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MDUSD may not chase “carrots” dangled by state

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 8:13 pm in Bay Point, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

The Contra Costa Times “On Assignment” blog is now allowing Times education reporters to provide the community with background information on education issues in Contra Costa County, links to relevant stories and other details we can’t fit into the paper.

First up: “persistently lowest-achieving schools” in the Mt. Diablo district.

The board plans to hold a community workshop about its lowest-achieving schools in mid-May. Schools on the list are: Bel Air Elementary, Meadow Homes Elementary, Rio Vista Elementary, Shore Acres Elementary, Glenbrook Middle School and Oak Grove Middle School.

Trustee Gary Eberhart and teachers’ union President Mike Noce both expressed concerns Tuesday about the state’s selection of these schools. The district has not yet decided whether to apply for federal School Improvement Grants ranging from $50,000 to $2 million a year for three years to implement one of four interventions: close the school, replace the principal and at least half the staff, replace the principal and make other changes such as increasing instructional time, or reopen the school under new management, such as a charter.

“The board expects us to create a plan,” Superintendent Steven Lawrence told the Times. “I’m meeting with principals. Doing nothing isn’t an option. But there is an option of creating a plan that doesn’t exactly meet one of the four options given by the state.”

He said he has talked to officials in other districts who share Mt. Diablo’s view that replacing the principal may not be the best answer, if schools are making gains.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, teachers’ union President Mike Noce asked trustees to involve teachers in the plans for the schools. He pointed out that all six of the schools have a high percentage of low-income students and those whose first language is not English.

Noce said the California Teachers Association is asking to waive Meadow Homes Elementary and Oak Grove Middle School in Concord from the list because they are in the second year of reforms under the Quality Education Investment Act. Rio Vista Elementary in Bay Point and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord have each received new principals during the past two years, he said.

According to the state Department of Education, schools that have replaced principals in the last two years do not have to replace them again.

Trustee Gary Eberhart said it would be “silly” to close schools or replace principals that had recently assumed leadership of their campuses.

“We’re going to look at: What are the challenges at the schools? What are we doing already? And, what do we need to do to improve and do better?” he said. “It’s going to be a systematic approach. If our approach fits into (the state’s) requirements and that provides us additional dollars, that would be great. But if it doesn’t, I think we need to stop chasing carrots that are dangled in front of us.”

Although state law requires schools on the list to choose one of the four options, it doesn’t specify a deadline. Federal law requires schools that apply for grants to choose one of the options, but it doesn’t mandate that campus seek the funding.

Some parents don’t want to wait for the district to come up with a plan before voicing their opinions. Bay Point community leaders and parents are holding a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 25 at the Bay Point Church, 2801 Camino Andres in Bay Point, to discuss their schools with district officials.

Elsewhere in the district, the parent advocate group MDUSD VOICE blogged March 18 about “A Serious Missed Communication Opportunity,” emphasizing the need for communication from the superintendent and board regarding plans for the six schools.

How do you think the district should address its lowest-achieving schools?

~ Theresa Harrington, education reporter


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One Response to “MDUSD may not chase “carrots” dangled by state”

  1. Kristin Tanner Says:

    The district should address its lowest achieving schools by giving equal resources to those schools. The schools mentioned above do not have the programs or resources as the high performing schools. This is a capitalistic society, Equal money begets equal resources. These kids come from socio-economically challenged families so their schools have less. The textbook excuse is parent participation. Well parents who dont have resources can not possibly donate and volunteer as much as the parents who are more well off. If a school has parents that are solvent then more money should go to the low performing schools where the parents do not have money. There should be district-wide equality to help all the schools. Thats what it meant when America said “Bring us your tired and your poor.” All of the children in this district are our concern because those bay point children will grow up and be a part of the society that the clayton kids will be in. We should want the same for all of the kids. But as it stands, Meadow Homes which is a few miles away from Valle Verde has only 2000 books in their library compared to Valle Verde’s 10,000. Is there any wonder why Meadow Homes will have lower scores? This district leaves many students behind on a daily basis. Its too big to manage itself. Its broken and there’s no excuse for this failure in an SF Bay Area school district in 2010.

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