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Mt. Diablo school closure committee recommends three scenarios

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, December 13th, 2010 at 7:52 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

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?

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  • Another MDUSD parent

    Sequoia and Monte Gardens have some of the highest scores in the district, why would MDUSD want to close these?!?!?

  • Joe Smith

    Interesting decision, take the high performing students and bring them down to the lowest common denominator. Sounds like par for the course in the current education paradigm.

  • tharrington

    There was no open discussion about the reasons for the recommendations.
    Presumably, these will be explained during the board study session.
    The criteria were:
    1. Facility condition
    2. Capacity utilization
    3. Operations and maintenance costs
    4. Available capacity within campus or adjacent campus
    5. Academic performance
    6. Geographic equity
    7. Improved facility conditions for students
    8. Cost of consolidation/closure

  • theevaluator

    Yes, why would the committee recommend Sequoia El, Seq. Middle, and Monte Gardens? These are high performing schools. Very idiotic. But why would we expect anything less from MDUSD?

  • nunya

    It is always such a smart idea to put the higher performing kids at a low API school. Why would we expect much of our kids now-adays? Cram more kids into a classroom where no one gets any personal attention and you get…. a bunch of McD workers!

  • AJ Kohn

    So, this means that we’re down to three different recommendations and the committee will vote for one to present to the board? Or they’ll present three to the board?

    Also, Northgate with 4 votes? For what, to save or to close? If the latter, are you kidding me? For what reason?

  • silverwoodmom

    I will be SO sad if Silverwood closes. My kids love their school,their teachers and their peers. Its not just about a schools test scores, its about a community and this little school has a fantastic one!

    It will not be a happy back to school day at a new school……even if the one we will get moved too I actually closer to our home.

    Very sad.

  • MDUSDmom

    I think that Sequoia and Monte Gardens are on the chopping block because most of the students actually belong to different home schools.

  • Jennifer

    If Monte Gardens is closed and my kids are forced to go to our home school, the MDUSD won’t receive any money from my two kids because I will pull my kids out of the district. This district has run itself into the ground. MDUSD should be ashamed of itself. I went K-12 in this district and I am embarrassed by these recommendations. We are letting our kids down!

  • KarenM

    We’re outta here too (sad to say).

  • Baffled

    Closing down the Sequoia schools would probably affect every single school in the district. These schools pull students from every city and school within the district. Pushing students back to their “home schools” would create a huge domino affect. For each student that gets pushed back to their “home school” it would probably push another student back to their “home school” and on and on and on. Are we really ready for the chaos this would create for all schools and a larger number of families within the district? Remember those schools that aren’t or haven’t been on any school closure consideration list would see change as well. When these students are relocated back to their “home schools” your school might now be overcrowded, your child might be pushed back to their “home school”, your child’s friend might be pushed back to their “home school”, or the teachers at your school might be relocated. All this domino affect because they were bumped by a child being relocated from Sequoia. You will see change as well. It won’t just affect those who attend the Sequoia schools. Teachers also have to be relocated and Sequoia has a large amount of teachers that have been in the district for a number of years with seniority.

    There is a large number of students who attend the Sequoia schools that come from lower performing schools. Do they have room? – probably not. They are generally overcrowded as it is.

    Would the relocated students really continue to score higher and improve the lower performing schools test scores? Not likely.

    Resources? How much will it cost to bring in portables?

    Did it get factored into the cost equation of how much money will probably be lost by parents just pulling their students completely out of MDUSD?

  • Cynthia Archer

    I highly recommend closing Shore Acres Elementary. They do not communicate with families. My grandson has been transferred to a better school in part because it is such a low achieving school and they are not trying to improve it. My grandson came home with a paper that he was learning to spell “porcupine” as “pokepine”. He was actually being taught this. It was unbelievable. Of course the principal made the teacher call and apologize. When she called she said “no harm done” and chuckled. This school is primarily Hispanic. They do not encourage them to learn English by continuing to talk to the students in Spanish. These children would have a better education if they were integrated into other schools that forced them to learn English so they can be more successful adults.

  • Doctor J

    Wasn’t the criteria considered by the Committee set by the Board ? If so, and the Board doesn’t follow one of the recommendations by this dedicated committee, the Board will never get quality people to serve on Distrit committees again. The real shame is that this action wasn’t taken a year ago and we had saved millions this year to preserve more jobs. Based on the other article by Theresa about the financial condition the Board likely to send a negative budget to the County, State takeover of the district looms large.

