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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. Anonymous Says:

    The Board agenda for May 20 is posted, and Dr. Bernard has been selected as the interim. The draft separation agreements are posted as well, which include very positive letters of recommendation. The letters are so positive that one wonders why the Board would release such fine leaders of the district.

  2. g Says:

    By any account, the 5/20 agenda is the most interesting and comprehensive we have seen in a very long time.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    G 2, did you read these separation agreements? Lawrence has an obligation to seek comparable work, and if he obtains it, the District is relieved of its duty to pay the buyout, or only pays the difference in pay if Lawrence’s new salary is lower. There is no letter of recommendation attached for Lawrence, while Rolen negotiated a very positive letter of reference. Rolen’s agreement does not require him to seek comparable work, and he will keep his buyout pay even if he has a new positon, meaning he has the potential to pull a double salary for six months. Rolen will likely make money off his release.

  4. g Says:

    Yes, I read them. Lawrence’s follows terms of his contract. Rolen’s is cheap at twice the cost. He had to go!

    I found the Mildred Browne agreement the most interesting. We will never know the down & dirty or if all who should be terminated over her legal claim and departure have been dealt with properly.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    G#4, what do you think of the letter of recommendation? Do you see it as a necessary evil? I would gander Rolen demanded it in exchange for signing the agreement, and the board finally acquiesced. Will they be holding their nose as they vote to approve the agreement? If you believe that the board believes what is in that letter, their is no basis to find new counsel.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    G#4, BTW, I agree, there is much the public will never know. Unlike San Juan, where they are conducting a full investigation, this is all being buried with these agreements.

  7. Jim Says:

    @5 — Anybody in the public or private sector who puts much stock in a recommendation letter like this has no business being involved in hiring decisions. Fortunately, Google makes all such non-confidential letters immaterial. If Rolen actually spent much time “negotiating” that letter, then he is not nearly as “clever” as so many have suggested.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    FCMAT has reported both were fired — every district in the state knows that. The letters are so phony no one will believe them. The Supt search firms know this. It seems to me that they both would have been better off with their own explanations rather that ones from the district that contradict their records.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    It’s the principle of the matter. If the board wants to create an ethical and transparent environment at MDUSD, beginning that process by signing a “phony” letter that directly contradicts statements made in open session by Hansen and Oaks seems to go against the very environment the Board says it is striving to create.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    The Rolen letter does not require any signatures of Board members.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    J10, the reference letter ends, “Sincerely, The Mt. Diablo Board of Education.” The letter is also incorporated by reference in the separation agreement, which is signed by all board members. Taking that all together, the board is in effect “signing” the reference letter.

  12. g Says:

    There is only one item on the agenda that requires deep scrutiny in the light of recent departmental complaints here. That is the salary increase Bryan Richards has embedded under the title of “Reclassification” to give a $6,985.00 raise to his Chief Accountant without ANY ‘reclassification’ whatsoever. The agenda item indicates this is being done at the will of the DMA—. With the DMA board pretty well wiped out by past and current retirements, I can’t help but wonder who exactly wants to see that one person jump the pay scale by that extravagant amount–and WHY?

    I don’t mind people getting a raise when it is due, but this position was increased over $5,300 just last year, and now Richards wants to raise it again by $6,900 a year later??? Over $12K base increase in just two years??????


    I would suggest that the letter of recommendation for Rolen is worth less than the ink to print it. It does, however brag of his involvement in matters that, should they ever end in court, could be used as evidence against him. One should always be very careful what they brag about when they write their own letter of recommendation.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    G@12, don’t be surprised if you see Rolen back working for the district through FFF-the letter may be worth far more than you realize….

  14. Jim Says:

    @11 and 13 — Haven’t you ever gone through some sort of “formality” to get someone to call off their lawyer, shut up, and go away? The only person who might use that letter is Sherry Whitmarsh, if she gets back on the board (as seems to be the intent of all of her recent pot-stirring). In some pointless gesture, SHE might brandish it, thinking it means something. But, as always, everyone else will know better.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Jim @14, actually, no, because I won’t give in to a bully, but the board did. It’s the failure to stand up to him that lead to this conclusion in the first place.

  16. Doctor J Says:

    I guess Steven Lawrence, Julie B-M, Greg Rolen hid a signed copy of Mildred Browne’s settlement agreement from Dececember 28, 2012. Now we should be entitled to see her “Government Claim” filed November26,2012. Theresa, are you going to request that ? Should make quite a story to counter those phony letters.

  17. g Says:

    Yes, the claim has been confirmed in a public agenda now, which should make it fair game for full public disclosure under a PRA request — names could be redacted, but not the rest of the facts.

    I still don’t think it was ever formally filed as a tort claim–or ever went beyond a ‘paper’ threat with EEOC.

