a different intent than Anon 57. Change is hard embrace. I could not continue to trust a Superintendent who believed he could not replace projector light bulbs so students could continue to learn, because it would mean taking from somewhere else, and yet found $5000 to give to an event for MDEA. Where did this money come from and what students lost out? The $5,000 had to come from somewhere else as he previously pointed out?

    Anon #57 – do you know? You seem to think this is okay to run our school district this way and to continue runnning it this way instead of changing it, so you must know more than me. Please enlighten me where he found $5000 that didn’t come from the expense of students? I would think the $5000 could have been used to replace the bulbs…

  61. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Guy Moore previously posted that the $5,000 came out of a budget fund earmarked for teacher recognition.

  62. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ TH #49:

    This commentary completely misses the mark and ignores the present reality in the District. The newly-elected Board majority has been relegated to clean-up duty, in the wake of the damage wrought by its predecessors, including former trustees Whitmarsh and Eberhart. The present Board majority hasn’t “gone too far” — they’re taking care of business because it’s impossible to do “the real work that needs to be done” with corrupt and incompetent leaders in place.

    It really is that simple.

    In organizational change as well as in mathematics, there is an order of operations that must be followed in solving problems. Replacing unsatisfactory performers is the first step in the sequence and must precede the next phase of the clean-up effort. Operational audits of Finance, HR, IT and other core support functions are needed in order to identify and correct the root causes of the District’s chronic underperformance in fundamental areas.

    (Any organization incapable of making suitable hiring decisions, providing a safe and productive workplace and reliably running correct payroll has problems that run deep.)

    Apologists for the old regime, including the authors of this piece, are obstacles to the District’s rebuilding of trust within the organization and with the general public.

    Trust must be earned. In recent months an overwhelming amount of evidence has come to light that reveals today’s reality: The District is a dysfunctional organization that requires effective, ethical leadership at the helm, to stop bad business practices, continue those that are working properly, and adopt new approaches that are responsive to current needs.

    Those who choose to ignore reality undermine positive reform efforts and, ultimately, are irrelevant.

  63. S Says:

    Come on Theresa….her comments were not out of line about blogs generally. And the current news rule is report it now, retract later. You know this. It was a cheap shot. Now, if you wanted to ask her about your own writing specifically, here or in the paper, that seems like fair game. Although, for a writer like you, it still seems beneath you.

    I think when you ask for an explanation and you get it, that should be that. Don’t like the explanation, don’t vote for her. And, I happen to believe she is correct about one thing:We need to move forward! Everyone is interested in casting stones. Someone here has even attacked the new position that will oversee equity! Not only is it one of the most vital elements to making our system fair and just, it hasn’t even been filled yet! People are so ready to attack and tear apart! This is societal…..look at our elections. When everything is adversarial, why would anyone want to do anything to draw attention? Some will approve, but so many are ready to attack first. This paradigm stifles everyone’s (in the district) ability to make a difference. I use S as a name here. Why? Because I don’t want your attacks. Debate? Sure. Cite your sources and let’s go.

    Finally, I do have to say that as a teacher, particularly here in MDUSD, I do feel the coverage is primarily negative of this district. Believe me when I say that I know the problems. But the negative pieces get better placement and rarely have a balanced approach. There are a billion good things happening in this district every day. The answers are never just black and white. We need to fix the issues as a community. Not just cast stones at the ones who do not.

  64. Theresa Harrington Says:

    After I tweeted the readers’ opinion piece to the attention of Trustee Brian Lawrence, he sent the following tweets in quick succession:

    “We’ve done more in 4 months to create #MDUSD strategic plan than had been done in prior 4 years.”

    “Did former Brd. Prez really say that this new Brd gave contract extensions to Supe and 4 top admins?”

    “She was the one who proposed extending contracts for 3 years and then settled for 1 year in april 2012. That takes brass.”

    “Barbara Oaks and I were both clear in #mdusd election that we needed change. Former Brd Prez said no. Voters spoke- loudly.”

    S: I was genuinely trying to find out the basis for Dennler’s accusations, specifically related to the story I wrote about Greg Rolen’s relationship with the owner of AIS. Dennler’s response indicates that she hasn’t actually read that story, which surprised me.

  65. Anon too Says:

    Couldn’t the bulbs dollars been taken from the teacher recognition budget so students could continue to be taught? Music and Athletics have been cut for students, why do the teachers need $ for recognition. Tough times call for tough choices for EVERYONE!

