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Archive for February, 2011

Mt. Diablo superintendent lays out budget woes

Mt. Diablo schools Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent out the following memo to parents today:

“Governor’s Budget Proposal and Impact on MDUSD

The information for this News Update was gathered from:

1. A budget presentation made by State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and State Treasurer Bill Lockyer on Wednesday, February 23, 2011.

2. A February 7, 2011, article by the Legislative Analysis Office entitled Update on School District Finance in California. The article can be found at http://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis/2011/education/ed_survey_two_020711.aspx.

3. California County Superintendents Educational Services Association’s (CCSESA) paper entitled: “Basic District Fiscal Oversight Common Message Background and Advice to County Office of Education CBOs 2010-11 Second Interim Report and Related MYPS, February 9, 2011. This paper is posted on our website at: http://www.mdusd.org/Departments/Fiscal/Documents/Website%20-CommonMessage020911%20BASC%20CCSESA-02-25-11.pdf.

4. A memo from Bill Clark, Associate Superintendent, Business Services Contra Costa County Office of Education outlining the Second Interim Guidance 2010-11. The memo is posted on our website at http://www.mdusd.org/Departments/Fiscal/Documents/Website%20081%20Second%20Interim%20Guidance-02-25-11.pdf

According to the above-referenced CCSESA paper:
Governor Brown has acknowledged that education has been the only major program that has taken disproportionate budget reductions since 2007-08. Therefore, he committed to protect education by proposing flat funding for education for 2011-12. However, flat funding really results in about a $19 annual per pupil reduction.

The 2011-12 Governor’s Proposed Budget was submitted with an estimated 18-month budget shortfall of $25.4 billion, comprised of an $8.2 billion shortfall in 2010-11 and a $17.2 billion shortfall in 2011-12. The Governor’s proposal addresses the shortfall in three ways: (1) reducing expenditures by $12.5 billion over two years (2010-11 and 2011-12); (2) enhancing revenue by $12 billion over the same two-year period to be achieved through a June ballot measure to extend the temporary taxes enacted in 2009-10 by five years (.25 percent surcharge on income tax, 1 percent increase in the sales tax, .5 percent increase in the vehicle license fee); and (3) borrowing $1.9 billion from special funds and other one-time measures.
The success of this proposal largely depends on a two thirds bipartisan legislative approval to place the tax extension measure on the ballot and then on a majority of the voters approving the tax extension. Additionally, the Legislature would have to agree to expenditure reductions similar to ones that they have rejected in prior years. Part of the Governor’s strategy is a proposal to realign or to shift responsibility of many programs along with the revenue sources to local governments. This shift would include using one-time Proposition 63 funds of $861 million to fund community mental health services. Clearly, there are many challenges ahead for the Governor and the Legislature to balance this budget.
If all of the Governor’s strategies are enacted, then the total K-14 Proposition 98 funding would be $49.3 billion, slightly less than the 2010-11 level of $49.7 billion. This would amount to a reduction of approximately $600,000 for our District.
Another major impact for education in the Governor’s proposal is the deferral of several apportionments. School districts are not paid in one lump sum at the beginning of the year. We receive incremental payments (apportionments) throughout the fiscal year from July through June. In the Budget Proposal, the Governor recommends delaying our payments for April, May, and June until July 2011, which is in the next fiscal year, and then delaying the July 2011 payment until July 2012, again another fiscal year. In essence, this will delay $25 million in payments from this school year by 12-15 months to the beginning of the 2012-13 fiscal year. Basically, the State is taking their cash flow crisis and making the school districts deal with it by deferring our payments.

How will the District deal with this cash flow issue in order to pay employees and keep our schools running? In order to deal with these deferrals in payments, the District will have to go out for a short-term loan called a Tax Revenue Anticipation Note (TRAN). Basically, a TRAN allows a school district to borrow money for up to 12 months and then pay back the loan when the deferrals come in.  Since school districts are being delayed payments for a total of 15 months we may have to go out for two TRANs because one will not be long enough to cover the deferrals that are being recommended. Bottom line is we will have to secure short term loans which will cost us thousands of dollars in issuance costs and interest.

