Part of the Bay Area News Group

Schools mark the 75th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, April 14th, 2014 at 11:49 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek

photo 2 (3)

Northgate students were encouraged to post this photo to Instagram to mark the 75th anniversary of Grapes of Wrath

Northgate students were encouraged to post this photo to Instagram to mark the 75th anniversary of Grapes of Wrath

To mark the 75h anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath today, schools throughout the state are participating in a variety of activities as part of the California Teachers Association’s “California Reads” program of teacher-recommended books for students of all ages.

The epic struggles of the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s novel are being rediscovered and honored in classrooms, theaters and lecture halls today, this month and throughout the year, according to a CTA news release.

Northgate High English teacher Daniel Reynolds has taught the book for nine years to his high school juniors in the Mt. Diablo school district.

“The ‘Grapes of Wrath’ is relevant to students today because the struggles of the Joad family, and of all the families dispossessed by the Depression, are the struggles of millions of people today,” Reynolds said in a prepared statement. “Steinbeck reminds us that people want to work, they want to provide for their families, they want a little piece of land they can call their own, an education for their kids, they want to be healthy, and ultimately they want all these same things for everyone else too. Students feel a lot of this already, but struggle to put their feelings into words. The ‘Grapes of Wrath’ helps them do that.”

Reynolds’ students at Northgate High in Walnut Creek will participate in a variety of activities during lunch today. Projects include a 75-foot multimedia timeline based on events in the book, an interactive social media experience designed by Reynolds, an Instagram scavenger hunt related to the novel, a student’s website documenting what other classmates are doing to honor the book, square-dancing instruction in the gym, birthday cake, outfits created by students similar to what the characters wore, and an art show with music.

The book tells the story of the Joad family’s migration from their farm in Oklahoma to California, where they were exploited and forced to work for starvation wages by unscrupulous growers. Reynolds said the book shows the power of working together against great and menacing odds.

“The ‘Grapes of Wrath’ evokes the American themes and progressive ideals of collective action and reasoned dissent,” Reynolds said, “and reminds us that we all do better when we all do better.”

In Fremont, American High School English teacher Deborah Thorsen recently finished teaching the book for a fifth time to her junior students.

“I tell my students that this is the kind of book that can change the way you look at the world,” she said. “It tells them that they have a chance to change the world. It shows them that society isn’t nice. They come away from the book with a sense of injustices, but wanting to do something about it.”

The book, which won a Pulitzer Prize, is on the California Department of Education’s recommended literature list. It has sparked numerous teacher lesson plans, both in high schools and colleges.

The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University houses extensive archives — including “Grapes of Wrath” manuscripts and first editions –- on the fifth floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. main library downtown, next to SJSU. The campus plans a Wednesday stage production of the novel, immediately followed by a discussion with Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw, who teaches English at the university and will speak about her new book, “On Reading the Grapes of Wrath.” An opera based on the novel will be performed May 9 and 11.

APRIL 1 UPDATE: I visited the Northgate campus after school Monday and saw some of the signs Reynolds had posted to get students thinking about themes in the book.

One sign asked: “When someone warns you about the negative consequences of an action, do you stay away (and learn from their warning), or do you do it anyway (and learn from doing things for yourself — even if that means taking negative consequences?”

Reynolds said afterward that he considered the day a success.

“The idea was to have a celebratory nature, encouraging the students to think about the quotes,” he said. “All over campus during lunch and most of the day it was everywhere for people to see.”

Do you think “The Grapes of Wrath” is relevant today?

Leave a comment

Concord police chief and MDUSD teacher express support for mandated reporting bill

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, April 12th, 2014 at 9:37 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district

Earlier this week, Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger and Mt. Diablo school district teacher Anita Johnson spoke in support of AB 2560, which is related to mandated child abuse reporting, at an Assembly Education Committee hearing.

The bill, proposed by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would require all teachers to read a statement and attest that they understand their responsibilities to report suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services or law enforcement when they apply for and renew their credentials.

