Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Opportunity with MDUSD Board Members

Paul Strange and Gary Eberhart will be present at another parent led gathering of concerned community members within our district.

From their MDUSD Blog:

"A parent has set up another meeting in Pleasant Hill. We will once again be answering questions posed by attendees and we will also be discussing the need for change in MDUSD. "

From the organizer:

The meeting will be held:
Monday, April 21
7:00 - 9:00 PM
First Christian Church
2115 Pleasant Hill Road
Pleasant Hill

Please come and ask questions about:
  • Why Eberhart, Strange, and others are seeking positive changes in MDUSD culture
  • The effect of State budget cuts on MDUSD
  • MDUSD's recent fiscal missteps
  • A possible attempt to launch a parcel tax campaign in 2009
  • Any other topics you might want to discuss

The church is on Pleasant Hill Road between the Gregory Lane/PH Road intersection and Pleasant Hill Elementary.

Please note: no food or drink is allowed into the sanctuary where we will be meeting.

Anyone who lives within the MDUSD boundaries is welcome. I hope you and your friends/neighbors can attend.


Will you be attending?


  1. I just saw Sup McHenry at the WC City Council meeting tonight. Why was he there? Is he supporting the district reorganization? Why was he there?

  2. I know you asked this on the other boards.. my guess is he was there along with some other MDUSD folks (and board members) as interested parties as certainly it is an important issue. I don't see his attendance as anything other than concern and interest in what is happening to a part of this district.

  3. For those parents interested in knowing more about the district, there is a meeting that takes place every month between parents, the Superintendents, MDEA reps and Board Members (Mrs. Treece, Mrs. Mayo and Mr. Allen regularly attend). It’s called the PAC (Parent Advisory Committee) and the meetings are the first Wed of the month at 7:00 at the Dent Center. Every school is asked to send a representative and anyone else is welcome to attend. Some schools have no representation and some have a few parents that come regularly. The minutes of the meetings are on the District Website. If you want to hear what’s going on in the district, ask questions, put items on the agenda, feel free to come and find out for yourself what type of people are running the district and the reasons for the decisions that are made.

    I have attended many of these meetings and have come to respect Mr. McHenry and to believe he has the best interests of my students and yours foremost in his mind. I know that many teachers/union people will strongly disagree with my opinion. I feel that many of the problems with our district stem from union decisions and tactics. The obvious one is the giving up their medical benefits. Obviously someone benefitted from that decision, retirees apparently, and that’s why teachers with lots of years in our district aren’t leaving. The retirement benefits in our district are apparently pretty good. The union has wanted to get rid of the Superintendent for years because he hasn’t been willing to cut all the programs we want for our kids to offer the salary and benefits wanted by our teachers. If we had a parcel tax like the surrounding districts the Union compares us to, we could pay them what they wanted and keep the programs we want for our kids. Some districts without parcel taxes have gone through horrible times, Oakland, Vallejo, and Richmond to name a few. I think our Superintendent has done a good job getting us through the last few years of state financial difficulties without giving up the music, sports and electives that so many other districts have. Parents went to Board meetings and protested when they had to cut fourth grade music. It was reinstated because Mr. McHenry listened to what the parents were saying.

    MDEA has been picketing job fairs where MDUSD is trying to hire new teachers. I’m not sure exactly how this helps the union, but I know nothing has made me so angry as hearing about that when we have classrooms with long terms subs just so that the Union can get some point across. Mr. Noce has no problem having our kids without sports and music – his son goes to DLS.

    One committee that was formed because of parents wanting to know more about the budget was a Budget committee comprised of parents and district officials. MDEA was invited to be a part of this group, but Mr. Noce declined. The parents who have attended these meetings have shared how complicated the budget really is and they actually commented that they were surprised there weren’t errors just due to the complexity of the process. I guess maybe Mr. Noce didn’t want union reps to see that the Superintendent really isn’t just hiding money because he hates teachers or something. MDEA has fostered such hatred that people that don’t even know McHenry hate him.

    I think Mr. Eberhart and Mr. Strange are following this lead. This is an election year for both of them. First get your name in the paper – ask for the resignation of the Superintendent. It will be interesting to see if MDEA contributes to their campaigns. As a parent, I don’t want a union purchased board. While I am all for teachers being compensated and they should have benefits, I don’t like MDEA’s idea that all else can be cut. It is simply that we need more revenue – A PARCEL TAX. Now, Mr. Strange has done us no favors there by first announcing that we needed a $500 per parcel amount. People freaked out and it turned people off immediately. Then, by asking for the Superintendent’s resignation, he has put the nail in the coffin. To make Mr. McHenry look like he couldn’t manage the money from a parcel tax has set us back years. There have not been problems with the Measure A or C or Prop 55 moneys that I have heard about. I believe both Mr. Strange and Mr. Eberhart have faith in Dick Nicoll who is currently running the financials.