    If it never went through a formal claim process/ arbitration/ALJ opinion, then it was pure extortion, settled by a bribe and cover-up.

    If extortion/bribe alone weren’t illegal enough, there is always the “theft of services” and “gift of public funds” to fall back on. — IF the taxpayers had any protection at all by a DA or Grand Jury worth their lunch bill.

    The taxpayers who are paying the $300K or so should, at the very least, be told the grounds for that debt.

    Interesting…. I wonder what Jayne Williams would decide if she were asked to provide it.

  18. watch Says:

    17 & 18; I’m curious…if this is true, and known, why aren’t Lawrence and Rolen being let go for cause? Why are taxpayers continuing to pay out more money to two men who have been so unethical in their work in the district? Why sign the settlement agreements Monday if new information might be coming forth? I also wonder if those who have blogged of unethical and corrupt practices might start to come forward without fear of retailiation with these men gone.

  19. watch Says:

    I meant J@16 & G@17

  20. Anon Says:

    An interesting turn of events … Principal John McMorris is leading the charge to write a charter petition for Northgate High School along with a number of parents from the community. Many on the faculty there are well-aware of the plan as the petition needs 51% of the teachers to sign it. Teachers seem skeptical and seem to think Steve Lawrence may be behind it. Rolen’s name has also been brought up in the meetings. It sounds like the charter petition is already in the works.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    Dr. John Bernard knows how to clean up a dysfunctional district. I don’t know how many of you went all the way through his resume to the “addendum” but he was appointed by the former State Supt. Jack O’Connell as the King City Union High School District from 2009-2012 — a whole three years.

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Still, it’s surprising that the resume addendum doesn’t mention Total School Solutions or even note that the King City Union High School District was changed to the South Monterey County High School district, as is noted on his online Total School Solutions profile:

    In terms of transparency, it would have been better to include the Total School Solutions work on the resume addendum.

    Here’s my story about tomorrow’s meeting:

  23. g Says:

    Bernard seems well qualified to work as INTERIM Supt for 3-4 months–tops. Let’s hope the board gets what they can from him, and him alone.

    The last thing we need is for him to pad the pockets of TSS by bringing them in for EXTRA contracts for this specialist to do this– and that specialist to do that–to milk the district.

    Keep in mind; he will be under pressure from TSS to do just that.

  24. g Says:

    Top questions: Will the Bernard contract be directly with Bernard alone? If so, that’s fine if the board keeps a tight rein, and they should temporarily lower or even suspend (zero out) the amount a Supt may spend without prior board approvel.

    Or, is it a contract actually with TSS to ‘rent’ Bernard to us for a while? If so…tighten the reins even more.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The contract has been posted:

    It is with Bernard and it requires him to work exclusively for the district during that time period.

    However, if the governor’s budget is adopted, the district will be required to figure out how to spend its portion of the $1 billion being distributed for Common Core implementation (about $270 per student) and how to spend the money the district would receive in supplemental grants (and concentration grants, if applicable) to best serve English learners, low-income students and foster youth. It’s possible outside consultants could be tapped to help come up with these plans.

  26. Alicia Says:

    @20…Does anyone know how the new funding formula would impact charter schools?

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Alicia: I’m at a School Services of CA Budget Workshop this morning and am live tweeting at I’ll let you know what I find out about charters. It looks like the district’s claimed financial impact from CVCHS would be moot, since districts would be funded according to grade spans. So, the district would get more money per student for all of its 9-12th graders than it does for elementary and middle school students.

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It sounds like charter schools would receive funding in the same way as traditional schools, with base grants and supplemental and/or concentration grants for English learners, low-income students and foster youth. Based on this, CVCHS would likely receive less funding per student than MDUSD schools such as MDHS and YVHS, which have large English learner and low-income student populations. Also, as noted in my last post, the base per student funding would be allocated according to grade spans, so MDUSD would receive the same amount for all of its high school students as CVCHS, reducing the financial impact on the district to $0 (unless you count the loss of special education encroachment money for students in other schools and the loss of revenues going toward district central services).
    In addition, the governor’s proposal requires the district to spend the supplemental and concentration grant funds received at the school sites where the English learners, low-income students and foster youth are enrolled. This means the district can’t divert the extra money to pay district administrators or give across-the-board raises. The district will have to be strategic and actually put programs in place at school sites to help disadvantaged students.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In an interesting turn of events, Trustee Brian Lawrence is reporting that he cannot participate in tonight’s board meeting because his out-of-town location wasn’t posted on the agenda 72 hours in advance:

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The Pleasant Hill Education Commission will meet Wednesday to discuss the upcoming Education Finance Forum and MDUSD issues:

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The Pleasant Hill Education Initiative is hosting fingerprinting 6/1 and TB tests 6/13 for MDUSD volunteers:

    It’s unclear whether this is only for Pleasant Hill residents or if any district volunteer can sign up.

