Sunday, September 19, 2010

Message from the MDUSD campaign trail - Brian Lawrence

This is an open invitation to all candidates in MDUSD board race to have a voice here. These posts are not an endorsement, but purely informational and something in which I hope you'll find value. My hope also is however, that if a candidate does wish to have their message featured here, that they come back and answer any questions that are asked in the comments. Having said that, here is our first campaign address from candidate Brian Lawrence:

Hello readers of MDUSD Parents,

I wanted to share some quick updates from my campaign for Mt. Diablo School Board.

I'm enjoying speaking to voters through out the district about my priorities for Mt. Diablo- closing the achievement gap, making sure Measure C and tax dollars are spent wisely on programs that benefit students, and transparent decision making that involves the entire community. It is encouraging to see how many concerned parents and community members are committed to improving MDUSD.

Our friends George and Heather will be hosting an informal event for me at their home in Walnut Creek (570 Walnut Ave.) at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, September 28th. I look forward to hearing your concerns and answering your questions while sharing coffee and snacks. If you are able to join us, please email We'll soon be announcing similar events in Pleasant Hill, Clayton and other parts of the district.

I'm honored that Concord City Councilman Mark Peterson and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan join a growing list of concerned citizens and community leaders who support my candidacy.

My campaign website is available at There is also a Facebook group (Brian Lawrence for MDUSD Board) and you can follow me on Twitter- Please email me at or call me at 925-526-5354 with any questions.

I'm committed to making sure that every child in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District receives a great education, but I need your help!

Thank you!

Best regards,

Brian Lawrence
Candidate for MDUSD Board

Click to check out the campaign on:


  1. Thank you for posting and I'll be happy to answer questions posted in the comments.

  2. Hi Brian,

    If you were on the current board and the board president accused a well respected community member of and I quote, "being an enemy of the children of MDUSD" would you request that the board president apologize publicly? Or would you continue to be a lapdog to him like the current board members?

  3. Brian,

    Linda Mayo said "equity" is an important issue. She believes school fundraising should be re-distributed within the district for "equity", and questioned the morality of fundraising for individual schools. What is your position on fundraising? How do you believe the district should deal with the broad question of "equity"?

    Another MDUSD Parent

  4. Thank you for the questions. Hopefully you will understand that I'm not going to respond to partial quotes from current board members because I may not know the full context. I am happy to share some of my views on the subjects that have been raised.

    We need to have board members that work well with the community and with each other. I've sat down individually with all five current board members (well, it was a phone call with Sherry) to hear their views on the District and I'm confident that I'll be able to work well with all the members of the new board.

    People care passionately about Mt. Diablo, but we need to make sure that we don't engage in personal attacks and name calling- that doesn't help us accomplish our goals nor does it help the kids in this district.

    Re: Funding

    Schools in California are woefully underfunded- we've now fallen to 47th in the nation in per pupil spending. One provision of Prop 13 was that it locked in certain school funding levels based on community sizes in 1978- that has had negative consequences for Mt. Diablo.

    My wife and I are involved in fundraising for the schools that our children attend. I applaud other parents that are doing the same. It is unfortunate that we have to count on parents and the community to help bridge the funding gap, but that is our current fiscal situation.

    There was also a question about strategic planning. We absolutely need a strategic plan for this district. In my professional career working with technology companies, I've participated in strategic planning and this experience is one of the reasons why I'm running.

    However, a strategic plan has limitations- it won't solve all of the problems facing our district. The strategic plan will only be as good as the people who participate in it- that's why I'll ensure that it is an open process involving parents, teachers, staff and all members of the community. Furthermore, strategic planning takes time and we need to make sure that in the interim we are making measurable progress to improve the district.

    I'll be attending the Northgate campus cleanup on Saturday morning and on Sunday I'll be helping assemble dental kits for low income students with K to College. I'm sure I'll see some of you there and look further to speaking with you then. As always, you can contact me at

    Thank you for the questions and I look forward to more.

