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Archive for December, 2010

Three East Bay educators named to new state Superintendent of Public Instruction’s transition advisory team

By Theresa Harrington

Outgoing state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, who will be sworn in as State Superintendent of Public Instruction on Monday, has announced the formation of a transition advisory team that includes three East Bay educators.

The team, which will provide strategic advice to Torlakson during his first few months in office, includes Mt. Diablo High School vice principal and teacher Liane Cismowski, Antioch Superintendent Donald Gill, and Tim Sbranti, who is Mayor of Dublin and teaches at Dublin High School.

Torlakson expects team members to help him identify and set goals to address key issues that affect students, schools, districts, and the California Department of Education. He has named Linda Darling Hammond and David Rattray as co-chairs of the team.

Darling Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University. Rattray is senior vice president of Education & Workforce Development for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and President of UNITE LA.

“I am delighted Linda and David have agreed to lead my Transition Advisory Team during this extremely challenging time, and that so many outstanding teachers and other stakeholders have come forward to be part of this team,” Torlakson said in a prepared statement. “I know their comprehensive knowledge of the issues facing our students and schools will be enormously valuable as we work to chart the best course for California’s schools.”

He expects his team members to join working groups to discuss key issues, such as:
- School finance reform and funding
- Curriculum and assessment
- Accountability and data
- Educator preparation and evaluation
- Early childhood learning
- Education supports for the whole child
- Secondary transformation (including linked learning, career technical education and A-G guidelines)
- Flexibility and efficiency initiatives, school facilities/construction reform and modernization.

Here’s the complete list of team members in alphabetical order by last name:

Catherine Atkin, President, Preschool California
William Barr, Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education; former Monterey County Superintendent of Schools
Cruz Bustamante, Former Lt. Governor, State of California
Dennis Cima, Senior Vice President, Education & Public Policy, Silicon Valley Leadership Group
Liane Cismowski, Vice Principal and Teacher, Mt. Diablo High School, Concord
Yvonne de la Peña, Program Director, California Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee
Cesar Diaz, Legislative Director, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California
Jim Dierke, Principal, Visitacion Valley Middle School, San Francisco Unified School District
Linda Galliher Vice President, Education and Healthcare, Bay Area Council
Patricia Gándara, Professor, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences and Co-Director, UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles
Abigail Garcia, Teacher, Animo Leadership Charter High School, Inglewood
Donald Gill, Superintendent, Antioch Unified School District
Jay Hansen, Chief Strategy Officer, California Medical Association
Marty Hittelman, President, California Federation of Teachers
Adam Hodess, Commissioner, California Apprenticeship Council, Division of Apprenticeship Standards. Business Manager, UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159
Mat Holton, Superintendent, Chaffey Joint Union High School District in Southern California
Richard Jackson, Professor, UCLA School of Public Health and former California State Public Health Officer
Ann Johnston, Mayor of Stockton
Maureen Kindel, Chair of the Board of Visitors, Loyola Marymount University School of Education
Diane Levitt, Executive Director, Safe Cities Foundation
Ted Lempert, President, Children Now
Bill Lloyd, President, SEIU California State Council
Dave Long, Former California Secretary of Education
Sonia Martin-Solis, Teacher, Hillcrest Drive Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District
Charles McMinn, Co-Founder and Former CEO, Covad Communications
Hydra Mendoza, School Board Member, San Francisco Unified School District
Molly Munger, Co-Director, Advancement Project Los Angeles
Barbara Nemko, Superintendent of Schools, Napa County
Jeff Patterson, Teacher, Antelope Valley High School
Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, Partnership for Children and Youth
Willie Pelote, Assistant Director, Political Action Department, AFSCME International
Jose Pérez, Chair, California Utilities Diversity Council and Publisher, Latino Journal
Chet Pipkin, Chairman of the Board, Belkin International, Inc.
James Ramos, Chairman, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Board Member, San Bernardino Community College District
Diana Rodriguez, Board Member, Sacramento City Unified School District
Alex Rooker, Government Affairs Director, Communications Workers of America Local 9400
Russ Rumberger, Vice Provost for Education Partnerships at the UC Office of the President
David Sanchez, President, California Teachers Association (CTA)
Tim Sbranti, Mayor, City of Dublin and Teacher, Dublin High School
Barry Schuler, Former Chairman and CEO, America Online
Jack Scott, Chancellor, California Community Colleges
Gregg Solkovits, Secondary Vice President, United Teachers of Los Angeles
Suzan Solomon, Board Member, Newhall School District and Vice President for Education, California State PTA
Jai Sookprasert, Assistant Director, Governmental Relations, California School Employees Association (CSEA)
Chris Steinhauser, Superintendent, Long Beach Unified School District
Lillian Taiz, Professor of History at CSU Los Angeles and President of the California Faculty Association
Diane Watson, Member of Congress, California’s 33rd District
Carl Wong, Superintendent of Schools, Sonoma County
Kristin Wright, Chair, California Advisory Commission on Special Education
Antronette Yancey, Professor, UCLA School of Public Health

Torlakson will be sworn into office by Barbara Nemko, Ph.D., Superintendent of the Napa County Office of Education. The inauguration will take place at 9 a.m. Monday at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord — where he last taught science, math and world history.

Later in the day, Torlakson will host a reception from 3-5 p.m. in the lobby of the California Department of Education in Sacramento.

Both events are open to the public. RSVPs may be made by e-mailing tom@tomtorlakson.com or calling 925-682-9998.

Torlakson remains a teacher-on-leave with the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Joe Ovick — along with all but seven district superintendents in the county – supported Torlakson’s opponent, Larry Aceves, in the November election.

Gill and Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence were among those who did not support Aceves. Torlakson beat Aceves with about 55 percent of the vote.

Do you think Torlakson’s Mt. Diablo school district roots will help Contra Costa County schools?

Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2010
Under: California, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 1 Comment »

Why Mt. Diablo chose to transform low-achieving schools

By Theresa Harrington

This is a follow-up to my last post, giving information included in the Mt. Diablo school district’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) application that explains why officials decided to “tranform” the lowest-achieving schools instead of close them:

“Selection of Intervention Model

Based on the findings of the needs analysis, completed by district leadership, staff, teachers and parents, Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) has identified the following rationale for selecting the ‘Transformation’ intervention model for each of the four participating schools. District leadership, staff, teachers and parents have selected the transformation model because:
The model provided greater flexibility to intensify current practices which have shown positive student achievement results over the past year.
There are pockets of strong instructional capacity with a substantial number of current staff members who have been fully trained in rigorous instructional practices, such as Culturally Responsive Teaching, Explicit Direct Instruction, Response to Intervention (RtI), Board Math, and Board Language, over the past year.
There is evidence of positive growth in response to recent improvement efforts, such as weekly teacher collaboration, a focus on the cycle of inquiry, the use of common assessments, a fidelity to implementing the Board adopted English language arts program, and a focus on grade level standards.
There is a high degree of community commitment and involvement at these sites.

