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MDUSD board to meet in closed session Wednesday regarding settlement agreements with former superintendent and general counsel

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold a special closed session meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday to act on settlement agreements with former Superintendent Steven Lawrence and former General Counsel Greg Rolen, among other items. The public is invited to comment before the meeting in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. The board expects to report out its actions after the closed session.

Here is the agenda:

“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 three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

3.0 Adjourn to Closed Session

3.1 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint Action

3.2 Public employee appointment: To consider the process for the appointment and other appropriate issues relative to the appointment of Interim Superintendent Action

3.3 Approve Separation Agreement of General Counsel Action

3.4 Approve Separation Agreement of Superintendent Action

3.5 Existing Litigation – Craig Blyeth v. MDUSD Contra Costa Superior Court, (Action No. C12-1854) Action

4.0 Report of Closed Session

4.1 Report out on Closed Session Info

5.0 Adjournment
5.1 Adjourn meeting Info”

Do you believe the board should discuss the process for the appointment of an interim superintendent in open session?

3:26 p.m. UPDATE: Four board members are present. Here is audio from the first portion of the meeting: http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Documents/audio/2013/05082013part1.mp3

Board President Cheryl Hansen said she anticipates reporting out of closed session by 5 or 6 p.m.

Posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

MDUSD board to hold special meeting tonight

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold a special meeting tonight at 8 pm to discuss settlement agreements with the superintendent and general counsel in closed session and to review candidates for interim superintendent, also in closed session. In open session, the board plans to appoint an interim secretary to the board, designate CFO Bryan Richards to provide digital signatures on payroll warrants effective May 1 until an interim superintendent is in place, and to vote on a contract with a superintendent search firm.

Here is the agenda: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_agendaview.aspx?mtgId=407.

As I have previously mentioned, I will not be able to attend tonight’s meeting and I’m not sure if any other CC Times reporter will attend. However, the public portions of the meeting should be live streamed at http://www.livestream.com/mtdiablounifiedschooldistrict/ And later archived at  http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Pages/boe-sam.aspx.

Do you think the board should hire a superintendent search firm tonight?

Posted on Sunday, April 28th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Uncategorized | 154 Comments »

MDUSD is accepting input on draft strategic plan tonight

Last Wednesday, Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence issued an automated phone call to parents inviting them to “drop-in” to the front area of the district office tonight from 6-7:30 p.m. to give input into the draft strategic plan: https://asp.schoolmessenger.com/m/?s=8kyYgzXE5PM

Surprisingly, though, the district never issued any written announcement about this. I spoke to Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and she said people can place dots on large pieces of paper next to the goals they think are most important, but there will not be a public meeting about the plan tonight.

In fact, the regular board meeting will be going on starting at 6:30 p.m., while the public continues placing dots on the draft plan in the lobby area.

The board expects to finalize the plan in October.

Here is the draft plan: http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Documents/strategic-plan/strategic-plan-update-02-22-12.pdf

What do you think the board’s top priorities should be?

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Uncategorized | 47 Comments »

Mt. Diablo district principal and administrator playbill

By Theresa Harrington

The cast of characters at Mt. Diablo district schools is changing over the summer, leaving some parents wondering who will greet their children when they return to campuses next month.

Here’s a rundown of recently approved or announced staff changes by school:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS:
Ayers Elementary, Concord: Principal Spoogmai Habibi (former curriculum specialist)
Bel Air Elementary, Bay Point: Principal Nancy Klinkner (former Highlands Elem. principal)
Delta View Elementary, Bay Point: Principal Nancy Baum (former Ayers Elementary principal)
Hidden Valley Elementary, Martinez: Principal Sandy Bruketta (former curriculum specialist)
Highlands Elementary in Concord: Vicki Eversole (a program specialist and former principal and vice principal of Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord)
Meadow Homes Elementary, Concord: Program specialist: Diane Sargent (former curriculum specialist)
Mt. Diablo Elementary: Christopher Nugent (former vice principal at Joseph Sims Elementary School in Elk Grove)
Valle Verde Elementary, Walnut Creek: Principal Rhys Miller (former curriculum specialist)
Wren Avenue Elementary, Concord: Principal Cynthia Goin (former Strandwood Elem. principal, returning from leave)

