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Archive for November, 2010

MDUSD school closure committee looks at options

By Theresa Harrington

The Mt. Diablo district school closure committee has come up with 10 scenarios for closing schools in the district.

It is also evaluating another option created by the Superintendents’ Council, before deciding on two options to recommend to the board later this month.

Here are the options under consideration. Schools to close are in capital letters. Schools students would be moved to are in parentheses.

1 – 1: GLENBROOK (to El Dorado, Oak Grove, Valley View);
SILVERWOOD (to Ayers, Mountain View, Highlands);
HOLBROOK (to Wren, Sun Terrace, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
Savings: $1,504,453

1 – 2: SILVERWOOD (see above);
HOLBROOK (see above);
EL MONTE (to Wren, Westwood, Woodside);
GREGORY GARDENS (to Hidden Valley, Fair Oaks, Valhalla);
Savings: $1,738,320

2- 1: GLENBROOK (to El Dorado, Oak Grove, Valley View);
WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
SILVERWOOD (to Ayers, Mountain View, Highlands);
Savings: $1,533,504

2- 2: WREN AVENUE (see 2-1 above);
SHORE ACRES (to Rio Vista, Bel Air and possibly Delta View);
SILVERWOOD (see 2-1 above);
GREGORY GARDENS (to Sequoia Elem, which becomes partial neighborhood school like Monte Gardens; Hidden Valley, Valhalla);
Savings: $1,819,386

3-1: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
SEQUOIA MIDDLE SCHOOL (to home schools);
WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
Savings: $1,607,769

3- 2: FAIR OAKS (to Bancroft, Cambridge, Strandwood);
SHORE ACRES (to Bel Air, Delta View, Riverview and Rio Vista, which all become K-8);
OAK GROVE (to Foothill, El Dorado, Pleasant Hill and other surrounding if necessary);
Savings: $1,543,916

4- 1: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
AYERS ELEM. (to Silverwood, Highlands, Mountain View);
MONTE GARDENS (to home schools, residents to Westwood, Wren);
FAIR OAKS (to Pleasant Hill Elem., Gregory Gardens, Bancroft):
Savings: $,685,242

4- 2: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
SEQUOIA MIDDLE (to home schools);
MONTE GARDENS ELEM. (to home schools, residents to Westwood, Wren Ave.);
Savings: $1,563,095

5- 1: WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Westwood);
SILVERWOOD ELEM. (to Ayers, Highlands);
GREGORY GARDENS ELEM. (to Valhalla, Strandwood);
BANCROFT (to Fair Oaks, Walnut Acres, Woodside, Valle Verde);
HOLBROOK (to Sun Terrace);
RIO VISTA (to Shore Acres, Bel Air);
Savings: $2,761,978

5- 2: GLENBROOK MIDDLE (to Oak Grove, El Dorado);
plus any two elementary schools from scenario 5-1;
Savings: $1,470,929 – $1,615,613, depending on which elementary schools are chosen

Superintendent’s Council recommendation:
OAK GROVE (to 6-12 campus at Ygnacio Valley HS);
GLENBROOK (to 6-12 campus at Mt. Diablo HS);
Convert Riverview Middle School to 6-12 campus;
Savings: approximately $1.5 million

One member of the committee said there could be trouble with competing gangs being placed on the same high school campus. An Ygnacio Valley HS graduate said he thought the campus is set up well to accommodate a middle school separate from the high school.

A Sequoia Elementary School teacher said she didn’t think all of the “choice” schools should be closed (Sequoia Elementary, Sequoia Middle School and Monte Gardens Elementary). She also said it didn’t seem fair to convert some schools to 6-12, while leaving others 9-12 high schools.

Some committee members who are mothers said they didn’t think parents would want to put sixth-graders on a high school campus.

Another committee member said the district could close more than two elementary schools to save even more. Chief Financial Officer Bryan Richards said the $1.5 million savings is a “floor” target.

“To be perfectly frank, the numbers out of the state do not look good right now,” he said. “If we cut more (schools), it’s less that we’ll have to cut from somewhere else.”

Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support, said creating a 6-12 campus at Riverview Middle School in Bay Point might entice students to stay, she said.

“We don’t want to be losing kids,” Lock said. “Pittsburg (school district) just opened a brand new high school. A lot of our kids in Bay Point are not going to our schools. So, this could be an opportunity to build up a state-of-the-art secondary school. It wasn’t intended to usurp your authority on this committee.”

Hercules Middle and High School in the West Contra Costa school district is a good example of a 6-12 campus, she said. Such a configuration could allow some middle school students to take advanced courses at the high school, she added.

Richards said the district could save money on busing by serving students in Bay Point instead of transporting them to Concord.

“Transportation infringes mightily on the budget,” he said.

Another option, Richards said, would be to turn Riverview into a high school and turn Rio Vista Elementary into a middle school. If necessary, he said sixth-graders could be returned to elementary schools in Bay Point.

Bay Point and the Meadow Homes Elementary area of Concord are the areas of the district that are growing, he said.

A consultant said the committee could look at a variety of campus configurations, including: K-5, K-6, 6-8, 7-8, 6-12 and 9-12.

“There’s no research to support any configuration as best,” Lock said.

Much of the data the committee examined is at But one very important piece of information is missing: ratings of each school in the district based on the criteria.

According to the Nov. 8 agenda, the committee rated each school. The minutes show the methodology used, but don’t reveal the ratings.

At the Nov. 10 Parent Advisory Committee meeting, Lock said the School Closure Committee had rated each school on a rubric, from 1 to 20. The lowest rated schools were those most likely to close, she said.

During the Monday school closure committee meeting, Lock said the group’s work has been “open and transparent.” But, its failure to post the school ratings online leaves one element of the process shrouded in secrecy.