As described above as well as in the school by school description of needs, collaborative partners were involved in the analysis and decision to implement the model and will be key to the development and implementation of strategies and actions to improve student learning and build staff and system capacity. The roles of the partners in the selection process were to review standardized and formative assessment with the school staff, identify the strengths of the current program, to review research and information on high performing schools, decide on a ‘turn around’ model, and to develop a rigorous restructuring plan. MDUSD has been working on interventions, data analysis, coaching models, collaborative processes and articulation across the system over the last decade. While schools have shown improvement, there is clearly a need for a more targeted approach to consistent leadership and effective instruction for all students. MDUSD will continue to strengthen, coach, and build capacity of teachers and administrators at these four schools as part of the SIG grant in order to ensure student learning.

MDUSD feels confident the existing principals at three of these schools (Rio Vista, Shore Acres and Glenbrook) have the skills, knowledge and leadership to make rapid growth and build staff capacity. Each principal was chosen specifically for their experience, skills and instructional knowledge. The principals have been at these schools for less than two years and have begun to make systematic changes, set up clear and measurable outcomes and expectations for students and staff and create a culture of learners. The principal at Bel Air Elementary is retiring in June 2010. On June 22, 2010 the District transferred Nancy Klinkner, an experienced and bilingual principal in the district who has shown success in turning around high need schools to serve as the new principal at Bel Air Elementary.

One of the challenges districts face is that of developing coherence throughout the system. MDUSD’s response to this challenge is to develop a guiding coalition of instructional leaders at the district office, with the express intent of providing support and guidance to all sites. As described above, the Superintendent has created a new division of Student Achievement and School Support, so named to formalize the district’s intent to prioritize achievement for all students and support for all schools.

The Division of Student Achievement and School Support will be charged with ensuring specificity and consistency of best practice through support and training of site principals and staff. Instructional practice that is rigorous, standards-based, and responsive to the needs of all students will be supported through staff development, walk-throughs with feedback, and monitoring. Data will be analyzed in order to inform and adjust instruction. Shared leadership will be encouraged throughout the system in order to provide sustainability of improvements.

MDUSD has embraced the recommendations of Togneri (2003)#, in her key findings of the Learning First Alliance, Beyond Islands of Excellence. Creating a system of success has involved creating the will in the community to begin instructional reform. Superintendent Lawrence has engaged all stakeholders in the discussion of solutions to the poor performance experienced by some students in the district, particularly those who are poor, minorities, or English Language Learners. He has put in place a system-wide approach to improving instruction through the use of data-based decision making, comprehensive staff development planning, and leadership development. District staff is charged with training, coaching and supporting site leaders and leadership teams. Principals are charged with becoming instructional leaders, responsible for the proficiency of their teachers and the achievement of their students. Teachers are charged with providing the best first instruction and the earliest possible intervention for all students. The expansion of leadership will extend to parents and community members. MDUSD intends to support schools, plan collaboratively and reflectively, and translate a vision of success for all students into improvement for staff, communities, and students.

Demonstration of Capacity to Implement Selected Intervention Models:

Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) has the capacity to use SIG funds to provide adequate resources and related support to each Tier I and Tier II schools identified in our application in order to implement, fully and effectively, all required activities of the school intervention model selected.

MDUSD will use the SIG funding and all other available resources to implement the “transformation” model. The SIG funding will be used to implement the following activities to support implementation of the proposed school improvement plan…

The overarching strategies include:
Create the Student Achievement & School Support Division at the district office to support the implementation of the school’s Improvement Plan, build leadership capacity within the system and provide professional development and coaching to the schools. Each member of this division will receive intensive training in coaching and leadership skills, organizational development and strategic planning, high-leverage instructional practices, assessment literacy, and effective systems of intervention.
Contract with outside entity, Region IV System of District & School Support consultants (R4SDSS) to provide training, coaching and support to build staff capacity and provide sustainability.
Provide an intensive system of professional development and coaching to the four SIG principals, site leadership teams and SA&SS staff in the areas of leadership, data analysis and assessment, effective interventions, school culture, BoardMath and BoardLanguage, and walk-throughs with feedback to support implementation of improvement strategies and capacity of staff.
Provide support and training for staff to help schools identify professional development needs based on student assessment data, ensure collaboration time for staff is built into the work week, and facilitate and/or schedule training opportunities.
Assist schools in developing personnel to support implementation, coaching and monitoring of interventions at the school site.
Assist schools in identifying effective English Language Development (ELD) lessons and programs, and provide training for teachers to support the increase of ELD time at each of the schools from 30 minutes a day to 45 minutes a day.
Assist principals in hiring teachers and coaches to support implementation of improvement plans as well as negotiating with collective bargaining units to extend the learning time after school and during the summer and modify or provide flexibility in hiring and transfer of teachers for SIG schools.
Assist and monitor expenditures at the four schools to ensure alignment and coordination among funding and the improvement plan.

MDUSD’s capacity to implement the Improvement Plans and SIG grant includes ongoing dialogue, training, monitoring and regular communication with collaborative partners both at the school site level and district level. These partnerships will ensure all stakeholders continue to be involved and informed of the efforts of the school and progress being made via School Site Councils, Alternative Governance Teams (AGT), English Language Advisory Committee (ELAC), Parent meetings and School Board meetings.

The SIG grant will be monitored by the Directors of the Student Achievement and School Support Division (SA&SS). An Administrator School Support and secretary will be hired to support implementation, program evaluation, and expenditures under the supervision of the Directors of SA&SS. Furthermore, two additional FTE (full time equivalent) English Language Development teachers will be hired to increase each sites ELD support, coaching and curriculum development from a .50 FTE to a 1.0 FTE.”

This application was never presented to the board for approval. Instead, the board authorized the district to submit it, without actually seeing it.

Do you think the board — and the public — should have had the opportunity to review and comment on this application before it was submitted to the state Department of Education?

