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Mt. Diablo district superintendent’s school closure recommendation

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 at 8:50 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Students and parents pack Mt. Diablo school board meeting, urging trustees not to close their schools.

Students and parents pack Mt. Diablo school board meeting, urging trustees not to close their schools.

By Theresa Harrington

In a change from usual procedure, Mt. Diablo school board President Gary Eberhart asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence to wait until after public comments on Tuesday before revealing his school closure recommendation. There was no written staff report and Lawrence’s Powerpoint presentation wasn’t posted online until after the meeting was over.

This left the public in the dark while comments were being made and didn’t give people a chance to express opinions about the new recommendation. Surprisingly, trustees also voiced no opinions about the recommendation.

Here’s what Lawrence proposed:

Close either Wren Avenue or Holbrook elementary in Concord and consolidate Crossroads and the Summit/TLC/Nueva Vista small necessary high school programs on the closed campus.

Close Glenbrook Middle School in Concord and create a special education program with the nonpublic school Seneca on the site. Also, provide office space for Measure C district staff.

Redraw boundary lines around Meadow Homes Elementary, sending some children to other schools so that the district won’t have to spend $91,000 a year busing them as “overflow” students.

According to Lawrence’s Powerpoint presentation, new boundaries for Holbrook, Wren and Glenbrook students have already been drawn:

About 177 Holbrook students would move to Sun Terrace Elementary and about 153 would move to Wren Avenue. Students who attend on transfers would go to their home schools or apply for transfers elsewhere.

The district projected that enrollment at Holbrook would decline from 397 in 2010-11 to 355 in five years. However, I’m not sure if this took into consideration anecdotal reports from local residents regarding an expected influx of Coast Guard families in the neighborhood.

If Wren Avenue closes, about 99 students would move to Holbrook, 133 would move to El Monte, 31 would move to Westwood and 33 would move to Monte Gardens.

The district projected that enrollment at Wren Avenue would increase from 386 this year to 397 in five years, if the school remains open.

If Glenbrook closes, about 243 students would go to El Dorado Middle School, 52 would go to Valley View and 189 would go to Oak Grove.

Glenbrook’s enrollment was projected to decline from 526 in 2010-11 to 478 in five years, if it stays open.

Lawrence did not recommend closing Silverwood Elementary, even though it received the most votes from the advisory committee and was included in both of the most highly recommended school closure scenarios by the committee. He showed that Silverwood’s students could be absorbed into Mountain View, Ayers and Highlands elementary schools, but noted that County Connection buses don’t travel near Silverwood.

He projected Silverwood’s enrollment would grow from 400 to 402 in five years, if it isn’t closed.

Lawrence also showed that 17 new classrooms would need to be built to accommodate Monte Gardens and Sequoia Elementary students at other sites if those schools closed and that three classrooms would need to be constructed at Pleasant Hill Middle School to accommodate Sequoia Middle School students if that campus closed.

He estimated the district would save $100,000 by combining the small necessary high schools on one campus, while also making five classrooms available on the Concord High campus. However, he acknowledged that public transportation for small necessary high school students would be needed (since the district doesn’t bus them). Both the Wren Avenue and Holbrook neighborhoods are served by County Connection buses, he said.

He was unsure whether the district could identify additional nonpublic special education students who could be served on the closed Glenbrook site, but promised to bring that information to the board Feb. 8, when trustees expect to vote on the recommendations.

Lawrence noted that Holbrook, Wren and Glenbrook all offer the CARES after-school program on their campuses. Wren and Holbrook serve 114 students each, while Glenbrook serves 132.

The district will investigate the possibility of transferring students to CARE programs at other sites or transferring the CARE program to sites that don’t have it, he said.

He was unsure whether the district would be able to continue receiving School Improvement Grant funds for Glenbrook Middle School’s “transformation,” if the site closes. The state approved a three-year $1.7 million grant, which was to be disbursed in equal installments of $584,002 per year through 2012-13.

The funds were to be spent according to the district’s application. The district would need to amend its application and receive approval from the state in order to continue receiving funds if the school closes.

Title 1 funds, on the other hand, would follow the students, he said. None of the schools recommended receive QEIA funds.

Do you agree with Lawrence’s recommendation?

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  • Doctor J

    ANON1: If you are correct, drop the dime. Only a governmental agency can get to the servers that store the emails that would sink the ship.

  • Theresa Harrington

    At Parent Advisory Council meeting just now, when asked if board would vote on school closures Tuesday and if staff report outlining recommendations would be released Friday, Lawrence said: “I don’t know because I haven’t received direction from the board president and vice president.”

  • Tired of Waiting

    Yes, i have gotten that same response from his emails. What is going one??

  • Doctor J

    @Theresa. LOL. Lawrence has become the puppet of Eberhart and Whitmarsh. Makes me want to take some Syrup of ipecac. Rose Locke has got them in a hell of a pickle with how she handled the committee. What a disaster. I predict she will “retire”.