    They want a strategic plan for the district. I’ve seen plans for everything at these meetings. And in some cases, because the sites are all so different, one plan would not fit all. Each school needs some autonomy to make decisions that are good for their site. The teachers I talk to say they want to be left to teach their way, they don’t want more directives from the state and district about what goes on in their classrooms.

    As to the board members who support the Superintendent, their motives for being on the board have been clear for years. Mr. Allen has been a teacher, administrator and parent in MDUSD. He also has a grandchild at a MDUSD school. He has a deep commitment to MDUSD and his historical knowledge in invaluable. Mrs. Treece’s daughter graduated recently from a MDUSD and has a true passion that our children are learning skills they will need for the jobs that will be allow them to stay in our area when they get into the working world. Mrs. Mayo also had students in the district and has PTA running through her veins. She regularly attends PTA state level meetings and fights for all out students.

    Don’t get caught up in the political hype. Learn for yourself. Attend the PAC meeting or board meetings. I know Mr. Eberhart and Mr. Strange believe that what they are doing is right for the district, I just don’t agree. The last of my four kids is now going through high school. Her education was far better than that of my oldest. We have experienced smaller class sizes, more parity and standardization throughout all the schools, and sports and music are still supported even thought there have been years of state cuts.

    I still haven’t heard any specific issues from Mr. Strange and Mr. Eberhart regarding what they would cut that Mr. McHenry has not suggested. They have stated that the district is not administrator-heavy which I’m sure has been upsetting to those who felt there were millions to be saved by cutting administrators.

    A new superintendent is not going to help with our basic problems unless perhaps it’s Bill Gates and he brings his wallet with him.

  4. I'd surely pay 40 some dollars a month to have better schools. You bet your ass. Just give me someone who can manage it! SOmeone who doesn't spend millions on a damn voice mail communications system, someone who doesn't spend millions improperly on outside counsel or who can think far enough ahead to plan a strategic plan for this district. Give me someone who will listen to the teachers without an attorney in the room. Give me someone who gives our board members ALL information they need and which is public information without them having to invoke public informaiton acts to get it. There is not enough trust left in this district for McHenry. Its time to go and get some fresh and exciting leadershp.

  5. Anon 8:51AM

    Ok, first off the "new" system was necessary. The old system was very out dated, replacement parts were pretty much non existant. At a WASC review I was part of, the first question to the school and District Administrators in attendance was about the new system being put into place. They were pleased to hear the district was updating the system. This was approved by the School Board and information was available for anyone to review. As a parent I love the new system and teacher's I know are learning too also, change can be hard for some. Plus the old system was a dinosaur. As for legal fees, they were approved by the BOE too and sadly in our State, people file lawsuits all the time. Believe me many of them are frivolous. But now the district has general counsel and members of the BOE have stated this is saving the district a lot of money. But one Counsel can not handle all issues, especially when it comes to Special Education.

    As for the budget, the Superintendent can't just spend money, it is approved by the BOE and Auditors would catch any suspicious expenditures. Plus some funds from the State and Federal Government are restricted. When we passed Measure C, the way the funds could be used was restricted too. Attend a PAC meeting and you will learn a lot. I know that I have and I have also heard and seen how complicated our State and Federal Government make the School District's budget.

  6. So the legal fees authorized by the Sup that made the papers last year were all approved the by board? Really? Do they know that? AND why are ONLY TWO of the board members even asking about it? If I spent 5 million dollars at my company without proper permissions I'd be out on my ass!!!!! How has McHenry earned this devotion?

  7. I saw this on the NGHS blog. It was a post from Gary Eberhart. These reasons are specific enough to get rid of McHenry in my view. Of course there are many more as Eberhart stated. Anonymous should also note that not all PAC members support the Superintendent and that Treece and Allen have taken money from the teachers union also.
    • What would you do if the Superintendent approved over $5 million in contracts with an outside law firm without Board approval?
    • What would you do if there were millions of dollars of budget mistakes being made with no explanation of why?
    • What would you do if the 1.8 million that had been set aside to pay for teacher medical benefits was spent on something else? And teachers still don’t have medical benefits.
    • What would you do if employee morale in the school district was at its lowest level in two decades?
    • What would you do if the Brown Act (the law that ensures that the public has access to information and open meetings) was being ignored?
    • What would you do if the community had lost faith in how the district is operated because of poor administration practices?
    • What would you tell parents that continually inform you that their calls go unreturned and they are not kept informed about issues and concerns that they have?
    • What would you do if all union employees of the school district had been working without contracts since July 2007?
    • What would you do if, as a Board Member, you had to file a Public Information Act Request, just to gain access to information that is available to anyone in the public?
    • What would you do if the MDUSD had no strategic plan?
    • What would you do if you were characterized as being negative for asking questions about all of the above items?
    • What would you do if the majority of the Board and the Superintendent seemed to ignore your concerns that the above items were not being satisfactorily addressed?