Posted on Monday, December 20th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 5 Comments »

Mt. Diablo district school improvement grant plans

By Theresa Harrington

As the Mt. Diablo School Closure Advisory Committee prepares to present its recommendations to the board next month, questions are arising in the community about why most of the district’s lowest-performing schools aren’t on the proposed list.

The district applied for and received more than $15 million in three-year School Improvement Grants (SIG) for four of its lowest-performing schools: Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shore Acres elementary schools in Bay Point and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord. Only Glenbrook is on the list of schools recommended for closure by the committee.

At committee meetings I attended, consultants advised against closing schools in Bay Point because that is one of the few areas of the district that is growing. They said the Monument Corridor around Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord is also growing in student population (Meadow Homes and Oak Grove Middle School in Concord are the other two schools in the district identified as among the lowest-achieving in the state. They chose not to seek School Improvement Grants.)

Here is an excerpt from the district’s SIG application, which explains how it intends to “transform” the four above-named schools:

“….analysis of system capacity at the district level led to a reorganization of the Curriculum and Instruction Department in order to be able to address the needs identified in the School Improvement Plans and to provide essential coaching, technical assistance and support to these schools. As part of a district “transformational strategy”, the Superintendent has proposed and the School Board approved on June 22, 2010 the creation of a new Student Achievement and School Support Division (SA&SS) to meet this challenge….

Included in each school’s Improvement Plan, the schools identified core needs that must be addressed to assure rapid turnaround. To provide more detailed information regarding these needs assessment, a brief description is provided below. A complete description is provided in the school’s PowerPoint presentations outlining their Improvement Plans…

Bel Air
Bel Air Elementary staff has acknowledged the quality of student achievement over the past five years which has caused the site to be placed on the Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools list. Of the four program design options, the Transformation Model has been selected by the school community as the best fit for Bel Air. The Transformational Model builds on the progress the site has experienced as a High Priority School Grant (HPSG) participant from 2007-2009. The current principal at Bel Air is retiring, and a strong core of staff members is well-trained and committed to producing continued increases in student achievement. The Bel Air staff has examined the annual progress meeting the Single Plan for Student Achievement targets and annual goals and has evaluated the site’s program needs through the lens of the Academic Program Survey, the ELSSA and the LRE. The Essential Program Components (EPC) provided a framework for consideration of which strategies would truly transform education for the students at Bel Air.

The LEA [Local Eduction Agency, or district] provided clarification of the options for action through several meetings with the principal and district personnel. Discussions in meetings with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), School Site Council, Leadership Team, and ELAC provided opportunities for a variety of views and opinions to be shared. The Bel Air Alternative Governance Team (AGT) and the contracted External Entity (Alameda Office of Education) offered a wide spectrum of possibilities and options for school improvement and transformation. Notification of the school’s status as a Tier I school was delivered to the entire school community through the Bear Tracks newsletter. The public awareness that three schools in our town of Bay Point were “on the list” prompted a municipal call to action culminating in a large public meeting at the feeder middle school. The entire Bay Point community is committed to Bel Air’s transformational success. In summary, based on staff review of the research and conversations with multiple stakeholders, Mt. Diablo Unified agreed with the school community and supports the Transformation Model as the rapid turnaround model for Bel Air Elementary.

Glenbrook Middle
Glenbrook Middle School (GMS) entered Program Improvement (PI) status five years ago and has worked diligently since to raise the school’s status. The site began a process of change two years ago with the implementation of Fred Jones strategies, a focus on data driven dialogues, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), and utilizing the expertise of an External Entities (Alameda County Office of Education) and groups like Riverside County Achievement Team (RCAT). Over the last two years, GMS gained 48 points on the Academic Performance Index (API) and has seen a decrease in incidents of discipline, suspension, and expulsion. This year staff has focused on student engagement and data driven dialogue. Teachers increased the amount of rigorous instruction to ensure that research based strategies are utilized for all students’ learning. This past year GMS hired a new principal and the focus has been on improving core instruction and truly analyzing data to improve student learning. GMS has intensified its focus on student engagement and teaching strategies that will elicit standards-based learning for all students.

Starting in March 2010, when GMS was added to the state’s Persistently Low Achieving Schools (PLAS) list, the site’s leadership team began the process of analyzing the needs for GMS based on student assessment data, discipline data, and teacher input. The LEA provided clarification of the restructuring options for action through several meetings with the principal and district personnel. In the month of April, the leadership team made up of department chairs and teacher leaders, and administration, Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), English Learner Advisory Council (ELAC), Site Council, and staff worked together to draft a restructuring plan for GMS to address student achievement. All groups of stakeholders have shared in the responsibility and ownership for formulating and reviewing research-based best practices necessary to move GMS forward. The leadership team, administrative team, external entities, and district have worked together to formulate a plan that includes prioritization of goals to improve direct instruction, student engagement, and services offered for all students which will improve student achievement.

The Glenbrook community has found through feedback and data from students, parents, teachers/staff, PTSA, leadership team, Alternative Governance Team (AGT), and Site Council that the focus for GMS needs to be on a transformational model focused on providing rigorous instruction, student engagement and experiential learning. A focus on instructional program and strategies will be continued and intensified. In addition, staff selected the Transformational Model for its fit with the Response to Intervention (RTI) implementation framework which will provide the structure and accountability to make instruction targeted, coherent, and ultimately successful for all GMS students, the vast majority of whom are at risk academically. Professional development for staff, coaches hired, and common pacing/lesson planning will be utilized to ensure the instructional program is more rigorous, engaging, and standards based. Needs analysis, program design and strategies aligned to the Nine Essential Program Components (EPCs) of schools are described in detail in Glenbrook’s Transformational Plan.

Rio Vista
Rio Vista Elementary (RVES) exceeded its Academic Performance Index (API) target in 2009. Rio Vista’s target was 8 points; however, the school gained 24 points overall and increased its API from 647 to 671. RVES also met its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) target in Mathematics but did not meet its target in English Language Arts by one subgroup. RVES is in Year 5+ of Program Improvement (PI) and receives funding from State and Federal grants.

Rio Vista Elementary staff and parents began the transformation process nearly two years ago beginning with the hiring of a new principal in November of 2009 and making a commitment to increase student achievement. RVES staff and parents were ready and committed to implement new programs and teach current programs with consistency and fidelity. For the past year, staff and parents have had several conversations relative to new programs (BoardMath and BoardLanguage) and new instructional strategies that focus on student learning. This transformation intervention model mirrors, supports and strengthens the changes and strategies already in progress or planned.