The big unknown is whether or not the Governor’s revenue proposals will be put on a June ballot and whether or not they will pass. If either doesn’t happen, the minimum school funding guarantee under Proposition 98 would drop by an additional $350 per student annually. However, due to other constraints on the State’s budget, it is projected that Proposition 98 will be suspended and that education would be cut by additional billions of dollars which would translate into a reduction of between $650 and $1200 per pupil annually. This would mean a reduction between $21 million and over $35 million annually for the District.  At their presentation on Wednesday, February, 23, Senator DeSaulnier and Treasurer Lockyer both stated there was a 50-50 chance that the tax extensions would garner the Legislative two-thirds support necessary to put them on a June ballot.

In a letter from the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), we are being directed to submit a Second Interim Budget in March that uses the assumptions that the tax extension fails and assumes a loss of $350 per student. This would amount to a reduction of approximately $11.5 million. The letter goes on to say that given the risk outlined in the Legislative Analysis Office analysis of the budget, the CCCOE ‘recommends that districts set aside an additional reserve equal or plan for approximately $300 per ADA in addition to the $350 reduction outlined above.’ This will amount in the District either identifying an additional reserve of approximately $9.8 million or making cuts that total $21.3 million ($11.5 M + $9.8M). This would be equivalent to subtracting 25 days from the school year and starting the school year on approximately October 1.

What can our community do to help ensure that we do not have to reduce our budget by an additional $21.3 million?

1. Work to ensure that the Legislature approves placing the tax extensions on a June ballot.

2. Work to ensure that all community members thoroughly understand the negative implications for our children’s education if the tax extensions do not occur.

3. Work to ensure that every parent with a child in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District participates in the democratic process that we hope will occur in June.

At a Board workshop on Tuesday, March 1, the Board will discuss the ramifications of the budget reductions outlined above and review potential reductions to be included in the Second Interim budget. The Board workshop will be held in the Board room at the District Office and begin at approximately 6:15 p.m. The Board will then adopt the Second Interim budget at the regularly scheduled Board meeting on March 15.”

[END SUPERINTENDENT'S MESSSAGE]

Although Lawrence says the cuts necessary would be the equivalant of slashing 25 days from the school year, the district doesn’t have the option of taking such a drastic measure. Instead, trustees must find other ways to make the necessary cuts.

Lawrence told me the he expected to revisit ideas for cuts that have been rejected in the past, as well as look at new ideas to reduce expenses.

What do you think the district should cut to make ends meet?

Posted on Monday, February 28th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 13 Comments »

What will happen to Mt. Diablo district Measure C funds designated for closed schools?

One of the many unanswered questions regarding the Mt. Diablo school board’s decision to close Holbrook Elementary and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord is: What will happen to the Measure C funds designated for improvements on those campuses?

Before the Measure C election in June, the district posted general categories of improvements on its website, but didn’t give the public an itemized list showing what was planned, including costs. Now, the general information appears to have been removed from the website link, which was previously available by clicking on “Website with more information about Measure C including individual school plans” here: http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Pages/measurecjune2010.aspx.

Here’s what was planned at each site (from the district’s “2010 Facilities Master Plan Update/Proposed Bond Program Profile: 2010 Facilities Improvement Plan,” which has not been posted online, to my knowledge):

GLENBROOK MIDDLE SCHOOL: 13 items costing $3.65 million
Solar panels: $1,285,528
Centralized irrigation: $16,486
Roofing system: $144,268.75
Windows: $36,002.10
Door hardware: $24,240
Floor covering: $47,815.95.
Restroom renovation: $295,200.
Food service: code improvements: $45,593.25
Electrical security system: $140,524.86
Telecommunications: $70,0000
Network cabling and upgrades: $120,912
Technology classroom enhancements: $213,487.50
Middle school science lab cluster: $1,214,000
TOTAL: $3,654,058.41

