Thursday, August 12, 2010

MDUSD finalized candidate list

We have an election! Up until a couple days ago, we were only aware of three candidates for the three seats on the MDUSD School Board.

We now have 5:

Linda Mayo
Lynne Dennler
Roy Larkin
Brian Lawrence
Jeff Adams

I am anxious to hear more from them. I would like to know what areas they live in so we can get an idea of what their area schools are dealing with. At least I hope they've been following the schools. Hopefully they have been following the board so those new to the mix understand what is involved. Are they on any district committees? How about school site groups (PFC, PTA, site council, etc). What makes them uniquely qualified to help lead this district during these rocky times?

We know that Jeff Adams is an attorney who ran in 2008. We know Linda Mayo is the incumbent and is highly involved in state level PTA. We have heard Ms. Dennler is a retired teacher and Mr. Larkin, a retired CFO. We hear below, that Mr. Lawrence has an entering kindergardener.

I will need a lot more information and much visibility from them before I will commit my vote. I hope they plan some community meetings. I would be happy to plan one too if they would be interested. How about a 'Meet the Candidates' community meeting ?

In the comments of a previous post we hear an introduction from Brian Lawrence:

"Hi folks,

I'm Brian Lawrence and I am a candidate for the MDUSD board. Like many of you, I'm extremely concerned about the state of our schools. My oldest child is about to enter kindergarten in the district. I'm committed to strong, transparent fiscal oversight and providing our children with every available resource to ensure their success.

I know the readers of this blog are passionate about improving MDUSD and I look forward to working with you."


  1. I think good questions for the candidates are: What is your vision for MDUSD ? Will you require the Supt to develop a Strategic Plan for MDUSD ? How will you hold the Supt and staff accountable for the flood of “persistently underachieving schools” — now six and will rise next week with the release of the STAR tests ? Will you seek to reverse the raises to the Gang of Five made in Nov 09 in the midst of layoffs, class size increases, furloughs to administrtors, reduction of hours of staff ? Will you require transparency in requiring competitive bidding for significant costs associated with Measure C bonds so it does not appear to reward donors to the campaign ?

  2. Excuse me, 8:08 was my post.
    Doctor J

  3. Ah, no kidding Dr. J- We could figure that out by the post.

    MDUSDParents- You have some good questions that seem a lot more relevant to me than what Dr. J asks.

    I wonder why that is? Let's see. Your questions get to the heart of a candidate's intent and experience with the district.

    As usual, Dr. J's puts his/her "hidden" agenda out there.

    Dr. J- Read MDUSDParents' post again and then yours to see why people are tired of your bs.

    Personally, I am not interested in your paranoid fantasy about the so called Gang of Five (who are they anyway?) and whether raises are reversed.

    Positions were eliminated and job descriptions were expanded, and money WAS saved overall.

    Your questions really lead me to believe that you are one of the candidates--possibly without the qualities that MDUSDParents has laid out in her questions.

    I think that some cities or the League of Woman voters used to hold a candidates forum. It would be great if that could happen again.

  4. Anon 9:04
    The Gang of Five are the five at the District Office that got raises in Nov 09, including the lawyer and the accountant. Why did these five get raises when everyone else got furloughs ? Everyone else has additional responsibilities too, but got no raises -- why ? Save money ? Are you kidding me ? The lawyer gets a $27,998 raise. Theresa reports this morning "In response to another Public Records Act request, I have learned that Juhl-Darlington’s firm was paid $405,458 in the 2009-10 fiscal year. However, the firm hasn’t been paid anything yet in relation to the bond contract.
    The district’s total legal services costs in 2009-10 were $915,556.42.
    Edrington, Schirmer & Murphy was paid $94,335.26.
    Ruiz & Sperow were paid $43,358.51.
    Crosby & Rowell was paid $1,654.80.
    The Law Office of Peter Bonis, which didn’t contribute to the Measure C campaign, was paid $104,034.70." How do you call that savings ?
    As for qualifications of the candidates, I guess you haven't read what it really means to be a School Board member. If you did, perhaps you would have some more in depth questions. Here, read about the role and function of school boards.
    Then you will know what kind of questions you ought to be asking the candidates.
    Doctor J

  5. School Board Leadership: The role and function of California School Boards.

    You might see some differences between this and what you have seen in MDUSD.

