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Archive for August, 2010

Contra Costa County Office of Education solar projects move forward

By Theresa Harrington
The Contra Costa County Office of Education plans to install solar projects at two of its campuses by the end of the year.
According to its Aug. 18 meeting minutes, here is the process the county used to select its contractor:

“Associate Superintendent Bill Clark thanked the Board for its ongoing support and input during the process to contract for the construction of solar panels. He noted that the Board had requested staff to solicit competitive bids, to be frugal in its selection of a contractor, to investigate security concerns, and to make modifications based on that investigation; as a result, the project that has resulted is one that best meets the CCCOE’s needs.
He also reminded the Board that this project will benefit the general fund and, therefore, will save jobs.
Mr. Clark then introduced General Services Director John Hild, who introduced Aaron Jobson of Quattrochi Kwok Architects. Mr. Jobson provided a PowerPoint presentation of the solar panel project. Mr. Jobson reviewed the photovoltaic design process, indicating that of the five potential sites that were evaluated for feasibility, two (the Stewart Building and Mauzy School) were selected for the project.
He reported that the CCCOE had secured CSI rebate funding at $0.26 per kilowatt hour, had conducted the RFP process to competitively select the design-build contractor, compared and evaluated the two proposals to determine the best value, and then refined the scope of the project and negotiated the final terms of the contract with Roebbelen Contracting, Inc.
Mr. Jobson showed a satellite image of the Stewart Building to give the Board an idea of what the project would look like conceptually and reviewed the potential electricity use and savings as well as the placement of the solar panels on the property; he also informed the Board that the County Library has agreed to allow the removal of trees that currently are located between its property and the Stewart Building parking lot in order to accommodate the solar panels.
He noted that the solar panels would offset 100 percent of the building’s electricity cost and 82 percent of its electricity use. He then showed the Board a satellite image of Mauzy School and described the total electricity use and noted that the panels would also offset 100 percent of Mauzy School’s electricity cost and 82 percent of its electricity use.
Mr. Gopal Shanker of Recolte energy then reviewed the RFP process, listing the 16 companies that were invited to submit an RFP and noting that, of the three proposals received, only two were deemed to be very good. He reported that after interviewing the two finalists, it was determined that the finalist that met all of the criteria and came in with the lowest bid was Roebbelen Contracting, Inc.
Mr. Shanker also reviewed the RFP scoring process and noted that Roebbelen was required to guarantee the savings in kilowatt hours, to provide a ten-year warranty, and to maintain the system.
Mr. Gomes asked if a construction bond was required of the contractor, and Mr. Shanker explained that the contractor teamed up with a manufacturer in order to get a bond.
Dr. Foster asked where the companies are located, and Mr. Jobson stated that the panel manufacturer is located in Arizona and assured the Board that his firm sought to use local labor, as Board members had requested.
Mr. Hild noted that the contractor would be using local workers who are members of the local union, which is typical for school construction.
Mr. Hild then proceeded to review the project’s budget, which totals
$3,526,150. Mr. Gomes noted that there were expenses associated with an inspector and legal counsel, and he asked for their names. Mr. Hild responded that the CCCOE is using Greg Birtchet, who is with the Division of the State Architect, as the inspector for the project and the law firm of Best, Best & Krieger as the legal counsel, and he noted that he does not yet know who Banc of America Leasing & Capital will be using.
Mr. Hild then provided a system summary and summarized the financing. Mr. Borsuk noted that there had previously been some talk that redevelopment money would be used for the project and wondered where those monies would come into play.
Mr. Hild responded that redevelopment funds would come into play with the debt service payments. Mrs. Mirabella noted that although the project is now smaller, since Marchus School is no longer included, the new cost does not seem to reflect this.
Mr. Jobson responded that the financing program presented earlier to the Board during the planning phase is no longer available. Mr. Clark further explained that the biggest difference involves the down payment on the project, which in turn affects the pay-off terms; since the CCCOE is putting down less of a down payment, it will owe more, which will necessitate higher payments.
Mr. Clark then explained how the Build America bond program would work.
Mrs. Mirabella asked if the CCCOE would need to pay taxes on the project, and Mr. Clark stated that that would not be the case. Mr. Hild then proceeded to review the savings of the project.
Mr. Borsuk asked how redevelopment money has been spent by the CCCOE in the past, and Mr. Hild explained that it has been used for the energy-management system at the Stewart Building and principally on facility maintenance.
Mr Borsuk then asked what the CCCOE would do if it had to pay for expensive maintenance, such as painting the Stewart Building, and Mr. Hild responded that all the necessary maintenance projects have already been completed at the Stewart Building and that not all maintenance projects are paid with redevelopment funds.
Mr. Borsuk asked if Roebbelen would use workers’ compensation insurance through a reputable company and noted that he did not see anything on this matter in the packet. He asked Mr. Hild to ensure that the contractors are asked for proof of surety, and he stated that he would like to know the name of the insurance company and its A.M. Best rating.
Mr. Hild assured Mr. Borsuk that he would have legal counsel review this aspect with the contractor(s). Mr. Borsuk emphasized that legal counsel should look at the financial-strength rating and that he would like Mr. Hild to report back to the Board on the insurance requirements. Mr. Gomes stated that the CCCOE should be listed as an additional insured.
Mr. Jobson then outlined the annual general fund cost of the project and explained that a 6.5 percent PG&E escalation rate was used to demonstrate the anticipated savings to be realized over time. Mr. Borsuk asked if any Contra Costa County contractors had been invited to submit RFPs, and Mr. Jobson assured him that local contractors were indeed contacted; he also mentioned that Sunpower in Richmond had been invited to submit an RFP but that Sunpower tends to work on much larger projects than this one.
Mr. Jobson also mentioned that the CCCOE is requiring that the contractors use American-made solar panels since this is a requirement for receiving federal funding.
Dr. Foster thanked Mr. Clark for providing a great presentation on this matter. At this point, Mrs. Mirabella asked about the potential for change orders and additional costs, and Mr. Clark stated that the CCCOE had included what is believed to be an adequate figure for addressing contingencies.
Mr. Jobson also explained that the price of the panels is locked in for 90 days. Mr. Borsuk agreed that the presentation had been excellent. Mrs. Mirabella pointed out that taxes appear to be listed in the documentation, and Mr. Clark explained that Banc of America Leasing & Capital is the taxable agency, not the CCCOE.
The Board then voted by the following roll call vote to adopt Board Resolution No. 3-10/11 in the Matter of Making Findings Under California Government Code section 4217.10, et seq., and Delegating the Authority to the County Superintendent of Schools to Execute the Proposed Design-Build Contract for the Construction of Solar Photovoltaic Projects at the Mauzy School and Stewart Building Sites with Roebbelen Contracting, Inc.
Mirabella, aye; Foster, aye; Gomes, aye; Ruley, aye; and Borsuk, aye (M/S: Gomes/Ruley).”