MIDDLE SCHOOLS:
Riverview Middle School, Bay Point: Principal Christine Huajardo (promoted from vice principal); Vice principal Ean Ainsworth (promoted from student services coordinator)

HIGH SCHOOLS:
Diablo Community Day School in Concord: Linda Pete (former vice principal at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord)
Mt. Diablo High School, Concord: Principal Kate McClatchy (former administrator of Olympic High School); Vice principal: Lianne Cisnowski (former Olympic High teacher)
Northgate High School, Walnut Creek: Vice principal Linda Hayes (promoted from student services coordinator)
Olympic Continuation High School/Alliance special ed., Concord: Administrator Cheryl LeBoef (former Mt. Diablo HS principal); Vice principal Katie Gaines (former Alternative Education director); Vice principal Rachelle Buckner (former counselor at Mary Bird Community Day School in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District)

Here’s a list of changes at the district office:
DISTRICT OFFICE ADMINISTRATORS:
Assistant superintendent of personnel services: Julie Braun-Martin (former personnel director)
Director of Personnel: Melinda Hall (former director of Curriculum and Instruction)
Assistant Superintendent, Student Achievement, Support: Rose Lock (former assist. supt. for elem. education)
Director, Elementary Support: Susan Petersen (former Delta View Elem. principal)
Director, Seconday Support: Denise Rugani (former Riverview MS principal)
Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support: Jennifer Sachs (former assist. dir. of Curriculum & Instruction)
Principal Coach and school support: Patt Hoellwarth (former Monte Gardens Elem. principal)
Principal Coach and school support: Lorie O’Brien (former Hidden Valley Elem. principal)
Principal Coach and school support: Hellena Postrk (former Sequoia MS principal)
Principal Coach and school support: Susan Hukkanen (former Curriculum and Instruction administrator)
Administrator, English learners, Student Support: Carmen Graces (former Curriculum and Instruction administrator)
Special Education Program Specialist: Danielle Beecham (former resource specialist at Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter High School in Los Angeles)

Braun-Martin told me the district still intends to fill principal positions at the following schools:
Glenbrook Middle School in Concord to replace Jonathan Eagan
Monte Gardens Elementary in Concord to fill Hoellwarth’s position
Sequoia Middle School in Pleasant Hill to fill Postrk’s position
Silverwood Elementary in Concord to replace retiring Principal Sandra Rogers-Hare

However, Shore Acres Elementary Principal Kari Rees told me she would be replaced as part of that school’s reform plan for low-achieving campuses.

Braun-Martin also anticipates filling the following other administrative positions, based on promotions and retirements:
Director of Student Services (to replace retiring Margot Tobias)
Northgate High School Student Services Coordinator (to fill Hayes’ position)
Riverview Middle School Student Services Coordinator (to fill Ainsworth’s position)
Ygnacio Valley High School Vice Principal (to fill Pete’s position)
Four districtwide special education program specialists

Superintendent Steven Lawrence asked trustees to grant him the authority to make the above appointments during the board’s summer break in July. But trustees said they want to maintain oversight of these decisions and asked him to call special board meetings to approve the appointments.

Although the district is facing major budget cuts that Lawrence has warned could lead to a state takeover if they aren’t accomplished, five administrative promotions and raises went into effect July 1, based on a split board decision made Nov. 17, before Lawrence arrived. Trustees Dick Allen and Linda Mayo voted against the restructuring plan, which included raises totaling $55,029.

Here is the rationale for the decision, according to the staff report:
“Recognizing the impact of both the recently eliminated as well as the approved, prospective elimination of a position in the Superintendent’s Council it is essential that a restructuring of organizational relationships and a consolidation of tasks be defined and implemented to insure continuity in leadership and the delivery of critical services. Although the reorganization will not be effective until July 1, 2010, the plan needs to be considered earlier to allow adequate time for implementation.”

Here are the changes, effective yesterday:
General Counsel (Greg Rolen): Increase salary by $27,998 to $190,000 including education and longevity

Director Budget & Fiscal Svcs (Bryan Richards): Reclassify as Chief Financial Officer and increase salary by $8,114 to $140,000

Director Certificated Personnel (changed June 22 to Director of Personnel Services, Melinda Hall): Increase salary range by $5,989 from range 29 to 32 (range 29 is $86,559-$105,217; range 32 is $90,722-$110,262)

Facilities & Ops Project Mgr (changed June 22 to Director of Facilities, Operations and Resource Conservation, Jeff McDaniel): Increase by $11,136 from range 12 to 25 (range 12 is $72,803-$98,702; range 25 increase is approximately $83,939-$109,838).