Supposedly, the committee members used their campus ratings to come up with their school closure scenarios. Without being able to see these ratings, the public has no way of knowing what the scenarios were based on.

The committee may vote on its final recommendations on Monday, Dec. 13. At that time, estimates of how much different scenarios would cost will be presented, since some plans would require the addition of classrooms at campuses to accommodate more students.

The committee will present its recommendations to the board during a study session that hasn’t yet been scheduled.

“We’re not going to rush you into making a decision,” Lock told the commitee. “We have two more meetings scheduled.”

Trustees can choose from the recommendations or create their own list of schools to close.

Do you believe the district should release the complete list of school ratings for each of the criteria evaluated?

Posted on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 16 Comments »

Five East Bay school districts get technology grants

By Theresa Harrington

Congratulations to five East Bay school districts that have been selected to receive $1.5 million in federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) competitive grants!

In Alameda County, the Livermore Valley Joint Unified district and San Lorenzo Unified district willl each receive $250,000.

Contra Costa County districts receiving the grants are: Pittsburg Unified, which will get $50,000; West Contra Costa Unified, which will receive $500,000; and San Ramon Valley Unified, which has been awarded $450,00.

State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell said 151 local educational agencies will share in more than $36 million in grant money. The complete list of grant recipients is at

“These grants will help schools use data effectively to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap,” said O’Connell, in a news release. “With the state budget crisis continuing, our cash-strapped schools desperately need these funds as soon as possible so they can use education data and technology to better prepare students for college or careers.”

Funding for the grants was provided through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They range between $10,000 and $3 million, based on the number of 7-12th grade students enrolled in each district.

To be eligible to receive the funding, district were required to have state-approved technology plans and receive federal Title I funding designed to help socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

More information about the grant program is at

Posted on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Mt. Diablo school district seeks donations for homeless students

By Theresa Harrington

I received this e-mail this morning from James Wogan, who coordinates the Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (Mt. Diablo HOPE). I’ll be writing more about this program later, but wanted to get the word out today about a meeting scheduled Wednesday for those who would like to help:

“Dear Friends,

In the spirit of the holiday season, I am writing to ask for your consideration to give a contribution or donation for a homeless child or family in need. The Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (Mt. Diablo HOPE) served 411 homeless students last year, K-12. Because of the current state of the economy, we are serving even more homeless students and families this school year.  Many of our homeless students are in elementary school. We welcome tax-deductible donations and gift cards ($10 – $25) to Target, Safeway, or other gift cards because they are easy to distribute and allow students and families to choose their own gifts or food. 

I know a mother from Pleasant Hill who lost her job, and then her home. She said, ‘I really want to thank you for the gift cards and letting me pick out of few things for my daughter. She liked getting something that was from me.’ A father said, ‘There is nothing better than knowing that people care about my son and that he is getting good grades. He can hold his head up high.’

This evening (11/24/10), my staff and I helped a caring father with two children who has been sleeping in his car. We promote self sufficiency and self determination among the homeless parents with whom we work. Children do better in school when they have enough to eat and they know where they will sleep each night. Small gifts during the holidays can make a big difference.

Donations can be sent to: James C. Wogan, District Homeless Liaison, Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (Mt. Diablo HOPE),  2730 Salvio St., Concord, CA 94519 or; dropped off to Lori Amenta at the Mt. Diablo Unified District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord, CA.  

Donations made by check can be made out payable to “Mt. Diablo HOPE.”  Please indicate if you would like a receipt for tax purposes.

I want to take a moment to let you know about another opportunity to assist students to be successful in school. Parents, volunteers, staff and community members are invited to participate in a “Friends of HOPE meeting: Dcember 1, 2010 at 3 p.m. at Olympic High School. We are reaching out to parents and others to ask for help to extend the support and services offered to homeless students and families in our community.

If you would like more information, please contact Sissy White at Mt. Diablo HOPE, (925) 682-8000, ext. 3054.

The Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (Mt. Diablo HOPE) was recently featured by Rita Williams on the 10 O’Clock News, KTVU, Channel 2. Here is the link to the story:

I apologize if you received this email more than once. Thank you for your consideration. Please forward this e-mail to people in your address book. 

Yours truly,
James C. Wogan, LCSW, PPSC
Administrator, School Linked Services
Mt. Diablo Unified School District
Foster Youth Services & Homeless Outreach Program for Education (MDUSD HOPE)
Olympic High School Campus
2730 Salvio Street, Concord, CA 94519
Tel: (925) 682-8000, ext. 3054
Fax: (925) 566-6692”

Posted on Monday, November 29th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | No Comments »

Know a Jewish teen who’s making the world better?

By Theresa Harrington
“Tikkum olan” is a Hebrew phrase that means “repair the world.”
In this spirit, Bay Area philanthropist Hellen Diller created the “Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award” to help identify, reward and encourage the next generation of Jewish leaders to give back to their communities and improve the world around them.
For the fifth year, the Helen Diller Family Foundation is seeking nominations to award five California teens who are committed to social action an honorarium of $36,000 each.
Teens ages 13-19 can nominate themselves, or be nominated by anyone else except a family member, by Dec. 17. They must identify themselves as Jewish, but their community service projects can benefit the general community or world.
The online nomination form is at More information is at or 415-512-6432.
The Helen Diller Family Foundation is a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (SFJCF).