“In my district and cities throughout California, there have been cases of unreported student physical and sexual abuse,” Bonilla told the committee, which is headed up by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo. “There’s been a growing trend where mandated reporters have reported suspected child abuse only to school administration and not to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.”

Johnson discussed three instances in which children might have been better protected if teachers had reported their suspicions to police. In one, Johnson said a teacher noticed that her student came to school with bruises the day after calling a parent to discuss missing homework.

When the principal found out, he reprimanded the teacher for calling the parent, saying he knew that would happen, Johnson said. When asked if he would report the incident to Child Protective Services, the principal said that was not the appropriate thing to do because the agency might remove the child from the home and put her in the “system,” which would be far worse than where she was.

In another incident, when a middle school teacher told a student she was going to call his father because he hadn’t turned in an assignment, the boy said, “Don’t tell me Dad. He’ll beat the crap out of me.”

The boy seemed truly frightened, Johnson said. Yet, the principal told the teacher it wouldn’t be right to report this to authorities, because parents have the right to reprimand their children.

“My final example is the situation from my own district, Mt. Diablo Unified, in which many teachers at a particular school reported to their administrator that they felt there were odd things happening in a certain classroom and that the teacher had made some weird comments about young boys,” Johnson said. “The administrator assured these teachers that she would investigate.”

Yet, it wasn’t until the boys themselves accused that teacher of molestation that the teacher was removed from the classroom, Johnson said.

“The bottom line,”Johnson said, “is to make sure teachers know they are responsible for reporting to an outside agency and not their administrator.”

She said teachers want to do the right thing and reminders are always good.

Swanger, who worked in the San Diego police department before coming to Concord about three years ago, expressed strong support for the bill.

“It’s a time-tested formula that some form of in-service training and/or ongoing communication is the key to compliance,” he said. “And I believe that there is no more important law that we should require 100 percent compliance (with) than following the mandatory reporting law.”

He said these laws are violated when a person working in the school system who suspects abuse does not completely understand or know their legal requirements.

“They believe notifying a supervisor, a principal or a peer meets their requirement,” he said. “And worse, that supervisor or peer does not understand their legal requirements.”

Although the mandating reporting law has been on the books for 29 years, Swanger said it’s evident by the large number of cases involving failure to report, particularly in districts where he has served, that the law is not sufficient. He said some teachers have received little or no training regarding the law, while others are told they must report suspected abuse to an administrator.

“The most troubling scenario that some of them have shared with me,” he said, “is that the worst failures occur when the offender works in the system.”

Here is a link to the committee testimony, along with more information about the bills on the agenda that day: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2019

Do you support AB2560?

Leave a comment

YVHS presents “Legally Blonde” this weekend and next weekend!

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, April 4th, 2014 at 11:30 am in Mt. Diablo school district

Members of YVHS Legally Blonde cast join De La Salle and Carondelet Legally Blonde cast members on YVHS stage after show.

Members of YVHS Legally Blonde cast join De La Salle and Carondelet Legally Blonde cast members on YVHS stage after show.

Ygnacio Valley High invites the community to come to its production of “Legally Blonde” this weekend and next weekend. Kelly Cooper, the school’s Performing Arts Chairwoman and Dance Director, is trying to get the word out about a show she says shouldn’t be missed!

“This is our most ambitious musical to date, with a ton of music, a huge 38 person cast, 8 person backstage crew, and literally 116 costume changes,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Parents and students have worked over the weekends to build outstanding sets (our wings are exploding!!) and we have put together a cast and a musical we are proud to present to you and to the community.”

The show opens today at 7:30 p.m. and continues at 2 p.m. Saturday at Ygnacio Valley High, 755 Oak Grove Road in Concord. It will continue at 7:30 p.m. Friday April 11 and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Legally Blonde is based on the movie of the same name, but a ton of hilarious scenes and great songs that will get stuck in your head for days (trust me on that one),” Cooper wrote. “A musical without an audience is a tragedy (pun intended) and WE NEED YOU!!”

Tickets for evening shows are $8 for students and $12 for adults, while tickets for matinee shows are $5 and $8.

“Come support this completely self funded program and (see) these VERY talented and supremely dedicated students shine,” Cooper says.