Admin Secty To Supt Conf (Loreen Joseph): Increase by $1,792 from range of 536 to 576 (range 536 is $21.31-$25.90 per hour; range 576 is $24.07-$29.26 per hour).

At the Nov. 17 meeting, trustees also agreed to reclassify the Associate Superintendent position held by Alan Young to Assistant Superintendent, reducing the salary by $14,913 to $141,000. This position was later eliminated and Young retired last month.

The full range of salaries paid to district employees is on the district’s website.

Some union members have decried the raises, in light of the cuts they are being asked to take at the bargaining table. One high school registrar said the general counsel’s raise would pay for a clerical worker’s salary. At the time, Interim Superintendent Dick Nicoll told me he generated all of the recommendations for salary increases except the general counsel’s. That request came from the board, as noted in his memo (attachment) to trustees.

Richards said in his June 22 budget report that the district might need to lay off more employees or reduce their hours, if unions don’t agree to furlough days and benefits cuts. In addition, the district could increase class sizes for teachers and consolidate some part-time positions into full-time jobs.

The layoffs would include about 19 maintenance and operations workers. The cuts in hours would include: 29 elementary secretaries and 16 middle and high school secretary’s hours reduced by half to 3.5 per day; and approximately 100 California School Employees Association workers hours reduced to 3.5 hours a day or less, plus the creation of new 3.5 hour positions as needed.

Management has already agreed to three or four furlough days in 2009-10, plus seven to nine furlough days in 2010-11; a cap on health benefits at 2010 Kaiser rates; a reduction of post-retirement health coverage from two-party to employee only for new retirees effective July 1, 2011; and no vacation payoffs beyond carryover limits effective July 1, 2010 (use it or lose it).

Do you agree with the new administrative appointments? What is your reaction to the board’s budget dilemma?

Posted on Friday, July 2nd, 2010
Under: Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Uncategorized, Walnut Creek | 10 Comments »

Students’ voices can be powerfully persuasive

By Theresa Harrington
I was very happy today to see an Op Ed piece in the Times written by Valley View Middle School students in Pleasant Hill. In case you missed it, here’s what they had to say:

“Your Turn: Middle schoolers offer suggestions
Submitted by Christine Gerchow
For the past two weeks, we the seventh graders in Valley View Middle School’s communication class have been working on a public speaking and advocacy unit. We have learned about homelessness, harassment, drugs and alcohol and about the effects of budget cuts and the loss of after-school programming.
We talked about how many kids are bored after school and in need of challenging and exciting programs to keep them occupied.
We talked about how depression affects many of our peers because they feel lost and without guidance. We heard stories of our peers whose parents lost their jobs.
We are writing to tell you that middle-school students not only think of the challenges in our communities, but that we also have ideas of how to address them.
We believe that as thinking and feeling students we deserve to be listened to and acknowledged.
So here are some of our ideas: let’s set up the joint-use agreements first lady Michelle Obama talks about so the baseball and softball fields that sit unoccupied too many days of the week can be used.
Let’s ensure that students play a major role in designing the curriculum of after-school programming. Let’s also invite students to speak at school board meetings more often. Let’s imitate Florida and create community school cleanup days where painters, plumbers and contractors come and touch-up our schools. Other volunteers can pick up trash, design murals and plant flowers.
Finally, let’s tap into the knowledge of retirees so they can visit our classrooms and assist our teachers. It would be great if every classroom had one or two smart adult-volunteers to help our teachers for a few hours each day.
We hope that our ideas inspire community members and school district leaders to act. We can’t keep waiting for legislation to pass or Race to the Top funds to arrive. We are in school now and we are expected to learn now.
Thank you for printing our letter and acknowledging our voices.
This article was signed by seventh grade students at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill. Those students are: Drew Anderson, Paul Andreini, Miguel Bahena, Isadora Barragan, Amanda Broyles, Deniro Arnold, Devin Davis, Josh deHaydu, Summerlin Dyckes, Julien Estrada Julia Fregoso, Jesse Guerra, Julia Hair, Rachel Henry, Lucas Hurley, Richard Kong, Michael Matthewson, Alan Munguia, Dillon Nordstrom, Trevor Nourie, Alex Stephenson, Rebecca Valdivia and Judy Wang.”

