Thursday, June 24, 2010

MDUSD Superintendent Message 6/24/10

Dear Parents and Community of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District:

In a time of unprecedented budget deficits throughout the state, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (“District”) like many others is forced into the untenable position of making drastic reductions in staff and services. Ongoing state budget cuts have severely impacted the amount of money we receive from the State of California to educate the children of our community. As a result of decreasing revenues and declining student enrollment, the District’s annual operating deficit is projected to average nearly $13 million per year for the next three years, on top of the approximately $24.8 million deficit for what remains of the 2009/10 fiscal year.

Although we have already responded to the budget deficit by implementing staff reductions and non-personnel cuts totaling $15.88 million, we regretfully find ourselves in the position of having to ask for additional concessions from all of our bargaining units in order to present a balanced budget to the County Office of Education by June 30.

In the event we are not able to present a balanced budget in 2010/11 and beyond, there is a very real possibility that the state could take over our District. If there is a takeover and a State Administrator is appointed, your elected representatives (the Board of Education) and by extension you, will have no say in running the District. That is an outcome I know that none of us want to see come to pass.

I am certain that you have questions about the District’s finances and what is happening at the bargaining table. Therefore, I am enclosing answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the budget and the status of bargaining.

I am confident that with continued cooperation we will see our way through this current fiscal storm. Thank you for your patience. Have a good summer.


Steven Lawrence

LINK is for a FAQ about bargaining dated 6/23/10 that was attached to this Superintendent message: FAQ about District Bargaining (not google docs, everyone should be able to view and or /download). It's also available in spanish: SPANISH FAQ about District Bargaining

P.S. This message and link to FAQ's is not up on the district website yet. I would volunteer to help this district with communication. Or is that a union job I'd not be allowed to help with? Just asking.


  1. How do we access this, i don't have a google account.

  2. The communication job was eliminated early in the budget process. This means that there is no Public Information Officer (PIO).

  3. Sherry, so does that mean I can volunteer or not?

    I just added a new link that should allow anyone to view:

  4. My understanding of California Labor Law as described at the Parents Advisory Council (PAC) is that a volunteer cannot be used to do the position of someone who was terminated.

  5. It was not a union job - however the labor law does not just apply to union jobs. This was discussed at the PAC by Gail Isserman.

  6. This doesn't make sense Sherry. So it's not only the unions that make it so we can't help the schools more, it is labor law for the non union jobs ? I was NOT at the PAC, I've handed over my duties at PAC so excuse me that I don't have those notes. If the minutes were online I could see them I suppose....

  7. It was a PAC several months ago. I also did some research with the US Department of Education. The following information is from them.

    Wage and hour laws also contain certain safeguards that prevent employers from displacing salaried personnel with those willing to forgo compensation in exchange for their services. As with most laws, the wage and hour laws were drafted with broad provisions designed to dissuade those bent on circumventing the prohibitions. These broad provisions sometimes prove burdensome to individuals who wish to volunteer their services.

  8. Sherry, thank you. So I guess we get what we get, and should be happy to get a quarterly communication.

  9. and before I'm corrected on the "quarterly" thing, I know he wrote in May, and had community meetings in January time frame. But I think I'm not the only one completely checking out on this district. You have good parents , involved parents, ready to throw in the towel. A little communication would go a long way. I'm not one to just complain and not do anything, you know that Sherry, but I'm sure you know how frustrating it is out here.

  10. Where was this posted? Interesting that a communication is not communicated. As for the posting, I am certain that Steven Lawrence can be set up to post automatically - it's called...a blog! Since there is no PIO (and glad she is gone I am), there should be a DIRECT means for the Super to communicate. Give him a Blogger account and turn off comments, that way it is strictly informational.

  11. MisterWriter I got this in email . It is ridiculous that these things can't be posted (and by the way the last communicatioon from him in may is nowhere posted on the website that I can find. There has to be a better way for information to get out. Seriously.

  12. I too want to weigh in on this discussion. The new Superintendent will never gain trust in this community without a commitment to regular communication.

    I apologize for my propensity to be suspicious but it seems like this communication is more about inciting the parents to put pressure on the bargaining units and less about communicating.

