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Mt. Diablo school board names superintendent finalist from San Diego

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 at 7:21 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

I received an e-mail from Mt. Diablo school board President Cheryl Hansen this afternoon that names Dr. Nellie Meyer, who is a Deputy Superintendent in San Diego, as the finalist for the superintendent position.

Hansen said she sent the following letter to district staff updating them on the appointment process and she wanted to make sure that I also received the information, which she said I could share with the public. Here is Hansen’s letter:

“August 7, 2013

TO: Mt. Diablo Unified School District Staff

FROM: Cheryl Hansen, Board President

RE: Update on Appointment of New Superintendent

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District Board of Education is pleased to announce that we have unanimously chosen Dr. Nellie Meyer as the finalist for the position of Superintendent. Currently, Dr. Meyer is Deputy Superintendent in San Diego Unified School District.

Final negotiations for a contract are in progress. As part of the final process, the board will conduct a validation visit within the next two weeks to Dr. Meyer’s district and hold teleconferences between MDUSD and SDUSD stakeholder groups. The Board expects that ratification of the appointment of Dr. Nellie Meyer as our district’s next superintendent will occur at our regular board meeting on August 28, 2013.

Based on the feedback received from our parents, staff, and community
members and, after a rigorous screening and interview process, Dr. Meyer was chosen from an outstanding field of candidates as the best match for our district needs.

Dr. Meyer’s experience and credentials are exactly what we need in our district.

She has developed strong connections among community, district, schools, and classrooms and worked to ensure that schools are positive learning environments that are supported and focused on improving student achievement and preparing students for college and careers. She has engendered trust, fostered collaboration and communication, built and maintained relationships while raising expectations and increasing student success.

Dr. Meyer, a native San Diegan, began as a teacher’s aide at Jackson
Elementary while she attended San Diego State University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She also received her Master’s Degree in Administration and her Doctoral Degree in Education from SDSU. Dr. Meyer holds teaching credentials in Social Science, English, and Language Development. She has taught everything from fifth grade literacy to eighth grade Algebra to twelfth grade Economics.

Dr. Meyer has presented at national conferences on topics including school turnaround, dropout prevention, and school system best practices. She has also led and served on numerous community task forces designed to further student achievement at all grade levels, partner with universities, and support at-risk youth.

Prior to her current position, Dr. Meyer served as a middle school teacher, high school teacher, dean of students, vice principal, principal, Assistant Superintendent of High Schools, Chief High School Improvement Officer, Executive Director of Dropout Prevention, Interim Chief Elementary School Improvement Officer, Interim Deputy Superintendent, and Deputy Superintendent of Academics.

The Board of Education made our decision with input gathered from key
stakeholder groups in Mt. Diablo USD regarding the qualities desired in the next superintendent. Dr. Michael Escalante and Dr. Sally Frazier, consultants from the firm of Leadership Associates, assisted us in our search.

Dr. Meyer is honored to have been chosen and excited about serving our community. She looks forward to the opportunity to share successes that she has implemented as well as to support programs that are successfully in place in our district.

The Board of Education is equally excited and optimistic about the positive leadership that Dr. Meyer will bring to our school community.”

Do you agree with the school board’s decision?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • Doctor J

    I think the Times should offer a “prize” for the first Nellie & Martin Meyer “siting” in CoCoCounty. Rumor is they will be looking for housing beginning this weekend.

  • Doctor J

    FCMAT reports school district whistleblower settles for $400,000. http://www.sacbee.com/2013/08/23/5674203/twin-rivers-unified-official-gets.html

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is more coverage of the recent developments in San Diego: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/San-Diego-School-District-Tackles-Adult-on-Child-Bullying-220809721.html

    Hopps-Tatum said in an email that Meyer was not asked to participate in the Focus Group, which formed about two months ago (long before she announced her plans to leave). This is somewhat surprising, since Meyer’s department is directly responsible for handling abuse complaints, according to the district’s response to the Grand Jury: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/viewer?a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1.1&thid=140a2debc1de3c8a&mt=application/pdf&url=https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/?ui%3D2%26ik%3De3866c5a2a%26view%3Datt%26th%3D140a2debc1de3c8a%26attid%3D0.1.1%26disp%3Dsafe%26zw&sig=AHIEtbQRBc0zrDVuM2o–rCumNNuf9ANJg

    It says: “The District has undertaken a new organization, which includes (among other things) reassignment of its Parent Support Liaisons to the department of the Deputy Superintendent of Support Services, Complaints of aduit-to-student bullying, etc. will be handled by this department and not by the Area Superintendente or school administrators. The relevant Administrative Procedures will be revised to reflect the new structure.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    Although Board President Cheryl Hansen told me on Wednesday that she would try to get me the names of the people the board interviewed in San Diego, she is now declining to provide that information. Here’s what she said in an email I just received:

    “The stakeholder groups in both San Diego and Mt. Diablo were as follows: Cabinet, District Administrators/Directors/Managers, Site Administrators, Classified Staff, Certificated Staff, Community/Advisory Groups, Parents/Business/College Leaders.

