Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meeting Results 2/8/11 (Glenbrook & Holbrook to close)

The board meeting is going on.  At times, 400+/- viewers on the livestream. Despite what I consider very long winded, and sometimes unprofessional behavior from Cheryl Hanson, there certainly is no lack of passion, and the board has proceeded to vote on their options.

The board has just voted to remove Option 3 from the list of possible closures. This was Sequoia Elem/Middle and Monte Gardens.  They are now removed from the closure list. 

Linda Mayo has just moved to close Glenbrook and Holbrook Elementary.
Sherry Whitmarsh seconded.
Motion passed 4-1 (Hanson -no), Glenbrook and Holbrook are closing.

Gary is now proposing a new option: Send entire population of Glenbrook to El Dorado as one unit.  And close Westwood. Westwood could be the campus to house the 6th graders from Glenbrook and El Dorado.  El Dorado would house 7-8th graders.  This is an ongoing discussion live now, and may not be voted on tonight.

Sorry, more unprofessionalism from Cheryl Hanson.  She has made a very tough decision even tougher, she's now further dividing the board, and degrading even further, the trust in the board.  My opinion.  But it was very disheartening to hear how she chose to express herself tonight.  Dennler, appears out of her element, and almost in awe of the process... and has expressed much chagrin over the Brown Act.  

Silverwood or Westwood may be the next decision...

At this time, there is discussion of another public meeting to discuss next steps, possible more closures, or other options.  Next stop , next Tuesday February 15th for more closure talk (in a roundtable setting) w/ the help of the SCAC.  February 22nd would be more community input and final decisions.


  1. I understand your opinion that Cheryl Hansen spoke up and was not "unified" with other board members in her opinions, but what specific statements did you think were "unprofessional" ?

  2. I feel that the board should (and usually does) follow certain protocol, with meetings, motions, discussion, votes. Her opinion was that no schools should close. Great, but ... what was another option, and what was her option presented at previous meetings? Yes, I get we need a strategic plan and it is sorely overdue, but we need to present a balanced budget, and I'm not sure anyone involved in the process (SCAC, etc) came away with the feeling that with a different "plan" we would not have to close schools.

    She deflected the blame, anger, and distrust onto the rest of the board (is that what they call "throwing under the bus"?) all the while accepting the applause for a "NON" solution to a huge problem.

    Did she actively work toward another solution before tonight's meeting? SOunded like she was only brushing up on her speech, with no solution, no purpose other than to harm. I "feel" (remember, my opinion) she did more harm than good, because saying we need a bigger boat after Jaws has broken it in two, is a bit late in the game, don't you think? We just need a bigger boat - now.

  3. MDUSDParents
    IMHO I disagree. For too long this Board has made decisions in a reactionary manor and rarely, if ever, as part of a proactive planned initiative. Cheryl Hansen is championing the strategic planning process and she is right. She is also right to say this should have been done sooner, strictly from a declining enrollment standpoint.
    Sometimes there needs to be a dissenting vote and discussion, not to change what is inevitable, but to make sure the public understands that this process was made worse by the inactions of the prior Board and a lack of planning.
    I agree wholeheartedly with Hansen and am quite comfortable with a lack of consensus given the state of this District.
    Discourse is not always bad.

  4. Gary needs to resign.

  5. Amen MDUSDParents!! So dissapointed in Cheryl Hansen, and ashamed I voted for her at this point. She was rude and unprofessional. Of course it's easy to sit up there and suggest no schools close, but she HAS NEVER GIVEN ANY OTHER IDEAS! It is irresponsible to suggest we not cut costs and therefore close schools. No one wants to do it, but we have no choice. If your salary is cut, you don't continue spending the same, you cut back on some things. Do people not understand that concept?