    Communication seems to come from Dr. Lawrence when he wants something from us like a bond measure or pressure on the union. I would like to see him communicate because he knows as parents/community we care and that we are concerned. We should have heard about why the district is reorganizing and how it will help our students. We should have heard about the lowest performing schools reform and his commitment to improving education in MDUSD. We should have received a memo saying hi my name is Steven Lawrence and for those of you who could not attend the community meeting let me tell you about myself...
    We should have heard about the school closure procedure from him not Pete Pederson. The list goes on...

  13. I understand everyone's frustration. This has not been an easy 18 month but it has been even worse for Dr. Lawrence. In the past five months since joining MDUSD he has had to:

    1) Learn a district composed of over 32,000 students with a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds
    2) Cut even more money from an already chopped budget
    3) Begin negotiations with every bargaining unit
    4) Begin school closures
    5) Have schools placed on the lowest performing schools list

    I'm pretty sure that was not the job description posted by the district.

    Even though some staff will be unhappy that I posted this, I still feel like we need a strategic plan. Strategic planning is not a simple sit down for one day gather feedback and "poof" there it is. A colleague of mine facilitated one for a neighboring school district and it took over six months for it (this was during a time frame of no huge issues, and a school district that is K-8 that is almost 12% our size). I thought I would start drafting on this during July since I might have some extra time.
    For the planning stage we’d have to think about:
    1. Gathering input from parents, students, employees, community members, and businesses
    a. How to gather it (multiple ways)
    b. Types of questions to ask
    2. Who would be on the strategic planning committee? How do we determine a realistic representation from our district and community? It doesn’t work to have 20+ members on it.
    3. What’s the process for strategic planning
    4. Who leads it (because we can’t afford to pay someone)
    Those are just a few of the items that the planning team would need to take on.

    If you have any ideas, I’d be happy to get hear from you. or 925 899 4731

    And yes I do realize that even if we do strategic planning over 50% of those who read the blogs won't like it. There probably only 15% of our parents who care about it, and that 50% of our employees will think its a waste of time.

  14. Sherry,
    I just had a round of telephone calls with the U.S. Department of Labor's Sacramento office speaking with a woman in the wage and hours division.
    The information you are quoting above is for the private sector employer who may not utilize volunteers unless they are interns and follow all the rules pertaining to interns.

    Here is the correct information according to the Sacramento office:

    Title 29: Labor
    Subpart B—Volunteers

    Browse Previous | Browse Next
    § 553.104 Private individuals who volunteer services to public agencies.

    (a) Individuals who are not employed in any capacity by State or local government agencies often donate hours of service to a public agency for civic or humanitarian reasons. Such individuals are considered volunteers and not employees of such public agencies if their hours of service are provided with no promise expectation, or receipt of compensation for the services rendered, except for reimbursement for expenses, reasonable benefits, and nominal fees, or a combination thereof, as discussed in §553.106. There are no limitations or restrictions imposed by the FLSA on the types of services which private individuals may volunteer to perform for public agencies.

    (b) Examples of services which might be performed on a volunteer basis when so motivated include helping out in a sheltered workshop or providing personal services to the sick or the elderly in hospitals or nursing homes; assisting in a school library or cafeteria; or driving a school bus to carry a football team or band on a trip. Similarly, individuals may volunteer as firefighters or auxiliary police, or volunteer to perform such tasks as working with retarded or handicapped children or disadvantaged youth, helping in youth programs as camp counselors, soliciting contributions or participating in civic or charitable benefit programs and volunteering other services needed to carry out charitable or educational programs.

    I specifically asked about the fact that the position was once a paid position and she indicated that that is not an issue under this provision. The only limitation to the provision above is if the volunteer is currently working for the public agency. I do not believe "MDUSDParents" is currently employed by the district.

    Here is the number:
    U.S. Dept of Labor Sacramento - (1-866-487-9243)

  15. Sherry,
    I appreciate you answering the comments on this blog.

    Why wasn't that in the job description?

    Also, I sat in a meeting with Dr. Lawrence his first week on the job and he chuckled at the idea of a Monday Memo. He has never intended to communicate regularly.

    Was that in the job description?

  16. Linda,

    I'm on hold with the state. You will notice that my quotes were from the US Department of Education, so it can't be for the private sector. Also when I went online, there are many instances of schools and universities discussing the ability to NOT use volunteers to do work that was previously paid to do.