    Doctor J

  6. "1. Setting the direction for the community’s schools. Of all the responsibilities of governing
    boards, none is more central to the purpose of local governance than ensuring that a long-term vision is established for the school system. The vision reflects the consensus of the entire board, the superintendent and district staff, and the community as to what
    the students need in order to achieve their highest potential. The vision should set a clear direction for the school district, driving every aspect of the district’s program."
    From School Board Leadership: The role and function of California School Boards.
    Do we have such a long term vision in MDUSD ? If so, where is it articulated and how was it arrived at ? My questions are highly relevant.
    Doctor J

  7. Doctor J,

    How much money was saved in the cutting and shifting process that resulted in the raises you are complaining about?

  8. I am going to defend Doctor J not that he/she needs defending but I think the questions are good ones. We have a district with out a strategic plan making decisions without goals in mind for the future.

    In addition, had the raises not been granted we would have saved $40,000 more. Don't play games with the numbers. You either save $40,000 or you spend it. Imagine the morale issues with co-workers. Was that a wise decision if you are claiming productivity an issue.

    I can't imagine any stakeholder in this dstrict not wanting transparency in the bidding process or anything else for that matter.

    If you are going to accuse Doc J of being a candidate. I think I will accuse you of being a current board member.

  9. Hopefully we can get new board members who don't march in lock step with Gary and Sherry. That way we can marginalize them and minimize the damage they continue to cause.

    Remeber the two dissenting votes on the Gang of Five rasies were Dick and Linda. We now need three that would vote the same way. Reelect Linda then two others.

  10. Anon 10:36 (Dr. J's spouse/child/coworker/campaign manager-

    No, I am not a board member, nor would I ever want to be.

    Sherry and Gary have both posted here under their real names, as opposed to Dr. J who keeps calling them out.

    Did you know that Sherry, Gary and Dr. Lawrence all have children who will attend school in the MDUSD? Do you really think they want to tank the district for their own personal gain?

    I hope that Sherry and Gary remain on the board for a long time, but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't run again when their terms are up. Who would blame them?

    I thank them, and Paul, for coming on the blogs to talk about the district. I see no posts from Linda (who knows her way around the internet) or Dick (technologically challenged or not) doing the same thing. Where is the disdain for them? Did you know that probably over 90% of the board votes are unanimous?

    That shows me that there is an agenda at play here.

    Why does Dr. J like to point out that the Gang of Five includes the accountant and lawyer, but he never mentions who the other three people are?

    Is it because they are regular employees who got raises and bringing that up isn't as dramatic?

    I am really fed up with this game of "gotcha". The only way Dr. J is going to be happy is if he ran things, but he obviously doesn't have the cojones to come out from under his "nom de plume" and really help the district, so he just keeps throwing darts from behind a wall.

  11. Anon 10:36
    Exactly, another $40k plus could have been saved instead of given for raises; that's $40k EVERY year, plus retirement and benefits. Its clear that its not "shared sacrifice" -- when some get raises and some don't. At the same time, think of some of the principals that lost their Vice-Principals and had to do TWO jobs without a raise ! How hypocritical of the board. And you are right, how do the rest of the employees feel who are also "feeling the pain" of additional responsibilities, without a raise, and in many cases now taking furlough days, or reduced hours or reduced benefits. Lets not forget one reason the unions aren't budging in MDUSD is because of the Gang of Five raises.
    Doctor J

  12. Anon 11:19

    I don't care who you are or who Dr. J is. It doesn't matter. I do however find your distain for Doc J's anonymity ironic. Did you catch the screen name you are using? Your self rightousness makes me laugh.

  13. Annon 11:19 The Grand Jury made this finding: "Some Board members did not have a full understanding of their duties regarding their
    function and financial responsibilities to taxpayers. As a result, they failed to lead." The Grand Jury made this as one of the recommendations: "That current Board members be required to attend training or continuing education programs to learn and understand their role and financial responsibilities as elected Board members and similar training be a requirement for new Board members."
    I ask you, Have any of the Board members since this report taken any training to learn and understand their role and responsibilities ? If so,who, what, when and where, and what courses ?
    Three of the Board members have been members since 1995 and 1997. So in those 15 years, why hasn't the Board adopted a vision which is described as its central function ? "Of all the responsibilities of governing
    boards, none is more central to the purpose of local governance than ensuring that a long-term vision is established for the school system. The vision reflects the consensus of the entire board, the superintendent and district staff, and the community as to what
    the students need in order to achieve their highest potential." That my friends is called a "Strategic Plan". Instead we have Board members, and Council members, micromanaging the Supt on who their local school principal ought to be.
    One thing is clear, our current Board has not read "School Board Leadership: The role and function of California's School Boards" published by the California School Boards Association:
    Doctor J

  14. The grand jury was referring to April, Linda and Dick at the time. Not Paul or Gary. Dr. J. I would like to know where you were at that time. When McHenry was spending money without board approval, when the three board members were voting for whatever he wanted and much more??? Were you right there in his pocket? You didn't come out until McHenry left, my opinion is you are an administrator who is very disgruntled because McHenry left and now you don't get you way with everything? Perhaps you should be looking for employment elsewhere.