Kudos to these students for speaking up about issues that affect them.
The letter to the editor was a first step. But there’s more they can do to be heard.
No one prevents students from speaking at school board meetings. These students can take their suggestions directly to the Mt. Diablo school board at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and speak for three minutes each, if they wish, during the Public Comment portion of the meeting.
Trustees plan to vote on contracts for after-school programs, a new homework policy , student safety plans and athletic fees, which might interest the students.
I have seen students persuade trustees in the past with their impassioned arguments. Trustee Gary Eberhart said one student’s e-mail prompted him to change a vote regarding reducing the hours of a high school treasurer.
A former high school senior persuaded the district to allow students to apply for membership on the School Closure committee.
And at last Tuesday’s meeting, a Northgate High student told trustees that he wanted his school to get stadium lights so it could enjoy Friday night football games, like other schools. Trustees approved the lights.
Sometimes, trustees are unable to give students what they want. Many athletes were unhappy when the board cut funding for after-school sports and student musicians have argued against cuts to elementary music programs.
But the board does listen. And when students speak, their messages often elicit thunderous applause from the audience, because everyone knows the whole reason the district exists is to serve them.
Students at board meetings have the ability not only to persuade trustees, but to get their messages out to the community that watches meetings on-line or listens on the radio.
Sometimes, news reporters also quote them in stories or newscasts about the meetings.
Former students who have graduated from district schools also have compelling stories to tell. At last Tuesday’s meeting, one graduate pleaded with the board not to cut special education resources, saying they helped him to graduate from high school and pass a written firefighter’s proficiency test and to obtain an EMT certification.
“This was given to me because I was nurtured,” Adam Davis said. “If you are truly about the kids, show me and show everybody.”
He received heartfelt applause, as a district success story. Yet, trustees voted to cut many special education positions anyway, saying they had no choice because of state budget reductions.
Trustee Dick Allen said he voted for the cuts “with a heavy heart.”
“I just hate to do this,” he said. “But it has to be done…we do have to have a balanced budget.”
It’s difficult to make cuts, while analyzing staff recommendation on a piece of paper. But it’s even more difficult to make such decisions while looking into the faces of the students who are being affected.
When JROTC was on the chopping block, dozens of uniformed students marched into the meetings and told heart-wrenching stories about how those programs helped turn their lives around. In the end, their programs were saved.
Students also spoke up during a Bancroft Elementary meeting last Tuesday about Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s decision to transfer the principal. When Lawrence reiterated the messages he heard that day, he included the students’ strong statements that they wanted their principal to stay.
And a few months ago, two courageous Ygnacio Valley High students spoke up about money their prom planner took, without following through on her contract. This led many people in the community to step forward and try to help the students, while exposing the prom planner’s history of not not meeting obligations.
As I continue covering education in this community, I look forward to hearing from more students about how budget cuts and other district decisions are affecting them.
Students: is your school meeting your needs? What suggestions do you have for improving your educational environment?

Posted on Saturday, June 19th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Pleasant Hill, Theresa Harrington, Uncategorized | No Comments »