As the Mt. Diablo district begins the RFP process for its $68 million solar project, it will be interesting to see who bids and how the selection is made.

Posted on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Education, Theresa Harrington | 1 Comment »

Man reportedly approached Buena Vista Elementary student in Walnut Creek

By Theresa Harrington
The Walnut Creek School District has sent out the following warning regarding a man who reportedly approached a Buena Vista Elementary student last week:

“August 30, 2010
Dear Walnut Creek School District Community,
We had a serious incident at Buena Vista School on Friday evening. A fourth grade student was leaving the Buena Vista campus after 5:00 p.m. by herself after attending our after-school program.
A man described as white, approximately 55 years old, with blond hair, approached the fourth grader in an older large white model convertible. He spoke to her first in his car and then on foot. The adult did not touch or threaten the student.
The student ran home, informed her parents. The Walnut Creek Police Department were contacted immediately and responded immediately.
WCPD recommend that all of us remind students:
Avoid walking alone when walking to and from school.
Do not talk to strangers.
Report any suspicious or awkward situations immediately to an adult and/or the police.
Your student’s safety is our highest concern.
Patricia Wool, Ed.D.
Walnut Creek School District”

Posted on Monday, August 30th, 2010
Under: Crime, Education, Walnut Creek School District | No Comments »

Lack of coordination exacerbated MDUSD special education busing problems

By Theresa Harrington

Mt. Diablo school district transportation employees will be working over the weekend to remedy problems with special education busing that angered many parents during this first week of school.