  17. Sherry, what was not in the job description? Regular communication with stake holders of the district? A regular "state of the district" address to the public? Why wouldn't this be part of the job description given some of the issues many of US had with McHenry . . . And at least McHenry did a weekly Monday Memo. I know I know, staff cuts, etc. etc. but it doesn't take that long to write a 3 paragraph update of what one is working on , or how the district is doing. I guess the issue is the political correctness? I'm actually really surprised if "communication" was not in the job description. Who drafted the description?

  18. Sherry,
    I understand your frustration but I think many of us are frustrated.
    I am thrilled that you want to start the strategic planning process.

    This is not about making the parents or the employees happy, it is about what is in the best interest of the students.

    Thank you for starting the process!

  19. Linda,

    Several different items here.

    Just got off the phone from the number you suggested I called. The gentlemen stated that California had different labor laws and that I would need to contact the DIR. Am trying that number but keep getting busy signal.

    I believe Dr. Lawrence is working on information in his priority order. I don't think that means that communication is not important to him, but he thinks about it differently. The PAC and board meetings are his way of communicating. He has never told me that..I am making a big assumption here.

    My understanding is that the communication specialist wrote the memo and Mr. McHenry reviewed it and sent it out; however, he didn't visit the school sites. I have had principals tell me that in 5 or more years, Mr. McHenry did not visit their site. Dr. Lawrence does site visits.

    I really don't won't to get into a comparison here. I understand your concern about communication.

  20. That wasn't in the job description? Your kidding right? What did he think, it would be hallways filled with perfect angels and trees with money growing on them? Step up and do your job.

    Freakin government employees.

  21. Sherry,
    I just sent you the direct line (rather than the general number) to the person at the Labor Department via email.

    As for communications. I understand what you are saying. As his boss do you think that is good enough? You know that this district needs to restore trust and confidence. Do you think it can be done by just speaking at board meetings and PAC meetings?

    Did you know that the PAC meeting agendas and minutes are no longer posted on the website? So even if you and he thinks this is enough, how will the vast majority of parents get this information?

    I am happy that Dr. Lawrence visits schools. I think that is great. He still needs to connect with the community. It would be nice, and so much more effective if there was a partnership amongst stakeholders. I do not think that can be accomplished without communication.

    As a parent, my perception is that he does not care to communicate to us. It is not just me or MDUSDParents who are asking for more communication. I hear it regularly from other involved parents. Are we valued stakeholders or not?

  22. As a parent in the MDUSD I have felt it is my obligation to my children to attend district meetings as well as site meetings at our schools. I have made every attempt to feel informed, and I feel and know that I am. I attend PAC meetings, PTA meetings, community meetings and provided the district with my Email to receive updates. I also take the time to look at my school site websites as well as the districts.

    In these very uncertain, difficult times we all need to reach out a little more and help. I am fine with the communication from our new Superintendent. I want him out in the schools and spending his time doing what is best for our children. The budget crisis is very serious and I have been telling people this for months.

    I know the communication position was eliminated in our district as well as 35% of the positions at the Dent Center.

    I am happy with Email updates and like this recent Email from Dr. Lawrence. I knew our MDEA Leadership was a large part of the problem after they answered questions at a PAC meeting. I knew they were a problem when a retired teacher in a neighboring district stated this, that our Union Leadership is hurting our district and students. I like that Dr. Lawrence is getting the facts out there.

    Time for MDEA Leadership to stop this nonsense. If the State takes over MDUSD, many schools will be closed, many programs eliminated at the remaining schools and we as parents will have no say what so ever.

  23. MDUSD Parent. Not all 30,000+ parents can attend PAC meetings. I used to attend, but can no longer attend. So for people like me (and if you want me to go into my personal details I will) , who can not attend these meetings, what do we do.. just wait for the Sup to throw us a bone. You probably know who I am.. I'm involved. I've done everything "right" per your description for years.. but ... now... it's not enough, and that's my opinion.

  24. This is just another way for the board to cover up, what in my opinion is their illegal negligence of fiduciary duty to our tax dollars.

    Yes Paul that means you, giving unwarranted raises to your attorney buddies.

  25. MDUSDParent 8:44 (I assume not to be confused with MDUSDParents)

    I think it is wonderful that you are able to attend these meetings. Some people can’t. Some families have small children, work nights, are single parents, have evening family obligations, etc… In addition, there are approximately 32,000 children in this district. That means maybe 40,000 parents, do we have room at the Dent Center for everyone?

