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A closer look at Glenbrook Middle School’s $1.7 million improvement grant

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, January 27th, 2011 at 9:46 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington

One question that arises as the Mt. Diablo district considers closing Glenbrook Midle School is: what would happen to its School Improvement Grant?

Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support, told me today (Thursday) that the district is exploring whether it could continue to receive funding by amending its application for school closure. Previously, she said, she told Board President Gary Eberhart that the district would not be able to receive the funding if the school closed. That would be the case if the district closed the school and didn’t amend its application, she said.

“We’re still trying to get some answers,” Lock said. “There are some different ideas, such as, ‘What if we amend the application?’ So, we’re still looking into it. We still don’t have anything definite.”

The state approved a $1.7 million grant for three years to reform Glenbrook by “transforming” it through new educational initiatives. The district could have chosen the “school closure” reform, but chose not to, in part because the school was making progress.

“Glenbrook Middle School has had two consecutive years of API gains totaling 48 points,” the district’s application stated. “The focused initiatives that were started two years ago, such as PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), Fred Jones (teacher training in classroom management), and analysis of student data will be continued and intensified.”

The district said it also planned to implement new strategies such as:
– more collaboration about instruction across grade levels and departments;
– implementing a “Read 180” program;
– launching a four-week intensive summer program including enrichment electives for students as well as remediation and intervention;
– shifting to Curriculum Associates assessments;
– using Board Math in AIMS (Academic Intervention for Math Success) classes;
– hiring coaches for English language learners, math and data;
– hiring a “turnaround specialist”;
– professional development for staff; and
– summertime collaboration for teachers to work on instructional pacing and common assessments, as well as to plan “experiential” and project-based learning opportunities for students.

The district was to receive $584,002 annually for three years, from 2010-11 through 2012-13. The application included an $80,000 expenditure this year to plan a four-week summer intervention program to be offered in July. It is unclear whether the district would still offer this program if the school closes. If not, the district won’t need to spend $80,000 planning for it. This means the district could be required to return some of its grant money, with interest.

“The applicant will obligate all sub-grant funds by the end date of the sub-grant or re-pay any funding received, but not obligated, as well as any interest earned over $100 on the funds,” the application states.

The district is spending $24,000 on its “turnaround specialist.” It is unclear whether this person is experienced in turning around schools by closing them.

The district assured the state that funds would spent as indicated in its application proposal and would ONLY be used in the school identified in the grant award letter.

The district is unlikely to receive as much money for closing the school as it would to keep it open and implement reforms. The San Francisco school district received $50,000 to close a school, compared to $3.8 to $5.8 million to transform or “turn around” other schools. Similarly, the Oakland district received about $49,000 to close a middle school, compared to $4.4 and $4.6 to transform two other schools.

According to the School Improvement Grant criteria, the district would not be able to receive grant funding if it sends Glenbrook students to Oak Grove Middle School, since Oak Grove’s Academic Performance Index score is lower than Glenbrook’s. (Oak Grove’s API is 646 and Glenbrook’s is 660). However, Glenbrook students could attend the new Flex Academy charter school that is considering opening in the fall.

Here are the grant guidelines for school closure, according to the state Department of Education: “The LEA (local education agency) closes a school and enrolls the students who attended that school in other schools in the LEA that are higher achieving. These other schools should be within reasonable proximity to the closed school and may include, but are not limited to, charter schools or new schools for which achievement data are not yet available.”

It’s not clear what the state considers “reasonable proximity.” According to Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s recommendation, the district would send 243 students to El Dorado Middle School (3.2 miles from Glenbrook), 52 students to Valley View Middle School (4 miles from Glenbrook) and 189 to Oak Grove (nearly 5.4 miles from Glenbrook).

According to the grant application, the district should be conducting a “mid-year check in” with Glenbrook staff this month to evaluate out how the grant implementation is progressing. The school is scheduled to give a board presentation in May about its progress and outcomes.

In its grant application, dated November 11, 2010, the district wrote that the Glenbrook community had determined “the focus for GMS (Glenbrook Middle School) needs to be on a transformational model focused on providing rigorous instruction, student engagement and experiential learning.” It envisioned its plan would “provide the structure and accountability to make instruction targeted, coherent, and ultimately successful for all GMS students.”

Now that the school year is half over, do you think the district should evaluate whether its School Improvement plan is working before abandoning it?

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12 Responses to “A closer look at Glenbrook Middle School’s $1.7 million improvement grant”

  1. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    How much of the school improvement plan has been implemented?

    This is a prime example of why the District needs to make strategic planning a priority. They knew they were going to need to close schools back when they applied for SIGs.

    A comprehensive strategic plan would have addressed short and long term facility needs based on current and future enrollment. They could have made an informed decision back at the time they applied for the grant. Instead they are now going to make a second decision with respect to Glenbrook and once again it will be a decision that is not part of an overall plan.


