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MDUSD board to vote on layoffs and administrative shakeup, discuss school reforms

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, May 9th, 2010 at 10:08 pm in Bay Point, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Shore Acres Elementary School in Bay Point.

Shore Acres Elementary School in Bay Point.

By Theresa Harrington
The Mt. Diablo school board will vote Tuesday on 170 teacher layoffs and discuss plans to reform four of the district’s lowest-achieving schools.
Trustees will also vote on special education cuts, reorganizing the district office and an investment banking contract related to the sale of $348 million in bonds, if Measure C passes in June.
You can get details about these plans on the district’s website. A story about the special education cuts appeared in the Contra Costa Times today and I’ll recap the school plans in a story Tuesday, before the meeting.
The school improvement plans are still sketchy, since the district hasn’t posted them all online yet. According to the state, the district is supposed to choose one of four reforms for its six “persistently lowest-achieving schools”: close the school, replace the principal and half the staff, transform it by replacing the principal and implementing intervention strategies, or reopen the school as a charter.
The schools on the list are: Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shores Acres elementary schools in Bay Point; Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord; and Glenbrook and Oak Grove middle schools in Concord.
Superintendent Steven Lawrence has said the district could choose another alternative, if it does not pursue federal School Improvement Grants of up to $2 million per school. This is because there currently is no penalty, if schools don’t reform.
The district has posted plans to “transform” Glenbrook Middle School in Concord and has uploaded some data about Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point.
But more complete plans for Shore Acres, Bel Air and Rio Vista Elementary schools in Bay Point are expected to be posted online Monday.
The board expects to review plans for Meadow Homes and Oak Grove later this month or next month.
Trustee Gary Eberhart said Friday he wasn’t sure yet whether schools would apply for the grants, but he was optimistic about the improvement plans.
“My hope is that what we end up is not a plan that’s set in stone, but that’s interactive and allows for monitoring of outcomes, so we can continue to tweak things and make them as good as they can possibly be,” he said. “I think a lot of energy is going into not just making everyone feel good, but our plans are actually going to yield results.”
Here’s the basic plan for Glenbrook:
1) The principal was replaced in July 2009, so he will be able to stay on. If he had worked at the school more than two years, he would need to be replaced.
2) Improve evaluations of teachers and principal
3) Identify and reward school leaders, teachers and other staff
4) Provide ongoing, high quality professional development to staff
5) Provide financial and other incentives to staff
6) Improve curriculum
7) Improve use of student test scores and other data to tailor instruction
8) increase learning time
9) Improve family and community engagement
The school also expects to receive flexibility in terms of its operations, such as governance; and sustained support from the district and outside agencies that assist in helping underperforming schools improve.
Trustees will also vote on sending out 170 final pink slips. The list of teachers to receive pink slips is in the meeting staff report.
In addition, Lawrence is recommending reorganizing the district office staff in light of the resignation of Pete Pedersen, assistant superintendent of administrative services on Sept. 30. Instead of filling Pedersen’s position, Lawrence recommends promoting personnel director Julie Braun Martin to the position of assistant superintendent of personnel.
This position was previously planned to be eliminated, when the current assistant superintendent of personnel, Gail Isserman, retires this summer. Lawrence proposes moving Melinda Hall, who is director of curriculum and instruction, into the position of personnel director.
He also proposes the creation of a Student Achievement and School Support Division under Rose Lock, the current assistant superintendent for elementary education. The assistant superintendent for secondary education position will be eliminated after Alan Young retires this summer.
“As the expectations and demands increase on all our schools,” Lawrence wrote in his staff report, “we need instructional leaders who have successfully moved schools forward to help support and coach other principals and school staffs.”
Under the new division, Lock would supervise the curriculum and instruction department. Pedersen’s duties would be spread between Lock, the general counsel and chief financial officer.
Lawrence recommends eliminating the director of alternative education position held by Katie Gaines on Sept. 1. Her responsibilities would be spread between the new division and the special education and pupil services division.
The superintendent intends to evaluate employees in the new division according to test scores, graduation rates and data related to AP coursework and career “pathways” at schools, as well as annual principal surveys focusing on the district’s support for moving schools forward.
These are the kinds of evaluation criteria the Obama administration is pushing as part of nationwide school reform. Teachers’ unions, on the other hand, have tended to oppose the inclusion of test scores in evaluations of educators.
Eberhart said he is supportive of Lawrence’s reorganization ideas.
“I certainly like what I hear as it relates to the curriculum and instruction department,” he said. “I’m excited that Steven is looking at this from a new angle, so I’m inclined to support what I see. I’m excited that we’re making some real substantial changes in how we deliver education.”
What do you think of the district’s school reform and reorganization ideas? Are you worried about losing the teachers on the pink slip list?

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