    This is a partial list of the concerns that I have as a Board Member. I have tried to work diligently with Gary McHenry to find ways improve our school district. I have tried to work in a collaborative fashion with the entire Board and the Superintendent. I have been doing that for years. How long should I keep trying to “get along”? I am not perfect and I don’t always say the perfect things, but I have reached my limit for poor quality administration. In my opinion, our school district will never be the world class organization that it can be with the number of mistakes that are continuously made. Ask yourself; what would you do? How much would you take?

    The MDUSD can be a world class organization that understands the meaning of good quality customer service. Our school district can meet the academic needs of the students that we serve. Our district can have district health benefits that our teachers can afford. Our district can confront its challenges head on and answer questions that are asked of us, honestly and completely. We are here to serve our students, their families, and our community. That is our mission.

  8. Anonymous 8:42- Perhaps the Superintendent only presents information he wants out at PAC meetings and other community meetings? Also, Gary and Paul attend closed session meetings, things are discussed there that are not allowed to be brought out into the public. Maybe you don't know everything....

  9. I really hope everyone starts to show up at these community meetings, whether or not it is for your school. Parents who have concerns need to start showing up. If you do nothing, we get nothing - it will remain status quo and we will remain the crappiest district with the crappiest morale in the district. Richmond teachers have it better than ours.

  10. Anonymous 8:42's long post is filled with passion and opinion, but short on facts. First off, Paul Strange is not up for re-election this year. Gary Eberhart and April Treece are. Secondly, there are many PAC parents who are frustrated with the district. The process for change that begins at the PAC meetings is agonizingly slow and frustrating. Gary McHenry is a hard working man who really cares about the district, but it is time to get a fresh perspective in. Not all the problems that are occurring can be laid at MDEA's feet, although I am no fan of Mike Noce's tactics. In your post, you say Paul and Gary aren't stating their reasons why they are asking for the Superintendent's resignation. I wonder how involved you really are in district matters, besides attending PAC meetings, because they have held, and continue to hold, many meetings to share their thoughts. People calling for board unity should know that it is the board's job to find and fix errors and make changes needed to move the district forward. It is not the job of the board to create unity. Haven't we all had enough of passive going-along for the sake of unity? I am also curious about Linda Mayo's position on this. I know she is a supporter of the Superintendent, so why isn't she the one standing up for him? Is she being politically safe? By the way, Anon @ 8:42, both Paul and Gary's children currently have children in the MDUSD, which I think is more relevant that April, Dick and Linda's historical affiliation.

  11. Anon 4/16/08- 8:42 AM & 5:08 PM,

    You state that you are involved in the school district and you want everyone to believe that you speak from a position of knowing what is going on, but you also state that neither Paul nor I have stated what our specific issues are regarding the Superintendent. You also go on to state that the Board of Education approved the $5.7 million dollars worth of legal services contracts with Miller, Brown, and Dannis.

    Let me take the two issues separately:

    First, both Paul and I have stated over and over many of the things that we believe to be wrong with our district and that we believe that in order to make the fundamental changes that are necessary, we need to replace the Superintendent with a person that is capable of leading the district through these difficult times. If you were listening and you were paying attention, you would know that.

    Second, the Board of Education not only did not approve the last seven years of contracts with Miller, Brown, and Dannis, we were not even given the opportunity to vote on those contracts because they were not presented to the Board of Education. So your assertion that money can’t be spent without Board approval is incorrect. The MDUSD budget is $300,000,000 and trying to figure out how all of the money is spent is extremely difficult for a Board Member to do. I have requested for years that the Board be provided a copy of the full budget and I have not been afforded that pleasure since 2002-2003. Until Dr. Nicoll took over as the lead administrator on the budget, I was not receiving the budget documents that I had requested.

    What is it that you want us to do? Should Paul and I just shut up and go a long? Should we wait until the Grand Jury or the District Attorney investigates the district? I have tried unsuccessfully to work with the Board and the Superintendent for years to bring about change and Paul has been trying since he was appointed to the Board. We have tried in so many ways to work with them and it didn’t work. Our concerns were squelched by the Majority of the Board and the Superintendent.

  12. Just to be clear- it is not only MDEA that has issues with district administration. NO district union has settled a contract with the district. ALL district unions have serious concerns about district leadership. The BOE would not need to look far for a McHenry replacement. Dr. Nicols is a competent administrator who, over time, has demonstrated his integrity, intelligence, reason and people skills.