  15. Anon 1:16
    The Grand Jury said "current Board members" -- that was March 2009. No changes since then. None have taken the training that I am aware of. I agree with the Grand Jury report. No I was not in McHenry's pocket.
    Doctor J

  16. Anon 11:34am said. "I do however find your distain for Doc J's anonymity ironic."

    I guess I am not surprised that you find my disdain ironic if you support what Dr. J is doing on this blog.

    Dr. J is hiding behind a screen name while accusing people of being less than ethical--by their real name.

    The only "person" I am accusing of being less than forthright is Dr. J and only because of the way he is attacking people.

    Dr. J- Anon 1:16pm is right. The grand jury was referring to April, Dick and Linda because at that time, many of the votes on the board were coming down as 3-2 against Paul and Gary.

    Dr. J said, "The Grand Jury said "current Board members" -- that was March 2009. No changes since then. None have taken the training that I am aware of"

    Wow. You must be in administration if you are privy to that.

    The report came out in March 2009 but the grand jury had been working on the investigation for probably a year before the report was put out. Not rocket science.

    You pick and choose facts to support your distorted version of events. You have made that clear over and over again.

  17. Anon 3:12
    You should read the Grand Jury report -- it refers to the change in the Board in the 2008 election, that is why "current members" in the March 2009 Grand Jury report refers to the current board, not the former board. While the investigation covered the time periods of both the old board and the new board, it so stated.
    Please Anon 3:12, if you are going to refer to the Grand Jury report, please read it first.
    Doctor J

  18. Dr. J,

    If you are going to quote from the Grand Jury report, at least be honest. I believe that people who come to these blogs come to learn and discuss issues that are important to them. The last thing that they need is to be misled.

    The Grand Jury report was issues and it was based solely on the Board that included April Treece, Paul Strange, Dick Allen, Linda Mayo and myself. At that time, the majority that was in control of the school district was April Treece, Dick Allen, and Linda Mayo. Despite all of the efforts of Paul Strange and myself to make changes, those changes did not occur until the election in November 2008.

    All of the suggestions of the Grand Jury were implemented with one exception. We did not move forward with the recommendation that all Board Members should undergo CSBA education and there was a specific reason for that. We choose not to implement that because the only Board Members who had gone through that training were the same members who allowed a previous district administration to run amuck in the district, so I guess that training didn't work all that well, did it.

    If you are going to state something as fact, I suggest that you learn the facts. I know the facts because I testified in front of the Grand Jury, as did April Treece. Sherry was not even on the Board when the Grand Jury did their investigation.

    You say that you want truth, but you refuse to speak it yourself. Try thinking about what is good for the district and the kids rather than spewing your half truths and misinformation.

    I post as myself and anyone who wants to check my statements for accuracy can do so and they can call me and e-mail me and I will answer their questions. You have zero credibility. Why continue?

  19. Gary, there you go again -- name calling. I accurately reported the Grand Jury report. It stated: "In December
    2008, the leadership of the Board changed. Since that time the Grand Jury has noticed positive
    movement. The Grand Jury strongly advocates its recommendations be adopted immediately."
    Thank you for acknowledging that you did not impliment the Grand Jury recommended training -- the March 30, 2009 report did not indicate that. I am a little surprised by your statement. You have been on the Board since 1995 -- have you never been to the training ? Your March 30, 2009 response to the Grand Jury states: "we take the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations
    regarding the District’s fiscal operations very seriously." Apparently, you haven't taken it that seriously to not impliment the training requirement for ALL Board members. You also stated in the March 30, 2009 report: "The District will take the balance of the Grand Jury’s recommendations seriously and provide a detailed
    response to the Grand Jury in a timely manner." Did you ever provide a more detailed report to the Grand Jury ? When I read ". .will take the balance of the Grand Jury's recommendations seriously . . ." I presume that to include the education recommendation, but apparently you have now poo-poo that recommendation. I don't know when the Board decided publicly not to do the education recommendation -- what public meeting was that ? Perhaps I missed it. Let me know so I can read the minutes on it.
    Doctor J