  • Alma

    It would be good to know WHY on the recomendations. Obviously Academic Performance was not an issue for Monte Gardens or Sequoia MS….This is an outrage and a slap in the face for all the parents, teachers and students. I need to know WHY they would want to close Monte Gardens and Sequoia!

  • KarenM

    We’re outta here (we’ve had enough – we are transferring or moving out of MDUSD asap).

  • Sassy

    Sequoia and Monte Gardens are choice schools that have some of the highest scores in the district! Why in the world would these two schools even be considered????? Children were enrolled in these schools so they would not have to go to their lower rated home-schools. Parents are required and PROVE to be active participants in these schools and the Back To Basics program. These schools are top producers which is shown in the student’s performance. No doubt about it, I will be pulling my child from the MDUSD if this scenario plays out … and I am aware of MANY other parents who will do the same.

  • The Gov

    I’m not sure a 3rd grader’s STAR score should determine which schools are better than others. In fact I’m not sure that our school system is really concerned about the actual children. It’s going to hurt but if we need to lose a few jobs and a few schools then so be it. Look at what happened in DC recently. We shouldn’t be worrying about protecting jobs in light of doing what’s best.

  • Kim

    Just the fact that Monte Gardens & the Sequoias are being considered it APPALLING! Clearly these people went through our public school system because they’re clueless! Monte G and Sequoia are the best preforming schools in the district – they expect more from their teachers, parents and kids. I’ve had kids in PHE/PHMS as well as Sequoia (right now)and my question is: Why aren’t we modeling the rest of the schools after these 2 instead of talking about closing them!? This is ludicrous!

    I’m with Jennifer: I already took my oldest out of MDUSD instead of sending him to College Park – I’ll do the same with my younger ones if the take Sequoia away.

  • John Bellamy

    I have an idea… Why not fire the MDUSD school closure committee!

  • Anon

    Why is Monte Gardens even considered for closure? Not only is it one of the highest scoring elementary schools, it also received the fewest votes? What gives?

    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

  • Jason

    I am blown away that sequoia, monte gardens and bancroft even were considered. These are some of the top performing schools in the district. I put my kid on the list to get into monte gardens when he was 2! In this era when we have “no child left behind” and “race to the top”, legislators are obviously looking for good performace numbers when it comes to funding. Pull your heads out of your butts and save your highest API scores and use them as a model for how to administrate the rest…

  • Sara

    This is VERY depressing. My daughter just started kindergarten at Silverwood and we really love it there. Not only are the kindergarten teachers fabulous, but I truly love that it is a small school with a very nice community feel to it, and it is diverse as well. I felt very happy that Silverwood is our local school. By the way, there are tons of kids that walk to that school. I don’t get how it can be closed down. Seeing how many people have voted to close it just makes me want to cry. I realize that tough decisions have to be made, but this just really really stinks. Very demoralizing.

  • mommy

    I can not believe we r closing schools period.kids already have 34 to 36 kids in each class, whats it going to be now like 50 to a class? When are the kids education going to come first. whats happening here? Our society is going down. It scares me and makes me sick to my stomach.Our kids are suppose to be our future, So i guess our future is in for distruction.

  • Marina Ware

    The MDUSD bureaucracy has reached a new level of stupidity. Why does MDUSD desire to close its top performing schools because of the lame administration. Both Monte Gardens and Sequoia Elementary Schools have some of the highest test scores in the district. Fact: This past fall, Monte Gardens actually reached a new academic milestone of scoring above 900 on the API index. Statistics: Monte Gardens – Ranked #4 out of 30 and scored 918 on their API Test scores, and was ranked 4th out of 30 elementary schools in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. It is apparent that administration is more concerned with its bottom line then a student’s right to receive a well rounded education. This is complete insult to the students, teachers and parents that attend Monte Gardens and Sequoia. Now, I can empathize with the North Gate High School parents that had signed a petition to leave the MDUSD.

  • Vicky

    It’s a sad day here in California to close a perfectly great school ! Silverwood is a wonderful, clean, well kept school why would they choose to close it, of all the schools this one is ready to go no need to fix it up Beautiful school, maybe get these people off the board and we could continue to keep these schools open!
    There is no reason there is not enough money to keep these schools up and running don’t you all wonder where it all went? I do

  • Denia

    I think it would be great if Sequoia Elem and Middle closed. There is a parental involvement factor supposedly. However, most teachers won’t let parents volunteer in the classes. I have heard and experienced numerous rude and mean behavior from teachers and office staff (Jill). The policy to get in is totally biased. I was told a few years ago they wanted more girls (Jill) hence trying to get me not to apply to have my son go there. Teachers and staff act entitled because parents want their kids to go there and therefore make no accomodations to anyone at all. That place should go!