  • mdusd mom

    Doctor J where you at the PAC meeting? I find your comments very offensive and even worse is that you are a MDUSD employee. When are you retiring or resigning? This would be in the best interest of our children.

  • Doctor J

    @Mdusdmom I am sorry you are offended by my opinions backed by facts. I stand by my opinions that school consoldidation should have been worked on a year ago. It is clear that this hasty and incomplete process has only brought rancor on the district. My only interest is to provide quality education to the children. But I really believe the truth must be told. As the good book says, “The truth will make you free”. Lawrence should not be receiving “direction” but should be providing “direction” to the Board. He has it bass ackwards.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Lawrence did provide direction when he said Jan. 19 that he wanted to narrow down the scenarios to one recommendation that would be presented Feb. 8.
    He also provided direction when he unveiled his recommendations on Jan. 25.
    The thing that’s confusing the public is that the board hasn’t publicly responded to his recommendations.
    Three trustees attended the Parent Advisory Council meeting: Sherry Whitmarsh, Linda Mayo and Cheryl Hansen. Yet, the meeting wasn’t publicly noticed as a board meeting. I don’t believe the agendas are posted online.
    Neither Hansen nor Mayo commented regarding the school closure questions. Whitmarsh smiled and said, “Yes, he’s waiting for direction from the president and vice president.” (She is the vice president.)
    This lack of information less than a week from the board meeting is causing frustration in the community.
    Glenbrook parents plan to march from their school to the district office tomorrow afternoon, protesting the recommendations to close their schools.

  • Doctor J

    Cheryl is right that MDUSD needs to do it right and do it once. Doing it right means closing about 6 schools, not two. Lawrence sets up the committee, lets his Asst Supt handle it, and when it comes out flawed, he is trying to dodge the flack from the community. The silence from the Board is deafening. He just had his one year anniversary. Has he done anything right ? Hmmmmm. Lets reflect: Buttercupgate, Nugentgate, Chevrongate, and now Closuregate. No, I don’t blame him for the Gang of Five — that was before his time — Gary gets credit for that snafu.

  • Sue Berg

    Dr. J,
    In terms of who provides direction to whom, you are referencing the CSBA model, which Gary and Paul have publicly disputed. (In fact, Paul said he did not take and Gary said he did not complete the CSBA Masters in Governance program because they don’t support the CSBA model.) In that model, the Board sets the direction for the district by adopting a number of goals: e.g. improve technology, provide safe and effective learning environments, involve the community, meet state and federal standards. The superintendent is then responsible for coming up with and recommending to the Board specific strategies to meet those goals via budget management, new and revamped programs, staffing, duties, etc.

    Paul and Gary believe the Board should provide not just goals but the actual strategies for the Superintendent to implement, a more hands-on approach from the Board. They brought that philosophy to MDUSD when they took over the district leadership two years ago. They have often spoken and written about their philosophy: The Board provides specific directions; the Superintendent oversees the district operations to implement them.

    Superintendent Lawrence was hired under this philosophy. Hence, his statement that he is waiting for direction from the Board president and vice president. You may not like it or agree with it, but Gary and Paul have been very clear about their belief in it. Paul may be gone, but Gary, as either Board President or Vice President for the last three years, has been practicing what he preaches.

  • Doctor J

    You’re right Sue. Gary’s philosophy for the last 15 years has led to these accomplishments by MDUSD: SIX of the worst schools in the state of California; one third of the total of “persistently underpeforming schools” in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties [worse than Oakland and Berkley]; TEN “program improvement schools”; the district on the verge of being named as a “Program Improvement” district. Heck, even the Oakland Raiders have more accomplishments than that. Anytime you want to be Gary’s apologist, feel free. Gary’s record speaks for itself. Which one of us is dumber than a rock ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    A Glenbrook parent I spoke to yesterday compared Eberhart to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, saying he’s “out of touch” with people in his neighborhood.
    He complained that his neighborhood is not represented on the board and said he wan’t confident in the enrollment projections for that area since “nearly every fifth house is in foreclosure.” If there is a massive turnover in that area, more new families could move in, he said.
    He also told me the district pays to bus some Glenbrook students on transfers to Sequoia Middle School. If the district closes Glenbrook, it could avoid some of those costs, although I would imagine that students whose home schools would be changed to Oak Grove would still want to transfer to higher-performing schools.
    If Sequoia is closed, Glenbrook students who now transfer there would likely choose another higher-performing school to attend.

  • Wait a Minute

    Lets also not forget that Gary used MDUSD money (which he did NOT reimburse) to take a “Solar Class”. He then used that training and obviously also leveraged his MDUSD status to become a VP of a company/family that markets itself to schools and other public agencies.

    This is what is wrong in America now. You have self-serving people in positions of power abusing their status and power for their own personal gain.

    They also tend to hire and support ethically challenged people (i.e–Lawrence) and the whole rotten process becomes self-perpetuating!