Posted on Monday, November 29th, 2010
Under: Awards, California, Education, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Congrats to Chevron Classroom challenge winners

By Theresa Harrington
Ten East Bay schools have received $25,000 each to bolster Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs through the “Chevron Classroom Challenge” contest.
Five Contra Costa County and five Alameda County winners were selected from more than 300 projects submitted.
Contra Costa County winners are: Debra Arthur, Ygnacio Valley High School, in the Mt. Diablo district; Martha Kessler, Indian Valley Elementary in the Walnut Creek School Distric; Catherine Vanier, Lovonya De Jean Middle School, in the West Contra Costa district; and Liz Ritchie of Deer Valley High School and Michelle Flowers of Park Middle School — both in the Antioch school district.
Alameda County winners are: Christie Carnahan, of Valley View Elementary School in the Pleasanton school district; and Oakland district teachers Devon McCrory of the Ascend School, Emily Greene of Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Christine Tenorio of the E. C. Reems Academy of Technology & Art, and Aaron Vanderwerff of the Lighthouse Community Charter School.
I’ll be writing more about the winners soon.
If you’re an educator, how do you teach about science, technology, engineering and math?

Posted on Friday, November 19th, 2010
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Another Mt. Diablo school district union is at impasse

By Theresa Harrington
Tensions between union employees and Mt. Diablo district officials are intensifying, as the Local One Clerical, Secretarial and Technical (CST) unit has declared impasse this week. The union’s Maintenance and Operations unit was already in mediation.
Larry Edgington, Local One general manager, told me the Personnel Employee Relations Board has been notified of the stalled negotiations.
Due to reduced state funding and skyrocketing healthcare costs, the district wants employees to accept caps on employer contributions to benefits, which the union says would decimate workers’ paychecks. In response, the district has proposed cutting employees’ hours to 3.5 a day, which would make them ineligible for benefits.
“I want to remain optimistic that we’re going to be able to do something that’s equitable, but I’m not holding my breath,” Edgington told me. “It’s a pretty difficult situation and we’re not unsympathetic to the financial difficulties of the employer.”
The proposed caps would be prorated for employees who work less than full-time, meaning they would pay a higher percent of their earnings toward benefits. For many workers, this means by 2013, they would make 20 to 25 percent less than they did five years ago, Edgington said.
“How can any household absorb that kind of reduction?” he said. “Increasingly, we have more and more of our members working two jobs, just to make ends meet.”
Edgington predicts people close to retirement age will leave and those remaining will start looking for other permanent employment.
“We’ve already experienced this in West County, where they’re becoming an employer of last resort,” Edgington said. “I’m told at any given time they have 50 vacancies. The fundamental problem is they can’t get people to pass the (employment) test. The truth, is in terms of the quality of applicants, they’re not getting it. We really want to avoid that in Mt. Diablo. It’s not good for the employer, the kids, or the parents. You don’t want to have a workforce that’s like that, but that’s the direction I think we’re headed.”
He said the district appears to believe it has no choice.
“We think they’ve got some options,” Edgington said. “They have (federal) jobs money. But they have a real reluctance to spend one-time money on what they’re characterizing as structural.”
The district received about $6.5 million from the Congressional bill recently passed to save jobs. Edgington suggests the district could use it to ease the transition for employees who must start paying for a portion of their benefits.
“All I’d say is, ‘Think about putting yourself in my members’ shoes,” Edgington said. “One of an employers’ first obligations is to have caring and compassion and one of the ways you demonstrate that is to pay employees fairly.”
Without going into details, Edgington said the union has put some other ideas on the table that would net roughly the same amount in budget reductions as the district is seeking.
“We think it’s pretty close to what they say they need in terms of dollars,” Edgington said. “The difference is it’s not put together the way they want it. They’re just really hung up on what I’ll call ‘certain philosophical objectives.'”
He declined to elaborate on those objectives.
“I don’t want to get into negotiations,” he said. “There’s nobody on my side of the table that doesn’t acknowledge it’s a tough situation for the employer. What is troubling is that the employer is not acknowledging that it’s a tough situation for their employees.”

Further exacerbating frustrations, some classified employees said they were initially told they would have to take vacation days today because district managers had agreed to furlough days. Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent out a memo earlier this month saying all schools would be closed today due to a “Board Recess Day” and that district offices would be closed due to furlough days.
But Judy Armstrong, a secretary who represents Local One’s CST unit, said Lawrence’s memo failed to acknowledge that her union members had not agreed to furlough days and were not included in the board recess.
“If they want that day off, they can take a vacation day, but the district can’t tell them that they can’t work,” Armstrong said earlier this week. “I’ve already had a couple of them tell me, ‘My principal’s telling me I can’t go (to work) because the superintendent said the schools are closed.'”
Armstrong speculated that some of the confusion is the result of so many new district administrators, including several principals, assistant superintendents and the superintendent.
“It’s getting to be a comedy of errors,” Armstrong said. “This is a new group in here. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. There’s going to be a million mistakes. A million.”
Julie Braun-Martin, who was recently appointed as assistant superintendent for personnel, disputed these assertions.
“Nobody was told they had to take vacation days,” she said. “If they choose to take vacation days, that’s great. It’s a regular work day for them.”

The teachers’ union is also at odds with the district over pay for extra hours worked after school, said Mike Langley, union president.
An arbitrator has ruled that teachers can’t be paid extra for work after school until “evening,” but didn’t specify a time, Langley said.
The artibrator described evening as, “when light fades to dark,” he said. That could be 7 o’clock when school starts in August, but 4:45 p.m. next month, Langley said.
“We asked the district to give us a definite time,” he said. “They said, ‘We’re going to leave it up to the judgement of each site.’ But they said they would encourage them to be as thoughtful as possible.”
Traditionally, Langley said, “evening” has been considered to begin at 5 p.m. But, some administrators want to push that to 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m.
Many teachers arrive on campus at 7 a.m. and have obligations at home after school, including child care and caring for elderly parents, he said. In addition, teachers grade student work and prepare lessons in the evenings.
Lack of clear communication from the district is adding to frustrations teachers are already feeling based on proposed furlough days and other cuts, which are on the bargaining table.
“It’s not something that I would think was the best way to handle it if you’ve already got a demoralized group of people,” Langley said. “You arbitrarily increase hours, but then refuse to give us a time when we can plan our child’s daycare to end.”