    When did we lower our expectations so far that we don’t even expect a simple weekly or monthly email from our district leader? Okay how about just posting the information on the website?

    I agree I like email communication too. There just hasn’t been much of it and it only comes when the district wants something. They want us to be angry at the bargaining units and, just as an FYI, according to the email MDEA has not yet started negotiations nor does MDEA have the benefit package at stake. I feel quite certain that MDEA will not negotiate until they see a cap on benefits from the other unions involved.

    This isn’t communication, this is negotiations, but I will take it because it is better than nothing. While I still expect more, it may be pointless.

  26. Sherry,

    You said, "I understand everyone's frustration. This has not been an easy 18 month but it has been even worse for Dr. Lawrence. In the past five months since joining MDUSD he has had to:

    1) Learn a district composed of over 32,000 students with a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds
    2) Cut even more money from an already chopped budget
    3) Begin negotiations with every bargaining unit
    4) Begin school closures
    5) Have schools placed on the lowest performing schools list"

    Does this mean that you expect us to feel sorry for Dr. Lawerence? Do you expect us to give him a break? If so you are an imbecile.

  27. I am a parent at MDUSD and did not receive this message in my email. How come? Do they just not like me anymore?

    Easy solution #1 - Send this blog or me the email and we will post it. Claycord will post it. Halfway will post it. Right there you have a large chunk of the city covered. Parents can be directed to the blog.

    So I am still upset that I never got this in the email. And EVERYONE has my email.

  28. Misterwriter,
    I think the hang-up is that someone has to write the communication in the first place.

  29. Sherry,

    Thank you for answering our questions. Perhaps you might steer him over to this blog and refer him to the comments, so that he is aware of how his communication is being received. It's a pretty direct feedback loop, I'm sure you've found.

    I think Dr. Lawrence is earning his paycheck. I think given the size of it, he can count it as Hazard Pay. (He had to have known it was going to be difficult. The budget crisis has been going on for longer than 5 months.) He had to have had some idea of what he was inheriting. And when you become Super of a district this size, you don't sign up for it thinking it will be easy.

    Yes, he has to deal with the budget crisis, and he has to get out in front of that and talk with the community. He has to prove that the solar project is going to fly, and he has to prove that the $1.8 billion dollars is going to bring some visible improvement. He has to talk to us and not just when it's supposed to be a political lever. We're already too jaded and cynical to believe it's anything but a tactic.

  30. Mister Writer, I noticed that this communication came addressed to the my oldest child.. the way other "all parent" communications have come in the past. Could it be that your "oldest child" just graduated and is now wiped from the database? Maybe there is a period of time that maybe called a "glitch" so that if your oldest graduates, the system has to fix itself to go to your next oldest? Ok, just making stuff up, but I did wonder if it had anything to do with your graduating senior... and the fact it came addressed to my oldest... ?

  31. Oh, and sorry, I just realized there was an unsubscribe, so it did come thru the "school messenger" system.

  32. MDUSDParent

    Did you know California has about 1,000 school districts. There has been substantial regulation over school district finances since 1991 when the laws were expanded. Since 1991 do you know how many school districts have gone into receivership? Eight.

    If the State takes over MDUSD, many schools will be closed, many programs eliminated at the remaining schools and we as parents will have no say what so ever.

    Sounds like you have been speaking to Paul. I have heard this too. The truth is a state receiver is chosen and decides what to do, we don't know what would be decided? You may be right, but with salaries as such a large percentage of the general fund it may also be salary cuts, who knows. I do believe the Superintendent would lose his job and the board would be out. Receivership would be very bad for our community on many levels.

  33. Actually my eldest may have graduated but there is another... sounds like the Star Wars line....

    Interesting that you got the email but others did not. The fact that it WAS setup to transmit means that somewhere there is a system flaw for not being all INCLUSIVE (that popular ed word)

  34. And I have never received anything. I usually get info from the site.

  35. As a teacher who has experienced this Superintendent's visit to my site, he spent all of about 50 seconds in my classroom. My students were not even in the classroom, but yet he still had nothing to say to me. All the other teachers at my site felt the same way. I would much rather Dr. Lawrence spend his time communicating with the parents of the district on a regular basis. Even a monthly memo would be a respectful way to inform parents about district issues. I am also a parent in this district. I think that there is more accountability to parents if he communicates with us on a regularly. By the way, I work at a large site with many teachers, and I have yet to talk to one who is not willing to take furlough days to help out. We just don't want to be bullied by the district.