HOLBROOK ELEMENTARY: 20 items costing nearly $2.7 million
Solar panels: $791,094
Centralized irrigation: $9,346
Concrete repairs: $25,350
Paved playground repairs: $19,107.75
Playground equipment replacement: $49,500
Fencing replacement: $6,650
Exterior doors: $16,250
Roofing system: $14,462.50
Windows: $50,774.40
Door hardware: $4,040
Floor covering: $37,968.
Restroom renovation: $246,000.
Food service: code improvements: $43,112.85
Classroom air conditioning: $977,637.
Administrative air conditioning: $2,673.
Kitchen air conditioning: $22,750
Electrical security system: $96,027.58
Fiber optic backbone: $58,0000
Network cabling and upgrades: $78,000
Technology classroom enhancements: $143,467.50
TOTAL: $2,692,210.58

TOTAL FOR BOTH SCHOOLS: $6,346,269 or more than $6.3 million

The district applied for and received California Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS) for the solar panels, with specific amounts designated for each site.

Glenbrook didn’t need air conditioning, because it already has it (El Dorado and Valley View, which most Glenbrook students will be transferred to, don’t yet have air conditioning.)

Superintendent Steven Lawrence said he would use some Measure C money to explore the idea of building a new high school in Bay Point (or possibly upgrading an existing campus to make it a high school). No cost estimates have been shared with the board yet regarding this idea.

What do you think the district should do with the $6.3 million in Measure C funds designated for Holbrook and Glenbrook?

Posted on Monday, February 28th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 15 Comments »

Memorial/donation details regarding Las Lomas students who died in rafting accident

 

Acalanes school district Superintendent John Stockton has issued the following news release regarding memorial services and donations following the deaths of Las Lomas students Matt Miller and Gavin Powell:

“Friday, February 25, 2011

The entire Acalanes Union High School District community is mourning the loss of Matthew Miller and Gavin Powell, two Las Lomas juniors. Our heartfelt condolences go out to their families.

Below is information on services and charitable donations for both:

MATTHEW MILLER
Memorial Service
Sunday, February 27 at 3:00 p.m.
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
399 Wiget Lane, Walnut Creek

Donations may given to Amigos De Las Americas

http://www.eastbayamigos.org

1-800-231-7796 x142
Amigos De Las Americas
Development Dept.
5618 Star Lane
Houston, TX 77057

GAVIN POWELL
Memorial Service
Saturday, February 26 at 2:00 p.m.
Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church
55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek

Donations may be given to the Powell Memorial Fund
Checks can be made out to the “Powell Memorial Fund” (There is a drop box in the main office at Las Lomas High School). Please include on the check the account # 05970-70974. Please contact Ms. Steele, Las Lomas Associate Principal or Bank of America for electronic transfer or PayPal information.”

Posted on Friday, February 25th, 2011
Under: Acalanes school district, Education | No Comments »

Will the Mt. Diablo school district really save $1.5 million?

Mt. Diablo schools Superintendent Steven Lawrence persuaded the school board to unanimously approve his recommendation not to close any additional schools Tuesday, without giving trustees a cost savings analysis to back up his claim that the district would save $1.5 million.

His PowerPoint presentation — which included answers to many questions — was missing one very important question and answer: How do the recommendations add up to $1.5 million?

Here are cost savings estimates I was able to dig up from previous PowerPoints:

(From Feb. 8 meeting):

Closing Holbrook Elementary would save $350,995 in salaries/benefits and $72,543 in utilities for a total of $423,538.

Closing Glenbrook Middle School would save $519,285 in salaries and benefits and $100,070 in utilities for a total of $619,356.

Together, closing both schools would save $1,042,894 or about $1 million.

However, Lawrence pointed out that closing Glenbrook would increase El Dorado MS to 1,115 students, Valley View MS to 787 students and Oak Grove MS to 761 students.

“We would need to add one or two vice principal positions at a cost of approximately $102,000 per position,” he wrote in his PowerPoint.

Two vice principals would cost $204,000.

Trustees on Tuesday agreed with Lawrence’s plan to create a nonpublic school special education program on the Glenbrook site, but were not given any cost estimates for this.

On Feb. 8, Lawrence told the board: “The program would grow over time and we project after the third year we would save $400,000 annually.”