  20. Gary, if you had gone to training, you might have learned this: "1. Setting the direction for the community’s schools. Of all the responsibilities of governing
    boards, none is more central to the purpose of local governance than ensuring that a long-term vision is established for the school system. The vision reflects the consensus of the entire board, the superintendent and district staff, and the community as to what
    the students need in order to achieve their highest potential. The vision should set a clear direction for the school district, driving every aspect of the district’s program."
    Doctor J

  21. Doctor J, first off Gary did not name call. He called you on your half truths and only posting partial information. He answered truthfully and I thank him for that. I do agree with the majority on this blog, your tirades are tiring, not helping and only causes one to not believe anything you say anymore

    It has not been easy times since Sherry was elected and the rough times due to the budget crisis continue.

    But I see the district heading in a new direction, they have already vowed to increase communication, Measure C was passed and this should help our facilities and we have much to look forward too. Time to start fresh.

    Personally I think you are angry that the MDUSD has not adopted "Your Vision" and "Plan" for the district. That is what your words portray. I will wait to hear from our new Superintendent and BOE what he sees for MDUSD. Sadly many of the BOE meetings have had to deal with devastating cuts, one after another. I hope this is it for our State and things get better.

  22. Annon 7:13
    I have quoted it three times now from the "Role and Function of School Boards". Let me rephrase it: The central purpose of the School Board is "ensuring that a long-term vision is established for the school system." Whose vision is it ? Its not mine or the Supt's or any individual board member. It tells us how to arrive at it: "The vision reflects the consensus of the entire board, the superintendent and district staff, and the community as to what
    the students need in order to achieve their highest potential." Its a collaberative effort -- from the grass roots. Its not a top down goal setting exercise with the employees nodding yes to the Supt's goals. Gary has been on the Board for 15 years -- apparently never taken any training or read the California School Board Association materials. I think he has worked with four Supt's. He has been President of the Board -- and never once called for Board and Community workshops to work on a Stategic Plan or vision for the district. He criticized McHenry for not having a Strategic Plan and then hires a Supt who doesn't believe in it either. its not too late. Lets get some community and Board workshops going to establish a vision for MDUSD. Why ? "The vision should set a clear direction for the school district, driving every aspect of the district’s program." Its a compass.
    Doctor J

  23. Doctor J- You spout off like a religious fanatic with singular focus and a blind eye to anything that's different from what you want to believe.

    I do know about the grand jury report, and agree with what Gary said.

    You quoted-"In December 2008, the leadership of the Board changed. Since that time the Grand Jury has noticed positive movement. The Grand Jury strongly advocates its recommendations be adopted immediately."

    Where does that indict the new board? You are reading into things that just aren't there.

    I think we have to address that you are obviously an administrator or someone else with intimate knowledge of things that go on in the district. You have made numerous comments about things that not everybody would know unless they worked for the district or was running for the board--or is a current board member who doesn't like the status quo.

    I don't have a problem with you pointing things out to make our schools better, but that is not what you are doing. You are working a serious agenda.

    The sky is not falling and not everyone who works for the district is a slime ball trying to rob our children.

    I, for one, am done responding to your troll like behavior.

  24. Anon 9:25
    Tsk. Name calling. Oh, my.
    Your question: "Where does that indict the new board? You are reading into things that just aren't there."
    I never indicted the new board. I just pointed out they didn't follow a recommendation of the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury recommended in March 2009: "That current Board members be required to attend training or continuing education programs to learn and understand their role and financial responsibilities as elected Board members and similar training be a requirement for new Board members." The 'current board in March 2009 is the present board -- and the GJ report even acknowledges the change in Board compostion in Dec 08.
    Apparently none of them did that and GE reports they decided at some unknown point -- not sure how or when because I don't recall it being discussed in a public meeting -- not to comply with this recommendation.
    As I pointed out the California School Board Association has some terrific training and super materials.
    Doctor J

  25. Doctor J,

    Let me clear the record. Dick, Linda and April all have taken and completed the "Masters in Governance" program from CSBA. Neither Gary nor I have and we made that decision intentionally. We found it amusing that the Grand Jury was in raging agreement with us and that they vindicated everything we had been saying, but that they recommended additional training. The truth is that they were not aware that the board majority, that they were criticizing, had taken all of the training and the two board members they sided with had not.