Here’s a list of some of the key roles played student stars, along with their grade levels:

Elle Woods- McKenna Duncan (11)
Warner Huntington III- Matt Boer (12)
Emmett Forrest- Devin Rader (12)
Vivienne Kensington- Rory Tank (12)
Brooke Wyndham-Danielle Tortolani (12)
Serena- Kayla Samuels
Pilar-Rhyndyl Sardina
Margot- Maddie King
Paulette- Aaliyah Minor

Here’s a link to a flyer for the show: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceeWttZ1I3azBISHM/edit?usp=sharing

Let us know what you think of the show!

April 8 update: Please note that I have added a photo to this blog post of the Legally Blonde cast members from DeLaSalle and Carondolet’s production who came to see YVHS’s Legally Blonde show last Saturday night posing together on stage!

Leave a comment

MDUSD logs documents related to teacher molestation arrest withheld from Bay Area News Group’s Public Records Act request

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, April 4th, 2014 at 10:56 am in Mt. Diablo school district

The Mt. Diablo school district’s attorney has responded to a court order to produce logs of documents being withheld from Bay Area News Group’s Public Records Act request seeking “Any and all writings pertaining to Mt. Diablo Unified School District teacher Joseph Andrew Martin, 45, relating to allegations of wrongdoing (including inappropriate behavior with students), complaints, investigations, findings, discipline meted out or other action taken against Mr. Martin during his tenure at the district…”

Martin was placed on administrative leave in April and was subsequently arrested and charged with 150 counts of molestation involving 14 former students while he taught at the Concord campus. His trial has been postponed until May.

The district provided Bay Area News Group, or BANG, with two notices related to the court order.

The first is a Notice of filing, which includes a short list of two documents the district is withholding from Bay Area News Group that are not protected by attorney-client privilege:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceZ2I4OXZCS0Z4amc/edit?usp=sharing

It lists two e-mails from the district’s associate general counsel Deborah Cooksey to Concord Police Detective Tamara Roberts, which discussed criminal charges against Martin. The district claims several privileges that it argues entitle it to withhold the documents from the public, including official information, pending investigation, confidential information, attorney work product privilege and deliberative process privilege.

In its discussion of the documents, the district states that the e-mails contain information regarding an “unfinal personnel decision by the district’s legal counsel.”

“If the district is required to disclose this information, it will commit the district to premature personnel decision and expose the district’s legal counsel investigatory process,” the district argues.

“Said communication also evidences the legal counsel’s work product and impressions. Further, said document may potentially be excluded from the definition of a public record,” according to the district.

It concludes by arguing that the e-mails reveal the district and legal counsel’s “investigatory efforts both as to allegations of wrongdoing and on confidential personnel decisions,” which it argues are expressly excluded from disclosure.

The second item provided to BANG is a Notice of Lodging Privilege Log, which states that a confidential privilege log of documents protected from disclosure due to attorney-client or attorney-work product privilege has been lodged with the court: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceWlhqcUdqVW1UUDQ/edit?usp=sharing. It does not include Exhibit A, which is the list of documents being withheld.

Interestingly, the district did not list the letter that was sent home to Woodside Elementary parents when Martin was placed on his leave of absence. It is difficult to imagine how that letter could be construed to be subject to attorney-client privilege or attorney-client work product.

Do you agree with the district’s decision to list only two e-mails as potentially responsive to BANG’s Public Records Act request and to keep the list of “confidential privilege” documents provided to the court secret?

Leave a comment

MDUSD board to meet tonight with Concord City Council

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 at 1:08 pm in Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold a joint meeting tonight with the Concord City Council to discuss issues of mutual interest.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in the district office board room at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. The public is invited to comment on items on the agenda, which include:

A Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) presentation by MDUSD Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer.

An oral presentation regarding the Family Justice Center by Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger.

An information exchange between the school board and city council including updates on items of mutual interest and a discussion of partnerships and other areas of cooperation. Discussion items may include: district enrollment, student achievement, Common Core State Standards, development and educational opportunities for high school students, school/community safety, shared fields, updates on current and planned improvement projects, MDEA Second Annual Academy Awards and the communication between the district and city council. No formal action will be taken.