    As our interviews with these groups were a Closed Session Personnel matter, I will not be releasing the names of the individuals who participated.”

    As previously noted, this is in stark contrast to the way the previous board handled its interviews related to former Superintendent Steven Lawrence in San Diego, during an open meeting which I attended. They were all identified by name and gave information about where they worked.

  • Doctor J

    I don’t find it surprising — it makes it a more independent and impartial review if those then responsible are not asked to review their own actions. Transfer of the adult to student bullying complaints away from the Area Supts makes sense since there will be less chance of coverup and improper influence. Who in MDUSD investigates complaints of Adult to Student bullying ? Rose Lock, the same person that evaluates the principals, hires the principals, and hires the staff. MDUSD is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s Dan Borenstein’s take on the closed session meeting in San Diego and the San Diego district police action barring one member of the public from attending and speaking: http://www.contracostatimes.com/editorial/ci_23928315/contra-costa-times-editorial-so-much-new-era

    FYI, I have just spoken to Meyer. She appears to be open to speaking to the press, which is a good sign from my perspective. More to come…

  • Doctor J

    Dan Borenstein does a good job of pointing out not only the illegality of the whole fiasco, but the hypocrisy that has now tainted an otherwise positive step for MDUSD. I don’t think we can blame Dr. Nellie for the missteps of the Board.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have just spoken to two parents who were part of the closed session and had very positive things to say about Meyer. They said MDUSD is lucky to get her and they are “devastated” that she is leaving.

  • Doctor J
  • g

    Strategic Initiative 1.1 Academic Excellence and Learning. I’m embarrassed for the half million dollars worth of employees who wrote, approved, signed off on item 9.12 with copyright misspelled no fewer than 5 times.

  • Doctor J

    @G#160 How embarrassing — does MDUSD give passing grades for spelling errors ? Looks like the author is “Assistant Director” Lori O., with rubber stamps by “Asst Supt” Rose and “Interim Supt” Bernard [I think he was out of town and someone had access to his approval which creates more questions but at least the ghost of Loreen Joseph did not approve this one].

  • Doctor J

    MDUSD gets “F” in spelling by administrators — “SuperintendAnt” on official document received stamp in Supt’s office, and now on the Board agenda submitted by SASS, with items required to be submitted a week or more ahead — “copy write” 5 times instead of “copyright”. Maybe its time for Asst Supt Personnel Julie B-M to include a spelling test with employee applications — but would be qualified to grade it ?

  • Bella Nguyen-Garcia

    The content of the email sent on August 7 from Mt. Diablo school board President Cheryl Hansen to Theresa Harrington is 100% accurate. It is unfortunate that Ms. Harrington’s objective reporting has taken a back seat to newsstand tabloid-style journalism when she fell prey to Sally Smith, Judy Neufeld-Fernandez, and Susan Hopps-Tatum.

    These three publicity-crazed women, operating under the pretense of being advocates for children, are themselves relentless bullies. What hypocrites! Sally Smith, the ringleader, has filed so many frivolous uniform complaints that she is infamous to California Department of Education staff that process them.

    It is also unfortunate that Ms. Harrington wasn’t at SDUSD’s back to school managers meeting on August 23. When the superintendent introduced her leadership and instructional cabinets,ONLY Dr. Meyer received a standing ovation from all the school and district administrators in attendance. The applause was heartfelt and thunderous! Dr. Meyer’s departure to MDUSD is an immeasurable loss for SDUSD, and yesterday’s standing ovation is testament that principals and central office managers and staff are mindful of this fact.

    Dr. Meyer, you’ll be much happier working in a school district and with a school board that appreciates and respects an experienced leader who puts the best interest of kids first, is down to earth, approachable, intelligent, has integrity, a long record of proven success, and a big heart.

