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MDUSD superintendent aims to reorganize central office to improve accountability and support

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, May 16th, 2014 at 4:49 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

MDUSD Superintendent Nellie Meyer has unveiled a plan to overhaul the district office administrative chain of command.

MDUSD Superintendent Nellie Meyer has unveiled a plan to overhaul the district office administrative chain of command.

Dramatic changes are on the horizon in the Mt. Diablo school district’s central office.

Superintendent Nellie Meyer, who came to the district from San Diego last September, unveiled a reorganization plan Wednesday that would abolish the current chief financial officer position, along with three assistant superintendent positions responsible for personnel, special education and student services, and Student Achievement and School Support, known as SASS.

Her report came two days after the board voted Monday in closed session not to renew contracts for the current administrators who hold those four positions: CFO Bryan Richards and assistant superintendents Julie Braun-Martin, Kerri Mills and Rose Lock.

“It is really a product of the first six months of my going to many different schools and looking at the organization and going through and asking a lot of questions about how things work and how things are organized,” Meyer said. “What I found, which is not atypical, is that after the series of years of budget cuts, there were gaps in the support. And then also there is the age-old perception or reality of central office versus site, which occurs often in very large districts.”

Meyer’s report cited “a strong perception of a disconnect between the students and schools, and the central office referred to as ‘DENT.” The district office’s official name is the James W. Dent Education Center.

“It was unclear who really was in charge of certain departments,” Meyer said. “It was unclear where a school might find support for different things.”

Meyer’s plan includes three new assistant superintendent positions: one each for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.

“This is the structure by which we will see direct, responsive, clear lines of authority and support,” according to Meyer’s report. “All structures rely on strong staff, and the development and training of staff to these new roles will be ongoing. Staff will be required to think creatively, to problem-solve and to focus on our like mission of serving students.”

The assistant superintendents will be accountable for all academic and operational needs at the schools they oversee.

“This position is responsible for sharing and developing best practices, as well as ensuring equity of service,” Meyer’s report states. “In addition, they will be the point of contact to support the principal and community when resolving conflicts. As we continue to restore student supports, they will be responsible for a smooth implementation.”

Meyer also proposed creating two executive directors — one for operations and one for school support. Along with the general counsel, Meyer wants the executive directors and assistant superintendents to make up her “cabinet.” Now, the general counsel, chief financial officer and current assistant superintendents make up the superintendent’s council.

In the proposal, 10 administrators would report directly to Meyer: three assistant superintendents, two executive directors and five directors — one each for budget and fiscal services; human resources; Measure C bond construction projects; special projects; and college, career and adult school.

Meyer’s report calls for several of these top administrators to “be responsible for ensuring prompt, responsive, direct service” to schools and/or employees and the community.

The complete proposal is at http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=8526&mtgId=460.

Although the board appeared receptive to the plan, a special education parent expressed concerns about the elimination of an assistant superintendent level administrator overseeing special education services. Under the reorganization, a director of special education would report to the executive director of instructional support.

Meyer told the parent that she believes all directors should have direct access to the superintendent. She invited those with questions or concerns to e-mail her at meyern@mdusd.org.

The board expects to vote on the plan May 28.

Do you agree with the proposal?

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  • tmharrington

    FYI, I have received an anonymous letter alleging low morale at PHMS (which I believe, based on the content, is Pleasant Hill MS, not Pine Hollow MS). I am not comfortable listing the allegations, since I don’t know whether or not they are true.
    The two-page letter ends by saying: “Parents, staff and community members have gone to the district in the past for help and very little, if anything, seems to have happened. Staff has been hesitant to go to district leadership in the past for fear of reprisal by the principal. Teachers are leaving, and will continue to leave…..(edited out alleged reason). The new district leadership must investigate these issues and help to get PHMS back on the right track.”

    It’s unclear whether this letter was also sent to the new district leadership. These kinds of allegations are very difficult for me to investigate. So, I urge whoever wrote this to send the letter to Superintendent Meyer and the board, who are best suited to follow up. Dr. Meyer specifically stated that she expected the reorganization – with an assistant supt. for middle schools – to be able to respond quickly to problems. But, in the meantime, Meyer is the one to go to.

