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Mt. Diablo school closure meeting brings out new details, ideas

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, January 20th, 2011 at 8:54 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington

The Mt. Diablo school board’s study session to look at school closure recommendations shed some new light on the selection process and spurred the board to ask for more details Tuesday about how the recommendations would affect the district.

Trustees agreed to continue evaluating the three scenarios recommended by the School Closure Advisory Committee.

These are:
1. Close Glenbrook Middle School, Silverwood Elementary and Wren Avenue Elementary in Concord;
2. Close Glenbrook Middle School, Silverwood Elementary and Holbrook Elementary in Concord; or
3. Close Monte Gardens Elementary in Concord, along with Sequoia Elementary and Sequoia Middle School in Pleasant Hill

Consultants and staff members reviewed the process used by the advisory committee and revealed the ratings that each school received according to seven criteria. Each school received a rating of 1-20 for each criterion, with 1 the lowest and 20 the highest.

Here’s a breakdown of the ratings for the recommended schools. I have noted the school’s Academic Performance Index (API) score and 2009-10 growth next to the academic rating. The state’s target is 800 out of 1,000.

GLENBROOK MIDDLE SCHOOL:
Facility condition: 14
Capacity utilization: 2
Operations and maintenance costs: 9
Available capacity within site or adjacent facilities: 10
Academic performance: 3 (API: 660 – grew 17 points)
Geographic equity: 5
Improved facility conditions for students if closed: 14
TOTAL: 57

SILVERWOOD ELEMENTARY:
Facility condition: 1
Capacity utilization: 8
Operations and maintenance costs: 8
Available capacity within site or adjacent facilities: 10
Academic performance: 12 (API: 828 – grew 23 points)
Geographic equity: 11
Improved facility conditions for students if closed: 6
TOTAL: 56

WREN AVENUE ELEMENTARY:
Facility condition: 12
Capacity utilization: 2
Operations and maintenance costs: 7
Available capacity within site or adjacent facilities: 15
Academic performance: 7 (API: 765 – grew 11 points)
Geographic equity: 5
Improved facility conditions for students if closed: 10
TOTAL: 58

HOLBROOK ELEMENTARY:
Facility condition: 12
Capacity utilization: 6
Operations and maintenance costs: 10
Available capacity within site or adjacent facilities: 2
Academic performance: 13 (API: 777 – grew 50 points)
Geographic equity: 11
Improved facility conditions for students if closed: 6
TOTAL: 66

MONTE GARDENS ELEMENTARY:
Facility condition: 12
Capacity utilization: 8
Operations and maintenance costs: 17
Available capacity within site or adjacent facilities: 17
Academic performance: 18 (API: 918 – grew 20 points)
Geographic equity: 1
Improved facility conditions for students if closed: 17
TOTAL: 90

SEQUOIA ELEMENTARY:
Facility condition: 12
Capacity utilization: 13
Operations and maintenance costs: 16
Available capacity within site or adjacent facilities: 17
Academic performance: 16 (API: 921 – grew 4 points)
Geographic equity: 1
Improved facility conditions for students if closed: 8
TOTAL: 83

SEQUOIA MIDDLE SCHOOL:
Facility condition: 13
Capacity utilization: 8
Operations and maintenance costs: 17
Available capacity within site or adjacent facilities: 19
Academic performance: 17 (API: 867 – dropped 4 points)
Geographic equity: 1
Improved facility conditions for students if closed: 2
TOTAL: 77

Overall, elementary schools scored between a low of 41 (El Monte) and a high of 111 (Cambridge). Middle schools scored between a low of 57 (Glenbrook) and a high of 104 (Diablo View). High school scores ranged from a low of 52 (Ygnacio Valley HS) to a high of 107 (College Park).

The number of committee members who voted for each scenario was also revealed. However, the number of people who voted for each school was not shared. Each 

committee member got four votes to divide between nine scenarios and four votes to distribute between the district’s 45 elementary, middle and comprehensive high schools.
 
Scenario 1 (Glenbrook, Silverwood, Wren) received 39 votes from 17 people (three people cast all four votes for this option).

Scenario 2 (Glenbrook, Silverwood, Holbrook) received 16 votes from nine people (one person cast all four votes for this option).

Scenario 3 (Monte Gardens, Sequoia Elem. and Sequoia MS) received 13 votes from six people (two people cast all four votes for this option).