  36. Sherry and MDUSDParents,

    Maybe we are looking at this labor law issue all wrong. Having a parent volunteer to help with a Monday Memo, or whatever form of communication the Superintendent would agree to, is not a replacement of the PIO. I would think that the former PIO job required much more than that. This is a new volunteer position.

  37. You are probably right Linda, in fact, I certainly would never want to take on the responsibilities of a communications specialist, or PIO, or even a secretary or admin .

    I just want to hear what is going on and have that info out to the public.

    We shouldn't have to be begging here on a blog for more communication.

    I've written to the district (various people) in the last couple of days, to ask various questions and have only heard back from one. (I'm not talking about the board, I will say they are very good at getting back to me. But the district, not so much.)

  38. - The email was sent using the email addresses that are in the student information system (I checked with the district office on that). To ensure you receive email communication from your school and the district, please make sure that at the beginning of school you get your email into the system.

    - My reason for listing the items was to list priorities. The board should take the blame as to not directing the superintendent to do more communication. I will say that he did notify those of us in a lower performing school about it.

    - Those district employees that are not part of a union are on furlough days until July 1.

    - About the writing of the communication - I think it would take longer to actually tell someone what to write, rather than just doing it. Since the email addresses are in the student information system, volunteers cannot have access to it.

    - Checking on the volunteer thing still. My personal opinion is that if it is something that would be considered litigous, MDUSD is not willing to take the chance.

  39. You need to make sure the office staff at your child's school enters the information into the system, once you give it to them.

  40. Sherry - you have an amazing ability to skirt around every issue. The politician BS force is strong in you.

  41. The Former "PIO"June 25, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    As MDUSD's former "PIO" (among many other duties), I am moved to write.

    1) Dr. Lawrence's message was posted on the MDUSD website yesterday, a good sign that he sees its value for sharing information.

    MDUSD doesn’t need a PIO for the website to be a communication tool. In 2007-08 the district (via Tech Services) bought software that enables employees to post information on the website quickly and easily. Employees in all district departments helped design a user-friendly website supported by the software. A rep in each department was trained in the simple process of posting Word documents onto the site. Many who were trained still work for the district; they and staff in Tech Services can assist anyone who hasn't been trained. In addition, there was (and I hope still is) an employee who served as "webmaster" as an extra duty. He can post any document e-mailed to him. After my job ended last July, Interim Supt. Nicoll used employees who'd been trained on the software to post his messages and other information on the website.

    2) Gary McHenry and Dick Nicoll drafted their own messages. The PIO part of my duties was to coordinate/facilitate communications, rarely to create them. As a former English teacher and news reporter/editor, I tried to anticipate the audience's questions and make sure messages, meeting minutes, and other information included sufficient details.

    Gary did visit schools though not as often as he wished. (Sometimes when he did, the MDEA leadership told teachers to ignore him.) Twice a year he went to each high school to converse with its student leadership team and then shared their fairly perceptive comments with the Board in a written report.

    For several years Gary drafted and I produced a monthly newsletter for staff, which became too time-consuming and not timely enough. We morphed that into the almost-weekly Monday Memo, sent to a wide audience via the Constant Contact electronic newsletter program for about $400/year. Before we used that newsletter, I e-mailed the Monday Memo and other announcements to school and district administrators for them to share with their staff and communities via e-mail or bulletin board.

    3) Both Gary and Dick believe in the value of communicating with staff, parents, students, and the community. I trust Dr. Lawrence does, too. Still, it's a given that there's is never enough information sharing. (It's not unique to MDUSD. I never receive communications from the districts serving my community, Lafayette, unless it's time for another parcel tax or bond.) The demand for “more” should not dissuade district leaders from providing “some.” I've listed a few ways information can be shared in MDUSD at little time or cost and by employees other than a PIO.

    4) During his 2008 re-election campaign Gary Eberhart promised to improve communication in the district. When he placed the Superintendent's Senior Admin. Assistant/Communications Specialist position on the budget cut list in February 2009 and then made the motion (approved in a 3-2 vote with him, Strange, and Whitmarsh in the majority) to eliminate it, I assumed he had a plan for providing ongoing information. Instead, parents and staff are told that the decline in communications is solely due to the PIO's position being eliminated.