  66. g Says:

    Theresa, she ‘may’ have read it. She said: “The facts and timelines of Mr. Rolen’s activities haven’t been presented accurately. A combination of an individual’s interpretation, perspective, and understanding of facts have been blended into actions deemed ‘illegal’ in print. In hindsight some of Mr. Rolen’s actions may have been ill advised but were well meaning, not illegal as have been reported. He has provided the district excellent legal direction.”

    She completely stuck her foot in it with “Rolen’s actions may have been ill advised but were well meaning, not illegal…”

    “Ill advised?” He followed his own advice (and made the bed he now has to lie in). “Excellent legal direction?” “…the money he saved MDUSD?” Ask the Judge(s) and wait for the legal audit.

  67. S Says:

    Teachers did not ask for the recognition of Academy Awards. Though it is a nice gesture. We have sacrificed a lot. I have spent more money this year than any previous years for supplies and books because I can’t get that stuff otherwise. About $1000 of my own money and counting. And no, I only get a $200 dollar credit so please don’t tell me I can write it off. The teachers are not the enemy.

    G – It seems at first blush that there was a clear conflict of interest. But we don’t know all the facts. For anyone to say with certainty the it was illegal or not is simply conjecture. Even IF he is charged,he is still not guilty until proven guilty. I’m not saying he should not have been cut loose. I would have made the same decision based on the information I do have. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t say someone is dumb because of his/her opinion and then make an opinion based response. Unless you are the person charged with prosecuting or defending, you simply do not have all of the information. Further, even if this WAS illegal, he may have indeed saved the district a bunch of money and given excellent legal direction with the exception of this one area. The two arguments are NOT mutually exclusive. Again, not defending him, just saying one does not exclude the other from being true.

    Theresa – thank you for the clarification. That is certainly a fair question. Perhaps different than the question that was posed here.

  68. Doctor J Says:

    I doubt you will find $5000 in a teacher recognition fund in the budget approved in June. Are they using SIG funds for teacher recognitions ?

  69. g Says:

    S: I agree it is appalling that teachers should have to buy classroom supplies while the district cries wolf on its budget, displaces students from two schools to ‘save’ $1.5 million, but hoards $30million more than the state deemed necessary over a two year period.

    Let’s not forget that “every” legal decision; every court action, every bond action, every IEP action, every maintenance action, every transportation action made by our (count them) NINE outside legal firms and ‘contracted advisors’ fell directly under the influence and control of our inside Legal Department–AND our Superintendent, both or either of whom could have stepped in, intervened, influenced, overridden those decisions in a more positive way for the benefit of the entire district, the students, teachers and taxpayers.

    They both failed us miserably in that regard.

  70. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It’s also starting to look like the district may have been hoarding money in anticipation of having to spend 15 percent of special ed funds on the disproportionality plan. Richards told me the district couldn’t actually make 15 percent in cuts to special ed, because it needs to provide those services. So, he said it ended up using money that was “unencumbered.” Any additional money would have to come from general fund encroachment, he said. I have been meaning to follow up to find out exactly how much unencumbered money was used and what portion of the 15 percent it accounts for.

  71. g Says:

    Theresa, yes, and to S’s comment #63 about my complaint regarding hiring for disproportionality. That is part of it. They really did sit and spin from 2008 when first disproportionality reports came in and just ‘sort of’ looked at it till 2010, then sneaked through the back door to get at the cash stream called Measure C. They put a study team together to copy-paste advice from ‘others’ 20 years of published works, then not until they were ordered to take funds that they did not have from SpEd to fix the problem did their eyes light up over ‘even more’ money they could now use to boost salaries and maybe pay even more to the people they had copy-pasted from.

    All that couples nicely with the District screwing future taxpayers by jumping through every loophole in Prop 39 —

    “may not use bond funds for administration or operations”

    but may, thanks to SBX3 4 and ABX4 2, divert Tier III Deferred Maintenance and Overmatch funds into the General fund (for admins and operations) thus making those Prop 39 Bonds fully cover deferred maintenance. Then “per some lawyer’s opinion” divert energy savings from bond/solar expenditures into the General Fund (also for admins and operations and bonuses….

    That is only the tip of the iceberg.

  72. g Says:

    The agenda is out. We have resumes for two interim supts.