  6. Check out Cheryl's vision and experience in MDUSD and you will see that she believes in a Stratgegic Plan -- that includes closures. http://www.cherylhansenmdusd.com/Activities_QCOL.html
    Doctor J

  7. I agree with MDUSDParents. It's not just what Cheryl Hansen said, it was how and when it was said. I don't think that there is anyone who has been involved in this process who believes that our district isn't in need of a strategic plan. I also believe that any person involved in this decision who has taken a long hard look at the facts and data collected believes (or should believe) that we don't need to close schools. I think Ms Hansen could have said something very similar without the attack and blame that occurred last night during an already emotional meeting. She gave no plan, no direction to the Board, Superintendent nor families in attendance.

    Whether you agree with Gary Eberhart's suggestion or not, I at least respect that he spent the time to look at other options, gather information, get staff input. Like I said, I'm not sure I approve of the plan, but I appreciate the effort put into trying to find a way to keep the bulk of the kids together.

    Instead Ms Hansen stood on the side line pointing fingers, spent plenty of time on her speech and not nearly enough time on a viable alternative. This decision isn't something that came up as a surprise to any Board Member, new or otherwise. If Strategic plan is her only idea to contribute at this point in the Budget issues I'm not sure she was what we needed.

  8. Anon 2:31
    That is exactly the point. The very thing you want her to do is what she is trying to get this Board not to do. Cheryl Hansen is not saying MDUSD should not close schools she is saying they should not close schools in a vacuum. They can look at all the data they want but closing schools outside of an overall plan is one more example of poor planning and it has to stop somewhere. Cheryl Hansen knows that. Closing a school is tied to so many short and long term decisions. Spending $68mil for solar is tied to so many long and short term decisions. Cutting programs is tied to so many long and short term decisions. So we cut tech support in our schools and then we pass a bond with the intent to spend it on technology. We start putting solar on a school and then decide to close it. ETC....
    By treating Cheryl Hansen this way you are simply shooting the messenger and this District will never change.

  9. Another MDUSD Mom. Great. She's saying what we all know. We need a plan. What is her solution for the "now?" I'm glad she is calling for a plan. We need a plan. But for NOW we don't have one, you can't think up a strategic plan by the time the school year ends, and so, what? Do nothing? I don't think that is really an option given our budgetary issues. Do you ? What was the solution? What was her solution? I must have missed that.

  10. If you notice she mentions the strategic plan at every board meeting. Look, I am guessing she had some idea that the vote was going to get done. However, she needs to remind the Board and the audience of why a strategic plan is needed. If she simply voted yes we would not be having this conversation, would we? In my opinion she was providing all of us an example of why the plan is necessary. It has to stop at some point. I hope that she votes "no" every time there is a big decision until they do the strategic plan. If that is her contribution to the Board I am good with that.

    Closing these two schools isn't going to do squat for the budget. Next year even with the tax increases/renewals we will still have an $11,000,000 deficit.

    Maybe solar will save us!

  11. For the record, I voted no on solar and this most recent measure c. We should've gone back for a parcel tax. We should do it again, well we should've. Now it is probably too late, the trust of the district I'd have to imagine is at an all time low.

  12. I know you did. And I agree. And it is sad.

    I worked hard on Measure D but this time I want more from the District before I commit.

  13. MDUSDPARENTS - REALLY, there should have been a strategic plan last year when we had a record number of low-performing schools and the district decided on School Improvement Grants, or at least they should have known to start the process then. The fact that have now reversed themselves by voting to close Glenbrook, and that the planning process still hasn't started, means that many of us officially give up! This district delays delays delays difficult decisions until the last possible minute, and ends up going the wrong direction, or around in circles, but never full-speed in the right direction which is what needs to happen. Cheryl Hansen is trying to get the board on the right track and they should listen to her!

  14. So 6:10. I still don't hear the solution given the facts are they are right now, today. I've already agreed with everyone, we need a plan , it's overdue. But in light of the fact we do not have one... what should've been done last night? What should be done to balance the budget? I'm just really interested in a concrete alternative to what happened last night. It's great to look back at the coulda, woulda, shoulda - but what now?