“I’m not sure what’s going on with the routes,” Mildred Browne, assistant superintentendent for special education, told me late this afternon. “I know there are a lot of subs…As far as why there are all the hiccups, I’m not sure.”

She said transportation officials expect to meet Saturday with bus drivers. They will call parents and double-check their information to be sure all students are routed correctly, Browne said.

“A lot of unfortunate incidents have happened at all the schools,” she said. “We’ve had a number of parents being very upset.”

If all goes well, students should be bused appropriately starting Monday, Browne said. She acknowledged the district switched to a new computer system, but said she didn’t know if that had anything to do with problems that included some parents not being notified there would be no bus for their children, while others were erroneously told no bus would be available.

Lorrie Davis’ daughter was nearly transported to Bay Point instead of to her Concord home. Browne said this was because the girl had the same name as another child. But Davis told me today that she checked with teachers at Woodside Elementary and no other student there has her daughter’s name.

“I wouldn’t even say it’s anybody’s fault,” said Davis, who is chairwoman of the district’s special education Community Advisory Committee. “I’ve spoken with several staff members. I think they all understand there is a lack of a proper procedure. I think they all need to be in the same room together and figure out why did the system have these glitches and come up with a new plan so it doesn’t happen again.”

Brown said all student information has been input into the computer system. Those whose information was input Aug. 20-23 were the ones whose parents were called earlier this week, she said.

“Beyond that,” she said, “I’m not sure what’s happened.”

Pete Pedersen, who oversaw transportation as the assistant superintendent for administrative services, is retiring in four days. According to a board-approved restructuring, his position is being eliminated and his transportation duties have been assigned to general counsel Greg Rolen.

Jeff McDaniel, whose job was recently upgraded to director of facilities, operations and resource conservation, is directly responsible for transportation, Browne said. Effective July 1, trustees approved a $27,998 salary increase to $190,000 for Rolen and a $11,136 boost for McDaniel (from a range of $72,803-$98,702 to a range of $83,939-$109,838). Neither Rolen nor McDaniel returned my calls early this evening.

Browne said her department wasn’t told there would be a busing problem until Tuesday (the day before school started). Special education staffers met with transportation workers to discuss the problems, but didn’t develop a plan to let principals know, Browne said.

She said communication with schools is the responsiblitiy of Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for student achievement and school support. But Lock told me earlier today that she wasn’t involved in communicating with schools regarding the special education buses.

“Dr. Brown and Mr. Rolen are working together to resolve this,” Lock said. “We can’t have too many cooks stirring the pot.”

Superintendent Steven Lawrence hasn’t yet presented the board with detailed job descriptions for the recently created Student Achievement and Support Division staff, although Trustee Linda Mayo has asked him to do so.

Browne said the director of elementary support, who reports to Lock, informed principals about the busing issue.

“I did see a communication from Susan Petersen,” Browne said. “But the communication I saw was yesterday (the day after school started).”

When I visited Mountain View Elementary in Concord on Wednesday, the principal, secretary and a special education teacher said they thought the busing problems wouldn’t be resolved until after Labor Day.

“Different people are being told different things,” said secretary Jean Sabolevsky. “It’s the budget cuts.”

Principal Diana DeMott said it was difficult returning to school Aug. 2 without her office staff. Because of budget reductions, her office manager didn’t start until Aug. 9 and her secretary returned Aug. 17 — just seven days before school started.

“When you work with people, it’s just like you’re married,” DeMott said. “There are unspoken responsibilities one has. The three of us work like a well-oiled machine and when they’re not there, things surface that you never even had to think about.”

The busing issue, she said, could be one of many unforeseen consequences of budget cuts.

“Everyone is doing just as much with far less staff and everyone’s doing the best we can,” she said. “Our job at the sites is to make sure that the children do not in any way notice a shortage in staff.”

But, it’s hard not to notice when your bus doesn’t show up.