  • Sue Berg

    Theresa, #156, I tried to post the following comment on the page with the editorial you cite, but it did not “take,” so here it is:

    I’m befuddled by the Times’ criticizing the MDUSD Board for lack of transparency re: the superintendent process. Back on August 7 President Hansen personally sent the Times (via you, the education reporter) her letter to district staff naming the finalist for the position. This date was fully three weeks before the Board is scheduled to vote on the candidate (August 28). During this time there has been plenty of opportunity for anyone, but especially the press, to research the candidate, talk to people of one’s own choosing in San Diego, and share findings and opinions with the MDUSD Board and the public.

    The meetings the MDUSD Board held in San Diego last week were but one part of a fairly inclusive process. If the Times thought those meetings were to be a public airing of the candidate’s qualifications, why did it not send a reporter to cover them? The complaint about access came from one parent who had already made her opinions quite public through the On Assignment blog and, I would assume, in messages directly to the MDUSD Board members.

    Rather than applaud Ms. Hansen for letting the public know the name and background of the finalist weeks before the actual vote, the Times criticizes the MDUSD Board for allowing people to state their opinion of the candidate in a confidential setting. While there may not have been public comment, it seems as if all stakeholder groups were included in those sessions.

    I agree that the MDUSD leadership has not always been forthcoming in communicating with the public or interacting with the press. In this case, however, the leadership did make information available to one and all in a most timely manner. Frankly the Times editors seemed more interested in printing negative comments from two San Diego parents and writing yet another negative editorial about MDUSD than in actually reporting on the important story of the county’s largest school district’s search for a new superintendent and the educator being recommended for the position.

  • SD Parent

    I am a San Diego Unified parent who took part in the meetings last week. While everyone says they were “closed door,” it did not appear that way. No one monitored who entered the room, and I did not see any school police or school personnel screening those who showed up to the meeting. I wasn’t even aware it was “closed door.” I believe the MDUSD is lucky to have Nellie, who always puts kids first. Also know that other parents who post negative comments on this or any other site and say “WE,” which appears to me to refer to all parents, do NOT speak for all, or even many, parents. Nellie is intelligent, caring, accessible, and most importantly, has integrity. Good choice, MDUSD. Big loss for San Diego Unified.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is my story about Meyer: http://www.contracostatimes.com/concord/ci_23931500/mt-diablo-school-board-is-poised-appoint-new

    SD Parent: Thanks for your perspective. It was my impression that the other parents you referenced who used the word “we” were referring to the group that filed the Grand Jury complaint, which includes nine families.

    Sue: I cannot speak for our editorial department. However, I agree with you that Hansen’s decision to release Meyer’s name early as the finalist was a step in the right direction in terms of transparency. Unfortunately, due to a tight budget, the Times did not send a reporter to San Diego. But, even if I or another reporter had tried to attend the meeting, I would not have been able to attend the closed sessions or to find out who was interviewed. Also, Hansen told me that she asked Meyer to put together the stakeholders, who were interviewed in groups. Similarly, the previous board asked former Superintendent Steven Lawrence to gather stakeholders from his community to for a board interview in West Sacramento, but that meeting was public. There have been three parents who have contacted me regarding frustrations with Meyer: Judy Fernandez-Neufeld, who spoke during public comment; Sally Smith, who was barred by San Diego school district police from attending and speaking; and Susan Hopps-Tatum, who was unable to attend the meeting, but has spoken to me over the phone and via e-mail about her concerns.

    I am certainly planning to continue covering this important story and I will do another blog post with more of the comments I received from Meyer, two parents who participated in the closed session and Bill Kowbata, the former superintendent in San Diego. Also, Meyer has promised to grant me an interview on Friday. I spoke with her by phone last Friday, but was not able to include all of her comments in today’s story.

  • Doctor J

    @Bella#163 & SD Parent#165: Thank you for your solid endorsements of Dr. Nellie. She has her work cut out for her — take a look on Thursday at the API & AYP scores for the individual schools in MDUSD. Along with you, I don’t believe Dr. Nellie will let those students languish another year with inept leadership.

  • Anon

    @Bella – Well said. I applaud the MDUSD board for the very thorough work they did in finding Dr. Meyer.