  73. Community Parent Says:

    I have not always been a fan of Lynne Dennler, but I am very impressed with her statement. She’s right. It’s a waste of District money to fire Lawrence and Rolen. The Board doesn’t have any reason to fire Lawrence other than an amorphous “people are unhappy” and they need a scapegoat. I appreciate her seeing that while she may not like Rolen personally and he may not be perfect, he has done a good job for the District.

    I’m also glad to see Dennler’s admission that things look very different when you are on the Board and working with District staff as opposed to standing on the outside throwing stones. That shows a great deal of strength of character on her part.

    Theresa, I’m glad to see you posted Dennler’s response in it’s entirety, but I am equally disappointed to see your follow-up emphasis is on whether or not she ever reads your blog and how can she criricize your blog if she doesn’t read your blog. It does not matter in the least to the parents and students of MDUSD if she never reads your blog and only learns second-hand what’s in it, or if she reads it once in a blue moon, or if she reads it all the time. It is not important to anyone except you and the small cabal of people who regularly post to it. Don’t let this story be about you and how you are are going to prove that she reads your blog even if she said she didn’t. Surely you have more important follow-up questions for her. For example: She said she’s discovered that the reality of District operations is vastly different than it appears to an outsider. How so? How has what she’s learned since she’s been on the Board changed her ideas on what should be done? What qualities will she be looking for in a new superintendent? What’s the timeframe? What will the cost be to the District? How does she think the Board can improve the public’s trust in MDUSD leadership? What does she think are the biggest misconceptions the public has about the management of MDUSD?

    I see Dr J. brought up CVCHS as proof of how unhappy parents and teachers are with Steve Lawrence. Perhaps we should use that same standard to see how parents and teachers feel about the Contra Costa Times and Theresa Harrington. The CVCHS Governing Board adopted an official policy of Board members NOT talking to the press whenever possible, which of course means Theresa. The Board members agreed that if the press approaches any of them for comment, they will be referred to the Board president whenever possible or the Executive Director. If neither is physically present, then the board member will decide for himself whether to talk to the reporter or not, or to tell her to contact the board president or executive director for comment. If he chooses to talk to the reporter, he will immediately send an e-mail to the rest of the board informing them of what he said to the reporter. It’s a policy of limited and managed contact with the press. Perhaps MDUSD should adopt a similar policy if it wants to restore trust with the public.

  74. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I am not specifically concerned about whether she reads my blog. I just wanted to know if she read what she was criticizing. If she wasn’t making accusations about blogs and news reports, I wouldn’t have asked the question. I agree that it would be interesting to get the answers to the other questions you ask.

    Regarding CVCHS, there are many other reporters/bloggers who cover CVCHS besides me, including the various Patch sites, Claycord, the Clayton Pioneer and the Concordian. I have established a good working relationship with the CVCHS board president. I have also had no problems getting comments from the executive director, Pat Middendorf or parent reps.

    I have heard of other boards adopting similar policies. In fact, it was my impression that Trustee Linda Mayo may also be inclined to let the president speak for the board. But, the entire board has not had any discussion about naming one spokesperson, to my knowledge.

    I personally believe trustees should be willing to speak about their individual votes or views, since they are elected individually by voters. If they email the rest of the board with their comments, that could violate the Brown Act as a form of serial communication.

  75. Frustrated community parent Says:

    It’s interesting to see the increase in Lawrence support from his friends on this blog and in the paper. The separation agreements are not signed. Rolen still uses his general counsel designation. The blogger above is right; they are not gone. They are only on paid leave. Officially they are still district employees. Is this a push to change public opinion and the outcome of the board’s action?

  76. Community Parent Says:

    Theresa, if it’s a Brown Act violation, perhaps you want to follow-up on it with CVCHS. Here’s the exact wording:

    b) If the Board President is not present and Trustees are asked for comments, they will use their best judgment in commenting, not commenting, or referring the matter to the Executive Director or Board President. If they do comment, an email to inform the Board of the comments made will be sent as soon as possible.

    Apparently the Governing Board members often e-mail each other. Here’s another paragraph from their agreement:

    b) Trustees agree that e-mail is an effective way to share information. Trustees will be respectful of others in the volume of e-mail sent to colleagues and they will endeavor to read information sent by colleagues. Trustees agree that discussion and debate are best in a face-to-face meeting and ideally, will avoid debate by e-mail.