The decision to continue with their restructuring activities was revisited after learning that Rio Vista was on the state’s Persistently Low Achieving Schools list. LEA provided clarification of the restructuring options for action through several meetings with the principal and district personnel.

In the month of April, the leadership team made up of teacher leaders, administration, English Learner Advisory Council (ELAC), Site Council, Alternative Governance Team (AGT) members and staff worked together to discuss restructuring options for the site. It was decided to continue with the restructuring effort that was currently being put in place by the new administrator, staff, and the Alternative Governance Team.

Based on staff review of the research and conversations with multiple stakeholders, Rio Vista supported by the school community decided chose the Transformation Model for Rio Vista Elementary.

Shore Acres
Over the past three years, Shore Acres Elementary’s API has grown 20 points from 600 to 620. In 2008-2009, Shore Acres did not meet its Academic Performance Index (API) target which decreased 15 points from 635 to 620 nor met its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) target. Shore Acres (SAE) is in Year 5 of Program Improvement (PI). Funding from State and Federal grants provide valuable resources (including an External Entity as a guide) for raising achievement. The 2009-10 Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) is designed to support all students and all subgroups in meeting each AYP target. Within the last 5 years, Shore Acres has been involved in several significant reform and improvement efforts which have not led to significant student achievement growth. While participating in the Reading First Grant some progress was made in the implementation and delivery of the language arts program. However, there was inconsistent implementation until the last year of the grant when new administrators were assigned to the site. Literacy coaches were expected to take on administrative roles causing discord amongst the staff and the inability to create substantial change in instructional practice. During the first year of implementation of the High Priority Schools Grant, Shore Acres made gains in student achievement. However, the state cut funding for the third year of the grant at the same time the funding was eliminated for class size reduction. These funding shifts resulted in a significant loss of staff including the literacy coach, the intervention coordinator, and several highly trained classroom teachers.

Shore Acres Elementary staff and parents began the transformation process nearly two years ago beginning with the hiring of a new principal and making a commitment to school-wide restructuring to increase student achievement. Starting in March 2010, when SAE was added to the state’s Persistently Low Achieving (PLA) list, the site’s leadership team began the process of analyzing the needs for the site based on student assessment data, discipline data, and teacher input. The LEA provided clarification of the restructuring options for action through several meetings with the principal and district personnel. In addition to the Academic Program Survey, the Shore Acres staff used a tool called the Needs Analysis and Section of Intervention Model to assist them in determining the strengths and challenges of their school. The tool assesses school information, student data, as well as the system processes and protocols of practice that are in place to support student academic achievement. The Needs Assessment consists of three components- School Data Profile, School Data Analysis, and Academic Program Survey.

After reviewing the results, several contributing factors were identified which have led to Shore Acres’ current trends in student achievement. Some of these factors include:
Students enter the system without prerequisite skills in math and language arts.
Overall, language and literacy levels of students and parents are low.
Students enter Kindergarten without the prerequisite skills and there is limited class time to allow for acceleration and remediation.
Early and appropriate interventions are not currently in place.
Although students achieve higher scores on the standardized test in math, they are still below proficiency.
There is a lack of consistent implementation of the core and supplemental math programs, and a lack of coaching support for teachers in this content area.
The current English Language Development (ELD) program does not meet the needs of English Learner’s in poverty.
Students need more time and access to foundational skills in language development.

The school made intensive efforts during this process to reach out to the parent community, including translating all information sent to families into Spanish, and meeting with parents to discuss specific education programs and activities used for English learner students at the school. The school provided multiple opportunities during the evening for families to participate in activities and events at the school to keep community members informed of all restructuring efforts.

In the month of April, the principal hosted Coffee Chats, School Site Council meetings, Alternative Governance Meetings, several staff meetings, and a parent and community meeting in order to gather input and information regarding how Shore Acres could be restructured to best sit students’ needs. During these meetings, the recommendations provided by the Needs Analysis and Section of Intervention Model Tool were also discussed with key stakeholder groups.

Based on this extensive needs analysis, Shore Acres staff and community have selected the Transformation Model of intervention as the model that best fits the sites needs and the one that allows them to continue the foundational work that has begun over the past year.

District
MDUSD leadership strongly supports each school’s restructuring (school improvement) plan and commits to continuing to work regularly with its union leadership to identify best practices for students and teachers. MDUSD is confident that the district will be able to negotiate the necessary contract changes to support the grant requirements. MDUSD is currently at the negotiation table with the Mt. Diablo Education Association (MDEA) teacher’s union. MDEA’s current teacher contract will end June 30, 2010. Now is the perfect time to begin these conversations.

The plan development process allowed schools to establish their priorities and timeline in implementing identified improvement strategies. Schools were given sufficient operational flexibility such as staffing, calendars/time, and budgeting to implement fully a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student achievement outcomes and increase high school graduation rates.

Integral to the district’s ‘transformation model” and embedded in each of the schools’ improvement plans, staff and stakeholders have identified seven areas focus that must be addressed to turn these four schools around and improve student learning. They include:
Rigorous instructional program and practices
Intervention programs and services
Common assessments/data analysis
Increase instructional time
Teacher collaboration, coaching and training
School climate/Parent involvement
Improved English Language Development (ELD) program…”

The application was submitted in June. I don’t know if these plans were presented to the School Closure Committee.

Do you agree with the committee’s recommendation to abandon the “tranformation” plan for Glenbrook and instead close that campus, while proceeding with the transformation plans at the other three SIG schools?

Posted on Monday, December 20th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 5 Comments »

Mt. Diablo district school closure and budget update

By Theresa Harrington

Mt. Diablo school district Superintendent Steven Lawrence released a “news update” Friday, providing the community with information about the school closure process, along with a budget overview.

Since the update hasn’t yet been posted on the district’s Website, I’m posting it below so you can get his take on these issues:

“Thank You
As we approach winter break, I would like to thank parents for supporting our schools. Thank you for:
- Volunteering your time;
- Fundraising for equipment, programs and extracurricular activities;
- Ensuring your children come to school ready to learn on a daily basis; and
- Creating a quiet place at home for your child to complete homework.
Without your support and partnership, we would never be able to meet our students’ social and academic needs. Again, thank you!