NUMMI workers in Fremont overwhelmingly approve shutdown agreement

By George Avalos

NUMMI workers have overwhelmingly approved a shutdown agreement that gives an average severance package of $54,000 to union members and makes the Fremont auto factory’s closure within weeks a certainty.
The approval of the deal came Wednesday night, according to two top officials with the United Auto Workers Local 2244. The UAW unit represents 3,700 union workers at the 4,700-employee vehicle plant.
“The tentative agreement has been ratified,” Javier Contreras, chairman of the UAW bargaining committee, said in a text message.
The plant is scheduled to be closed by April 1. The New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory is a joint venture between Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp.
About 90 percent of the UAW members approved the severance package, while 10 percent rejected it, Sergio Santos, president of UAW Local 2244, said in a text message.
Despite the approval, some employees blasted a deal provision that provides only $21,175 of that amount for 300 employees who are on disability leave.
The top range of the severance package, typically for union workers who have been employed for 25 years at the auto factory, is expected to be about $68,500, according to information supplied by people familiar with the proposal.
The average settlement amount — based on 15 years of service — is roughly $53,500.
The minimum severance amount is $21,175, said top officials with the United Auto Workers.
“We are not happy with the package,” Santos said Wednesday during a news conference. “The money will never replace the loss of our jobs. We’re going to be thrown out on the street.”
Separate decisions to abandon the factory, first by GM and then by Toyota, condemned the plant to a shutdown. Toyota made the final decision in August to close the plant on April 1.
UAW leaders said they felt NUMMI management — primarily directed by Toyota — boxed them into a corner with few alternatives but to accept the deal.
“The workers don’t have much of a choice,” Contreras said. “This is either a do or don’t.”
Still, about 300 union workers who are on disability will receive a severance payment of just over $21,000 — the minimum in the deal.
“As soon as NUMMI found a loophole to screw people, that’s just what they did,” said NUMMI worker Sal Gomez of Oakland, who went on disability in September 2009 after a knee replacement. “Inside that plant, the company talked about how we’re a family, we’re one team, we will survive for a long time.”
The loophole that NUMMI managers exploited, in the view of some union workers, appears to be linked to the nature of the severance package — which Toyota trumpeted a few weeks ago as a “retention bonus.”
To be eligible for the biggest chunks of the $281 million package, the 4,700 employees at the factory were required to be on the job every day, producing quality vehicles.
For the workers out on disability, the problem has become that their ailments are preventing them from physically being present at the factory. If they’re not at work, they can’t get the bonus.
“To do this to people just because they were hurt is insensitive,” Gomez said.
NUMMI didn’t respond to a request for a comment about the disability situation. A Toyota spokesman, Mike Goss, referred questions to NUMMI.
Some injured workers are concerned that the package won’t be nearly as good as they were initially led to believe.
“The whole situation is even worse than I had expected,” said David Martin, an injured NUMMI worker. “It’s pretty bad. We are going to be filing a grievance with the union against NUMMI.”
The quality work bonus came out to about $285 a day per worker, Gomez estimated.
Union officials said they would not discuss the situation further following a news conference on Wednesday.
“The offer mandates a gag order that I believe violates our First Amendment rights,” Santos said in a prepared release. The order covers union leaders, not rank and file.
“NUMMI did not issue a gag order,” NUMMI spokesman Lance Tomasu said. “The UAW committed of its own accord not to further denigrate NUMMI or Toyota as a term of the shutdown agreement. In fact, the union negotiated and proposed specific language for that provision of the agreement.”
As the shutdown nears, workers said they would focus on high-level production.
“We have always built good quality cars here,” said Juan Carrera, a San Jose resident who has worked at the factory for 43 years, including 25 with NUMMI and 18 with the prior GM operation. “The people inside that plant have made NUMMI what it is.”
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477

Posted on Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Hockey: If Goaltending And Fatigue Are The Deciders, USA Should Have An Edge Over Canada In Sunday’s Gold Quest

It’s been an exhausting two weeks at these Olympic Games. And that’s just for us journalists. I can imagine what it’s been like for the hockey players. Sunday’s game between the USA and Canada is what we’ve all been waiting for, but I wonder how the legs of the Canadian and American players are feeling.

Sunday will mark the fourth game in six days for Canada, an older team than the USA. And in the final moments of Friday night’s 3-2 hold-on-tight semifinal victory over Slovakia, you wondered if the fatigue factor was having an effect. Slovakia was all over the Canadians and could easily have tied the game.

Team USA, meanwhile, will be playing just its third game over those same six days because it earned a bye into the quarterfinals after an undefeated preliminary round. Also, in the other semifinal, the Americans pounded Finland into first period submission and coasted the rest of the way. Goalie Ryan Miller even sat out the last half of the third period as head coach Ron Wilson wanted to give backup Tim Thomas his first Olympic minutes. Thomas was thrilled to have that opportunity, by the way.

Which brings us to another potential key factor in Sunday’s matchup. The USA should also have the goalie advantage. Miller has been the best goaltender at these Games, with a goals-against average of 1.04 and a save percentage of 95.37.

Canada struggled earlier in the tournament with Martin Brodeur in goal — he was there for last Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the USA — and has replaced him with Roberto Luongo. The move has paid off, with Luongo winning three straight games on the same ice where he usually makes a living with the Vancouver Canucks.