There was no estimate for the first and second years. However, if this program uses a majority of the site, the district could lose the $100,070 in utilities savings estimated above.

This means the $619,356 estimated savings for closing Glenbrook would be reduced by $204,000 for the two vice principals and by $100,070 for utilities, leaving $315,286 in savings for Glenbrook, and $738,824 for Holbrook and Glenbrook combined.

On Feb. 8, Lawrence estimated the district could save $130,000 by combining two necessary small high schools. However, he didn’t give the total costs for salaries, benefits and utilities at each of the sites.

This means trustees don’t know how he’s arriving at his $130,000 small necessary schools estimate. On Tuesday, trustees went along with Lawrence’s suggestion to study high schools further, meaning they currently haven’t agreed to close or consolidate any small necessary high schools and can’t count the $130,000 estimate in their savings.

Also on Feb. 8, Lawrence told trustees they could save $91,000 by redrawing boundaries around Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord and $51,000 by redrawing boundaries around Delta View Elementary in Pittsburg to arrive at $140,000 in savings from discontinued “overflow” busing. Trustees agreed to this on Tuesday.

Finally, Lawrence brought up the new idea Tuesday of providing online “learning opportunities” to independent and home study students. He gave no cost savings estimate for this idea and didn’t explain how it would save money.

So, here’s a rundown of the savings the board can count on:

Closing Holbrook: $423,538
Closing Glenbrook: $315,286 (with 2 vice principals and utilities added back)
Redrawing boundaries: $140,000

TOTAL SAVINGS: $878,824 — or $621,176 less than the board’s goal of $1.5 million.

Here are Lawrence’s other recommendations, for which he did not give solid cost savings estimates:

Create a nonpublic school program at Glenbrook: $400,000 after third year

Investigate ways to meet student needs in necessary small high schools more efficiently: possibly $130,000

Offer online learning opportunities to independent and home study students: unknown savings

The amounts the district will lose as a result of closing Holbrook and Glenbrook are a bit firmer:

School Improvement Grant: $584,000 per year for two years or $1,168,000 (plus the district could be required to give back funding this year for summer school or other programs not implemented)

ASES (after-school program): District would lose $114,225 of its Glenbrook grant and $122,828 of its Holbrook grant, or a total of $237,053.

TOTAL LOST: $1,405,053

This means the district could be giving up $526,229 more than it is saving under the board-approved plan. (Unless the nonpublic school, small necessary high school consolidation and online learning equal or exceed $526,229).

Do you think Lawrence should have demonstrated the district could reach its $1.5 million savings goal instead of asking trustees to rely on staff’s belief that this target would be met?

Posted on Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 33 Comments »

COOL career education for 7th-8th graders

In May, the Contra Costa County Office of Education is sponsoring its third annual “COOL Nite” to get the county’s 7th-8th grade students thinking about careers. You can register now.

Here are the details from a CCOE press release:

“Contra Costa County’s current seventh- and eighth-grade students, as well as their parents/guardians, are invited to a dynamic evening to learn more about their future opportunities in education and career, at the 3rd Annual COOL Nite (College Offers Opportunities for Life), on Friday, May 6, 5:30-9:00 p.m., at California State University, East Bay, Concord Campus, 4700 Ygnacio Road, Concord.

Presented by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and the Contra Costa Community College District (CCCCD), this FREE informational program will offer useful workshops on how to be successful in high school, prepare for college, and explore exciting careers. Along with the workshops, there will be an exhibit hall featuring local businesses and college representatives for attendees to meet with and gather information.

To register for COOL Nite, visit coolnite.eventbrite.com. For additional event information, contact Louise Barbee, CCCOE, at (925) 942-3480.”

[END PRESS RELEASE]
————————————————————–
As of right now, there are 396 tickets remaining. Do you think it’s important for middle school students to start thinking about careers?

Posted on Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County, Education | No Comments »

Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation sponsors 5th grade symphony outing

California Symphony Orchestra members perform for Mt. Diablo school district fifth-graders during an "In Formance" designed to teach students about music. (Photo by Louie Green, courtesy of MDEF).