  • tmharrington

    Here’s the board action summary for the May 28 MDUSD board meeting, including the restoration of 5th grade instrumental music: http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Documents/action/2014/05-28-14.pdf

  • tmharrington

    It looks like many of the holes will be filled on Wednesday, when the board expects to appoint two assistant supts and many other positions: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_agendaview.aspx?mtgId=463

  • tmharrington

    The assistant supt position description doesn’t state the grade level it will oversee. The district is also seeking a director of personnel and a director of special ed: http://www.edjoin.org/searchResults.aspx?countyID=7&districtID=92

  • tmharrington

    Speaking of special ed, I just received a phone call from a divorced father of an autistic student who said the district is refusing to pick his son at one parent’s house and drop him off at the other parent’s house, saying it can only pick up and drop off at one address. I recall this being discussed at a previous CAC meeting. I know this Dad is not alone, since there are many divorced parents of special ed children who share custody. This Dad says his son won’t be able to go to summer school if the district won’t reconsider. Is this one of the left-over cost-cutting measures instituted by Rolen? Can’t the district get into legal trouble if it refuses to provide special ed transportation that best serves the student’s needs? Does this adhere to the district’s supposed motto of putting students first? It sounds more like it’s putting the transportation dept. first.

  • Doctor J

    Hypocrisy and concealment at its worst: 13 pre-ordained appointments “candidates have been selected” ???? Selected from what ? NO advertisement of their positions. NO interviews. NO application process. several say “title change” — so why the raises in salary ?? What a total farce and it looks like the board was secretly advised of all of this without a proper Brown Act agenda.

  • tmharrington
  • tmharrington

    Contrary to what the CAC blog calendar says, there is no CAC meeting tomorrow night, according to Kerri Mills’ secretary: http://mtdiablosped.blogspot.com/

  • Giorgio C

    When I first raised this matter regarding SSC protocol with a district official, they told me it is left up to the individual principals, that some principals are not comfortable with the SSC process. It’s the law. I work in a highly regulated environment and sometimes it gets uncomfortable. If I don’t like it, I can find a job elsewhere. WCCUSD parents are intentionally being shut out of this very important process and Dr. Harter is the reason.

  • tmharrington

    If a principal is “uncomfortable” with the SSC process, that principal should look for a new job. The district should tell principals they must abide by SSC rules.

  • Giorgio C

    In addition to the rules, the WCCUSD principals must abide by the LAWS, which they clearly are not.
    Did you get to view the Excel spreadsheet I sent you with the WCCUSD SSC data? I really believe the data warrants a complaint to the ACLU. Also, for Hercules Middle School, not one SSC meeting was held, or at least zero agendas were provided upon my request. Yet, the SPSA document submitted March 2014, states that a properly constituted SSC exists, implying that they reviewed, revised, and approved the recently submitted SPSA document. Yet zero evidence of even one SSC meeting this school year.

  • tmharrington

    Giorgio: It definitely appears the district was hoping no one was paying attention. Hopefully, the bond election results will prompt the district to rethink its lack of transparency and accountability. Also, hopefully trustees will start asking tough questions instead of sitting by silently while the district staff stonewalls the public.

  • billy gallagher

    MY SONS SCHOOL run by DR. WALKER. FAILED TO INITIATE THE PROGRAM THAT CREATES THE SCHOOL YEARBOOK. SO, we received A MASSIVE amount of communication from the school in the form of voicemail, outlining the need to raise money in every form from book fairs, to fund raisers, to after school events, etc…

    BUT, Dr, WALKER, AND THE ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENTS OFFICE VIA JULLIANA SYKES, COULDN’T BE BOTHERED WITH THIS.

    let’s be clear, if Rose Lock’s child was in first grade at Pleasant Hill Elementary school, i bet there would have been a year book..

    The excuse given, the company they hired to do the yearbook should have told us back in March that there was no volunteers for the book, so instead, the school decided to tell us during the last week,,

    interestingly enough, i have offered to have my company Dj Boy complete the year book and pay for it,

    but Julianna has said “i just don’t know what is possible at this point”

    my response. “Julianna, we have put a man on the moon and send people to space, we have been to the bottom of the ocean, please don’t tell me you don’t know what is and is not possible about printing picture in binded-form. it’s stupid to do so.”

    WAKE UP. our schools suck because they want money more than helping kids.