  15. The Superintendents Council scenario to form 6-12 schools was a good idea and should have been explored. The Council and the consultant should have provided more information. Either that, or study closing Oak Grove instead of Glenbrook. We ended up with government by committee. The board should have been part of the process all along. Everyone said the decision was up to the board, but they didn't participate until it seemed to be too late.
    What now? They closed 2 schools and need to close more, but they need a plan first! And as Another MDUSD Mom said, there's a bigger budget deficit. They need to resolve the lingering union negotiations somehow or we're sunk!

  16. I'd rather see K-8 school sites, then have the kids go on to high school.

  17. I'm not a Cheryl fan in general (it's obvious to me that she wants to eliminate the "choice" schools from her "no" vote on removing option 3 and her subsequent reaction to its passage). That said, I did tend to agree with what she was saying last night about the need for a strategic plan. And what the heck was Gary doing throwing a brand-new option in at the 11th hour?

  18. Is the meeting on Sunday about strategic planning and is it open to the public?

  19. I just copied this from Theresa's blog, it is open to the public.

    Theresa Harrington Says:
    February 10th, 2011 at 12:23 pm
    The board has a “team building” retreat scheduled at 9 a.m. Sunday at the San Ramon Marriott Hotel: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/com/agenda_print.aspx?mtgId=316. The public may attend this meeting and comment.
    This is not the strategic planning meeting, although that topic may come up.
    Originally, the board had discussed two retreats: one to get to know each other better (especially new board members) and one to discuss strategic planning. The strategic planning meeting date hasn’t been set yet because trustees haven’t been able to agree on a date. It could get pushed back to April if they can’t agree on any dates in February or March.
    Also, I’ve heard that Tuesday’s board meeting will be held in the Glenbrook MS gym.

  20. School Closure Update from Gary Eberhart:

  21. I get that there needs to be a long term plan. I just don't see how the district can plan long term at this point when every time they turn around the state is taking money away. They are in crisis mode and have been for the last year. There has not been a reasonable time to put a plan into place. The previous board and McHenry didn't want a strategic plan, then there was a temporary superintendent for a year and Lawrence has only been here for a year and he's basically been putting out fires because of this budget. I think Cheryl Hansen is way out of line with her criticism of the board and her attitude and negativity and no offer of any of her solutions of her own are only making the situation worse. Her superior attitude needs to go!

  22. Anonymous 5:18 PM
    The Board held at least two meetings to discuss ways to begin a strategic planning process in Fall 2008, when April Treece was Board President and Gary McHenry was still Superintendent. Although both Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange had been saying for months that the District needed a strategic plan, they were reluctant participants in the meetings. They believed the Board should wait until after the November 2008 Board election to begin the process, arguing that the membership of the Board might change (as it did, with Sherry Whitmarsh replacing Treece).

    Gary and Sherry each spoke often about the need for strategic planning during their campaigns in that election. Over the many years of budget cutting, Gary would occasionally state that he couldn't make the most informed decision because the District did not have a comprehensive plan that would provide the basis for budget priorities.

    The District has been having to adjust to significant revenue losses for most of the past 12 years. The "crisis mode" may have worsened in the past two years, but it is not new. It not only existed when Gary and Sherry were promising to bring strategic planning to MDUSD, it was the reason they gave for needing a plan--to help the District get through the crisis.

    It's surprising that Gary and Sherry won votes and respect for arguing the need for a strategic plan, and now Cheryl Hansen is being criticized for making the same argument.

  23. Sue,
    You are exactly right!

  24. Sue, so what is the solution now? Put all closures and further budget cuts on hold til we have a strategic planning session, committee and document to go by?

    There's no question the district needs the process to start, like years ago, but what do we so now?

  25. MDUSD Parents
    I know what you are trying to get at, you are saying they have no choice but to act now. What else can they do. Right?

    For years they have had to act now.
    For years we have had to wait for a new board, a new superintendent, a new board, school closures, etc... It is a never ending cycle of crisis and reactionary decisions. At some point you have to say stop. This budget crisis is far from over and this $1.5 mil is not going to solve the problem.

