This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.
On Dec. 21, the Mt. Diablo school board held a closed session meeting to discuss a "cure and correct" letter it received from district resident Wendy Lack alleging the board violated the Brown Act when it extended contracts for five top administrators. The Brown Act is an open meeting law that requires elected officials to conduct most business in public, with adequate public notice regarding matters to be discussed or decided.
Before going into the closed session, Lack read a second "cure and correct" letter from district resident Alicia Minyen, which states that the board committed additional Brown Act violations related to contract extensions for Superintendent Steven Lawrence, general counsel Greg Rolen, Chief Financial Officer Bryan Richards, assistant superintendent for personnel Julie Braun-Martin and Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support.
Here's what Minyen wrote (excerpted):
"Demand to Cure and Correct Brown Act Violations that Occurred on April 23, 2012
... The board prematurely extended contracts by not first obtaining and
The Board and the public were presented with incomplete employment contracts where material information regarding the terms were withheld. Specifically, Exhibit A was omitted, which must delineate the 'duties and responsibilities' to be fulfilled by each administrator.
Staff subsequently amended the contracts that were shown to the public on April 23, 2012, but the amendments were never scheduled on any Board of Trustee meeting during public session. This is not in compliance with the 'amendment' provision of the employment agreements. For example, the contracts state that the 'amendment shall be in writing and is effective only upon the mutual consent and written approval of the [district administrator] and the board, with the board acting by a majority vote."
Lawrence's evaluation procedure, as set forth in his agreement under the provision 'Evaluation,' was amended without such an amendment being adopted by the board and properly noticed on the agenda. On April 23, 2012, Ms. Whitmarsh indicated that the reason for her request to extend Lawrence's contract was because his evaluation had been conducted that same evening. However, Lawrence's contract states that he shall be formally evaluated within two weeks of December 15 and receive an interim evaluation on July 15. The basis of Ms. Whitmarsh to extend Lawrence's contract was for evaluations conducted on April 23, 2012, which is a different schedule. The adoption to amend his evaluation schedule was not properly noticed on any board agenda.
Alicia Minyen, Mt. Diablo Unified School District Resident"
Lack's cure and correct letter alleged that Trustee Linda Mayo and former trustees Whitmarsh and Gary Eberhart held a secret meeting to sign the contracts about seven months after they were approved.
Days after newly elected trustees Brian Lawrence and Barbara Oaks were sworn in Dec. 10, Brian Lawrence received copies of the contracts that were also signed by Trustee Lynne Dennler but were not signed by any of the employees. This means the documents still had not been fully executed.
The board expects to publicly discuss the allegations and its response Jan. 14.
Do you believe the board handled the contract extensions appropriately?