    When budgets get cut, PR positions are among the first to go. I get it: save the talking head or the teacher? Easy answer. However, if an organization is cutting (and cutting and cutting) its budget, someone needs to be helping those vested in the organization understand the situation and its consequences.

    Employees and parents are looking to Board members and the Superintendent to be that "someone." I hope these leaders will use the MDUSD website and other electronic means to share information. They might also ask one of their attorneys for advice on how to use community resources, including current and former employees, as a communication network.
    Sue Berg

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. The job description does not mention a weekly memo to the community - so it is NOT part of his job description.

  44. Thanks "Former PIO" for responding here. I have a few things I wanted to mention, but little time, but for now I just want to say, if it is easy enough to add things to the site, why are things like PAC meeting minutes never added at all? Why was this Superintendent message not posted until much after this blog post, and much later in the day? Why can't we see any announcement on the site about principal changes or appointments? Why don't we see an update on the school closure committee?

    As you know , these questions to you are rhetorical, as you are no longer with MDUSD and you may be wondering some of these same things yourself. But I just had to ask outloud. And these, are just a few of the things I hear being mentioned out there.

    I will reach out to Sherry and provide some more (what I think to be) constructive input, but thank you too for adding to the discussion.

  45. Sherry,

    Little advice. Sometimes is best to take a moment and think before we post.

    The statement "The job description does not mention a weekly memo to the community - so it is NOT part of his job description".

    Please tell me you were joking or sarcastic. With the need more than ever for leadership, now would not be the time to not be open and transparent with the community. Anything else, will further help the state take over the district.


  46. What is truly amazing is that Sherry thinks we should feel sorry for the superintendent and give him a break.

    If the superintendent is so thin skinned he can't take well founded criticism, then he should put his panties back on and go cry to his mommy.

    Here comes the state MDUSD, maybe they can rescue us from your incompetent running of our district.

  47. What is the timeline for a state takeover of the case, worst case??

  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. MisterWriter said... I edited my last post. It was mean spirited and not what I intended.

    Sue Berg - you're back. How refreshing!

    Don't rehash the past, it is dead for very good reasons regardless of your view of it and shall remain so.

    I am surprised that you would throw out a few jabs about Gary Eberhart's promise of communication and allude to his failure as some sort of backtrack. The world turned upside down after the change in leadership and board majority and the district has been in slash mode ever since. Your observation/jab is barely appropriate given that situation but let me point out that Gary, Paul and Sherry DO HAVE their phone numbers posted and DO respond when people actually dial their numbers, happily accept the challenge placed their way and that is far more than anyone has done before.

    I do believe that this board majority has tackled far worse than the last and given the lot they have been handed are quite open and transparent regardless of the naysayers. The simple fact is that until the state can stabilize its funding/budget there is no salvation even if Jesus Himself were to be on the board.

    I commend the board for their efforts to weather the storm. I sure the heck would not want to be sitting there with my hands tied as theirs are and have the brunt of everyone's anger at them as though they caused the problems.

    You see Sherry and Gary on this site very often, and having met Steven Lawrence do believe that disaster aside, he will be fine, although as much may not be said of the district as a whole if the fox gets to run the hen house.

    I do believe, however, that the old way of doing business - the whole structure of education needs to change. It has been dying for some time and the future promises to be quite unforgiving to those that cannot change.


  50. And MDUSDParents I agree that there can be more on the site and in the way of communication and honestly i preferred the blog that Gary and Paul started as information was swift. I still think that a blog format would be good for getting information out there are everyone subscribes to the feeds. they can even turn comments off to maintain the integrity.

    On the flip side what do you say when there is little in the way of action to be had?

    Sherry, I do think that it is easier to find legalities and reasons for things not to be done than it is to find some solution that works. Certainly there should be no conflict with information that has been emailed to a parent who then volunteers to post it on a blog. Since the information was disseminated it would just be a matter of the volunteer reposting, unauthorized by the MDUSD but nonetheless effectively achieving a needed goal.

    Food for thought.

