CONCORD -- Dozens of Mt. Diablo school district union members protested past cuts to their hours and benefits and told board members Monday night they don't want future ones, either.

"We heard that the board is discussing making more cuts to (clerical, secretarial and technical employees) and that's just ridiculous," said Jean Sabolevsky, office manager at El Monte Elementary in Concord. "We've been cut and cut and cut some more, while the Board of Education has full benefits and there was a group of people at the district office who had contracts extended."

Last month, Superintendent Steven Lawrence and four top administrators received contract extensions totaling more than $1 million in salaries and benefits, with built-in longevity increases.

Although Lawrence told the board the district is spending $12 million a year more than it takes in, trustees did not discuss budget cuts Monday. However, they expect to make cuts next month before submitting their 2012-13 budget to the County Office of Education.

The teachers' union, which had been at impasse for two months, announced Monday it has reached a verbal tentative agreement with the district. Union President Mike Langley said he would not release details until the agreement is in writing.

But tensions in the district go beyond money.

Brian Lawrence, who has announced he is running for a seat on the board in November, lambasted trustees for extending the superintendent's contract without discussing his job performance. He also said the board must be more transparent.

Trustee Lynne Dennler said a recent "school climate" survey showed teachers at two of the lowest-rated campuses felt unappreciated and unsupported by their principals.

"We as a board need to be certain our students have the best climate we can provide," she said. "To ignore these problems is educational malpractice."

In response to concerns raised recently by parents at Sun Terrace Elementary in Concord regarding a first-grade class recently taught by a string of about a dozen substitutes, the board discussed its process for filling long-term vacancies. Trustee Gary Eberhart said he wants to be sure no other school encounters a similar problem.

Earlier in the meeting, the board appointed Lianne Cismowski and Kristan Martin-Meyer as elementary principals and agreed to form a district committee to look at possibly increasing graduation requirements. The district has not yet assigned the new principals to specific schools.

ONLINE
More information about the Mt. Diablo school board meeting is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4000 or by visiting http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on May 21.
To see video of Trustee Lynne Dennler's comments, visit On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.