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Holbrook parents and teachers rally to rescind school closure decision

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 at 6:36 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Several Holbrook Elementary teachers and parents have contacted me to voice their dismay over the Mt. Diablo school board’s decision to close their school, which they believe was made hastily, without adequate feedback from the affected community.

Bolstered by Trustee Cheryl Hansen’s vote against the closure and Trustee Linda Mayo’s subsequent statement that she regretted making the school closure motion, Holbrook supporters are rallying outside the district office before tonight’s board meeting.

They plan to address the board, with the following “talking points:”

“Our desire is that the School Board would reverse its decision and permit Holbrook to stay open.

At the beginning of this process we trusted the school board to make the right decision that would benefit our community and students. They have let us down by making the decision to close Holbrook Elementary, a thriving and exemplary school in our district, with apparent disregard to the information gathered by the school closure committee. Many of the concepts shared on the CDE website for School Closure Best Practices were also ignored. The suggestions of Arne Duncan, Federal Department of Education head were not considered. Now is the vital time for us to make our voices heard loud and clear! Rescind your decision about Holbrook!

Talking point #1:
- The closure of two schools in one feeder pattern does not demonstrate ‘geographic equity’ to the North Concord community.
- Transportation problems and expenses for the entire neighborhood.
- Neighborhood businesses will be adversely impacted

Talking point #2
- Measure C and Measure A Funds
- Taxpayers and voters approved Measure C believing they were voting to improve their local schools, which are now closing.
- Measure A funds have already been spent at Holbrook with no future benefit to the community.

Talking point #3
- Now, much of the community is within walking distance of Holbrook. In the future, students will be forced to attend a different school creating a transportation burden that is both financial and emotional.
- This will have a negative financial impact on the district because of more absences and tardies.

Talking point #4
- The need to close schools was to bring $1.5 million dollars back to the school district.
- According to the newest data, the closing of schools, including Holbrook, could bring at most $700,000 back, but quite likely, there will be NO financial gain at all.

Talking point #5:
- At the February 15th School Board meeting, the decision to close Holbrook was based primarily on the idea that dispersing students to only two schools had the least negative impact on them.
- We believe the reasons for NOT closing Holbrook, primarily our high academic performance, cohesive staff, top-quality After School Program (ASP), are far more crucial in considering what will garner student success.
- Clearly, if you truly cared about negative impact on our students, you would realize all research shows high academic performance should be the driving priority of elementary education.

Talking point #6:
- We are disappointed to learn that the school board and administration had no strategic plan as to what to do with students, faculty, or the Holbrook site prior to this hasty decision.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated: ‘Put students first: “… evaluate all policies and practices against the ultimate bottom line: is this policy or practice improving student outcomes?” We believe that closing a successful elementary school like Holbrook will not improve student outcomes.

He also states that it is imperative to ‘protect the neediest children and communities: Where funding reductions must be made, governors and other policymakers can take steps to ensure that the neediest communities and children are not the hardest hit …’ Closing a school in a feeder pattern where we have 64% free and reduced lunch does not ensure that the neediest children are protected.

Duncan further states, ‘Families, teachers, and the community should be included in the decision and that schools that are considered for closing are persistently low-performing.’ Families, teachers and the community members were not included in this decision, nor is Holbrook a consistently low performing school!”

Do you think the school board should rescind its decision to close Holbrook Elementary in Concord?

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  • rich

    The whole decision of closing 2 schools in such close proximity to one another raises suscpicions that the decision was based upon political damage control for the board members.By impacting only one concentrated area the risk of political backlash namely being voted out is diminished since your in effect killing two birds with one stone in the eyes of a board member.Voters should take notice of this tactic when the next elections roll around for these members unless they rescind their decision to close Holbrook, no one community should have to bear the whole weight of the districts budget crisis but this is in fact what they are trying to do.I’m sure the community would reluctantly be willing to sacrifice Glenbrook to do their part in helping the district, but having 2 schools taken away is just simply unfair.

  • Marta Vanegas

    And so, we went to protest, yet again, at the School Board Meeting. We each got only 45 seconds to say our piece, and then were beeped off… and Mr. Eberhardt called the next speaker immediately. The explanation for the shortening of the comment allowance was that there were so many people wanting to talk. That the Board was 45 minutes late to return from closed session was not given as a reason for cutting parents, teachers, and students (i.e., their constituents) out of the debate.

    We basically kept our comments to the above talking points, with one considerable exception: Mrs. Weiller, my daughter’s third grade teacher spoke to the Board about an alternative solution, which would obviate the need to close Holbrook due to lower projected enrollment. Her proposal was to convert the school to a K-6 school. But we can go even further, and convert all schools in our district to K-8. That is what West Sacramento did, and they prevented the closing of neighborhood schools.

    In the meantime, parents at Holbrook will continue to organize and explore solutions to our predicament. Even if we feel no lovin’ from the school district, this is a very close-knit community of committed parents and we will fight this decision with all our might. Hey, if we could re-landscape the school property, we can do anything, right?

  • charter new course

    Holbrook and Glenbrook may stay open by petitioning to convert into a charter school, if 50% of the school’s teachers will sign a petition:
    “Anyone may develop, circulate, and submit a petition to establish a charter school. EC Section 47605(a) (Outside Source) requires charter developers to collect signatures to indicate support for the petition… For a charter school that is a conversion of an existing public school, the charter developer must collect the signatures of 50 percent of the teachers at the school to be converted. The petition must contain a prominent statement that a signature means that the person signing is meaningfully interested in teaching in, or in having his or her child(ren) attend the school.”
    http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/re/qandasec2mar04.asp

  • anonamom

    Holbrook should get on the ball and get Charter applications in NOW. If I were in a position to “just do it”, I would create a Charter Association, or join a system like KIPP (their Charter in West Oakland just won a great award)for all schools North of Willow Pass; definitely Holbrook, Glenbrook, Mt Diablo High, and also Sun Terrace if they wanted to join in the movement.
    This would eliminate both the problems and the cost of busing; get full $$ credits per student at Mt Diablo High, retain dedicated teachers. The list of benefits is long. One great benefit is that fund raising can be done “per school-for the benefit of that school”!

  • Wait a Minute

    The main advantage of becoming independant (of the MDUSD) charter schools is that those schools get to KEEP THE MONEY generated by their ADA.

    Since at least 40% of every dollar coming into these schools is being sucked up by the District this alone is a huge reason to become independant charters. Granted, you still will have some overhead costs like payroll accounting etc. But at least you get to decide how to spend the money and can choose to keep your overhead expenses in-house or sub-contract with the MDUSD or even the CC County Office of ED.

    Their is even legal language that the MDUSD would have to allow these converted independant charter schools to remain at their current locations for several years and if an agreement can be worked out in that time to stay in place for as long as the agreement’s terms state.

    It is also not too far-fetched to have the schools run completely democratically by the teachers and parents and to hire the Principal that best meets their needs.

    Sounds like the perfect way to fight back against such a corrupt and discredited district administration.