    While I am a fan of many things that CSBA does and Gary and I are both members of the CSBA governing body, CSBA's training tends to encourage board members to do whatever the superintendent says. It is the exact opposite of what the GJ recommended. I believe that board members should not be led by the superintendent. They should lead. And when there is a lack of leadership, they must take an even more active role. That is what you see at MDUSD.

    The Grand Jury report is an amazing vindication of the positions Gary and I have taken over the years. Reading how you try to use it to make us look bad is amusing. CSBA is good for individual training sessions on individual matters (e.g., programs, the Brown Act), but their approach to training board members is unacceptable and is exactly what our community rejected by overwhelmingly electing Gary and Sherry.

    So you are clear, we don't have an obligation to comply with the Grand Jury, just to respond, which we did. Feel free to review the law on this point before you react. In fact, our response was remarkable because it is very rare for an agency to agree with essentially every part of the report. This happened because by the time it came out, Gary, Sherry and I were on the board and because the GJ report vindicated our position, the district responded that the report was correct.

    I think this is probably enough on the GJ report. If you have other questions, please try to ask them in a manner that does not suggest something is wrong. We intentionally did not accept their recommendation on training because they were not aware of the facts of who had been trained and who had not.

  26. Paul, thank you for the clarification on who was trained and who didn't and why. I was left with a different impression by Gary's post. While I can't speak for the actual trainings -- not sure if you can either since you haven't taken them -- my interpretation of "School Board Leadership: The role and function of California School Boards" appears to be somewhat different than your and is that it is very focused on the School Board leading rather than being a follower of the Supt.
    The only point I was making about the Grand Jury report was that it "recommended" the "current board" [March 2009] all take training. It was just a recommendation, as were all of the points of a Civil Grand Jury -- this was not for criminal investigation. "The Grand Jury strongly advocates its recommendations be adopted immediately." Again, recommendations with no teeth for enforcement. Your March 330, 2009 response indicates there would be a further response to the Grand Jury on the report, but I am not aware of one being made. Was there ? So my point was that the Board took seriously all points of the Grand Jury report except the Board training recommendation.
    Early in your tenure you had been a big advocate of a Strategic Plan. I noted that the document cited above states: "1. Setting the direction for the community’s schools. Of all the responsibilities of governing
    boards, none is more central to the purpose of local governance than ensuring that a long-term vision is established for the school system. The vision reflects the consensus of the entire board, the superintendent and district staff, and the community as to what
    the students need in order to achieve their highest potential. The vision should set a clear direction for the school district, driving every aspect of the district’s program."
    Are you still a supporter of a Strategic Plan for MDUSD ? If so, even though you now are a lame duck, couldn't you still use your position as President to push for Community Meetings to work on a Strategic Plan ?
    Doctor J

  27. Note - I tried to post and this is too long, so I will post it in multiple posts:

    Doctor J,

    I don't want you to have the impression that Gary and I have taken none of the CSBA training, just not the "Masters in Governance" training. I have reviewed all of the materials from that program and my comments about the role of the superintendent stand. We have always taken some of the continuing education available from CSBA (as I mentioned, the individual programs such as Brown Act compliance).

    Gary actually tried to sit through the Masters program, but it became clear that although they use terms that suggest a leadership "team" what they really meant was just do what the superintendent wants. The basic concept is that the board's role is solely to "hire the superintendent and support him/her." The result of this approach was clearly displayed prior to the last election.

    I would venture to say that if you would actually take the time to figure out what we do and talk with us, you would be far less critical. In fact, there was once a guy like you (I say guy, because he was) who called himself Mr. Anderson. He was very dead set against us and after taking the time to learn where we were coming from, he became a big supporter. Like you, he was an employee of the district.

    As for strategic planning, I believe there is strong support for strategic planning on the board. The bottom line is that we have always intended to engage in strategic planning, but we have very limited resources and the initiatives we have embarked on over the past eighteen months have delayed our ability to dig in and get it done. Each time we have discussed jumping off with strategic planning, there has been a major initiative that required our focus.

    Obviously the starting point for a discussion of when we might have done the strategic plan starts with December 2008, which is when Sherry started. At that point, we did not have support from the administration and had to deal with that situation.

    When the superintendent left and Dick Nicoll was appointed, we considered starting - but we decided instead that the community would be better served to focus on the parcel tax. After the parcel tax, our focus shifted to hiring a new superintendent as Dick was retiring and it made sense to wait until the new superintendent was on board to launch the effort.