    Do we need to close schools? Yes. But we need a plan, not just reams of data. The enrollment projections indicate more schools should be closed and that will mean boundaries should be realigned. How does closing these two schools work into the "plan" to close others? I guess we will worry about that when it is a crisis. MDUSD won't do it all right now because we would rather go through this process again next year.

    Roughly 14 months ago MDUSD wanted to take a second try at a parcel tax. However, the polling didn't support a parcel tax.
    They could have taken a year to implement a plan, sell it to the community, begin to restore trust and confidence and today we might be planning for a parcel tax election. Instead our Board made a very hasty decision to pass a bond measure and once again we were told it was a crisis and our only choice.
    It doesn't really matter, I am truly ready to throw in the towel. If they have to be brought to the strategic planning table kicking and screaming or even grunting and grumbling, it won't work.
    So maybe you are right lets just keep supporting our Board as they make decision after decision with no plan because this is a crisis and there is no need to have a plan when you are making crisis decisions.

  26. 11:11. I understand. But I don't know what option we really have right now. I'm not happy we are always reactive instead of plodding and methodical. I'm not. I have just about thrown in the towel. I know my kids will be fine, we'll be fine. Even if at some point my kids schools were closed, we'll be fine... we'll figure it out, make due, homeschool, go private or move. We'll figure it out. But I'm not going to keep getting angry about it, and blame and throw everyone and anyone under the bus.

    I really AM ready to throw in the towel, close the blog, and close my ears and eyes. It's all hardly worth it. I read claycord and it's all so disheartening to see the venom and hate, the misinformation and totally clueless. The NIMBYs and the righteous.

    Just feeling very done about now. And I don't see any other option that the board has right now and so far NO ONE has brought up another option right now given where we are RIGHT NOW, which is no strategic plan. So yes, it's a crisis, as usual. But ... what do we do? Do we have the luxury to stop cutting, stop closing and just get to work on a plan? Probably not.

    I'm almost to the point of not caring anymore. But the kids are at stake, maybe not mine, but this community... I just wish people could look outside their own blinders and their own bias and make the best of a horrid situation. And gad dangit, get educated. People are still saying "lower salaries in admin" as though that will save us! Jiminy Christmas, people just have no clue and have NO interest in even having or getting a clue until their school is impacted, and I just hate that mentality. This district has been in crisis for a long time, a LOOOOOONG time and no one notices until their little susie or johnny might have to go to a school 3 miles away. GASP, the horror!

    Rant over. Don't be surprised to see the blog gone soon, anyone want to take it over?

    No one is interested in intelligent conversation, problem solving or solutions - it's just all ugliness and a free for all. There are other blogs for that.

  27. MDUSDParent
    I hope you do not shut down your blog but I understand your frustration. I wrote earlier that in some ways I have to believe Cheryl’s vote was symbolic, meaning she knows very well that schools have to be closed and she knew the votes were there to do it. She also knows that the framework in which it was done was not right. Her vote served that purpose. She is being criticized for being a lone voice and dividing the board or, at the very least, not showing a united front. That’s funny because Gary has been proud of the fact that he was the lone voice on the Board for years before Paul was appointed.
    The quarrel isn’t about what has to be done today. Yes, we all agree that schools have to close and they are. The quarrel is more about ideology. What I personally want in a school district does exist in other districts but it is so far from reach here, not because of a lack of resources but because of a difference in ideology, that that is why I am losing hope.
    I am sure the Superintendent is competent in his job but I would not have hired him. The previous Board hired someone who does not believe in strategic planning when that was a key reason for firing the last Superintendent. They hired someone who does not communicate effectively. His current communication schedule came after months of parent complaints and a formal review process. I sat in a room at College Park High School when he was told by a teacher that morale was at an all time low and was asked what he would do to fix that. To me his answer was shocking. He said there is nothing he can do about it and it was a budget issue. That is not what I wanted in a Superintendent. I want a leader. I want someone to unite this district through offering solutions that give hope. How about an answer like “I know it is tough right now but if we have a morale problem here in this District let’s work together to understand why and to start addressing the issues that we can.”
    The superintendent can’t be fired it would cost too much. But if the former Board had a clear vision when they hired him I believe they would have hired someone different. If he was all they had to choose from then once again it was a hasty decision. It is not just the budget that is broken, this District is broken down to its core culture, and unfortunately I do not believe the Superintendent possesses the natural skills to lead that change.
    I don’t know how much time you have spent on the Guilford County Schools site but it is not just about their strategic plan, it is about the leadership, the inspiration, the collaboration, the communication…
    I am very disappointed in this Board and as a voter and parent I have a right to that opinion. That does not diminish the fact that I understand it is a difficult job but they did volunteer. What I am trying to convey is that this is bigger than the details. If this District had a plan and were faced with the decisions they are facing today I believe the decisions would be easier. Not because the plan spells out the answers but because the plan keeps the vision and the goals in focus. The plan also unites the community around those goals.
    “A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task is the hope of the world.” – circa 1730 England