California Symphony Orchestra members perform for Mt. Diablo school district fifth-graders during an "In Formance" designed to teach students about music. (Photo by Louie Green, courtesy of MDEF).

I received the following press release this morning from the Mt. Diablo Education Foundation, which recently sponsored visits to the California Symphony Orchestra for district fifth-graders. The nonprofit organization spent about $15,000, including performers, theatre rental, and student buses — or a little more than $10 per student, according to publicist Gary Carr.

“WALNUT CREEK: Members of the California Symphony presented a special ‘In Formance’ for over 1400 5th graders from the Mt. Diablo Unified School District over four shows in two days at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

The ‘In Formance’ was held on February 22 and 23 and was sponsored by the Mount Diablo Music Education Foundation, who paid for the program and the busing for the 5th graders.

Forrest Byram (tuba) led the program, along with Bill Harvey (trumpet), Kale Cummings (trumpet), Meredith Brown (French horn), and Don Benham (trombone). The group ‘traveled in time’ and played such pieces as ‘William Tell Overture,’ ‘Horn Concerto,’ ‘Mozart’s Minute,’ and a Strauss waltz. The group talked about their instruments, (including) why the shape and length affects the sound. Byram even used a garden hose to make a very long horn. (He) then demonstrated how rhythm is important to music, and led the students in foot stomping, hand clapping and singing  ‘We Will Rock You.’ 

Victor Avdienko , a percussionist joined the group to talk about his drum kit and xylophone, and backed up the brass section on ‘The Entertainer’ and ‘In the Mood,’ and ended with ‘La Bamba.’

The Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation is dedicated to supporting the music programs in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and will be hosting the 2nd All Area Music Festival at the Sleep Train Pavilion on Saturday, May 14 featuring student performers in bands and choirs from the high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. For more information on the Mount Diablo Music Education Foundation, visit www.mdmusicfoundation.org.”

[END PRESS RELEASE]

————————————————————-

Since the district has cut instrumental music in fourth and fifth grades, some middle school bands are visiting local elementary schools to perform and possibly interest incoming sixth-graders in taking beginning band. The school board on Tuesday voted to lay off 3.4 music teachers districtwide.

Do you think the elimination of fifth-grade instrumental music programs this year will negatively affect middle school music programs next year?

Posted on Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Music | No Comments »

Mt. Diablo district seeks help for homeless students

Friends of Hope flyer regarding March 16 meeting at Olympic HS

Friends of Hope flyer regarding March 16 meeting at Olympic HS

Despite school closures and budget cuts, which have dominated the news lately, the Mt. Diablo school district continues to reach out to homeless students, lending support through its “Friends of HOPE” organization.

HOPE stands for Homeless Outreach Program for Education, which provides educational and other services for homeless students in pre-school through high school. The program also helps connect students and their families to “linguistically and culturally appropriate resources in the community,” according to its website.

The group is hosting an informational meeting for anyone interested in helping its cause at 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 16 in the Olympic High School staff lounge, room 7, 2730 Salvio Street in Concord. More information is available by calling Sissy White in School Linked Services at 925-682-8000 ext. 3054.

Posted on Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | No Comments »

Mt. Diablo trustees to vote on 85 certificated pink slips

mdearally

Besides voting on another possible school closure tonight, the Mt. Diablo school board may also vote to approve laying off 85 certificated employees, including two principals, one student services coordinator and 82 teachers.

Before the meeting (right now, in fact), teachers are holding a rally protesting what they call “unfair bargaining practices” that are forcing teachers to take unpaid furlough days and increased class sizes. In a show of unity, teachers and other union district employees planned to wear “Hope Wanted” sandwich-style signs.

Mike Langley, president of the teachers’ union, told me he didn’t receive any notice from the district that the layoffs would be on the agenda (trustees plan a March 8 special meeting to vote on pink slips) or an explanation about how the district came up with its layoff estimates.

With schools closing, teachers are expected to follow the students, he said. Langley said he had heard that Bel Air Elementary may have used some of its School Improvement Grant money to lower class sizes, which the state may now be balking at, after initially approving it.