  28. Paul, not sure where your second part went . . .it was on the right side for a bit but never showed up in the thread.
    Doctor J

  29. Doctor J sounds like a lawyer...Hmmm?

  30. Annon 8:47
    No, I am NOT Jeff Adams.
    Doctor J

  31. I don't know what is going on with my second comment. Right now it is there, if it disappears again, I will repost in several comments.

  32. Paul, it is Friday the 13th.
    Doctor J

  33. Long-time Board WatcherAugust 13, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    In 2008, during Gary's and Sherry' election campaigns, they and Paul all criticized the administration for the lack of a strategic plan. During that period April Treece, Board president at the time, convened three (3) special Board meetings (at least one with a CSBA facilitator) to begin a strategic planning process. Senior administrators participated/attended. At each session Gary and Paul argued that the process should not start until after the November election.

    Paul's statement that there was no administrative support for strategic planning after the election is simply not true. By December Gary was Board president and could have led the effort. That's the role of the Board president: to serve as the lead in setting the Board's agenda for the superintendent to carry out.

    After all the talk about strategic planning from Gary, Paul, and Sherry, it was surprising to read Sherry's post on one blog last spring, seeming to support Superintendent Lawrence's statement to the PAC that the district has goals and objectives, not a strategic plan.

    The Board has set annual goals and objectives for the district (and thus for the superintendent) throughout Gary Eberhart's tenure on the Board. It is puzzling that after campaigning on the need for strategic planning--and after continually stating during the previous administration that he could not make budget cuts without a strategic plan--Gary did not initiate the process when he became Board president immediately following that campaign.

    Superintendent Lawrence's statement about goals and objectives raises questions about whether Gary, Paul and Sherry were serious about strategic planning or simply found it to be an effective sound bite in a political campaign.

    Voters believed in the promises made during the 2008 campaign. Because many were not kept, voters are asking some detailed questions this year. It should provide for some lively and, perhaps, productive debate.

  34. I still believe in a strategic plan. Personally I wanted the new superintendent involved in the strategic plan. Because of the length of time it takes to create a strategic plan, we need goals for this school year. I hope that before too long we can start working on one. My biggest drawback right now on strategic planning is finding the right consultant that would be within the district budget.

  35. Sherry, how much does a Strategic Plan consultant cost ? Who knows, maybe there is a parent out there who is well qualified and would head it up as a volunteer or for half price ? Or get some large corporations to fund it ? How did Seattle fund its consultant ? Or even rescind the . . . . ok, I will bite my tounge on that one -- for now. :-)
    Doctor J

  36. Listen up everyone,

    Let me give you all a dose of reality. As much as the current board tries to deny it they are first and foremost POLITICIANS, I'm saying this about EVERY board member past and present.

    As POLITICIANS they are in the business of telling the public WHATEVER will get them elected. By definition everyone on the current board was good at doing this.

    Whether or not they follow through with promises is a completely different subject. Please don't confuse the two.

  37. Yeah, you are right 12:30. Because being on the MDUSD School Board gives them so much personally, they would tell lies to get elected...wrong. This has to be nothing but a headache. No wonder Strange and Allen are done. I believe that Gary and Sherry wanted to get Strategic Planning going when they ran in 2008, then the bottom fell out of the economy and they've been cutting and dealing with a nightmare ever since. Hopefully things will start turning around and the state will dump more money into education and we can get back to the basics.

  38. I am concerned by Gary and Paul's comments about the role of the board. Just because they think something is true, is it? Isn't the CSBA a credible source for information?
    Schools boards are charged with providing oversight of a school district. They hire a Superintendent they believe has the experience and expertise to lead the district. Boards have the ability to hire and fire that position as recourse for poor performance. The board has a responsibility to create the vision that supports student achievement and ensures the financial health of the district. A School Board has an oversight responsibility but does not dictate day to day operations. While Gary and Paul both speak of leading the Superintendent experts believe that it is important for the Superintendent and Board have a strong partnership moving forward to implement goals for student achievement. That partnership requires trust and communication. The Superintendent leads the day to day operations and the Board provides oversight. Nothing on the CSBA web site refutes this, so I wonder what it is the Gary and Paul object to? What do they mean by leading the Superintendent?
    Just as the board has a responsibility for district oversight, the voters are responsible for oversight of the board. This notion that one must run for the board in order to object to decisions or to question policy is just not true and we should not be bullied into believing it is.

  39. When Dr. Lawrence first came and talked to the feeder patterns, I believe he said that he was more into goals and objectives rather than a strategic plan.

    I don't remember what his rationale was, but since he is the man right now, perhaps the board is giving him leeway.

