CONCORD -- The Mt. Diablo school board on Monday appointed John Bernard as interim superintendent through Sept. 30 and selected Leadership Associates to conduct its search for a permanent superintendent.

"I appreciate the fact that I have this opportunity," Bernard said after his appointment. "Beginning tomorrow, we are going to work to make sure we have a successful ending of the school year and then work hard to make sure that the opening of school in the fall is also smooth and successful."

Although he said this is not a time for lots of new changes, Bernard said he would be willing to look at decisions that were made by the previous superintendent to ensure that they were in the best interest of students. Board President Cheryl Hansen said she was pleased that Bernard was able to hit the ground running. He will be paid about $68,283 for the duration of his contract.

Trustees postponed voting on separation agreements with ousted Superintendent Steven Lawrence and General Counsel Greg Rolen until June 3. Trustee Brian Lawrence was unable to participate in the meeting because his out-of-town location was not posted on the agenda 72 hours before the meeting, as required by law.

Hansen said she favored Leadership Associates to search for a new superintendent because the firm recently found an excellent superintendent for the San Ramon Valley district and it has been very responsive to the district thus far. The firm will be paid $33,500 to solicit applications with the goal of finding a new superintendent by mid-August.

The board also voted 3-1 to ratify a settlement agreement and release for Mildred Browne, assistant superintendent for special education and student services, who has been on a paid administrative leave since July. The settlement includes a payment of nearly $79,000 related to a claim against the district alleging that disparaging comments were made about her. Browne will retire in June.

Trustee Lynne Dennler voted against the agreement, without comment. Trustee Linda Mayo expressed appreciation for Browne's service in the district. Interim Assistant Superintendent Kerri Mills was hired to replace Browne last year.

The board also approved two lease-leaseback agreements for campus improvements at College Park High School and technology upgrades at Pleasant Hill Middle School and some elementary schools. Those types of contracts do not require competitive bidding.

District residents A.J. Fardella and John Parker said they think the district needs to do a better job of getting a variety of bids. Hansen said the district never announced that it was shifting to these types of contracts, which have been questioned in other districts where lawsuits have been filed.

However, she said these agreements can be done legally. Tim Cody, who heads up the district's Measure C construction bond management team, said he posted a PowerPoint presentation about lease-leasebacks from a lawyer working for the district at http://mdusdmeasurec.org. Click on "Oversight Committee" and LLB "CBOC Presentation May 2013."

Theresa Harrington covers education. Reach her at 925-945-4764. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.

MORE INFORMATION:
Details about the interim superintendent's contract and other items discussed at the meeting are available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4016 or by going to http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on May 20.
For additional information, read the On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.