“It’s been a long week and it’s only been three days,” Davis said. “We can only go forward. We can’t keep pointing fingers, so let’s just find out what the problem was and do something to fix it.’

Are you satisfied with the district’s coordination of special education busing?

Posted on Friday, August 27th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 7 Comments »

Cal chancellor discusses minority enrollment

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau

Higher education reporter Matt Krupnick attended his seventh briefing by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau today.

Here are Krupnick’s comments about the gathering, which focused on Cal’s entering class:

“A variety of media types gathered at UC Berkeley today – the first day of classes – to get Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s annual take on the university’s state of affairs. It was his seventh such briefing, if my math is correct, and mine as well.

While Birgeneau previously used this event to announce news, they have become more wide-ranging in recent years. He provides a look at the entering class and updates on other items of interest.

The 2010 version featured a lot of discussion about minority and low-income students. Berkeley, always known for its allegiance to the poor, enrolled a record number of low-income freshmen this year, Birgeneau said. More than one-third of the entering class of 5,000 freshmen – 37 percent – is eligible for the federal Pell Grant, a need-based scholarship.

But Birgeneau also mentioned his concern about the low number of minority students. Just 3.2 percent of the class of 2014 is black, while 12.2 percent are Latino, 31 percent are white and 45.6 percent are Asian-American.

Additional income from the growing number of out-of-state and international students, who pay higher fees, will help UC Berkeley recruit more California minorities, he said.

The chancellor also talked about his concern for undocumented-immigrant students, who are unable to get state or federal aid for college. Birgeneau was scheduled to meet with a group of those students this afternoon, and he said he is working ‘as a private citizen’ with an advocacy group on that issue.”

You can reach Krupnick at 925-943-8246 or Follow him on Twitter at

Do you think undocumented citizens should be eligible for state or federal college aid?

Posted on Thursday, August 26th, 2010
Under: Education, Matt Krupnick, UC Berkeley | 5 Comments »

Misunderstood middle schoolers?

By Theresa Harrington

As a new school year begins, many parents are sending their children off to middle school, where students grow from kids into young teens.

For some parents, this can be a scary time, as they struggle to let their children express independence, while still providing much-needed guidance.

Like many campuses, Sequoia Middle School in Pleasant Hill tries to put the minds of parents and students at ease by offering a 6th grade “camp” that includes an orientation for both. The school also gives parents written material about what to expect at the school.

The handouts include two very insightful pieces — written by former middle schoolers — that help unlock the mysteries of these sometimes tumultuous, yet often exciting years.

One is a poem and the other is a list explaining what middle schoolers want from their parents. As a mom and a journalist who receives lots of press releases offering “back to school” advice from adults, I found these words from middle schoolers to be refreshing and poignant, so I got permission from Sequoia to share them with you.

“What is a Middle Schooler?
By an anonymous middle school student

What is a middle schooler,
I was asked one day?
I knew what he was,
But what should I say?

He is noise and confusion.
He is silence that is deep.
He is sunshine and laughter.
Or a cloud that will weep.

He is swift as an arrow.
He is a waster of time.
He wants to be rich.
But cannot save a dime.

He is rude and nasty.
He is polite as can be.
He wants parental guidance.
But fights to be free.

He is aggressive and bossy.
He is timid and shy.
He knows all the answers.
But still will ask ‘why?’

He is awkward and clumsy.
He is graceful and poised.
He is ever changing,
But do not be annoyed.

What is a middle schooler,
I was asked one day?
He is the future unfolding,
So do not stand in his way.”

“What Kids Want From Parents

(Information developed by 8th grade girls at Sequoia, Valley View and Pleasant Hill middle schools during the 2001 school year. This list represents a student’s view on best parenting practices and was developed with the help of Decky Thornton, Juvenile Specialist with the Pleasant Hill Police.)