  51. Andre,
    I read your post last night and got up this morning to respond. I am glad I found it deleted.
    I understand your defense of the Board (specifically Gary and Sherry) and I believe the majority of decisions they make are difficult right now.
    What we can't do is make excuses for change that needs to occur in order to make this district better. Communication is one of those issues. I believe the lack of communication coming from Dent has very little to do with the loss of the PIO. Dick Nicol communicated more than this. The lack of communication is because the new Superintendent does not believe it warrants his attention. For all the times he has been asked in both private meetings, emails and in public meetings (just the ones I know of) to communicate, and this is still all we get, leads me to believe he does not intend to communicate. It is not important enough to him.
    What I expect from our BOE is to understand the importance of communication and as Dr. Lawrence's boss let him know it is expected as part of his job.
    The sad thing is, if that is what it takes, Dr. Lawrence is probably "fine" as you stated in your email. I was hoping for great.

    I read about a new superintendent who moved into a diverse, challenging, school district. He came to the district with a plan for what he was going to do broken down into the first three months, the second three months, and the third three. He shared that information with the community in 2008 when he came on board. He developed a comprehensive and impressive strategic plan with input from the community. He received input from 4,000 stakeholders. His budget presentation for 09-10 included a letter to the community about all of the elements in the budget and brought those element back to their relationship to the strategic plan.

    Communication is huge. He does a monthly video, some highlight students other introduce new programs. He has a blog, newsletters, and most impressively an entire section of the district website is called the Superintendent's desk where all of this can be found. The district's website has tons of photos of students and excudes the notion that they are all about the students.

    The district has 71,000 students and a budget in the high 500 mill. About 2.25 times the size of MDUSD. They are currently facing budget cuts, admittedly not as drastic as MDUSD but they too are faced with cuts.

    There is not an excuse to be heard coming from that Superintendent. His motto is something along the lines of "nothing less than excellence."

    Even if our resource constraints do not allow us to do all of this. Wanting to do this and accomplishing some would move us in the right direction. It is what I perceive as lack of desire to want this and the lack of recognition that it exists, that worries me.

    We need to stop making excuses for our leadership and we need to start expecting more.

  52. icisIf Dr. Lawerence doesn't start communicating soon, he should be thrown out on his ass.

  53. Hi Linda,

    Can you post a link to the school website you mentioned?


  54. Sheila,
    I am happy to pass this along.

    This is the link for the district's main website you can find the "Superintendent's Desk" on the menu bar just below the large revolving photos.

    Superintendent's Entry Plan from 2008 -

    This district has completed an extensive strategic plan and you will see in both their 2009-10 and 2010-11 budget everything ties back to a strategic plan and goals.

    2009-10 Budget
    (do not miss his letter on page 7)

    2010-11 Budget
    (once again do not miss his letter on page 7)

    I believe you will find this amazing and it proves that we can do better. Our board needs to understand that we are not fighting them, we are begging them for better. They are the target because they truly hold the power to begin the change.

  55. MisterWriter said, ". . . let me point out that Gary, Paul and Sherry DO HAVE their phone numbers posted . . "

    And where would that be? I just looked on the MDUSD website and saw an e-mail address for each Board member but not a phone number except for the one for the Superintendent's Office.

  56. Sherry has posted hers here in the past I will find it. Paul and Gary have theirs posted on their blog

    Paul Strange - 925-567-3030

    Gary Eberhart - 925-304-1546

  57. June 24, 2010 8:44 PM

    "Time for MDEA Leadership to stop this nonsense. If the State takes over MDUSD, many schools will be closed, many programs eliminated at the remaining schools and we as parents will have no say what so ever."
    All your concerns have already happened, and not because of the unions "nonsense" or a state takeover. Valued programs have been cut along with teachers to implement them, your children's class sizes have been increased with fewer resources available to them, and schools facing closure will be selected in due time.
    There will be furloughs in the future, no doubt, and your children will stay home each of those furlough days in order to save money and help avoid a takeover. Will that "nonsense" be the teachers' fault too?

  58. As a teacher in this district, I have had my class size increased by 50% this past school year. That is huge and it has been a challenging year for all involved! With all the adjustments and staggering increases to the work load, it's funny, my requirements for communication have not been decreased at all!?!

  59. Sherry- Thanks for always posting here and trying to make things clear for people. Even though we believe it to be your job, you stand head and shoulders above the rest of the board when it comes to communication.

    Sue B.- Thank you for your perspective. You obviously care about this district since you are still following the goings on via this blog.

    I don't think comparisons between Dr. Lawrence and Dick Nicoll are fair. Dick has been a part of this district for years and knows the ebb and flow of things.