  • Anonymous

    Denia, you’re correct, there is a huge parental involvement factor at Sequoia. At the elementary school, parents run (and teach) the art appreciation program, they run the PE program, they assist in the computer lab, assist in the library, and in many other areas where needed. My daughter goes to school there. I placed her name on the waiting list, and she got in through the LOTTERY, you can get less biased then a LOTTERY system! We, as parents, have issues like any other school with some of the teachers, they are not perfect. But we are there because we want to be there, we went through the proper channels, and agreed to hold ourselves and our children to certain standards. MDUSD would be shooting themselves in the foot to close the schools that get it right and have long waiting lists to prove it!

  • Maroon

    Denia,
    You are just bitter because your child did not get in. First of all, Sequoia Elementary and Sequoia Middle are excellent schools, and you know that. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have tried to get your child enrolled into Sequoia Elementary. There is a lot of parental involvement in all areas of both schools, and isn’t that what you want? Both of these schools are among the top performers in the district, and it makes absolutely no sense to close them.

    Secondly, Denia, if you knew anything about Sequoia Elementary, you would know that Jill does not work there anymore.

    Thirdly, I have had three boys attend both schools and was NEVER deterred from having them enrolled.

    Lastly, I think the Sequoia Schools should be the models for all schools in the district. Obviously, they are doing something right over there, and should NOT be punished for their excellent performance. Any plan to close these schools is a bitter, misguided attempt by those who are not involved and jealous of the quality of the education happening at the Sequoia Schools. It’s as childish as saying, “If I can’t have it, nobody can”. Instead, why are we not looking at ways of replicating these successes in all the schools for all to benefit?

  • Proud Sequioa Parent

    7:19 Denia: Jill who you referenced at Sequoia has been retired for 2 years. Furthermore, a large component of the school’s successes is the parent involvement both inside and outside the classrooms. There is more parental involvement at this school than most (notice I said most, not all) other neighborhood schools in the district. There are all types of teachers at every school (yes, even rude and mean ones). Just because you have an ax to grind doesn’t mean the school should close. Obviously, Sequoia was not a good fit for you or your child and it is probably good that we were spared your sunny disposition.

  • Derek

    @Denia Your whole argument is based on your opinion of two schools. What are your arguments for keeping the other schools open? Is there more parental involvement? Are the teachers and staff friendlier? It seems to me that there are ecomonic factors that are far more important for considering a closure than opinions. What about the costs of maintaining an older school? What about the availability of land for adding more classrooms due to the influx of students?

  • The Gov

    Actually Denia has it right. Your experience is your experience and it is not relevant that someone has retired recently.

    The responses are obviously emotional responses to a feeling of being attacked. Let us separate emotion from reason.

    The kids from Sequoia and Monte Gardens will have the exact same test scores in one school as another. After all, that’s what’s important here and defines a high performing school. Perhaps the higher performing kids can help the lower performing kids?

  • Grandpa Jones

    There is a lot of talk about the great test scores at SE, SM and MG. Obviously, test scores were not high on the priority list for closing a school. Silverwood’s 2009 and 2010 combined average API is 816. The receiving schools (if it closes as excpected): Mountain View, 803, Ayers, 806, Highlands, 850. Most displaced Silverwood students would end up at Mountain View and Ayers, with a small percentage at Highlands.

    If they were looking at school performance there are plenty of 600-700 API schools that could have been considered.

  • Michulita

    I really don’t agree with you Gov! It is obvious you have no school aged children or if you do, you are bitter they didn’t get into one of the top performing schools!

  • The Gov

    Michulita – I’m interested in hearing your opinions. If your kids move from one school to another do they become less intelligent? Will parents be less involved? I’m not really sure what my personal circumstances have to do with my opinions. Perhaps if I had 10 kids in 10 different schools I would have more experience to draw from but that’s not necessary.

    Test scores are a measure but they really are but one tool in evaluating a situation. We should not rely on these too heavily.

    If we are to rely on testing to determine performance I would like to know what is MDUSD doing differently than say San Ramon Valley school district. The API growth scores for Greenbrook and Vista Grande are 944 and 954.