  2. Doctor J Says:

    It is simply an Eberhart strategy: Shoot from the hip and make up the excuses later. “Another MDUSD Mom” is correct.

  3. Doctor J Says:

    Where is Steven Lawrence today ? Please call his secretary and ask. He is spending the District money at a conference in Monterey. For what purpose ? He and his wife at the Marriott in Monterey ? Why ?


  4. Jim Says:

    He may not be spending much district money. Monterey is a popular place for education vendors to hold fun “executive briefings” about their products for educational decision-makers in CA. The companies pick up most of the cost, except transporation. Believe me, the real cost of these junkets is not what the district pays out of pocket. It’s in the expensive, questionable products that they buy — Scholastic’s “Read 180” among them.
    The Parent Voice for School Choice

  5. Sue Berg Says:

    This is the weekend for the annual ACSA (Association of California School Administrators) Superintendents’ Conference, always held in Monterey. It’s the one gathering of the year that brings school district superintendents together from throughout the state to hear, discuss, and ask questions about a variety of topics regarding public education and its financing. It’s been a highly regarded conference for many years.

    Superintendents and Board members are expected to be current on educational issues. This ACSA conference and the CSBA (California School Boards Association) conference each December are the primary interactive sources of information. The MDUSD budget includes a small amount of money for them to attend each of these conferences. Those who bring their spouse pay any extra expenses for that person out of their own pocket.

    Jim and Dr. J, you want the district leaders to lead from knowledge, yet you complain about their attending a set of workshops that help them do so.

  6. mdusd mom Says:

    This is bureaucracy, probably for lobbying, for what? CSBA is the one involved in a widely-publicized scandal for paying more than $500,000. salary and $200,000. pension with absolutely no accountability. Other districts threatened to resign from CSBA but MDUSD was not on that list. We would like to know how much MDUSD pays to these organizations, what is the benefit to our students classrooms, and when will we receive another biweekly newsletter from our superintendent?

  7. Jim Says:

    Sue: I didn’t — and wouldn’t — complain about Mr. Lawrence attending the ACSA. My point was about the frequent vendor meetings that are also held around this time of year in Monterey. If he’s not wasting time at one of those — hurray! I haven’t attended the ACSA, but I have attended the CSBA and found it under-whelming, like the National School Board Association conference, which offers elementary orientation for school board members, but not much else. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with attending professional meetings to keep up on things and interact with peers. If Mr. Lawrence believes that this one will be valuable, then he should go. But the education industry does have an over-abundance of conferences and associations that invites a certain level of skepticism. Those conferences provide speaking engagements for consultants to advertise their services, and they can offer good job-hunting and recruiting venues for educational administrators considering a career move, but beyond that, caveat emptor.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    We aren’t just talking one or two conferences — we are talking probably $100,000 a year throughout the district. We are talking about both district staff and school staffs attending numerous conferences not only locally but throughout the nation. For every conference there is transportation, hotels, food, registration expenses, etc. Its all hidden throughout the budgets. If I recall correctly, last year C&I sent about a dozen people to a conference in Palo Alto, they all stayed in hotels, etc. If the district is broke — cut spending. Lets find out the true costs of ALL MDUSD personnel attending conferences. You don’t need to send a dozen people from the same department to a single subject conference.

  9. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr. J, I was responding to your implied criticism of Dr. Lawrence attending the conference in Monterey. As to other conferences, sometimes grant funding comes with a requirement that those involved in the program being funded attend training, which is paid for by the grant, not the District’s General Fund. Efforts have been made to limit conference attendance, but some of the meetings are necessary and worthwhile.

    Jim, truth be told, vendors show off wares and services at all conferences, even the ACSA one going on right now. Some of the info is helpful, but the “trade show” is ancillary to the conference workshops. You are right about vendor-specific meetings. Textbook publishers in particular try to entice school leaders to attend seminars they host to present their products. I never knew of any MDUSD leader attending one of those.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    Sue, The Supt Tues night is telling kids and their parents he is going to be closing their schools ostensibly to save money — that also means cutting jobs for teachers and staff — then he takes off to a junket to Monterey at the Marriott at the wharf. Now I am not opposed to worthwhile conferences but the annual Supt conference is more networking for the next job than concrete classes on how to improve one’s superintending. For example, a couple of Friday’s ago, there was a day conference in Sacramento about the new budget — very worthwhile, but just a day trip — or it should have been. The conference a year ago in Palo Alto — C&I should have car pooled daily instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on hotels and meals. I am sure if the truth be known, the public would be appalled at the number of conferences and amount of money spent by a district who claims to be in financial trouble. MDUSD claims its broke and continues to spend like a drunken sailor.

  11. Janet Says:

    Will what i think about that is that I go to glenbrook middle school and we r Not happy about this becase I do get how it’s going to be more Easy for them

  12. stephany Says:

    What are they goin to do with the school????

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