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?