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MDUSD administrator responds to questions about principal moves

By Theresa Harrington
The substantial number of moves by principals and other Mt. Diablo school district administrators during the past few months has prompted one big question in the community: “Why!?!”
Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personnel, have said they were trying to find good matches for schools where principals have retired or have been promoted to new positions.
Today, I spoke with Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and Support, to get more clarification on this process.
She said Lawrence made a Connect Ed phone call message to Mt. Diablo Elementary parents a couple of days ago updating them on the status of their principal search. The message informed parents that interviews were being conducted and explained that the district’s candidate screening procedure now includes Internet searches, she said.
When I asked about the multiple administrative moves, Lock said: “There hasn’t been that many people moving around.”
She said the main reason for the moves is that four elementary principals resigned (Bel Air, Silverwood, Valle Verde and Wren Avenue) and five principals were promoted to positions in her department (Delta View Elem., Hidden Valley Elem., Monte Gardens Elem., Riverview MS, and Sequoia MS).
“We did move a couple of principals who are interested in looking at different assignments,” she added. “It’s not like we’ve been playing musical chairs. Nothing like that at all.”
Lawrence has said the swap of principals between Mt. Diablo High and Olympic continuation high was based on those administrators’ preferences. (Cheryl LeBoef is moving to Olympic and Kate McClatchy is moving to Mt. Diablo High.)
To fill the Bel Air and Delta View positions, Lock said the district needed principals who were experienced. Both Nancy Klinkner (at Highlands Elementary) and Nancy Baum (at Ayers Elementary) had expressed interest in new assignments, Lock said.
Klinker was placed at Bel Air (which has a large English learner population) because she is bilingual. The Bay Point school is one of the district’s lowest achieving campuses and Lock said Klinker was also a good fit because her background had been entirely in Title 1 (low-income) schools (with the exception of last year at Highlands).
The district placed Baum at Delta View to keep the campus moving in the right direction, Lock said.
New principals are also expected at Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton, Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord.
Lock said Mt. Diablo Elementary’s previous Principal Bob Dodson has not yet been reassigned. Shore Acres Principal Kari Rees told me she expects to be replaced as part of that low-achieving school’s reform plan. Glenbrook Principal Jonathan Eagan found another position closer to his home, Braun-Martin told me last week.
Lock said Lawrence won’t attend the upcoming meeting with Sequoia Middle School parents in Pleasant Hill. Instead, she and Braun-Martin will likely ask staff and parents what kind of new principal they would like.
Lawrence normally doesn’t attend parent meetings, Lock said. He attended the Mt. Diablo Elementary meeting because she was off on furlough leave, Lock added.
However, Lawrence attended the Bancroft Elementary meeting with both Braun-Martin and Lock, to respond to parent concerns about his decision to transfer their principal to Valle Verde. He later reversed that decision, based on parents’ concerns.
Lawrence decides who to recommend for specific positions, with input from her, Lock said. She has been more involved in elementary hires than those at middle and high schools, she added. (Lock was previously the assistant superintendent for elementary education and principal of Walnut Acres Elementary in Walnut Creek).
Lock said Curriculum and Instruction division was eliminated — and replaced with her Student Achievment and Support division — to focus more on the demands placed on the principals districtwide, including high expectaitons for student achievement.
“We have to do a better job of supporting all of the schools,” she said. “In the past, the Curriculum and Instruction department supported all of our Program Improvement (low-performing) and Title 1 schools. Others didn’t get same level of support. But, others are also going to be expected to improve.”
Lock also emphasized that principals are hired for the entire district, not necessarily for specific schools.
“We want to make sure they are equally proficient and competent,” she said. “We want to develop them (through coaching and professional development), because we could be moving them around as needed.”
She acknowledged that the district does, however, try to match principals to schools where they would best fit.
“We certainly are sensitive to the needs of each school,” she said. “We do ask for (community) input, to make sure we have the right person.”
No principal should expect to remain at the same school for his or her entire career, she added.
“Principals don’t stay at schools for 20 years,” she said.
Does this explanation ease your mind about moves taking place before school starts?

Posted on Friday, July 9th, 2010
Under: Bay Point, California, Clayton, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Pleasant Hill, Theresa Harrington, Walnut Creek | 10 Comments »

MDUSD superintendent explains principal hire snafu

By Theresa Harrington

After remaining silent for days regarding allegations that surfaced over the weekend regarding the man he recommended as principal of Mt. Diablo Elementary, Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence issued a written statement within the past hour explaining the hiring procedure used to vet candidates.

Here is the statement in its entirety:

“The district has received questions regarding information discovered about Dr. Nugent, a candidate for one of our principal positions that was filled July 1, 2010. When filling positions in the district, the district follows standard protocols, including exhaustive written applications, oral interviews, credential checks, reference checks and subsequent background checks. In this case, our customary protocols did not discover negative information that was readily available in a simple Internet search. Consequently, the Board of Education was not aware of negative information which was discovered by a board member after the candidate’s appointment. In the future, the district will augment our process with a comprehensive Internet investigation prior to candidate recommendations going to the Board of Education. In light of the latest information, Dr. Nugent has withdrawn his name from consideration for any of the district’s open positions. The district will immediately conduct another search for a principal for Mt. Diablo Elementary and will work closely with that community to find a suitable candidate.
Steven Lawrence, Superintendent
Mt. Diablo Unified School District”

Lawrence did not return my call requesting more information. It is not clear if trustees will be given the names of candidates prior to board meetings in the future, or if they will be given resumes, which some have said they would like.

When I asked Lawrence last month why so many administrators were being moved around, he said decisions were based on retirements, resignations, restructuring and “through conversations with people, looking to see if there’s a match and an opportunity.”
He cited the book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t,” by Jim Collins, saying it talks about “having the right people on the right seat on the bus.”

A parent at the Bancroft meeting told Lawrence that book also recommends involving the people who are being affected in the decisions. Lawrence acknowledged that he could do a better job of that.

When the board approved the swap of principals at Mt. Diablo High and Olympic continuation school, two Mt. Diablo teachers expressed concerns about their staff not being consulted.

At the June 30 meeting with Mt. Diablo Elementary parents, newly appointed assistant superintendent Julie Braun-Martin said elementary principal candidates were interviewed before the district knew there would be an opening at that school. However, she told them they could be included in interviews if the district determined that a second round of interviews was necessary.

Are you satisfied with the district’s new hiring protocol?

Posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
Under: Clayton, Concord, Education, Theresa Harrington | 31 Comments »