    It is a laugh to think that someone on the school board is using that as a political stepping stone. I think Gary once tried to run for County Supervisor, but lost.

    I can't think of any other board member that got ahead politically that way.

    People say what they need to to get elected. That's the unfortunate reality.

    Jeff Adams campaign slogan was "Kids First" (I think). It was ironic that no one who had been involved in the district had heard of him before he ran and even parents at his kids school didn't even know him.

    To his credit, he has been more visible since then--being part of the UMDAF, for example.

    Should we call that a political move to get elected? Let's just give people the benefit of the doubt and be glad that people still want to be on the board.

    Sherry and Gary won by a landslide. Sherry was well known to people for her work with her school's PTA and serving on district committees. She deserved to win.

  40. Anon 2:27,

    Are you Lawrence?

  41. Paul explained it well, but let me reiterate. The Board majority does believe that having a strategic plan for our school district is the right thing for our students. We tried unsuccessfully to do so when McHenry was our Superintendent. After the election in 2008, it was clear that McHenry was not going to move in the direction of the Board with it's new majority and he eventually resigned. Dr. Nicoll moved into McHenry's spot and the Board began the process of searching for a new Superintendent as Dr. Nicoll was planning on retiring. It is absolutely necessary to have the Superintendent involved in the strategic planning process and the Board knew that there was a need to wait until we had a permanent Superintendent in place before we began that process. Once Dr. Lawrence was hired, the district administration had to spend all of it's time developing a budget that was going to be millions of dollars short and we had to make extreme reductions. We did that. The other piece of the puzzle when it comes to strategic planning is that you need parents and the community engaged in the process. Can you imagine the criticism we would have experienced if we started that process over this summer?

    Now we are entering a new school year and it is absolutely a priority for the Board and Superintendent to engage with each other and with our parents, community and employees in an effort start the strategic planning process.

    We will need the support of our community to begin the strategic planning process in a way that is positive and provides the district your thoughts of the direction that we should be headed. There is no sense in having a strategic plan if it's just going to sit on the shelf, so having community buy in is critical.

    I will also say that strategic planning requires resources. There may be someone in the community that has a proven track record with strategic planning for a large organization and who is willing to volunteer their time. If there is, I would love to speak with that person. If there isn't, is the community going to support the District expending the resources necessary to create a strategic plan? Strategic planning doesn't happen overnight. It takes months of discussing and communicating with the community. That said, we have to start if we are going to finish, and strategic planning is not only about the goal of a having a completed plan, it is about the communication with the community. A lot of good will come out of face to face discussions.

    Paul, Sherry and I were talking about strategic planning long before anyone else in this district and we have continued to do so. Strategic planning will occur in this district and it is our hope that it can occur sooner than later. Strategic planning takes much more than a few Board Members. The staff, Board, employees, and community have to want a strategic plan if you want the goals and objectives in that plan to succeed.

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  44. Quit yapping and get started !!
    We are all tired of talking the talk, and not walking the talk. Put it on the agenda and pass a resolution to get started ! Lets see some action !
    Doctor J

  45. Doctor J- Please don't speak for me when you say "we all". It appears you have a small following--or you are posting under different anons--but the majority of writers seem to disagree with you.

  46. Here is part 2 of my much earlier post:

    Then we hired Steven Lawrence. We could not expect him to engage in strategic planning immediately as he certainly deserved some time to get to know our district. In addition, I felt it was better to have the community focus on the bond.

    Now we are in Summer, which is not a good time to be asking our stakeholders to get together for community meetings.

    The bottom line is, despite the fact that you make it sound like we have abandoned strategic planning, we have not. All we have done is delay the launch while we have made great improvements in the administration and successfully passed a bond that will directly benefit our students.

    Now that we have completed many of the major initiatives of the past 18 months, we will be considering strategic planning again. The question for me is whether it makes sense to immediately begin setting the vision or should we wait until after the election. Given that there could be a new board majority and that there will certainly be two new board members, should we give them the opportunity to hear from the community? If we had a situation where both Dick and I were running again, I would probably advocate moving forward as the likely outcome of the election would be to reelect both of us (statistically and practically, that would be the likely outcome for many reasons).

    See part 3 too.

  47. Part 3:

    I do not want to create a situation where we waste our communities time working with us on a strategic plan, just to have a new board majority scrap that and start over. I think the best approach is to set a firm schedule for strategic planning and have the bulk of it launch after the election.

    I think it goes without saying that we can't just take another district's plan and adopt it or modify it to ours - we need to develop our strategic plan on the basis of our community.