    Here’s the link to the entire agreement:—2012/09_September/CVCHS%20Governing%20Board%20Protocols.pdf

    I personally have mixed emotions about the CVCHS policy. I think it doesn’t serve the students to have trustees publicly battling each other in the press or criticizing their own administrators as we have seen with MDUSD. It leads to mistrust by the public. I can understand Mayo’s attitude that she will let her board meeting comments and votes speak for themselves. I can also understand Dennler’s position of wanting to communicate through e-mail so that she can carefully consider her words.

    I can understand the CVCHS board’s position that everything they say in public should be a form of positive publicity for the school because their success is dependent on attracting students. Limiting comments to the press llimits the possibility of saying something untoward and getting bad publicity.

    On the other hand, both MDUSD and CVCHS are public schools funded by our tax dollars. Shouldn’t the trustees be willing to discuss issues with the press? Isn’t a free and open discussion important to a free society? Perhaps it is doubly important for charter schools to be open and transparent as the general public has no say in how they are run, even though we foot the bill. If you live in the CV attendance area, that’s YOUR neighborhood school, yet you can’t elect the people who run it and they have made it their policy to limit and manage contact with the press in order to influence the public’s impression. At least we can hold MDUSD trustees accountable at the ballot box for what they do with our tax dollars. Not so with CVCHS.

    Perhaps the difference is due to the fact that MDUSD trustees must battle for election by the public. CVCHS trustees do not. Some of the CV trustees are elected by their own small constituencies (classified employees, teachers , parents, admin), while the rest are selected by their fellow board members. I suppose they aren’t disposed to battle their fellow board members publicly (or perhaps at all?) if they serve on the board only at the pleasure of the other board members.

  77. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Is anyone else seeing the Twitter War between Brian Lawrence and Sherry Whitmarsh?

    Hilarious stuff. Pop the pop corn this is about to get good.

  78. Community Parent Says:

    So glad I don’t have a clue how to follow anyone on twitter. Tipping the scale in favor of CVCHS’s policy of limiting public comment. How inappropriate for a school board member to be in a twitter war with anyone. What a terrible example for the students.

  79. Community Parent Says:

    Theresa, if you do follow-up with CVCHS, here’s something else you might want to ask about. I saw something in the minutes for the curriculum committee that has me concerned.

    “Rethinking the STAR testers, perhaps it is better if those individuals who are far below not take the tests and receive a base two hundred since the ultimate score is calculated using a lower multiplier. Those students who are far below basic and take the test and still score far below basic will be calculated at a higher multiplier which could result in a 15 point difference in the API score.”

    The comment was from a teacher. Is he suggesting that low scoring student not be allowed to take the STAR test as a way of raising the API score for CVCHS? Did CVCHS adopt this policy? That seems so wrong to me. It’s from the meeting minutes for last May.—2012/05_May/Curriculum_and_Instruction_Committee_Minutes_5-2-12.pdf

  80. g Says:

    Does anyone believe for a minute that many MDUSD teachers do not pick and choose who is tested–for the same reason?

    Does anyone believe the State isn’t wise to that, but ignores it because ‘every’ district plays the same game?

  81. anon Says:


    You can’t substantiate that. You know why you can’t? Because it’s just not true.

  82. Out of Touch Says:

    My gosh, lady, get on your unicorn and slide down the rainbow. We are doing our jobs despite the Dent. Every time I go to Fiscal the ladies are yakking, yakking, yakking. No business, I hear clothesline gossip. Incorrect paychecks have to be explained to disinterested employees who won’t break up their yakking circles to acknowledge my presence – only there in person because calls are not returned and promises to fix things are forgotten. I asked to speak to a STRS person. The “STRS person” who finally came to the counter in a worn, thigh-high, denim skirt with flip-flops to tell me she couldn’t help me. She never really came all the way to the counter and was turning away while speaking to me. I asked if the woman in the office was the manager and received a sardonic smile with “she won’t know anything about it”. Another time, same thing, ladies gabbing in a circle but eating food this time. One finally said “Do you need help?” She explained that they were having a celebration and walked away! I have had to endure a raised voice and extreme impatience from an employee who was so insistent and so wrong. They openly blamed Julie Braun Martin for paying us at bad rates, explaining that JBM never informed them of our rate change until three months later, showing a memo from Julie BM. If true, I am sure Julie Braun Martin had some consequence for negatively affecting the workings of the Payroll Department and the teachers’ finances. Please Board, take a guess at why schools want to secede from the district. Now they want control over the Parents Club spending. I keep hearing about Bryan Richards. Who gave him all this responsibility? The board. The board, including Cheryl, passed all their nonsense. At least Cheryl seems like she is trying to get an accurate picture now. I invite her to come to the classrooms and see how we still wash our hands in ice cold water and beg for basics while the Dent uses us to bring in the funds that maintain their crazy paychecks and strangle-hold on access to basic instructional materials. If the district bought the overheads, they should maintain them, including bulbs, before voting each other more raises. They knew how much these bulbs were when these units were purchased. Why not put a management furlough in place and give a little to the kids?