The California School Employees Association, which represents instructional assistants and some other classified workers, has not met with the district since members rejected the district’s proposed health benefits cap last month.
“My union voted down that other contract and we haven’t even spoken to them,” union rep Annie Nolen told me today. “We’re not going to meet ’til the 19th (next Friday), so we’ll see what happens then, I guess.”

Are you optimistic about union negotiations?

NOV. 17 UPDATE: Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personnel, sent this response to my question regarding when “evening” begins for teachers in the district:

“During the arbitration hearing, MDEA could not provide any examples of site administrators abusing their ability to hold after school meetings. Principals have indicated that meetings end by 5 or 5:30 p.m. Principals continue to be reasonable and respectful of employee’s time i.e., the same practices that the PERB arbitrator summarily approved.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

East Bay students become “delegates” in Model U.N.

East Bay students participate in Model United Nations program at Diablo Valley College.

Bay Area students participate in Model United Nations program at Diablo Valley College.

By Theresa Harrington

Last weekend, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill was transformed into the Model United Nations, where dozens of students from throughout Contra Costa County and beyond debated important international issues, as “delegates” from countries around the world.

It was the 20th annual session of the Contra Costa County Model United Nations (UN) Conference, a two-day competition that gives high school students an understanding of the organization and its role in global issues. Teams of student delegates from each school represent a nation or corporation, and negotiate on behalf of their country or corporation.

Individual delegate winners were recognized for their debate and leadership skills, knowledge of the issues, and presentation of key resolutions. According to a “Best Delegate” Model UN blog post about the event, delegates from California, Gunn, Campolindo, San Ramon Valley and De La Salle high schools won “Outstanding Delegate” (gavel) awards and California High School won the county “Outstanding Delegation” award.

Former United Nations Development Programme Senior Officer Herb Behrstock — who is president of the UN Association, East Bay Chapter — was the keynote speaker at the Opening Plenary ceremony.

The conference was coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education in partnership with UC Davis.

Here are the students who participated, along with the countries and corporations each school represented:

ACALANES HIGH, LAFAYETTE (representing Angola, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Senegal, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Zambia, Bahrain EDB, Nestle and Sony):
Coach: Bob Barton
Bayanne Alrawi
Annalise Baer
Brooke Balfrey
Rachel Bauer
Jack Caine
Mallory Craig-Karim
Olexandr Firsov
Ruthie Frederick
Leah Harnish
Tom Horn
Sohraab Jahromi
Erik Kuzmin-
George Liow
George Liu
Vaibhev Loomba
Tate Lyverse
Kelly McArthur
Brooke Metro
Natalie Neale
Kyle Peters
Aaron Pressman
Mike Sanders
Jaypreet Sandhu
Kevin Schmidt
Robby Stosick
Emily White
Kevin Zhang

ANTIOCH HIGH, ANTIOCH (representing Turkey):
Coach: Veronica Hein
Sabrina Blodgett
Vaneza Gutierrez
Nick Hall
Manuel Lira
Bianca Melgoza
Lauren Nelson
Ana Rojek
Elizabeth Ruano
Brianna Simmons
Isaac Wimberly

THE ATHENIAN SCHOOL, DANVILLE (representing Israel, Pakistan, Uganda and Samsung):
Coach: Kal Balavenkatesan
Justin Abraham
Ramie Ali-Adeeb
Collette Ankenman
Mercedes Antonini
Asha Brundage-Moore
Chris Chen
Connor Dougherty
Hannah Dubois
Molly Fagan
Payton Gordon
Robert Harechmak
Kelly Herman
Chris Miller
George Nelson
Connor O’Neill
Andrew Reckers
Dylan Siu
Michael Wiener

CALIFORNIA HIGH, SAN RAMON (representing Austria, Egypt, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Spain, Thailand, United States, BP, Microsoft and Pfizer):
Coach: Doug DeVries
Kara Avancena
Varun Battu
Joseph Bugbee
Joshua Cavalier
Jonathan Chan
Jeffrey Chao
Jessica Clouse
Brian Cox
Tate DeLano
Joshua Fong
Mischa Fritz
Richa Goyal
Brian He
Jacquelyn He
Josh Ho
Ashwin Kannan
Seohyun Kim
Ashwin Kumar
Steven Lau
Haley LeDuc
Charles Li
Marnie Lowe
Simion Padurean
Karishma Pareek
Sydney Parker
Menchus Quan
Ravid Reif
Sana Sareshwala
Timothy Sivaraman
Matthew Soeherman
Mehul Trivedi
Soham Waychal
John Webster
Justin Wirawan
Toby Wong

CAMPOLINDO HIGH, MORAGA (representing Afghanistan, Algeria, Careroon, D.P.R. Korea, Georgia, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Russian Fed., Saudi Arabia, Arcelor Mittal, IBM, Temasek Holdings and Wal-Mart):
Coach: Molly Kerr
Ellis Anderson
Julia Anderson
Justin Archangel
Nicki Bartak
Olivia Bisel
Krystal Budde
Michael Chickering
Laura de Crescenzo
Nicole Forbes
Matthew Freeman
Arianna Gledhill
Alicia Glidden
Jesse Hammond
Eric Ho
Will Howard
Roy Hridoy
Lynn Hsu
Drew Jackson
Jessie Kathan
Hae-Lin Kim
Jaison Kimura
Carl King
Eric KIng
Max Lamb
Claire Laurence
Emily Leach
Ji Won Lee
Cynthia Meng
Kyle Merryman
Nora Mohamed
Nicole Montenero
Colleen O’Brien
Raj Patel
Rachel Riddle
Andrew Ringquist
Jade Scales
Jayne Skinner
Claire Svedberg
Ryan Tashima
Vance Vergara
Eric Weston
Madeline Yzurdiaga

