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Modesto school board closed-door topic is school personnel

Hot topics will be discussed by Modesto City Schools' members Monday, but most of the debate will be behind closed doors.

That's because personnel matters -- evaluating Superintendent Arturo Flores' performance, appointing a high-level administrator, disciplining an employee and reviewing union contract proposals -- are not open to public scrutiny.

Board members will consider all those things privately starting at 4 p.m. Monday.

Flores' four-year contract expires in June 2011, and school board members are expected to decide soon whether to extend or end his leadership of the 28,600- student district.

The superintendent, who was paid $228,166 last year, is battling to lead the district through $25 million in budget cuts, declining enrollments, contentious union negotiations and academic performance problems.

Some of Flores' administrative decisions and work practices recently were investigated by the Stanislaus County civil grand jury, which reported it "did not find any evidence of actionable wrongdoing."

The grand jury, however, recommended Modesto City Schools adopt a "whistle-blower policy" to protect employees who come forward with information about possible wrongdoing.

That stems from a dispute last year during which then-Deputy Superintendent of Business Debbe Bailey said she was punished for bringing financial concerns about the school district to Flores' attention.

The whistle-blower policy is one of the few action items on the public portion of Monday's agenda, which starts at 6 p.m. The proposed policy would protect employees from reprisals if they disclose improper activity, wasteful spending, gross misconduct, incompetence or inefficiency.

Other items board members will consider behind closed doors will be the appointment of an educational services director for seventh through 12th grades and the discipline or possible termination of an unnamed employee.

The board also will discuss the progress in contract negotiations with the district's labor unions. The schools' nonteaching employees reportedly have reached a tentative agreement with the district, which board members must approve. The teachers' union is said to be close to settling its contract for the 2010-11 school year.

Any actions taken by the board in closed session must be announced during the public portion of the meeting.

The school board meets at 425 Locust St., Modesto.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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