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Archive for June, 2010

Young Authors program could be revived

Vanessa Chena reads her book, "Why Pigs Have Curly Tails."

Vanessa Chena reads her book, "Why Pigs Have Curly Tails."

By Theresa Harrington
The Mt. Diablo school district canceled its Young Authors program last year, due to budget cuts, said Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for elementary education.
The program encouraged students to write and illustrate their own books. Awards were given out at a districtwide gala, where a published author gave a keynote address.
In the absence of the district program, some schools such as Silverwood Elementary in Concord have created their own campus Young Author programs. Here’s a video of student Vanessa Chena reading her book, “Why Pigs Have Curly Tails.”
Curriculum specialist Diane Sargent is looking for ways to revive the program or to support schools that want to develop their own programs, Lock told me today. The district could solicit local sponsors for the program, which cost about $9,000, Lock said.
Expenses included a post-retirement contract with a retired teacher who coordinated the event, refreshments, facilities use and a speakers fee for the guest author.
“We’re trying to brainstorm some ideas to bring it back,” Lock said. “Maybe we can have some volunteers or librarians who can help us. It was a great program.”
Would you be willing to donate money or volunteer to help the district revive its Young Authors program?

Posted on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Under: Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 2 Comments »

Special “Mamma Mia” performance Friday

Cast of Mamma Mia rehearses.

Cast of Mamma Mia rehearses.

By Theresa Harrington
A very special production of “Mamma Mia,” featuring the music of Abba, will be performed Friday by students in the Mt. Diablo school district’s adult education Life Skills program.
From 1-3 p.m., 17 students will act, sing and dance on stage in a production they’ve been rehearsing all year as part of the program for adults with developmental disabilities. Tickets will be on sale for a suggested donation of $2, with all proceeds benefitting the program.
“Many of the students have limited reading and verbal skills, so it’s taken lots of one-on-one coaching,” said Karen Lingenfelter, lead instructor. “You can imagine how hard it would be to learn lines if you can’t read them.”
The performance will take place in the multiuse room at the Loma Vista Adult Center, 1266 San Carlos Ave. in Concord. Lingenfelter said it helps build self-esteem in students, who are learning independent living and vocational skills so they can live on their own, work and participate in their community.
“This is the highlight of their school year,” Lingenfelter told me. “We had dress rehearsal today with sound and costumes and it was really exciting.”
The cast includes 17 students ranging from age 22 to 40. They have painted the sets and created their own costumes, in addition to learning their lines, Lingenfelter said.
“It’s really been a hands-on play in terms of the students doing a lot of the work,” she said. “It’s wonderful. We’ve found with students with speech impediments, when they sing, they have less of an impediment.”
Students have helped each other to learn lines and developed a strong sense of teamwork, she said. This is very apparent in the finale, she said, when students are on stage together singing “Dancing Queen.”
“It’s been absolutely wonderful in all aspects of learning,” Lingenfelter said. “They just feel such a sense of accomplishment.”
Parents have started a booster club to help keep the program afloat, as budget cuts have hit the district, she said. They’ll sell refreshments at the show.
For more information, contact Lingenfelter at 925-685-7340 ext. #2785 or e-mail

Posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010
Under: Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 1 Comment »

Which school district would Measure C support?

