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MDUSD board may select interim superintendent tonight

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 at 3:49 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo school board President Cheryl Hansen sent me the following email this morning outlining the plan for selecting an interim superintendent:

“As you have seen, at our Board meeting that begins at 5:00 PM today, the Board will meet with two candidates for MDUSD Interim Superintendent: Dr. John Bernard and Dr. Johanna Vandermolen.

Prior to the Board meeting convening, the candidates will also participate in separate conversations with several stakeholder groups, including representatives from our community advisory groups, union/labor groups, and district staff. These are not part of our Board meeting and therefore are not public meetings.

Both Dr. Bernard and Dr. Vandermolen are highly qualified, well-respected former superintendents who are active and current contributors to education and school districts. We are excited that they are interested in providing leadership to our district.”

Hansen also left me a voice mail message clarifying that she does not intend to report out the name of the interim superintendent because the contract will still need to be finalized.

She elaborated on this in a the following subsequent email:

“While the Board will have selected an Interim Superintendent tonight during Closed Session, I may not have had the chance to confirm this selection with the candidate prior to reconvening Open Session as the decision will occur after the candidates have left.

The Board will consider possible contracts for the Interim Superintendent, but that contract can’t be finalized tonight. It will naturally require a separate meeting with the candidate to finalize the contract terms which will not take place until tomorrow.

If all goes as planned tonight and tomorrow, the Interim Superintendent’s name and contract for ratification will both be posted on Monday’s agenda for Board action.”

Hansen also sent me the schedule for stakeholder interviews to be held with the two candidates, which began at 3 p.m.:

Here is the agenda for the meeting, which will take place at 5 p.m. in the district office 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 two minutes each, or a total of twenty minutes for all speakers or the two minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

3.0 Adjourn to Closed Session

3.1 Public employee appointment: To consider the appointment of Interim Superintendent Action

3.2 Conference with Labor Negotiators Action
4.0 Report of Closed Session

4.1 Report out on Closed Session Info

5.0 Adjournment
5.1 Adjourn meeting Info”

Joe Estrada has assured me that he will both livestream and audio record the meeting.

Which candidate do you think the board should choose?

5:30 p.m. UPDATE: Three members of the public spoke during public comment.All three complimented the board for its inclusive decision-making process, said both candidates were strong and declined to recommend one over the other.

Ernie De Trinidad of DELAC also complimented the board on the new direction it is seeking, saying trustees are role models for the leadership they want to put in place. The interim supt will have a lot to do, he said.

Willie Mims, who is a member of the Equity Advisory Team, said he came in peace to address the board. He stressed that the interim supt should bring stability to the district and asked trustees to provide the support needed to accomplish that goal. “If you do not,” he warned, “then, next time, I will not be coming in peace.”

Dorothy Weissenberger, who is a member of the CAC, said this is the beginning of a new era in the district and she hoped everyone could come together to work toward better things in the future.

Hansen thanked everyone who participated in the stakeholder discussions and said that she believes the board also wants to bring the district together.

The first portion of the meeting was livestreamed at Although the report out should also be livestreamed, Hansen said she did not anticipate wrapping up the contract for 24 hours, so it is unlikely she will name the interim tonight.

9:50 PM UPDATE: According to the video of the report out, the board voted 5-0 to approve an interim superintendent who will be named Monday:

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99 Responses to “MDUSD board may select interim superintendent tonight”

  1. Sickening Says:

    How about Richards berating a 60+ year old EXCELLENTworker in front of everyone at the counter because a small plant was moved. She fit his profile of women to attack. She did not even move the plant but he kept his tirade up. Needs a spankin’. He hates females who defend themselves. Sorry if we provide our own backbone, not anyone else nursing us and we would not target our co-workers! He protected theives and bullies because they were performing a service for him. He would also have his little group hear all of our Personnel details which some secretary, who is now his confidante making 100k, had no reason to be included in. I have not good memories of Bryan Richards and that whole area was all about secrets and lies and groups. Everyone passed him off as immature and viscious but these people the board admits are poor choices are in control of our livelihood and we were held hostage to him constantly feeling threatened by being asked to be a manager. Why hasn’t the board done somehting to pare down the staff there, not give more money. The nerve to ask for it. There is no way he should be allowed to work the rest of his contract out. How about putting an ad out for these jobs at 30k less?