School Closure Update
The School Closure Committee has worked extremely hard over the past three months reviewing district demographic data as well as facilities data about the individual school sites. Through this process, they developed and considered several school closure options. The committee will share its work and findings with the board at a study session in January. The date has not been decided, but will be posted on the district website as soon as it’s finalized. The board study session agenda will include:
- Information about the committee’s process and the data analyzed;
- How the committee developed and refined the school closure options;
- Time for board member questions about the process and options development;
- Time for board members’ discussion of options; and
- Direction from the board to staff about next steps.
At the study session, the Board will not take any formal action. Rather, the study session is an opportunity for the board to work with the committee to understand the committee’s work and contemplate next steps.

Budget Update
At the December 14, 2010 Board meeting, the board adopted a qualified budget. There are three types of budgets: positive, qualified, and negative.
A positive budget means that a district can make its projected payments over the next three years.
A qualified budget means that under current budget assumptions, a district may not meet its financial obligations at some point in the three years of the budget projection.
A negative budget means that under current budget assumptions, a district cannot meet its financial obligations in the current or second year of the three year budget cycle.
Under the currently adopted State budget, our district is able to pay all projected costs through the 2011-12 school year. Because of the continuing escalation of health benefits, we are not able to meet the budget assumptions for the next three years. However, we continue to negotiate options with our various associations that will allow the district to create a balanced budget.
After Governor elect (Jerry) Brown is sworn into office and provides his proposed budget on January 10, 2011, we will send home an analysis of our budget based on the Governor elect’s recommendation.

Have a Great Winter Break
I hope everyone has a great two-week break and finds plenty of time to enjoy family and friends.”

The School Closure Committee originally identified Jan. 12-13 as possible study session dates. However, trustee Sherry Whitmarsh said during Tuesday’s meeting that she’s not available on Jan. 13.

It is unclear whether the board study session will include the school ratings by criteria, which the committee has thus far withheld from the public. Since these ratings were critical in the process for determining which schools to close, the district should include them as part of its presentation about how the options were developed.

The district’s budget is still on shaky ground. It’s upgrade from “negative” to “qualified” certification is mainly due to increases promised in the state’s adopted budget that may end up getting cut when Brown releases his budget. In the meantime, the district continues to push for salary and benefits concessions from unions to make ends meet in the next three years.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Eberhart asked Lawrence to draw up a list of potential cuts so the board will be ready to act next month, if the new state budget is as bleak as many fear it will be.

What would you recommend cutting to balance the district’s budget?

Posted on Saturday, December 18th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 6 Comments »

More information about The Concordian plan

By Theresa Harrington

My previous post about The Concordian newspaper’s desire to send its publication home with Mt. Diablo district students has drawn criticism on some local blogs.

I based the original post on a discussion between Superintendent Steven Lawrence and trustees at Tuesday night’s board meeting. Unfortunately, many details about the proposed deal were not discussed during the meeting and the staff report didn’t mention it at all.

During the discussion, neither Lawrence nor trustees mentioned The Concordian’s plan to share advertising revenues with the district. Their discussion also did not reveal that The Concordian wished to send its paper home only with elementary students.

Because of these omissions, I inadvertently made two errors in my original story, which I have since corrected. I initially asserted that the district would not be compensated as part of the deal and that the papers would be sent home with all students in the district.

I learned additional details about the plan via blog posts by The Concordian’s editor Andre Gensburger. In an attempt to verify his account, I asked the district to provide me with a copy of the letter Gensburger referenced in his blog post, which he called “an offer for discussion to see whether there was any interest and what the obstacles would be in order to make a formal proposal.”

Lawrence’s secretary told me today that the superintendent did not have such a letter. I followed up with a phone call and e-mail to Lawrence, asking for a copy of the letter.

I also asked to speak with Lawrence, so I could get a detailed explanation of The Concordian plan from him. He did not respond.

Because of this lack of information from the district, I am laying out the plan as outlined by Gensburger on his blog. I do not know whether this was spelled out in the letter he sent to the district or whether it was based on a conversation he had with district officials.

THE DEAL

The Concordian would devote a minimum of four pages in each issue to the district in an education section. The district would be given control over the content, with the ability to approve or reject it.

The district could use this free space to promote its schools, students and activities, including fundraisers. It could also recap board meetings for the public.

The Concordian would be willing to pay the district 25 to 50 percent of its gross advertising revenues from ads on these pages (and possibly other pages), which would likely consist of two one-eighth page ads per page for a total of eight ads that could reap as much as $4,000 per issue. If the district received 50 percent of this revenue, it could receive about $20,000 from 10 issues.

Although Gensburger optimistically suggested this money could be used for libraries or other programs, he did not state whether the district would be required to disclose how it would spend the money. On Tuesday, trustees allocated more than $100,000 for consultants, including $40,000 to pay unforeseen costs that exceeded a $25,000 contract originally approved for School Closure assistance.

The Concordian wants to send its papers home each month with every elementary student as “a more effective means of delivery” than leaving it in school offices and the district office, where people can pick it up if they want it. Since elementary students generally bring home papers from school once a week, Gensburger figured his monthly paper would be “just be one added item.”

He asserted that his distribution plan would not work with teens.

“You just cannot ask middle and high schoolers to take it home,” he wrote. “But they could get one from the office to do so.”

This plan would benefit current readers by exposing them to the district and “the good things that are going on on all levels,” Gensburger wrote.

The Concordian would be willing to adhere to guidelines preventing “abuse through advertising promoting alcohol, guns, drugs, sex –- anything that would be objectionable to a family audience.” The newspaper could also be wrapped in an envelope to shield students from seeing the content.

MOVING FORWARD

I am grateful to The Concordian for laying out the plan in much more detail than the school board did. It is unfortunate that these details were not revealed during the meeting in a written report.

I would also like to respond to some of the criticism regarding my original blog post.

I regret the initial inaccuracies and have attempted to correct them, based on the more detailed information that has since surfaced. My blog post was not an “attack.” It raised questions about the proposal and informed the public about concerns raised by Lawrence and the board.

I reviewed The Concordian to see if it included any ads for alcohol or restaurants that serve liquor because Board President Gary Eberhart and trustees Linda Mayo and Sherry Whitmarsh specifically addressed this issue in their discussion. In fact, Whitmarsh asked hypothetically, “What if there was an ad for Sherry’s Grill and Bar?”

I wrote that The Concordian ran an ad for Vinnie’s Bar and Grill simply to point out that Whitmarsh’s hypothetical question was reflected in reality.

Eberhart mentioned during the board meeting that Rocco’s Pizzeria in Walnut Creek also serves alcohol, but that Rocco is a staunch supporter of schools. This is true. I have great respect for Rocco and never suggested that such advertising should be banned.