1. We want love and acceptance.

2. We need and want guidelines.

3. We need and want safety and security.

4. Give reasonable consequences for mistakes that we make.

5. Respect our privacy.

6. Don’t say one thing and do another.

7. Respect us.

8. Be fun, but still be a parent.

9. Set a good example.

10. Respect our intelligence and wisdom.

11. Listen to our opinions.

12. Lead us down the right path. If we go down the wrong one, show us the way back.

13. We need trust.

14. Don’t yell and scream. It only makes things worse.

15. Be flexible.

16. Recognize our accomplishments.

17. Respect our emotions.

18. Don’t keep bringing up our mistakes from the past.”

Unfortunately, these years can be very painful for some children, especially if they are bullied or abused. Some — who don’t feel loved, supported and protected — may resort to running away from home or even suicide.

The Mt. Diablo school district is working with administrators to create “school climates” where students feel safe and motivated to learn.

Are you satisfied with the school climate on your child’s campus?

Posted on Friday, August 20th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Parenting, Theresa Harrington | 1 Comment »

A closer look at STAR scores in lowest-performing schools

By Theresa Harrington

The state released 2010 STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) program results today, showing overall improvement, despite falling far short of student proficiency goals.

Here is a sampling of proficiency scores for East Bay districts. The first number is for reading and writing and the second score is for math:

Reading/writing Math


Acalanes 84% 58%
Antioch 47% 38%
Brentwood 64% 65%
Byron 58% 59%
Canyon 87% 70%
John Swett 46% 37%
Knightsen 64% 71%
Lafayette 84% 85%
Liberty 51% 20%
Martinez 62% 62%
Moraga 89% 89%
Mt. Diablo 57% 50%
Oakley 53% 49%
Pittsburg 38% 40%
San Ramon 84% 78%
Walnut Creek 81% 81%
West Contra Costa 39% 35%

Reading/writing Math
Alameda 67% 58%
Albany 75% 75%
Berkeley 59% 52
Castro Valley 70% 64%
Dublin 73% 68%
Emery 37% 35%
Fremont 73% 67%
Hayward 39% 35%
Livermore 66% 57%
New Haven 54% 47%
Newark 50% 44%
Oakland 41% 44%
Piedmont 87% 80%
Pleasanton 83% 72%
San Leandro 44% 35%
San Lorenzo 43% 37%
Sunol Glen 80% 80%

In Contra Costa County, two school districts have been singled out by the state because of persistently low achievement in nine schools.

They are the Mt. Diablo district (for Bel Air, Meadow Homes, Rio Vista and Shores Acres elementary schools; and for Glenbrook and Oak Grove middle schools) and the West Contra Costa district (for Lincoln Elementary, Helms Middle School and DeAnza High School).

Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent me the following statement regarding the test results:

“STAR testing is an annual standardized testing instrument which allows public school districts to assess student academic progress, strengths, weakness and determine areas of focus for continued improvement. Despite the impact of the State cuts to education, Mt. Diablo USD is pleased to report that through the efforts of parents, teachers, administrators, and support personnel, we showed strong improvement in second through eighth grade math scores while maintaining our scores in other subject areas. 

While we are proud of all the schools that showed gains, we want to highlight some shining examples of what we can be accomplish if we continue to work together:

Elementary:  Ayers, Cambridge, Fair Oaks, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Shore Acres, Silverwood, Sun Terrace, Ygnacio Valley

Middle School: El Dorado, Foothill, Glenbrook, Oak Grove, Pine Hollow, Pleasant Hill, Riverview

High School: College Park and Mt. Diablo

Alternative Education:  Sunrise, Crossroads, Summit 

In order to build on this positive news, we are in the process of reviewing district-wide goals and objectives.  Guided by our overarching goal of ensuring that all students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their chosen path, these goals and objectives will help us focus all time, talent and resources on key goals for our students.     

Student test data is important information for our all schools, as it guides professional development, focuses collaboration time for teaching staff, and ensures the organization is in a mode of continual improvement. However, I want to stress that test scores, while critically important, are only one measure of student achievement. The Mt. Diablo USD is committed to help all students achieve their academic and social, emotional potential, and to measure the latter we observe student interaction, look for involvement in activities, and interested, engaged students in classroom and school activities.”

In reviewing the test results, I see that math scores for second- through fifth-graders definitely improved. However, scores for sixth-through eighth-grades were not as stellar.

