CONCORD -- Citing ongoing controversies, low staff morale and general distrust of the Mt. Diablo school district, the board president and vice president said Monday they want to seek new administrative leaders.
"I've been sitting on this board for three months now and there's been a lot of controversy, which I was not expecting," said Vice President Barbara Oaks, who was elected in November. "At this time, I'm seeing that there's a real lack of trust and relationship-building for some of our top leaders in the district and I think that it's time to take steps toward looking for new leadership for Mt. Diablo."
Board President Cheryl Hansen echoed Oaks' concerns during a review of an amended contract extension for General Counsel Greg Rolen, on which the board plans to vote March 25.
"I will not support a contract extension for the general counsel," Hansen said. "A lawyer, particularly a general counsel, is supposed to keep his client out of trouble, not generate trouble."
She also expressed concerns about Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Chief Financial Officer Bryan Richards, whose contract amendments were also reviewed.
"I think enough is enough," Hansen said. "We need a superintendent who builds trust. We need to cut our losses. I've heard from so many staff about the need for change."
She was less vehement about Richards, saying she planned to carefully consider his contract extension in light of the recent theft of his laptop from a district office. The computer contained confidential employee information, among other things.
"I have some concerns about the current state of our fiscal services department," she said, "including lack of oversight, security and accountability."
The tough talk appeared to catch Trustee Lynne Dennler by surprise. She said it was her understanding that the board Monday was merely "cleaning up" contract language after two district residents complained that the board last April had not publicly considered the final contract language before approving contract extensions for Lawrence, Rolen, Richards and assistant superintendents Rose Lock and Julie Braun-Martin.
In a 4-1 vote, the board agreed in January that those allegations were without merit and that the contract extensions were valid. But they also agreed to hire an outside attorney to review the contract language, which included revisions not approved by the board.
"This current board must take action on these contracts and this current board is entitled to vote any way this current board wants to vote," she said. "Our names will be on these contracts. It is not a rubber-stamp situation."
At an earlier meeting, the board discussed Rolen's decision to withhold nearly all documents listed in a Public Records Act request filed by this newspaper. The documents were related to the contract extensions. The board voted 4-1 to have staff review district policy regarding the release of documents, with the goal of being as open and transparent as possible. The board also voted 3-2 to hire an outside attorney to review the documents withheld by Rolen.
Details about Mt. Diablo district administrator contracts and a discussion about Public Records Act requests is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4000 or by visiting http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on March 11.
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