  • Doctor J

    @WaitaMinute — Yeah, Gary professes to be an “expert” in everything. But as near as I can tell, in his year with Seward L. Schreder Construction, Inc. they have no solar construction projects underway. “success” is not a term that has ever been associated with Gary. Has anyone checked his Form 700 ?

  • Wait a Minute

    Do something about it.

    Google Contra Count Civil Grand Jury. Contra Costa County Superior Courts website has a page called “About the Grand Jury” with a link called “Bringing Matters to the Attention of the Grand Jury”.

    Te more people that fill out a complaint about these abuses, the faster it will get investigated and stop.

  • Alma (MGParent)

    Theresa, what time is Glenbrook marching tomorrow?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Glenbrook parents and students plan to meet around 2:15 p.m. Friday, then begin marching down Olivera Road to the district office.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Mary Caldwell, Glenbrook’s PTA president, just told me she expects the march to begin around 2:30 p.m.
    She said many Latino parents weren’t aware of what was going on at the school board meetings because the district doesn’t distribute its agenda information in Spanish.
    The march will give the entire community a chance to participate, Caldwell said.
    “It’s just to show the kind of support that the other schools have had,” she said. “It’s just showing one more sign of force that we’re united together and committed to keeping it open.”

  • Mary Caldwell

    In addition there was someone one at the community meeting the other night from the Coast Guard who stated we should expect 400+ new families in the near future. Coast Guard children typically attend Holbrook and then Glenbrook.

  • mdusd mom

    More than one person is using “mdusd mom” – apologies to anyone who is confused by this

  • Sue Berg

    Doctor J Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 1:25 pm
    Dr. J, I am not trying to be an apologist for Gary. He can and does speak for himself. I was simply pointing out that he introduced a new leadership model two years ago in which the Board, or at least the Board officers who set the Board meeting agendas, provide more specific direction to the Superintendent than Board Policy 1140 calls for. That policy, under “Responsibilities of the Governing Board,” states,”The Board’s prime functions are the formation of policies and judgment of results.”

    Some posters, including you, were upset when Superintendent Lawrence said he was waiting for direction from the Board president and vice president in regard to which school closure options the Board will consider, and when. His comment is in keeping with the current Board-Superintendent relationship. As a Board officer for the past two years Gary has played a major role in providing direction to the Superintendent.

    I’m not offering an opinion, just noting that the Board-Superintendent relationship is different, based on your comments, than you think it is. If you think I’m “dumber than a rock” for pointing this out, so be it.

  • Doctor J

    @Sue. Of course Gary’s micromanagement style exceeds the “prime functions” of Board Policy 1140 and it is very clear that he and Paul were and are very controlling in their relationship with the Supt. That’s why I believe that when Nugentgate happened, not only did Lawrence know about the DUI prior to the appointment, but so did Paul and/or Gary. Remember, Nugent was to be Principal at Gary’s school. Would Gary have been involved in Nugent’s selection — duh. Sue, I have never doubted your intelligence nor wit.

  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, I just found out the Tuesday board meeting will be held in the Mt. Diablo HS gym to accommodate a large crowd. No word yet on whether a staff report outlining school closure scenarios/recommendations will be released with the agenda this afternoon.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Agenda has been postedhttp://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=3606&mtgId=297
    The board may bring up new ideas and/or vote to eliminate or move forward with previous recommendations. If trustees decide to move forward with a new idea (no new ideas are outlined in the staff report), they would not vote Feb. 8. Instead, they would bring back the new recommendation for a vote at a subsequent meeting.

  • Doctor J

    OMG, another “consultant” contract $82,250 @$1375 per day !! Through May 31 only ! She is a “performance strategist” to work with the two directors of SASS. I thought Lawrence hired the best of the best to work in SASS. See Sue Berg comment #31. This is item 13.9 on the Agenda. But wait, don’t miss item 13.2 on the Agenda. SASS is also hiring a new “Administrator of Coordinated School Support” but it doesn’t list the fiscal impact. If he or she is an experienced principal with years of service, presumably the salary would be in the neighborhood of $120,000 plus benefits — but at least that is for a full years work, not just four months. What happened to the alleged $50,000 savings, which I don’t really believe was there in the first place. I hope the Board puts its foot down — it is really an insult to every child of all the schools being considered for closure, an insult to every parent and an insult to every taxpayer. This one tops the Gang of Five raises, and that is a pretty hard feat to do.

  • Wait a Minute

    Its hard to argue to the taxpayers you need more money when you hire a “consultant” at $1,375 per day!

    I wonder what preexisting relationship this Lynn Carlisle (working out of her home in Davis, CA) may have with Lawrence and friends? Come to think of it. I wonder what her qualifications are as a google search shows nothing apparent of her company or “skills”.

  • Doctor J

    @ Wait SASS has hired TWO part time consultants in the last six months for a total of $183,550 — Why ? Lawrence said in May that SASS would cost less and would employ less people. Another shell game.