CONCORD -- The Mt. Diablo school board delayed action on two "cure and correct" Brown Act violation allegations until it meets again in closed session with a nonstaff attorney hired to advise the board on the issue.
The decision Monday followed a lengthy conversation during which board President Cheryl Hansen urged her colleagues to revisit contract extensions for the superintendent, general counsel, chief financial officer and two assistant superintendents, which were approved in April. The board did not review the new contracts at that time and they weren't signed until the fall.
"I find that this is a defining moment for our new board," said Hansen, who became board president last month, after previous board president Sherry Whitmarsh lost her re-election bid. "The public, with the election, decided it wants our board to act with more transparency and accountability." Hansen argued that the new contracts contained clauses that violated the Education Code and other laws. But Trustee Lynne Dennler said the board was told in closed session that no Brown Act violations took place. The attorney with whom the board consulted rushed to the microphone and warned that it is illegal to reveal closed session information.
Mayo initially urged the board to deny the Brown Act "cure and correct demands," saying the residents who filed the allegations submitted their letters past the 90-day deadline. But after legal questions arose during the debate, Mayo recommended that the board consult an attorney again before acting.
Recently elected trustees Brian Lawrence and Barbara Oaks, who remained quiet throughout most of the discussion, voted with Mayo and Dennler to consult an attorney. Hansen voted "no," saying the board could face litigation from the residents who brought forward the allegations, since it did not act within the 30-day required time period.
Also at the meeting, Superintendent Steven Lawrence and others gave an update on school safety and district security in the wake of school shootings around the country, and the theft of a laptop from a district office that contained confidential information of 18,000 current and former employees of Mt. Diablo and Berkeley school districts.
Lawrence said the district plans to install "Columbine"-style locks, which teachers can lock from inside their classrooms, at all schools and will look into getting window coverings for all classrooms.
He also said the district is working with local police departments to walk through campuses and review safety plans to see what improvements can be made. Trustee Brian Lawrence urged the staff to post safety plans online, but Mayo expressed concerns about making information available to those who might harm students.
General Counsel Greg Rolen said the district purchased additional identity-theft protection after the laptop theft. About 1,730 people, or 10 percent of those whose confidential information was on the laptop, signed up for the service by Jan. 10, including 500 in the past week. However, Rolen said the district was not aware of anyone whose information had been compromised as a result of the security breach.
The cost of the service is $27.50 per person. Along with costs for the identity-theft protection and a call center to respond to employees, the district expects to pay $100,000 before its insurance kicks in with up to $1 million in coverage, Rolen said.
The board also discussed liability it could face if it allows volunteers to serve as crossing guards.
Additional details about the meeting are available by calling 925-682-8000, ext. 4000, or by going to http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on Jan. 14.
For more information, including links to video clips from meetings, read the On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.