Here are the individual votes for recommended schools:
Glenbrook MS:10
Silverwood: 19
Wren Avenue: 17
Holbrook: 10
Monte Gardens: 1
Sequoia Elementary: 4
Sequoia MS: 3

The complete Powerpoint is at http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/9c97ff91-366f-47e0-aea6-42aa95e88367.pdf.

The board asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence to explore consolidating small necessary high schools, look at redrawing boundaries around crowded schools, investigate the possibility of bringing special education students in nonpublic schools to closed sites and to explore the possibility of building a high school in Bay Point with Measure C funds.

Do you think the district should divert Measure C funds from the projects voters supported to construction of a Bay Point High School?

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  • truthbetold

    Why doesn’t the District close Willow Creek? How about consolidating some of the Necessary Small Schools? Why are schools still adding new administrator (Vice Principals).

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    Could a new high school in Bay Point be part of their play to extend the MDUSD monopoly into the Concord Weapson Station parcel, if and when it is built out? They have promoted MDUSD as the district that ought to serve that area. High schools cost $40-50 million to build these days (unless you’re LAUSD, then it’s more like $580 million), but the MDUSD Board may not blink at that, since they have always seemed to regard Measure C money as “free” (after all, they can take 42 years to pay it back).

  • mdusd mom

    New schools should be funded by developers. MDUSD collects developer fees, and there will be more at Concord Naval Weapons Station. Is it legal to use Measure C funds, which voters were told were for repairs, to build a new school site?
    http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Documents/meascvip.pdf

  • Another MDUSD Mom

    I have several issues with the thought process behind closing schools.

    1.) Why is the goal to save $1.5 mil? Shouldn’t the goal be to adjust the number of schools based on current and future need? The fact is that we hired consultants to provide an assessment of need and we now have a study that says schools should be closed. Why is our board saying they may not close as many if they can find money elsewhere?

    2.) I understand closing schools if you are going lease or sell the property. I do not understand closing neighborhood schools and disrupting a community to then turn around and remodel the premises and accommodate other kids. That does not make sense.

    3.) I think the Measure C language is vague enough to cover building a new high school to REPLACE the former Pacifica High School. However, that is not what the voters were sold during the campaign. I found it odd that Eberhart spoke for quite awhile about building a school in Bay Point and looking at “all available land in the area” without addressing the potential need to close a high school today, let alone the absolute need to close a high school if a new one is built. The Superintendent had to bring up that point. Mt.Diablo HS would lose 800 students to a new Bay Point HS.

    I think the intentions are good. The needs are known and the opportunity presented itself. They believe they have the money through Measure C. What was missing was the big picture and how ridiculous the ideas sounded to those of us there attending a “school closure” meeting.

    Where is the strategic plan?

  • Anon

    Theresa and others,

    What is you take on the conflict of interest information coming to light on the school closure committee?

  • Theresa Harrington

    The committee roster was made public from the very beginning of the process. If some people were concerned about conflicts, they probably should have voiced them before the recommendations were finalized.
    Some committee members told the Parent Advisory Council that there was no favoritism.
    I attended three meetings and didn’t know most of the committee members (except for school administrators, for the most part).
    After one meeting, Rose Lock told me that some committee members refrained from speaking while I was there because they didn’t want to be quoted as supporting one option over another.
    Lock also kept the public away from committee members during the voting, which was anonymous.
    If committee members had been willing to publicly stand behind their recommendatations and had voted publicly, then the community would be better able to hold them accountable for their votes.
    Without knowing who cast which votes, it is virtually impossible to know whether affiliations to specific schools influenced them or not.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have received an e-mail letting the community know that Holbrook Elementary parents plan to rally before and after school Monday.

    Also, here’s another e-mail voicing support for the school from the East Sun Terrace Homeowner’s Association to the board and committee:

    “Subject: KEEP HOLBROOK OPEN!
    School Closure Advisory Committee, MDUSD Board Members,
    The recent events at the public forum meeting have prompted us at East Sun Terrace Neighborhood Association to chime in.
    First, we would like to introduce our neighborhood for your reference. The East Sun Terrace neighborhood is a North Concord neighborhood located north of East Olivera Road and east of Port Chicago Highway. Our neighborhood is comprised of 425 homes and is completely located within the Holbrook Elementary attendance boundary. Holbrook has been our neighborhood school since our neighborhood was built in1962.
    As a neighborhood we fully understand the need to close, consolidate and restructure schools, as taxpayers we can appreciate MDUSD’s desire for fiscal prudency.
    Throughout this process we have sent association reps to the meetings and watched the School Closure Committee decipher the data that ultimately led to the ten then three recommended scenarios. Unfortunately, it so happened that our beloved Holbrook Elementary landed a spot in the 2nd scenario. Fortunately, it secured a place in the 2nd scenario and not the first.
    While we understand that no school in the various scenarios are “safe” we would like to remind you that there was a logical and data-driven reason a vast majority of the SCAC members chose Scenario #1 as the “choice scenerio”.
    After watching last nights meeting our biggest concern is that your data-driven decision becomes one that is politically centered. This concern comes after board members began talking about how they felt as opposed to what the data has shown.
    You already have the fiscal, logical reasoning to the why when and where. So, in the off chance that the “emotional faction” of the committee wins out we wanted to present our “emotional” case as to why Holbrook Elementary should stay open.
    Unlike most of the schools in MDUSD Holbrook Elementary has the complete support from the various homeowners associations within the attendance boundary. In fact the Holbrook PFC Club, is the only PTA or PFC Club that purposefully includes the community. At Holbrook the “C” in PFC Club is for Community (non-parents or business entities).
    The very successful Holbrook PFC Club itself was founded by a community member and a parent, who’s child graduated last year from Holbrook, so in essence the PFC Club is headed by 2 community members, Turtle Pfeiffer from our neighborhood of East Sun Terrace and Harumi Waren from Holbrook Heights. There is no other individual school in the district with this level of community involvement at a school.
    “Emotionally”, every community member, the same membership that roughly makes up 87% of the of Holbrook’s PFC Club wants you to know that our school, Holbrook Elementary, is worthy of keeping, it is a great asset. We don’t need to inundate you with a plethora of facts and figures as you have already determined this to be so.
    Respectfully,
    East Sun Terrace Neighborhood Association”

  • Joe Smith

    Theresa,

    I would bet that anon 5:38 was also referring to the members who have a private businesses associated with 9 school sites being on the committee as well as one of their employees (total control of 8 votes). I have also read somewhere that a board member’s family member was on the committee. In light of the people that applied to be on the committee and were denied this seems to be odd at best.

    Interesting that Rose Lock kept the votes secret in light of this. Things that make you go hmmmmmm…..

  • Jules

    Joe please read Todd’s response on Claycord.com. He does not own the business,he is employed by the company. He is also the parent of 3 MDUSD students and a graduate of the MDUSD. Take the time to read it, it is very informative and worth the read, also if you had taken the time to attend the first SCC meetings, you would have known who he was and his association with the MDUSD. I think we all need to take a deep breath and stop the accusations.

    It is not easy to decide which schools to close, it is sad that we even have to do this. I do not envy our BOE right now at all, no matter which schools are chosen someone will be angry, accusatory, etc. I keep saying, if we all put our energy into helping and being a part of the solution, just think what we could do.

    Joe Smith, why don’t you think about starting a MDUSD Education Foundation, several are already asking how they can donate funds to possibly help stop school closures.

    If you do this, you can be in control and actually do something to help.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Also, Board President Gary Eberhart has responded to these criticisms in his blog at http://mdusd.blogspot.com/.
    However, I question his assertion that the SIG money will follow Glenbrook students. There has been no staff report (to my knowledge) that has confirmed this.
    The district received SIG money for Glenbrook based on its plan to “transform” the school over a three-year period, not to close it. The district would need to amend its application for “school closure” and that would have to be approved by the state, before the district could be assured it would continue to receive the money.
    Also, the district could have applied for a School Improvement Grant at Oak Grove, but chose not to, in part because this would have required closing the school or replacing the principal. Had the district applied for a SIG under the “closure” scenario, it would have been able to pay for some of the costs associated with relocating students to other sites.
    The Superintendent’s Council suggested combining Oak Grove and Ygnacio Valley HS onto the YVHS site. If the district moved Oak Grove, but continued to operate it as a separate middle school (the way small necessary high schools operate on other campuses), it might be able to retain its QEIA funding. This way, the district could close the Oak Grove facility (to save operations and maintenance costs) and could eliminate a custodian position, but would likely keep Oak Grove administrators and support staff.
    In addition, Eberhart doesn’t mention that Silverwood is also a high-performing school compared to others in the district and state.