  83. Community Parent Says:

    G, the teacher who appears to suggest that CVCHS could rise its API score by stopping the lower scoring students from taking the STAR test, judging from the minutes, had been tasked with finding ways to increase the API score. If it had already been standard operating procedure when Clayton Valley HS was part of MDUSD, I don’t think he would have suggested it. They would have just done it without comment and it wouldn’t have any effect on the API. But it was brought forward as a change in procedure that could increase the API.

    I’m not an expert in how API is calculated. That’s why I brought it up for Theresa to look into. Maybe I’m misinterpreting it. I do know from reading the minutes that the teacher involved was very concerned with raising the API. That’s how charter schools are evaluated when it comes time to renew a charter.

  84. Anon Says:

    Out of touch:
    Please elaborate on yor statement regarding Richards wanting control of parent club spending. I haven’t heard anything about that.

  85. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, Hansen has informed me that she does not expect to report out the name of the interim superintendent after tonight’s closed session because the contract will not have been finalized. She has also sent me the schedule for interviews with stakeholders. I will post a google docs link to that in a separate blog post.

  86. Theresa Harrington Says:

    LAUSD’s Board has voted to ban “willful defiance” suspensions:,0,5454548.story

    Would MDUSD consider this to avoid being designated significantly disproportionate in suspensions and expulsions?

  87. g Says:

    If I understand the retiree hire procedure and limitations on hours and pay, there shouldn’t be a great discrepancy in the basic contract provisions. Right?

  88. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, and since the closed session includes negotiations with the interim superintendent, I don’t understand why the decision can’t be reported out — just like the interim general counsel appointment was reported out after the closed session when she was selected.

  89. g Says:

    It makes sense to me, simply because you don’t want both to possibly be in attendance, or hanging around town, when you announce your choice. In the case of counsel there wasn’t a second candidate.

  90. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In a follow-up email, Hansen said the contract won’t be finalized until tomorrow, so she expects the interim superintendent’s name will be posted on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.

  91. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Board Vice President Barbara Oaks and Trustee Brian Lawrence will present a May 30 program at the YV Library titled “Changes and Challenges in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District”:

  92. anon Says:

    Brian and Barbara? They’ve only been here and few months and thus far have done zero to help students. I’ll bet that will be well attended. I hope Brian and Barbara have thick skin because so far we are not impressed.

  93. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a blog post about their planned presentation, in case anyone else wants to comment on it:

  94. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a blog post with the agenda for today’s closed session meeting, along with a link to the scheduled conversations with stakeholders:

    The open portions of the meeting will be livecast.

  95. Guts and Morals Says:

    Thank you TH for your continued coverage. I, am a past employee who can see better from this vantage point being out of the insanity. Bryan Richards was not a poor manager, he was not a manager at all. He hired a payroll manager who immediately lost control of the department because she was such a bad pick. She went from paying 7 people at a small business to the public school system and has never successfully done the job. The two managers they speak of refer to another manager moved into Bryan’s office, supposedly to keep an eye and help her. Bryan only cared about going after anyone who spoke up. He always put the work behind his personal needs. He was known as the mean kid with the magnifying glass. Say whatever about previous superintendents, they would have spotted his confusion and dislike for employees and his refusal to do the right thing, especially when it came to one employee. I was asked to sub but I will not while this employee remains there. They thought Julie Braun Marting was a pushover and the bad behavior became a joke. You have to hate who they hate. I treated one employee badly and after getting to know her I saw she was better and that is what they hated. They feel threatened. Better person, better worker, better friend, better soul. These people get aggressive when they know someone can do their jobs better faster and more HONESTLY. Aslo, there is a woman truly on staff who hates Jewish people. They have done nothing to get rid of her and she did nothing but hate. They need an honest person with some authority. Sorry to go on but from what I hear Bryan is meaner than ever. Doesnt the board understand we worked hard for them and didn’t deserve the constand mistreatment. Again, sorry, I hate to hear it still goes on.