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  6. I hope Linda posts a statement here, because I would like to hear her position on equity.

    This may be simplistic, but the schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged schools get a lot of extra money from the state and the feds. What do the schools in the middle get?

    Linda- What is your position on the Foundation for Pleasant Hill Education (FPHE)? Do you think that foundations such as this and those in WC shouldn't exist?

    I don't suspect we will hear from Linda on the blogs about this--nor do I believe she will mention this topic before the election.

    I have heard her say this exact thing before, but I wish she would put her position about it on the record.

  7. What is that saying? Fair is not always equal? Or Equal is not always fair? Either way, parents aren't going to bust their hump to fundraise when it will be diluted across other schools. We (yes me too) want my efforts to benefit my kids. But I will work my butt off to help other schools achieve the same effect. Don't tell me poor communities can't fundraise. They can, but getting to the root of those demographics is about as hard a mission as lifting test scores.

  8. Brian,

    You're correct that a strategic plan takes time. The MDUSD board started discussions years ago and we still don't have a plan. Your response sounded lukewarm about this issue.

    New questions: Do you want a district parcel tax, to provide funding to hire and retain teachers? ("retain" means to pay teachers a wage adequate to support their families living in this area) How would 2/3 of voters support a parcel tax unless there is a strategic plan? Therefore, is a strategic plan a top priority for you?

    Linda Mayo raised the "equity" question at a board meeting, saying it should be part of the strategic plan. Gary and Paul responded immediately. Another question: Do you have enough background to deal with controversial issues when they are raised at a board meeting?

    Thank you for getting out to the schools and being available for questions,

    Another MDUSD Parent

  9. Strategic planning is critical- in no way am I lukewarm about that. We just need to make sure that we don't treat a strategic plan as a magic wand that will cure everything in the district. Furthermore, while developing a strategic plan, we need to remain focused on measuring key benchmarks for student improvement.

    I supported a parcel tax before and I will support it again. Measure C is a down payment on needed improvements in our district, but there is more that will need to be done. The Board must strictly oversee the Measure C projects so taxpayers know that the money has been spent wisely. Providing strong, transparent fiscal oversight is a first step towards passing a parcel tax.

    We have many great teachers in MDUSD and we need to retain them. The fact that our teachers didn't have benefits was a huge negative- we were training teachers for their first few years and then they were leaving to go to districts that did provide benefits. We've taken some measures to fix this, but we need to continue to focus on attracting and retaining great teachers.

    Re: equity

    Are there legal constraints on funding levels that dictate how certain funds are spent? Yes, and we need to be mindful of them.

    Should parents be able to raise funds for their own children and their school? Yes, absolutely.

    Re: Dealing with controversial issues

    I'm running precisely because there are hard, important decisions to be made. You won't always agree with me, but you will always know where I stand. I'll make decisions based on what I think is in the best interest of kids in the district- that is my litmus test.

  10. Brian, I am asking all the candidtes these questions.
    What did MDUSD do to allow six of its schools to be named "persistently underachieving schools'? What can MDUSD do to correct these schools ? What is your feeling about the recent reorganization of the curriculum department and new support department, assigning administrators to "coach" prinicipals ? How involved should the Supt be in the "solar project" ?
    Doctor J

  11. It is unacceptable to have even one single underperforming school, much less six- we can do better and we must do better.

    How do we achieve that? It takes a concerted effort by everyone involved- teachers, administrators, staff, parents and the students themselves.

    Dr. Lawrence (no relation) acknowledged that he made some missteps at the start of the solar bidding process. That cannot continue. It is important that we avoid even the appearance of impropriety during this process- taxpayers must have complete confidence that their money is being spent wisely and that there are no back room deals.

    I am withholding judgement on the reorg until we have more information. I have spoken to a small number of administrators and principals and have heard mixed reviews.

    Apologies-typing this from an iPad and the scroll function is a bit funky so I may need to finish in a second post.

    I will try to elaborate on my answers in the next few days