  2. Sue Berg Says:

    Theresa,#46: Given that Bev Heppler (SASS), Lori Amenta (General Counsel), and Denise Larkins (Personnel) each already has demanding full-time responsibilities as assistants to senior-level administrators, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that “there’s more secretarial support to produce the minutes.” With Board meetings being held almost weekly, and sometimes even more than that, it’s not surprising that the formal minutes are not up to date. I’m pleased to see the recent posting of the Board Action Summaries on the district’s homepage and the audio of the meetings on the Board of Education page.

  3. Doctor J Says:

    Why is there no job opening posted for the secretary to the Supt ? Very suspicious.

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Sue, Sorry if my comment was unclear. I agree with you 100 percent. I meant with the addition of Vonda Boucher there may be more secretarial support for the minutes. Certainly all of the others who were helping out already had full plates. And in the absence of up-to-date minutes, it’s nice to have the board action summaries, audio tapes and live stream videos for easy reference.

  5. Anon Says:

    @54, except Amenta will probably have less on her plate now since she won’t be busy doing Rolen’s personal work.

  6. Alicia Says:

    Another reason that school districts should have internal audit departments:

  7. fog a Spoon Says:

    Dear Board: If you simply put blinders on and spend like sailors, YOU are the example and the problem. My sources tell me Richards has more than attached himself to Cody and it surprises me that with all the issues surrounding Bryan Richards, the board still hands him anything “spending” related. This guy is a shopper. If you can’t do everything now, do only one thing – correctly. Nobody has explained why he is acting as an Asst. Sup. Now that I count, it is correct, there are six managers for some 15 people. I am guessing, without looking at the salary ranges for their ever more important sounding job titles (but the same duties) that we are spending about $700,000.00 and Richards wants to bag more for his buddies. Perhaps his “support” is faltering? When does Rolen’s “friend” get more cash? I guess if we give it to one, we have to give them all bags of cash.
    Alicia: there is no internal source remotely trustworthy and at this point we need a very skilled public school savvy auditor with no ties to anyone at the district. Anyone they hire will come in and be promised money and titles and be useless in no time. Anyone on-site will be compromised. What you don’t understand is that they work around these departments like Personnel because they have become so toxic. The board got rid of their problem but not THE problem(S). All of these jobs need to be reviewed independently for payscale corrections.

  8. Alicia Says:

    @Fog….If what you say is true, then I would recommend a third party internal audit function independent of the District.

  9. Wait a Minute Says:

    I think that rigorous performance AND fiscal audits should be done for all Dpts at Dent and after that data and info is in their should be a thorough reorganization (with new managers where necessary!

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FOG et al: Here is a video clip of the board discussion related to the reclassification of two positions unanimously approved Monday night, including one in the fiscal department:

  11. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#60 Its a very simple shell game deception. Under the guise of “reorganization” a small portion of the higher paid position work is transfered to the lower paid position so the union petitions for an upgrade in position and pay. As a result the payroll for the department goes up, but the same amount of work is being done. Just sleight of hand.

  12. Sue Berg Says:

    Alicia, #58: Are you suggesting something different from the independent financial audit that is conducted every year and reported out each June? And in addition to the County Office of Education’s review and assessment of the district budget and interim reports?

  13. Disgusted Says:

    A teacher in Linden gets charged for stealing $10.00, but this type of ridiculous behavior goes on at MDUSD, and here people walk away with settlement agreements and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe we just have to catch everybody on a cell phone camera to get any accountability in this district.

  14. Alicia Says:

    The San Diego County Grand Jury Report on capital appreciation bonds (CABs) and bond premium can be found at:

  15. Alicia Says:

    @Sue. The internal audit function is different from the independent financial audit and would be in addition to the County Office of Education’s review. Please note that Christy White (the external auditor to the district’s financials) has been recommending an internal audit function, yet the district refuses to establish this important internal control. Any company bringing in $250 plus million (like MDUSD) would have an internal audit function. The Institute of Internal Auditors best describes the benefits of having a full time internal audit function below:

    Although an internal audit function is an essential,
    if not required, part of monitoring and assessing compliance with laws and regulations, the purpose of the internal audit department is much broader. Internal audit helps management achieve its objectives and is defined by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) as: “an independent,objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic,
    disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes.

    More than just verifying compliance, internal audits can objectively assess whether policies and procedures are adequate and effectively working to safeguard assets and control activities. While internal
    auditors do not formulate policies and procedures, they do make recommendations for improvement and can be called upon during the implementation and assessment of new processes and systems.
    Other duties of internal auditors include the investigation of allegations related to fraud,waste and abuse.