  • Doctor J

    I compared the current proposed contract for Dr. Nellie and apparently written by Jayne Williams, Interim General Counsel, with the “addendums” approved in March 2013, written by FFF. The Fagan agreements spelled out the details of the requirement for reimbursements under certain conditions [see March 11 agenda] and the Williams agreement just specifies the sections of the Government Code without detailing the reimbursements. Two very different styles. Of note is that the Board negotiated a lower base salary for Dr. Nellie [$245,000] than that approved in Nov 2009 for Steven Lawrence [$249,000]. This might be a good clue to watch in the coming months as to whether certain Asst Supts will have their contracts renewed and reduction of salaries. It would not surprise me one iota to see Dr. Nellie bring in as a temporary consultant Admiral Bill to unravel the Bryan Richards theory of bookkeeping, and to provide some advice on organizational restructuring to improve efficiencies, SASS being a major target. As for administrative reassignments, on Thursday, any school that had a 25 point API DROP might see a principal reassignment in the next 60 days. Under Dr. Nellie, I believe we will see student achievement with a higher priority than administrator friendships — she won’t wait until next year.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Back on the subject of transparency, kudos to Tim Cody for posting his solar credit PowerPoint well before the meeting on Wednesday: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/b839f942-0314-4e8f-8419-9b4711823a89.pdf

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, where the board also expects to appoint three high school vice principals (most likely YVHS, NGHS and CPHS): http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_agendaview.aspx?mtgId=389

    Note that Gretchen Jacobs has resigned.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#70 Can you interpret ? Sounds just like estimates not actual results. And what does this little footnote mean ? “Not all district electric meters were included for solar hook up as PG and E does not typically allow multiple solar connected meters. Therefore this data only reflects solar connected meters.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    Hopefully a board member will ask about that.

  • Sue Berg

    Theresa, at 10:09 am,
    Sorry to belabor the point, but I’m just concerned about the Times’ objectivity in reporting on MDUSD.

    You don’t know how you or another reporter would have been received before, during, or after the meeting(s) in San Diego because no reporter tried to attend. Your blog report on the meeting and the Times editorial are based on the complaint from a disgruntled parent. Your story today, though still giving considerable space to Meyer’s three critics, is much more balanced.

    Budget constraints may have kept you from traveling to San Diego, but not from trying to contact a variety of people there. No one was or is restricted from calling anyone in San Diego Unified to solicit an opinion about Dr. Meyer. I’ve been called to give opinions about people who would not have listed me as a reference. One of my prospective employers called people not on my reference list.

    I know you make the effort to provide balanced reporting. Unfortunately, before other accounts of the meeting were reported (as some SDUSD parents have provided on your blog today), the editorial writer(s) felt compelled to rush to judgment on this matter. I hope the Times gives Dr. Meyer more than a little time in her new job before judging her, pro or con.

  • Doctor J

    @SueB#174 — You know I am very excited to have Dr. Nellie — its a very positive step forward — a very bright star in the sky — not a small step, but a giant leap for MDUSD. I viewed the CCT Editorial not as a criticism of Dr. Nellie, but rather pointing out the blemish on the process employed by the MDUSD Board. When the US Senate confirms presidential appointments, the hearings are not secret [except matters of National Security]. I think those interviews should have been “open” and I think the Brown Act requires it. I do not blame the Board for the SDUSD police tactics — I don’ think anyone imagined that as a potential roadblock. Rather than spend the money to interview Dr. Nellie’s hand picked supporters, I would rather have seen a professional executive investigative background check done confidentially like many companies do for their top management. This district has a $300,000,000 budget but it can’t afford more mistakes. I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw Dr. Nellie’s name there — as I had been following the San Diego USD Supt process as was evident on this blog when I posted about Cindy Marten, an elementary principal, being appointed new Supt of a 130,000 student district. Many thought Dr. Nellie should have been appointed. I am happy she brings the talent to our district. She has something no Supt in our district has had for a dozen years — A TRACK RECORD OF STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT ! Go Nellie !

  • Sue Berg

    Dr. J, #169
    Part of the rationale for a superintendent’s base salary is experience in the position. (Actually, that’s the case for any employee.) As this is Dr. Meyer’s first superintendency, it is not surprising that her base is lower than Dr. Lawrence’s was. He came to MDUSD with experience as a public school district superintendent. Similarly, the base salary for any employee (assistant supt., principal, teacher, classified staff, et al) considers experience in the position in the calculation.

  • Theresa Harrington

    When I googled Bella Nguyen-Garcia, I found this letter to the editor that she wrote after the SDUSD board passed over Meyer and other top administrators for the superintendent position there: http://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/03/05/new-sd-unified-chief-is-boards-politically-aligned-marionette/

    She used her freedom of speech when she voiced concerns about SDUSD Superintendent-elect Cindy Marten, calling her a “politically-aligned marionette.” Smith, Neufeld and Hopps-Tatum are also entitled to freedom of speech. Just as San Diego news media reported on the controversy surrounding the appointment of Marten, the Times would be remiss to ignore those who have opposing views regarding the appointment of Meyer.