The Concordian’s plan will be discussed at a future board meeting. I hope that all the details will be clearly explained, so that trustees and the public completely understand the nuances of the deal.

Posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 9 Comments »

Shore Acres Elementary encourages students to drink milk

Shore Acres nutrition services staff members (left to right) Connie Heitketter, manager Agnes Moody and Becky Berg stand in front of a milk carton tree that "grew" to more than 14-feet tall.

Shore Acres nutrition services staff members (left to right) Connie Heitketter, manager Agnes Moody and Becky Berg stand in front of a milk carton tree that "grew" to more than 14-feet tall.

By Theresa Harrington

Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point recently came up with a creative idea to inspire students to drink milk — building a Christmas tree out of the empty cartons.

The Nutrition Services staff sent the following message to teachers Nov. 29:

“Good morning to all,
The cafeteria would like to promote the importance of drinking milk. We need your help! Please encourage your students to drink all of their milk and to save the empty milk cartons. We will be building a GIANT MILK CARTON CHRISTMAS TREE. The more milk we drink, the bigger and bigger our tree will become. We will start tomorrow morning (11-30-10). Mr. Eric will have a bucket to rinse out any leftover milk. Then we will be ready to build!!!!!

With your encouragement and example of drinking milk, it will be a lot of fun and healthy for all of us.

Thank you, Agnes, Becky and the cafeteria staff.”

As a result of this promotion, the staff was able to build a tree more than 14-feet tall, according to Kathleen Corrigan, the Mt. Diablo school district’s director of Food and Nutrition Services.

Congratulations to Shore Acres for “thinking out of the box” — literally!

Posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010
Under: Bay Point, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Newspaper seeks direct delivery via students in return for positive school stories

*AMENDED POST* 

By Theresa Harrington

I posted an item about a proposal by the Concordian newspaper to the Mt. Diablo school district Thursday evening that contained an error regarding proposed compensation for the district. Based on trustees’ discussion of the proposal at the Dec. 14 school board meeting, I was unaware that the proposal would include sharing advertising revenue with the district.

*Second update: Also based on the school board discussion, I was not aware that the Concordian proposed to send its newspapers home only to elementary school students.

To correct both of these errors, I am updating the post below:

The Concordian newspaper has approached the Mt. Diablo school district with a proposition that would give the newspaper prime access to the parents of nearly 16,000 elemenatry school students, equaling more than $450,000 in subscriptions.

The newspaper would promise to print at least one positive story in each monthly issue about a district school or program. In return for this “good” press, the district would send the newspaper home with students, bypassing the need for the Concordian to collect $30 per household in subscription costs.

The Concordian would share a portion of its advertising revenues with the district. Presumably, the paper could use this newfound access to students’ parents as a selling point to advertisers, claiming a giant boost in circulation.

But advertising is proving to be a sticking point for the district, which has policies restricting the distribution of commercial materials to students. The school board discussed the Concordian’s proposal Tuesday, after Superintendent Steven Lawrence brought it up along with advertising policies related to flyers and banners.

“The Concordian is willing to put in articles about good things going on in our schools if we would be willing to send them home with our children,” Lawrence said. “It wasn’t something we were comfortable approving and moving forward with, because we wouldn’t be able to approve what advertising goes into the newspaper.”

Trustee Linda Mayo said she was primarily concerned about elementary students hand-carrying flyers or other materials home.

“I don’t have as much of a concern if it’s mailed to parents,” Mayo said. “But I do have a concern if it’s put into the hands of students.”

Some foundations — such as those supporting sports and music — seek sponsors to help support their events and programs. Sponsors may be more willing to fund programs if they could be assured their names would be prominently displayed in print materials distributed to parents, Lawrence said.

Mayo pointed out that the district prohibits advertising related to alcohol or tobacco. Board president Gary Eberhart said Lawrence should refuse to disseminate newspapers or flyers that include ads for liquor or tobacco.

Lawrence said the district could inform the Concordian and groups wishing to distribute flyers about the district’s policy, with the understanding they may be able to get distribution to students’ homes if they complied. But he pointed out that restaurants that advertise often serve alcohol.

Mayo said district approval should be based on how information is presented. Eberhart asked Lawrence to bring samples of the newspaper and other flyers back to the board for further consideration.

Interestingly, trustees didn’t discuss the editorial content of the Concordian at all.

“They would control what goes into the paper,” Eberhart said. “And we would approve whether it would be allowed to be sent home.”

It was unclear whether district officials would refuse to send home papers if they didn’t like the editorial content. It was also unclear whether the Concordian would be willing to print stories that might reflect unfavorably on the district, under the proposed agreement.

The Concordian touts itself as “a direct response publication serving Concord, Clayton, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Martinez and Pleasant Hill.” It tells prospective advertisers that it reaches “thousands of readers and viewers who CHOOSE to read us!”

The publication contains many local ads, including some for establishments that serve alcohol, such as Vinnie’s Bar and Grill in Concord. It also regularly features stories about local schools and education programs.

The current issue includes articles about a De La Salle and Carondelet High School theater production and a Diablo Regional Youth Orchestra performance. Would such schools and organizations also be required to distribute the newspapers free through students to be included in future issues? Or, might the Concordian decide to censor stories about districts or schools that don’t agree to distribute it free through students, if the Mt. Diablo district sets a precedent by agreeing to its proposal?

There are, of course, other ways for the public to find out about good things going on in schools. The Times and its weekly papers (The Concord Transcript, Pleasant Hill/Martinez Record, Walnut Creek Journal and Lamorinda Sun) regularly feature stories, photos, news briefs, columns and datebook items related to school programs and events.

In addition, the superintendent has pledged to regularly update the community about what’s going on in the district through his “Message from the Superintendent” e-mails, which local bloggers often post verbatim. Lawrence also highlights good things going on in schools during his “Superintendent’s Report” at board meetings.

This blog, the MDUSD Parents Blog, the Mt. Diablo Community Advisory Committee blog and the Mt. Diablo blog operated by Eberhart also frequently update the public about district news, along with other local blogs. In addition, schools promote their activities through newsletters and websites, as well as through automated phone calls to parents. 

Do you think the district needs positive stories in the Concordian enough to agree to distribute its newspapers through students?

Posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 8 Comments »

New Mt. Diablo trustees demand accountability

By Theresa Harrington

After being sworn into their positions as Mt. Diablo school board members, newly elected trustees Cheryl Hansen and Lynne Dennler began asking tough questions about district consultant contracts.