Here is a link to the agenda, which didn’t show up on the district’s web site home page until today: http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Documents/agendas/2014/04-02-14.pdf

Because the media was not notified in advance of this meeting, I was unaware of it until this morning, so was unable to inform the public about it in today’s Contra Costa Times.

Other items of interest that could be discussed include Clayton Valley High’s expansion plans and De La Salle’s planned middle school academy in Concord.

Do you believe the district adequately informed the community about this meeting?

Leave a comment

Northgate HS music student seeks support for Eagle Scout project refurbishing music stands for Foothill Middle School

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 at 11:22 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Music

A Northgate HS senior is seeking donations for his Eagle Scout project to refurbish instrumental music stands at Foothill MS in Walnut Creek. Here is his statement asking for community support:

“I’m Matthew Assily, a senior at Northgate High School. I have been involved in instrumental music in the Mount Diablo Unified School District since fourth grade, and am heavily involved in the music program at Northgate.

I am also a Life Scout in Boy Scout Troop 494. For my Eagle Scout project, I am refurbishing the music stands at Foothill Middle School, which includes painting them and stenciling ‘FMS’ onto them for ease of use in the future. In order to carry out this refurbishment, I need to raise funds for tools and supplies.

If you are so inclined, I am looking for voluntary donations of between $5 and $10 to go towards the paint and the safety equipment required for the project. Donations can be sent to Matthew Assily, c/o John Assily, 3240 Stone Valley Road West, Alamo, CA 94507 and checks can be made out to Matthew Assily. I will send you a receipt for your donation. Any funds raised beyond the required money for the project will be given to the Foothill Middle School Instrumental Music program.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at mjassily@aol.com. Thank you so much for your contribution and for supporting instrumental music in the Mount Diablo Unified School District!”

Here is a video clip of Assily (second from left) playing “Almost Tango” by Gianfranco Gioia with his classmates Eric Nakanishi, Massimius Watson and Ben Lugten: http://www.tout.com/m/0aaowr

Leave a comment

How much sugar does your family eat?

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 21st, 2014 at 3:39 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district

The nation’s reliance on fast foods and prepackaged items loaded with added sugar causes tooth decay, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, says Dr. Robert Lustig, a childhood obesity expert at UC San Francisco.

One great way to overcome this problem is to teach America’s children how to cook healthy meals from scratch. In addition, Lustig wants to build public pressure on the food industry and government leaders to cut down on unhealthy food additives to improve everyone’s well-being.

He has teamed up with the American Heart Association and Walnut Creek chef Cindy Gershen, who also teaches at Mt. Diablo High in Concord, to get the message out to parents and the general public that major changes are needed in Americans’ diets. The World Health Organization and American Heart Association agree that added sugar should only make up 5 percent of a person’s total calories each day, which amounts to 4 teaspoons of added sugar for kids, 6 teaspoons for women or 9 teaspoons for men, he said.

“In America today, we’re at 17 percent,” Lustig said, as he watched Gershen’s students cooking healthy meals with salmon, pork loin, tofu and chicken earlier this week during a Bay Bridge Cook with Heart Challenge alongside students from Galileo High in San Francisco. “So, this is a reduction by two-thirds.”

Cutting back so drastically will be a huge challenge in this country, where 77 percent of all foods sold in grocery stores include added sugar, Lustig said. Even more alarming, he said, is the amount of sugar added to foods given to schoolchildren through breakfast and lunch programs.

About one-quarter of American kids eat school breakfasts, he said. For some, a typical breakfast could include a bowl of sugary cereal and a glass of orange juice — totaling 11 teaspoons of sugar — or 7 teaspoons more than the recommended amount for the entire day.

The reason Americans are consuming too much sugar is simple, Lustig says.

“The food industry makes money by selling crappy food,” he said. “The federal government lets them, but then the federal government has to pay for the downstream negative effects of that.”