Here’s a breakdown showing the 2009 math score followed by 2010:

2nd gr: 66 to 68%
3rd gr: 65 to 69%
4th gr: 69 to 74%
5th gr: 59 to 65%
6th gr: 49 to 49%
7th gr: 48 to 42% (Algebra: 52 to 51%)
8th gr: 35 to 10% (gen); 43 to 38% (Algebra); 55 to 49% (geometry)

You can find complete 2010 STAR test results here: You can compare these to 2009 results found here:

Here are the California Standards Test Summary scores for the district’s six lowest-achieving schools. The 2009 score is followed by the 2010 score and + or – to show if it went up or down. (Lawrence highlighted three: Shore Acres, Glenbrook and Oak Grove.)

Elementary schools were tested in English, math and science. Middle school scores also include history/social studies.

2009 to 2010 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced:
Bel Air Elmentary in Bay Point:
English 20.9% to 21.2% (+)
Math 41.3% to 40.5% (-)
Science 15.7% to 11.5% (-)

Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord
English 23.3% to 24.9% (+)
Math 39.1% to 41.9% (+)
Science 31.1% to 15.1% (-)

Rio Vista Elementary in Bay Point:
English: 29.0% to 25.6% (-)
Math 38.8% to 42.7% (+)
Science 41.8% to 8.7% (-)

Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point
English 18.0% to 23.9% (+)
Math 32.2% to 41.6% (+)
Science 21.8% to 13.2% (-)

Glenbrook Middle School in Concord:
English 35.0% to 35.8% (+)
Math 9.4% to 17.7% (+)
History 24.1% to 32.9% (+)
Science 27.3% to 42.9% (+)

Oak Grove Middle School in Concord:
English 27.0% to 29.6% (+)
Math: 20.1% to 16.9% (-)
History 18.3% to 26.9 (+)
Science 26.3% to 24.0% (-)

The school board recently approved reform plans for each of the above schools. The Meadow Homes plan focuses more time on English and less on science and social studies.

Although some parents complained about this approach, Lawrence defended it, saying data shows students need to master the English language before they can absorb science and social studies in textbooks. However, the data above shows that science scores went down at some schools where English scores went up.

The parents who complained about cutting science said it is a “hands-on” activity that engages kids and makes them want to come to school. The district has submitted applications to receive School Improvement Grants for reform at Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shore Acres elementary schools and at Glenbrook Middle School.

It did not seek grants for its reform plans at Meadow Homes and Oak Grove middle schools, in part because the grants would have required the district to replace the principals at those sites.

West Contra Costa’s lowest performing schools were a mixed bag, according to reporter Shelly Meron, who covers that district. Here are their scores, showing percent of students proficient:

Lincoln Elementary School in Richmond:
English 21.3% to 18.4% (-)
Math: 24.4% to 39.5% (+)
Science 7.8% to 16.9% (+)

Helms Middle School in San Pablo:
English 22.8% to 26.7% (+)
Math: 22.0% to 21.6% (-)
History: 14.2% to 16.4% (+)
Science 18.1% to 20.2% (+)

DeAnza Senior High School in Richmond:
English: 23.8% to 28.4% (+)
Math: 3.0% to 4.9% (+)
History: 16.6% to 19.1% (+)
Lilfe Science: 30.2% to 29.6% (-)
Advanced sciences: 19.3% to 24.9% (+)

Meron interviewed Nia Rashidchi, assistant superintendent for educational services, about the schools.

Lincoln Elementary saw a slight drop In English, but growth in math and science.

“Their overall proficiency was down a little bit,” Rashidchi said. “We’ve done some very significant things this year to address that. We had a very targeted summer school this year with half the population from every teacher’s classroom. We basically have a new staff.”

This reform is part of the “turnaround” effort that is included in its School Improvement Grant application.

“(Students have) been in school for three weeks (at Lincoln),” Rashidchi said. “We will have an extended day, a full day kindergarten, extended learning center program (an intervention program focused on literacy and math).”

Rashidchi said Helms Middle school “had some growth — slow and steady growth. But some is better than no growth. We have new leadership there this year. The teachers are dedicated to making sure that even though they’re on that (persistently low performing) list, they’re making strides.”