But, he was unsure how the district arrived at its decision to lay off 25 elementary teachers, five PE prep teachers and 3.4 music teachers, along with 9.4 middle school “core” teachers and about 31 high school teachers.

“Nobody’s told us anything,” Langley said. “They didn’t give us a heads-up.”

Regarding bargaining, Langley said the district appears to be asking for what they want, instead of what they need. Two bargaining units are at impasse and are going into the “fact-finding” stage, Langley said.

“That’s why they wanted to hurry up and bargain with us tomorrow,” Langey said. “We’re not at impasse. We’re not voting on anything now. We are still in negotiations. We’ve offered furlough days.”

The district wants to increase middle and high school lab classes beyond the number of lab stations, “if safe,” Langley said. In some classes, there are only 30 lab stations, but the district wants to increase the class size to 37, he said.

“We’re trying to work with them as to who would determine what is safe,” Langley said. “They want to try to infill as many classes as possible to get them to the contract maximum.”

The district also wants to include contract “reopeners” next year that could allow new discussions about wages, class sizes and other provisions, Langley said.

“We’re worried,” he said. “I think they would do that if the (governor’s tax extension) ballots don’t pan out.”

Do you think the district is bargaining unfairly?

Posted on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 5 Comments »

More on the rafting tragedy that took the lives of two Walnut Creek teens

Matt Campbell, Principal of Las Lomas High School, has issued the following statement regarding the deaths of two students in a rafting accident on Saturday:

“In light of the tragic news, the Las Lomas community is deeply saddened by the loss of two of our students. Gavin and Matt were well respected by staff members and peers, and will be greatly missed.

Las Lomas will offer extended counseling services to help students deal with their grief.

We offer our condolences to the families and friends who are dealing with this extremely difficult time in their lives.”

Times columnist Tony Hicks has posted a somber column about the accident, saying boys are “hard-wired” for adventure.

I visited the site where Gavin and Matt reportedly launched their two-person inflatable raft and was surprised to see no barrier to the creek on what appeared to be the unincorporated county side of a small bridge on Vanderslice Avenue, near Murwood Elementary.

An unfenced area along a creek near Murwood Elementary in unincorporated Walnut Creek gives easy access to the water.

An unfenced area along a creek near Murwood Elementary in unincorporated Walnut Creek gives easy access to the water.

A sign on the chain link fence seen above warns that creek access is restricted, but doesn’t say it’s prohibited:

Sign on Kayser Court side of Vanderslice Avenue bridge

Sign on Kayser Court side of Vanderslice Avenue bridge

On the other side of the bridge, which appears to be in the city limits, the creek is completely fenced off with County Flood Control signs.

Sign on fence near Murwood Elementary School, above creek.

Sign on fence near Murwood Elementary School, above creek.

Friends of the boys who died have made a creek sign into a makeshift memorial.

"Matt Miller and Gavin Powell. We love and miss you," has been written on this sign above the creek.

"Matt Miller and Gavin Powell. We love and miss you," has been written on this sign above the creek.

Here’s some video I shot of the creek, which was flowing slowly today. A bunch of daisies had been left on a rock.

Do you think a fence and signs warning about the dangers of entering the creek should be posted?

Posted on Monday, February 21st, 2011
Under: Education, Walnut Creek | 1 Comment »

Mt. Diablo superintendent recommends no other school closure

The agenda for Tuesday’s Mt. Diablo school board meeting, which is likely to include another vote on the school closure issue, has been posted.

But Superintendent Steven Lawrence isn’t recommending closing another school. Instead, he says in his staff report that he believes the district can reach its goal of saving $1.5 million a year by:

• Closing Glenbrook Middle and Holbrook Elementary schools in north Concord as planned (and forfeiting nearly $1.2 million in Glenbrook’s School Improvement Grant funding over the next two years);

• Developing a program at the closed Glenbrook site that would “allow us to reduce the number of special education students served by nonpublic schools;”

• Redrawing boundary lines around crowded schools to “minimize overflow transportation costs;”

• “Investigate ways to meet student needs in our Necessary Small High Schools more efficiently;” and

• Provide “online learning opportunities” to students in the district’s Independent Study\Horizon and Home study programs.