Hansen came out swinging, when she pulled the consultant contract for Jack Schreder and Associates from the consent calendar and asked why the School Closure Committee consultant’s fees were jumping from $25,000 to $70,000.

The staff report, which didn’t name the consultant, stated: “The School Closure/Consolidation Committee has required additional support and consultation regarding the identification of various options for balancing enrollments at schools districtwide, assistance in the identification of sites for potential consolidation/closure based on District criteria and the identification of new boundaries based on District criteria.”

Hansen was not swayed.

“There was no additional justification,” she said. “I still think that deserves more explanation as to how that occurred.”

Chief financial officer Bryan Richards explained that the committee has met more frequently than originally anticipated, so the consultants continued to work at their hourly rate. Hansen held his feet to the fire, pointing out that the district already owes the company $43,000.

“What concerns me,” she said, “is planning ahead that this is the amount that we think we’ll need and not over-expending that.”

Eberhart, who ended up abstaining from the vote without explanation, suggested that staff investigate whether the district could use facilities money to pay the consultant, instead of general fund money.

Trustee Linda Mayo sang the praises of the company, saying the district had done business with it for many years. When the $25,000 contract was approved August 10, former trustee Paul Strange also lauded the firm, saying it had worked for the district during the past 15 years.

According to Richards, the district has spent $305,333 with the firm since 2001 for a variety of studies. Under its current contract, two consultants are paid $145 an hour including travel time to and from Sacramento.

Eberhart also abstained from the contract vote in August, saying he was currently working with a relative of the person the district was entering into contract with. Eberhart’s boss is Seward Schreder, Jack Schreder’s son.

Before hiring Eberhart, Seward L. Schrder Construction donated $25,000 to the Measure C campaign. Jack Schreder & Associates contributed $2,000.

At Monday’s board meeting, one parent whose daughter is on the waiting list to attend Monte Gardens Elementary accused the district of writing a “blank check” to Schreder and Associates, saying such practices have led to school closures. (Monte Gardens is being recommended for closure.)

Eberhart said the district is not writing blank checks. The public can request documentation regarding payments to Scheder and Associates from the superintendent, he added.

Dennler, who remained quiet during budget discussions, spoke up strongly along with Hansen, before trustees voted on a $92,000 consultant contract with Norm Gold Associates to audit the district’s English learner program.

There was no indication that a request for proposals was sought for this contract, which was recommended by Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support.

Dennler, a former teacher, asked why district staff couldn’t visit other schools that are having success with English language learners, instead of paying a consultant to make recommendations. Lock said Gold would do that.  (However, the contract doesn’t mention Gold spending any time visiting sites outside the district.)

“That’s not something we can do on our own?” Dennler persisted.

“We have done some,” Lock said, “but our program still isn’t working.”

Lock said staff has talked about “best practices,” but perhaps hasn’t implemented them with fidelity.

“We need to look at best practices to drive a strategic plan,” she said.

Gold will visit 15 district sites and try to determine whether Mt. Diablo’s problems stem from program issues, implementation issues, or a combination of the two, Lock said. He will then make recommendations based on state and national practices, she said.

“Obviously, we have to follow through on those recommendations,” Lock said. “This is an area we have struggled in as a district as long as I can remember.”

Hansen said she was concerned about the considerable number of outside contractors the district uses.

“At the end, we actually don’t have a comprehensive, compliant plan,” she said. “It seems like an awful lot of money to spend without that plan.”

Eberhart agreed, saying he has long been concerned that the district isn’t adequately educating English language learners.

“Our English language program continues to be an area where I believe we are failing our students in terms of how long it takes to get a student who doesn’t speak English proficiently to a student who does speak English proficiently,” he said.

Superintendent Steven Lawrence said he heard the board loud and clear and he assured trustees a plan would be developed.

“Actually,” Hansen said knowingly, “Dr. Gold works with boiler plate templates, so you can do it yourself.”

Lock said Gold’s contract includes a final report and a community briefing regarding his findings. The report will include recommendations for “improvements in structure and instruction” for English language learners. 

“We will be getting a report and he’s going to be providing us with 30 copies of it,” Lock said.

“He better,” Hansen replied. “Expensive paper.”

Here is a rundown of contract expenses:
$15,000: Plan and complete 10 interviews
$50,000: Conduct remaining interviews and site visits
$15,000: Review preliminary findings with audit advisory group
$12,060: Submit final report (PDFs and 30 copies)
$92,060: TOTAL
 
The final report won’t identify any individual teachers or schools. Instead, it will summarize data at the district level.

“We do need to bring in teachers and our parents,” Lawrence said. “And we will create a thorough process, where at the end of this, we will have a strategic plan.”

Trustees unanimously approved the contract.

At the beginning of the meeting, trustees elected Eberhart as president and Whitmarsh as vice president. They may hold a retreat in February to get to know each other better and study major district issues.

How well do you think the new board will work together?

Posted on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 16 Comments »

A closer look at Mt. Diablo schools recommended for closure

By Theresa Harrington

Now that the public has seen the recommendations forwarded by a Mt. Diablo school closure advisory committee, some are questioning the rationale used to come up with them.

Although the process has been touted as being “open and transparent,” committee ratings of schools according to seven criteria have been kept secret from the public. In addition, committee members voted anonymously and did not openly discuss the reasons for their votes at Monday’s meeting.

Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievment and School Support, prevented members of the public from sitting at a table close to the committee, saying she wanted to protect the committee’s privacy. She also asked members of the public not to photograph the results of the votes and said she had been instructed not to rank the recommendations.

Still, it was obvious that the third recommendation (which includes Sequoia Elementary, Sequoia Middle School and Monte Gardens Elementary), received far less support than the top two.

Committee members were given four votes each to spread among nine different scenarios that included three to six schools each. They were also given four votes to spread among 45 schools (30 of which didn’t appear in the scenarios).