Measure C Walnut Creek schools mailer

Measure C Walnut Creek schools mailer

By Theresa Harrington
If you’re a registered voter who lives on the Ygnacio Valley side of Walnut Creek, you’ve probably received three mailers from the “Yes on Measure C” campaign urging you to support local schools.
But Walnut Creek resident Don Huggins noticed something rather unusual about these mailers: the name of the school district that would benefit from the measure is missing.
One, called “Where it Counts,” shows Ygnacio Valley and Northgate high schools on a map of Walnut Creek on one side, with Walnut Creek Councilman Kish Rajan and three other prominent city residents endorsing the measure on the other side.
Another mailer, entitled “Cutting Edge Tools for Local Students,” features a Foothill Middle School science teacher and former councilman Charlie Abrams (who is identified only as a professional engineer) lending their support to the measure.
The third, called “Rainy Days and Mondays,” says that leaky roofs, broken windows and old wiring “top the list of repairs needed at our neighborhood elementary, middle and high schools.”
The return address is “Yes on C” or The mailers are paid for by United for Excellent Schools.
Huggins wondered why the campaign left off any mention of the Mt. Diablo school district (except for endorsements from the Mt. Diablo Education Association and United Mt. Diablo Athletic Foundation).
So, he wrote the following letter to the City Council and sent a copy to me:

“Honorable Mayor and City Council Members, City of Walnut Creek
(Please distribute to all Council members.)

I recently received a flyer supporting Measure C that makes no mention of the Mt Diablo Unified School District — obviously an intentional omission that is deceptive and shameful.

The reason I’m addressing this to you is that the flyer appears to be all about Walnut Creek and its schools; contains photos and quotes from Gwen Regalia and Kish Rajan; has the endorsement of the WC City Council as well as its individual members; identifies certain schools in a sketch labelled WALNUT CREEK; and concludes with ‘Make Your Vote Count for Walnut Creek Schools.’

It would appear that the preparers (and supporters?) of this flyer decided to deceive voters into thinking that they were voting for only Walnut Creek schools and not for the entire MDUS District, which includes many other schools. Is this because of the relatively poor academic reputation of the MDUSD? It’s unexcusable.

What say you? (I’d appreciate your response.)
–Don Huggins”

Since Rajan is a member of the campaign committee, I forwarded my copy of the letter to him and asked if he helped prepare the mailers. I also asked for a response to Huggins’ assertions that the omission of the Mt. Diablo school district’s name was deceptive. Here’s Rajan’s response to me:

“Theresa – I am glad you got the Cutting Edge mailer. We are pleased to have so many leaders from Walnut Creek in education, city government, business, community orgs, parents, etc. that understand how critically important it is pass Measure C so we can better prepare our kids to compete in today’s economy. We wanted Walnut Creek voters to be informed of the breadth of Measure C’s support among their neighbors and community leaders.
Kish Rajan”

When I asked if the council intended to respond directly to Huggins, Rajan responded: “Sure. I dont speak for the Council. But if Mr. Huggins were to contact me – I would refer answer him with the statement I gave you.”

I forwarded Rajan’s response to Huggins and asked for his reaction. Here’s what Huggins wrote in an e-mail to me:

“Theresa —

First, thanks for forwarding to me Mr Rajan’s response.

What do I think? I choke, then chuckle in an effort to keep calm.

It’s crystal clear. Kish just repeats what the mailers say and, like so many politicians, totally avoids the specific/hard questions that can’t be ‘spun’ sufficiently to defend the questionable actions. By avoiding the questions, he’s telling us that if you believe in the goal (which apparently he does), any means to get there is totally acceptable. To me, his response turns a minor issue into a larger one. You can forward my reply to him if you wish.

Theresa, these are the same city officials that got so stirred up crying ‘foul’ over the opposition to the Neiman Marcus project. Remember?

I’m fed up with national, state and local politics.

Up to you. You could ask him ‘What about the specific questions on process?’ Or I could. But is it worth it?
–Don Huggins”

I forwarded Huggins’ reaction to Rajan and haven’t heard back.

Do you think the Walnut Creek mailers should have mentioned that Measure C would benefit the Mt. Diablo school district?

What about solar projects or air conditioning, which also weren’t mentioned, although they are expected to account for more than half of the $202.2 million in facilities improvements? Nearly $69 million is earmarked for solar projects and $41.6 million is for air conditioning, totaling $110.5 million.

Items highlighted in the mailers included new facilities (which would cost $28.6 million), technology (which is slated for $20 million), roofs ($9.8 million) and windows ($1.6 million).

Posted on Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington, Walnut Creek | 18 Comments »