For example, the government spends $245 billion a year on diabetes, he said. And it spends $200 billion a year fighting dementia, which he said has been associated with high-sugar diets.

Instead, Lustig says the government could make money by fixing the food so that it wouldn’t have to pay later for health problems caused by sugar. The reason this isn’t happening, Lustig alleges, is that 338 of 535 members of Congress take money from the food industry.

Until there is enough public outcry, Lustig says, nothing will change, even though the economic arguments alone justify the reductions he recommends. But more importantly, he says, children and their communities would benefit from healthier diets.

“When kids eat real food, they’re thinner, smarter and their behavior problems are better,” he said. “One-third of Americans don’t know how to cook. We can’t fix this until they do.”

Lustig and Gershen advocate bringing back home economics programs to high schools so that students can learn the nutritional guidelines and skills necessary to be healthier. Gershen’s students said they have changed their own diets and the foods eaten in their homes as a result of the education and hands-on cooking experiences they have received.

“It’s important to know what to put in your body,” said Maria Aguirre, 17, a junior at Mt. Diablo High. “At home, when you see what your mom makes, you say, ‘Mom, how much did you put in it?’ We have sugar at school. But, we also use honey.”

After the San Francisco competition ended, 16-year-old Shelby Cooper snacked on a plate of peas.

“It’s a healthier snack than a bag of chips and I’m more full,” she said. “I feel guilty if I eat chips.”

Carissa Urbina, a 17-year-old junior at Mt. Diablo High, said she enjoyed the salmon and vegetables they cooked.

“It gives me a lot of energy throughout my day as I’ve been eating this food,” she said. “And I don’t feel guilty.”

Here are some video clips from the Cook with a Heart event:

Students talk about meals they cooked:

http://youtu.be/GTlW8BJcM8o

http://youtu.be/gCwA8Qm9Y5w

 http://youtu.be/Cl6n4bRTLfs

http://youtu.be/ilZFyvMF8hw

Awards: http://youtu.be/bO4pOb_Mtxg

Comments from Lustig and others: http://youtu.be/gGVrO7esKSk

Do you think schools should teach students how to cook healthy meals?

Leave a comment

How much should your district spend on disadvantaged students next year?

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 14th, 2014 at 5:53 pm in Education

As the July 1 deadline for creating district spending plans is looming under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula, school officials should be asking parents how they believe money should be spent to best serve their children.

The state is allocating extra money to districts with low-income students, English learners and foster youth to help them close the achievement gap by providing services and programs to help disadvantaged children overcome challenges.

Ideally, districts should be telling parents how much money they are receiving through base grants for all students and through supplemental grants for disadvantaged students. Districts with more than 55 percent of students who fall into the three disadvantaged categories also receive concentration grants intended to provide extra help for them.

But some districts are more transparent than others about sharing their budget numbers with their communities during this planning process. To help level the playing field, the Education Trust-West advocacy organization has created a website at www.fairshare4kids.org that provides a searchable database of most districts in the state showing how much each district is supposed to spend on high-need students. The database does not include districts serving 100 students or less or those with very few disadvantaged students that are receiving Economic Recovery Target Grants to help them reach the goal of increasing funding to 2007-08 levels in eight years.

Here’s a comparison of the percentage of disadvantaged students in some Alameda and Contra Costa districts, followed by the amount of money designated to serve those students next year, according to the site:

ALAMEDA COUNTY
Hayward: 76 percent; $16 million
Livermore: 30 percent; $2.4 million
Newark: 60 percent; $2.8 million
Oakland: 74 percent; $27 million
San Lorenzo: 68 percent; $6.3 million

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Antioch: 65 percent; $8.4 million
John Swett: 69 percent; $905,441
Mt. Diablo: 49 percent; $9.5 million
Pittsburg: 86 percent; $8.9 million
West Contra Costa: 74 percent; $19 million

Each district must include this amount of money designated for disadvantaged students in its Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP. These plans must describe a district’s goals, actions, and expenditures across eight state priority areas. The plans must also explain how supplemental and concentration funding will be spent on high-need students and describe how the district’s expenditures will increase or improve services for those students.