Still, Luongo looked a little out of sorts in giving up Friday’s two third-period goals to Slovakia — although to his credit, he was in shutdown mode over a final hectic two minutes and got just enough glove on a point-blank shot by Slovakia’s Pavel Demitra in the final seconds to save the game. And there’s no arguing that his GAA (1.75) and save % (91.95) is not as good as Miller’s. Also, Miller was in goal last Sunday, so he has already seen Canada once and beat them. Luongo has not faced the USA.

The goalie comparison was obviously on the mind of Canadian coach Mike Babcock after Friday’s game in his postgame remarks. Babcock spoke at length about the challenge of facing Miller.

“The best goalie always makes you nervous and I think that kid has been really good for them,” Babcock said. “We were too easy on Miller the first time. We won’t be this time. I thought we had tons of chances on him the last time but we didn’t have enough second chances.”

The mission on Sunday for Luongo and Canada?

“What you have got to do,” Babcock said, “is to get your goalie to play better than their goalie for one game.”

Given all of the above factors, the tendency might be to pick the USA as the winner. But anyone who has sat inside GM Place (renamed Canada Hockey Place for the Olympics) for the past two Canada games can tell you that the home crowd has been a huge factor. If the pressure of winning-or-else doesn’t get to the Canadian players, it’s hard to believe that the atmosphere won’t create enough energy inside them to overcome any fatigue.

The goaltending? That’s another issue. Babcock is right. Miller is making Canada — the whole country, not just the hockey team — incredibly nervous.

Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Hockey: Canadian women chastized for celebrating

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Let’s get right to the Canadian double standard.

Just a week ago the Canadian press celebrated Jon Montgomery’s gold-medal in skeleton with tales of his “beer-swilling party animal” lifestyle.

“Moments after his electrifying win, he said his celebration would include ‘a pint,’” according to one news report.

Montgomery didn’t disappoint. He was seen walking through Whistler’s crowded pedestrian-only town plaza imbibing from a pitcher of beer. Once his Olympic competition ended, Montgomery got to bed at 5 a.m. after an all-night party.

“I don’t subscribe to necessarily all the things typical athletes do, and for me a pint now and then is a good thing,” he told reporters.

Juxtapose this portrayal with what transpired at Canada Place yesterday involving the gold-medal winning Canadian women’s hockey team.

After treating the hometown fans to a 2-0 victory over the United States, the players, still in uniform, returned to the ice to celebrate after almost everyone had left. They were drinking beer. Some also had cigars.

This led to an International Olympic Committee condemnation. Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s executive director of Olympic Games, said, “I don’t think it’s a good promotion of sport values. If they celebrate in the changing room, that’s one thing, but not in public.”

Hockey Canada almost immediately released a statement apologizing “In the excitement of the moment, the celebration left the confines of our dressing room and shouldn’t have.”

Perhaps Hockey Canada could have defended its players who toil in obscurity all their lives and have one chance to showcase what they dedicated their lives to doing. It’s not as if they defamed the flag during the medal ceremony or made disparaging remarks about any of their opponents.

It seems OK for baseball players to celebrate with champagne when winning a World Series. It has become part of sport tradition to enjoy the spoils of victory with alcohol. Jon Montgomery certainly did, and did so in a much more public place than the hockey players.

It begs the question of whether the IOC had problems with the behavior because the athletes were women.

Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Bobsled: More crashes on Olympics track

 VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Even as the 2010 Winter Olympics come to an end this weekend, problems at the Whistler Sliding Centre continue to be one of the biggest issues of the Vancouver Games.

On a track where a Georgian luger died Feb. 12 crashes continued to be the focus today when USA-2 turned sideways in its second run of the four-man bobsled.

“It went really quiet for a second then I was on my head,” said Chuck Berkeley of Clayton. “When it goes quiet, you know something’s going to happen.”

Berkeley’s driver, John Napier, said he just made one mistake.

“When you’re going at 95 miles per hour if you make a mistake there’s no time to catch up,” he said.  “I’m just happy  one was seriously injured and that’s a blessing.”

 Britain’s John Jackson also had a harrowing crash but his crew also escaped injury.

 For Napier, “it’s more my ego that is bruised. This is the biggest race of my life and I crashed.”