A group of Helms teachers signed up to be part of the national board certification program. This summer, staff has been working to plan day-to-day instruction through collaboration, “so that everybody is on the same page — the alignment piece being really important. We’re making sure that their assessment, pacing guides, curriculum, (are) all lined up across departments and grade levels.”

Rashidchi said DeAnza has had slight growth as well.

“Moving in the right direction, slow and steady,” she said. “But kids need more than slow and steady.”

De Anza also has new leadership.

“Our teachers and administrators are dedicated to our students, and honing their skills to make sure they’re effective with our students,” Rashidchi said. “We’ve got limited resources. We’ve been hard hit. It impacts us with larger class size, decreasing programs that we know have been effective. Regardless of that, we still have dedicated professionals who are working hard to make students prepared for graduation and life beyond graduation.”

Are you satisifed with you school district’s test scores?

Staff writer Shelly Meron contributed to this report.

Posted on Monday, August 16th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Shelly Meron, Theresa Harrington, West Contra Costa school district | 3 Comments »

Seven candidates in Mt. Diablo school board race

By Theresa Harrington
With three candidates filing for the Mt. Diablo school board election on the last day possible, the list of possible trustees to fill three open seats in November has grown to seven.
They are: incumbent Linda Mayo, attorney Jeffrey Adams (who ran and lost two years ago), retired CFO Roy Larkin, retired teacher Lynne Dennler, educator Cheryl Hansen, technology executive Brian Lawrence and retired bank appraiser Jan Treizise.
Incumbents Dick Allen and Paul Strange have decided not to seek re-election, prompting a large field of candidates, including five newcomers to the school district’s political scene.
Mayo, 62, lives in Pleasant Hill and has served on the board 13 years. Adams, 48, lives in Concord and is the father of six children, including four adults, one student at El Dorado Middle School and one Concord High school student.
Larkin, 63, is a Concord resident and the father of two Concord High graduates. He also has a grandson who graduated from Concord High and another grandchild who attends third grade in the district.
Lawrence, 35, is a Concord resident and the father of a kindergartener who will attend the Cornerstone program at Ygnacio Valley Elementary in Concord.
Mayo, Adams and Lawrence have all filed ballot statements. Larkin told me today that he couldn’t afford to pay the $2,270 fee to file a statement.
Dennler and Trezise have not yet responded to requests for information about their candidacy.
Dennler is a Concord resident. She retired from her job as a teacher at Westwood Elementary in July 2009, according to district board minutes.
Hansen and Trezise both live in Clayton. Trezise served on the city’s Trails and Landscape Committee in 2006 and is a member of the Clayton branch of the American Association of University women, or AAUW. According to the AAUW website, Trezise graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in home economics.
Hansen sent me a copy of her ballot statement Saturday. She is the coordinator of instructional leadership in the Curriculum and Instruction Department of the Contra Costa County Office of Education. She previously worked 24 years in the Mt. Diablo school district as a teacher in middle school, high school and alternative education programs and was also a high school administrator.
I have left her a message asking if she provides services to the Mt. Diablo school district in her current position.
What do you think of the list of candidates?

Posted on Sunday, August 15th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 11 Comments »

No senior exemption on bond measures

By Theresa Harrington
After the passage of the Mt. Diablo school district’s $348 million Measure C bond, I was contacted by a senior citizen who asked how she could apply for a senior exemption. The answer is: she can’t.
Bond measures legally cannot offer senior exemptions, said Jon Isom, the district’s financial consultant. The district’s failed May 2009 parcel tax, on the other hand, did offer a senior exemption.
Isom said seniors tend to get a built-in break on bond measures, since the tax is based on their property’s assessed value.
“There’s almost a defacto exemption in the sense that because of Proposition 13, senior citizens generally have much lower assessed property values, so what they pay is far less,” Isom said. “I’m sure there are a lot of seniors whose assessed value is less than $100,000.”
Parcel taxes are flat payments, which are the same for most pieces of property, no matter how much they’re worth.
The Mt. Diablo tax rate is $60 per $100,000 in assessed value for both its 2002 and 2010 Measure C bonds combined. This means a taxpayer whose home is valued at $200,000 would pay $120.
The amount paid will vary over the term of the bond, which could stretch 42 years. As property values rise, so will the tax payments.
Parcel tax payments remain the same for the duration approved by voters.
Do you agree with the law, which allows senior exemptions for parcel taxes, but not for bond measures?