Districts are required to include a parent advisory group in the creation of the plans, said Carrie Hahnel of EdTrust-West. Some districts are creating special groups for this purpose, while others are using existing parent advisory groups, she said.

A best practice is to create a special group that includes representatives for low-income students, English learners and foster youth, she said. In addition, Hahnel said students should be involved in the process.

“There’s a difference between just asking for their input and authentically engaging them,” she said. “What we hear from some students is that they will share lists of things that they care about, but they don’t feel that’s going to actually affect the district’s plan in any way.”

Some districts are holding community meetings to explain the state’s requirements and solicit feedback. But Hahnel said it’s really important to make the connection between the budget and the plan during these meetings, instead of merely creating wish lists of programs and services.

“For some reason, districts want to skip over the budget part and get to the plan part once they get people in the room,” she said. “If the district has a strategic plan — put it out there. Talk about the new funding and have a dialogue about trade-offs. If we do a lot of new things, we might have old things we have to cut, so let’s talk about what we value and how much room we have for new investments.”

What trade-offs are being discussed in your district?

Leave a comment

News group’s fight to obtain district documents heading to court this month

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, March 9th, 2014 at 11:43 am in Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district

The jury trial for former Woodside Elementary teacher Joseph Martin — who has been charged with 150 counts of molestation involving 14 former students while he taught at the Concord campus in the Mt. Diablo school district — has been postponed until May.

But, the Bay Area News Group, or BANG, lawsuit seeking district records related to an internal report about suspicions of abuse raised in 2006, along with any other relevant documents, is set to be heard March 19 in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

Attorneys for both sides have been busily trading legal briefs and declarations bolstering their opinions during the past month.

The district is staunchly defending its decision to withhold the documents sought based on a variety of exemptions asserted under the California Public Records Act. The newspaper group disputes these asserted exceptions and is asking the court to require the district to list everything that is being withheld and to review the documents privately, then decide whether or not they should be released.

Here’s a rundown of the arguments by both sides:

The district asserts that every document being withheld is prohibited from public disclosure because it contains identifiable education information for a minor, education records, attorney-client information, and attorney work product information, as well as information protected by individual privacy laws. The district asserts that a 2006 internal report prepared by outside attorney Mark Williams related to alleged improper behavior by Martin is exempt from disclosure because it was provided to police in confidence and police compelled the district to provide it as part of the police investigation of Martin.

BANG attorney Duffy Carolan counters: “It is inconceivable under the strong body of law governing access to records of public employee wrongdoing that all responsive records pertaining to complaints known to Mt. Diablo Unified School District to at least suggest child abuse by Woodside Elementary School teacher Joseph Martin would be exempt from public disclosure in their entirety.”

The district’s “vague and unsupported privacy arguments are patently insufficient to establish that any record it is withholding is exempt,” Carolan says, in a court document filed Feb. 26. In addition, she says the district failed to explain why removing the names of students would not suffice to protect student privacy and she disputed the district’s claim of attorney-client privilege related to the 2006 report.

“In sum,” Carolan wrote, “the district has utterly failed to meet its heavy burden of proof in this case to overcome the strong public interest in access to records that will shed light on the district’s handling of serious allegations of wrongdoing that have already imperiled the well-being of its students and raise legitimate concerns about student safety throughout the district.”

Although the district has not named the documents it is withholding, Carolan asserts that a paper trail leading to the decision to call police in 2013 must exist. She suggests that documents being withheld could include: an April 24, 2013 complaint from the mother of a Woodside Elementary student to then-Principal Jenny Cronan, notification from Cronan to the assistant superintendent for personnel about the complaint, direction to call police, and notification to Martin that he was being placed on administrative leave.

Related to the 2006 incident, Carolan suggests documents being withheld could include: a report received by then-Principal Jennifer Sachs that Martin was “focusing” on some students over others, Sachs’ notification to the assistant superintendent for personnel about this complaint, the conclusion by the district that an investigation was necessary, records relating to an internal investigation into “alleged suspicious behavior” by Martin, writings detailing the suspicious behavior, records showing Sachs was “tasked with conducting the investigation,” and the 2006 letter provided by Williams.