  • truthbetold

    The Gov. I can’t really say for sure, but if you look at Greenbrook and Vista Grande, their demographics might look a lot different than the schools you find on the Monument corridor or Baypoint.

  • truthbetold

    The school closure committee’s decisions baffle me. What idiots give 4 votes to close Northgate High School, putting
    “Distinguished” schools and high API score schools on the list? Why aren’t Fair Oaks, Cambridge, Meadow Homes on the list. Why are they (perpetually underperforming schools) not even on the list? Go figure. MDUSD hard at work!

  • Doctor J

    @truthbetold — No secrets – No baffling. The “perpetually underperforming schools” provide “SIG” or federal School Improvement Grants through the state Education Dept that provide about $15 mil to MDUSD, including TWO new District Adminstrators to be hired next month at about $115 k each plus benies. Instead they can close the “distinguished” schools and get the SIG money. Its just a shell game.

  • Truthbetold

    Yes, Dr. J. I know of these SIG schools. So basically keep funding low performing schools and get rid of the good schools. Sounds like a great business model. Keep shoving money into a s**t hole and expect things to get better.

    By the way, you must have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the District because you are correct about the new District Administrator(s) (a V.P. to be exact) to be hired next month. Can’t that money be spent on something more important?

  • tharrington

    The four schools that received School Improvement Grants are Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shore Acres elementary schools in Bay Point and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord. These are four of six district schools identified as among the lowest-achieving in the state.
    As you know, the School Closure Committee recommended shutting down Glenbrook. Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support, told me the district has contacted the state Department of Education to see if it can revise its SIG application and continue to receive funding under the “school closure” reform model, instead of the “transformation” model. Perhaps then the district could pay at least a portion of the school closure consultants’ fees with the grant.
    At one committee meeting I attended, the consultants cautioned against closing schools in Bay Point, saying that is one of the few areas of the district that is growing. The other area that is growing is the Monument Corridor, around Meadow Homes. Lock suggested that perhaps overflow from Meadow Homes could go to Fair Oaks, if the boundaries are redrawn.
    The grants will pay for administrators, teachers, consultants and other support intended to help improve the schools. But this money will do no good if the expectations of the staff and administration are low.
    The comment from Cynthia Archer above suggests that there is an “Oh, well, no big deal” attitude towards instruction at Shore Acres.
    I have also heard from a Shore Acres parent who left a message saying the school lost her child last week. She said she has seen flies in the children’s food and that they eat in virtual darkness. I haven’t been able to corroborate this information, however.
    In addition, I interviewed the parents of a former Rio Vista student whose child told them his teacher instructed him to go outside to fight with a classmate. They transferred their son to another school, after feeling their complaints to the school principal were brushed off casually, with the comment that the teacher was told that he shouldn’t have done that.
    Do you think these same incidents would be treated with a similar lax attitude at high-performing schools?

  • Doctor J

    @truthbetold You can verify ALL of the job openings right on the district website. Not just a VP, but two new district administrators in the new School Support — who in their right mind would leave a school site to take a job that is only funded for one year ? Who in their right mind would leave a successful district to come to MDUSD where furlough days are increasing ? @Theresa — the real problem is that the SIG grants were written so hastily and independently that the district really has no intention of spending the money as written but will be audited. Lock is in a real catch 22. What the Board approved and what was submitted hardly resemble each other. Remember that the SIG grants not only cover four schools, but also the district has some money in there too ! The district is using some of that money to pay the current district administrators and hide the fact that they really aren’t saving the $50k that Lawrence promised.

  • tharrington

    Yes, I was surprised that the district never brought the final SIG applications to the board for approval.
    As you probably recall, the district only presented four of its school improvement plans with PowerPoint presentations and approved the others without such presentations.
    Since the final SIG applications were never approved by the board, they are not available online, as far as I know. However, I received copies of them and am working on a story detailing how the district has told the state it intends to spend the money.
    Because there appears to be intense interest in what the district is doing to improve the SIG schools, I’ll post a portion of the district’s application narrative shortly.

  • SMS Student

    I am a student currently attending Sequoia Middle School. Sequoia is an extremely high- performing middle school and it seems riciculous to close it. Yes, students come from all over; even from Baypoint and Pittsburgh. But the parents make that effort to give there children a better education. If the District decided to close Sequoia Middle, Sequoia Elementary, and Monte Gardens Elementary it would say a lot about the District, and not in a positive way.