  96. Guts and Morals Says:

    By the way, I am willing to take a lie detector test regarding the racism they deny exists.

  97. Theresa Harrington Says:

    G&M: Are you willing to speak on the record about this? If so, please call me at 945-4764 or email me at

    On another note, I have added an update to my closed session blog post recapping the public comments:

  98. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, Hansen told me today that she expects Greg Rolen and Steven Lawrence to sign their settlement agreements today or tomorrow. She expects the agreements to appear on Monday’s agenda, she said.

  99. g Says:

    Theresa; We’re all very thankful for your Blog, where those of us in the shadows can toss the info out for all to see, hoping some honest person in power follows up on it.

    Just think how history might read today if Woodward and Bernstein had insisted everything be “on the record.”

  100. Theresa Harrington Says:

    And now for something completely different — Northgate HS alum Josh Shpak, Northgate student Jonah Moss and Liberty HS student Bruce Mitchener blasting out the National Anthem on their trumpets at the May 10 Giants game with their mentor, Mic Gillette, of Tower of Power:

    There is great talent in local schools and this is a testament to the hard work of students and teachers.

  101. Doctor J Says:

    Can you imagine MDUSD and San Juan USD exchanging Supts ?

  102. New Supe: Stay on Course Says:

    The THREE MONKEY management system. See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing. I still SMELL something. These people eat at the very supports of the district by pursuing their crazy personal vendettas and ignoring their job duties. Julie is not trying to resolve. She is trying to intimidate. You can’t swing a stuffed cat without hitting an attorney. I believe I have an answer to the questions: “how do I do my job?” and “who will do my job for me?” I think employees should be able to bid against the attorneys to resolve district problems. “Yes, you should come in out of the rain” and “don’t touch that socket” and “Yes, you with your hand up?” “You may go to the ladies room but be right back and don’t touch those sockets!” Repeat after me: “employees who report problems ARE the problem.” Seriously, though, things have gotten so far from any recognizable school district that an interim super will have to be strong and get the layout fairly quickly. Everyone seems to think he or she will be a victim of the same “wrong crowd” phagocytosis that robbed us of a credible attorney and supports this pack mentality. Nobody should be afraid of an accountant. Let’s get real.

  103. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: Good Point. I would like to speak to Guts and Morals, even off the record, just to get a clearer picture of what is allegedly going on.

    G&M: Have you contacted the Anti-Defamation League? If the district is turning a blind eye toward anti-Semitism in the workplace, the League’s lawyers could point out reasons why this should not be tolerated. Also, it might be a good idea to approach Jayne Williams, since she is supposed to be helping the board usher in a new era of enlightened leadership, which includes treating all employees with respect. Especially in public agencies, where employees are paid with taxpayer dollars, laws to protect them from harassment should be vigorously enforced.

  104. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, can you get a report from MDEA how many tickets of the 400 capacity remain unsold for tomorrow’s Academy Awards ?

  105. Doctor J Says:

    @Guts&Morals: The employees need to file complaints with the state DFEH for a hostile work environment — just like they have done up in Sacramento. It gets action.

  106. g Says:

    To me it appears that the dozen or so direct complaints about Payroll, JBM and Richards and what sounds like a couple of people that have been given false authority to ‘overstep their job boundaries’ are being written by just two or three people. Even IF I am correct, that does not deminish the severity of the claims being brought forward.

    The problem is that the accusations are vague, round-about, allusions and hints. No doubt the writer(s) feel a need to make their statements in this cursory manner to cover their tracks. That is understandable.

    I hope they will feel free to contact you with facts and proof, with the understanding that you will keep their identity confidential.

    I also would hope that the temporary nature of Jayne Williams job would make her a very good contact point, and would suggest the board encourage her to set up a nice old-fashioned “anonymous” suggestion and complaint box.

    Dropping a photocopy of “proof” to the press or in the box with a complaint has worked wonders at some companies.

  107. Theresa Harrington Says:

    To those interested in digging into state budget issues, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla will hold a budget town hall meeting today at 5 p.m. at Los Medanos College:

  108. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For some good news, the new healthy cooking kitchen at MDHS is holding an open house tonight:

  109. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The WCCUSD board has restored elementary instrumental music at several schools and has decided to turn over Community Day School students to the county:

  110. g Says:

    Theresa, thanks for posting news about Mount’s IHTA. Your link got my attention for their Blog hosted by Cindy Gershen. What a FUN read.

