CONCORD -- The Clayton Valley High School charter effort is causing divisiveness on the Mt. Diablo school board.
Trustee Cheryl Hansen said board President Gary Eberhart exceeded his authority by trying to stop her from attending a district staff meeting about the charter, and by squelching her attempt to place the item on Tuesday's agenda for a vote.
"What we actually have here is a serious case of obstruction of a board member by another board member without any authority or merit," Hansen said in an email.
But Eberhart said Monday that he doesn't agree with Hansen's assessment.
"A single board member does not have the authority to place his or herself inside legal negotiations for the district," he said. "That's something that the board would decide as a whole."
Hansen said Superintendent Steven Lawrence left her a voice mail last week informing her that if any board member tried to attend an Oct. 18 meeting between district staff members and the charter committee, the board member would be asked to leave. If the board member refused to leave, the meeting would be rescheduled until after the Tuesday board meeting, Hansen said she was told.
When Hansen tried to attend the meeting anyway, she said Lawrence intercepted her and reiterated his message. Although Hansen disagreed, she said she decided not to disrupt the meeting, because she would have arrived late after being postponed by the discussion.
Lawrence said in an email Tuesday that he had left the same voice mail for all board members because staff believes meetings that involve negotiations are more productive and efficient if the superintendent and trustees are not present.
"Prior to the Oct. 18 meeting, I asked Ms. Hansen if she would have a conversation with me rather than observing staff's meeting with the charter organizers," Lawrence wrote. "She agreed. Our conversation was positive and enlightening."
Hansen said neither Lawrence nor Eberhart had characterized the charter meeting as a "legal negotiation" and that she didn't view it as one.
"The entire process is public information," she said.
Eberhart said discussions about such issues during closed session have led to better communication between staff members and trustees about what is going on in the district. But Hansen has said she didn't believe the district has been as transparent as it should be regarding the charter petition, which is why she wanted to sit in on the meeting.
Hansen also was outraged that Eberhart refused to place the charter item on Tuesday's agenda for a vote, as she requested. Instead, Lawrence planned to report on charter progress, with the expectation that staff members would make a recommendation for a final vote Nov. 8, Eberhart said.
Eberhart said Roberts Rules of Order, which the board follows, prevents trustees from voting again on an item that had already been rejected Oct. 11, although Hansen said the board could have taken up the issue.
Neil McChesney, one of the teachers leading the charter effort, said he has asked the district to hold a special board meeting to vote on the issue before Nov. 8. As of Tuesday morning, he said he had not received a response.
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and Walnut Creek Councilman Kish Rajan sent a joint letter to trustees Tuesday urging them to act on the charter Nov. 8 and to request a districtwide financial impact analysis by an independent organization.
"We wanted to step in and be voices and say, 'Let's get to the critical issues,' " Rajan said. "Get the facts out and get to a place where we can stop fighting about this and have more constructive conversation."