 Mike Kohn, pilot of USA-3, on why so many crashed in the first two of four heats:

 “People might just be trying to get the perfect line and when they do that, things might get a little hairy. But for me, the track is fine.”

 Added Monterey’s Nick Cunningham, who is Kohn’s brakeman: “It’s bobsled. Anything can happen on any given day.”

 That might be true. But it is doubtful this particular track will overcome the questions that left one man dead.

Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Hockey: USA’s Semifinal Romp Over Listless Finland; Canada Next For The Gold?

VANCOUVER, British Columbia

Observations from today’s USA semifinal game, a romp over Finland that I certainly didn’t see coming:

– I expected the USA to win this game, but leading by a touchdown in the first period was not what I had in mind.  Wow. I was making a joke about the USA still not being satisfied with the 6-o lead because it couldn’t convert the extra point . . . when I suddenly ran into 49er offensive tackle Joe Staley on the concourse. He was wearing a large USA jacket and was also here for the quarterfinal game against Switzerland. Hoping to attend Sundays’ gold medal game. Staley is a big hockey fan (he went to college in Michigan) and I’ve seen him at many Shark home games.

– The remarkable part about that first period was that Finland totally dominated the first two minutes of play and the USA couldn’t even get the puck out of its defensive zone . . . and then the puck finally goes into the offensive zone on a dump-in and Finland goalie (and former Shark) Mikka Kiprusoff totally misplays the puck and gives it away to the USA’s Ryan Malone for what amounted to an empty net goal. That seemed to rattle Kiprusoff and the assault was on.

– As I noted in my pregame stuff that appeared in today’s Mercury News print edition, Finland is the oldest team here (average age a little over 31) and the USA is the youngest (avrage age a little over 25) but I never expected that to be a factor until the third period when legs get weary. Instead, it was a factor right away as the older and visibly slower Finns kept taking penalties. The USA scored on their first two power plays of the game ith Zach Parise, who in my estimation has been the USA’s best skater in this tournament (goalie Ryan Miller has been the best player), getting the first one. Then the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski fought for the puck behind the net on the next power play and made a scrambly backhand feed to Erik Johnson for the third goal.

– Finland replaced goalkeeper Mikka Kiprusoff with Niklas Backstrom after the USA’s fourth goal but it didn’t matter. The USA scored two goals in 16 seconds to more or less clinch the win with seven minutes still remaining in the first period. Amazing. The two power play goals were the first time any team here at the Olympic tournament has had more than one in a game.

– The six goals ties a USA modern Olympic hockey record (since 1956) for most goals scored in a period. But it’s the fifth time it happened, most recently against Germany on Jan. 31, 1964.

– The USA’s first period might have been the most impressive opening period of any team here in any game . . . although Canada’s big start against Russia two days ago was probably just as awesome. The score at the end of that first period was Canada 4, Russia 1, but Russia was a much better team than Finland.

– Wonder if Kiprusoff and Russian goalie Evgeni Nabokov (who gave up six goals in that game against Canada) would like to sit down over dinner and commisserate? They were once Shark teammates, as you’ll recall. Nabokov has already left town, though. Wonder if he’ll even watch the rest of the tournament games? If I know him, he was probably already at Shark practice today . . .or tomorrow, for sure.

– The second period was a sluggish meh . . . the USA still leads, 6-0, and man, the Finns really do look old and slow, and now not very interested as the game moves into the third period. The 39-year-old Teemu Selanne (another former Shark) looks like he’s ready to have a vodka martini, then climb into his Porsche and drive back to Anaheim . . . but the Finns will still have to play in the bronze medal game tomorrow, probably against Slovakia.

– Obviously, the gold medal game everyone wants to see will be Canada vs. the USA on Sunday and I expect the Canadians to take care of business tonight at 6:30 against Slovakia . . . but trust me, it’s going to be tough to beat Canada twice in Canada.

– Vince Vaughn, the actor, is also here for this game wearing a USA hockey jersey. He looks like he weighs more than Joe Staley. In a between-periods interview shown on the big scoreboard television screen, Vaughn complimented Vancouver and Canadian fans but when asked about a possible Sunday rematch, said: “Well, we already settled that once but we’ll go at it again, I guess.”
Glad he’s confident. I’m not. In a rematch, I think the USA will need to hold on for dear life in the first period and hope for a close game heading into the third with a chance to win.

Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2010
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