CARONDELET HIGH, CONCORD (representing China, Gabon, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, South Africa, Nokia, Proctor & Gamble, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation):
Coaches: Marian Easthope & Tom Zientara
Madi Aberer
Robyn Berkenfeld
Caitlin Bryski
Liliana Carrara
Alexa Cavallo
Danielle Chapey
Lauren Christensen
Francesca Ciresi
Shannon Connolly
Christine Dodson
Sarah Dowman
Nicole D’Souza
Carolyn Fluehr
Sarah Gonsier
Katie Goodspeed
Nicole Hohenstein
Lauren Ipsen
Sophie Ipsen
Cecilia Johnson
Geraldine Jorge
Kate Kafka
Jane Kennedy
Claire Logan
Annika Lucich
MacKenzie Magrath
Maggie Malone
Alyssa McHugh
Laura Messman
Giouana Meza
Grace Olson
Brooke Osborn
Danielle Pinon
Bianca Pires
Mariel Ramos
Simone Rudolf-Dib
Maggie Scanlon
Courtney Schreiner
Ashley See
Emily Setoudeh
Shelby Smith
Ashley Waite
Kathleen Wong

CONCORD HIGH, CONCORD (representing Germany, Tanzania and Dubai Holding):
Coach: Karna Cruz
Samantha Bergum
Calliope Hartman
Dana Lund
Joshua Price
Anya Reames
Paul Rohrberg
Maria-Gabriela Sanchez

DE LA SALLE HIGH, CONCORD (representing D.R. Congo, Iraq, United Kingdom and Intel)
Coach: Christian Curry
Michael Baltz
Grant Butler
Michael Costello
Andrew Hogan
Edward Johnston
Michael Karachewski
John Pericich
Yonhhak Roh
Ryan Simpson
Matthew Wallace
Alex Weber

GUNN HIGH, PALO ALTO (representing Ethiopia, France, Rwanda, Google and Nike)
Coach: Faith Hilal
Sara Ameri
Chloe Blanchard
Roya Huang
Anish Johri
Howon Lee
Philip Liang
Yilin Liang
Max Lipscomb
Elana Loeb
Derek Nielsen
Trevor Nielsen
Adam Schmidt
Ian Siegel
Sam Stein
Laura Tao
Jaxon Welsh
Laura Zalles

LAS LOMAS HIGH, WALNUT CREEK (representing Brazil, Mali, Venezuela and Volkswagen):
Coach: Lori Gieleghem
Rachel Ball-Jones
Emily Carroll
Melissa Leung
Callahan Lopshire-Bratt
Chessa Mehlman
Serene Papenfuss

MARIN ACADEMY, SAN RAFAEL (representing Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, India, Coca-Cola, Merck):
Coach: Lynne Hansen
Jeremy Berkov
Terry Castleman
David Fisher
Ari Goldstein
Phoebe Kranfuss
Marshall Levensohn
Nina McCullough
Jamie Muresanu
Sam Pritzker
Claire Schurz
Lucy Sogard
Frances Swanson
Kenny Volkmann
Daisy Williamson

MONTE VISTA HIGH, DANVILLE (representing Chad, Japan, Kazakhstan and Gazprom):
Coach: James Rossi
Jason Budge
Regan Curtis
Jack Lyding
Jordan Nakahara
Ruxun Zhang
Jason Zhao

NORTHGATE HIGH, WALNUT CREEK (representing Burundi, Canada, Costa Rica, Huawei, Switzerland, Zimbabwe and Reliance Industries):
Coaches: John McMorris & Janette Sikorski
Hansen Chang
Jamie Creager
Flavia Hidayat
Zak Kagel
Jackie Lerman
Albert Lin
Kathrik Prasad
Anya Rogala
Carter Russell
Michael Shelver

SAN RAMON VALLEY HIGH, DANVILLE (representing Central African Rep., Colombia, Guinea, Indonesia, Lenovo and Goldman Sachs):
Coaches: Kelly Hoover & Susan Regalia
Lauren Alarab
Cameron DePaoli
Josh Downes
Kyle Ennis
Kevin Guan
Jeff Jordan
Conan Liu
Cyrus Mirzazadeh
Connie Neale
Vikram Ravi
Valerie Regalia
Sarah Wolley
Nathan Young

The Model UN is one of several special events the County Office of Education supports, said spokeswoman Peggy Marshburn. It also puts on the annual Mock Trial and Academic Decathlon.

“The Model UN conference is not really a competition,” she said. “There are conferences held all over the state and this one is considered to be a beginner conference. We are really excited that we had over 100 more students that participated this year. In llght of all the budget cuts, this is certainly a ray of brightness in terms of the academic enhancement and support that it provides for these students who are really involved.”

A UC Davis coordinator posted many photos, videos and descriptions of all the action here:

Marshburn said the county is surveying school districts to see if they would be interested in participating in a National History Day middle school competition in the spring. The county offered such a competition in the early 1990’s, she said.

All of these special programs help prepare students for college and can help them stand out in college applications.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to learn and practice critical thinking, debate and presentation,” Marshburn said. “The DVC theater was just packed with the students.”

More information about academic events sponsored by the Contra Costa County Office of Education is at:

Does your school participate in these programs?

Posted on Friday, November 12th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Education, Theresa Harrington | 1 Comment »

A closer look at East Bay school tax measures

By Theresa Harrington

In the Tuesday election, 46 of 63 school bond measures statewide passed, compared to only two of 18 parcel taxes. That’s a 73 percent passage rate for bonds and an 11 percent pass rate for parcel taxes. Bonds needed 55 percent voter approval to pass, but parcel taxes needed 66.6 percent.

