Part of the Bay Area News Group

A closer look at Mt. Diablo schools recommended for closure

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 at 6:38 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

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?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • ??

    Theresa,

    Thanks for the updates on school closures. What you fail to mention is the reason why Oak Grove and Glenbrook are some of the lowest performing schools and Northgate and Sequoia are at the top. The socio-economic level of students and their families is a huge indicator of how they will score on standarized tests. If we move the Oak Grove students to one of the “higher” achieving schools like Sequoia, we would see a subsequent drop in test scores at that school. I really have a hard time figuring out why our district, state and federal government can’t see this correlation. What are your thoughts?

  • theevaluator

    So much for transparency. The school closure options the District has selected doesn’t seem to make such sense. Wouldn’t it be better to close schools based upon low API scores, student enrollment, facility conditions, etc. Why would they want to close Silverwood? Obviously they are doing good things there. Why aren’t the 4 schools in the Monument Corridor area (Fair Oaks El., Cambridge El., Meadow Homes El., and Ygnacio Valley El) considered for closure?

  • Doctor J

    Prohibiting the photographing of a public meeting violated the Brown Act according to Government Code 54953.5(a). See http://www.firstamendmentcoalition.org/2010/12/aa-when-is-it-okay-to-videotape-a-meeting/

  • Doctor J

    Government Code 54953(c) of the Brown Act prohibits secret ballots at public meetings.

  • CB

    Why are they choosing to close schools?? Why don’t they look internally at the District Office Level & get rid of people/departments that aren’t doing their job. Also, why don’t the staff take a pay-cut at the District level??? I don’t understand closing schools-most are FILLED to over-capacity & closing them will only make the problem worse-let’s fix the broken district & not the schools. They are only hurting our children with these closures

  • MDUSD Parent

    The school closure committee is not a board committee. It is a superintendent committee. It does not have to be open to the public.

  • tharrington

    There does appear to be a correlation between socio-economic status and test scores. However, it’s unclear whether the committee took these factors into consideration.
    The public was assured the School Closure Committee meetings would be open to the public and that the process would be open and transparent. The meetings have been open to the public, but the committee has chosen to keep its school ratings secret.
    Committee members rejected the Superintendent’s Council recommendations because they were not included in the process. Yet, the committee has not completely revealed its process to the public.
    Since the voting was anonymous, the public has no way of knowing which commmittee member voted for each scenario and school — or why. This shields committee members from complete accountability for their recommendations.

  • AJ Kohn

    Why vote for a school not in any of the proposals? Those votes make me think that they were ‘throw-away’ votes. Essentially, not wanting to vote for any of the recommended proposals – or to ensure one of them was recommended more – they cast a null vote.

    7 votes for schools not in any of the scenarios. I think we need an explanation about why those votes were cast and not for anything that had a bearing on this vote.

  • Joe Smith

    Al Kohn,

    You are correct. We are owed an explanation about why those votes were cast, but with this board, we had better not hold our breath.

  • silverwoodmom

    It makes no sense too me to close overachieving schools so we can close a full school and ship them off to other under performing schools! Obviously I am biased being a silverwood mom but even if I were not it would still be a crazy thing too do!
    Theevaluator and CB are spot on in their comments…..but who cares about our kids education,right? Its not they are the future of this country or anything. Sigh.

  • silverwoodmom

    It makes no sense too me to close overachieving schools so we can close a full school and ship them off to other under performing schools! Obviously I am biased being a silverwood mom but even if I were not it would still be a crazy thing too do!
    Theevaluator and CB are spot on in their comments…..but who cares about our kids education,right? Its not they are the future of this country or anything. Sigh…..

  • Jeffrey Smith

    Well folks, you get what you pay for. What did our citizens think was going to happen when they recently failed to pass Measure D to keep Mt. Diablo Unified School District afloat? $99.00 a year seems like a pittance. Good luck selling your house in a neighborhood without properly funded schools. Wonder why Acalanes has such great schools? They certainly don’t have smarter children. Their schools are great because the community pays for the tremendous resources in their schools. Even at top performing Monte Gardens in Concord, the students have no computer lab, art program, or a library that is open for more than a few hours. We no longer seem able to work together as a community. Being patriotic is now called socialism. Could you imagine this happening to the great generation coming out of the 1930′s and 1940′s who knew real sacrifice? If you don’t think this is true, who do you think built the majority of Mt. Diablo’s schools during the 1950’s. California had well funded schools and the top performing K-12 public school system in the nation, until Reagan’s smaller government agenda and Prop 13 took hold and decimated California’s schools. The baby-boomers expect everything handed to them for free and now they run the show! Seems like no one is willing to pay for America’s infrastructure. Where do we think China, Germany, and India get money to fund their high achieving schools? I’ll give you a hint, it is not some private corporation. Seems taxation and love of our government have become un-American. My guess, it will take at least another generation to understand what it means to be an American and practice a shared sacrifice in rebuilding our K-12 public schools.

  • vindex

    I do agree with the recommendations. It is a terrible choice to make, but based on the facts, these are the best options

  • tharrington

    The minutes from the Dec. 6 meeting include pros and cons for each scenario: http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Documents/scac/prosncons.pdf
    The Parent Advisory Council expects to receive a school closure update tonight at 7 p.m. in the district office.
    The board study session regarding school closure recommendations is tentatively scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19 at a location to be determined.