    For management to maximize its full benefits, the internal audit department should become a partner with management and directors, helping make the company successful through operational reviews that look for best practices to make processes run smoothly
    and efficiently.Unlike an external auditor, the internal auditor is around throughout the year and typically delves into more process detail.”

  16. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Alicia #64:

    Any organization the size of MDUSD should have an internal audit function with the requisite authority necessary to get the job done.

    The sorry state of this District’s administration and finances illustrates the point.

  17. Coffin Nails Says:

    Sadly, Richards et al, found another rubber stamp board. Instead of looking at the cost of him abandoning his office and accepted duties, they just give more money. Exactly how did the “Chief Accountant” job change? What are the expanded duties and who was doing them before? What are her credentials? How can you give more money when one employee left his position? There has never been a CFO who up and left and was allowed to move people around to cover his absence! I was looking at a chart and there are Tech people under “Fiscal” and warehouse people. Are those jobs coming out of the Fiscal budget? Even the job postings are all pre-decided. It is sad that this board would give anyone a penny without reinstating full work days for the rank and file. What about people who didn’t move up or get supervisory positions? What about the workers who have been there for years but did not date Greg Rolen? Until every job is back to 8 hours and everything else Richards messed up has been restored, including no more furlough days the management should have to make do, just as the staffers. To see Julie Braun Martin promote or deny things based on her whims is getting old. The board did not like Lawrence but they are doing nothing about the inequities. These positions need an OUTSIDE assessment for level of difficulty and payscale. No investigation, no specific questions – here’s more money for the little group. What a slap to so many employees. If the board is just going to capitulate to any nonsense, go home, and just let this little group keep running the district into the ground. At least the board would not be helping! I am most disappointed at Brian Lawrence. I thought he would be sharp enough to see through this same old stuff and say NO. Good job cleaning up the district.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district used to have an internal auditor, but that position was cut several years ago as part of budget reductions. I believe that Christy White supports the idea of bringing back that position.
    Also, Trustee Brian Lawrence was not at the Monday night meeting where the reclassifications were discussed because his out-of-town location was not posted on the agenda 72 hours in advance, as required by the Brown Act.
    Interim Superintendent John Bernard told me he is willing to look at the decisions of the previous superintendent to make sure they complied with Education Code, Government Code and were in the best interests of students. Although he does not plan to make sweeping changes, now is the time to approach him with ideas for how to make the organization run more smoothly.
    Also, the state plans to give more money to districts next year than they have had in the past, so restoring positions or hours could be a possibility, especially if it could be shown that this would help disadvantaged students for whom the district may receive extra funding if the governor’s budget plan is approved by the Legislature.
    While an internal auditor might not directly benefit students, the money potentially saved by the possible elimination of waste, fraud and abuse could be spent on helping students. I’m not sure who the internal auditor reported to before, but, it would make sense for this position to report directly to the superintendent.

  19. Sue Berg Says:

    The internal auditor position, eliminated in 2009 when the Board demanded major cuts in management-level positions, reported to the Assistant Superintendent, Administrative Services. The auditor spent much of his time working with school site staffs. The management and accounting of student body funds can be fairly complex. The annual independent audit reviewed those practices as well.

    The suggestion that MDUSD should have an internal audit department prompted me to look at other school districts–Pleasanton, San Ramon, Oakland, San Francisco, Acalanes. None lists such a department nor even an internal auditor position. Some, including MDUSD, put their annual independent audits on line; some do not.

  20. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an interesting story about backlash due to lack of transparency in another superintendent hire:

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another topic, KidFest this weekend at MDHS will partially benefit the school and HOSA group from John Muir Medical Center in Concord:

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a “good news” story from MDHS:

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, the CDE expects to release updated base API scores tomorrow morning, along with comparable schools rankings. These are based on last year’s API scores, but they should give the public a good idea of where MDUSD stands compared to other districts in terms of schools with similar demographics. I understand districts were given this information last Friday.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    Here is an interesting “Brown Act” [Nevada version] of the 5th largest school district in the nation — salary comparable to Steven Lawrence’s.

  25. Doctor J Says:

    TH#73 Districts should be receiving the preliminary results in the next week or so about the 2013 STAR test results just taken. Hope you can get your hands on them. Might affect some principal placements for 2013-14.

  26. Doctor J Says:

    A School Supt who refused to take his automatic 5% per year automatic salary increase since 2009 ! WOW !

  27. Alicia Says:

    Finally, we have case law showing that school bond proceeds must be spent only those projects “specified”. While serving on the BOC, bond counsel indicated that it was fine to have very general language in the projects list because school districts need to be able to spend the bond money.