  32. Doctor J Says:

    @#29 Since Cheryl Hansen has no access to post to the agenda, I wonder which two staff members are going to take responsibility for not posting Brian Lawrence’s location to the agenda.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#27&28 Will each school be allocated separately or will CVCHS be included in the MDUSD allocation for its grade span. As of now the CVCHS enrollment is still included in the MDUSD enrollmentand MDUSD is charged with paying out the ADA to CVCHS.

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    They didn’t get into that level of detail, so I’m assuming it would be done the same as it has been done in the past. The only difference is the amount MDUSD would receive for CVCHS students would match the amount it would pay out per ADA.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    The problem with “lease-leaseback” is that it should be the exception, not the rule. Instead in MDUSD it has become the rule—not the exception. Lets start putting them out for bid — not lease back.

  36. A.J. Fardella Says:

    The board approved lease-lease back contracts where there was no public notice and the contractors who were asked to submit bids were obviously not entities who would be interested, except for the two who seem to be getting all the contracts.
    This board has not advanced the District if it implements the travesties set up by the purged personnel !!!

  37. wiseguy Says:

    What happened with the approval of the Lawrence and Rolen separation agreements?

  38. g Says:

    A.J.–Totally agree! The board chooses to ignore the highly competent observations, opinions, reports and warnings of long term Measure C Oversight Committee members who are involved and educated in the construction trades.

    At this rate, maybe they should just hand Cody the damn checkbook and stop wasting the time of the CBOC, the Taxpayer advice groups and the public.

    I really did not believe Hansen would be so gullible.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The approval of the separation agreements was postponed until June 3.

  40. Doctor J Says:

    Today there is a new pharaoh – I suspect we will see a new enthusiasm among some and among some others will be searching Edjoin.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    @G#38 Has Measure C 2010 ever put a single project out to bid or have they all been lease/leasebacks ?

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my short online story about the meeting:

    I will update it today.

  43. Alicia Says:

    @36…I agree! A kind reminder to the Measure C team and board…bond proceeds are public funds, other people’s money, which should be managed and spent prudently and within the intent of the law. MDUSD’s use of lease leasebacks appear to be arranged for the sole intent of circumventing competitive bidding. One big clue is that MDUSD’s lease leasebacks are paid in full by bond proceeds once the construction/service is complete contrary to a traditional lease leaseback that provides for long term financing by and between the developer and the district. I’m questioning how an in house project management team is saving money…as Petersen and Lawrence represented.

  44. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Alicia, Please note that the district’s lease-leaseback attorney presented a PowerPoint to the members of the CBOC informally on May 16, since there wasn’t a quorum. He asked that it not be videotaped and he not be quoted, so I honored that request. However, you can see the print version of the presentation on the CBOC website at:

    Two board members said last night that they didn’t remember receiving this Powerpoint from Cody, even though he said he emailed it to them last Thursday night.

    At the informal meeting, John Parker expressed concerns about the lease-leaseback process. Also, the committee chair said she still intends to have a meeting about the annual report in June.

  45. Doctor J Says:

    The last minutes of Board meetings that have been posted are March 25 nearly two months ago — what is going on ?

  46. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district has started posting Board Action Summaries. Here’s the one for May 20: Also, of course, the district now livestreams regular meetings and posts audio from meetings at:

    As has been previously mentioned, the superintendent’s secretary left the district to accept a position at the County Office of Education. In the meantime, it’s my understanding that Bev Heppler, Lori Amenta and Denise Larkins had been filling in. Now, Vonda Boucher (Rose Lock’s retired secretary) is filling in as a sub secretary in the superintendent’s office. Hopefully, there is now enough secretarial support at Dent to produce the minutes.

  47. Doctor J Says:

    Lorene obviously did not want to be questioned about where the bodies are buried.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    WCCUSD is actually surveying its community to help develop its strategic plan:

    Although a community survey was one of Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s performance goals, it was stalled while he and General Counsel Greg Rolen investigated whether such a survey would be legal. After determining there were no legal problems with doing a districtwide survey, Lawrence and Rolen never got around to actually moving forward with it.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my story about last night’s meeting:

  50. When does it stop? Says:

    Bryan Richards still doesn’t get it and that is a old and new board failure to put this guy back in his office and supervise him. Absolutely crazy to give these morphed clerical people higher and higher job titles and pay. Chief accountant with what credentials? These are complicated clerical jobs that have gotten out of control. This position does not qualify to be called a chief accountant and is at a ridiculous rate already. Same little group. The mommy-posse. Another clerk, ejected from Personnel for her combative nature found a home with Bryan and now makes almost $90k a year for entering staff moves from one site to another. If the board goes along with any more nonsense from Richards we need a recall. There are now some SIX managers for 15 employees in Fiscal, all making about or over 100k and not doing a very good job. This is really the last straw for me.

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