  • Doctor J

    @SB#176 True in the abstract — But you can hardly say that Steven Lawrence had “more experience” with just 3 years in a 7,000 student district [no record of student achievement], with his previous position as an Asst Supt in a 7,000 student high school district [no record of student achievement], then bungee jumping to MDUSD’s 34,000 students [down now to 32,000] compared with Nellie Meyer’s many years as an Asst Supt and prior positions in a 138,000 district and a LIFETIME record of STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.

  • Doctor J

    With CAHSEE results published on Thursday, EVERY high school principal [Rose Lock & Bill Morones included] would be well advised to spend Labor Day Weekend reading and comprehending “Preventing High School Dropouts: What Do Students Believe Caused Them to Leave the Comprehensive High School?” Why ? Your CAHSEE results stink — and this was written just three years ago by Dr. Nellie Meyer. A word to the wise is sufficient.
    http://sdsu-dspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.10/539/Meyer_Nellie.pdf?sequence=1

  • Theresa Harrington

    As an aside, I see that she spelled “copyright” correctly.

  • Sue Berg

    Dr. J, #175
    You wrote, “I would rather have seen a professional executive investigative background check done confidentially like many companies do for their top management.” That’s what the search firm did as a first step in screening the applications. No need for “rather.” Many ways of gathering information were used.

    I did not see the editorial as a criticism of Dr. Meyer. (I don’t know her, so can’t call her Dr. Nellie.) It was yet another criticism of MDUSD, this time based on a complaint from one individual and without having anyone “on the ground” to verify it. And it ignored the fact that the MDUSD Board President publicly (and specifically to the Times) announced the name of the finalist THREE WEEKS BEFORE the Board vote. Can’t get more transparent than that.

    The Times had plenty of time to do its own investigation of the candidate and of the search process itself. To write a rather self-righteous editorial based on one comment in a story it did not choose to cover makes me, a long-time Times subscriber, wonder about the accuracy and objectivity of the news I read while sipping my Peet’s every morning.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Sue, Again, I am not speaking on behalf of the Editorial Board. But, I would like to point out that the editorial was not “based on one comment in a story.”
    The members of our Editorial Board sometimes do their own reporting, as they did in this instance. I did not call Jayne Williams to ask about the reason for the closed session. But, a member of our Editorial Board did. It’s my understanding that a member of our Editorial Board also spoke to Cheryl Hansen. That member of the editorial board also found out independently about the San Diego parent who was prevented from attending the meeting (perhaps because she sent out a press release about it).
    News stories and news editorials are produced independent of each other at the Times.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#180 ROTFLOL. I’m speechless.
    @SB#181 Actually Sue, the police wrongful intervention was confirmed by the Chief of Police. I agree with you about the transparency of the announcement 3 weeks ahead, but that was not the point of the editorial — it was about following the Brown Act law on open meetings — secret witnesses and secret testimony blemished “the legal process” of an otherwise outstanding and successful Superintendent search — which is no reflection on Dr. Nellie and therefore I continue to support her appointment and look forward to change to improve the educational opportunities. I have to admit that I was very skeptical of whether Leadership Associates could produce a top quality candidate so “late in the season” and with such a short application window. Nellie Meyer’s soon to be appointment is a giant leap forward for MDUSD.

  • Doctor J

    @SB#181 I went back to the LA contract attached to the Board agenda — you suggest that LA did a “professional executive investigative background check” as a “first step” in “screening the applications”. I don’t think we are talking the same. What LA did was less than what I described. They said they would: “Conduct in-depth reference checks on the applicants. We use our vast network of contacts and also use databases to make certain that reliable and in-depth information is gathered on each candidate.”
    I would hope the Board would have more from the investigators than just “reference checks and database information” but also run credit checks, speak to neighbors, business associates, and social contacts not selected by the candidate and run comprehensive civil and criminal background checks nationwide.
    Nevertheless, the Board has made their decision, and it appears to be head and shoulders over the 2009 selection. Time will tell.
    For Theresa, who missed the meeting and why ? Was it related to the “closed session” ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Trustee Brian Lawrence missed the meeting because he was out of town. I’m not sure if he was offered the opportunity to call in, or whether he would have been able to.

    Regarding the screening, Trustee Barbara Oaks said that Meyer looked very good on paper, but that the board wanted to ensure that she measured up in person and in the validation interviews. Oaks said Meyer’s interview and validation interviews confirmed the board’s initial impressions of the paper presentation.