    Well the Fourth District Court of Appeals disagrees.

    See the case at the link below.

    I hope that the persons who drafted the ballot language for Measure C, including bond counsel, learn from this case.

    I would also appreciate it if the BOC, Project Management Team and Board of Trustees abide by this case and ensure, going forward, that bond money be spent only on those projects “specified”.

  28. Doctor J Says:

    Alicia, it looks like MDUSD is in hot boiling oil on its failure to list “specific projects” and the Interim Supt should immedidately halt all Measure C projects until our new interim legal counsel reviews the projects and Measure C language with this case. The appellate court directed an injunction against a project [field lighting] because it was not specifically mentioned in the ballot measure. Would the district have to pay back to the bond fund all expenditures in violation ? Here is the full case to read. This could be a very costly error by Eberhart, Strange and Whitmarsh.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Linda Mayo was also heavily involved in the Measure C campaign and approved the ballot language. Already, some in the Northgate community are questioning the planned pool, which was not listed, according to this letter to the editor, which appeared in the CC Times on May 17:

    “Pool project is inappropriate
    In April, I attended a presentation about the planned aquatic center at Northgate High School.
    The estimated cost is $7.5 million, of which $6.7 million comes from Measure C bonds. The Measure C voter pamphlet does not list new sports facility construction in the project summary.
    This aquatic center is the most expensive nonacademic construction project for the entire Mt. Diablo school district, based on my review of the Measure C Bond Oversight Committee website Budget Summary.
    I have heard that Northgate would like to complete an engineering laboratory but is $200,000 short. So Northgate plans to construct a swimming pool (not revealed as a Measure C project) that will serve about 100 students, according to the presentation, while an engineering lab, that would help educate badly needed engineers, languishes for lack of funds.
    A primary mission of our high schools is career and college readiness, not training athletes.
    In good faith, the Mt. Diablo school board must re-prioritize Measure C spending and redirect Northgate High administration to focus on its academic education mission.
    Don McCarthy
    Walnut Creek”

  30. Reality Check Says:

    A.J. #36 YES! YES! I think Cheryl Hansen has gotten some payback for being treated in an unprofessional manner but it is the same thing: everybody is out for themselves at this district. Dr. Lawrence was eliminated but most agree his major faux pas was being detached. What about the people acting like district funds are their personal funds? The board should speak with the workers -in private – if they want to know where the skeletons are. Workers are scared of retaliation when they have every right to complain. Asking them to go to board meeting and “speak up” is ludicrous. If there was a working management profile they would not need to take individual issues to the Superintendent’s office! It is the boards’ loss. As far as their fiscal department: keep copies of your timesheets! Dozen or so complaints? R U serious? There are a dozen or so complaints at my site alone. The assistant at my site complained so many times she decided to go to Dr. Lawrence. He never responded. Another employee went into Dr. Lawrence’s office to complain. Not available and never contacted this employee. I agree nothing internal will work at this point.

  31. g Says:

    Can I have a second for the millions that are going into YV’s football field. Replacement of 6 year old turf that came with an unconditional 10 year warranty? Architect and engineer work and rework and rework. Fighting the neighbors for lights and sound wall placement. Cost of the project hit well over a $million before shovel even hit dirt.

    Oh, yeah…I remember…”you scratch my back while I fight against the charter, and I’ll scratch your back and pour many extra millions into ‘your’ school.” “There might even be a promotion or two in it.”

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The neighbors at YVHS have also complained that field lights, etc. were not on the Measure C projects list. The community meeting for this project is at 7 p.m. June 11 in the YVHS library and the district is accepting comments on the EIR through June 17:

    Meanwhile, the district appears to have lost out on an opportunity to secure millions of dollars in matching project funds for “shovel ready” projects from the state. Nine other East Bay districts are getting more than $57.5 million in Prop. 1A, 1D, 47 and 55 funds:
    Did MDUSD even apply?

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    This is classified employees’ week, a time to recognize school secretaries, instructional assistants, custodians, bus drivers and other non-certificated staff for the important work they do:

    At the MDUSD Academy Awards, Sandy Davis of MDHS won the award for “Classified Employee at a School Site.” Other finalists were Carlene Hunt of Horizons and Mary Anne Shaw of CPHS. The winner in the Classified Employee Not at a School Site award was Debbie Hermens of the district office. Other finalists were Jojo Miguel and Edgar Sandoval. A big “thank you” to all classified employees in the district!