    In addition to just starting out in a new district, Dr. Lawrence has had a steep learning curve, decimated budgets, and angry parents to deal with.

    I want to see more communication from him and hope that instead of putting up roadblocks to volunteerism, that Dr. Lawrence can find ways to make it work.

    For instance, the SIS (Student Information System) is considered confidential, but there are plenty of parents who also are employees of the district as office subs, etc., than can volunteer their time and have access to the database without violating privacy.

    In these days of layoffs, I am sure that there are more than a few that could help.

  60. Just let the state come in and take over. The unions and the district are to far apart. The teachers union are waiting til just before school starts. We just are out of money and ideas. Know one can make the $$ cuts necessary. It's either not politically correct or the unions say oh no you can't. The only schools that are doing good from elementary thru to high school are Valle Verde, Walnut Acres, Foothill, and Northgate. They have the funds $$$ to plug the holes. JUST LET THE STATE COME IN WE DOOMED!!!

  61. June 28th 2:33pm- What are you basing your facts on?

    My kids have had an excellent education in PH from kindergarten through high school and are now attending UC's.

    The state takeover won't be pretty. The state makes decisions about what schools to close and if they close one, then the others will have to pick up the slack.

    Could bring a whole new element to the WC schools.

  62. Current facts of today. Congrat's on your children attending University. However, this means you have not been in an elementary or middle school in quite some time as a parent. Also, I live on the WC / Concord border I would love for the state to come in close our schools and if WC schools are an option ... well from your lips to God's ears!

  63. Anon 10:17am- "Current facts of today"? Ummm. Sorry that's not a fact.

    My youngest just finished his second year of high school, so it hasn't been that long since I was involved in the middle school.

    You are fooling yourself if you think a state takeover is good. Their job will be to balance the budget without concern for the community's needs or desires.

    Right now, the district is a mess and there are stakeholders that won't negotiate. The district is playing a PR game and the teacher's union says it is going to wait until September.

    The teachers who post that they don't like their leadership need to put pressure on them to get some kind of contract together. I want our teachers to make a living, but at whose expense? The secretaries and special ed assistants?

  64. Linda,

    Sorry for the length of time to respond. I have been offline...

    I deleted my initial posting because in rereading it I found it unfair and petty. It was not the intent of what I had wanted to convey.

    I agree with your posting. As for a superintendent being "great" at this juncture... I do think that it is not possible at this time. i do agree that the time for excuses is over.

    I do believe that the war, and it has been a war, within this district, has to end before any change takes place. Whether you like or dislike the various players, theirs is not the power since by election we have assigned them. That said, replacing everyone will still result in stagnancy because no one has addressed the real problems. We have a state that keeps taking from the city level and had hurt even the most financially sound of cities. By the same process education has been repeatedly hit. For all the talk about doing things for our kids, it is a sad reflection when our prisoners fare better than our children in the level of services they receive.

    If you want to start replacing people, I would start at the top and work down. Politicians who work for us in a job called "public service" need to serve and not take. Without reform at the state level, you really cannot expect change at the local level.

    As for the blogs, people like Linda, and Sue and Sherry who put their names out there knowing they may well be attacked for it (even by me at times) do make a difference to the level of information. We do not have to agree. We do have to all think.

    And MDUSD Parent - I'm always reticent to use your name since I do not know if you have it out there - you do a great service to the district and parents with this blog. Keep it up.


  65. OK, this is what I don't understand...Mr. Eberhardt and Mr. Strange, as well as Ms. Whitmarsh, have been stating for many, many months a strategic plan was needed. Why is Ms. Whitmarsh, just now, thinking that it's time to start a strategic plan? Back when McHenry was here and the two gentlemen listed above were up in arms about the lack of a plan, why weren’t they planning then to develop one? When Mr. Eberhardt and Ms. Whitmarsh were running, why didn't they work with Mr. Strange and have a plan developed?

    To state now that it takes months to develop a strategic plan, as an excuse for the district not having one, is a cop out!

    It was also stated in this thread that Dr Lawrence is working down a priority list of things he needs to do. This insinuates that communicating with the community isn't where he is at on that list yet. How about this; tell us what his priority list is!!! Communication HAS TO BE at the top!

    The proposed 2010/2011 School Budget needs to be linked on the front page of the district's website – transparency.

    We are not only the community, we are also their bosses. As their boss, we demand that they communicate!

    Thank you Ms. Berg for commenting.