    Right now, for this Board and our community, it’s drudgery and this issue is every bit as important as important as closing schools.

  28. MDUSDParents,
    Your blog is a great source of unbiased information about MDUSD. I, for one, appreciate your determination to keep the dialogues productive and free from personal attacks. You may get fewer hits than Claycord, but your tone is far more reasoned and respectful. If you have an opinion, you give it after you've done some research, not before.

    It's clear this blog is a labor (emphasis on "labor") of love for you and, for your own well-being, you may need to spend less time at it. I just hope you don't abandon it. As the current school closure issue shows, people interested in the district want a way to learn about and comment on what's going on. You are providing that service.

    Thank you for your good efforts.

  29. @MDUSDparents, I feel your frustration. But there is not a one meeting solution -- it is a lot like treating cancer -- the chemotherapy must continue over a course of time and will be very painful. Can you imagine a doctor telling you that he didn't have a treatment plan for cancer ? That is what we have been doing in MDUSD for the last 15 years. Shoot from the hip and treating cancer with aspirin. We need a comprehensive Strategic Plan with ALL SHAREHOLDERS involved in it. It will not be controlled by any one person or point of view. It will take take and effort to develop. The $1.5 million savings from closing 2 or 3 schools is just a drop in the bucket. We have enought in the reserves to cover that and as the Board demonstrated last year, they can project a budget that relies upon contingent cuts that are not agreed upon.
    Doctor J

  30. Dear MDUSD Parents,

    Please don't shut down this blog. (I understand that you need a breather from it. I did too for while, and took it off my bookmarks list.) But then I came back after awhile to see what was happening and this I do know: this is a great venue to affect change.

    If the Board is stuck for ideas, they cannot make time because of the need to put fires out, or a vision for a strategic plan, let's talk about that here.

    Let's start a post that asks everyone who is currently reading today: "What is your vision for the best school district? List three things that would tell you that the district was not just okay, but doing a fantastic job. And then let's break it down into what smallest thing we can change to start moving in that direction.

    This is a really valuable place to talk about some of those ideas. Thank you for hosting it.

  31. Susan Berg, How can you say this blog is unbiased did you not read the first sentence? The first sentence is biased and not at all professional and surely it does not represent the real mdusd parents.

  32. Trying to figure out how the "first sentence" is biased? :)

    "The board meeting is going on."

    Yup that's biased alright!

  33. 6:58, good questions. I'll throw it up there and see if we can get something going. Great idea.

  34. This is a small portion of a document written a year ago by a small group of parents just as the Board was getting ready to pursue the bond measure. There is a letter at the beginning and action steps at the end to go along with each strategy, but it would be much too long for a blog.

    The Mt Diablo Unified School District will embrace and communicate clear goals to improve excellence in academics, customer service, and community by adhering to the following principles:

    Focus on Children

    Ideals for which the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Board of Education and District Leadership will pledge to use as a compass for day to day decision making.