  34. g Says:

    I highly recommend reading the court’s findings in Dr J’s link on #78!

    The people fighting the lights at YVHS asked for better understanding and cooperation from the district, so now it only takes about a half hour to download the EIR—for anyone who wants to read the full bull-story. It’s on the homepage.

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another note, I attended the Education Finance Forum at Pleasant Hill City Hall last night and am uploading video clips at Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to record Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s opening comments, but I plan to write a story about the event.
    MDUSD Board President Cheryl Hansen, Vice President Barbara Oaks and Trustee Linda Mayo were there. And although several superintendents came from as far away as Benicia and Dublin, MDUSD Interim Superintendent John Bernard was not there, to my knowledge.

  36. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s the link to the YVHS EIR:

  37. Doctor J Says:

    The district better get ahead of this issue before they hear from either the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association or Pacific Legal Foundation and get an injunction and damages suit slapped on them. If its not on the “specific list” you can’t use Measure C funds. I have been saying that since 2010.

  38. watch Says:

    J@87: Who prepared and signed agreements with contractors to use Measure C funds for MDUSD facility improvements that were not on the Measure C Projects List? What other projects were inappropriately (illegally?) paid for out of Measure C funds? Is this another story for TH?

  39. g Says:

    The ‘story’ would make itself just by publishing the MDUSD “detailed list” — if a detailed list could be found.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Alicia Minyen has been telling the CBOC for more than a year that the district can only spend Measure C money on projects listed. But, the bond counsel hired by Greg Rolen said it wasn’t necessary to specifically list individual projects. Instead, she said it was OK to list general categories of work at district schools. Now, the question is whether the interim general counsel and interim superintendent agree with the bond counsel.

  41. g Says:

    The only real way to protect the students’ educations and both current and future taxpayer is for the courts to decide.

    After the mess this district has made in the past few years, they should hold on to that last $78million for a long time. They’ll need it to refinance and pay balloons on the earlier offerings. And I hope all the new HVACs and all those plywood modular buildings last for 25 years. It’ll take them that long to get another construction bond out of us.

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The Measure C campaign poll showed that many voters did not support the use of bond money to fund athletic facilities. Instead, voters supported the use of bond money to fund repairs of leaky roofs and new science labs. So, this is what bond advertising stressed.

  43. Paul Kitchell Says:

    References to “neighbors” complaints, statements, etc (e.g. “the neighbors at YVHS have also complained that field lights, etc., were not on the Measure C projects list”), must refer specifically to the Pepper Tree neighborhood (which backs up to the school). Other local neighborhoods, like my own (Ygnacio Wood), have, in general, a more positive view of the project.

    In the various letters, specifically from neighbors, contained in the draft EIR, only two (that I saw) refer to the potential misuse of Measure C funds. Almost all refer to concerns with 1) Noise 2) Vibration from construction 3) Transportation/Traffic during events (basically, this was one letter, sent individually by multiple homeowners). Other issues noted by a few were garbage, aesthetics, drainage, loss of property values, impact on quality of life, etc. All reasonable points that should be discussed. Again though, little reference was made to the legality of the project funding.

    That now said, it will be interesting to see if the discussion on how to mitigate the neighbors concerns devolves into litigation based on objections not previously raised by those most affected, as a means to simply stop the project.

  44. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The board will hold a special meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the superintendent search, but the agenda won’t be posted the district’s website until Tuesday morning:

  45. Anonymous Says:

    Weren’t the bleachers and field lighting improved at the football field at Northgate High School? Has there been a complaint of potential misuse of Measure C funds at Northgate as well?

  46. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe there was a lawsuit that was eventually settled. As previously mentioned, the bond counsel contended the use of funds was appropriate. I don’t think the lawsuit went to trial.

  47. Doctor J Says:

    If there was any doubt that Steven Lawrence had to go, read about MDUSD’s poor academic report released yesterday by Calif Dept of Education.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    According to the CC Times database, MDUSD had six schools ranked 10, but none of those was also ranked 10 compared to similar schools:

    MDUSD had three schools ranked 1, including two that were also ranked 1 compared to similar schools. Those two were Meadow Homes Elementary and Oak Grove MS, which have both received School Improvement Grants this year. It will be very interesting to see how these two schools score in 2013.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a Memorial Day weekend post that includes memories of College Park High grad Paul Sonstein, who died in Vietnam, from his sister:

    I have been having technical difficulties uploading the photo she sent, but I hope to attach it later.

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