  • tmharrington

    Starting tomorrow, Julie Braun-Martin is assistant superintendent for elementary education and Rose Lock is assistant superintendent for middle schools. If you believe Pleasant Hill Elementary should have communicated with you sooner about this, perhaps you may want to contact Braun-Martin.

  • tmharrington

    Here’s a new blog post about Northgate HS Principal John McMorris’ resignation: http://bit.ly/1nXuNGE

  • tmharrington

    It looks like the Acalanes district has hired Jon Campopiano away from MDUSD as an associate principal: http://www.boarddocs.com/ca/auhsd/Board.nsf/Public

  • Doctor J

    Just thank the sweet Lord she didn’t get the Concord High principalship !

  • tmharrington

    Former MDHS vice principal Julie Parks, who was VP of SRVHS this past year, has been hired as principal of Miramonte HS. With no assistant supt. of high schools or director of personnel in place, MDUSD will have to work fast to bring in a principal for Northgate HS.

  • tmharrington

    Like the WCCUSD superintendent, the SRVUSD superintendent appears to post monthly updates on the district’s website: http://www.srvusd.k12.ca.us/monthly_message

    The MDUSD supt., on the other hand, has sent out very few messages to the community. The board held a special meeting today to discuss her evaluation: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_agendaview.aspx?mtgId=472. Will monthly messages to the community be required in the future? Hopefully, she’ll let us know who she appoints over the summer.

  • Doctor J

    They have been advertising for a principal “pool” since May 27. Nellie got carte Blanche to hire new administrators last Wednesday — she is undergoing a continued special evaluation at this very moment, sans Brian Lawrence.

  • Doctor J

    Julie Parks will best be remembered for her helping Lorie O’Brien in the immaculate creation of a new attendance list that saved the QEIA funds — nothing short of a rabbit out of a hat !!! http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2012/01/03/mt-diablo-district-seeks-forgiveness-from-state-for-failure-to-comply-with-grant-requirements/

  • tmharrington

    Wasn’t she one of the “new” administrators whom McClatchy and O’Brien claimed was unfamiliar with master scheduling and QEIA requirements? It seemed that the MDHS QEIA waiver was partially based on the new formula O’Brien decided to use (which probably included the list you reference) along with the less-than-stellar argument that nobody knew what they were doing due to staff turnover in the district office (with the loss of Jen Sachs) and new admins at MDHS.

  • tmharrington

    Yes, but I would imagine that she would rely heavily on Julie Braun-Martin and Rose Lock to fill elementary and middle school vacancies. But whose expertise can she rely on to fill important high school posts? It was noted by a Concord HS parent that one vp position had been vacant for nearly a year, which hurt students, such as her son.

  • Doctor J

    McMorris’ name has been removed already from NHS website — yet McAdams name has not been deleted from CHS. Wondering whether the fact that NHS had a field audit along with 16 other schools in early May, followed by the sudden demise of CFO Bryan Richards on May 28 being escorted off Dent premises, have any relation with Big John’s lightening fast resignation, especially since he seems to,have annually discharged groups of coaches ? and don’t forget the PFC $40,000 payments for the New York boondoggle — perhaps some income tax issues ?? I’m sure speculation will abound about the truth behind the rumors.

  • Doctor J

    Noteworthy that the Northgate High principalship was not mentioned as one of the vacant administrative positions at last Wednesday’s Board meeting. Perhaps getting a dated copy of McMorris’ resignation letter is appropriate.

  • Doctor J

    It’s not money — it’s working for the same old gang. Administrator’s fleeing the sinking ship despite the 2% raise retro to last July 31, and the upcoming 4% raise in Jan 2015. Nellie had a chance to bring sweeping personnel changes at Dent — she didn’t. Willie Mims said “disappointed” ; “disconnected” ; Deborah Mason said “disservice to community” ; “wasn’t a reorganization — Nellie just change titles and moved people around, giving them raises” . Nellie then clapped for
    Deborah Mason — that’s how disconnected Nellie is — clapping for someone who just criticizes you.

  • Doctor J

    Looks like Dr. Angela Hotchkiss Walker may have violated her MDUSD contract by spreading herself too thin — but when you profess to know it all, there is no reason to doubt yourself. http://www.pacific.edu/Documents/school-education/Dr.%20Hotchkiss.docx

  • Proud NHS Parent

    Dr. J,

    There is no scandal. There is no investigation. John McMorris was the
    best thing to happen to NHS. If you don’t think so you didn’t look at
    Northgate very closely back before 2008.