The East Bay’s percentages were higher.

Eight out of nine bond measures passed (with the ninth too close to call) and two of five parcel taxes passed — the only two parcel taxes to pass in the entire state. This resulted in an 88 percent passage rate for bonds and a 40 percent passage rate for the parcel taxes.

Here’s a rundown of the East Bay results (not including some late-arriving mail or provisional ballots):


G — Ohlone Community College district (Fremont): $349 million
Yes: 62.2 percent or 27,815 votes/No: 34.9 percent or 16,583 votes

I — Berkeley school district: $210 million
Yes: 76.7 percent or 21,752 votes/No: 23.3 percent or 6,621 votes

J — Emery school district: $95 million
Yes: 73.2 percent or 1,430 votes/No: 26.8 percent or 523 votes

M — San Leandro school district: $50.1 million
Yes: 62.7 percent or 7,929 votes/No: 37.7 percent or 4,713 votes


K — Martinez school district: $45 million
Yes: 64.9 percent or 4,200 votes/No: 45.6 percent or 197 votes

L — Pittsburg school district: $100 million
Yes: 69.3 percent or 4,929 votes/No: 30.7 percent or 2,187 votes

N — Knightsen Elementary district: $5 million
Election night:
Yes: 54.4 percent or 235 votes/No: 45.6 percent or 197 votes
Yes: 55.24 percent or 253 votes/No: 44.76 percent or 205 votes
(Final election certification expected by Nov. 30)


H – Berkeley school district: continue 6.31¢/sf residential buildings ($63.10/1,000 sf), 9.46¢/sf commercial buildings, $20 unimproved parcels for 10 years
Yes: 80.2 percent or 22,239 votes/No: 19.8 percent or 5,743 votes

K — Fremont school district: $53 per parcel for 5 years
Yes: 69.4 percent or 25,093 votes/No: 30.6 percent or 11,040 votes


L — Oakland school district: $195 per parcel for ten years
Yes: 65.1 percent or 48,535 votes/No: 34.9 percent or 26,009 votes
(Could pass if late ballots push percentage up to 66.6)


J — John Swett school district: $96 per parcel except industrial/commercial parcels, which would be 1.5 cents/sf; four years
Yes: 56 percent or 1,756/No: 44 percent or 1,380 votes

M — West Contra Costa: 7.2 cents/sf of building area ($72/1,000 sf), or $7.20 per vacant parcel, for five years
Yes: 60.1 percent or 22,343 votes/No: 39.9 percent or 14,848 votes

Jack O’Connell, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, said a majority of bond measures passed because voters have a great passion for improving their local school districts, even in tough economic times.

“Californians voted to invest in their schools and their children’s futures,” he said in a written statement.

He said that 11 more parcel taxes would have passed if the threshold for approval were changed to 55 percent, instead of two-thirds.

The total amount approved for school construction and modernization was $3.6 billion, according to the California state Department of Education.

O’Connell authored Proposition 39, a measure approved by voters in 2000 that lowered the local school bond-approval threshold to 55 percent, down from two-thirds. Without the lower threshold, only 14 of the school bond measures would have passed statewide.

O’Connell advocates lowering the passage rate for parcel taxes to 55 percent. Dozens of school bond measures have been approved between the 55 percent and 66.6 percent margin since the approval of Proposition 39. These bonds give districts the ability to seek matching funds from the state for the construction of facilities improvements.

“Local communities should have more control over funding for essential school services,” O’Connell said. “That’s why I urge lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment that would let voters consider lowering the parcel tax approval threshold level from 66.6 percent to 55 percent.”

Brannin Dorsey, president of the Fremon district teachers’ union, said their tax passed because the community joined together to support schools and there was no organized opposition. Also, the campaign only asked for $53 per parcel for 5 years, which is less than others in the East Bay.

In addition, the district has already increased class sizes and teachers have taken a 3.2 percent salary cut with six furlough days, showing they are being frugal.

“The money isn’t a magic bullet,” Dorsey said. “We’re hoping that with the federal jobs bill and the money from the parcel tax, that these things are going to help us through this horrific economy without gutting our education system.”

In the John Swett district, Rodeo refinery ConocoPhillips opposed the parcel tax, which would have cost the company about $700,000 a year, according to a story by reporter Shelly Meron, who covers West Contra Costa County schools. The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association also opposed both the John Swett and West Contra Costa school district’s parcel taxes.

“I was surprised so many (tax measures) passed,” said Kris Hunt, executive director of the taxpayers association. “When it comes to bonds, I still maintain people don’t understand how bonds are funded. People really don’t get where bonds are coming from and how much they cost and a lot of times they never even see it because it shows up in their impound accounts. So a lot of those kinds of things are invisible to the public.”

Whereas parcel taxes clearly state how much property owners will pay, bond measures merely ask voters to approve the bond amount, without saying on the ballot how much it will cost them.

Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, said the school bond passage rate has dropped from about 90 percent approval, during good ecomomic times.

“The fact that so many parcel taxes were tuned down and only 70 percent of bonds were approved shows that people are in a grim mood and unless they see some improvement in the economy, you’re not going to see any improvement in the future,” he said. “When people are doing well as individuals, they tend to be very generous when they vote. When they’re frightened, which they are now, they tend to vote No. The fact that more of them didn’t pass is an indication that people are frightened about their future.”

Nationwide, there were $16.5 billion worth of bonds up for a vote in 461 issues, according to Amy Resnick of The Bond Buyer. Voters approved 71.9 percent for a total of $11.8 billon worth of debt in 278 issues, she said.

The bond measures were proposed to pay for roads, development, electric power and other facilities improvements, as well as education, she said.