One big question is whether Lawrence can provide the board with hard numbers to back up this recommendation and show the savings he is promising. The other huge caveat is in his introduction to the recommendation:

“Provided the Governor’s Budget proposal is approved and our funding is only reduced by $18.38 per student…”

This means that if Gov. Jerry Brown’s funding proposal is not approved (and voters don’t approve his proposed tax extension), the district would have to make much deeper cuts, which could include more school closures. Obviously, the district won’t know that until after the proposed June election.

Lawrence also notes in his staff report that:

“The purpose of this Board item is to:

1. Answer Board questions asked at the Tuesday, February 15, 2011 Board workshop;

2. Consider whether additional facilities need to be closed. Currently, Silverwood, Westwood, and Willow Creek are being considered;

3. Consider consolidation or closure of Necessary Small High School programs and Diablo Community Day School;

4. Provide an opportunity for staff to make a recommendation to the Board.”

As has been seen in the past, trustees can also bring up their own ideas and will likely discuss the idea brought up by Board President Gary Eberhart to “move” Glenbrook to the Westwood Elementary site, if the board were to close that campus.

At the Feb. 15 meeting, Lawrence suggested consolidating some small necessary high schools on the Olympic High School campus. However, teacher Skip Weinstock told me there is no room on that campus for a new program, unless the Alliance special education and/or Crossroads small necessary high school for pregnant teens and teen moms were moved.

Weinstock suggested the district could instead move small necessary high schools to the Mt. Diablo High School campus, which is in the same area of Concord and has excess capacity.

Trustee Linda Mayo asked Feb. 15 whether Lawrence had considered consolidating small necessary high schools on the Ygnacio Valley High School campus, which also has excess capacity.

Some Glenbrook Middle School parents have expressed concerns about the idea of locating a nonpublic special education program in their neighborhood, since it could include students who are severely emotionally troubled. Hopefully, Lawrence will give more details about the type of program he envisions.

Glenbrook parents and staff also question the estimated savings for closing Glenbrook, if it is instead used to house another program. If the district is going to essentially “keep it open” for another student population, they wonder why it doesn’t just allow Glenbrook to continue to operate there, keeping it’s $1.2 million grant over the next two years. Could a nonpublic school instead be housed on the Holbrook site?

According to the state’s school closure “best practices” advice: “Some of the alternatives as listed below do not involve real cost savings if this is the focus of reasons for school closure: …
reorganize attendance boundaries;
use surplus classrooms for other district functions;
enter into joint-use/joint occupancy agreements;
convert to community day school use;
convert to a small high school;…”

Also, Lawrence hasn’t been specific about how “redrawing boundaries” would affect the families of students in new boundary areas. Currently, overcrowded schools are in low-income areas of Concord and Bay Point.

Now, the district pays to bus “overflow” students to other campuses. If the district redraws the boundaries, some of those students would likely be assigned to schools that are farther away from their homes. But their parents would be responsible for getting them there, since the district wouldn’t have to bus them anymore. This could place additional financial hardship on low-income families.

Lawrence also hasn’t clarified what would happen to families now living in the Glenbrook attendance area whose children are bused to other schools on No Child Left Behind transfers (since Glenbrook is a low-achieving school). Office manager Berta Shatswell said these transfers are supposed to be in effect for all three years of middle school. But, if the school closes, will the district honor its promise to bus those children to other schools for two more years? If so, where would they be picked up? If not, these students could be in for a big surprise.

Some in the community have questioned the district’s decision-making process regarding school closures. Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnidge attended the Feb. 15 board meeeting and has been following the issue.

You can see his take on the process in his latest column, entitled: “Mt. Diablo trustees making closures as painful as possible.”

Do you agree with Barnidge’s assertion that “Every decision seems to be a reactive, knee-jerk fix to problems as they arise without long-range considerations”?

Posted on Saturday, February 19th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 37 Comments »