    We did, in fact, provide a formal response to the Grand Jury. You can read it HERE.

  48. Dr. J,

    Thank you for the humorous quote of the week. Dr. J told me to "quit yapping". Unbelievable.

  49. Paul I find your contention that you and Dick would be reelected completely pompous and ridiculous. Nice to see that a Zebra never changes its stripes.

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

  50. Honestly, I do not believe Paul would win again, except that I think history shows incumbents do win in a field of many. Most don't pay any attention and just vote for incumbents.

  51. 7:42 exactly. The majority of voters in this area do not even have children in the district and they do not read these blogs so it is very likely that Paul and Dick would have been re-elected simply because they would have been incumbents.

  52. Paul, my recollection of the formal response to the Grand Jury says there will be an additional response. Was there ? or did I misinterpret it ?
    Doctor J

  53. Long-time Board WatcherAugust 14, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    Gary Eberhart said, "Now that we have completed many of the major initiatives of the past 18 months . . ."

    And those would be?

    Discussions on this and some other blogs have risen because interested and involved parents and district employees say they do not know what the district leadership has been doing these past 18 months--besides cutting and cutting the budget, hiring a superintendent with little experience in communications or strategic planning, reassigning a high number of school principals, not settling the teachers' contract, and embarking on a major solar energy project.

    It is interesting that in the past week Gary and Paul have become active posters on this blog and theirs after 18 months of silence. And their current comments sound much like the rhetoric they used during the 2008 election: Any problems in the district are someone else's fault.

    Fortunately, neither is a candidate this year, so voters can ignore their excuses for unkept promises and focus on the qualifications and veracity of those who are.

    Mt. Diablo needs Board members who are responsive to the public in a public way, not through one-on-one e-mails and phone calls, but through open meetings and messages available to all.

    Yes, politicians (even ones for local boards of education) make campaign promises they never intend to keep. Having seen this happen in MDUSD in 2008, perhaps this year voters will recognize campaign rhetoric for what it is, ask hard questions of the candidates, and elect Board members who respond to questions and criticism respectfully, without resorting to finger-pointing and name-calling.

  54. Paul - Part 3 - Invite all of the candidates to be part of the process -- It will not be a waste of time. A Strategic Plan is a collaborative effort, not a top down dictator style. It takes input from all stakeholders just to develop the "Vision" and the rest of the subparts. No one stakeholders input is any more valuable than the next. In the end, the approval by the Board will be easy, since everyone will have been involved. I am not advocating a block and copy of the Seattleschools plan -- but when you read it and read the process it went through with ALL stakeholders involved, you see the unifying force behind the plan. Unity is something that has alluded MDUSD for many, many years.
    Doctor J

  55. The 2008 fight for board majority was so strong that I doubt the current majority would not have a candidate in mind to carry on in place of Mr. Strange. I wonder who that is?

  56. Long Time Board Watcher,

    If you had been paying attention to all that we have been through for the last 18 months, you wouldn't have to ask what we had been doing.

    What rhetoric are you speaking of from the 2008 election? I am very interested in things that I spoke about during the 2008 election that were rhetoric or false. Please list those for us all to see.

    I am also amused that I am criticized for not talking and then criticized for talking. That makes it difficult to succeed as a School Board Member.

    You propose an open meeting and I will say to you the same thing that I have said to many. If there is ever a group of community members that would like to get together and discuss all that is going on in the district, I am available. I believe that much can be accomplished when we get together and discuss the challenges that we face and the options for solving problems. If you would like to propose a place and time for a public meeting, I'd be happy to attend and I will answer all questions that are asked of me unless I don't have an answer.

    Please, name the time and place and I will be there.


  57. Doctor J,

    Click on the link to the Grand Jury response that I included and you will see the formal response. The link is to the Grand Jury website.

  58. Paul, Thank you for the link. I saw the March response of the Board, but the June 18, 2009 is not the "Board response" but a response from the district "counsel". Was that response approved by the Board ? Perhaps it was on an agenda that I missed -- and if so I apologize -- which if approved, I wonder why the Board president didn't sign it. Nevertheless, it included: "That current Board members be required to attend training or continuing education
    programs to learn and understand their role and financial responsibilities as elected Board
    members and similar training be a requirement for new Board members.
    The recommendation has been implemented. Although not a requirement of the position,
    as a matter of good governance Board Members have attended, and will continue to
    attend, continuing education sessions." So since June 18, 2009, have any Board members attended "continuing education" as a matter of "good governance" ?
    Doctor J