There were 259 education bond issues on ballots, totaling $11.6 billion worth of bonds. Voters approved 75.3 percent or $8.3 billion in 149 issues, Resnick said.

Most states only require a majority of votes, instead of a “super majority” of 55 percent, which California requires, she added.

The nationwide bond approval rate of 71.9 percent was the lowest since 2003 for a general election, when it was 60.8 percent, she said.

“I would think it has to do with the economy,” Resnick said. “It’s not so low that it’s a repudiation.”

She does not track parcel taxes.

A statewide list of school tax measures on the Tuesday ballot is on the California Coalition for Adequate School Housing’s Website at

Do you think the threshold should be lowered to 55 percent for parcel taxes?

Posted on Friday, November 12th, 2010
Under: Education, Election, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Surprised by Mt. Diablo school board results?

By Theresa Harrington

With the election of three women to the Mt. Diablo school board, no one can call the district “an old boys’ network.”

Here are the final results in the race between seven candidates for three open seats (not including results from some late-arriving mail ballots or provisional ballots):

Cheryl L. Hansen: 18.78 percent or 20,068 votes
Linda K. Mayo: 18.33 percent or 19,581 votes
Lynne B. Dennler: 17.01 percent or 18,172 votes
Brian T. Lawrence: 15.43 percent or 16,484 votes
Jeffrey L. Adams: 14.72 percent or 15,725 votes
Roy A. Larkin: 10.66 percent or 11,391 votes
Jan Trezise: 4.77 percent or 5,091 votes

Newly elected trustees Cheryl Hansen and Lynne Dennler will join re-elected incumbent Linda Mayo and trustee Sherry Whitmarsh on the board, along with Trustee Gary Eberhart — who will be the only man on the five-member panel starting in December.

The three women beat three men and another woman in a race that has surprised many, because Hansen and Dennler weren’t well-known by voters and didn’t provide ballot statements.

“I was really surprised,” said Allen, the day after the election. “I think things have changed this year. I always thought voters went by the candidate statement, interviews they saw on television and the newspaper articles. I felt Linda would win because of her name recognition and the things she’s done in the school district. And I’m glad she’s on there, because she’ll provide some stability and we’ll need that.”

Eberhart has served on the board 15 years, but Whitmarsh is a relative newcomer with just two years as a trustee. Like Allen, Eberhart was surprised that two candidates who didn’t provide ballot statements defeated two who did: Brian Lawrence and Jeff Adams. Mayo was the only other candidate to provide a ballot statement.

“Why does someone get elected and someone else doesn’t?” Eberhart said Wednesday. “Who knows? If you had asked me a week ago, ‘Could someone get elected without a ballot statement?,’ I would say, ‘No,’ because I would think voters would want to read something about them. I guess the ballot designation was more important than the ballot statement in this situation.”

Hansen was designated as an “educator” on the ballot and Dennler was listed as a “retired teacher.” Hansen garnered an endorsement from the district’s Local One Clerical, Secretarial and Technical Unit and Dennler was endorsed by the Lamorinda Democratic Club.

But Lawrence (designated as a “technology executive”) and Jeff Adams (designated as an “attorney”) appeared to have stronger community recognition and better organized campaigns. Yet, Lawrence and Adams came in fourth and fifth in the seven-candidate race.

Retired CFO Roy Larkin and retired real estate appraiser Jan Trezise — who both ran very low-key campaigns — placed fifth and sixth, respectively.

“People respect teachers,” Eberhart said. “To have a teacher sit on a school board, a lot of people look at that and say, ‘That’s valuable knowledge to have a grasp of, as you’re trying to deliberate about the policies of a school district and how those policies are going to meet the needs of kids.’ Then, you look at other candidates that have been around for a long time, that have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars trying to get elected.”

Hansen is an instructional coordinator for the Contra Costa County Office of Education and former Mt. Diablo school district principal. She is the sister of Ron Hansen, a retired Local One Maintenance and Operations rep.

She had a few signs posted around the district and participated in three candidate forums, but didn’t send out any campaign mailers (as far as I know). Here’s what she said about her victory in an e-mail Wednesday night:

“I’m sorry I couldn’t get back to you sooner, but today was actually a full day of work for me. I just returned from training a group of middle school teachers in one of our county’s districts.

I am honored that the MDUSD community gave me their vote of confidence, and I look forward to representing the best interests of our students, parents, community members, and employees. These are very challenging times in our district, and I am pleased to offer my educational experience to help rejuvenate a sense of MDUSD pride and purpose.”

Dennler participated in a CCTV forum and special education panel, but didn’t join in a later forum in Pleasant Hill. She didn’t post any campaign signs or send out mailers, since she worried her inability to persuade the teachers’ union to endorse her would make her candidacy less viable in the eyes of voters.

Dennler told me she was surprised by her win, but is determined to make a difference for teachers and students.

“This is all really new to me,” she said before the election. “This is really important for me and it’s an emotional thing for me. I was really an ordinary elementary school teacher who was obsessed with just doing the best job possible. Every night between 7 and 10 p.m. I would sit at the table and grade papers and make up new questions, based on what I got. I know it can be done well, and that’s why I’m distressed by what’s going on. I know it can be done well without having a script. So much of the teaching that teachers are given now is done by script. You’re supposed to stay on script and you have to sort of limit questions. And those ‘teachable moments’ — you’re not as able to jump on those.”

She’s excited that the union was recently able to convince Superintendent Steven Lawrence to pay for clerical help to fill in bubbles on “Scantron” tests for primary level students, but she questions the value of the tests, which are intended to help teachers modify their instruction based on the results. (Lawrence intends to discuss district assessments at the Parents Advisory Committee meeting next Wednesday.)