Links to court documents filed by both sides are below:

BANG Request for In Camera Review of MDUSD documents: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceOWJVWVdYOTVDbXc/edit

Proposed Order for In Camera Review of MDUSD documents: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceOWJVWVdYOTVDbXc/edit

MDUSD opposition to BANG petition: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceV2JFU29NUlVqeDQ/edit

Declaration of MDUSD attorney Deb Cooksey: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceVlJPYnB1bU9ZZUk/edit

Declaration of outside attorney Mark Williams: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceOWJVWVdYOTVDbXc/edit

BANG reply to MDUSD: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceNDZ2THNuaU1ya3M/edit?usp=sharing

Do you think the court should review the documents being withheld to determine whether or not they should be released?

MARCH 18 UPDATE:

Here is the judge’s tentative ruling:

“29. TIME: 9:00 CASE#: MSN13-1551
CASE NAME: BAY AREA NEWS GROUP VS MT DIAB
SPECIAL SET HEARING ON: WRIT OF MANDATE SET BY STIPULATION/COURT
* TENTATIVE RULING: *

Petitioner Bay Area News Group’s petition seeking further disclosure of records is granted. It is premature to rule on the exemptions and privileges asserted by Respondent until a complete list of the specific documents being withheld is produced and correlated with the exemption and/or privilege claimed by the District. By April 2, 2014, Respondent is ordered to create a list of each responsive document or portion thereof being withheld, describing it in detail and for each document being withheld, Respondent must discuss the consequences of disclosing the sought-after information. Conclusory or boilerplate assertions that merely recite the statutory standards are not sufficient. See American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California v. Superior Court (2011) 202 Cal.App.4th 55, 82-85; State Board of Equalization v. Superior Court (1992) 10 Cal.App.4th 1177, 1192-1193.

The court rules on Petitioner’s objections as follows:

Declaration of Deborah Cooksey

Cooksey Decl., paragraph 11: Sustained – hearsay

Declaration of Mark Williams

Williams Decl., paragraph 3, starting with “I” and ending with “appropriate”: Sustained – relevance
Williams Decl., paragraph 3, starting with “One” and ending with “conduct”: Overruled
Williams Decl., paragraph 4, starting with “That” and ending with “privileged”: Overruled
Williams Decl., paragraph 4, starting with “Further” and ending with “communication”: Overruled”

Here are the objections: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceWnRFU2JnUkprd1E/edit?usp=sharing

Leave a comment

MDUSD maintenance and operations workers join Teamsters Union

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, March 8th, 2014 at 12:31 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district

I have received a news release announcing that 500 Mt. Diablo school district maintenance and operations workers — who had been members of the Local One union — voted Friday to switch to the Teamsters 856 Union. Although the news release characterized it as an “overwhelming” vote, it did not disclose the percentage of yes and no votes.

“The vote to become Teamsters comes after months of stalled contract negotiations as the District has refused to address the issue of skyrocketing healthcare costs,” according to the news release.

“’The District’s decision to freeze healthcare costs at 2010 levels has had an alarming impact on these workers – many have had to choose between buying groceries and having healthcare,’ said Peter Finn, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 856.

The maintenance and operations unit includes school bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, network technicians, as well as plumbers, electricians, painters, carpenters, groundskeepers, and other classifications working out of the maintenance department.

‘We drive children to school, prepare their meals, and make sure they have a clean, safe environment in which to learn,’ said Noven Feria, a custodian lead worker for the District. ‘We deserve to be able to take care of our families too and not have to choose between food and healthcare,’ he said.

‘It’s time for Mount Diablo to take care of the workers who take care of our children,’ Finn said. ‘We are committed and prepared to do whatever it takes to demand fairness at the bargaining table.’

Founded in 1949, Teamsters Local 856 represents 8,000 hardworking members in the San Francisco Bay Area, North Bay, Sacramento, and Central Valley communities.”

Do you agree with the maintenance and operations workers’ decision to switch unions?

Leave a comment