    We will always:
    make all decisions based on the best interest of the students;
    elevate the need for communication to a level that instills trust;
    behave in an ethical, respectful, and transparent manner;
    be willing to pursue reform and innovation as a means to better educational programs and better fiscal management;
    employ and retain the most effective and best qualified personnel available for any position.

    1. Provide a high-quality, well-rounded educational experience to all students that is rigorous, relevant, and engaging.
    2. Build strong relationships with students, families, and the community to increase trust and shared responsibility.
    3. Ensure that every classroom has a high quality, effective educator, supported by high-quality, effective administrators and support staff.
    4. Implement a sound fiscal policy that maximizes resources, generates revenue, and accomplishes educational priorities within a balanced budget framework.

  35. 1. A district that took a proactive rather than a reactive approach against bullying (yes, it is a big problem in our district)

    2. A district that gave an equal education to ALL students, not just the ones in the choice schools.

    3. A district that put the children first, rather than the money.

  36. Linda,

    I'd love to learn more. What a *great* document! Is it possible to articulate better what those goals look like? Please break down for me what it would look like if we are reaching those goals though. Be specific.

    How will we know when we are focused on children?

    How will we know that there is integrity?

    How will we know that there is safety and respect?

    Regarding the ideals: Does communication mean a daily, weekly, or monthly newsletter? What is the target to shoot for?
    Ethical, Respectful and Transparent manner is a little abstract. What does that mean? Eye contact, firm handshake when meeting? Attendance at school meetings? What should the priorities be?

    In regards to pursuing reform and innovation, what are three resources to get inspired, and focus on creativity?

    Here's a great one: http://www.ted.com/talks/adora_svitak.html. It was posted on a friend's blog, and it's fantastic.

    If we are hobbled by Union rules so that the Marcus Goodlows' of our district are forced to flee in order to make a livilihood, what steps do we need to take so that the emerging Marcus Goodlows can stay? And then let's do them.

    I like the strategies section. These are clearer, kind of... What does the best high quality, well-rounded experience look like to you, and how do we honor and acknowledge that at every school site.

    Is it the high expectations? That is already there, the teachers will tell you so, as they are under immense pressure to show it, but what does a high expectation look like that doesn't hobble someone with impossible standards.

    In "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath, they talk about bright spots. Great resource. Where are the district "Bright Spots" and how do we replicate it?

  37. Anon 8:47am
    I am attaching a link to the entire document. That may answer many of your questions.
    The top part of the section I printed above was intended as a pledge from the District leadership and ultimately part of a vision statement. The strategies were intended to provide input regarding strategic goals.

    Please understand that this was a wish list from a small group of parents. I firmly believe the strategic planning process must be a collaborate effort amongst all groups.

    I will paste this on the other thread as well.

  38. It was said above: "It's surprising that Gary and Sherry won votes and respect for arguing the need for a strategic plan, and now Cheryl Hansen is being criticized for making the same argument".

    I agree.

    Let me say first, I am a long time resident whose children are long grown. I have watched the schools somewhat, but not avidly until the issues started showing up online. I admit I wasn't seeing anything that seemed out of place simply because I wasn't watching.

    Well, now I'm watching, and I think I can (not having kids in the system) be objective in my reasoning.

    I care greatly about the children, schools, neighborhoods, City.

    While having Cheryl speak up seemed to "blindside" the rest of the Board, I found it very refreshing, and it gave me hope that there might be openness and new ways of thinking coming to the surface---something all (open minded) boards should relish!

    Instead of Gary acting personally insulted, he could have just said "interesting idea, lets discuss your thoughts further". The sheer level of his vehement retort makes me think he has some other very personal agenda. He criticized her for last minute ideas, and then threw up his own last minute idea---what's up with that?

    As to Cheryl complaining, but not giving ideas---yes, she gave an idea.

    She was saying don't vote on which school to close as if the fire has already reached the attic. It hasn't. She was saying don't pour water on an oil fire!

    She was saying let's step back and regroup just a bit. We might still come up with the same conclusions, but maybe there are better ways to handle "this fire", and taking a couple more weeks of planning won't hurt.

    I think she was right.