    I recommend reading in reverse starting at the bottom of the page. It starts in Feb. with their visit to the in-progress renovation. One very interesting thing was their list of ‘partners.’ And it says Kaiser and PG&E was helping with the renovation process.

    It would be interesting to know the details of what those partners contribute, especially how Kaiser and PG&E helped.

  111. Doctor J Says:

    I am told there are over 100 unsold tickets for tomorrow’s Academy Awards — and most of the tickets purchased were by MDEA members who got the $30 discount. It doesn’t take a math genius to say that Guy Moore is going to throw MDEA in the bathtub for a huge financial loss. Guy, are you going to come clean on the finances so the teachers know how much of their dues were lost ?

  112. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe they provided grant funding. I visited Gershen’s new kitchen yesterday during the open house and plan to do a story about the evolving healthy cooking and sustainable tourism program.
    Also, Kate McClatchy asked me to write about the school’s new World Academy, which will start in the fall as part of the English Learner Master Plan.
    And, I saw Bill Morones there, but didn’t get a chance to talk to him.
    The students did a great job of cooking and presenting their food!

  113. Guy Moore Says:

    Dr. J, Why are you so negative about the Academy Awards? It is going to be a huge success and not one penny of MDEA members dues is being spent. Furthermore, we will meet our secondary goal of being able to start the process of creating an ARTS Foundation for Elementary teachers in this district.

    I invite you to attend and report back about an event that has the power to begin to transform the way people think in and about our district. How about rallying people in a positive way Dr. J?

  114. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my short story today about the Academy Awards, for which Moore said there may be a few last-minute tickets still available:

    And, related to rallying people in a positive way, I have been very impressed by MDHS teacher Cindy Gershen’s ability to do that at that school. She told me she wants MDUSD to be seen as a district that is willing to innovate and try new things, which she said will attract others. If the infighting continues, however, it may be more difficult to begin moving forward in a positive direction.

  115. Doctor J Says:

    @GUY#113 My prior posts state its a great idea to honor exemplary teachers and administrators. My criticisms are that MDEA should not be in the catering business, $5000 should not have been donated from the district which could have ended up in the classroom, you are giving over 50% discounts to administrators that make over $80,000 when mothers who cannot afford to drive their children to school are expected to pay full fare which excludes the majority of parents in the district. Why are politicians given a discount — they have campaignfunds ? You have made this an elitist event. I previously quoted the “original” flyer that included parents — parents seem now to have been eliminiated. Aren’t parents the most important part of the MDUSD community ? I proposed a graduated scale for ticket prices and you never responded. Will you give us a full accounting of the income and expenses following the event ? P.S. And why wouldn’t you think I will be there ?

  116. Goodbye Versailles Says:

    Dear Guy Moore: I can see what you were trying to do but think about it. We cannot refocus and simply ignore the truth of the low morale and operations disasters. This has turned into a garish popularity contest and a slap in the face to all the hard-working employees at the district who already feel unappreciated and marginalized. How can this be remedied by “voting” others better? Perhaps use your time to improve the situation for all, not give trinkets to a few? I don’t care about any groans here: I want the truth about this laptop debacle. I want to see you post the documents they submitted to the insurance company. I do not believe we have not seen any security films, police reports, etc. Why hasn’t the investigating officer come to a board meeting? Something is wrong here and there is no way Greg Rolen would have been pro-district. The board should be more proactive and not fall for the same old let it get old, dodge responsibility, and everybody will get sick of it. The board needs to hold a special meeting with Bryan Richards, Steve Lawrence, the investigating officers, a rep from the insurance company, etc. I don’t believe an insurance company would pay all this money with no clear story or security footage. Nobody wants to further hurt the district so these loose cannons keep operating.
    TH, does anyone credible from Swett or WCC ever sound off on their experiences with our group? Don’t want mud- slinging, just curious if we could have seen this coming.

  117. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Regarding the Academy Awards, I videotaped most of the awards (but unfortunately missed the first batch). I am uploading the videos now at

  118. Doctor J Says:

    It was an enthusiastic event; but far from the 400 capacity to make it a “break even” event. Guy, what was the actual paid attendance ?

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