Here are the scenarios that the committee recommended, along with the votes they received:

Scenario 1a: Glenbrook Middle School, Silverwood Elementary and and Wren Avenue Elementary, all in Concord: 39 votes

Scenario 1b: Glenbrook Middle School, Silverwood Elementary and Holbrook Elementary, all in Concord: 16 votes

Scenario 4b: Sequoia Middle School and Sequoia Elementary in Pleasant Hill; and Monte Gardens Elementary in Concord: 13 votes
(14 voted to move forward with this recommendation and 10 voted against forwarding this recommendation)

Here are the scenarios not recommended, in order of votes:

Scenario 2: El Monte, Gregory Gardens, Holbrook and Silverwood elementary schools: 7 votes

Scenario 7: Bancroft, Gregory Gardens, Wren Avenue, Holbrook, Rio Vista and Strandwood elementary schools: 6 votes

Scenario 3: Gregory Gardens, Shore Acres, Silverwood and Wren Avenue elementary schools: 5 votes

Scenario 4a: Sequoia MS, Sequoia Elem. and Wren Ave. Elem.: 3 votes

Scenario 5: Oak Grove MS, Fair Oaks Elem., Shore Acres Elem.: 1 vote

Scenario 6: Fair Oaks, Ayers, Monte Gardens and Sequoia elementary schools: 1 vote

The votes for individual schools match the first two recommendations, with Glenbrook Middle and Silverwood, Wren and Holbrook elementary schools at the top of the list.

But support for the third scenario appears much weaker, with Monte Gardens and Sequoia Elementary and Sequoia Middle schools attracting fewer votes than some campuses that were not recommended.

Here are the school results, from most to least votes:

Silverwood Elementary, Concord: 19 votes (Included in scenarios 1a and 1b — RECOMMENDED)

Wren Avenue Elementary, Concord: 17 votes (Included in scenario 1a — RECOMMENDED)

Glenbrook Middle, Concord: 10 votes (Included in scenarios 1a and 1b — RECOMMENDED)

Holbrook Elementary, Concord: 10 votes (Included in scenario 1b — RECOMMENDED)

Gregory Gardens Elementary, Pleasant Hill: 7 votes (Included in scenarios 2, 3, and 7— not recommended)

El Monte Elementary, Concord: 5 votes (Included in scenario 2 — not recommended)

Oak Grove Middle, Concord: 4 votes (Included in scenario 5 — not recommended)

Sequoia Elementary, Pleasant Hill: 4 votes (Included in scenarios 4a and 4b — RECOMMENDED)

Northgate High, Walnut Creek: 4 votes (Not included in any proposed scenario)

Ayers Elementary, Concord: 3 votes (Included in scenario 6 — not recommended)

Sequoia Middle, Pleasant Hill: 3 votes (Included in scenarios 4a and 4b — RECOMMENDED)

Bancroft Elementary, Walnut Creek: 2 votes (Included in scenario 7 — not recommended)

Monte Gardens Elementary, Concord: 1 vote (Included in scenario 4b — RECOMMENDED)

Strandwood Elementary, Pleasant Hill: 1 vote (Not in any scenario)

Ygnacio Valley Elementary, Concord: 1 vote (Not in any scenario)

Ygnacio Valley High, Concord: 1 vote (Not in any scenario)

It is unclear why some committee members voted for schools not included in any proposed scenarios. The release of school ratings according to criteria might shed light on this.

These are the criteria the committee was supposed to use to make its decision: facility condition, capacity, operations and maintenance costs, available capacity at nearby sites, academic performance, geographic equity within the district, the possibility of moving students to better facilities and the cost of closure.

Data related to many of these criteria is at http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Pages/scac.aspx.

Here’s how the schools that received votes stack up according to academic performance index scores (800 is the state target); listed in order of votes received:

Silverwood Elementary, 828
Wren Avenue Elementary, 765
Glenbrook Middle, 660 (one of lowest-performing schools in state)
Holbrook Elementary, 777
Gregory Gardens Elementary, 818
El Monte Elementary, 754
Oak Grove Middle, 646 (one of lowest-performing schools in state; lowest-performing middle school in district)
Sequoia Elementary, 921
Northgate High, 864 (top performing high school in district)
Ayers Elementary, 834
Sequoia Middle, 867
Bancroft Elementary, 892
Monte Gardens Elementary, 918
Strandwood Elementary, 917
Ygnacio Valley Elementary, 753
Ygnacio Valley High, 666

Monte Gardens, Sequoia and Silverwood elementary schools all exceed the state’s academic performance target. Holbrook and Wren Avenue, on the other hand, are struggling to meet it.

Glenbrook and Oak Grove Middle schools are both among the district’s six lowest-performing schools in the state. Glenbrook has received a three-year $1.7 million School Improvement Grant to help turn the school around, but Oak Grove opted not to seek such a grant.

Based on the information the school closure committee has made public, do you agree with its recommendations?

Posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 14 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school closure committee recommends three scenarios

By Theresa Harrington

The school closure advisory committee voted on nine scenarios for recommendations to close campuses and save $1.5 million or more per year, due to state budget cuts.

Here’s the way the votes landed:

1a. Glenbrook MS, Silverwood Elem. and and Wren Avenue elem.: 39 (RECOMMEND)

1b. Glenbrook, Silverwood and Holbrook: 16 (RECOMMEND)

2. El Monte, Gregory Gardens, Holbrook and Silverwood elementary schools: 7

3. Gregory Gardens, Shore Acres, Silverwood and Wren Avenue elementary schools: 5

4a. Sequoia MS, Sequoia Elem. and Wren Ave. Elem.: 3

4b. Sequoia MS, Sequoia Elem. and Monte Gardens Elem.: 13 (RECOMMEND, WITH NOTE SAYING 14 VOTED TO MOVE FORWARD AND 10 VOTED AGAINST MOVING RECOMMENDATION FORWARD)

5. Oak Grove MS, Fair Oaks, Shore Acres: 1

6. Fair Oaks, Ayers, Monte Gardens and Sequoia elementary schools: 1

7. Bancroft, Gregory Gardens, Wren Avenue, Holbrook, Rio Vista and Strandwood elementary schools: 6

In addition, every school in the district was listed on the wall. Committee members were given four green dots and four red dots.

They used green dots to vote for scenarios and red dots to vote for schools.

Here’s the list of schools that received votes:

Elementary:
Ayers: 3
Bancroft: 2
El Monte: 5
Gregory Gardens: 7
Holbrook: 10
Monte Gardens: 1
Sequoia: 4
Silverwood: 19
Strandwood: 1
Wren Avenue: 17
Ygnacio Valley: 1

Middle Schools:
Glenbrook: 10
Oak Grove: 4
Sequoia: 3

High Schools:
Northgate: 4
Ygnacio Valley: 1

The committee expects to make their recommendations to the board during a study session Jan. 12 or 13.

Which schools would you recommend closing?

Posted on Monday, December 13th, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 42 Comments »