    Let me tell you what the behind the scene story really is:

    The President of MDEA comes from Northgate. He now has the ear of our
    new Superintendent and he had a posse at Northgate including members of
    his executive cabinet. The MUN money was approved by McMorris’ boss and
    voted on by the PFC. At the prompting of MDEA, Meyer, as the new
    Superintendent, asked McMorris not to continue with MUN and he agreed.
    All was fine. McMorris wasn’t approached by the Superintendent again
    until parents in the NHS community began to organize their efforts to
    create their own school district. McMorris is a casualty of this power
    play. MDEA was threatened by a potential loss of membership and the Superintendent
    thought that threatening to relocate McMorris would neutralize the community
    movement. This is pure retaliation against a community who approached
    the District in good faith. Now I guess we will have to see how well
    that plan works.

  • Doctor J

    @Proud, interesting take but several holes. Even if Steven Lawrence authorized Big John to receive the PFC money, the failure to account for it as income is serious with significant consequences. Regardless of the failure of the agenda and minutes to support your theory, it shows bad judgment by McM in taking such a large amount in a semi secret manner, especially after he spoke out against CVCHS — it gives the appearance of a payoff. Also remember that DR’s transfer to NHS was involuntary and in retaliation for his outspokenness against KMcC. DR only is getting back to Mount because he sued and embarrassed the Board twice a month in public comment. Last but not least, if Nellie threatened to transfer him, research would show her threats are hollow. McM could easily have called her bluff, and if she followed through, then submit his resignation. The abruptness of his resignation does not match rational behavior as you suggest. A year ago, Rose Lock engineered the involuntary transfer of several administrators, all of whom ended up in lower paying positions but the district was required to pay them at the higher rate of their former positions for a whole year because insufficient notice was given.

  • Proud NHS Parent

    It’s not “even if” Lawrence approved it, Lawrence did approve it. You have got to be kidding, payoff for what? (Hummm seems I have seen this idea in a private email). It is irrelevant why DR was at NHS (or is it) he is still a member of MDEA’s executive posse. You are clearly indicating that transferring employees has been a common form of retaliation in MDUSD. Well let me assure you the practice continues. This is a calculated move by the Superintendent to neutralize a community that came to her in good faith.

  • Doctor J

    Until I see the original dated approval, I can’t recognize it. SL has left a trail of unverifiable claims in his last three districts. If there are other retaliatory transfers out of NHS, now is the time to put them into the equation. The Board is on a 57 day break unless they become concerned enough to convene. But your post ignores the central question — why wouldn’t Big John hold his resignation until after his involuntary transfer ?

  • Doctor J
  • Proud NHS Parent

    JM can choose to support or not support whatever position he is compelled to believe regarding CVCHS. If you remember correctly his position was the more popular position among non CVCHS communities and he was not alone with his concerns.. At the same time do not forget that it was NHS parents who spoke out publicly in support of CVCHS. As far as I know NHS parents were the lone public non CV parent support for the charter. Your generalities are meaningless and irrelevant to the issue at hand.

  • tmharrington

    On another note, the proposed sustainable farm on Central Contra Costa Sanitary District land – which could provide produce for local schools and the food bank — has received approval to move forward: http://www.contracostatimes.com/martinez/ci_26117373/central-contra-costa-sanitary-district-sustainable-farm-gets

  • tmharrington

    On another note, the proposed sustainable farm on Central Contra Costa Sanitary District land – which could provide produce for local schools and the food bank — has received approval to move forward: http://www.contracostatimes.com/martinez/ci_26117373/central-contra-costa-sanitary-district-sustainable-farm-gets

  • tmharrington

    Speaking of retirements, longtime Contra Costa County Office of Ed. PIO Peggy Marshburn has retired, along with Youth Development Services Director Catherine Giacalone.

  • Doctor J

    Please don’t forget to post the April and May documents from BANG v MDUSD. Thank you.

  • k. saint

    Does anyone know if MDUSD has found a new assistant superintendent for high schools yet?

  • Doctor J

    Everyone knows. Three months after approval and constant advertising several key “reorg” spots remain unfilled including Asst. Supt’s. HS and Exec Director Curiculum. Why ? It’s MONEY !