Posted on Friday, August 13th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

As filing deadline approaches, five candidates to vie for three seats on Mt. Diablo district board

By Theresa Harrington
Near the close of business today, the county elections office said five candidates had filed to run for three seats on the Mt. Diablo school board.
They are incumbent Linda Mayo and challengers Jeff Adams (who ran two years ago and lost), Lynne Dennler (a retired teacher), Roy Larkin and Brian Lawrence.
I have spoken to Mayo and Adams and have received a written statement from Larkin regarding his candidacy. After I reach Dennler and Lawrence, I will post information about all five candidates.
As you probably know, incumbents Paul Strange and Dick Allen have decided not to seek re-election. This means there will be no “board majority” after the election.
During the past two years, the “new” board majority included Strange, Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh. Both Eberhart and Whitmarsh beat out former incumbent April Treece in 2008, upsetting the previous board majority that included Treece, Allen and Mayo.
Obviously, Eberhart and Whitmarsh will remain on the board for at least two more years. As far as I know, none of the challengers has allied himself or herself with either Eberhart and Whitmarsh, or Mayo.
Two years ago, the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers’ union was a major force in the election, throwing heavy support behind Eberhart and Whitmarsh. It will be interesting to see if the union, which was snubbed by the board’s failure to roll over its contract, will endorse any of the candidates.
Although I am holding off on posting specific information about the candidates, I do have one tidbit that should interest the blogosphere: Jeff Adams says he is not “Dr. J.” In fact, Adams says he never heard of Dr. J and hasn’t read a blog in about two years.
Who do you support and why?

Posted on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 10 Comments »

Late MDUSD campaign contributions reveal nearly $100,000 in donations

By Theresa Harrington
Late contribution forms recently released by the Contra Costa County elections office show nearly $100,000 was donated to the Mt. Diablo school district’s Measure C campaign from May 26 to June 12.
As has been reported in the Times, Chevron gave $10,000 to the campaign June 12 and SolarWorld Corp. — which sometimes provides solar panels for Chevron projects — gave $5,000 the same day.

Here’s a rundown of the other late donors:
$25,000: Turner Construction in Sacramento
$10,000 (bringing total to $35,000): IBEW 302 Community Issues PAC
$10,000 (bringing total to $35,000): N. CA Carpenters Regional Council
$5,000 (bringing total to $10,000): Matt Juhl-Darliington (bond counsel)
$5,000: Suntech America, Inc., San Francisco (solar power firm)
$5,000 (bringing total to $7,500): Trico Pipe in Martinez
$5,000: Pellizzari Electric, Inc. in Redwood City
$5,000: Gilbane Building Co. in Providence, RI
$5,000 (bringing total to $30,000): Stone & Youngberg (underwriters)
$5,000: BEI Construction, Inc. in Alameda
$2,000: Jack Schreder & Assoc., Sacto (capital funding consultants)
$ 999: Foothill Middle School PFA
$ 200: Cheryl Kolano, Pittsburg (MDUSD Principal)
$ 200: Crosby & Rowell, LLP of Oakland (law firm)
$ 150: Trustee Dick Allen
$ 100: Edrington, Schirmer, & Murphy LLP, Pleasant Hill (law firm)
$ 100: Rene Coleman of Concord
$ 100: Lisa Anich of Concord

Expenditures included nearly $170,000 to political consultants TBWB Strategies, nearly $6,000 for campaign worker Paul Higgens, $6,250 to EMC Research for polling, $4,000 to pay 40 campaign walkers $100 each, $335 for a victory party at El Torito.
Expenses claimed by TBWB included $7,707 for paid phone calls by a call center in El Segundo and $910 for GOTV reminder calls by a firm in Washington DC.

I outlined earlier campaign contributions in this post:

Are you surprised by the list of contributors?

Posted on Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 19 Comments »