Mayo’s second-place finish surprised some people, since she had the most experience, and nabbed several endorsements. She also put up several campaign signs and sent out a mailer.

But Allen said Mayo may have been lucky to win re-election, since some people are unhappy with the district and a few incumbents in other races lost.

“She did very well to win,” Allen said. “Look at the County Board of Education. Incumbents lost big-time.”

In that race, incumbents Michele Foster, Glenn Ruley and Daniel Borsuk all lost their bids for re-election.

Mayo, who endorsed Jeff Adams in the race, said she was happy to be re-elected, but disappointed that voters didn’t seem to know about the many contributions Adams has made to the district.

“I value Jeff’s commitment to our district in supporting Measure D (the failed 2009 parcel tax) and Measure C ($348 million bond voters approved in June) and being one of the founders of UMDAF (the United Mt. Diablo Athletic Foundation) and also working so hard on the music foundation, as well as his continued support of his children through their schools (El Dorado Middle School and Concord High),” she said. “Both he and his wife have been very active. It’s sad that the community wasn’t aware of the service that he’s provided in those areas.”

Adams, who ran and lost in 2008, said he doesn’t know if he’ll try again in two more years.

“It’s premature to even consider that at this point,” he said, adding that he would serve out his term on the UMDAF board. “I’m certainly going to fulfill my commitment to the foundation. We’ve got to keep sports going.”

Adams also said he’s pleased that Mayo was re-elected.

“Whenever something had to be done, she was there,” he said. “When I’m at the meetings, she carefully considers the issues. I’ve always appreciated her dedication to the students and the district and I have no doubt that she’ll continue to do a great job.”

Lawrence posted large signs around the district, sent out at least one mailer and was endorsed by many local Democratic Party officials. Here’s his reaction to the election results, from an e-mail he sent today:

“I’m disappointed in the results, but I am proud of the campaign we ran. Starting from scratch eight weeks ago, we were able to get over 16,000 votes on Election Day. My only regret is that I didn’t have a few more weeks to introduce myself to the voters. It looks like ballot designation played a big role in the results.

I will absolutely continue to be involved in MDUSD, starting with the PAC (Parent Advisory Committee) meeting next week. My wife and I will also continue to be very active at Monte Gardens (Elementary), which is where our eldest child is in kindergarten.

I will certainly consider running again, but that decision is a long way off.

I personally congratulated Ms. Mayo, Ms. Hansen and Ms. Dennler yesterday, and I am hopeful that we can all work together to improve the district for the benefit of students.”

Larkin may have been the first candidate in the county to retrieve all his signs. He told me his grandchildren made four signs and he posted two in Concord and two in Pleasant Hill.

Right after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Larkin went out and picked up three of the signs. The fourth was missing, he said.

“It was obviously a bit surprising to me and a little disappointing, obviously,” he said of the election results. “I would have liked to have done my part and helped turn the district around. And so it goes.”

Yet, Larkin won’t be sitting idle. He will be sworn in on the Mt. Diablo Health District board for a seat he won with no opposition.

He said he also plans to keep up with what’s going on in the Mt. Diablo district and speak up, or write letters to board members or the newspaper, if he feels it’s necessary.

“I guess I’ll see what happens over the next couple of years,” he said. “Right now, yeah, I’d be more than happy to run a second time.”

Trezise couldn’t be reached for comment after the election. She said during a CCTV forum that she would drop out of the race because she was pleased with the caliber of her opponents, but she later reversed that decision and ran a low-key campaign.

Eberhart said he’s committed to helping the new board members get up and running, because they have a lot of work ahead of them.

“I’m eager to get things done,” he said. “This board is going to be facing a lot of challenges…negotiatons….the budget issues. We’ve got a school closure committee that’s likely going to be coming forward with a recommendation. We’ve got some tough issues and at the end of the day, a lot of them have to do with the fiscal health of the district. So, if there are folks that don’t like the direction we’re going, we’re going to have to figure out how we move in a direction that accomplishes what the community wants, while balancing the budget.”

“It’s going to be tough for a new board member,” he said. “I think the learning curve is going to be straight up and they’re going to have to get a really good understanding. And it’s going to be incumbent on us that have been around to make sure they get all the information they need so they can make some decisions. It will be fun.”

Were you surprised by the results? How well do you think the new board members will work together?

Posted on Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Under: Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 5 Comments »

Mt. Diablo district meeting and vacation reminder

By Theresa Harrington

I just want to remind you that the Mt. Diablo school board has rescheduled its regular Tuesday meeting to Wednesday, Nov. 17, in order to give the district more time to analyze its budget in light of the recently approved state budget.

This will be the last meeting for trustees Dick Allen and Paul Strange, who did not seek re-election at the expiration of their terms. Allen has served 13 years and Strange has been on the board since 2006.

Also, the board has canceled its second meeting of November, due to Thanksgiving week holidays.

The final board meeting of the year will be held Dec. 14, when re-elected trustee Linda Mayo will be sworn into office, along with newly elected trustees Cheryl Hansen and Lynne Dennler.

Here are some other upcoming meetings in November:

School Closure Advisory Committee:
5:30-8 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Nov. 4) at Willow Creek Center
5:30-8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8 at Willow Creek Center
5:30-8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15 at Willow Creek Center

Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee:
7-10 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 at the Willow Creek Center to discuss assessment and demographics data

NOTE: Also on Wednesday, Nov. 10, the Contra Costa County Board of Education expects to meet to discuss conditions of approval for the K12 Flex Charter School, which may open in the Mt. Diablo school district in the fall.

SCHOOL BREAKS: There will be no school for students in the Mt. Diablo district Nov. 11-12 and Nov. 22-26, due to Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving holidays.

More information about district meetings is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4010 or by visiting

Posted on Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »